A couple of months ago, I finally pulled the trigger; I broke out my wallet and dropped a (rather large) chunk of change on my first mirrorless camera kit, the Fujifilm X-T2. I had been researching mirrorless options for almost a year, and finally landed there for a multitude of reasons. I was mainly interested in a mirrorless kit for use while traveling and backpacking, and loved the idea of a smaller, lighter kit. All signs started pointing at the X-T2 over the other long-term contender, the Olympus OM-D EM-1 MK II. It was only a couple of weeks before I headed off to spend a month in India and Nepal, so I needed to learn this camera relatively quickly.
Luckily, a friend needed some engagement photos, so it was the perfect storm; something I don’t shoot too often with a camera I had never used. Here’s how it went.
For this kit, I went to my local camera shop and picked up a used Fujifilm X-T2 body, as well as a 16mm f/1.4 (24mm equivalent), 23mm f/2 (35mm equivalent), 35mm f/2 (50mm equivalent), 56mm f/1.2 (85mm equivalent), and 90mm f/2 (135mm equivalent). All primes, all fast, mostly small (the 90mm is a little larger than the others, but still smaller than my Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8), and all lighter than my DSLR rig. Opening all of the boxes was even better than the Christmas that I got an N64.
I hadn’t even put every lens on the camera before this shoot, so I was pretty much going in blind. Luckily, my friends Vamsi and Meredith were great sports (even though I didn’t exactly warn them ahead of time), and let me play around. I used all natural light, which is rare for me; I usually bring at least one speed light with a small octobox on shoots and modify the light in some way, so shooting all natural light was actually kind of refreshing.
Here were my initial thoughts about the X-T2:
- The autofocus is better than I expected, I guess, but still not as good as my Nikon DSLRs. Boost mode helped the performance, but it was still noticeably slower than what I was used to. AF-C seemed to be slower than AF-S, and different lenses definitely had different autofocus speeds. The autofocus speeds of mirrorless cameras were a big reason I held off for so long, and I realized I had a lot to learn on how to maximize those speeds with the X-T2.
- The battery life was better than I expected, but again, still not as good as the Nikons. I went through less than two batteries on a shoot that lasted less than four hours, including a delicious Indian buffet lunch in the middle.
- My “keeper” percentage for this first shoot was a lot lower than with the Nikons, which was to be expected since it was my first time using that camera and my first time to ever use a mirrorless system. Hopefully that rate will improve.
- Using the electronic viewfinder definitely had a learning curve, but I got used to it more quickly than expected. Again, boost mode helped. If the X-T2 has one of the best EVFs on the market, I don’t really want to use cameras that have worse ones.
- It was really nice to carry around such a lightweight camera.
- I had to get used to the depth of field difference compared to full-frame cameras. Having the aperture set to f/2 on the 56mm (85mm equivalent) on the Fuji leaves more in focus than my Nikon 85mm does at f/2. I haven’t shot on anything that wasn’t full frame for many years, so this took some getting used to.
- The 23mm f/2 and 35mm f/2 look and feel almost exactly the same, and I kept reaching for the wrong one in my bag.
- As expected, image quality was not nearly as good as the D810, especially regarding high ISO and dynamic range, but the colors were nice.
- The shutter speed dial on top took some getting used to. I ended up just setting it to “T” which let me set the shutter speed fully using the rear dial instead. Using the aperture ring on the lenses didn’t take as long to adapt to and was actually kind of fun. And speaking of shutter speed, the electronic shutter is an incredibly cool feature to have. Silence can be golden in the photo world, and the fact that it can go up to 1/32,000 s is insane.
- It seems really well-built and sturdy. Is it as tough as a pro DSLR? Only time will tell.
Shooting on a mirrorless camera system is totally different than on a DSLR system, but both have their advantages and disadvantages. I think I waited so long to buy the Fuji kit because I felt like I didn’t have time to learn a new system, but really, the process was a lot more seamless than I expected. Within a few weeks, I felt like I could use the Fuji setup for most of my shoots and only have the most discerning clients able to tell the difference.
In a way, I think using the X-T2 made me think differently than I do when I use a DSLR. I don’t really know why. I think it challenges me to look for light differently, which is never a bad thing. Maybe it’s the EVF? Maybe it's just because I didn’t bring an off-camera flash? Maybe because I was only using prime lenses? It's probably a combination of those things — but whatever it was, it was fun.
Does this camera replace my DSLRs? Not yet, for sure. The speed and low-light capabilities just aren’t up to snuff for some of the things I do. But I loved using it, and for traveling, for an everyday carry camera, for street photography, for low-pressure portraits, and even just as a backup rig, it’s a dream.
Overall, I’ve had fun learning this camera and learning about how mirrorless systems work, including all of their idiosyncrasies. What was your first experience shooting a mirrorless system like?