Fujifilm X series. A true long term test.

I was inspired to write this after stumbling upon various so called long term tests, I couldn't find one that ran longer than a few months! Crazy. Sure those reviews tell you what the writer might think of a given tool (camera) over a few weeks or some just hours but they dont really tell you the answer to what I think is the most important question.  

If I buy this, how long will it last?  

This question is vital, it's about long term durability which we don't seem to consider anymore in the throw away society. We spend thousands so we want the kit to last right? How reliable are they mechanically? how good are the electronics long term? This also helps us when we are looking at used kit, which cameras are solid enough to still be a good used buy at 3 or 4 years old.  Very important of course if making photographs pays the bills  

A subject that is missing all too often in the photographic world because models change so quickly we are expected to change them. Fujifilm continually update firmware for longevity, but what about the hardware??

So to start with my bench mark will be my Nikon experience. I had owned D200,300,700,800 and 800E DSLRs. I have dropped my D700 so hard the lens mount sheared yet the camera still shot fine. I have bought used Nikons  from 5 year old D90s to 30 year old Film SLRs. All worked just great.  I have high expectations. 

So what about my Fuji stuff? I do have plenty of experience here. I got into the brand early doors when a certain Mr Damian Lovegrove showed me the original X100 at a Christmas meal we both attended I think in 2012. We sat next to one another and Damian allowed me to play. I had been flirted with, Nikon was at home and I had been tempted, I was weak, seduced by the styling and talk of 'film like' output. I felt a bit special, like I was in an exclusive club because back then few used Fuji seriously and I was about to be one of them. After a little thought I went behind the D800s back and bought my own, an X-E1 with kit lens to dip my toe into mirrorless Fuji magic.  Sshhhhh! 

It was great, I loved it and the Sexy one helped me make some images I am still proud of today. I went on to try the rest. Her bigger sister the X Pro 1, which was great too. Later I was I introduced to a pre production  X-T1 for a few weeks by another Fuji X photographer. (I was beginning to feel press ganged, set up) That was back when the XT1 was a bit dizzy with an awful back D button and it would stop shooting once it hit a certain frame count. But Fuji sorted all that with upgrades  I was still very much a fan and ended up switching over to the system for all my work. I shot weddings, portraiture and commercial and gained done funny looks with my little cameras.  Like I said before, back then we were few daring to parade as paid Photographers with these toy like cameras. In 2014 an image shot on my little APSC Fuji became a finalist in Landscape Photographer of the Year and went into the book, now it was standing with the big boys.  I went on to try all the lenses too at one time or another, accept the large super zoom. I did own the XT2 but that wasn't around for long. 

Today I still own that XE1 which is now over 4 years old. I also still have one other  XE1 an XT1, an X20 and an X100s. I have owned X Pro 1 and an XT2

So there is my Fuji CV. Pretty thorough I hope you can agree. I feel confidently qualified to speak here. 

So how are they holding up? LONG TERM.  

The seducer, the under estimated, handy and fully long term tested XE-1

The seducer, the under estimated, handy and fully long term tested XE-1

Let's start with the XE1 and cut to the chase, how has age and plenty of use affected it? Well it's tired, battered and worn, I mostly use it for street. It's main ailment is the on/off switch which sticks. It takes quite some force to push it in either direction so mechanically there is a weak spot. But, everything else works. These days it's a play camera usually fitted with some sweet legacy glass. It's stood the test of time, for the most part, but that on/off switch will fail sooner or later, then she will be dead. 

The great but delicate XT1 

The great but delicate XT1 

The XT1. Now this is a little more frustrating and again it's mechanical and it's a control instrument issue. Firstly like the XE1 the on/off switch has become hard to move. More concerning however is the shutter speed and ISO dials which have become stiff, sticky even. Rough to turn and kind of crunchy. This suggests dirt ingress maybe, on this weathersealed body? My prediction is that this will be the one main fault to look out for in the future with this camera model. I wonder how the press lock system will bear up over time on the XT2 also? On the XT1 I had two tiny screws on the base dissapear. Likely they worked loose and have just fallen out, now that's not good. 

Many reviews state that Fujifilm mirrorless bodies have tank like build? Well I suggest that is premature advice, give them a few years and report back. 

Other than that to be fair they are shooting fine and the IQ is still excellent and using them remains fun.  

The brilliant X100s  

The brilliant X100s  

The X100s has no issue to date, that's a wonderful camera a classic in all its forms and no doubt the latter versions even better but I can't afford to upgrade.  The on/off switch did break early on but Fujifilm fixed that under warranty. 

I wont go into lenses here but many of them are a little delicate. Where a Nikkor AIS can take a dropping or two from low heights (it of course shouldn't but does happen) the Fujinons cannot. They break a little too easily, my 60mm just fell apart from a 12 inch drop onto carpet.  My 56mm looks tatty as the black paint scratched off easily just through normal use. 'Fragile' is s fair word applied to Fujinon X lenses.  As would be 'excellent' when we talk about optical quality to add balance.

So  that's my brief summary. There are a few long term mechanical wear and tear things to look out for and improvements that could be made before they can stand up against my older Nikons. And built like a tank should be a phrase used carefully if you don't have real long term experience with these cameras. Even Tanks break, often, trust me I know because my brother drove them for years. 

My Nikon F3 will outlive me, my old D90 still shoots like a well oiled machine gun and holds a battery charge for months. My fuji's on the other hand, apart from the X100 are near dead, the eldest just 4 years old. 

I love the fujifilm gear, especially the performance of the glass but I guess you just can't have style and substance. So my final word on fujifilm build long term durability is that it is very 'questionable'  

Maybe Fujifilm might read this and find it useful? Few bloggers have owned and used fujifilm X system as much, as diversely and and long as I. I have quite literally worn their cameras out and I'm happy to swap them for new ones in the name of R and D ;)

My final word?  I will soon need to replace my main cameras. Way before I would have expected to. What to I don't know but some are pushing me the Sony way, my gut shouts go back to Mrs Nikon. I have had a wonderful affair with fujifilm X series but I don't think I be keeping this love alive. It was a mid life crisis thing this affair. That's what Fujifilm gear is, a cure for a temporary itch. The XT2 was set to change me but it just didn't, it was well, vanilla and I couldn't see it being more durable. It still wanted to go out every Friday with its mates and not settle down. I just need more reliable, tougher wearing gear that won't begin to fail after thorough use. A partner that will weather all storms. It's all great in gentle hands I'm sure but I use my tools, I don't gush over them. 

I may may just slip out on the sly with the X100 every now and then, though.  ;) 

I hope I helped  

Martin