• Three months with the Fuji XT-2 in Asia: a field review

It’s been roughly three months since I started using the Fujifilm XT-2 as my main travel camera. You may remember this post from late last year where I explained how I went from DSLRs to mirrorless cameras, and mentioned I was going to purchase either the XPro-2 or the XT-2. Eventually, I went for the latter.

Since then, I have put the XT-2 through its paces travelling across Thailand and Malaysia, and I’m happy to report it’s proved to be every bit as good as I expected. The XT-2 was launched months ago and many technical reviews have been published since, like here or here, so I won’t try to replicate that.

Instead, I’ll show some examples of the photos I took with the XT-2, and give you my impressions, both positive and negative, from using it almost every day on the field.

Star Ferry, Hong Kong, Fuji XT-2

Hong Kong (China), f/4, 1/1900sec, ISO 200.

Let’s start with the not so good things about the XT-2, which are not many, to be honest. If you’d like to go straight to the list of things I really like about the XT-2, skip this part and jump ahead.

What I don’t like so much about the Fuji XT-2

1. Ability to resolve distant foliage detail

This relatively minor limitation of X-Trans sensors has been discussed to death on internet forums and blogs. All cameras make compromises and have issues that derive from those. This is, to me, the main issue of the otherwise great X-Trans sensor. There are some ways around it (it seems that some RAW developing software like Iridient do a better job than Lightroom), and there are some very successful professional photographers out there shooting landscape with X-Trans sensor cameras, so it’s not necessarily a deal-breaker.

Personally, I don’t find it very annoying as I’m not primarily a landscape shooter nor make large prints of my images. Even at pretty large screen viewing sizes, it’s more than adequate most of the time. Just bear it in mind and do some research before jumping from other systems if you’re a landscape photographer.

Boatride in Krabi, Fuji XT-2

Krabi (Thailand), f/5, 1/280, ISO 200.

2. Auto ISO implementation could be improved

The XT-2, like many modern mid- and top-of-the-range cameras, provides pretty clean images up to ISO 6400, and even higher depending on the situation and intended use for the image. Therefore, I shoot most of the time on Auto ISO and let the camera pick the right setting.

The XT-2 lets you specify up to three Auto ISO settings to cover different shooting situations. However, while those allow you to set a minimum shutter speed (below which ISO will increase automatically until proper exposure is achieved), the shutter can’t be made dependent on focal length when shooting with zoom lenses.

Phitsanulok temple, Fuji XT-2

Phitsanulok (Thailand), f/5, 1/125, ISO 4000.

Another minor quibble with this implementation is that when shooting on Auto ISO, you can only see the ISO picked by the camera after taking the shot.

Fuji has released a new firmware recently that includes some changes to the Auto ISO function, but I haven’t installed it yet.

Update- June 2017: Fujifilm has released not one but two firmware updates in May with a ton of useful new features and functionalities like voice memo recording, ability to change ISO while shooting video and, yes, an Auto ISO setting where the camera sets the minimum shutter speed according to the focal length of the lens being used. I’m going to test it in the next few days to see how it works.

You can download the latest firmware from Fuji’s official website here. I’ve probably said it elsewhere, but I love how Fuji keeps making its products better and better after release with great firmware updates.

Street art in Melaka, Fuji XT-2

Melaka (Malaysia), f/5.6, 1/100, ISO 640.

3. Slightly small button for back button focus

If you don’t know what back button focus is, you owe it to yourself to give it a go. Basically, it allows you to uncouple the autofocus function from the shutter, which is really handy in many situations.

You may try it and not like it, but I recommend you see for yourself before dismissing it. Here’s a good explanation of why back button focus is so useful.

I started using back button focus with my Pentax K5 a few years ago, but had to stop with my XE-1 because it wasn’t possible or convenient (can’t remember which). Now I’m using it again with the XT-2 and it feels great. I have configured the AF-L back button for this task and it’s pretty comfortable to use. I just wish it were a little bigger, just like the the AE-L button, but it’s fine.

Update- June 2017: Yet again, Fujifilm shows that it listens to customers’ feedback. The latest firmware update allows to configure the rear command wheel, which is clickable, as a back button AF. This video explains how to set up your camera’s menu for that. It’s really a huge improvement as the wheel is big, easy to find without looking and just at the right position, where your thumb naturally falls when you grip the camera. So this minor con should be moved onto the pros list, but I’ll just leave it for the sake of “historical” accuracy!

Beach on Pangkor Island, Fuji XT-2

Pangkor Island (Malaysia), f/22, 1/100, ISO 320.

What I like very much about the Fuji XT-2

1. Robust, comfortable to hold body

The XT-2 body feels hefty and sturdy (much more so than that of my XE-1), has a good grip even when mounting larger zoom lenses and it’s weather-sealed. Plus it’s really sexy to look at. Can’t complain here!

Dancers in Ko Lanta, Fuji XT-2

Ko Lanta (Thailand), f/5, 1/160, ISO 200.

2. Operation and AF speed

In my opinion, sluggishness used to be one of the most irritating quirks of the oldest X-series cameras. This is now a thing of the past with the XT-2. On the field, I’ve never felt the camera is slow to react or operate.

3. Dual articulating screen

If you don’t miss this feature, chances are you’ve never used a camera that has it. Articulating LCDs are just great for very low-angle or over the head shots. The XT-2 screen has a dual hinge mechanism and can also swivel in portrait orientation, which is nice to have.

Naga sunset in Nong Khai, Fuji XT-2

Nong Khai (Thailand), f/18, 1/125, ISO 400. Without the articulating screen, I’d have had to lie flat on my stomach to compose this shot.

4. Great physical controls

Physical dials and controls have always been one of the X-series cameras’ strengths, and ergonomically the XT-2 feels like the culmination of previous models. The addition of a joystick for AF point selection makes the shooting experience, well, a joy.
I used to focus and recompose a lot, but I have switched almost entirely to selecting the AF point with the joystick because it’s so fast and convenient.

5. Gorgeous viewfinder

Not only it’s huge, bright and responsive, it also has a very forgiving eye relief, so if you’re a glass wearer like me, you probably don’t have to worry (with the caveat that not all faces and eyeglass mounts are created equal!).

Street in Penang, Fuji XT-2

Penang (Malaysia), f/8, 1/1000, ISO 1000.

6. Excellent burst-shooting ability

I cant speak to the continuous autofocus accuracy of the XT-2 because I don’t use it very often, but its burst shooting abilities are excellent, and I use them all the time.
There are two settings: continuous high-speed (8 fps) and low-speed (5 fps), and switching back and forth between these and the single-shot setting is really easy thanks to the lever conveniently placed at the base of the ISO dial. Should you need even faster bursts, the optional grip will let you go to a whopping 14 fps.

Basketball in Khon Khaen, Fuji XT-2

Khon Khaen (Thailand). f/9, 1/400 sec, ISO 400.

7. Dual SD cards

This is another great feature. You can configure the SD card slots in three different ways: spill-over (when one card is full, images will automatically be stored on the second card, straight backup (images are stored on both cards at the same time), or RAW+JPEG backup (RAW images go to the card in one slot, JPEGs to the other). Slot 1 supports faster cards than slot 2, so it makes sense to use the latter for JPEGs with your slower and/or smaller-capacity SD cards.

The latter setting is the one I use. I mostly only keep RAW files anyway, but sometimes I keep a few selected JPEGs. And it’s reassuring to know that if there’s a malfunction of my main SD card, at least I’ll have the JPEGs.

Bangkok bus, Fuji XT-2

Bangkok (Thailand), f/2.8, 1/350, ISO 200. Taken with the XF27mm prime: this really affordable lens is very sharp wide open!

All in all, I couldn’t be happier with my XT-2. It’s a pleasure to shoot with, and it can make shine even the modestly priced XF 27mm 2.8 prime that I grabbed at a discount in Bangkok. Incidentally, this lens also makes the XT-2 surprisingly light and compact, even more so than the X100 (at least that’s how it feels like, I haven’t compared them side to side).

If you’re thinking about buying the XT-2 or have any questions about it, don’t hesitate to ask below in the comments section, I’ll be happy to help!


    1. Thanks for commenting, Brad. Yes, I’m still shooting with the X-T2 and still love it. I’m sure it’s partly due to the fact that I’d never used any other camera so frequently for so long, but I feel such a strong bond with it.

      As for durability. it seems to have held up well, considering what I’ve put it through in 3 years’ worth of photos jumping around India and SE Asia in quite demanding environmental conditions. I did have to send it for repair when the back LCD died on me, but to be fair I fold and unfold that screen a lot to take low-level and overhead shots. Also, just this month I noticed the focus mode lever on the front is starting to misbehave occasionally, so maybe I’ll have to send it in again soon.

      I suppose one of those good old DSLRs that are built like a tank may have held up a little better, but still, I’ve put the X-T2 through a lot and I’m not sure I can complain. I would definitely recommend it. It’s a truly stellar camera and a joy to shoot with, particularly paired with some of Fuji’s outstanding prime lenses. Also, if you’re considering Fuji, the X-T3 doesn’t really offer much more (except for sports shooters and such), and you’d save a bunch of money that you could put towards buying lenses.

      One last thing to consider if you can wait, is that there are highly reliable rumors that Fuji will announce the X-T4 next month, with a release date in March. Rumors also point to the X-T4 being a massive update as it will come with in-body stabilization (IBIS), a new battery with larger capacity and some other big improvements. At any rate, even if you don’t end up buying the X-T4, the X-T3 should immediately go down in price, so waiting for a few more weeks seems like a good idea.

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