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Gear Reviews

A Trip To The Zoo With The Fuji X-T1

By Anthony Thurston on July 5th 2014

This past weekend I was able to take a fun family trip to the zoo for my nephew’s birthday. In my previous trips to the zoo, I have taken heavy lenses and big Canon DSLR cameras. My shoulders and back have always regretted it for days after. Things were different this time though…

I have had the wonderful opportunity to review the Fuji X-T1 over the last month, and while I was not impressed with it in a sports photography setting, for portraits I was in love. So the jury was out, I needed a tie breaker – a way to really see if I liked this camera or not. The Zoo seemed like as good of an opportunity as any.

I should note that the images you will see in this post have been processed, so if you are looking for clean SOOC samples you will have to wait until my final review on the X-T1.

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From the start of our Zoo adventure in the Great Northwest section of the park, I was already happy I had ditched the DSLR for this trip. I was able to move freely, and more importantly for my wife, help with the kid wrangling. The first animals that I was able to get a clear shot off was the majestic Bald Eagles.

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Fuji X-T1 w/ XF 55-200mm @ F/4.8, ISO 800, 1/180th, at 200mm

Moving on from the bald eagles, we continued our journey with some more big birds, Condors. These huge birds had a nice fresh deer carcass they were watching intently. The X-T1 paired with the 55-200mm nicely for this Condor shot just as it did for the Eagle shot. I was honestly surprised with how much I enjoyed the variable aperture of the 55-200mm.

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Fuji X-T1 w/ XF 55-200mm @ F/4.8, ISO 250, 1/180th, at 200mm

Moving on from the Great Northwest section of the park and its giant birds, we made our way to the nearest concession stand for some Elephant Ears. While everyone was enjoying the line, I took a moment to throw on the 23mm F/1.4 and see what kind of depth of field I could achieve.

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Fuji X-T1 w/ XF 24mm @ F/1.4, ISO 100, 1/1000th, at 23mm

I was excited to keep moving, because the next section of the park on our to do list was the primate section. I was nervous because most animals in this section of the park are behind glass, and as I am sure many of you are aware, Zoo’s are not known for keeping viewing glass very clean.

As I feared, many of the animals, the primates mostly, were behind glass so dirty it was not even worth trying to take a picture. A little disappointed we came to the end of the primates and into the rainforest section, and this is where I was able to grab what has to be my favorite Zoo shot of recent memory.

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Fuji X-T1 w/ XF 55-200mm @ F/3.5, ISO 4000, 1/500th, at 55mm

Sitting there just sticking his head out of the water was this little crocodile, and not only was I in a perfect position to get a shot, but the glass in front of me was relatively clean. It was a perfect storm of sorts. I bent down, almost to eye level with the croc and snapped off a series of shots, the one you see above being my favorite.

Following the Rain Forest we traveled across the park to get a glimpse of the elephants. The Oregon Zoo is known for its work with elephants, but unfortunately photo ops this year are a bit of a crap shoot because the Zoo is in the middle of a huge renovation of their elephant enclosure. Lucky for me though, I was able to get this shot, which I am quite fond of.

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Fuji X-T1 w/ XF 55-200mm @ F/4.8, ISO 320, 1/180th, at 200mm

Following the elephants, it was onto probably the second biggest attraction of the Zoo, the lions. This is always an interesting dilemma at the Oregon Zoo because there is no open viewing of these animals, the entire enclosure is behind glass.

The lions at this Zoo had just had cubs a few months back, so the entire family was out enjoying the open enclosure. This lioness was sitting majestically watching her cubs play. I was pretty happy with this shot, considering it was from behind dirty glass and at a fairly long range.

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Fuji X-T1 w/ XF 55-200mm @ F/4.8, ISO 320, 1/500th, at 200mm

As we finished our trip to the zoo, I realized that I had made it the entire day without any sort of neck or back pain. I had been able to get some incredible shots of animals from behind glass, through cages, and at a long distance. I left the Zoo feeling very happy with the decision to leave the DSLR at home in favor of the X-T1.

The Fuji X-T1 was easy to handle, performed very well, and made my trip much more enjoyable than I had expected it to be. If I am honest, it really pushed things over the finish line for me. I am convinced that I really enjoy the X-T1 for shooting anything stationary or slowly moving.

I just wish that the continuous focus mode worked a little better on fast moving subjects and this would no doubt be my dream camera. But overall, it is hard to argue that the X-T1 has got to be one of the best mirrorless options out there right now, and I will be thinking long and hard about picking one up for myself in the near future.

Anthony Thurston is a photographer based in the Salem, Oregon area specializing in Boudoir. He recently started a new project, Fiercely Boudoir to help support the growing boudoir community. Find him over on Instagram. You may also connect with him via Email.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Ian Moss

    And this is exactly why I bought an OMD-M5!

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  2. Walter Lustig

    I am not trying to find the hair in the soup but my first impression was that the images were rather soft and I am wondering what the reason could be …

    I am almost thinking that it has to do with the website as I am now noticing that the type is a bit fuzzy as well … I am on a MBP Retina, using Safari.

    I recently bought a Sony NEX-6 and also used a 55-210 in the zoo and images were super crisp … I imagine that yours are as well but do not show up here in their best quality … could that be?

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  3. Petr Kulda

    D7100+55-200
    765+335=1100g

    XT-1+55-200
    440+580=1020g

    With DSLR you can take even pictures with moving animals.

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    • Anthony Thurston

      You can take pics of moving animals on the X-T1 as well. Its with fast action sports and AF tracking that I had issues with the X-T.

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    • Petr Kulda

      Not only fast action sport, flying eagle can be issue for todays mirrorless. Its proven fact. But i agreen it can be ok, for animals-in-environment shots.

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  4. Servando Miramontes

    A lot of the images look super cropped! There is no way there should be that much grain and noise @ F/4.8, ISO 250, 1/180th, at 200mm…. Love my DSLR… still cool, I guess

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    • Anthony Thurston

      You must have missed the part where I said that these were processed images. Not straight out of camera. I processed with the grain and a fade on purpose. The sooc images are very clean, not much noise at all.

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  5. Alben Osaki

    Did you write an article about using the X-T1 for portraiture or sports? I checked but couldn’t find anything. I just ask because you mentioned using it in this article.

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    • Anthony Thurston

      No, not a dedicated post to either. But I will touch on both in my final post on the X-T1, probably next week some time.

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  6. Michael Chapman

    Hmmm … interesting article, but still not convinced about the whole mirrorless milieu. I’ll stick to my “heavy” DSLR and keep on slugging, sore neck, shoulders and all. :)

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    • Greg Faulkner

      Same here, I look at the prices and think about the lenses I could buy for my Nikon instead

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