Fujifilm X-T1 vs. the Leica T
Last updated August 3, 2014
Fuji X-T1 available at: B&H Photo Adorama Amazon for $1,299 USD!
Leica T available at: B&H Photo (Silver and Black), Adorama (Silver) (Black) and Leica Store Miami (Silver) (Black) for $1,850 USD!
- Spec Comparison
- M Lens Compatibility
- Lens Comparison
- Design Differences
- System Support
- Where to Buy
- Bonus Video Reviews
Many shooters are curious, if not keenly interested in alternative options to using M lenses with a third-party body - either as a primary, an option to the admittedly expensive M camera options available from Leica or as a second/backup body to an existing kit. With the introduction of the Sony A7/A7R bodies, many took notice as it offered a full frame alternative at an affordable price. Though they're not without issues when it comes to using M lenses on them, and the experience leaves a little to be desired. The recent introduction of the Leica T offers yet another alternative, based on an APS-C sensor, which promises a more seamless experience (it's still too early to tell). A beautiful camera in its own right, unfortunately it doesn't help much when it comes to providing an economical alternative. Cheaper yes, cheap - not at all.
There's a camera that exists somewhere in between, offering the more technical aspects of the Sony A7/A7R in design (if not more so) but based on an APS-C sensor like the Leica T. Released in late January of 2014, and based on a fairly mature system (which neither Sony nor Leica can say) is the latest in the Fujifilm X system... The Fujifilm X-T1 camera. Coming in at less than the price of the Sony A7/A7R or Leica T bodies alone, it will allow you to shoot your M lenses and comes with an EVF... All with specs equal to or better than the Leica T. These are things many M shooters are looking for.
To be fair, we like the Leica T. It's a forward thinking, lovely design with an impeccable build. But Leica themselves have said that it's not a camera for photographers. In this comparison, we'll look at this latest powerhouse from Fujifilm and how it fits into the Leica ecosystem, and how it stands on its own merits. This is not a review of the camera itself so much - there are countless of those already out there... Nor are we looking to shame the T. But one thing almost everyone agrees on is that this latest camera from Fujifilm (along with its native lenses, if that interests you) is a genuine knockout. So let's take a look if it'll work for us.
Why not compare against something more rangefinderesque? Because the Leica T isn't either. Neither camera utilizes an OVF (Optical View Finder) - both rely on an EVF (Electronic View Finder) and the rear LCD. Finally, if you're interested in a hands-on review of the Leica T, we have that available separately.
So how does the Fujifilm X-T1 compare to the Leica T? This is not an exhaustive comparison; specification wise, both cameras compare well. So let's take a look at the key differences:
|Fujifilm X-T1||Leica T|
|Sensor||16MP CMOS||16.3MP CMOS|
|ISO||200-6400 (RAW), 100-51200 (JPG)||100-12500|
|Autofocus||Contrast and Phase Detect||Contrast|
|Burst||8fps, 47 shot buffer||5fps, 12 shot buffer|
|LCD||3" TFT, 1.0M pixels, Articulated||3.7″ TFT, 1.3M pixels, Fixed|
|EVF||OLED, 2.36M pixels, .77x, Built-in||LCD, 2.36M pixels, .70x, $595|
|Video||1920x1080 (30/60p), 1280x720 (30p/60p)||1920x1080 (30p), 1280x720 (30p)|
|Flash||Included, 8m range||Internal, 4.5m range|
|GPS||Via Smartphone/WiFi||Via Visoflex, $595|
|Current Lenses||7 primes, 4 zooms||1 prime, 1 zoom|
|M Compatibility||Adapter, $199||Adapter, $395|
|Battery||350 shots, $50||400 shots, $140|
|Size||129 x 90 x 47mm||134 x 69 x 33mm|
For those looking to shoot M lenses with an EVF, the end cost is perhaps the most startling difference. The X-T1 comes in at over $1,400 USD less. The Fuji X system, being more mature than the T also offers a larger amount of native lenses; both primes and zooms. Both manufacturers will be releasing more in the future. The Fuji is also weathersealed and offers a plethora of direct controls. This will appeal to the more "enthusiast" class of shooters. A distinctly old school vs. new school method of camera control. More on this below.
M Lens Compatibility
Both the Leica T and the Fujifim X-T1 offer M lens compatibility with a manufacturer-provided adapter (not a third-party) and both come at an additional cost. The Leica M-Adapter T runs $395 USD and the Fujifilm M Mount Adapter $199 USD. The former officially supports 20 of the current Leica M lenses; the latter loosely supports most M (and adapted LTM) lenses. Neither do in-camera corrections for specific M lenses per se, though the Fujifilm adapter has four preset focal lengths (21mm, 24mm, 28mm and 35mm) and can store two additional focal lengths - which can be individually tuned for distortion, color shading and vignetting correction. Both adapters report the focal length to the camera via EXIF, yet neither report the aperture (as you might be used to on the M - which uses a separate sensor on the body to guesstimate).
Here's a look at the two adapters. First, the one from Leica - and second, the one from Fuji:
Both adapters, obviously, have a lens release button. The Fuji has a second (function) button which will bring up a menu on the camera to select your lens/settings. Admittedly an additional step, but only when first mounting a lens. It does not rely on lenses being coded, which is both a positive - and a negative. As a positive, you can mount anything that'll fit on the camera and tweak the corrections for them individually to your heart's content... As a negative, you're limited to six lenses at one time - the four preset focal lengths and two that you can customize (though corrections can be customized for all six).
The Leica T on the other hand, will read the 6-bit coding of the M lens and pass that onto the camera - automatically. If you have 6-bit coded lenses, this is a very nice feature. If not, you'll have to either permanently, or temporarily using the tried-and-true black Sharpie method(TM) with a template, code your lenses. There is no apparent way to manually select your lens, nor is there support for lenses outside of the 20 current M lenses made by Leica. If you've got legacy lenses, third-party lenses from Zeiss or Voigtländer... You're on your own as you always have been.
When it comes to using manual focus M lenses on the Fujifilm X-T1, you might just get spoiled. It offers normal (like a large ground glass screen), focus peaking (with the option of three colors in two intensities each) as well as split image (like a rangefinder) focusing aids. With the latter two, you see a regular image for composition to the left while seeing your magnified, focusing aid enhanced view to the right. But wait, there's more! When you switch to a portrait orientation, the viewfinder switches as well, so your shooting parameters are still easily readable. There are also other viewing options; "full" which utilizes as much of the display as possible to present your image or "normal" which shrinks it down a bit - which is great if you're shooting while wearing glasses. Speaking of glasses, the X-T1 has a very respectable 23mm eyepoint. If you prefer to do without, you can adjust the diopter of the EVF with a dial to the side (which offers click detents and ranges from -4 to +2). Did we mention the EVF is probably the best currently available? It's huge, bright, essentially lag-free and delightful. This is where it's truly at on this camera - it doesn't suck.
Fuji has set up an extensive M Mount Adapter microsite with more info.
Important note: One thing that's important to note about the Fuji built M Mount Adapter, and why there's a need for a compatibility list - is that in order to provide the ten electrical contacts for the function button, the internal diameter/depth is reduced... Thus, not all lenses will mount properly. If you want to forgo this functionality, you will probably be better served with an adapter from Voigtländer, Metabones, Novoflex, Hawk's Factory (review) or Kippon. Problem solved, at the loss of some functionality (this cannot be duplicated with existing function buttons). On the bright side, these third-party adapters tend to be (a lot) cheaper than the official Fuji part. Some adapters also feature a focusing helicoid to allow for macro shooting (but will have the same problem as the Fuji adapter with compatibility). There are also adapters available for LTM and R mount lenses. Finally, quality of both the adapter and resulting images may vary... As mentioned, we'll be testing all this and reporting in a separate article.
Both the Leica T and the Fujifilm X-T1 are based on ~16MP APS-C sensors that have enjoyed success within previous cameras and are thus known quantities. In the case of the Leica T, it's a Sony sensor that's been used in the various X cameras such as the X2 and X Vario. Fujifilm has used their X-Trans CMOS II sensor previously in cameras such as the X-E2 and X100s and is an enhanced version to that used in earlier cameras such as the X100. Neither sensor has an anti-aliasing filter, for the sharpest possible output. The Fuji takes an interesting approach with their sensor, utilizing a 6x6 RGB grid in an aim to counteract moiré and integrating phase detection sensors for autofocus, which the Sony/Leica sensor lacks.
While these two cameras are based on an APS-C sensor rather than full frame, they're both excellent, proven performers - don't succumb to the fascination with full frame. When using adapted lenses, there's the 1.5x crop factor to consider, but the native lenses largely negate any concerns.
Neither the Fujifilm X-T1 nor the Leica T have a "standard" lens that they come with; you can order both as a body-only - though Fuji does offer a combo with a lens, which results in some savings over purchasing separately - which Leica does not offer. We wouldn't classify either as a "kit lens" in the strictest sense, as they're both very good optically and mechanically. So let's compare apples to apples as much as possible. The Fujifilm zoom is the XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS and the Leica equivalent is the Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH lens. Both lenses come with hoods.
Both offer a 27-84mm equivalent on full frame 35mm - a very popular zoom range, for good reason. Both lenses also have a variable aperture, being brighter at the wide end and adjustable in third-stops. It's worth noting that the Fujifilm lens is brighter overall however, at f/2.8-4 vs. f/3.5-5.6, respectively. For what it's worth, Fujifilm will be releasing a new XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM OIS lens later this year that's a fixed aperture throughout the zoom range and is also weathersealed (to match the body). Let's see how else they compare:
|Elements/groups||14/10, 3 Asph||10/7, 4 Asph|
|Focus range||30/40cm - ∞||30/45mm - ∞|
Draw your own conclusions as to which is the winner; like we said, both are excellent in terms of optical and mechanical performance. However, the Fuji is faster (and stops down more) by a full stop, at least on the long end. It sports image stabilization. It's also $1,055 USD cheaper. You can buy any of the other Fuji lenses (which are all excellent) with that and still have some money left over.
As mentioned earlier, the design approach from both companies is vastly different. Whereas Leica went with the absolute minimal, high-tech approach to the design of the T, Fujifilm went the opposite direction with a more "retro" approach. That is, the latter offers numerous direct control dials and buttons (six of which can be re-assigned custom functions). The Leica T uses a touchscreen interface (which the Fujifilm X-T1 lacks) and offers an "app like" interface that can be customized much like a smartphone. Two very different styles, each with their own merits... And totally a matter of personal preference. Both are executed very well.
These different approaches alone may be the biggest deciding factor for many. Do you want to do most of your camera control through the touchscreen (and two dials), or do you want immediate access via numerous dials and buttons? When it comes to the lenses, these differences are less obvious. Both offer manual focus and zoom controls. Only Fujifilm offers an aperture dial on (most) lenses. The Fuji can be built-up through accessories such as the VG-XT12 Vertical Battery Grip and Shoe Mount Flash EF-42 to be a real pro-level shooter, on par with most DSLRs.
In correlation to the design differences are the accessories offered by each company - and perhaps the most telling regarding the target audience. To be fair, both companies offer accessories such as the M mount adapters, external flashes and native lenses. Leica also offers the Visoflex EVF, which Fujifilm does not - since it's built-in. Once you filter these out and look at the rest, it's a little interesting.
Leica offers a boatload of "lifestyle" accessories for the T system. Shoulder straps, hand straps, a holster, various skins, flaps and protectors - all in multiple colors. Even a camera bag. Perhaps this is a sign of the smartphone era, where customization is a personal - and profitable - matter.
Fujifilm offers many accessories that Leica does not - primarily because of the different design approaches. They offer no less than four additional camera grips, offering extra battery capacity or Arca-Swiss compatible dovetails. One option is a tight-fitting hand-grip loop that works in conjunction with the latter, much like you'd find on DSLRs from the likes of Canon and Nikon.
For what it's worth, you can use the Fujifilm X-T1 with your favorite camera strap - it utilizes a standard strap lug. The Leica T utilizes a very cool new design that plugs into the camera and swivels in a very unique way. The downside is that you have only one option - the Leica T Carrying Strap (one black one included, additional at $79 each). Granted, it comes in four different colors (black, white, yellow and orange to match other accessories) but it's made of silicone rubber, which might not appeal to all.
One thing that's extremely important in this day and age of electronic gadgets and cameras is firmware and support. As a user of any Leica camera can appreciate, firmware updates tend to be few and far in between. New features are rarely added and they're mostly of a bugfix nature. Then again, nothing like the T has existed before. Since the system is new, we don't know what's in store for us. One can only hope that with the new, modern design - comes interesting, useful updates. Another area where Leica has been less than stellar is repair turnaround time. You can expect anything from a week to six!
Fujifilm, with their more mature X system has taken the opposite approach. They've repeatedly shown that they listen to their customers in adding or enhancing features of their cameras in addition to the usual bugfixes. Even in the case of the latter, they've been very quick to respond to issues that arise, often getting in front of a problem - rather than letting it linger. One example that comes to mind is a "light leak issue" that plagued the first batch of cameras. Fuji quickly updated the design and offered a full, free repair to affected cameras (with a one week turnaround). To this day, Leica M digital cameras can be affected by a similar light leak and no official response or solution exists - nor will there likely ever be. What is the DIY answer? A hair scrunchy. Another recent example; Fujifilm updated the firmware for the X-E2 camera to have the full autofocus speed of their new flagship model, this X-T1.
Another area where Fujifilm is taking the industry by storm is their agressive roadmap to building out the X system, especially when it comes to native lenses. In fact, they make it publically available and to their credit, have kept up with it rather well. Sony by comparison, is languishing. Their native lens offerings have been slow to market and despite being out longer than the Leica T system - not much to talk about. As for the Leica T system, being the youngest of the trio, launched with only two lenses - and Leica is promising us two more... But they won't say when we might expect them, or if they're interested in more beyond that.
One thing worth pointing out is that both Fujifilm with the X mount and Sony with the E mount - both enjoy support from third-parties as far as lenses. Zeiss makes lenses for both in the form of their Touit and ZA lines. Mitacon and SLR Magic also make lenses for both mounts. There's news that Sigma will also enter the arena soon.
We applaud Leica's decision to enter the CSC (Compact System Camera) market, and do so with a well thought out system that has incredible design panache. However, in true Leica fashion it's not exactly inexpensive - and we question the target audience for this system. It seems to be intended more for casual shooters than "enthusiast" photographers.
Sony has no doubt shaken up the market with their A7/A7R (and recently the A7S) cameras, based on full frame sensors. Unfortunately, the user interface and native lens offerings both leave much to be desired and the cost, while cheaper than Leica, is still not exactly inexpensive. The use of M lenses, especially on the wider end - require additional post-processing with programs like CornerFix.
Fujifilm is one of the few companies in this market that truly understands (and listens to) what photographers want with the most mature system of the three - and offers the products at a very hard to beat price. Also, unlike the other two - nearly every review of every component is glowing. From the X-T1 body itself to the prime and zoom lenses. It's no small wonder that the camera is such a hot item since its launch at the end of January. If you're in the market for a CSC, M lens alternative or just a fun shooter... You owe it to yourself to give the Fujifilm X-T1 a serious look.
Where to Buy
You can pick up the Fujifilm X-T1 (as well as lenses and accessories) from many vendors and camera shops. Here are a few suggestions...
Or you can pick up the Leica T (as well as lenses and accessories) from some of these vendors...
Bonus Video Reviews
These three videos, really, say it all when it comes to the new Fujifilm X-T1 camera. Check out the third especially, for a really in-depth overview.