When it comes to cameras, I’m something of a minimalist. Slap a great sensor behind a fixed focal length lens and let me go shoot—the limitations won’t upset me, they’ll challenge and delight me.
By this token, the Fujifilm X-T2 is probably not a camera I would have purchased for myself—something like the X100T or the Sony RX1R suits me better—but when Australian camera store digiDIRECT offered to send me an X-T2 to play with I couldn’t say no.
Since receiving the camera, what’s surprised me most is how much I love the X-T2 despite what I just wrote. Even a couple of months in, it’s still the most fun and versatile piece of camera gear I’ve gotten my hands on. I won’t dive into nitty gritty details in this review: resolution tests, AF shootouts, skin-tone comparisons, etc. have been covered ad nauseam elsewhere.
Rather, the point of this piece is to give you my impressions of the camera after carrying it around as my daily shooter for 2 months.
When you review a camera, you’re usually getting a loaner from the company itself for a few months (at best, sometimes it’s only a few days… or hours). This is why I avoid reviewing cameras, the dynamic is inherently dishonest: they’re letting you borrow their newest shiniest toy, and telling you that you can say whatever you want about it.
Of course, they mean it when they say that, but it’s like your spouse telling you to “be honest” if you don’t like the gift they got you for Christmas—even if you don’t like it, you still feel compelled to air on the side of kindness. I’m no good with filtering myself, and I’d just as soon avoid reviewing Company X’s great new camera they just loaned me lest I skewer it in front of 6 million people. Other people are much better at that bit than I, and I’m happy to let them do it.
The deal with digiDIRECT, then, was perfect. There was no contract—implied or otherwise. No strings of any kind. Just, “here’s one of the most exciting new cameras out there, give it a shot, let us know what you think.” It’s a photo blog editor’s dream come true.
Given this newfound freedom to be as brutal as I might want, I’m kind of bummed Fuji did such a good job with the X-T2.
Who is it For?
This is an important question to answer first, since some of you are reading this to decide if you’re going to pick one up this holiday season. So…
Despite boasting one of the snappiest AutoFocus systems of any mirrorless camera, Fuji isn’t going for the sports and wildlife photographers with the X-T2. Granted, I didn’t have the grip/booster attached, and the AF is fantastic, but I stand by my assertion all the same. Serious sports and wildlife shooters looking for an APS-C camera will be better served by a Nikon D500 or something similar.
No, this camera was designed for wedding photographers, street togs, and travel shooters—genres where great AF speed and a high frame rate will frequently help you nail the shot, where you might want to shoot from the hip, where a Canon 1DX might honestly be considered “overkill.”
It’s also a great fit for the photography weekend warrior; let me revise that, it’s a perfect fit for that weekend warrior. The price might seem a bit steep when compared with, say, a barely “replaced” Sony a6300, but this camera is oodles more fun to use and generates in-camera JPEGs to die for. Add to that Fuji’s famed film simulation modes and you’ve got a camera that any hobbyist would be proud to own.
As soon as you lift the X-T2 out of its box, you realize this is not a cheap or poorly made product. Between the camera’s pleasant heft and the retooled grip design, the X-T2 just plain feels good in your hands. It’s significantly lighter than a comparable DSLR but heavy enough so it doesn’t feel like you’re holding a point-and-shoot—going back to my a6000 felt like picking up a toy.
Moving on to Fuji’s famed ‘retro’ aesthetic, the slightly larger dials they put on the X-T2 look and feel great. They all feature a satisfying amount of resistance (especially the lock-less exposure compensation dial) and the locks on ISO and Shutter Speed dials are a huge upgrade on the X-T1.
In the name of further functionality, the X-T2 also features clickable gears on the front and back of the camera and—unlike PetaPixel podcaster Sharky and his mammoth hands—I’ve had no problems with the little mode and metering switches Fuji placed beneath the ISO and Shutter Speed dials. I guess I have dainty little fingers … sue me.
The most detrimental thing I can say about all of these controls and the multitude of buttons surrounding them is that there is a learning curve. You’re going to spend a lot of time over the first few weeks looking at your hands instead of through the viewfinder. It’s a problem I had, and the only consolation I can offer is that it goes away with time and familiarity; 3 weeks in, I was as quick on the X-T2 as any other camera I’ve ever shot with.
The last thing you’ll probably notice right away is the sheer size of this thing’s electronic viewfinder (EVF). It’s bright, it’s fast, and it’s big enough I’ve found myself having to adjust within the viewfinder cup to see the edges of my frame from time to time. Fuji actually anticipated this, and makes it possible to decrease the size of the image in your viewfinder, or add a second focus-assist screen for convenience. Your mileage may vary if you’re shooting super-fast motion, but for my needs I’ll take it over an optical finder any day.
Finally, the camera can obviously take a beating. In my world, carrying a camera around every day means tossing it unceremoniously into a backpack, messenger bag, or the back seat of my car. I don’t carry a camera bag around with me and I don’t baby my cameras with fancy padding inserts. Oh, and as for weather sealing, all you have to know is that I currently live in Seattle. If this camera wasn’t properly weather sealed, it would be dead already.
The X-T2 is a beast of a camera that can replace your entry-level or mid-range Full Frame DSLR. There, I said it.
People tend to stick to their Canon or Nikon DSLRs for three reasons: (1) AutoFocus (2) Lens choice (3) They’re stubborn and stuck in their ways. The X-T2 addresses number 1, Fuji’s fantastic range of XF lenses do a great job on number 2 in most circumstances, and nobody can do anything about number 3.
Autofocus is exceptionally fast, accurate, and customizable, lagging behind competitors like the a6500 by only a hair; the EVF is bright, fast, and way more versatile than an optical finder; 24MP is a great step up in resolution from the X-T1 without going overboard for the sake of marketing; oh, and did I mention it’s a mirrorless camera that weighs about ⅓ less than a Canon 6D or Nikon D610?
I realize that last one is more about build than performance, but over the course of a long hike, wedding day, or on-location shoot, a heavier camera will affect your performance plenty.
Finally, the overall quality of the X-Trans III sensor is not to be ignored. Skin tones are rendered beautifully, colors are vibrant without crossing the line into garish, JPEGs come out looking gorgeous, and dynamic range is a dramatic step up from its predecessor. If you’re the kind of person who wants everything done in-camera, I’d go so far as to say the X-T2 is better than anything else out there for pumping out stellar JPEGs and offering “picture modes” (in this case film simulation profiles) that won’t leave you wanting more.
Here are a few of my own favorites from the last 2 months of shooting. Every one of these are SOOC JPEGs, no editing whatsoever:
Bottom line: Fuji has packed a ton of performance into a very portable and pretty package, to the point where not switching from the big boys has more to do with things like brand loyalty, the need for long fast prime lenses, or a stubborn commitment to your DSLR that’s based more on ego than necessity.
This is a mirrorless workhorse, plain and simple. It’ll perform just as well for a hobbyist as a wedding photographer who is depending on it to capture critical moments.
My complaints regarding the X-T2 come down to one missing feature and one hobbled feature: touchscreen and proper bracketing, respectively.
Touchscreen is the big one, and there’s no getting a pass about this in 2016. Camera makers, repeat after me: we must put a great touchscreen in every serious camera we make. When the majority of people use a touchscreen device all day every day (and don’t pretend you don’t), you expect every screen you come across to have appropriate touch functionality. But if you try and tap to focus, swipe through image previews, or pinch to zoom those previews on the X-T2 you’ll be left feeling like a dope.
The second is a personal annoyance. I don’t shoot much (I try not to shoot any) HDR, but bracketing is a staple for many photographers and the X-T2 will only let you do 3 frames max. It made me sad when I was out trying to appropriately capture a sunset on a Seattle pier; if you really want to play with your blending options, 3 shots just isn’t enough.
2 Months Later
If I had written this one week in, there would have been a lot more in the gripes section. Going from using a Sony a6000 as a daily, carry-around camera to the X-T2 was actually a step up in weight, and the performance boost wasn’t initially worth the frustration that comes with learning a new camera.
That changed about 3 weeks into using it.
As controlling the camera became second nature and I could keep my eye on the prize, the camera’s better qualities started to show: that larger-than-life viewfinder, the quality of the images from Fuji’s X-Trans III sensor, and the sheer amount of customizability. Now, when I pick up the a6000, I balk at the step down in size, speed, and functionality.
The beauty is that, if you’re coming from an X-T1, you won’t experience any of the issues I did. You’ll cheer for the dial locks and the joystick and the extra LCD tilt and the sensor upgrade and be on your merry way. But if you’re switching from a Sony or a CaNikon, expect a few weeks of resistance before you break through the newby wall and really start enjoying this camera.
In the headline, I said the Fujifilm X-T2 was “the perfect mix of power and fun,” and a few pages later I still think that’s the best way to describe it.
It is definitely powerful enough to replace your main camera if you are a professional (in most genres…), but the same could be said about several mirrorless cameras currently on sale, some of them lighter and more portable than the X-T2. Sheer performance isn’t what sets this camera apart for me.
What sets it apart is that it combines that performance with a je ne sais quoi “fun factor” that makes it worth the price tag even if you’re not going to be using it as a money maker. Laugh at me if you must, but there’s something incredibly satisfying about holding a powerful, versatile digital camera that feels for all the world like a heavy Nikon FM2.
Fuji has made a camera that will delight amateurs and hobbyists who want a great photography ‘experience’ while simultaneously winning over plenty of pros who demand power and performance. That is one hell of a sweet-spot.