Here’s the camera photographers have been eagerly waiting for, but does the Fujifilm X-T2 have what it takes to be a DSLR killer? Michael Topham puts it to the test
Fujifilm X-T2: Performance
A lot of the hype has centered around the speed of the X-T2’s autofocus, which for a camera that’s designed to appeal to a wide range of users, including serious wildlife, action and sports photographers, has to be excellent if it’s going to win over those looking to make the switch from DSLR to mirrorless. Eighteen months after the X-T1 first hit the market, Fujifilm issued a firmware update that was designed to improve AF response when tracking moving subjects. However it never really cut the mustard with photographers who would regularly shoot the fastest of subjects. Given the choice of an X-T1 or a similarly priced DSLR to shoot action or sport and I’d choose the latter every time. It was when I used the X-Pro2 alongside an X-T1 at a motorsport event earlier this year, that it became obvious how far the speed, accuracy and response of autofocus on Fujifilm’s latest models has come. The X-Pro2 made the X-T1 feel slow and lethargic by comparison, and I left the track that day knowing if the replacement to the X-T1 could focus anywhere as near as fast as the X-Pro2, Fujifilm would have a very serious camera on their hands.
The first opportunity I had to put the X-T2 through its paces was at a motorsport event in LeMans, France, where within the space of a few minutes and a few bursts at 11fps using the mechanical shutter with the power grip attached, I knew I was holding onto a seriously fast camera. My main concern was whether the autofocus could keep up with cars approaching the camera at speeds of approximately 100mph, but with continuous autofocus and Zone AF mode setup it put in an outstanding performance. Out of 19 frames in a burst at 11fps, no more than 3-4 turned out to be unsharp and unusable. I repeated this test multiple times with the success rate of sharp shots in each burst averaging at 79%.
Further testing of the AF speed was conducted close to the high-speed 1 (HS1) rail link where Eurostar trains passed the camera at 186mph. Here Set 2 within the AF-C custom settings was used to ensure the autofocus system ignored the masts holding up the catenary wires, and this is just one example of where the new AF-C case settings were used. The X-T2’s blisteringly quick acquisition speed made the X-T1 feel incredibly sluggish and outdated when a series of comparison tests were made using the same lens. Compared to the occasional frame or two I managed to capture pin-sharp on the X-T1, the X-T2 made much lighter work of the situation and delivered a much higher success rate of sharp shots with the power adapter attached and set to boost. The giant leap the X-T2 makes from the X-T1 in terms of its autofocus speed is a real eye opener, and it’s great to finally report that it feels like a match for its DSLR competition.
Loaded with a Lexar Professional 633x SDHC card, the X-T2 managed to shoot 24 Raw files at 8fps in Normal mode without the power booster attached, before the buffer reached its capacity. Adding the power booster and repeating the test at 11fps in Boost mode revealed the X-T2 could shoot 23 raw files before the buffer kicked in and prevented more being taken. With the X-T2’s electronic shutter switched on and the power booster attached, I managed to shoot the same number of raw files at 14fps. Shooting exclusively in the JPEG format sees the X-T2 reach its claimed 73 frames at 8fps without the power booster. With the booster added the X-T2 managed 66 JPEGs at 11fps and 42 at 14fps set to its boost mode before showing signs of slowing.
There’s a lot more besides the autofocus and buffer performance to report on. The tried-and-tested TTL 256-zone metering system rarely skips a beat and produces accurate exposures that rarely require more than 0.7EV to be applied unless you’d like to bracket more widely for a scene. The colours captured by the sensor, both in JPEG and raw file formats, are resolved in typical Fujifilm fashion. You get faithful results set to its Standard/Provia mode, but can give colours even more punch by exploring the full suite of film-simulation modes straight from the quick menu. You can generally rely on the white balance system to produce natural colour balance, but there is the option to refine the white balance shift, adjust the colour temperature (2,500k-10,000k) as well as setup and save three custom settings.
A feature that will prove popular among those who don’t want to interfere or distract their subjects is the X-T2’s silent shooting mode. With the electronic shutter activated, you’ll be able to shoot inconspicuously without a trace of sound being made when the shutter is fired. Better still, you can assign a function button to the shutter type to toggle through the settings rather than trawl through the main menu.
Anyone coming from an X-T1 will notice the overhauled menu interface and icons that replace the previously numbered set-up menus. The My Menu setting that gives users the choice of customising their most-used menu settings into one group is an excellent idea – just be warned the camera returns to the My Menu setting every time the Menu/OK button is used unless it’s kept completely clear.
The combination of electronic viewfinder and one of the best tilting screens we’ve ever used makes the X-T2 a very enjoyable camera to use when composing images. For general shooting I found myself framing up via the viewfinder, but the tilt-screen is a godsend for low- and high-angle shots. It prevented me having to crawl around in the dirt on more than one occasion, and it just seems absurd that no other manufacturer has come up with this design for a screen before now.
The X-T2 has clearly advanced a long way in terms of performance, but also holds onto characteristics, such as its beautiful colour rendition, that made the X-T1 so popular. The only caveat is that the best performance does come at a price. Add the power booster grip and a couple of extra NP-W126S batteries added to your basket, and you’ll quickly be looking at an extra £420 to pay on top of the £1,399 body only price. But with such an array of extra advantages, not forgetting the way it improves handling in the portrait orientation, it does manage to justify its price. We can see it being a popular accessory that’ll need to be churned out as fast as the cameras if Fujifilm is to keep up with demand.