There’s a world of difference between a great camera and a camera that merely takes great pictures.
Anything can take great pictures these days. A cheap compact will do it, your average smartphone will do it and pretty much any compact system camera or DSLR will do it with a nonchalant shrug.
Taking great pictures is the easy part. The hard part is creating a camera that makes the shooting experience part of the fun rather than just a means to an end – and the Fujifilm X-T2 does that with aplomb.
The successor to 2014’s X-T1, it’s a stylish mirrorless CSC with a 24.3MP APS-C sensor and a wealth of improvements over the older model. It’s also one of the very best cameras you can buy right now.
THE HIPSTER’S CHOICE
And design-wise it most assuredly ain’t broke, because the X-T2 is one fine looking snapper. We’re firmly in hipster territory here: the X-T2’s black, magnesium-alloy body is achingly retro, not least because of all the manual dials on top of it and the prominent prism where the viewfinder sits.
It’s beautifully built. The X-T2 is relatively heavy for a CSC at 457g, although obviously still a lot lighter than most DSLRs, but that’s a fair pay-off considering how solid it is. It certainly feels as if it could take a bump or two, and it’s weatherproof too, with 63 seals to keep out pesky dust and water.
Size-wise it’s slightly bigger than the X-T1 and indeed than most CSCs but again it’s a mere tadpole compared to the average DSLR whale. Stick a pancake lens on the front and it’ll still fit in a jacket pocket.
What else is new? Well, you now get two SD card slots, which is a big deal. You can set it up to either shoot JPEGs to one and RAW to the other, automatically back up your snaps to the second card or just fill one card then start on the other. Either way, it’s really helpful and a feature you don’t commonly find outside of pro DSLRs.
The electronic viewfinder is mostly unchanged – still big and detailed and just about the best non-optical finder I’ve used. It’s supposedly brighter now, but you won’t notice much difference, while a faster refresh rate makes it better for tracking subjects.
The LCD, meanwhile, can now be flipped sideways as well as up and down. But don’t get too excited – it only goes one way, and it only goes to about 70-degrees. Yeah, it’s more useful than it was before but it still looks a bit rubbish next to Canon’s efforts, which get as twisty as an octopus playing Twister; the X-T2 is more of a grasshopper playing Snap.
CONTROLS: MANUAL MARVEL
In design terms the X-T2 is up there with the best modern cameras, but when it comes to controls it’s so far ahead its middle name must be Usain. Everything you need is at your fingertips – and we don’t mean behind a touchscreen menu.
There are physical dials on the top for ISO, shutter speed and exposure compensation, while aperture is handled via a ring on every one of Fuji’s quality XF lenses. And really that’s all you need.
Want to shoot in aperture-priority mode? Set shutter speed to auto and turn that lens ring to your required f-number. Fully manual? Just choose your settings and get on with it. Looking for a shortcut ‘Sports’ or ‘Landscape’ mode? Then you’ll need a different camera – because you won’t find them here.
For that reason the Fujifilm X-T2 can seem a rather daunting camera at first, particularly if you’re a novice weaned on smartphones. But really it’s not that hard, and if you make the effort you’ll gain complete control over your photographs.
Elsewhere, the X-T2 features some subtle but important improvements over the X-T1. The ISO and shutter dials are now taller and easier to turn, plus they can now be locked with a simple press of the middle button; on the X-T1 you had to hold down the button while turning and it was REALLY ANNOYING.
Below the shutter dial you’ll find metering settings, but unfortunately these are as fiddly to change as on the X-T1; it’s a good job you won’t need them much as metering is generally excellent. Beneath the ISO dial, meanwhile, you have a miscellany of other settings – high- and low-speed continuous, bracketing and the new video option. These are, thankfully, far easier to select.
There’s a command wheel on the front and another on the back. These control various settings depending on what you’re doing at the time and can also now be pressed in to act as another button (like you need any more). Also on the rear you’ll find the 4-way selector, which can be set to control almost any aspect of the camera; I commonly set mine up with white balance and Fuji’s Film Simulation modes but YMMV. The buttons themselves are now bigger and easier to press too.
Above them you’ll find the entirely new focus stick, which is a godsend when selecting focus points – something which you may find yourself wanting to do a lot of. More on that later.
There’s more, but let’s leave it there and just confirm that if you want to change a setting on the X-T2 there’s almost certainly a way to do it without delving into the menus.
PICTURE QUALITY: DIG DEEP FOR DETAIL
The first half-dozen or so Fuji X cameras all maxed out at 16MP. That was fine three years ago, but as we ticked into 2015 plenty of Fuji users were casting envious glances at the 20-something megapixel monsters elsewhere on planet camera. They got their wish in January with the launch of the 24.3MP Fuji X-Pro2, and as you’d expect the X-T2 gets that same sensor.
What that all means is more detail. You can crop into your photos more easily, blow them up bigger and just generally have a big ol’ party with them. Ahem. There’s no low-pass filter here either, which further boosts detail, to the extent that shots taken with a standard zoom can end up looking as sharp as those from a quality macro.
WHAT ABOUT THE LENSES?
A camera is only ever as good as its lenses, but the X-T2 has nothing to worry about on this front. Most people will probably get it with the 18-55mm kit lens, which is a good, safe choice. It’s faster than most kits at f2.8-4, has built-in image stabilisation and takes great shots.
But the XF system’s jewels are its prime lenses. Pick up the stunning trio of 16mm f1.4 wide-angle, 35mm f1.4 standard and 56mm f1.2 portrait lens and you’ll never look at a zoom again. Well, if you can afford what they’ll cost you that is. So maybe stick with the zoom after all.
The X-T2’s ISO range is a fairly modest 200-12800, with a couple of probably-avoid extended settings above that. But Fuji’s own X-Trans sensor has long been considered one of the best for noise-control, and the X-T2 excels on this front.
Where ISO 1600 on some cameras might be getting a little too dirty, you can shoot away with abandon here. Sure, you lose a little contrast as you get up into the ISO 3200 and 6400 range, but even ISO 12800 is perfectly usable.
And then there’s the colour. Whether it’s the X-Trans sensor, which uses a different pixel array to most sensors (don’t ask) or Fuji’s processing skills, shots taken with the X-T2 positively burst with vivid tones. It’s like the photographic equivalent of a Skittles ad. They’re not unrealistic in the way that Samsung Galaxy phone screens can be, just… colourful.
Fuji’s Film Simulation modes add to the fun here. These Instagram-style filters give your shots massive amounts of character; Vivid is great for landscapes, Classic Chrome will pitch you into a Cyberpunk world of subdued hues and the new ACROS is a gorgeous black-and-white dream.
SHOOTING: PRIME FOCUS
Now the X-T1 was fine for static subjects and its tracking abilities improved massively with firmware updates. It could do the job, sure, but we’d approach a moving target knowing that we’d probably only get a 50% success rate, whereas the likes of the Sony A6300 would nail every shot.
That’s all changed here. The X-T2’s focus system has been completely overhauled and it really shows. For starters you get way more focus points: 91 to the previous 49 in Zone or Tracking mode and – gulp – 325 with the fully manual Single-point option. Hence why you need that little joystick round the back.
It’s also now blisteringly fast to find its target. Stick it in Zone mode and fire off shots every which way and they’ll almost all be spot on – the X-T2 keeps up with your every move.
That gives you more control and accuracy over shooting in all modes, but it’s when tracking that you really see the difference. In the continuous-focus ‘C’ mode and with the Wide/Tracking option selected the X-T2 will keep up with kids, pets, wildlife, sports… anything really.
You can even tweak its tracking abilities. You get five pre-set options including continuous subject tracking, accelerating/decelerating subjects and erratic movement, plus one fully customisable option. It’s all really impressive.
Focus speed isn’t the only thing that’s been turbo-charged. Burst mode now maxes out at 14fps when using the electronic shutter and while it’s still limited to 8fps with the mechanical shutter it can now take almost double the number of frames (83 JPEGs, to be precise) before slowing down. What’s more, if you hook up Fuji’s new battery pack the max burst will increase from 8 to 11fps.
Speaking of battery, the X-T2’s main flaw is its stamina. Or rather lack of it. The specs say you get 340 stills from it, and that may well be true, but do a bit of video, use the high-performance mode or pre-AF, connect via the app, scroll through images on the LCD and generally do the kind of things people do on cameras and you’ll be looking at a lot less. We rarely got more than a few hours’ continuous use out of it, making either the new battery grip or a couple of spares essential.
VIDEO: 4K ALL THE WAY!
If the Fujifilm X-T2’s autofocus performance is revolutionary, its video skills are on a par with the change humanity made when it crawled out of the ocean and decided this oxygen thing tasted alright really.
On the X-T1 video was an afterthought. It was there, sure – you got full HD recording at 60fps and it’d suffice when you needed it. But you got the impression Fuji had included it because it thought it ought to, while really being a bit embarrassed about the whole thing and wishing you’d just take pictures instead.
But here, it’s a key performer: the Hollywood star given a not-quite-lead role but enough screen time to leave a lasting impression. Winona Ryder in Stranger Things, basically.
The headline is 4K, but really the big deal is – once again – the autofocus. You didn’t get autofocus in video at all on the X-T1 but not only is it present here, it’s also really good. Change the subject, zoom in and out, pan… whatever you do, the X-T2 will smoothly keep up with you.
Footage is crisp, clear and colourful and you can apply the Film Simulation modes if you want. It’s not quite pro-level for options – you get a headphone slot but no mic – but you can output 4K video to an external monitor and it supports high-bit-rate recording. Overkill for a family video, maybe, but not for a YouTuber.
CONNECTIVITY: APPY DAYS
Anyhow, you do get Wi-Fi here and you can put it to good use by hooking up your phone via the Fujifilm Camera Remote app. It’s dead simple to set up and connects within about 20 seconds – not always the case with these things.
Once connected, the Fuji app gives you the ability to download images or control the camera remotely. It does the job, but it could do with a bit of refresh – you can’t set it to bulb mode for instance, which would surely be a useful feature, and while you can change most settings remotely, you can’t do so if the camera was manually left in certain modes before turning the Wi-Fi on. It’s not bad by any means, but it’s not as slick as most things here.
To partially make up for that, Fuji’s given us two new options – a decent time-lapse mode and tethered shooting via Mac or PC. Both should have been included on Fuji X cameras long ago, frankly.
The one real drawback to the Fujifilm X-T2 is its price. It’ll cost you R25,000 body-only, and given that you really ought to shell out for the battery grip, given its relative lack of stamina, you won’t get much change from thirty-five grand once you add a couple of lenses.
But high price or not, it’s worth every cent. What you’re getting here is a camera which approaches high-end DSLRs for speed and rivals pretty much any camera – even full-framers – for image quality, all while sitting inside a gorgeous and diminutive weatherproof shell. Add in its new video abilities and it’s a true all-rounder.
Just as importantly, it’s a camera which handles superbly and which never makes you work hard to do anything. If you miss a shot it’ll be all your own doing.
Does it take great pictures? It sure does. And is it a great camera? Abso-bloody-lutely.