Fujifilm X-T2 First Impressions

by Richard Butler

My first impression of the X-T2 is to be really impressed. I loved the X-Pro2 and, from this experience I expected the X-T2 to be an X-Pro2 that did without the hybrid viewfinder and consequently played more nicely with zoom lenses. This would have made it a perfectly desirable camera for considered stills shooting. It seems I underestimated Fujifilm's ambitions.

The X-T2 isn't a camera content with being desirable to the small, dedicated niche who appreciate the lens lineup the company has made. Instead it wants to be an all-rounder that brings those lenses to the attention of a wider audience.

Read any of our previous reviews of X-series cameras and you'll find we often highlight two areas of weakness: autofocus performance and video capabilities. The X-T2 appears to make much more of a leap forward in these two respects than I was expecting. The lack of a comprehensive flash system has been another concern about the XF-mount cameras: the X-T2, along with the EX-F500 flashgun, looks to address that shortcoming, too.

We're big fans of the output from our pre-production X-T2's updated sensor. Processed to taste from Raw using the Provia preset.
Fujifilm XF 16mm F1.4 R | ISO 500 | F4 | 1/60 sec. Photo by Samuel Spencer


As someone who looks forward to a chance to shoot video, the addition of 4K was a particularly pleasant surprise and I think it will be for anyone in a similar situation. I have a friend who has amassed a nice collection of XF lenses but has been asking about parallel or alternative systems to buy into, as his interest in video has grown. Though I was impressed with the X-Pro2's improved 1080p output, I didn't think it would be enough to keep him in the system. The first shots of 4K that we've examined suggest the X-T2 should be enough to keep him loyal.

If my friend's experience is echoed by a significant number of existing users of the system, then Fujifilm's focus on improving their video will be vindicated. Clean HDMI out, an 'F-Log' flat tone curve and greater control over the way the camera focuses during video suggest the company has thought about much more than just trying to spec-match its competitors in terms of resolution. However, while the camera appears to offer more control over AF in video, the pre-production unit we're using doesn't appear to let you perform a single AF acquisition on demand as you record.

The decision to put the headphone socket on the battery grip will, no doubt, cause some consternation, but there's a certain logic to including a video-specific feature on the accessory that significantly extends the camera's recording capability (4K is limited to 10 minutes without the extra batteries in the grip). My guess would be that this is a matter of heat management, with the camera either using the batteries that are physically further from the chip or cycling between them to prevent overheating, but that's pure speculation.

Autofocus (and its setup)

We had mixed feelings in the office about the new (rather Canon-esque) autofocus configuration system. In general we prefer systems that adapt to a variety of conditions with minimal configuration (though even Nikon's benchmark AF system is gaining complexity in recent models).

If it proves easy to choose the appropriate preset and they end up giving good results, then it could be really good. Even the most professional AF systems can benefit from a degree of user input about the kind of motion they're expecting to encounter, and this additional information could be what it takes to take Fujifilm's focus performance to a new level.

Three parameters allow you to fine-tune the autofocus system's behavior. The camera includes explanatory animations of each parameter's effect. We're really hoping the presets make this level of adjustment unnecessary.

However, if you end up constantly having to test which preset to use or, worse still, you have to constantly adjust the camera's custom preset, then it could end up making the system unusably complex. Because, while having the ability to fine-tune the camera's behavior tends to be a good thing, if you get to a level complexity where you have to adjust three interacting variables, then there's a risk you'll spend all the time you're shooting with a nagging doubt about whether the camera could perform better with different settings.

We'll find out which of these is true when we get a chance to shoot a variety of subjects and scenarios. But our first impressions are that, even without too much adjustment, this pre-production camera seems more capable in Wide/Tracking mode than we've come to expect.

Though our X-T2 is a pre-production model, we've found continuous autofocus performance with a single point or zone to be reliable. Here, zone focusing had no trouble tracking the foreground car all the way down the straight. Processed to taste from Raw.
Fujifilm XF 50-140mm F2.8 @ 140mm | ISO 640 | F2.8 | 1/2000 sec. Photo by Samuel Spencer

From prior experience with Fujifilm cameras, I suspect that even the faster sensor readout, improved algorithms and more sophisticated tracking will only really benefit the company's fastest-focusing lenses. Many of the XF lenses (particularly some of the prime lenses) have to move quite large focus elements around so are unlikely to offer the same performance as those lenses with lightweight internal focus or the brute force brought by multiple linear motors. And since Fuji's Hybrid AF system still relies heavily on contrast-detection even within the phase-detect area, any lens hunting massively slows down subject and face tracking, which still holds true for the X-T2 in our preliminary testing.

Other details

The extent of the changes to video and autofocus are the most unexpected updates that the X-T2 brings, and they risk overshadowing those upgrades that I'd already assumed would be here. The gain of the AF joystick from the X-Pro2 is a huge benefit. Some people might gripe about the lack of touchscreen but the joystick provides an effective substitute and one that's arguable more in keeping with the camera's traditional aesthetic.

Then there are the incremental improvements that X-T1 owners will appreciate: the threaded cable release, the 'C' setting on the exposure comp dial to extend the compensation range and the adoption of toggling lock buttons on the shutter speed and ISO dials, so that you can leave them unlocked if you prefer. And that's before you get to the dual SD card slots, the USB 3.0 connector and the generally increased responsiveness of the camera.

In typical Fuji fashion, out-of-camera JPEGs from our pre-production X-T2 are excellent, and the new 1/8000 sec maximum shutter speed helps you get the most from your wide-aperture lenses during the daytime. Out-of-camera JPEG using the Provia preset.
Fujifilm XF 56mm F1.2 R APD | ISO 200 | F1.2 | 1/8000 sec. Photo by Carey Rose

As an aside, it'll be interesting to see which, if any, of these advances will eventually trickle down to existing Fujifilm users as firmware updates. There's the possibility that some of them depend on X-T2-specific hardware, but I'd hope the company's enthusiasm to sell flashguns will see the flash control settings appear on other models, at the very least.

Oh, yes, and then there's the small matter of the image quality jump that we saw in the X-Pro2 with the move to a 24MP sensor. Just because we all knew it was coming doesn't mean we should underestimate its significance.

Fujifilm X-T2 Video Overview