Andy Westlake investigates Fujifilm’s updated high-end compact system camera
Fujifilm X-T2 review: Hands-on first look
At a glance:
- 24.3-million-pixel X-Trans CMOS III sensor
- 3-in dual-hinged screen
- 325-point or 91-point hybrid AF
- 0.77x 2.36-million-dot EVF
- Dual SD slots
- Up to 11fps continuous shooting
- 4K video
- £1399 body only
There’s little doubt that Fujifilm’s X-T1 was one of the most widely admired cameras of the last few years. With its weather-resistant SLR-style design, analogue control dials and large, detailed electronic viewfinder, it managed to combine a thoroughly modern feature set with nostalgic retro appeal. Now Fujifilm has unveiled its successor, in the shape of the 24.3-million-pixel X-T2.
In essence the new model combines Fujifilm’s latest sensor and AF system from the X-Pro2 with an updated version of the X-T1’s body. But look closer and all sorts of updates and refinements begin to reveal themselves, in typical Fujifilm fashion.
The headline news is that the X-T2 gets the same 24.3MP X-Trans CMOS III sensor and X-Processor Pro combination as the X-Pro2, and so should gain the same excellent image quality and impressive autofocus speed. The standard sensitivity range covers ISO 200 – 12800, with extended settings of ISO100, 25,600 and 51,200 also available. Unlike on the X-T1, engaging these doesn’t turn off raw image recording. Raw files can also be recorded in a lossless uncompressed format to save space.
Continuous shooting is available at up to 9 frames per second, with a buffer of at least 27 raw or 73 JPEG frames. When the vertical booster grip is attached and the camera set to its performance-enhancing boost mode, the speed increases to 11fps with the mechanical shutter or 14fps using the electronic shutter, Alternatively the X-T2 can shoot at 5 fps with live view between frames. The mechanical shutter offers a 30sec – 1/8,000 sec range, while a silent electronic shutter option extends the fastest speed up to 1/32,000sec.
Auofocus uses a hybrid system, with a central, square phase detection region covering half of the frame width and three quarters of its height, and contrast detection employed outside this area. Users can select between a 91-point AF array and a more densely packed 325-point layout; face- and eye-detection is also available for portrait shooting.
For tracking focus on moving subjects, the X-T2 now has a set of five Canon-like use-case modes to deal with different scenarios, along with a sixth customisable position that allows you to specify how erratically the subject is expected to be moving, how quickly the camera should react to an object passing in front of it, and how readily the AF system should pass the subject from one focus point to another. Fujifilm says it has decreased the viewfinder blackout time and improved the sensor readout and processing speed such that the X-T2 can now take up to five autofocus readings between frames during continuous shooting, compared to the X-T1’s one. In principle this should hugely improve the focus hit-rate with moving subjects.
Design and handling
Perhaps most obvious external change is a clever new design of the tilting screen mechanism. Where the X-T1’s LCD could only tilt up and down, on the X-T2 Fujifilm has added another hinge at its right edge, released by a sliding catch at the other side. This allows the screen to tilt 60° upwards as a waist-level finder when the camera is used for portrait format shooting. It’s therefore a simple solution to the biggest problem with tilt-only screens, while being quicker to use than fully-articulated designs. Indeed it’s probably neatest arrangement we’ve seen, while adding very little to the size of the camera; at 32.5mm x 91.8mm x 49.2mm the X-T2 is just fractionally larger than its predecessor.
In terms of controls, the X-T2 gains the joystick AF area selector from the X-Pro2, which counts as huge improvement over the X-T1’s d-pad.But if you prefer you can still use the X-T2’s d-pad for focus area selection, and the buttons have a raised, easier to press design to facilitate this. Alternatively the four-way buttons can be used for direct access to other camera functions, which can be selected from a wide range of options to suit the user’s preference.
The X-T1’s Focus Assist button has disappeared to make space for the joystick, with its duties performed by clicking the rear electronic dial inwards. There’s a choice of three manual focus aids, including magnified view, focus peaking, and Fujifilm’s unique ‘digital split image’ display. As on the X-Pro2 this is now full colour, and the larger phase detection area means that it covers a significantly larger area of the frame compared to the cameras with the previous generation 16MP sensor. As a result it’s much more usable than before.
The top plate still plays host to analogue exposure compensation, shutter speed and ISO dials, along with switches for drive and metering modes. But the dials are deeper and easier to grasp, although if we have one initial concern about the X-T2’s handling, it’s that this makes the metering and drive mode switches a little less easy to operate.
On a more positive note, the lock buttons on the ISO and shutter speed dials are now toggles – press once to lock, press again to release. This is a much more sensible arrangement compared to the X-T1, where the ISO dial’s lock button has to be pressed down whenever you wish to move it. The exposure compensation dial gains a ‘C’ position, as on the X-Pro2, in which the correction level can be increased to +/-5 EV by spinning the electronic dial on the camera’s front. Meanwhile a ‘250x’ on the shutter speed dial indicates that the flash sync speed has been boosted to 1/250sec (from 1/180sec on the X-T1).
There’s little doubt that the ISO dial is now much easier to use than X-T1’s, but you still have to move your left hand from suppporting the lens, which can be awkward with large zooms such as the 100-400mm. Unfortunately though there’s still no way to change the ISO setting using an electronic dial with the camera up to your eye – we’d love to see this made accessible via a function button when the ISO dial is set to its A position. Also, while the camera has three Auto ISO programs that allow you to define the minimum and maximum ISO settings and slowest shutter speed it will use, there’s no way of linking that minimum shutter speed to the focal length of the lens, which can be handy when shooting with zooms (and is a common feature on other brands).
Open the SD card cover on the side of the camera and you’ll now find two slots, both of which support the high speed UHS-II standard. It’s possible to backup files to both cards simultaneously, but alternatively you can set the camera to switch to the second card when the first is full, or record raw files to one and JPEGs to the other. You can also specify which of the two you’d like use for recording movies.
There are lots of other little improvements too. The shutter button is threaded to accept a mechanical cable release, the viewfinder has a larger eyecup to aid visibility, and the tripod socket has been repositioned so it’s aligned with the lens axis. It’s even possible to decide whether you want the depth of field scale on the viewfinder to reflect pixel-level sharpness or display on a ‘film format basis’ that matches the DOF scales on Fujifilm’s lenses (in effect using a larger circle of confusion).
Naturally Wi-Fi is built-in for connection to a smartphone or tablet, offering full remote control of the camera with a live view feed. As expected, images can also be easily copied to the smartphone for sharing. Also promised for the X-T2 through a future firmware upgrade is tethered shooting from a Windows or Mac computer via USB or Wi-Fi, using Fujifilm’s aptly-named Tether Shooting plug-in for Adobe Lightroom.
The viewfinder has the same basic specification as the X-T1’s, being a 2.36-million-dot OLED unit with 0.77x magnification and 100% coverage. But Fujifilm says that it has a stop better image quality in low light, gives an improved view while autofocusing, and shows lower moiré and false colour when the camera is set to boost mode.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the build quality – the compact magnesium alloy body feels as solid as a brick, and has 63 seals to keep out dust and moisture. Fujifilm says that it’s enlarged the handgrip, and while the difference isn’t huge, the X-T2 certainly sits very firmly in your hand.
As has started to become de rigueur, the X-T2 can record video in 4K format (3840 x 2160px at 30, 25 or 24fps) with a 1.17x crop of the horizontal field of view; Full HD recording at up to 60fps is also on offer, using the full width of the sensor. The maximum recording time is 10min for 4K and 15min for HD, but this can be extended to 29min 59sec by attaching the vertical grip. The bitrate for both 4K and Full HD is 100Mbps. Fujifilm claims the video quality should be improved unrecognisably compared to the X-T1, as even in 4K mode it’s effectively over-sampling by reading a region of the sensor over 5000 pixels wide, then down-sampling the footage for recording to card.
The X-T1’s movie button has disappeared, and video is instead selected using the drive mode dial, the main advantage being that this allows the camera to display a correct 16:9 preview. Recording is started and stopped using the shutter button. There’s a standard 3.5mm stereo microphone input, and a microphone level display. A peaking display aids manual focus pulling during recording, and footage can be recorded on an external recorder over HDMI. Film simulation modes can be used during recording, with colour, sharpness, and highlight and shadow tone adjustments available; there’s also a flat F-Log profile for grading in post-production.
Optional Vertical Power Booster Grip VPB-XT
To get the most out of the X-T2, you’ll need to buy the optional grip. While this may look like a conventional vertical grip with a duplicate set of controls for portrait format shooting, it also brings an array of extra advantages. Not only does it hold two additional batteries (which can be recharged in the grip itself in under two hours), it also extends video recording time to 29min 59sec, and adds a headphone socket for monitoring audio. When the camera is set to boost mode it also increases the viewfinder refresh rate from 60fps to 100fps, and doubles the viewfinder brightness, as well as speeding up continuous shooting. There’s even a physical switch to turn on the boost mode.
While the X-T1 was hugely admired, it wasn’t without its faults. With the X-T2 Fujifilm appears to have listened carefully to its users and fixed almost all of their major gripes. As a result it looks like it should offer even better handling without losing any of the fundamental design philosophy that made the X-T1 such a success. Meanwhile the updated sensor should bring the improved image quality and autofocus that we saw on the X-Pro2. Indeed when we tested Fujifilm’s excellent XF 100-400mm zoom recently, we remarked on how much we’d like to see a body with the X-T1’s handling but the X-Pro2’s autofocus, and the X-T2 looks like it should be exactly that camera. It’s certainly one of the most exciting new models of the year; look out for our upcoming full review to see how it performs.