Rui-chan

Fujifilm X-T2: The Good, The Hype and The Rant

Disclaimer: apart from the pictures of the X-T2, all the pictures in this blog post were taken with the X-Pro2, which remains a wonderful camera despite of all the hype you can read about other models 🙂

In my review of the X-Pro2, I concluded that if you could live without the hybrid viewfinder of the X-Pro2, then the X-T2 was probably worth the wait. This was before the official reveal of the specifications of the X-T2 on the 7th of July.

The Good

X-Pro2 or X-T2? That is not the question

The official specifications of the X-T2 have only reinforced this idea, as, on paper, choosing the X-T2 seems like a no-brainer. You get the same sensor and processor as in the X-Pro2, but with a few additional perks including:

  • Bigger and brighter electronic viewfinder, with less blackout periods between shots when shooting in continuous mode
  • Refined autofocus algorithms (coming to the X-Pro2 in October via firmware update), with customizable AF-C settings (think Canon autofocus menus) to better adapt to the situation (NOT included in the X-Pro2 firmware update at the time of writing this article)
  • Video mode: 4K video recording up to 10min in-body (30min with the battery grip), with a “standard” 3.5mm mic jack (vs a 2.5mm jack on the X-Pro2), although you unfortunately will need the battery grip to get a headphone jack
  • 2 UHS-II SD memory card slots, compared to 1 UHS-II + 1 UHS-I slot on the X-Pro2 (not a biggie for me as I am mostly using the second slot for JPEGs backups in RAW+JPEG mode, so don’t really need the UHS-II speed on the second slot)
  • Last but not least, a cheaper price than the X-Pro2

On top of that, you get the differences in design between the X-T series vs X-Pro series, which to my personal taste are positive points for the X-T1/X-T2:

  • Mode selection dial, instead of a “Drive” sub-menu. Whith the X-T2, the mode dial includes this time around a much needed position for the Video mode. Why there was none on the X-T1 is a mystery, as if you were not shooting stills in 16:9 JPEGs you could not frame your video properly before pressing the record button…
  • Articulated screen. Why the X-Pro2’s screen is not at least a minimum articulated to facilitate shooting from the hip is another great mystery…

The one (and only) reason that would make you want the X-Pro2 over the X-T2 is the hybrid viewfinder. If this is something that you really want, then the X-Pro2 was designed just for you! If you can leave without it, then getting the X-T2 is a no-brainer in my opinion.

The Hype

While Fujifilm has made (much needed but still relatively) fast improvements in its camera lineup, the company has also up its game in terms of marketing, especially on social networks. Via the Fujifilm X-Photographers programme, Fujifilm has quickly caught with other brands in building a group of talented photographers who became the best ambassadors of the brand.

Rui-chan Miko Cosplay

This is a brilliant marketing technique, because it means that during the (long) time between the X-T2 announcement and the actual release of the camera, the Internet buzz around the camera will be filled by people who:

  •  are not professional reviewers: they write about their personal experience with the camera but can’t draw any comparison with a wide variety of competitors
  • have a relationship with Fujifilm that would not be appropriate for a reviewer
  • even when forgetting about this relationship, they are a biased sample: they are Fujifilm users, which means they have already chosen Fujifilm over other brands for personal taste/reasons (well, of course anyone’s opinion on anything will be biased, but in this case Fujifilm selects them for their bias)
  • write all these previews and stories for free! What more could you ask for?

The downside of this strategy is that if you overdo it you can inflate a hype bubble – with the winds of “fastest auto-focus ever” and “finally better than DSLRs” – that could eventually backfire when the final product gets released, and the embargo on REAL reviews gets lifted. In my opinion we are getting close to the over saturation with he X-T2, I feel like they gave a pre-production version of this camera to way more people than they had ever done. You would think it is already out (fun fact: my X-E1 review is the most read article on my blog, because most of the photographers we hear praising Fuji today would not care to write about it at the time – with the exception of the few ones who jump into the boat from the start with the clunky X100). I do read all those previews, not because I want to hear how much better the ***insert any new camera here*** is, but I actually appreciate many of the X-Photographers for their personality (always nice and welcoming when you I met them despite of tight schedules) and their outstanding work. I would not love them less if they were not shooting Fuji.

But irrelevant to how much sympathy I have for them, their daily job is to produce beautiful pictures and not to review cameras (they will be the first ones to acknowledge that themselves when they write a preview). Consumers deserve real reviews to make an informed decision, and for their protection I would always call for professional and balanced reviews to be available earlier since the camera is already available for pre-order. Remember that when the X-T1 it had mushy buttons that had to be changed on the next batch of production. Something that you could (only?) read here before the release of the camera (and real reviews), amidst a sea of X-Photographers praising the X-T1 as a DSLR-killer (hum, sounds familiar).

Potential buyers who are being enticed by the HEAVY focus being put on the video capabilities of the X-T2 have nothing to lose waiting for real world balanced reviews to be out. No, the camera is not going to be out of stock forever if you don’t preorder. The video quality of the X-T2 might be awesome. I have no idea. But given the sub-par quality of the X-T1, there is no reason to blindly believe Fujifilm when they say they have suddenly  found the magic formula for video with the X-T2. Until the final camera is in the hand of independant reviewers, caution is advised.

Rui-chan

The Rant

Again, I love the work of X-Photographers, I am just saying that consumers need to take a precautionary pinch of salt against the hype, and keep their expectations realistic. However, there is one thing that drives me crazy: reading interviews explaining that this camera did not get this feature available on another camera because the photographers using this camera told Fujifilm that street photographers don’t use this or that while this camera is targeting them… and then couple years later when this feature finally makes it on the successor of this camera the SAME people will write posts on how much this is fantastic!

This idea that you can put photographers in hermetic silos depending on what they shoot is plain stupid. If your camera designer does not want to put an articulated screen on the X-Pro series for design/cost reasons, obviously don’t put one. But if you are not doing it based on the fact  the tiny sample of street photographers you talk to never shot on a camera with one, then you are doing it for the wrong reasons: if they don’t want to move their screen, they can just leave it the way it is! Meanwhile different people could use the option extensively.

The current example of that is the lack of a touchscreen on the X-T2. Brainstorming meeting in Fuji HQ with a small sample of X-Photographers:
– Shall we put a touchscreen in the X-T2? 
– Nah, touchscreens are for amateurs and we are so scared that we could change a setting with our nose touching the screen that we cannot be bothered to turn the option off for ourselves while letting it available for the rest of the world to enjoy.

Fast forward to 2018, the X-T3 will come out with a touchscreen and the same people will start their previews on their blogs by saying how the touchscreen is a revolution and so intuitive because we have been using smartphones for 10 years…

Just a bit more patience

Anyway, in a week from now the wait will be over and the hype will slow down. The X-T2 will be shipping to my home. I have been using the X-Series for many years now, so my expectations are based on the previous products I have used. I am not expecting a game changer, a DSLR-killer, the fastest auto-focus in the world, etc… No camera is perfect, and spoiler alert the X-T2 won’t be. Just a camera… Find a brand/system that you like, whichever is good for you, so that you can only focus on what really matters. Shoot portraits, shoot landscapes, document your travels… Just focus on enjoying whatever camera you have and on having fun with it. Well, until it is time to fancy on the X-T3, and round and round we go 😉

Shiba Aura

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The ACROS film simulation

A little over 2 years ago, I wrote a post in which I compared all the film simulations available at the time for the Fujifilm X-Series cameras. Since then, Fujifilm has come up with the classic chrome film simulation, and more recently with the ACROS film simulation. For whatever reason, the latter is only available for the cameras from the X-Pro2 and onwards, but it is quickly becoming one of my favorite film simulations.

If I want to shoot in black and white, I now just set my camera to ACROS instead of converting the picture to black and white later during post-processing. Here are a few examples:

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Final thoughts along the road on the Fuji X-Pro2

I have now had many oppportunities to test the Fuji X-Pro2 in various situations, from quick hands-on experiences organized by Fujifilm between the official announcement of the camera and its official launch, to testing in real life situation in the field with a rented model.

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The X-Pro2 will quickly feel familiar to X-Series users. In many aspects, the X-Pro2 is an evolution of the X-Pro1, technologically and ergonomically.

Technologically, while there is nothing groundbreaking compared to the competition, the update is welcome:

  • The X-Pro2 is the first camera of the X-Series to boast the new 24MP X-Trans CMOS III sensor, along with boosted processing power thanks to the new  X-Processor Pro engine. A logical and welcome improvement, though we can all thank the 16.3MP X-Trans CMOS II sensor for many years of loyal service 😉 Despite of the additional megapixels, the X-Pro2 performs equally, to slightly better given the added resolution, than the Fuji X-T1 for example
  • The autofocus system has also benefitted from a (well needed) upgrade, with 273 autofocus points (169 of which are phase-detect). Important improvement, the phase detect AF pixels now cover around 40% of the screen rather than a small rectangle in the middle
  • The mechanical shutter was also improved, with a max shutter speed of 1/8,000s. More importantly for flash users, the maximum flash sync-speed is now set at 1/250s. This will give a bit more leeway to shoot wide open with a fast prime while using a flash, before requiring a ND filter. We are still due a proper comprehensive Fuji flash system with high-sync speed though
  • The hybrid viewfinder (OVF/EVF) has also been upgraded, with the addition of a X100T-like small EVF screen “within the frame”, that can be brought up in the bottom-right while using the OVF

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Ergonomically, the X-Pro2 is bringing many changes over the original X-Pro1:

  • The addition of a focus lever to select the focus point is my favourite new feature. Those who had been using the X-Series since the beginning will remember the days when we had to first press the AF button and then the D-Pad buttons to move the focus point selector. The focus lever works like a charm, and means that you can keep the 4 D-Pad directions as real custom buttons
  • All the buttons on the back of the camera have been moved to the right of the screen, for easier “one-hand” operability
  • The ISO selection has been moved out of the camera menu and replaced by a dial (100 times yeah!!! 👍👍👍), which is “embedded” within the shutter speed dial (not so yeah 🙁). You need to pull up the dial before you turn it so that it will a adjust the ISO, and you can see the currently selected ISO level through a small window pierced within the shutter speed dial. It is still a better option in my opinion than setting the ISO within the menu of the camera, but this is borderline gimmicky compared to an independent dedicated dial
  • The X-Pro2 is the first camera from the X-Series that comes with a dual slot, that you can use in 3 different modes: a slot that gets used when the memory card in the first slot is full, a simple back-up of the first slot, or a slot that gets the JPEGs when shooting in the RAW+JPEG. The latter is my favourite, because having a memory card with only your JPEG files is very handy to quickly share them on social networks. Note that only the first slot will take advantage of the faster speed of UHS-II SD cards, the second slot is a regular SD slot

What about the video mode? Video has always been a weak point of the X-Series cameras, with poor quality in many situations. The video quality is much better with the X-Pro2, in the sense that most of the time you actually get usable footages. If you are deep into video and don’t bring up Google when people talk about S-Log, the X-Pro2 is still not going to be a camera for you. However, if you are taking pictures, but sometimes need some video clips, at least now you can do that without fearing having only video clips full of moire. In the example below, the first video clip setting the stage (between 00:14 and 00:18) was shot wit the X-T1 (and does not look so great), while all the other video clips were shot with the X-Pro2:

One thing I noticed, you can only shoot video on the memory card in the first memory card slot. Once this card is full, you don’t seem to be able to shoot videos on the memory card in the second memory card slot.

 

The one compartment in which the X-Pro2 does not improve over its predecessor is battery life. Fujifilm has chosen to keep the same batteries as for the other X-Series cameras, which will delight the Fuji users who have invested in piles of spare batteries. However, from my experience, a fully-charged battery will give you only ~250 shots.

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Overall, the X-Pro2 delivers on a lot of promises, and if you are already into the X-Series you will not be disappointed by the leap forward with the new sensor. As seen above, there is a lot of good things to say about this camera. I only regret the design of the ISO dial and the too short battery life. The hybrid viewfinder remains the main feature that differentiates the X-Pro2 from other cameras. Personally, while I enjoy using it, I can live without as I have become accustomed to the big electronic viewfinder of the X-T1, and therefore for my own kit i am rather waiting for the X-T2 that should be announced in the now very-near future, as I prefer the dedicated mode dial (rather than a Drive menu) and the simple ISO dial.

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Field test: X-Pro2 + XF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 – Birdwatching in Tokyo

For my second visit to the bird sanctuary of the Kasai Rinkai park in Eastern Tokyo, I brought with me an X-Pro2with the XF 100-400mmF4.5-5.6 “super telephoto zoom lens” to put them to the test. Below is a summary of my thoughts on the newest and most expensive lens for X-mount cameras. All the sample images used in this post are straight-out-of-the-camera JPEGs (Velvia film simulation), without any additional processing. You can click on them for full size images.

The FUJINON XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR is the long awaited super telephoto zoom lens for X-Series cameras. One of the reason behind the delay of the release of this lens, compared to its first appareance on the official Fuji roadmap, seems to have been a complete redesign of the lens somewhere along the development cycle. As a reminder, the first time I saw a prototype of the “super telephoto zoom lens”, as it was dubbed on the roadmap, it was supposed to be a XF140-400mm f4-5.6 lens, with a shorter size but a wider diameter (86mm). It looked like that (the lens on the right side):

The final design is slimmer but longer, and covers a longer focal range but is slightly slower when zoomed out. I cannot know for sure, but I would bet that the final design is probably lighter than the initial version too.

While the lens got longer, the tripod foot that comes with it became shorter, which seems like a odd decision to me, although arguably I am no lens engineer, as one would think that  a bigger tripod foot would offer a better stabilization once attached to a tripod head. If you don’t have any, Fujifilm sells a lens plate (MLP-75XF) that you can attach to the tripod foot to make it compatible with ARCA SWISS tripods. Personally, I also don’t see the point of having included the 100-140mm focal range compared to the initial design, as this part of the focal range is already covered by so many XF lenses.

Beyond those small reservations, there are mostly positive things to say in terms of design and handling. The smaller filter thread of the final version (77mm) will enable you to use common filters you might already own (I personally buy all my filters in the 77mm size, with a set of cheap step-up rings to use them on smaller lenses). The built quality feels good, with attention to details. There is a lock button to avoid any zoom creep, but the small feature that makes a big difference to me is the lens hood that clips on the lens. The last thing you want when you are on the side of a race track or a football field is for your lens hood to fall over every time you knock something or someone runs into you.

Coupled with the XF 1.4x teleconverter, the lens become a 140-560mm f8 equivalent lens. I shot the sample pictures in this post using an X-Pro2, with the XF 100-400mmF4.5-5.6 mounted on the 1.4x teleconverter, as I was trying to get as tight and as far as possible. All these shots were taken in very good lighting conditions (although between 6-9AM, so still in somewhat soft light), and in these ideal conditions the combo camera + teleconverter + lens was very responsive. The autofocus in particular did a perfect job on relatively still or slow moving subjects, despite of the addition of the teleconverter theoretically making it harder for the autofocus to work (it was much slower and hunted back and forth when I tested it indoor in poor lighting conditions, which is a totally normal thing). The autofocus struggled much more on flying birds, which was mainly due to my sheer inability to keep flying birds for an extended period of time in a tight composition when using such a long lens.

Here is what both extremes of the focal range look like when using the X-Pro2 + XF 100-400mmF4.5-5.6 + XF1.4x teleconverter:

Zoomed out:


Zoomed-in:

When shooting at 560mm with f8 maximum aperture, it can be difficult to obtain a shutter speed fast enough for handholding without raising the ISO setting higher than one might want to. This is when the image stabilisation of the lens kicks in. The image stabilisation of the XF 100-400mmF4.5-5.6 is to be commended for its effiency, in effect improving the quality of the images by allowing to use lower ISOs while still taking sharp pictures. The quality of the image stabilisation can also be seen in action in the video clips included in the video at the top of this post, inbetween still samples.

Additional samples gallery:

In conclusion, I really enjoyed my time with this lens. I usually don’t go birdwatching, so it gave me a good excuse to do so. With the addition of the XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6, X-mount lenses can now cover a huge focal length, and even more when you add the 1.4x teleconverter. It’s a great lens to handle with efficient image stabilisation for handholding and nice finishing touches such as the clipping hood with a small trap to adjust your filter if you are using a polariser. I personally don’t need to own such a long lens for 99% of what I shoot, but for the few times I would need it I will be absolutely confident to rent it – apart for indoor sports for which the faster XF50-140mmF2.8 will be a better option if you don’t want to focus manually.

X-Pro2 - ISO 200

Fujifilm X-Pro2 high ISO comparison

Fan favorite Chopper comes back as our model to test the ISO performance of the Fujifilm X-Pro2.

Click here to compare these results with similar tests done on the X-T1 and X-E2.

The following images are straight out of the camera JPEGs, shot on the Fujifilm X-Pro2 + XF90mmF2 @ f2, and varying ISO/shutter speed couples. Click on the images to see them in full size.

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X-Pro2 – ISO 200
X-Pro2 - ISO 400
X-Pro2 – ISO 400
X-Pro2 - ISO 800
X-Pro2 – ISO 800
X-Pro2 - ISO 1600
X-Pro2 – ISO 1600
X-Pro2 - ISO 2000
X-Pro2 – ISO 2000
X-Pro2 - ISO 2500
X-Pro2 – ISO 2500
X-Pro2 - ISO 3200
X-Pro2 – ISO 3200
X-Pro2 - ISO 4000
X-Pro2 – ISO 4000
X-Pro2 - ISO 5000
X-Pro2 – ISO 5000
X-Pro2 - ISO 6400
X-Pro2 – ISO 6400
X-Pro2 - ISO 8000
X-Pro2 – ISO 8000
X-Pro2 - ISO 10000
X-Pro2 – ISO 10000
X-Pro2 - ISO 12800
X-Pro2 – ISO 12800
X-Pro2 - ISO 25600 (H1)
X-Pro2 – ISO 25600 (H1)
X-Pro2 - ISO 51200 (H2)
X-Pro2 – ISO 51200 (H2)

Stay tune for more on the X-Pro2…

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