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Thunderbird One!

ThunderbirdThe FAB Thunderbird One!
It’s been about 6 months now since taking possession of the Fuji XT1, affectionately nicknamed ‘Thunderbird One’ in our household. (If you get the analogy it probably says more about your age than you would like to admit.) This is not a technical review of the Fujifilm XT1; you will have to do a Google search for that. This is a reflection of how this classic little gem of a camera looks, feels and works for me.

The reviews may help
Reading through countless technical reviews was a must before taking the plunge to own one. After all, it wasn’t cheap and it had to deliver decent quality images, especially when stomping up that much cash. It was also going to become an active back-up camera to the full frame DSLRs.

Coffee can help
Meeting for coffee with a photographer buddy – let’s call him Cliff (cos that’s his name)- was the first exposure to this coveted and aesthetically pleasing piece of technology. Cliff had owned his prized Fuji for a while and was very happy with it. He is also a bit of a techie and I value his opinion. He supped what seemed like gallons of coffee before he was finally allowed to leave the coffee shop – I caressed the XT1 body like a potter would when forming his masterpiece; what was in my hand felt like a masterpiece. The drooling was embarrassing. It felt like a meeting with a famous person for the first time – you know, when you say something completely stupid or inappropriate and later regret it! The camera didn’t mind but Cliff probably thought otherwise.

The French Test
It wasn’t until being able to borrow one for a few days whilst campervanning on a spring family getaway in France that the true appreciation for this little jewel of a camera hit home. Most of the images were arty holiday snaps and of course included many photographs of our treasured 6-month-old grandson, but all were taken with the same excitement of that first encounter at the coffee shop.

All grown up
Please don’t take this the wrong way, there is much love still for the Canon DSLRs and lenses, meticulously packed in the 14 kilo rucksack – they perform very responsibly and tick all the boxes, but they are very ‘grown up’. The Fujifilm XT1 on the other hand has something else … let’s explore!

XT1Looks are important
Firstly, it looks like a film camera, especially the graphite version. It also comes in black for a lot less money – £200 less! Choosing the colour is personal of course, a bit like choosing the colour of a new car. Unlike most modern cameras (and cars for that matter) it doesn’t look like a plastic toy – The graphite looks exceptional with its polished finish and worth the extra money. It feels solid and has lots of metallic dials, even the lenses are metal. 10/10 for aesthetics!


Does it take better photos?XT1 Blog bag Xt1 no2
Well … no … but then again, in the right hands it almost certainly does! You have to look at the bigger picture. It’s more than a camera, it’s an overall experience. The digital SLR cameras will more than satisfy the needs of modern day photography, but do they give you an experience? Thunderbird One has an added ingredient and it’s there the second you hold it for the first time. If you don’t feel it you won’t appreciate this camera. It also, due to its size, lifts the lid on accessible photography; it is instantly available at all times. Ultimately, a top class performer with compact features. The constraints of the larger cameras can inhibit creativity. The XT1 is ready for use and raring to go, like choosing your slip-on Skechers rather than the rigmarole of lacing up your hiking boots. It has all the features of the DSLRs plus lots more, like film simulation modes, (remember film?) focus peaking, the brilliant focus assist function, custom modes, an articulated screen, and, my personal favourite, the aperture rings are back on the lenses. See? It is like a film camera!

Lens choice
It may not suit everyone, but there was a lot of joy with the addition of a Carl Zeiss 70-210mm mid range zoom from ebay for £55. Used with an adaptor the lens has such a wonderful and tactile manual feel to it. It’s spotless inside and out and even has a lovely real leather case. You don’t get that with your £2000 Canon or Nikon zooms! Add to that the very fast and reasonably priced Fuji f2.8 18-55mm metallic kit lens and you have everything you need for all sorts of photography, including landscapes, portraits, weddings, street, travel and even family snaps. No doubt, the arsenal of lenses will be added to, but for now at least, nothing else is needed. (I put that bit in to keep my wife happy)

BagThe old bag had to go – and Cliff is to blame
After years of serving the grown ups it was time to buy a dedicated bag and give Thunderbird One the protection of a bag befitting its sleeker character. After lots of surfing the tinterweb, the overwhelming conclusion was to go for the off-the-shoulder look. Actually, it was an ‘on-the-shoulder bag’ that was wanted, but it sounded good to say that. Cliff had a beautiful leather ONA bag which was as enticing as the camera, but this came at a price which was beyond the budget. It’s also good to be different. The stylish and quality look of the camera demanded something similar from the bag. An old backpack simply would not cut the mustard. It needed to look good, be practical, spacious, easy to access, comfortable, lightweight and, most important of all, within budget. After a fair bit of nauseous ‘You Tubing’ the final decision was made to buy a Lowepro Passport Sling III. (Price approx £50)

Summing upBrains with XT1
Firstly, an apology to Fujifilm. My preconceived judgement suggesting the XT1 would be a good back-up camera was totally off track. Playing second fiddle to the DSLRs it most definitely does not! The XT1 is a stand out camera worthy of praise and appreciation in its own right. It sits proudly alongside any current SLR. But where it scores heavily over all the DSLRs is in the ‘joy-to-use’ test. It has the elegance and style of the best film cameras, and at the same time it is a quality digital camera with all the modern day functions and more. It may have its critics for whatever small technical reason, but for me? It has simply revitalised the desire to go out and enjoy taking photographs.

If you are in doubt, pick one up and hold it for a few minutes – if you feel the buzz …. buy it!


(Fully advised and briefed!)

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