I have previously posted my custom settings and tips for Fuji's X-T1 camera and the X-E1 based on my user experience and the regular updates that Fujifilm give us with firmware. A big firmware update became available on 18th December 2014 in which the X-T1 gained some very useful options, including an electronic shutter which goes to 1/32000 sec, so it will be easily possible to shoot the 56mm f1.2 and other fast glass, wide open in any conditions without over exposure. It is a smart shutter too, so if you have the mechanical and electronic shutter option set, flash can still be used when the shutter speed falls within that of the mechanical shutter.
The X-T1 is a fairly simple and traditional camera to use once set up due to the direct access dials, aperture ring, function buttons and set of 7 custom settings presets that can be programmed in.
It is definitely worth spending some time setting up the camera in the menus to make the best of what is there and to enhance the shooting experience by making functions and settings available at the touch of a button rather than by delving into menus. What follows are my suggestions that can either be copied or used simply as an idea for someone keen to program their own settings.
Within the Fuji X-cameras there are 7 custom settings available that are set up in the shooting menu and then accessed via the “Q” menu button very rapidly. If you leave the cursor on the top left position in the Q menu by default, that simply allows scrolling through custom settings 1-7 as soon as the Q button is pressed. You can of course move the cursor to tweak any of the individual settings within each custom setting. If you make any changes here during a shoot (for example, you change film simulation or the NR setting), the camera will go back to the original specified settings that you programmed in after it is switched off or another custom setting is selected.
My custom settings are largely based around each of the film simulation modes, which I really love on these cameras. On the newer X100T and X-T1 I have been able to keep the 7 custom settings almost identical and they use the same film simulation for each custom setting number. As they both use the same X-trans sensor 2 and processing, the tweaks I have made (mainly to shadow/highlight tone) are also identical. The main user differences in the custom settings between the two cameras exist due to the slightly different operability of each. Because the X-T1 has an ISO dial, it is easier for me to set dynamic range to DR200 in all custom settings and effectively control DR via the ISO dial as DR200 will only come into use when an ISO of 400 or above is selected. When ISO values under 400 are selected DR200 cannot be used and the DR icon on the viewfinder/LCD will be highlighted yellow to show this.
While on the subject of the Dynamic Range (DR) settings it is worth stating that DR200 works really well for capturing higher contrast scenes, such as shooting a portrait into bright light or a landscape with deep shadow and bright highlights. It is worth emphasising again that if you wish to use DR200 you do need to set ISO to 400 as it works by underexposing the capture and then pushing the exposure during internal processing. I tend to avoid the auto DR setting as I find it defaults too readily to DR 200, which also means it pushes the ISO up to 400 if that too is left in auto. While there is little real difference in IQ from ISO 200 to 400 I would prefer to retain a lower ISO where I can. The design of the X-T1 controls means I effectively drive the DR setting by using the ISO dial with my custom settings.
Here is my up to date custom settings table following the latest firmware update. ISO can obviously be user selected by the external dial at any time, when in any custom setting. Custom setting 2 now uses the Classic Chrome simulation, which is rapidly becoming a favourite of mine. There is now no duplication of film simulations as I have no need for normal and high DR custom settings for my favourite simulations and I wanted to maximise the film simulation options available in these settings.
While on the subject of custom settings it is worth noting that another huge benefit of the firmware update is that the Q menu can now be configured with the options that suit the individual photographer rather than just the defaults offered. What you set here will almost certainly depend on what settings you allocated to each of the function buttons and what are the next most important for you to be able to access fast. I would suggest that shooting settings such as face detect, shutter type, flash type and flash compensation should take priority, as these may be needed quite frequently, whereas settings like tone adjustments will be configured once and then largely left alone after the 7 custom settings are all set up. The following snap of the camera LCD shows is how I have configured mine with the settings most useful to me from the options available. To be honest I struggled to fill the last few with "important" things from the available options, so some things I thought might be occasionally useful ended up on the menu. Note that the top left position, where the cursor is active in the image, actually scrolls though the 7 custom settings. It will always show "BASE" when the menu is entered, which simply refers to the last custom setting used, which in this case is my number 2 Classic Chrome based sim. Moving the scroll dial at top right will take you though each of the 7 settings consecutively.
I know it is considered to be “unprofessional” to shoot jpg and I would support that view on many cameras, but the jpg files can be so good from the Fuji X cameras that I usually get better results and of course smaller files than using RAW. For that reason I always shoot with either the jpg fine only option for general and family shooting and RAW plus jpg fine for landscape or paid work. In theory the extra bit depth and RAW flexibility should enable better tonal graduation and shadow/highlight recovery for really tricky files, but in practice I often struggle to better the jpg.
I really love the film simulations for jpg shooting with the caveat that some time is spent tweaking the settings when programming the custom settings as per the table above. The X-T1 appears to have slightly more aggressive tone curves than the earlier X-cameras. My most used film sims are Astia (soft) and Pro-Negative Standard, but Classic Chrome is becoming a big favourite too. The most neutral are Provia (standard) and Pro-Negative Standard as these have a neutral colour palette and a modest tone curve. I find the Velvia option too saturated for my tastes on most scenes but mostly I avoid it because it clips shadows too early for me. For most film simulations I tune the tone curve to reduce contrast and open up shadows in particular. If they block up, as they often do at default settings, they can be hard to lift on a jpg file but its easy to add more contrast in post-processing if desired, so I would always set a minus value for both shadow and highlight tone within the custom settings options. I do however, find that the mono film simulation looks especially awesome with a more aggressive tone curve, so I have used +1 for both highlight and shadow tones.
In my experience I find I tend to get better exposures by pushing exposure compensation up 1/3 EV almost all the time and a bit more for some scenes or situations. I find that at zero EV the histogram often stops a little short of the white end and touches the black end, so pushing the EV also has the advantage of further opening shadows and therefore reducing the chances of noise appearing during post-processing.
I prefer the option of adding my noise reduction later, if at all. I think the noise reduction may be a little more aggressive in the X-T1 than earlier models. Noise tends to be a non-issue at most regular ISO settings and any noise that does creep in tends to be somewhat film-like and is luminance noise. There is no chroma noise to be seen. I therefore set the noise reduction to -2 on most settings on the basis that I prefer detail and a bit of grain to smearing and softer images.
There are function buttons on the body that can be programmed to the user’s preferences. Following the firmware update, an option exists in the set up menu to allow the AF point to be selected simply by pushing the 4-way controller with no need to use a function button to make AF selection live. While some may like this, I currently have face detect, macro, image quality and AF area set up on these buttons and find them more valuable as function buttons for this reason.
One little point with AF is that it is worth experimenting with the size of the active AF bracket depending on the subject and lighting. While a small size may allow more pinpoint focus it can cause hunting in low light. Setting a size or 2 larger can give much faster results without significantly compromising accuracy. Size is adjusted by pressing the AF function button to activate the point and then scrolling the scroll dial, which causes the bracket size to change.
Wi-fi is useful to have set up on a function button. If you have a smartphone you can use the Fuji app to control the camera remotely very effectively. I have not been interested in transferring images by Wi-fi to date but the option is there. For another sophisticated remote option consider getting a Triggertrap dongle and the free app for control using a smartphone or tablet.
The viewfinder is superb on the X-T1. There are many options to set up what you see in terms of information and a “Viewmode” button on the side of the housing allows you scroll through LCD with EVF eye sensor activated, EVF only, LCD only, all off except EVF activated by eye sensor. It is worth delving into the menus to set up the focus peaking and dual display should you ever focus manually or use legacy lenses. This allows amazingly accurate manual focus as the finder shows the overall composition and a magnified view of the focus area simultaneously.
Playback can be customised heavily too and the “Disp Back” button allows viewing options from full screen image to histogram and whatever custom display settings you choose to show.
If using manual focus lenses without electronic contacts make sure the “shoot without lens” setting in the shooting menu is set to “on” so the camera meters and shoots properly.
In the “power management” section of the setup menu, make sure “high performance“ is set as this greatly improves response and AF.
I always leave my camera on auto white balance and find it very accurate and pleasing. Only once did I have a weird pinkish-orange colour cast when shooting a portrait into setting sun, so if I was concerned I may shoot RAW and jpg as insurance.
If using Adobe Lightroom for file processing it is worth noting that Adobe have replicated the Fuji film simulations within the camera calibration section at the bottom of the develop panel. They are pretty close to the Fuji originals and mean a nice set of options for RAW shooters.
The file quality is excellent for an APS-C sensor and images have a slightly organic look compared to most conventional Bayer sensors. It is worth taking some time to work on preferred processing defaults for the X-Trans sensor files as they do process differently from Bayer sensor files. They can be prone to some fractal-like artefacting around sharp or high contrast edges such as stone walls, tree bark or green foliage and greens can appear a little muddled or dull. On the positive side, skin tones and texture can be fantastic and rendering of some textures such as knits can look very organic and real. Some prefer various other RAW converters but Adobe improved their handling of the files and they are plenty good enough for me now. Sharpening especially is worth persevering with. An amount of 30-50, radius of 1 and a very high detail setting of close to 100 looks good on most files.
Overall the X-T1 is a very satisfying camera to use and really brings the “fun factor” back into photography in a big way. The shooting experience can be enhanced by spending a little time setting up functions and menus in advance. The above settings and tips are just my take after using the camera for a while and may be a starting point for anyone who is unsure of how to set the camera up or who wants a base from which to tweak their own settings. I think it speaks volumes that for most of my day-to day shooting and travel shooting I grab an X-camera and leave my big Nikon's at home. These cameras have reached a point where they are plenty good enough for most of what most of us do with a camera and produce fantastic images for almost any type of output.