I attended the X-T2 launch last night along with my wife ( #NOP – not a photographer ) and I’ll be blunt upfront: this was one of the poorest product launches I’ve ever attended. 1st, the venue ( Roodebloem Studios in Woodstock ) is pretty appalling when it comes to acoustics and is not suitable at all for spoken presentations. It didn’t help that there were folk ( including Fuji staff ) continuously talking at the back of the venue, making it difficult to keep one’s attention on already-difficult-to-hear speakers.
2nd, the presenters themselves were a bit of a boring bunch and there seemed to be a common theme with all of them – a continual comparison to ( and put down of ) DSLRs. If this is the track that the mirror-less crowd are taking, then they’ve got a long way to go. A number of mirror-less advantages were touted and I’ll address these in turn.
First and foremost is the weight advantage indicated by most of the presenters – unfortunately, the X-T2 with the battery grip is almost as heavy as my D7100 so little to no weight advantage there. I also can’t say that my D7100 + Sigma 17-50mm combination is any great hardship – I certainly don’t notice the weight even after a full day of use and I’m by no means a strong person. One of the presenters, Peter Delaney ( great photos by the way ), made special mention of the weight advantage but did so in a very strange way – he noted that he had replaced his Nikon ( not sure which body ) and 3 tele primes with the X-T2 and the Fuji 100-400mm ( which by the way is not cheap ). Granted, that will be a lot smaller and lighter than the aforementioned combination, not to mention easier to handle ( as any zoom vs primes would be ) however no mention was made of the issue with loss of light ( we’re talking fundamental physics here ) or comparison to one of the DSLR camp’s zooms ( eg. Nikon’s 200-500 F5.6 which is well-priced and highly regarded, or Canon’s 100-400mm ).
I’m not a big Ken Rockwell fan but he hit the nail on the head with the following: “The reason to look at mirrorless cameras is mostly for small size and weight, but this is a big mirrorless camera, bigger than the previous model. Add the ludicrous EF-X500 flash, and it’s just as big as a DSLR, but without the image quality and real-world speed. ” I beg to differ on the image quality as all other reports indicate that the X-T2’s image quality is great, but you get the gist re. size and weight.
Next is the electronic viewfinder. Much has been made of the improvements in mirror-less viewfinders in the latest models of this ilk, so I was eager to see the X-T2’s viewfinder compared to others I had used in the past ( which were pretty poor to put it mildly ). I was sorely disappointed. The X-T2’s viewfinder picked up heavy flickering from the lights in the studio and the image seemed very artificial. I’d expect the image to be better in sunlight but it doesn’t bode well if the X-T2 can’t be adequately used indoors and under artificial lights. I found the often-touted advantage of overlay information a distraction and the quality of the image reminded me of a CRT TV from the 70’s. Not to mentioned that it was quite difficult to accurately adjust the diopter to my requirements ( I have close to 20/20 vision with my contact lenses so this should be quite easy ).
A lot was made of the out-of-camera image quality along with the built-in simulations. These do look great ( though no mention was made of what level of editing, if any, was done on the displayed mages ) and certainly offer an easy-to-use system for out-of-camera images especially for social media and other non-critical applications, but I’m reserving judgement on how useful this would be in a professional environment. There are always some basics ( cropping, levels, colour temp, etc. ) that are required for professional use.
And to the elephant in the room: battery pack! I’m trying to understand what this is all about. Yes we all know that battery life on mirror-less cameras is poor. So yeah for the battery pack. But to hamstring the X-T2 by moving fundamental features ( headphone socket anyone? ) and performance ( faster shooting rate, longer video, shutter lag time, etc. ) form the camera to the grip is a little stingy. Essentially you lose a lot with ( weight, size ) or without the grip ( features ) …
I have above average size hands ( although not overly so ) and I’ve always found smaller cameras to be difficult to handle. I found the X-T2 ( which is a larger example of mirror-less cameras ) to be the smallest I’d be comfortable with. My wife with small hands even commented that she found the X-T2’s grip to be less comfortable than she would have expected, noting she had to contort her hand to hold the camera so that her grip looked like that from our closely related brethren, the ape family. Controls are ok but I’d find myself using shortcut buttons and a control dial sooner than one of the dedicated top dials. Ergonomics are reasonable and I’d probably get used to them over time but I still prefer a DSLR’s more dedicated controls. The absence of a touch screen is no big deal for me however I know that it’s a loss in a segment which seems to have this as standard. Kudus go to the AF joystick, dual-SD slots, USB3 and the tilty screen.
There’s a lot to like about the X-T2 and with further use, it’s probably a camera I could get used to over time. Except: the viewfinder is a deal killer for me. Perhaps I’m just more susceptible to flicker and viewfinder quality than others, but that puts the X-T2 ( and other electronic viewfinder cameras ) out of the question for me.
John and Peter’s photography is definitely up there with the best of them, and there is no doubt that the X-T2 could be used in some professional situations. But I’d be hesitant to push the X-T2 and similar cameras as purely professional replacements. I recently viewed Vincent Munier’s Arctique ( which is incredible if you’ve not seen it yet ) and there’s a particular scene where Vincent is sitting on the ice with his setup which is almost completely encrusted with snow and ice – how the camera, let alone the battery, was still working is beyond me. Even though the X-T2 is listed as having weather/dust sealing, I would be hesitant to use it in conditions like these.
In closing, the X-T2 will probably be a great camera for many but it’s not for me. Poor battery performance, small grip, flickering viewfinder and a no. of other small issues would be a of a hurdle too far. Which is surprising given the amount of praise that has been given to this camera …