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This spring, I made a big decision that more and more travel photographers are making: I decided to switch from a DSLR to a mirrorless camera.
In other words, I said farewell to the Nikon D5100 that I had been using for two years in favor of the Fuji X-T1, a mirrorless model.
And I could not be happier about it!
What is a mirrorless camera?
DSLRs are the big professional cameras with lenses that you see pro photographers and serious amateurs use. They have mirrors in their bodies — the light enters the camera, reflects off a mirror, and hits the sensor.
By contrast, mirrorless cameras omit the mirror. For that reason, they’re much smaller and lighter, yet they provide a similar quality.
All of the photos you’re about to see in this post, excluding the selfie of me with the camera at the top, were taken with my Fuji X-T1.
Are mirrorless cameras as good as DSLRs?
Generally speaking, the best mirrorless cameras are very close in quality to many DSLRs. Some mirrorless cameras are even better. Technology has been catching up at a rapid rate, which is very exciting!
My Fuji X-T1 is better than some entry-level DSLRs like my Nikon D5100, but not as good as some high-end DSLRs like the Nikon D810 or Canon EOS 5D.
But the truth is that the vast, vast majority of photographers — even pros — don’t need the most high-end DSLR in order to take photos of excellent quality.
In other words, for your needs, a premium mirrorless camera provides all the quality you need.
Another thing — keep in mind that you don’t buy a mirrorless camera to save money. Some DSLRs and lenses, including my former Nikon setup, are cheaper. You buy a mirrorless because it’s a better overall product.
Why use a mirrorless camera for travel?
In a nutshell: excellent quality with a much lower size and weight.
Honestly, the irony is that carrying around a heavy camera can be a deterrent to taking photos! I know that there have been many times that I’ve skipped out on taking my camera with me because I didn’t want to carry the weight.
The Fuji X-T1 is so much lighter and smaller. It doesn’t bug me to casually take it out with me, even if I’m going out for the whole day. If I use a larger purse, it fits right inside!
My Best Photos
I’ve wanted to write a Fuji X-T1 review since I bought it in May, but I decided to give myself a few months to get used to it and test it out all over Europe so that I could share a varied portfolio of photos with you.
Every photographer is different, but generally when shooting travel photography, you need to cover a wide variety of shooting: landscapes, architecture and cityscapes, food, people, street photography, and events. (Personally, I’m not big on shooting people, but I try to get the rest.)
Here are some of my favorite shots:
Which Mirrorless Camera is Best for Travel?
At this point in time, there are three top-of-the-line mirrorless cameras by three top brands:
Fuji X-T1 Review: Why I Chose IT
Honestly, this was a completely independent decision on my part. I had zero influence from sponsors and while finances are always a concern, I was willing to pay full price for the best camera. It was important to me to get the best quality lightweight camera possible for the sake of my work.
I wanted a camera that could grow with me — that would be useful for years, no upgrade necessary, and would take me into the future. A camera that I could add lenses to over a long time period.
After researching the particulars, I narrowed it down to either the Fuji X-T1 or the Sony A7ii and asked several of my friends who are professional photographers for their opinion. The verdict?
Every single pro photographer told me that the Fuji X-T1 was the way to go.
Seriously. I was floored by how in favor they were of Fuji. (That’s not to say that no pros use the Sony A7 or A7II — I know some who do and absolutely love their cameras.)
Here are the three main arguments they put forward:
“The Fuji’s lenses are better.” They’re also lighter and cheaper than the Sony’s Zeiss lenses.
“The Sony is better if you need full frame or are selling giant prints — but you’re not doing that.” Most people aren’t.
“Photos from the Fuji just look better.” Well. That’s not quantifiable, but certainly interesting.
Fuji X-T1 Specifics
- Image sensor: 16.3 megapixel APS-C X-Trans CMOS II
- ISO Sensitivity: 200 – 6400 (extended to 100, 12800, 25600, 51200)
- Sensor Cleaning System with Ultra Sonic Vibration
- Memory Cards: SDHX / SDXC memory cards / Class 10 (not included)
- Still Image File Formats: JPEG, RAW (RAF format), RAW+JPEG
- Movie File Format: MOV / H.264 / Linear PCM Stereo
- Lens mount: FUJIFILM X mount
- Image Stabilizer: Supported with OIS-type lenses
- Exposure Control: TTL 256-zone metering, Multi / Spot / Average
- Exposure mode Programmed AE / Shutter Speed priority AE / Aperture priority AE / Manual exposure
- Synchronized shutter speed for flash : 1/180 sec. or slower
- Continuous shooting Approx. 8.0 fps (JPEG : max. approx. 47 frames)
- Approx. 3.0 fps (JPEG : up to the capacity of the card)
- Focus Modes: Single AF / Continuous AF / MF Distance Indicator type Intelligent Hybrid AF (TTL contrast AF / TTL phase detection AF), AF assist illuminator available
- Weight Approx. 440g / 15.4 oz. (including battery and memory card)
- Battery Life for Still Images: Approx. 350 frames under “normal” shooting conditions.
What I Love About the Fuji X-T1
Wi-fi connection. This has CHANGED MY LIFE. After shooting with my Fuji, I can instantly send the photos to my phone, edit them in Snapseed, and upload them to social media. An absolute game-changer, especially for a travel blogger who shares in real time!
Weather sealing. If you’ve ever tried to take photos in Iceland or Scotland, both of which I visited this summer, you know that the weather can turn violent in a flash. You want to have a camera that is as protected as possible, and the weather sealing is critical for that.
No more wasted shots while guessing exposure. On my previous DSLR I got pretty good at trial and error with guessing the exposure level. But on the Fuji X-T1, the viewfinder is electronic and automatically shows you how the photo is going to come out when you fiddle with the dials! No more wasted shots.
Dials on the top. It could not be easier to adjust my settings, including ISO and exposure compensation.
Retro design. It looks cool as hell, and I love that.
It feels great. I absolutely love having it in my hands. It’s strong, it fits my hands perfectly, and nothing slips out of place.
What I Don’t Love About the Fuji X-T1
Camera screen. I really wish that it flipped out to face the front for easy selfies — it only angles up and down.
Bottom dials on the knobs. They shift a little bit too easily and I sometimes knock them out of place without intending to.
Video quality. It’s decent but not as good as it could be; I shoot most video elsewhere.
Fun with the Fujifilm Camera Remote App
I love technology! It’s easy to set up your phone to connect to the Fuji X-T1 via wifi. The Fujifilm Camera Remote app allows you to browse your camera’s images and import your photos to your phone.
Best of all is that with the app, you can use your phone as a remote shutter release. It gives you all the controls and even shows you how the photo looks as you’re taking it. That is huge!
Lenses for the Fuji X-T1
Lenses are where Fuji really shines. Even so, if you just want to stick to one walk-around lens and never take it off, that’s fine, too!
Fuji 18-135 mm F 3.5-3.6 — If you want a good walking-around lens that you can use for most instances, get this one. (In fact, you save money if you buy it together with the camera body on Amazon — that’s what I did!)
So far, I’m just sticking to my 18-135, but I’ve got several on my list to buy next:
Fuji 10-24 mm F 4 — Wide-angle lenses are amazing on landscapes. This one has rave reviews.
Fuji 56 mm F 1.2 — This is the fixed lens that many of my pro photographer friends geek out over. It’s especially good for portraits.
Fuji 50-200 mm F 3.5-4.8, or, if you’ve got money to burn, Fuji 50-140 mm F 2.8: If you’re planning on shooting wildlife or sports, you should invest in a good zoom. I plan on buying one of these before my next wildlife trip, whenever that may be.
Gear for the Fuji X-T1
Pacsafe Camsafe V25 Camera Bag — I actually own a smaller version of this bag, the Pacsafe CamSafe V17, which I love (and which was given to me for free from Pacsafe as part of a campaign on which I worked), but I actually think the V25 is better.
I am a huge fan of PacSafe products and have used them for years. They work to make their bags as theft-proof as possible with lockable straps, unslashable mesh, and RFID compartments.
MeFOTO A1350 Q1P aluminum tripod — A tripod is the single most important gear that will improve your landscape photography. It’s also ideal for shooting in low-light situations and capturing the best colors of the sunset. This is the one I use. And it’s purple!
67 mm UV filter — PLEASE BUY A UV FILTER, NO MATTER WHICH CAMERA YOU BUY. It protects your precious lens, and even the most conscientious photographers have accidents sometimes. If you drop your camera onto something sharp, wouldn’t you rather replace a cheap filter than an expensive lens?
Samsung M3 1TB Hard Drive — Don’t forget to back up your photos, both online and in hard drives.
SanDisk memory cards — The brand isn’t vital, but I’ve always been pleased with SanDisk. Have a few memory card backups, just in case.
Universal memory card reader — This one is a good one.
Spare Fuji NP-W126 Li-ion batteries — Have at least one charged spare on you at all times, and more if you plan on shooting in cold temperatures. The cold makes batteries deplete quickly.
Microfiber cleaning cloths — For removing fingerprints and more from your lens. I keep one cloth in my purse and one in my camera bag — you’ll always need one!
Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop — This is the software that I use to edit my photos, and it’s great for both amateurs and pros. Tons of tutorials are on YouTube.
Snapseed. For editing photos on your phone, this is the best app there is. And it’s free!
Is the Fuji X-T1 for you?
If you’re looking for a professional camera that can grow with you over the course of several years, I think the Fuji X-T1 is an excellent choice. It’s light, it’s quality, it’s excellent for travel, and you wouldn’t need to upgrade unless you were getting into photography hardcore.
After making the investment in the camera body and a walking-around lens, you can spend some time using them, and if you want to improve your work, you can gradually add to your lens collection.
I could not be more thrilled with my decision to switch to the Fuji X-T1. Every day I am so, so glad that I made the switch, and I’m excited to see where this camera will take me in the future.
One last reminder: a better camera does not instantly transform you into a better photographer. Working on your skills and practicing is what turns you into a better photographer.
If you’re looking to improve your photography, take a class. Get a book. Read some blogs. Watch YouTube tutorials. Join an Insta-meet or photo walk. More importantly, go out with your camera, even if it’s just your phone, and practice.
And once you combine your newfound skills with a great camera, it’s nothing short of life-changing.
Essential Info: The Fuji X-T1 is available for $1,199 for the body only. I recommend buying it with the 18-135 mm lens ($1,899), which will save you some money over buying the lens separately.
Note: Some of the above links are affiliate links, which at no extra cost to you, will earn me a small commission and reduce the costs of running this site.
65 thoughts on “Best Mirrorless Camera for Travel: Fuji X-T1”
I whole-heartedly agree! I replaced my Canon 5DII at the beginning of the year with the X-T1 and I couldn’t be more happier. It was a nervous swap as the 5D is a fantastic camera but I was becoming increasingly tired of the weight and bulk of it, not ideal – for me anyway – for travel.
I got a great cashback deal and bought 3 lenses (with the plan to sell one but I can’t part with any of them, they are such incredible glass!).
The 35mm is phenomenal, it’s my go to lens, replacing the 50mm I used a lot on the DSLR. So crisp!
It has revolutionised my photography because I take it everywhere, it’s fun to use, I love the screen as my 5D was fixed, and I’ve found I’ve become more playful with it.
I haven’t had much luck with the wifi as I have an ancient phone, can you wifi RAW images across to you phone or do they have to be Jpegs?
It was a ton of money to part with but I’m over the moon! I thought I would miss the 5D but I don’t at all!
the video is the let down, but I’ve had heaps of fun making timelapses and short animations (gifs) and they can bring my blog posts to life!
I’ve had so much geeky photographic interest from people since getting it too!
Simply put I love my XT-1!
Wow, so cool to hear from someone who gave up a high-end DSLR for the X-T1! I’ve only been transferring JPEGs, but you CAN convert from RAW to JPEG within the camera, which is cool.
Ah, that’s cool to hear! I aways shoot RAW and edit in Lightroom delaying the immediacy of it all! I do sometimes think damn it, I want to share that right now!
Your photos are always absolutely brilliant. It’s interesting that you avoid people. When I look for travel photos, they are always scenery, landscapes, cities. I feel like it’s so much more interesting with people added.
Hi Kate! I had a conversation with you on Facebook about a year ago regarding mirrorless cameras and it seems like you took the plunge! This has been one of the most helpful posts recently, for me. I’m basically just going to take your word and get the body, lens, and memory card all at once. I had already come to the same conclusion anyway. It’s just hard to drop that $2k initially.
I was really on the fence between a nice compact and a mirrorless (looking at cameras like the Lumix LX and Sony RX series). I think I’ve made my mind up.
Hey, Jack! I wouldn’t say that I avoid people — more that I’m not into asking strangers for portraits. Part of it is my introversion; another part is that it doesn’t feel comfortable for me from an exploitation standpoint (even though I know it’s not exploitation in most cases — just makes me feel icky).
I saved up for this camera for a long time. 🙂 It was a big priority! I hope you take the plunge. You’ll love it.
Kate, I have a solution for you that my wife dreamed up for me to get more portraits of strangers.
Get a bunch of “photographer” business cards made up that have a web address for your photos.
The URL on my card is http://www.flickr.com/photos/thenthere . I ask people if they would like a photograph and then give them the card with the URL and tell them they can download photos in a few days on Flickr. This seems like a good way to pay them back. It has worked almost every time and it has reduced my anxiety about asking. Not a one-way street anymore.
That’s a great idea, Rob!
Hi Kate. I just found your excellent site, and wanted to compliment you on your stunning photography! I too, use the Fujifilm X-System, and I also appreciate your landscape images “without people”…My reasons are slightly different though, as I shoot for stock and graphic arts, and try to capture the “cleanest”, sharpest image possible, given my current equipment (XT-1, X-Pro 2, and the superb Fujinon XF lenses), and always shooting on a good tripod. I prefer not dealing with model releases, as perhaps my “introverted” personality precludes me from engaging with complete strangers. I love all your advice and observations on the XT-1, and might make one further suggestion…When buying a filter for lens protection, I would recommend only high-end filters such as B+W, Heliopan, or Hoya EVO Antistatic. Using a “cheap” filter, in my experience, only degrades the awesome sharpness and overall image quality that these magnificent Fujinon optics are capable;e of. Thank you.
Great tips, Steve. Thank you! My filter is from B&W. 🙂
This is a great look at the Fuji camera. I replaced my old camera last year with the Sony a6000 mirrorless camera and have never been happier! Wifi connection has also made a use difference while traveling and I can’t believe the quality of the photos — they look even better than some DSLR cameras! I definitely need to check out the mirrorless model you recommended too, thanks for sharing! 🙂
Wifi on your camera is a game-changer. A life-changer!
This is how affiliate marketing is done, people. Kaching-kaching!
I wrote a similar post a few months back explaining why I opted for the Olympus O-MD E-M10. I use it primarily with a wide-angle lens and as 25mm lens and it’s a portable, affordable miracle.
Nice. Several of my friends have this one, too!
Great review! I’ve been thinking about moving from iPhone pics to a professional grade camera and this is exactly the type of information I need.
I think you’d love it!
Has anyone any feedback on taking interior pictures with a wide angle lens using the Fuji? I need to take pictures of interiors and we are looking to replace our old Cannon eos with a new camera for use in interior shots as well as general travel photography pics.
Fuji’s 14mm f/2.8 lens is great for interior shots. I also use mine for landscapes and city scenes.
You can see Fuji’s entire lens lineup here: http://www.fujifilm.com/products/digital_cameras/xf_lens/roadmap/
I contemplated this one when I was upgrading my camera last month. But, in the end, I went with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II since I’ve been using Olympus mirrorless cameras for the past few years and really like them (plus, I already have a few Olympus lenses, so it just made sense).
I got mine with a 12-40 Pro lens, and I’m in LOVE! It has the swivel screen that you mentioned you wish yours had, and takes pretty good video too. Definitely another good option.
great info and gorgeous shots!
However for my doc film that will be shot on 6 continents, these camera’s simply won’t do. I don’t mind the weight. When you carry weight around, no gym membership needed. haha! : )
Except when it’s on your neck! Eek.
Wow, amazing pictures! I am in the process of looking for a nice camera for more professional photographs and this might be just the thing!
Thanks for posting this, even though now it’s given me serious camera envy! I’m 7 months into my RTW trip with my Canon DSLR and seeeeeriously wish I’d brought a mirrorless instead. There’s so many times I don’t bring my camera because it’s just too heavy! My dad is visiting now and has a mirrorless, I might just have to “accidentally” swap it when he goes to leave. 😉
A mirrorless camera has been on my Christmas list since the start of this year. I definitely need to invest in a better camera, but the DSLRs always scared me off just because of how big and bulky they are. I love some of the points you bring up! I probably won’t get a top-top of the line one just because a) I’m afraid I would lose it and b) I’m not that great of a photographer. Ha! Thanks for the review!
I just invested in a new mirrorless camera and absolutely love it.
The top of the range one were a little bit out of my price range though. Instead I got the Sony a6000 which from hours and hours of research seems to be the camera recommended for the mid priced category. I love how light it is and how it ha a very retro look to it!
I recently upgraded my camera, went for a Powershot G7 X, my primary reason for this choice is that I wanted my camera to be pocketable – I don’t want to flaunt my camera around everywhere.
I occasionally consider upgrading to a bigger model, but the pocketable aspect (so far) always disqualifies cameras with replaceable lenses like this. Going for a top-end pocketable camera comes of course with some added benefits that you mention here as well, like a remote app, RAW shooting (in case I DO feel like editing in Lightroom later, which let’s face it, is almost never ;-)) and a swivel screen that goes all the way (which I initially thought useless, but it’s actually quite nice)
Anyway, while the X-T1 does objectively have better image quality given the bigger sensor and better lenses, my trade-off always goes the other way 🙂
Great recomendation !! i am new on this of taking pictures!! but i am getting better with the time
Thanks for all the great info. I think I need to take a class first, lol. As they say, practice practice practice. Thanks for sharing and for all the great pics!
More people should take classes. You improve so fast that way!
Great job finding a camera that is right for you! I bought a Canon 70d a few years back for pretty much all of the reasons you listed here (except the being mirrorless part). I think it’s important to have a camera that you can grow with and will last for a while, and i most definitely agree that weather seal is an incredibly addition to cameras… Especially when shooting in good ol’ England!
Speaking of photography, just wanted to take the time to say that your dedication to improving your craft rally shows – your photos are looking incredible lately! xo
Thank you so much, Amy!
I’ve been looking for a camera to replace my DSLR, so I’m excited to learn about your experience with Fuji. I know several people who love Fuji, and I’ve seen great results. I’ll have to look more into this! Thank you for your suggestions!
I’m currently traveling through Europe with my Panasonic GX7 and I love it. As far as mirrorless cameras go, I think the micro 4/3 format (Panasonic and Olympus cameras) offers the widest range of lenses since Panasonic and Olympus lenses are interchangeable. I’m currently using a Panasonic Leica 15mm f1.7 and I couldn’t be happier with it as a travel lens.
Some photos are so dark. Is it normal For fujifilm?
These are all edited photos, so you may want to check the brightness of your screen.
I have a mirrorless that I’ve been using for 2 years now, especially when travelling and it’s just so light that I never take my DLSR abroad now. And the quality is just awesome, even for printing.
I’ve been doing a lot of reading about the XT-1 and I might switch to Fuji next year, altough I really like my Lumix GX7.
Your travel pictures are gorgeous. Thanks for sharing your travels with us 🙂
Thanks so much, Emmanuelle!
Thanks a lot to introduce with new technology camera Fuji X-T1. I want to buy such a camera, because it helps me to capture my present photos for future memories. This article really guide me to grab this incredible technology.
I definitely agree that a mirrorless is the way to go. I went with a sony NEX-6 because I already have a bunch of Sony DSLR lenses that I could use with it.
Great info Kate! I also rotated out my old Nikon DSLR earlier in the year, but ended up going with the A7ii. Love the camera so far. The full frame sensor provides a beautiful dynamic range and the image stabilizer has helped churn out great low light/long exposure shots.
Looking forward to seeing what you’re able to do with the X-T1!
Nice! I know some people who really like theirs. Thanks!
Great choice! Fuji makes an outstanding camera. I bought an X-E2 before we left and love it. The X-T1 wasn’t available at the time. The mirrorless cameras are so much more convenient, smaller, weigh less and can take a great image.
Better when taking close-up photos. I have gopro but it works best when taking the whole place. Not so good in focused subject 🙂
Hey Kate! THANK YOU for this post it was incredibly helpful! How would you say this camera does with taking action shots? and also have you tried a lot of night photography city/stars/moon?
With action, if you’ve got good lighting, it’s great. ISO is pretty good. I haven’t done any astrophotography with it yet but if you’ve got a tripod, you’ll be fine for low light.
This is so helpful! I had no idea there were mirrorless cameras out there (well I didn’t really look at all). I love that its not as heavy although I’m lucky to always travel with my husband who has been so kind to carry my camera whenever I need a break. Thank you so much for this review 🙂
I hope you go mirrorless! I’m really glad I did.
very nice kate!
I love your pictures and my personal favourite is the kids on the scooters, I like the black and white, I like the grounding just everything looks marvellous. good job and safe travels to you.
Thank you, Emily!
Last November I got the Olympus OMD-EM1 and I am extremely happy with it. I actually saw my other travel blogging friends lugging around those huge DSLRs and the lenses and I decided not to go in that direction.
I am very happy with the quality of my photos but as my husband is fond of saying….it’s the nut behind the wheel. LOL
You said “They have mirrors in their bodies — the light enters the camera, reflects off a mirror, and hits the sensor.”
Richard is correct.
The mirror directs the light through a prism to the viewfinder.
The mirror has to move out of the way to let light hit the sensor or film…
Wonderful blog. However, I must take issue with your statement in your introductory paragraph.
“My Fuji X-T1 is better than some entry-level DSLRs like my Nikon D5100, but not as good as some high-end DSLRs like the Nikon D810 or Canon EOS 5D.”
I can only presume that what you meant is that in your opinion the Fuji X-T1 is not as good as some high end DSLRs…”
I had among my Canons the 5D with some L lenses and when I took the plunge to switch to the Fuji, it was my conclusion that it was better than the Canon on several fronts, including the quality of the Fuji lenses. But to say it is “not as good” is surely a subjective opinion, which should otherwise be substantiated with fact. I find that my X-T1 is as least as good on several fronts than my Canon 5D, but there are so many variables when choosing a camera – including an emotional pull to one brand or another. However, I would certainly say that I am happier with my Fuji X-T1 and the images it produces than I was with my Canon gear. But that’s just my opinion.
Whatever works for you, I’m happy with!
Appreciate if you could give the opinion the differences between XT-1 and XT-10. Thank you
I’m in the process of switching from DSLR to mirrorless too. I can’t find the perfect camera for my needs and budget but I’m still keeping an eye on the X-T1 in case I find a good second hand deal. While it looks that it has the best image quality of the category (Contending with the latest Sony) I also read several reports of it weatherproof not being to the top, with several machines spoiled under light rain, and as you know while travelling with rain, dust, sweat, that’s quite a priority!
Great post. I currently have the Nikon D610 & D7000 both of which I love.
Since needing spine surgey following a car accident I’ve had to close my beloved business.
I am dead keen on the Fuji xt-1
I am about to embark on a number of travelling trips one being a 14 day cruise. I am undecided on lenses. I am so used to primes and fixed apertures (even withough zooms) i am concerned using one without. I am a huge control freak. What issues do you find with the 18-135 not being fixed at say 2.8.
Also would you recommend for say in board low light? 14m or 35m
Thanks in advance for any input you may offer 🙂
Thanks for the great post, Kate!
I looked at the Fuji x-t1 today and the main thing I didn’t like about it was that the viewfinder was electronic. I didn’t like the digital feel of it. The guy at the camera store told me I’d get used to it, but you brought up a really good point about actually seeing what your picture will look like right away. That’s definitely something for me to reconsider in making my final decision to take the plunge. It’s either this camera, or stick with my Canon 70d for now.
I find myself taking tons of sunset photos and the colors in all the ones you’ve posted are gorgeous! I see that the quality of photos I get will not be an issue.
Love the photos you’ve shared and thanks for all the great info! 🙂
Hey Christel! I just took my X-T1 to South Africa and I rented a Fuji telephoto lens from Borrow Lenses — got AMAZING wildlife pictures!
I love the photos! Have you stuck with the Fujifilm X-T1 or have you upgraded as Fujifilm has released new bodies? I’d love a long-term update if you’re still using your Fuji (and especially if you still enjoy it as much as you did when you wrote this article!).
I am still sticking with the X-T1 — I don’t feel a pressing need to upgrade at this time, though your needs might be different! I’m still enjoying it.