A REAL world review of the Fujifilm X-T2
Like many photographers, I had been waiting for the release and shipment of the announced Fuji X-T1 replacement. The X-T1 is a good camera and having used it for over a year, allowed me to come to terms with its few shortcomings becoming a good "go to" piece of equipment at the same time. The X-T2 was much heralded though and after picking up my X-Pro2, working with it in the studio and out, I was sold on the rumored X-T2. I mean it was to have all that X-Pro2 DNA and an even more improved AF system. It was being built for pro use. Homework had been done.
I'm not going to rehash tech specs, you can google those and if you know anything about the X-T2 you know all those specs anyway. I'm going to simply speak of my experiences so far, of how it stacks up in the real world as compared to the X-T1 and my workhorse Nikon system of a D810, D750 and Df cameras and the various lenses I use to earn money. I do have the equal compliment of Fuji lenses so the Fuji and Nikon systems are on par as far as focal lengths. I've had the X-T2 camera for only a few weeks but worked a couple of jobs with it, one being pretty tough on it as it was a charity event. I used it hard for three straight hours without a break. Portraits, portraits of kids with petting zoo critters, dunk tanks, dancing, food, you name it. Burned through a few batteries and lens changes. I worked with it into the night using its high ISO abilities until it was just too dark and I needed to invoke the Nikon D750 to take over since it has the ability to use a flash in TTL mode, which was needed this night given the changing conditions while working. Sadly, Fujifilm has promised a TTL flash for about 2 of the 5 years I have been a Fuji user and still they cannot deliver. It is a problem to many of us that need speedlights for our work. Its what keeps them from being considered 100% professional in my opinion. But no speed light meant I did push the AF system under daylight, twilight and dark of night conditions. Inside large circus style tents, buildings, and the open air. Tracking all manner of subjects.
I use the optional Fujifilm VPB-XT2 Vertical Power Grip. It houses two batteries and I hoped it would let me shoot a complete event without worry of changing batteries. All mirrorless EVF cameras use a lot of power. The processors used to control AF and process for that excellent ISO range need a lot of power. The bodies are smaller though, so the batteries are smaller. Fuji put together this grip to provide the higher power required to run their processors, AF and EVF screens. The three batteries are useful for all that and they do allow probably the best EVF screen refresh rate available along with the best AF for a mirrorless system (and most DSLR mirrored systems!), so no complaints but you will still be replacing batteries after an hour of continuous use, just like you did with the X-T1. No real gain there from a logistics standpoint. Frustrating because weddings, something I do occasionally, do tend to run longer. Having to track battery consumption plus the other zillion things going on during a wedding would be a pain.
Using the battery grip on the X-T1 was a joy. It really made the camera feel right in my hands and I would not operate the camera without it. Especially with the two longer zooms. So it was a no brainer to order up the grip for the X-T2. Well, my hopes for extended battery life with it were dashed but like I said, it really helps with continuos shooting, AF tracking and focusing and EVF refresh rate. No black out, none. Cool. The EVF is brighter too and is the first I have used that can equal a DSLR's viewfinder in terms of magnification, brightness and just continuos shooting - at 14 fps if you dare. Did I mention there is no black out? Very cool. Coyly, Fuji includes an AC adaptor/charger gizmo with this grip so you can top off the grip batteries...so they seemed to know perhaps, that battery life was still crap. Yes? The grip definitely makes the camera fit my hands, as it did with the X-T1. Overall, highly recommended. I did discover to my dismay, that if a grip battery is depleted, and the internal camera battery is at half or less, you will get beacoup EVF/AF/camera freeze ups. You will miss shots. I had to cycle the camera on and off and it would come back only to eventually freeze up again. Once I swapped batteries with fresh ones, no freeze up - due to power issues that is. I did get the camera to freeze up a few times when shooting horizontally using the grip when the palm of my hand would rest on the grip's "Q" and "Fn" buttons and also depress the shutter button a bit. Sure, I could lock the controls but then when faced with a shot needing vertical, I would swap the camera over and miss another shot because I had failed to unlock it. Sounds minor, I know but in use, it sucks. Who ever designed this accessory must have really tiny hands, They need to let some folks with normal sized and larger hands use this stuff before they finalize it. Are all the X photographers possessing of tiny hands? They missed this? I also had issue with the eye sensor. In daylight or darkness, it worked ok, switching from rear LCD to viewfinder. But in that bewitching hour of twilight or near it, the sensor hiccuped and would not let me use the eyepiece. Blacked out. Missed a few more shots. The fastest way to get it back to normal was to recycle it off and on. Thankfully in Boost mode it does ramp up fast.
The X-T2 has this cool focus lever found on the X-Pro2. I LOVE the focus lever of the X-Pro2 and could not wait to use it on the X-T2 once I heard it was part of the configuration. Well, they put the lever, joystick, whatever so low that as a left eye shooter, my thumb jambs into my nose and nostril more than 50% of the time. This sounds weird...and gross but its true. I have to move my face away from the body of the camera to use it. I switched over to my other eye and really didn't find it to be much different. I checked with a photographer friend in Minneapolis and he too had the same issue. The joystick is poorly placed. How did this get missed? I read nothing but lavish praise for the focus lever and no one mentioned the crappy ergonomics of it. The lever on the grip for vertical use is fine. Well done there. The Q and Fn buttons could be in a better spot but the focus lever works well there.
These things may sound like nits. They do matter to someone that uses their camera every day, all the time though. I worked through the issues, but I do get ticked about the missed shots. I have now spent a few days working with the camera in an effort to adapt to it, so I can use it because it does produce the finest images I have seen this side of medium format. The sensor is seriously good. Real good. High ISO is not even believable. My old D4s wasn't this good at 12,800. Fuji kicked ass on the AF system. with the exception of using a white indicator in the viewfinder which becomes very difficult to see in certain light. Its now on par with most anything out there. I admit that my big draw to Fuji (besides its images) are the dials, aperture ring, and "camera" feel. It is fun to shoot. It just is. My X100, X100T, X-Pro1, X-Pro2 and X-T1 I recently sold, made me look forward to jobs. I cannot say the same thing day in and day out for my Nikons. All these cameras are good. Better than my abilities, but I think the more excited I am to work, the more creative I feel and the better I produce for my customers. The X-T2 by far has the best "camera in hand lets go shoot" feel of any I have touched. On the same hand I don't like having to change the way I work to accommodate a camera, not for the goofy things I outlined above. The camera should be ready to go. Fuji is big on posting how their X photographers have had the cameras for months, testing and providing feedback and it makes me wonder if they actually work or just stage shots. No one working with this camera could miss these things. I have heard of a few of the X photographers, but for this camera none of the ones I know reviewed it. I mostly read reviews by unknowns. I can honestly say, in the future, nothing published by the X photographers will hold any sort of sway with me. I just don't trust them. I am now looking critically at the GFX 50s announcement. Medium format could play a role in my future work, work that I am quoting now and its starting to trickle in. I delayed my pre order of the Hasselblad X1D because I had heard the rumor about the Fuji medium format camera and lenses. I figured if Fuji carried forward with its commitment to image quality based on sensor and lenses and its film like simulation of the APS-C format, then it would be my medium format system. And well it might be but it would not be because of any testimony from the cadre of X testers. It will be via me ordering it, and testing it with an eye towards returning it if it isn't close to what is promised. I'll be all over a X1D faster than the X-T2 EVF can freeze if it hiccups at all.
I'm thinking I will keep this X-T2. Work with it. The image quality and autofocus system is world class. The rest of the camera isn't that far behind those traits. I was and am frustrated because its soooo close. Its an 8 on the 10 scale though. Nikon is a little higher because it works. I hope I'm not alone with my complaints and hope Fuji can fix it with firmware. Maybe too, I'm the oddball user. I got along fine with their other cameras though. Right now, besides the things mentioned up top, the lack of a speed light and it's continued delay tarnishes what this camera could be. Ditto for the X-Pro2 but maybe in a lesser way. C'mon Fuji, build the damn flash and get it in our hands. You best be doing a better job too with testing ergonomics and firmware. By last Saturday, the day after my event, the D500 was looking mighty good. It still does...did you know it has radio transmitter flash now? Not 1980's optical? But, I digress......