I guess I’ll start by saying I’ve never gone out and bought exactly the camera I wanted before I bought the Fujifilm X-T2. I’ve always compromised on something, usually favoring either the mid-range dSLRs or premium fixed-lens cameras.
My last camera purchase before this one was a rangefinder-style Fujifilm X100s, which I loved for its high quality, fixed lens, manual controls, and solid construction. I bought it to replace a Nikon D5000 that I never warmed up to thanks to the lack of manual control and plasticky build.
The X100s was one half of the sweet spot for me: Manual controls, compact body, solid feel, classic styling. The 23mm/f2 lens was a little wide for my taste, though, and I like having a variety of lenses. When I’ve had SLRs or dSLRs, I’ve liked to have a general purpose zoom and a fast prime for walking around. I also missed having a flip-out or flip-down rear display, which makes macro and street photography a lot more comfortable.
The X-T2’s sibling at the top of the Fujifilm lineup is the X-Pro2, which is built like a chunkier, interchangeable lens X100. I looked at the X-Pro, and it definitely checked the “interchangeable lens” box, but the rear display doesn’t fold out, so I waited to see what the X-T2 would look like.
Design and Build
The X-T2 is shaped like a small dSLR. It’s more trim than even low-end dSLRs, and that smaller profile extends toward many of the lenses (which are designed to balance well with the X-Pro2, as well).
It uses an electronic viewfinder instead of an optical one, and it has a fold-out rear screen that makes it easier to shoot from the waist or fold out in such a way that it’s easier to use on a tripod when shooting in portrait orientation.
Unlike previous X-series cameras, it has a dedicated joystick (more like a nub) for setting the focusing point, vs. using the directional pad after putting the camera into selection mode.
The real design stars, I believe, are the three physical control dials on the top of the body: ISO, shutter speed, and exposure compensation. With very few exceptions, all Fujifilm X-mount lenses also have an aperture ring, which means you have full manual control of all the key settings.
Unlike many other cameras, there is no “mode dial.” In other words, the camera doesn’t have an explicit set of controls to put it into program, aperture priority, or shutter priority mode. Instead, you can set each control manually, or put each in automatic mode. While there are some “scene modes,” they’re pushed down into the menu system.
Finally, there are quite a few programmable buttons that make it easy to get quick access to certain settings. For instance, I’ve programmed the top “Fn” button to trigger the camera’s built-in Wi-Fi capabilities, and I’ve set up the front function button to activate the face/eye detection system for ease of access when shooting portraits.
There’s also a dual SD card slot, with a few settings for how to use the second card:
- Sequential: Fill up the first card, move on to the next.
- RAW+JPEG: Store RAW and JPEG files on the same card, move on to the second card when full.
- RAW/JPEG: Store RAW files in slot 1 and JPEGs in slot 2.
Beyond the physical controls, there’s a fairly rich set of configuration options in the menu system.
I think Fujifilm’s menus are about as good as anything I’ve used from Canon, Pentax, or Nikon–and they’re light years beyond Sony. They’re about like any camera’s menu system, which is to say that you will get better at them over time, and they require practice and frequent use.
There are a few things that make the core menu system a lot more palatable:
First, you can put some frequently accessed menu options into a special user menu. For instance, I keep the option to toggle exposure/white balance preview for the EVF in that menu to help when I’m shooting portraits with a flash: Otherwise I wouldn’t be able to see the subject through the EVF in a room where I’m controlling external light.
Second, there’s the “Q” (for “Quick”) menu, which has its own button. With the Q menu, you can create 7 presets that control things like:
- Dynamic Range
- Film Simulation
- Image quality
- Highlight and shadow tone
- Autofocus mode
When you access the Q menu, you can choose a preset, and then you can adjust the settings for that preset temporarily, until you power cycle the camera. So if you’re shooting a scene where a given preset was mostly satisfactory, you can make a small tweak that persists until you’re done shooting, at which point the preset reverts to its saved state.
I have several presets:
- A very punchy black and white preset with stronger shadow and highlight tone, and a yellow software filter.
- A softer "Classic Chrome" preset with less highlight and shadow tone and a more pronounced grain effect.
- A "flat" preset
You can not only customize the settings for each item in the Q menu, you can customize which settings appear in the Q menu. For instance, I seldom touch white balance because it’s easily corrected in post, so I don’t care if I have quick access to it.
It took me several months to get comfortable with the menu system and the Q menu. Now that I’ve made north of 5,000 exposures with the camera, I feel pretty comfortable with it all and can quickly get the camera into a proper shooting state very quickly.
Fujifilm X-series cameras make lovely images. Even shooting “flat” images with no adjustments, out-of-the-camera JPEGs are nice.
There are a few things that take those JPEGs the extra mile:
First, there are some truly lovely film simulations. Other manufacturers have scenes or modes. Fuji’s film simulations are a bit more subtle and they’re meant to reproduce some of the tone and grain characteristics of film without going to the extreme that consumer filters like you’d find in VSCO or Instagram go.
The standout simulations, in my opinion, are Classic Chrome and Acros. The former is soft and the most “vintage” of the lot, and the latter is a lovely monochrome. The Acros simulation has four variants: A neutral version, plus versions with yellow, red, and green “filters” applied. The yellow filter makes clouds and sky pop a little more, and the red and green filters are useful for assorted portrait situations.
The quality of the JPEG output makes for a tough workflow decision. I’ve been shooting in RAW because I’ve wanted to get to know the camera better before committing to a less flexible darkroom format. The RAW files are huge, though, and incur some post-production penalties. Fortunately, Lightroom understands Fuji’s film simulations making it possible to import a card full of RAW files and apply a film preset to them.
As I’ve gotten more comfortable with the camera’s behavior and my own mastery of it, though, I’ve found that the JPEG output is really good. JPEGs make for a faster workflow, and they’re easier to deal with in a mobile situation (e.g. loading the day’s shoot up on an iPad and quickly sharing a selection of photos). While iPads can handle RAW files, they’re much slower at it and you’re left with a very “flat” image that reflects none of your in-camera settings (film simulation, highlight tone, shadow tone, sharpness).
I’m still giving my workflow some thought, and the completionist in me is leaning toward storing RAWs on one card and JPEGs on another. Too often I find myself going back to an old exposure and being grateful I left my options open. One way to address that is to use simulation bracketing for each exposure (save one JPEG each of a neutral, Acros, and Classic Chrome exposure, for instance). Another is to simply capture both a RAW and a JPEG, quickly share JPEGs over social media, and archive the RAW once home.
I’m coming down on believing that for portraits and event photography of whatever kind, I’ll probably prefer to shoot in RAW to have the maximum number of options in post. For vacation, day-to-day, and 365 photos, I’ll stick to my split strategy.
Anyhow, that’s all a digression from the key point: It takes lovely pictures that work right out of the camera with very little post. With in-camera shadow/highlight tone, film simulations, sharpening, and dynamic range settings, you can dial in a pretty nice image that needs very little work in post.
I have a few lenses for it, as well:
- A 16mm, weather resistant prime
- An 18-135mm weather resistant zoom with image stabilization
- A 23mm/f2 weather resistant prime
- A 35mm/f2 weather resistant prime
- A 35mm/f1.4 prime
- A 56mm/f1.2 prime
- A Lensbaby Trio/28
- A Lensbaby Composer with the Sweet 35, Sweet 50, and Edge 50 optics
The Fujifilm X-T2 is my first-ever “no compromises” camera purchase, and I don’t regret it for a second. I wanted something I’d have to grow into a little, and it has definitely provided that experience. If you go read other reviews you’ll get more flavor for things like the complexities of the metering and autofocus systems, which I haven’t touched on.
If you’re wondering about a recommendation, I guess I’d offer these guidelines:
- If you already have a dSLR you want to update from, you'll be pretty comfortable with it minus the electronic (vs. optical) viewfinder, which some people find challenging.
- If you're looking to step up from a point-and-shoot of some kind, and don't need weather resistance, you might want to consider the Fujifilm X-T20, which provides the same sensor and basic image quality for less money and a more consumer-friendly control scheme.
- If you'd like something without interchangeable lenses at all, but want a premium and slightly more retro shooting experience than Canon, Nikon, or Sony will provide, the X100F comes with the same sensor but a fixed lens that's pretty general purpose.
- If you want a camera you can hand to anybody so you can be in the picture, it's a bit of a challenge. Not undoable, but making a preset handy in the Q menu will help.