90 Days Later With My Fujifilm X-T2

I began this adventure in the hopes of finding an outlet for my creativity. Beginning with a Fujifilm X-T20 purchased in August of 2017, a cold, wet November hike to photograph Twin Falls enlightened me to the benefits of a weather sealed camera. It was on the 21st of December when durability surpassed convenience in priority and I bought my Graphite Silver Edition X-T2. 90 days later, I feel I’ve spent enough time with it to render a proper judgment, so here’s my own review of what I’ve experienced and ultimately learned.

Specific differences between X-T2 and X-T20

Aside from the obvious size and form, the main difference that fueled my switch was the advantage of weather sealing built into the X-T2. However, both upon first use and along the way, I discovered some small differences that I’ve been forced to work around. The X-T20 has a quick menu option to turn both lights and sound off with a single toggle, something I wish the X-T2 had; the result is that I’ve added an option to turn the AF illuminator on in the “My Menu,” while sound is off permanently as I have to navigate deep into the menu system to adjust each option accordingly, with no shortcut available. Also missing from the X-T2 is a switch to quickly drop into Programmed Auto mode, an obvious tell on the X-T20 as to it’s purpose as a more entry level model.

Memory card slots are another differentiator. The X-T20 has a single, UHS-I slot alongside the battery and placed within the grip with access on the bottom plate. The X-T2, on the other hand, separates card from battery; the battery is in the same location while memory cards have a dedicated door to the side and accepts up to two cards, to either increase total storage or provide backup. Even more beneficial, both slots are UHS-II compatible, boosting the write speeds beyond 100MB/s. This allows for higher bitrate videos and faster buffer clearing of continuous photo shooting.

Other physical differences in the X-T2 include a second dimension for the tilt screen to tilt, giving it more utility when shooting in portrait orientation, no built-in flash, USB 3 versus USB 2, PC Sync port, magnesium body, top and bottom plates, provisions for a battery grip, bigger grip and interchangeable eyecups.

Design and build differences, ergonomics and subjective feel

Buttons, dials and switches are a step up on the X-T2 compared to the X-T20. The top plate knobs are all knurled more finely and the switches beneath the shutter speed and drive dials are metal instead of plastic. The X-T2 knobs also feature lock buttons at the center of each. The front and rear command dials are also aluminum versus plastic on the X-T2, with much finer teeth carved into them and whose edges are polished to a mirror finish. Buttons have a less clicky feel, dampened by the waterproof membrane that seals them in, while the X-T20’s features a touchscreen display, something the older X-T2 lacks. Instead, the X-T2 has a focus point joystick, something I far prefer over the touchscreen. The X-T2 also gains an additional function button over the X-T20 and is placed on the front of the body, and while programmable, is where most other brands put a Depth of Field Preview button on their pro bodies. As such, it’s default function is just that, DOF Preview. Placement of these buttons, dials and switches are all in the same general location between the two devices, so anyone migrating from one to the other will feel right at home.

From a quality standpoint, taking into account all of the differences listed above, the X-T2 feels most certainly like a $1800 camera. Fit and finish are second to none and the body overall feels solid and dense in the hand without feeling overly heavy. While the X-T20 is a great camera that’s built excellently, especially for the price, the X-T2 is just that much better in feel. The corners a little sharper, curves a little smoother, edges a little straighter and seams a little tighter. It definitely meets or exceeds whatever the competition has on offer with their top of the line offerings. Plus, the proportions look and feel correct; where the X-T20 sort of came off visually unbalanced to my eye, the X-T2 is just right, with it’s proper grip, better proportioned top and bottom plates, and dial sizing.

It’s not all rainbows and lollipops, but it’s very minor

I do have a gripe with the X-T2 and that’s with the memory card door and port cover. Fujifilm uses a very cheap plastic that’s been textured to match the rubber grip inlay, and while they close tightly to seal out the elements, the tactile feel is inexcusably cheap. Could they not have used a higher quality plastic or a metal component with inlaid rubber, at least on the latching memory card door? As for the port cover, a simple rubber component, molded to fit the aesthetic, would have been preferred. As I shoot a lot of long exposures and use a wired remote to facilitate that, the port cover’s hinge feels far too delicate to leave anything plugged in as I move my camera and tripod combination around a scene. Something like what either Nikon or Canon use would have been much preferred for the port cover, at least. Hopefully we’ll see a more rugged solution for the port cover, as Fujifilm can do it; the GFX-50s and X-H1 feature more rugged, rubber type port covers, rather than the hinged plastic door on the rest of the line.

Hardware differences that affect daily usage

The differences that affect me day to day in functionality and usability, aside from the aforementioned light and sound software switch and weather resistance, are the dual SD slots with UHS-II speeds, lens-plane centered tripod mount, bigger grip, USB 3 syncing, removable eyecup, front mounted function button, and battery grip. The additional weight and size have made minimal impact on me, outside of the choice of bags I use to carry it. One of my smaller bags has been forced into the closet as it won’t handle the larger X-T2 when I have the extended grip in place, which is all of the time. Even some of my larger bags won’t fit the X-T2 with the battery grip in place, unless I remove the lens, though this can be troublesome if I want to shoot from the bag. Despite this, I’ve found the larger body more comfortable, especially when using the larger pro lenses and the trade-offs have been worth it to me.

Software differences that impact usage

This is going to be a short section. The two cameras are nearly identical from a software perspective while in my hands. Granted, there are extensive options to control AF performance, especially while in continuous mode, that the X-T20 doesn’t have. While I’ve set them and used them from time to time, the vast majority of my use is while in AF-S or MF, rarely dipping into AF-C. Another option to use the onboard “X-Processor Pro” to adjust and convert RAW files while connected to your computer, using X Raw Studio, is something I just don’t use. Being strictly a stills photographer, all of the video options are also lost on me. Between the two cameras, from a software perspective, either one would fit my needs nicely. Again, it’s the physical features of the X-T2 that forced my switch.

Accessories, Fujifilm and third parties

Of course, no camera is perfect and I’ve resorted to both Fujifilm and third party accessories to provide solutions for my use case. To address shortcomings with the ergonomics, I’ve fitted a small, 7mm, brass soft release shutter button that gives me slightly more leverage to make more deliberate activations with less movement. This has resulted in my netting more keepers at shutter speeds under 1/30s.

Keeping on the subject of shutter release, I’ve bought two remotes. Granted, both the X-T2 and X-T20 have in-built wi-fi and apps for iPhone that support remote shutter control, but sometimes, connecting through the app can be finicky due to wireless interference. Plugging in a cable is infinitely faster and immediate and to that end, I have a Shoot brand RR-90 wired release that’s nearly identical to the Fujifilm wired shutter release but at 1/4 the price. For times I need more distance than a cable will allow, I have a Vello dedicated wireless remote. The receiver mounts to the hotshoe and plugs into the USB port on the camera, itself having a shutter button for wired use. The remote transmitter offers four shooting options, single, bracket, fixed interval and hold on a switch below the shutter button.

Fujifilm’s MHG-XT2 gives me more grip, especially useful when shooting with the 16-55mm and 50-140mm. Most importantly, it gives my pinky finger just enough room for a proper hold with less fatigue. Unless I need the Vertical Power Booster for long days or faster mechanical burst speed, the grip extension stays on the camera.

Peak Design ensures it doesn’t fall too far from my hand with both the Slide Lite for shoulder carry and Cuff 2 if I’m doing simple street photography. Their latest tripod plate is also a staple, providing an attachment point to my tripods or just a place to hold the camera with their Capture Pro v3, of which I have installed on 2 of my bags.

Power solutions begin with a handful of batteries. I highly recommend genuine NP-W126S units from Fujifilm. They’re ridiculously expensive but there’s a reason: the W126S is an improved version of the W126, redesigned to prevent overheating that can lead to other, far more destructive issues. The result is a more consistent, and safer, experience and no other third party has been able to copy this improved battery. The W126 and its knockoffs all suffer from reduced runtime; the longest lasting third party batteries I own barely hold 2/3 the runtime of my Fujifilm originals. For you, the price to performance equation may differ, but for me I’d rather not carry 6 batteries if 4 or less will do.

There is another way, especially if you do time-lapse photography or videos. The first, and arguably easiest, is to buy the Vertical Power Booster Grip. For video shooters, you get the added benefit of the headphone port for audio monitoring, in addition to the 2 extra batteries giving you 3 batteries worth of longevity. You also unlock access to Boost Performance Mode, which decreases shutter lag and EVF blackout times and max shutter burst speed to 11fps.

Tethering is the other option. With a battery coupler unit, you can replace the battery with the coupler and connect directly to AC, DC or external battery pack. If you’re into time-lapse astrophotography, this option can remove all battery obstacles to realizing your vision by enabling use of a USB battery pack, like those used with your smartphone, or even a small petrol generator, if you camp with one. The battery door has a small port, covered with a removable, plastic tab, just to allow the battery door to be closed while a power coupler is in use. While most other Fujifilm cameras lack a battery grip option, they all allow for power tethering through use of a battery coupler, although one could argue that it’d be easier, and cheaper, to just integrate external power through a USB-C port.

Conclusion, compared to competition, future upgrade?

Am I happy with my purchase? In a word, yes, and it really is that simple. The X-T2 is an excellent camera that will meet the needs of any amateur photographer, short of the hard-core landscape photographer, obviously. At $1499 starting, it compares well with the X-T20, a great camera in its own right that shouldn’t be overlooked if you have no need for weather resistance or highly prize the compact form factor over all else. Of course, Fujifilm offers many rangefinder-style options that further compress the dimensions that shouldn’t be overlooked. That being said…

Recently, Fujifilm released a dark horse in the X-H1, a pro-video focused model that takes its inspiration from the GFX-50s in both size and styling. Like the X-T2, it has all of the headline features but throws in in-body image stabilization (IBIS), giving any and all lenses some degree of IS, a feature not universal to Fujifilm’s lens lineup. The inclusion of IBIS is tempting but the overall size is a bridge too far for me. After handling a production unit, the benefit of IBIS is outweighed by the enormous dimensions; it’s not that much larger than the X-T2 but it’s larger where it will directly impact how most people use a Fujifilm camera currently, including me. While I take my fair share of handheld shots, more than half are from a tripod, thus negating the benefit of IBIS and making the X-H1 something I just don’t need, or really want. And to be honest, I’m not a fan of the GFX styling if given the choice.

Speaking of the GFX-50s, if I were to upgrade, it would be to that. The plan in my near future isn’t so much to upgrade as it is to buy concurrently. Like I said, most of my shots are landscape, or otherwise tripod stabilized, style photography. This is where the GFX’s larger “medium format” sensor would directly benefit the kind of shooting I split nearly 50-50 with. It’s also a type of shooting where size is irrelevant. Despite being the cheapest option in a medium format sensor, it’s still not “cheap,” at $6500 body only. But as a landscape camera, the lens requirements are far less intensive as I’d probably need only 2 lenses, or at most 3, those being an ultrawide prime and a normal zoom, with the possibility of a short tele.

Back to the X-T2, the APS-C market is quite mature and most updates to sensor tech are iterative updates. The next big thing will be global shutter for distortion-free photos using an electronic shutter. Fujifilm needs to make steps to improve their AF but most of those complaints are with AF-C use; again, not my field. Because of this, I see the X-T2 as a long-term investment, a tool that will stick around for a long time, refreshed periodically by Fujifilm firmware updates that keep it relevant for many years beyond its sell-by date. A future X-T3 or X-T4 may get more accurate AF through a hardware change, increased resolution or greater dynamic range, but none of these will be blockbuster-level changes that render the X-T2 unusable and obsolete, at least from my vantage point. Looking at it that way, the X-T2 is still good value, even this late in its design cycle.

If you’re holding out on an X-T2 purchase, I’d recommend either buying now to benefit from its capabilities as we enter the first days of spring, or buying the X-T20 or X-E3 if your budget is tight and weather resistance isn’t necessary. The other option is to hold out for the next version, a so-called “X-T3” expected to be introduced this fall at Photokina, to see if the new camera better suits your needs or, if it doesn’t, take advantage of falling prices on the X-T2. Either way, you can’t lose if it’s the proper tool to help you capture your vision.

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