Fujifilm X-T2


Ever since the launch of the X-Pro2 earlier this year we’ve been expecting to see a replacement for the much-loved X-T1 – and, sure enough, the X-T2 was announced back in July.

With the X-T2 sitting alongside the X-Pro2 as the joint flagship camera of the brand, Fujifilm believes it now offers two distinct options for photographers. The X-Pro2, with its rangefinder design, is less obtrusive and suited to Fujifilm’s range of prime lenses, while the more SLR-like X-T2 is designed with the brand’s growing range of fast zoom lenses in mind.

Features

  • APS-C X-Trans CMOS sensor, 24.3MP
  • 3.0-inch tilt-angle screen, 1,040,000 dots
  • 4K video capture

It’s no great surprise to see the 24.3MP APS-C X-Trans III CMOS sensor that we first saw in the X-Pro2 in the X-T2. Fujifilm’s latest sensor, with its clever filter designed to eke out even more detail compared to conventional designs, has delivered some impressive results in the X-Pro2, and is a welcome upgrade from the 16.3MP sensor in the X-T1.

The sensitivity range runs from a modest 200-12,800, but can be expanded to 100-51,200 – and the good news is that, unlike in the X-T1, this extended range doesn’t force you to shoot in JPEG-only, with raw capture now possible as well.

The X-T2’s electronic viewfinder has also come in for some attention, and while the 2.36 million-dot OLED display with 0.77x magnification remains the same, there are numerous improvements over the one used in the X-T1.

X-T2 viewfinder

It’s now twice as bright (500cdm/2 compared to 250cdm/2), there’s an automatic brightness adjustment function and it features a higher baseline frame rate of 60fps (compared to 54fps on the X-T1) – and there’s now a Boost mode that increases this to 100fps to ensure that even fast0moving subjects are displayed smoothly. As you’d expect though, this increase refresh rate does come with a compromise, with the camera demanding more power from the battery.

Along with the viewfinder, the rear display has been updated, although at first glance it may appear that very little has changed. The 3.0-inch display keeps the same 1.04 million-dot resolution for starters – it would have been nice to have seen this increased to match the X-Pro2’s 1.62 million dots, but the articulated display does have a clever trick up its sleeve.

While the articulated display on the X-T1 was great when shooting landscape-format shots, whether that was from low-down or raised positions, it wasn’t much use when you came to shoot in portrait format. The X-T2 fixes that, with the new double-jointed articulated design making it possible to pull the screen outwards and away from the body when the camera is tilted on its side.

X-T2 screen

Interestingly though, while the X70 benefited from a touchscreen, Fujifilm has opted to omit this feature from the X-T2 – its argument being that, having spoken with end users, there just isn’t the hunger for it on X-series cameras. While that may be the case, some might feel that this is a bit of an unnecessary oversight.

The X-T2 is the first Fujifilm X-series camera to shoot 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) video recording, offering a bit rate of 100Mbps (compared to 34Mbps on the X-T1) at 30, 25 or 24fps. It offers recording times of up to 10 minutes – although if you attach the optional VPBC-XT2 battery grip this is extended to 29 minutes and 59 seconds – while there’s HDMI output, audio volume live monitoring and adjustment, and a 3.5mm microphone socket in the body (there’s a 3.5mm headphone terminal in the optional grip).

X-T2 grip

The aforementioned all-new VPB-XT2 battery grip accommodates two batteries (as well as being supplied with a dual charger), and as well as offering benefits mentioned above it improves the burst performance of the X-T2 from 8fps to 11fps, while Fujifilm claims that with two fully charged batteries you’ll be good for 1,000 shots – and that’s not forgetting the other battery tucked away in the camera.

Finally, the X-T2 now features dual SD card slots, and unlike in the X-Pro2 both are UHS-II compatible.

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Build and handling

  • Magnesium alloy construction
  • Dust and weather-sealed
  • 507g

As we saw with the X-Pro2, rather than opting for a radical new design with the second-generation model, Fujifilm has elected to take the X-T1 as its starting point, refining and tweaking elements of that design to arrive at what promises to be an even more polished camera.

X-T2 body

As before, the body is crafted from magnesium alloy, providing a solid and durable feel in the hand. The body also is weather-sealed at 63 points to protect the camera from dust and moisture, so when it’s partnered with one of the growing number of WR (weather-resistant) Fujinon lenses you’ll have a setup that’s very well protected from the elements.

If you’ve got a keen eye, you’ll notice that the ISO and shutter speed dials have been heightened slightly compared to the X-T1, while the dial locks that divided opinion on the X-T1 have been adapted, making it now possible to toggle each dial’s setting without the need to release the lock, should you wish.

X-t2 command dials

This is certainly a welcome improvement, and reduces the frustration when trying to quickly change settings as the camera is raised to your eye, though it still feels slightly awkward when setting the ISO like this – and would be nice to see the option to set a function button to quickly adjust ISO.

The exposure compensation dial has also been tweaked, so as well as offering physical adjustments of up to ±3EV in 1/3 increments, there’s now a C position to set compensation up to ±5EV using the camera’s front command dial. This works very well – even if you’re using the command dial to set aperture, simply press it to swap over to exposure compensation adjustment.

The X-T2 does away with a dedicated video button, instead having the setting amongst the drive modes, the thinking being that rather than simply using the X-T2 to capture the odd short video, Fujifilm wants us to see video as a more sophisticated, dedicated mode on the camera – more on that in a bit.

Fujifilm has also raised the 4-way buttons and, as we saw with the X-Pro2, the X-T2 gets the benefit of a multi-directional focus lever that the thumb can rest on, making it a much quicker process to select the desired focus area.

X-T2 menu

The level of customisation is impressive as well, allowing you to tailor the X-T2 to your own specific shooting style. There are six dedicated function buttons (including the 4-way buttons), plus the AE-L and AF-L buttons, with each of these allowing you to assign a plethora of settings in the X-T2’s menu.

Other little tweaks include a larger eye cup for more comfortable viewfinder shooting, locks on both the card cover and battery compartment, and a slightly enlarged handgrip and rear thumb rest.

These last two additions make the X-T2 that bit more comfortable when hand-holding, with the overall feel of the X-T2 just that bit nicer than the X-T1. It really is a nice camera to pick up and shoot with, with the grip further enhancing the experience, though this obviously makes the camera that bit larger.

Autofocus

  • 169-point AF
  • Eye Detection AF
  • 5 AF-C presets, plus custom option

One of the obstacles for a lot of mirrorless cameras to get over is the skepticism towards AF performance. Perhaps not so much for static subjects, but in the main it’s always been felt that when it comes to moving subjects, mirrorless can’t match the speed and sophistication of some more advanced DSLR systems.

The X-T1 had a solid if rather unremarkable AF system which saw a fairly major firmware upgrade to boost AF performance, but it still didn’t really satisfy the needs of those shooting fast-moving subjects.

With the new system in the X-T2, Fujifilm not only feels that it’s improved the basic AF performance compared X-T1, it believes it’s made huge strides when it comes to continuous AF and subject tracking.

The hybrid AF system employs both phase-detection and contrast-detection points, with up to 169 phase detect points arranged in a large square formation (13 x 13) in the centre, supplemented by two grids of 6 x 13 contrast detect points either size to deliver a total of 325 focusing points across a large area of the frame.

That’s for single point AF; for Zone and Wide/Tracking this drops to a still impressive 91-point arrangement, this time with a central grid of 7 x 7 phase detect points, with the edges of the frame handled by two grids of 3 x 7 contrast detect points. Users can swap to this arrangement for single point AF too if they wish.

While the X-Pro2 featured a wealth of improvements to the performance in Continuous AF mode, the X-T2 goes even further. Fuji has overhauled the AF algorithm to boost accuracy, as well as allowing you to fine-tune how the camera reacts to the way your subject moves in the frame, how fast it moves, and where in the frame the camera places bias for focusing.

These three parameters are known Tracking Sensitivity (how long the camera waits before switching focus), Speed Tracking Sensitivity (determines how sensitive the tracking system is to changes in subject speed) and Zone Area Switching (whether bias is in the centre, auto or front), with the X-T2 featuring five presets (similar to what we’ve seen with some high-end Canon DSLRs), as well as a custom setting allowing you to tinker with the three variables yourself.

AF is nice and quick, while the level of sophistication when it comes to tracking is impressive, making the X-T1 look very pedestrian indeed. We trialled it on fast-moving cars using Preset 3 (Accelerating / decelerating subjects) and coupled with the improved frequency of the AF search timing, reduced from 280m/secs on the X-T1 to just 114m/secs on the X-T2, it rarely missed a beat.

All in all then we’d have to say that in use the AF performance is a huge leap forward. Whereas in the past we’d have hesitated to pick up an X-series camera with the express intention of shooting action, we’d have no concerns now thanks to the very grown-up and capable AF system in the X-T2.

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Performance

  • 8fps burst shooting (14fps with electronic shutter)
  • Mechanical and electronic shutter
  • 0.3sec start-up time

The unchanged TTL 256-zone metering system performs very well, especially when challenged by high contrast scenes, where if anything it tended to underexpose. This wasn’t really an issue as this meant highlights could be recovered later on, while using face detection AF the metering would show a bias towards overexposing the shot for a more flattering high-key result. Because you can see the exposure in real-time on the EVF, it’s possible to easily toggle the exposure compensation dial – especially if you have it set to ‘C’ and adjust via the front command dial.

X-T2 top

Sticking with the viewfinder for a moment, and it's lovely and bright in use. The refresh rate delivers an incredibly clear display with plenty of shooting information available. The combination of this and the tilt-angle rear display make the X-T2 and pleasure to compose shots – the double hinged display a real benefit when shooting portrait-format images from low angles.

Moving onto the white balance and it copes very well in a range of environments, only really struggling when confronted with a mix of daylight and incandescent lighting, with the X-T2 opting for a slightly too warm result. There are plenty of presets to choose from too, while the Auto setting can be fine-tuned to your taste.

Raw files deliver very pleasing color, while those shooting in JPEG have Fuji's excellent set of Film Simulation modes on tap as well. Provia/Standard is the default option and a good choice for general shooting, while the likes of Velvia noticeable boost saturation and the Acros mono filter (and its yellow, red and green options) delivers some really nice results (see above) for those that like to shoot black and white. While it's hard to beat the depth of a processed raw file, pick the right film simulation mode with their unique mix of color, sharpening and contrast, and you can get some cracking results without the need to spend ages processing images later.

The burst rate is a decent 8fps, while put a decent SDHC UHS-II card in the X-T2 and you can expect to shoot a consecutive 27 uncompressed raw files at this rate before the buffer needs time to churn through the data, while if you’re solely shooting JPEG files, 81 files are possible before it slows up.

If you’re going to be using the additional battery grip, the burst rate increases to a fast 11fps, with it possible to capture the same amount of raw files as before, but this time at this faster rate. If you want to opt for the electronic shutter instead of the mechanical shutter, then it’s possible to shoot at a burst rate of a very snappy 14fps without the need for the optional grip, and record 24 uncompressed raw files in doing so before the rate slows.

Image quality

  • ISO200-12,800, expandable to 100-51,200
  • Film simulation modes
  • +/-5 EV exposure compensation in 1/3 or 1/2 stop increments

Given that the X-T2 uses the same 24.3MP CMOS sensor, results didn’t really throw-up anything we weren’t expecting, with a noticeable jump in detail recorded compared to results from the X-T1. The X-T2’s X-Trans CMOS technology does an excellent job at resolving detail across the sensitivity range, especially when compared to APS-C rivals with a similar resolution.

While it may have one of the more conservative sensitivity ranges, the X-T2 does very well, with results at the lower end of the ISO range displaying exceptionally clean results – you’ll have to look really closely for signs of luminance noise in flat, blocked-color areas that can sometimes be there.

It's only at around ISO3,200 and above that luminance noise starts to encroach on the image. That said, even at ISO12,800 it's possible to apply some noise reduction in post-processing to keep it under control and still walk away with a more than acceptable shot, though beyond that and you're looking at shooting at these sensitivities only as a last resort.

Dynamic range is very good at lower sensitivities, offering plenty of flexibility to recover detail in post-processing with raw files, while there’s Fuji’s owner Dynamic Range settings (both for JPEG and raw, though this does reduce the base sensitivity available). At higher ISO settings above ISO1,600, things tail off slightly, but are still more than acceptable up to ISO25,600.

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Field test

In October we took the X-T2 over to Barcelona for the test drive of Audi's R8 V10 Spyder. 

Pairing the X-T2 with Fuji's brilliant XF50-140mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR telephoto zoom lens, along with the 18-55mm f/2.8-4, it was the perfect partner for the trip.

Taking up minimal space in a messenger bag, the combination delivered the goods – whether that was taking details of the car, action/panning shots, or wider scene-setting images. 

The quality was excellent, while the AF didn't disappoint – it happily tracked the car through the bend, while the burst shooting speed of the X-T2 kept up with the action. 

Here are just a few shots from the trip…

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Verdict

The original X-T1 has been a firm favourite amongst photographers and us here at TechRadar, and it’s easy to see why when you take into account its small form-factor, tactile controls, solid build and lovely results.

It wasn’t perfect though, with the AF performance, particularly in continuous mode, a big stumbling block for the camera. It’s an area that’s undenialably deterred a lot of potential users looking to switch from their DSLR and who’ve grown accustomed to an advanced AF system that doesn’t stumble when trained on a fast moving subject.

Now though, the X-T2 looks to change all that. While maintaining and tweaking the lovely handling characteristics of the X-T1, as well as some welcome additions like the double-hinged rear display, the biggest leap has to be the AF performance.

X-T2 grip

Not only is it a huge step up from the system in the X-T1, it’s a very polished and sophisticated system in its own right, delivering a fast and reliable performance that when matched with the fast burst shooting mode, make this a very capable camera for action.

There’s still a bit of room for improvement, but factor in the new sensor that delivers pin-sharp results and the X-T2 has to be one of the most desirable cameras available right now.

Competition

X-Pro2

Fuji X-T20

Launched just some six months after the X-T2, the X-T20 distills many of these key features of the flagship camera into a slightly more compact and affordable model that's likely to hit the sweet spot for many photographers. Despite the lack of weather-sealing the X-T20 feels very similar to its bigger brother in terms of build quality, while the tactile controls and polished handling make it a very satisfying camera to shoot with. AF performance is identical too, as long as you don’t want to customize it, while the images the camera captures display the same lovely colors and detail that you get from the X-T2.

Read the full review: Fujifilm X-T20

Sony A7 II

Sony Alpha A7R II

With 24 million pixels the A7 II matches that of the X-T2, but has the benefit of a larger surface area with a full-frame sensor, meaning you should be able to get that bit more control over depth of field. Excellent detail is possible then from the sensor, while there’s a 5-axis image stabilisation built in too, but the EVF isn’t a patch on the X-T2’s, while the AF lags behind it as well.

Read the full review: Sony Alpha A7 II

Olympus E-M1

Nikon D500

Nikon has taken their flagship D5 DSLR and most of its high-end features and distilled all of this into a smaller, but still very durable metal body. The full-frame sensor is replaced by an 20.9MP APS-C sized chip, so it hasn't got quite the same resolving power as the X-T2, but it does mean the D500 can shoot at a rapid 10fps, while the 153-point AF arrangement is perhaps the best autofocus system out there right now. A brilliant all-rounder, it excels at fast action like sports and wildlife photography.

Read the full review: Nikon D500

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