Fuji X-T1 for Wildlife Photography

I have had the Fuji X-T1 for a number of months now and can say that I thoroughly love it. My photographic passions are nature and wildlife photography, the latter of which being the subject of this review with regards to the X-T1.

The Fuji X-T1 boasts a 16.3MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS II Sensor, Hybrid AF (both contrast and phase-detection autofocus), up to 8 frames/second shooting speed (with a buffer of 47 shots in JPEG or 23 in RAW) and a weather sealed body. And all of this is packed into a small, good-looking camera body.

I am not going to go into detail about sensor performance in this article as it has been covered in other articles. The autofocus, however, is probably the most important feature for most when it comes to wildlife photography. Being an owner of the older and slower grandma of the X-T1, the X-E1, I can say that Fuji continues to listen to its customers and is definitely moving in the right direction with their AF system. Compared to other cameras in the X-T1 price range I have found the Fuji X-T1 to perform very well. When I used Nikon I had everything from the film F100, the D200 on up to the D7000 and recently had the Olympus OMD-EM5. The X-T1, to me, beats all of these in terms of AF speed and accuracy. Admittedly, I have never had anything like the Nikon D4 or Canon 1DX, but for 5 times or 6 times the cost of the Fuji X-T1 they really aren’t in the same price class for comparison.

I have used the X-T1 exclusively on a weeklong Yellowstone trip and on many other outings for wildlife photography. Once I nailed down the right setting for maximum AF output, I found myself coming away with more “keepers” then with any previous camera I have owned. Even more impressive is that all of this success is generally while using the Fuji XF 55-200, which isn’t really known to be a very fast focusing lens. I have also never encountered a frames per second or buffering issue. Is it the biggest buffer or fastest FPS on the market? Of course not, but I have yet to be in a situation when it wasn’t enough (I shoot in RAW).

Another great factor is its size. The X-T1 is a great size. For me, it’s kind of the Goldilocks of the camera world, right now. It’s not too big, it’s not too small, but it’s just right. It’s not big and cumbersome (I’m looking at you Nikon D4) yet it’s not too small and flimsy feeling, either. The structure of it fits well with my hands, which is impressive because it is a pretty small camera and I have pretty big hands! I bring the size up because a lot of wildlife photography is done in the backcountry requiring you to be your own personal pack mule for your gear. The small size and low weight equates to either a smaller, easier-to-carry bag, or more room for other backcountry necessities. That to me is a major win.

All that said, it’s not all perfect with the X-T1. I have found, along with many other users that the X-T1 AF performance drops off in lower light and lower contrast situations. This isn’t a deal breaker for me and is usually manageable once you learn the camera and it’s tendencies. Another gripe I have is the ISO Auto Settings won’t allow you to set a minimum shutter speed faster then 1/500. I would love to get the option to bump that up to 1/1000 minimum shutter speed. Those for me are really the only things keeping this from being a perfect wildlife camera. If Fuji can continue improving their autofocus speed and accuracy, can expand the minimum shutter speed settings, and maybe throw in some fast focusing telephoto lenses (a 300 or 400 2.8, even if a bigger lens in mirrorless terms, would be amazing) this could turn into a major player in the wildlife/action photography world.

Wish list of future Fuji developments aside, the Fuji X-T1 is a perfectly acceptable camera for wildlife and moving subjects. Is it the perfect wildlife camera? No, for that you will want to look at the “big dogs” from Nikon and Canon and might need to sell a car or a kidney in order to afford them. But for me, the X-T1 provides a great combination of performance, size, price and overall quality to justify the consideration of the Fuji X-T1 for any wildlife photographer.

Below are some sample images using the Fuji X-T1. Comments are always welcome!

Disclaimer: This is an “in my humble opinion” type of article (as are all of my reviews). And yes, I do own and use the Fuji X-T1, but no I am not paid or sponsored by Fuji in any way.

Wildlife Photos using the Fuji X-T1

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