X-T2 arrives

Fujifilm introduces the other second-generation, pro camera

 

XT2sample

A funny thing happened shortly after I started shooting with the X-Pro 2. Fujifilm asked me to test a pre-production X-T2 and to submit photos for possible inclusion in promotional materials for the new camera. I was happily working with the X-Pro 2, not sure if I wanted to switch back to the DSLR-like body of the X-T2, but the opportunity to test the camera was too good to pass up.

As you probably know, I have been shooting with Fujifilm cameras and lenses since 2011. I have been an X-photographer since 2013 and have tested a number of cameras and lenses for them during that period. I have also worked on projects for Fujifilm, providing images and feedback on new camera models, including the X-T1.

In the case of the X-T2, the camera and battery grip were close to production quality. The firmware was another matter entirely. Given the nature of modern cameras, firmware accounts for most of their functionality. This is why Fujifilm has been able to provide so many improvements for their previous models and keep older models up-to-date. The flip side of that coin is that working with pre-production firmware can make shooting a challenging experience. This experience reminded me of working with pre-production software like Photoshop and Illustrator while I was at Adobe. The promise can seem a long way from what you are working with now…

Much to Fujifilm’s credit, the rapid improvements in the pre-production X-T2 firmware quickly made shooting with the X-T2 a pleasure. After a couple of rounds of updates, my X-T2 was what I had hoped for. A fast, accurate camera targeted toward sports, wildlife and landscape photographers and any photographer craving a more DSLR like shooting experience.

The mirrorless advantage

Before getting into the X-T2 specifically, I want to address what I feel are the advantages of mirrorless cameras. First of all, I think APS-C sensor mirrorless cameras deliver the true promise of mirrorless cameras. The bodies and the lenses are smaller and lighter than their DSLR rivals. Full-frame mirrorless loses that advantage when you combine lenses with bodies. Of course the other advantage to shooting with mirrorless is the real-time exposure preview in the viewfinder. Until you experience this, you won’t understand what a great benefit this is.

Now, back to the review…

This one’s for you

Want a replacement for your DSLR? Want a Fujifilm X-camera with which to shoot 4K video? Want incredible Fujifilm image quality from a 24 Megapixel sensor? The X-T2 delivers on all of these. Plus some. It is faster than every previous X-camera in every regard. It delivers performance to rival top-end DSLRs costing (and weighing) quite a bit more. Coupled with Fujinon’s superior optics, smaller lenses and excellent mirrorless shooting experience, I believe that the X-T2 will perform exceptionally for nearly all photography needs.

I know that Fujifilm’s goal is to get DSLR users to switch to the X-series cameras and lenses. It’s a huge market, controlled by the big two, and Fujifilm has developed the X-T1 and X-T2 to appeal to this market. I hope they succeed in getting people to make the switch. Not just because if they do, then Fujifilm will continue to develop cameras and lenses I like to use, but because I truly believe it is a superior shooting experience.

In hand

In my time with the X-T2, I shot with the XF10-24mm f/4, XF16-55mm f/2.8, XF50-140mm f/2.8 and the XF100-400 f/3.5-5.6 lenses. As you can see, I was using the lenses most likely to be used by someone coming from a high-end DSLR and accustomed to using premium glass. I also used the two long zooms with the new XF2X teleconverter. And I shot with and without the optional battery grip.

For work, I prefer using the X-T2 with the battery grip. More body to hang onto with longer and heavier lenses. Without the battery grip, the X-T2 is small and light and matches well with the smaller prime lenses. Great for the street or travelling light.

The layout of the controls and buttons is very similar to the X-T1, with the addition of the focus point toggle introduced on the X-Pro2. A nice revision to the controls is the top button on the ISO and shutter speed dials. It is now a locking mechanism. Unlock it and you can turn the dials freely. Lock it and you won’t accidentally turn those dials. It’s a very nice change. All of the other controls have been updated to mirror those on the X-Pro2, although some of those controls remain on the left side of the camera because of the position of the viewfinder hump.

Another nice change from the X-T1 is the shutter release is threaded for a cable release. This gives you another option beside the electronic cable release which attaches to one of the side ports.

Unlike the X-Pro 2, the X-T2 has an articulating rear LCD screen. I can live without it on the X-Pro 2, however, it is pretty nice to have this feature on one of their pro cameras. The screen not only tilts up and down, it also swivels from the right side. I still haven’t figured out if this a benefit, however the up and down tilt definitely is great to have. No touch screen controls ala the X70. Considering that I prefer using the viewfinder to shoot with 99% of the time, I don’t really see the need for a touch screen. Yet, given that even medium-format cameras are sporting them now, I suspect that the next generation of the X-T line will too.

Performance

Fast. the X-T2 is fast. At what exactly? Everything. I won’t give you stats here, you can get them from the specs page at Fujifilm.ca. What I will tell you is that in comparison to every other X-camera so far, the X-T2 out performs them all. The X-Pro 2 is close. And if you prefer the rangefinder form factor, you can’t go wrong with the X-P2. But, if you want the fastest auto focus, continuous tracking and burst mode, and the quickest write speeds? The X-T2 is the camera for you.

In my initial testing of the camera, I shot as much fast-moving stuff as I could. The changes that Fujifilm has implemented in focusing on the X-T2 is really impressive. It almost makes me want to shoot sports. Well, not really, but given the opportunity, I would’t hesitate to shoot a game or two. I did cover the start of a couple of local sailing races with the X-T2, as well as an outrigger canoe race and the local kite boarders. I honestly believe that combination of the X-T2, the battery grip and the XF50-140 or XF100-400 lenses would serve any sports shooter well.

The EVF continues the trend set with the X-T1 and the X-Pro 2. With the the X-T2 EVF, you will have one of the best, if not the best, EVF in the business. And, as with all the X-cameras, you will be able to preview exposure along with composition and focus before you shoot. In low light, the EVF works so much better than an optical viewfinder.

For the type of shooting I normally do, my work photography, landscape and street shooting, the X-T2 has been excellent. I even managed to make some decent images of wildlife and birds. The X-T2’s performance has been impressive.

Video performance has also been greatly improved with the X-T2. It now supports 4K as well as many of the functions videographers will want. I will leave it to expert video shooters to address these many improvements. I remain a video newb.

Image quality and processing

If you are already familiar with the great files produced by the X-Pro 2, then you know what to expect with the X-T2. The JPEGs are as great as ever, with all the latest film simulation modes, including my favourite black-and-white simulation, Across Red-filter. As with the X-Pro 2, you can adjust noise reduction, highlight and shadow retention and sharpness and colour saturation up to plus or minus four steps. You can really tweak those JPEGs to look how you would like them. I have found that the pre-production, X-T2 JPEGs are every bit as good as the JPEGs from all of the previous X-cameras. I rely upon them for 90% of my work. Really. They. Are. That. Good!

As for the RAW files, you get two flavours, as you do with the X-Pro 2. Compressed and uncompressed. The compressed RAW files save you a nice bit of disk space without any noticeable loss of image quality.

And here is a nice surprise for those of you who would like to get your hands on the X-T2 right away but are concerned with not being able to process your RAW files in Lightroom. The most recent update to LR (6.6) already supports the X-T2 RAW files. Yep. Someone was thinking ahead about this!

Recommendations

For all of you X-shooters interested in the changes introduced with the X-Pro 2, but wanted then in X-T form factor, your wait is over. However, I don’t think that you needed much convincing. No, you were just waiting for this announcement.

Really, the test for the X-T2 will come from those DSLR shooters who have been watching from the sidelines, burdened by their heavy camera bags, repeatedly saying that mirrorless can’t rival DSLRs for what they want to shoot.

Well, here is your opportunity. Get your hands on a the X-T2 and appropriate lens and really get to know how to use the camera. (Fujifilm offers a loaner program.) Shooting with the X-T2 will be different. But, I believe, it’s a difference that makes for a more enjoyable shooting experience. And now with the the X-T2, it can be a shooting experience available to those of you who shoot sports, wildlife, landscape, portraits, weddings, and news. Basically, it is a shooting experience available to any photographer who wants lightweight, high-quality cameras and lenses, that produce exceptional images.

X-Pro 2 or X-T2?

Clearly a personal choice, this will depend upon what you shoot and how you like to shoot. My preference is to use the X-Pro 2 with prime lenses. However, given that I use the two XF f/2.8 zooms for work, having the X-T2 with battery grip makes a lot of sense. So, I will happily work with both cameras. And, I might even try out some video now that the X-T2 has arrived. You never know.

A few images captured with a pre-production X-T2 follow:

Fellow Canadian X-photographers and the X-T2:
 Scott Grant
 Dyaane Wilson
 Olaf Sztaba
 Ian MacDonald
 Patrick LaRoque
 Joe Ng

10 Comments

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  1. Larry Gottschalk August 10, 2016 — 11:57

    As always, a good read – thanks for writing it up.

    Order placed!

    PS – the Canon 580ex II flash worked very well for my event shoot, thank you for the advice.

    • Larry, good to hear the flash worked out. I’m hoping to get my hands on the new Fuji flash and battery pack. Until then, I rely on my Nikon speedlights for events.
      As for the XT2, it keeps getting better with each firmware update. Looking forward to using the production model!
      Thanks for reading.

  2. Electronic viewfinder in low light conditions and night really screws the night vision – at least it has when I tried it on various cameras so far. Optical finder doesn’t do that.
    How about battery life in cold weather? Talking 10-40 below zero. The Canon Pro bodies still produce 1500+ before having to change batteries. Will these cameras even come close? Changing small batteries with mittens, wind blowing snow and sub zero temperatures can be a real problem

    • Willie, thanks for reading and the thoughtful comments. What you correctly point out is that not all cameras are right for all situations. I suspect that we are shooting in different conditions. I’m certainly not shooting in 10 to 40 below. However, my colleagues, Dyaane and Scott, links above, do shoot in very cold situations, so it may be worth an ask of them how they handle the need to change batteries on mirrorless cameras more often than a DSLR in such extreme conditions. Mirrorless cameras will always require more frequent battery changes due to the smaller battery size and because mirrorless cameras demand much more power to run the EVF, etc.

      I do shoot in very low light and at night and don’t have any issues with the EVF affecting my night vision. On the X-cameras, I have the preview exposure function assigned to one of my function buttons, so I can turn it on and off at will. Turning this function off means that the EVF will display a very bright scene no matter what the actual exposure will be. This is great for shooting inside with flash, for instance. I have enough light in the EVF to compose, but the flash is actually providing the light for the final image. I did this in a dimly lit museum the other night for an event shoot. I could see well enough to compose and focus. Something I’m not sure I could have done with a DSLR or a rangefinder (I have shoot similar events at the museum with both types of cameras). Really, it was quite dark, but I was helped by the EVF.

      When I’m shooting with available light, such as at night, I turn on the preview exposure in the EVF. That means, I’m seeing the light as it is, plus I can see what will happen if I change exposure compensation. My night vision isn’t compromised and I’m seeing the shot as I will capture it. Controlling if and when I can preview exposure in the EVF is one of the reasons I like shooting with the X-cameras so much. It does take some time to learn how to work with the X-cameras. Particularly coming from DSLRs, the shooting experience will be different. I made the switch from rangefinder cameras, which seemed like a more intuitive transition.

      Yet, I’m also convinced that people need to use the tools that work best for them and make them happy. Your Canon sounds well suited for the type photography that you do.

      Cheers, Don

  3. Don,

    Great review and imagery! Thank you for supporting fellow Canadian photographers (love your idea so I stole it! :)

  4. Rennie Brown July 7, 2016 — 13:41

    Nice review Don. I’m sold. Where do I sign!
    Thanks

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