In the world of mirrorless cameras, Fujifilm is among the elite. Their cameras have that vintage look and feel along with the performance that shooters require in a professional realm. So, when they announced the new Fujifilm X-T2, a lot of people took notice. It has the latest in sensor and processing tech and boasts a new autofocus system that claims to keep up with high-end DSLR cameras. But just how well does it perform in the real world?
The X-T2 has a DSLR-style build as opposed to the rangefinder build you’ll see on its brother, the X-Pro2. What this means is that the viewfinder is placed in the center of the camera like you would see on most DSLRs. This viewfinder is also strictly an EVF (electronic view finder) and is the best EVF I have used to date. It is super large and has a very fast refresh rate, which means as you are are panning around a scene, you don't have to wait for the viewfinder to catch up to your movements like you had in the past. One of the benefits of using an EVF is that you have full-time live view, meaning you can always see the exact image you are going to capture before you press the shutter. Because of this design, it also means the autofocus system is built into the sensor instead of relying on a separate autofocus module. What this means is that switching from the EVF to the LCD screen will result in zero change in performance or features. This really comes into play when using the built-in tilting screen which not only tilts up and down, but also can fold out to the right.
One of the new additions to the camera is a joystick that allows you to quickly move your autofocus button. Hallelujah! That was one of my biggest gripes when using previous Fujifilm cameras. My only issue with this joystick is that it isn't in the most ideal position for something that is going to be used a lot. Across the back of the camera, you will also find all the other standard buttons that are found on most Fujifilm cameras. The majority of these buttons are fully customizable which means you can set buttons to perform functions you want instead of having to deal with what is preset from the manufacturer. One of the puzzling parts for me, though is that some buttons are not changeable. For example, Fujifilm realized that having the play button on the left side of the camera might be an inconvenience for some shooters, so they allow you to map any of the Fn buttons to be a play button. But for some reason, they don't allow you to re-map the play button? So, if you decide to map the play button to one of the Fn buttons, you would be left with two buttons that perform the same task. The same goes for the delete button. The only time you need use of the delete button is during image review, but for some reason, they don't allow you to map this button to perform a task while shooting. This is a feature found on their X70, so I was surprised not to see it on their latest and greatest camera.
On the top of the camera, you will find a set of levers and dials that perform some of the major functions you need quick access too, things like shutter speed, ISO, exposure compensation, metering modes, and drive type. You will also see the most frustrating little Fn button on the entire camera. Placed between two dials, you can't reach it with your thumb without releasing your grip on the camera, and you can't hit it with your index finger without trying to jam it between the two dials. i much rather have seen this Fn button on the upper right of the top plate similar to the X100T
Fuji also made a change on top of the camera giving you the ability to lock the shutter speed and ISO dial. In the past, it was super easy to knock these dials into another setting while taking the camera in and out of a camera bag. Now there is a nice little button on the top of each dial that acts like the click of a pen. Click in and the dial is locked. Click out and you are free to move the dial to whatever setting you want. But underneath these dials are nice little levers that control the drive settings and the metering modes. The problem is that the locking mechanism only affects the dial, not the dial and the lever. So, you are still faced with the same issue of bumping these levers and changing settings. Although less common due to the smaller size of the lever, it still happened enough that I wish the lock was for the entire assembly and not just the dial.
Another great change that made this camera more plausible to being a professional working camera is the addition of a dual memory card slots. Being a wedding photographer, this has always been a required feature for me. The camera is also weather resistant, which adds a great peace of mind when combined with their set of weather resistant lenses.
One of the biggest claims made upon release was the improved autofocus. And it’s true. This thing is fast. Like most systems though, the autofocus speeds are just as reliant on the lens as they are on the camera body. So while you will see an overall increase in speeds across all of the X-series lenses, you won't notice as much of gain on the 56mm f/1.2 as you will see on the 35mm f/2. But overall, I found the focus speeds to be more than adequate and never longed for faster speeds when using the AF-S setting.
When reading and watching videos about the focus-tracking capabilities, I saw people saying that the X-T2 compared or even beat cameras such as the Nikon D500. Upon first attempts to test this, I found nothing of the sort. Tracking my dogs in the backyard, I would be lucky to get one image in focus. The camera has a special type of AF-C customization where you can tell it what type of motion you are tracking, and even with the camera set to level five, which is designed for erratically moving subjects that are in states of acceleration and deceleration, I was still getting inconsistent results. I tried spot, zone, and wide-tracking focus and still got nothing worth writing home about. The entire time I was testing this, I had the camera set to continuous low in the drive setting. I figured this would give the camera more time to track focus between images. But as a last ditch effort to see the results everyone was gushing about, I set the camera to continuous high, and sure enough, the results were amazing. I have no idea why the lower drive setting has worthless focus tracking, but the high drive setting is amazing, so I’ll take it.
The above set of 18 images was taken as my dog was running toward me at full speed and not a single image is out of focus. Below is a crop of the last image, which should be the hardest of the set for the camera to keep in focus because the depth of field is at its shallowest.
Dynamic Range and ISO
Dynamic range has always been very important to me. I even wrote an article on why I think dynamic range is more important than megapixel count and ISO. I'll constantly shoot underexposed on my Nikon D750, because I just know there will be enough details in the shadows. To test the X-T2 files, I took a base image and then increased my shutter speed by one stop for each continuing image. Then in post, I raised the exposure of each image so that it matched the exposure of my base image. I wasn't completely blown away by the results, but they were not terrible either. I found that raising my exposure to plus three was completely doable, but anything above that is where the image would fall apart. The first thing to go was the green channel. So, in instances where I need to go a little above three stops, I can always adjust the hue and saturation of the greens to get a bit more leeway. Below are some zoomed-in crops; the far left image is the X-T2 base image, followed by plus three stops. The next image is plus 4.5 stops, which I found interesting that it only needed a plus 4.5 when it was shot at -5. As a comparison, the far right is a crop from the Nikon D750 at +5 stops (now that’s what I want from dynamic range!! #armflexemoji). The Nikon file was shot at the exact same settings as the green Fuji image.
While I value dynamic range more than ISO, there is still something to be had with having high-ISO capabilities. And the XT2 can hold its own. The below image is ISO 12,800, and it even had to be pushed up one stop in post. Is there noise? You bet. But for me, this image is more than usable as it is right now, and I didn't apply any noise reduction. Add to it that I was even able to push up the exposure without the file falling apart and you have a very capable low-light camera.
The above information is the bulk of what I wanted to discuss in this review. But I feel some other things are worth mentioning. One of the main features of this camera is the ability to shoot 4K video internally. It actually shoots in a resolution higher than 4K and then downsamples the footage to 4K, which supposedly helps with video quality and artifacts such as moire.
Another thing worth mentioning is the battery life. It’s basically the same as all the past X-series cameras. This is because it uses the exact same battery. While the battery life is not great, it’s not terrible either. I made it through an entire two-hour photoshoot without needing to change batteries, but I was also shooting two bodies. If you are already invested in the X-series cameras, you have the benefit of being able to use all of your current batteries. If this ends up being your first steps into Fuji, then buy at least four batteries if you plan to shoot all day. Although the battery life isn't great, the most frustrating part is the battery meter. This seems to be a constant struggle for Fuji. You can check your battery meter before walking out the door and see that it’s at 50%, then next thing you know, the camera is force shutting down because it’s dead, even though you hardly used it. I have basically resorted to only trusting the meter if it says 100%. If not, then I grab a spare battery.
The last thing to mention is the overall image quality. Fantastic. That’s really all there is to it. The in-camera JPEGs in combination with the built-in film simulations (especially Acros and Classic Chrome) are nothing short of spectacular.
What I Liked
- Focus speeds and tracking accuracy
- Weather resistant
- Tilting screen (I think this should be standard on every camera)
What I Didn't Like
- Focus tracking requires certain settings in order to work reliably
- Button layout and lack of customization with certain buttons
- The Wi-Fi app: it works, but it’s a slow, finicky process to get it to work
While I definitely have some small frustrations with the X-T2, the majority of them are pretty nitpicky items. This is because the overall camera really is quite remarkable. The camera is fast and accurate, and it is a complete joy to use. The small form factor makes it a breeze to take with you everywhere, yet it’s fast and powerful enough to be used as a workhorse. Check out the gallery below for some more image examples from the new X-Trans III sensor and feel free to ask any questions in the comments. Get yours here.