I just had a brief hands-on with a pre-production model of the latest Fujifilm X-T1 camera at the local Fujifilm demo store, and I loved it.

I have several cameras for work, used in different scenarios.

I have the Panasonic Lumix GH3 which I use almost exclusively for our video work these days, due in part to its high quality HD output from an ergonomically designed camera, and its compatibility with many filmmaking peripherals. Its only downfall in my opinion, is the lack of in-body optical image stabilization (OIS), relying on lenses with OIS. Most prime lenses and all manual lenses (such as the Voigtlander lenses I use) will not have any stabilization.

I have the Olympus OM-D EM5 as well, which was my go-to camera for stills and video due to its fast autofocus and great image quality. However, its video quality is not quite up to par with the GH3, and when I got the Fujifilm X cameras, the OM-D somehow took a backseat.

I have also the Sony NEX VG20, which I used originally for our video work, having the physical profile and handling of an ENG camera. However, in field work, once I used both the GH3 and the VG20 in tandem, the video quality of the GH3 was way beyond that of the VG20. These days, the VG20 is sitting right next to me, on a paper shredder. I haven’t used it much, although I must admit it is a good camera and I love its focus peaking.

The Fujifilm X cameras were a revelation for me as a photographer who is getting on years. The X100, X100S, X-E1, and my current X-E2 (all of which are still with me) are great cameras to work with. They are lightweight, good build quality, great image quality, and I love the manual handling. The X100 and X-E1 suffered from poor autofocus capabilities, but the X100S and X-E2 leaped ahead in terms of autofocus capabilities, and I have used them in field work with no trouble at all.

Then Fujifilm announced the X-T1, which resembles the legendary Contax RTSIII, a fantastic camera in its heyday. Other than a greatly improved physical build and handling, with a built-in handgrip (unlike all other X cameras which demanded an optional handgrip), the X-T1 also has a beautiful EVF that offers one of the most realistic views I have seen. It beats all my X cameras in the electronic front, except for those who love optical viewfinders that are found on the X100S (and X100 and XPro-1).

The X cameras already are way ahead of many competing cameras today, with one of its main dials being the manual exposure dial on the top right hand side. I have used that in the field very effectively to quickly change exposure compensation for portraits during live events. This would be nearly impossible with many cameras that rely on digital menus.

The X-T1 goes further, bringing back my great memories of manual SLRs, with ISO (on the left side), and the shutter speed, followed by the +/-3 exposure compensation dial. If you shoot in manual, you can adjust the depth of field and manual focus easily depending on which Fujifilm XF lens (or my Voigtlander manual lenses) you use.

Another upside of the X-T1 when I tried it, was the LCD screen. All other X cameras have a fixed LCD screen, which means that in some awkward positions, it would be difficult to precisely aim and shoot a scene without shooting a few to hope to get the best shot. With the X-T1’s tilting LCD screen, I can shoot in a waist-level manner, something I was used to when I used my Mamiyaflex TLR (twin-lens reflex) and Bronica 645 medium format cameras. There is something at once nostalgic and comfortable when shooting with the waist-level. The X-T1 brings back that experience. A fully articulated LCD like my GH3 would have been better, in my case, when shooting myself doing video commentaries. But that is a minor issue.

The autofocus seems to have improved against my X-E2, perhaps due in part to its native mated OIS zoom lens. I did notice an improvement of my own X-E2 and OIS zoom lens when I updated to the latest firmware (on February 24, 2014). Any autofocus improvement on the X cameras is always good, keeping these cameras in the forerunning when using them in the field, especially for me doing live event photography.

From my brief hands-on experience (there was a long line of people wanting to try it out at the store too), I must say I am very enticed to get it when it is available. It makes a great field camera that continues to offer the unique Fujifilm image quality that I love.