Fujifilm X-T2 review

Mirrorless marvel: Fujifilm's X-T2 will make you sell your full-frame DSLR

The X-T2 is the most full-featured camera Fujifilm has ever made, with a best-in-class user experience.
The X-T2 is the most full-featured camera Fujifilm has ever made, with a best-in-class user experience.
The X-T2 is the most full-featured camera Fujifilm has ever made, with a best-in-class user experience.

Highs

  • Excellent design
  • Fantastic image quality
  • Advanced 4K video
  • Significantly improved autofocus
  • Optional grip boosts power, performance

Lows

  • Lacks internal stabilization
  • AF speed slower on some lenses
  • Some menu options are confusing

Fujifilm has carved out a niche for itself with its X-series mirrorless cameras, combining high-tech image processing with classic design that leads to cameras that look as good as the photos they take. It’s a recipe that worked very well with enthusiast-level photographers, even though other brands, like Sony, may have offered more bang for the buck with regard to features.

The X-T2 ($1,600, body only) looks to change up this formula slightly. It brings back everything that people loved about the X-T1 (great design, loads of direct-access control, a fantastic electronic viewfinder) and adds advanced features that help the camera compete on a broader spectrum, like a 325-point autofocus system and advanced 4K video.

The original X-T1 received Digital Trends’ Editors’ Choice award, so its successor definitely has a name to live up to. Fortunately, it does that and more.

Design and usability

The X-T series is all about putting maximum control at your fingertips, and the X-T2 doesn’t disappoint here. It features enough dedicated physical controls to rival professional DSLRs. Once you get a feel for it, it makes changing settings a breeze, and the tactile feedback from the dials can’t be beat. Intimidating? Sure, but advanced users love the feel.

The X-T series is all about putting maximum control at your fingertips, and the X-T2 doesn’t disappoint here.

All that control does mean the top of the camera is a bit crowded, with the Fn button, in particular, being somewhat difficult to reach, as it sits sandwiched between the shutter speed and exposure compensation dials. But Fujifilm has done a good job of putting the most frequently used controls where they can be easily accessed.

Of course, none of this is new. At first glance, one would be forgiven for mistaking the X-T2 for the X-T1. The camera bears a striking resemblance to its predecessor, which certainly isn’t a bad thing. The top deck is almost identical, packed with dials for ISO, shutter speed, exposure compensation, drive mode, and metering mode.

A closer investigation reveals some subtle changes from the X-T1, however. The shutter button is now threaded for a standard mechanical cable release, just like the X-T10 and X-Pro series, and a dedicated video button no longer resides beside it (nor anywhere else on the camera). The ISO dial can now be turned up to 12,800, a stop higher than on the X-T1, and the shutter speed dial hits 1/8,000 of a second, a stop faster than before.

The back of the camera is, again, very similar to the X-T1, save for two key changes. The Focus Assist button has been replaced with a dedicated AF point selector, which is a very welcome move. No longer is selecting a focus point a two-step process.

The LCD screen is also more flexible, with a switch on the side that unlocks it so it can articulate to the right in addition to tilting up and down. It can’t pivot a full 90 degrees, nor can it turn to the left at all, so its new flexibility is perhaps of limited use. We did find it to come in handy when shooting in portrait orientation from a low angle, however – remember to orient the camera with the right side facing up.

 

fujifilm-x-t2-screen
Daven Mathies/Digital Trends
Daven Mathies/Digital Trends

Like the X-Pro2, the X-T2 also gains a second SD card slot. Unlike in the X-Pro2, both of the X-T2’s slots support the high-speed UHS II standard. On the opposite side of the camera, you’ll find a USB 3.0 jack, microphone input, and micro HDMI port that supports 4K output.

Adventurous photographers will be happy to know that the X-T2 is fully weather sealed, and while this was also true of the X-T1, few weather resistant (WR) lenses existed when that camera was new. Today, Fujifilm makes three WR zooms and four WR primes, giving photographers several options for working in inclement weather.

For as intelligently as the physical controls are laid out, the menu system is strangely confusing. Many functions are where one would expect to find them, but some – like the option to format the memory cards – are hidden away in obtuse submenus. Users can make a custom menu to put frequently used functions together, but for whatever reason, the format card option (and anything else found under the User Setting submenu) can’t be placed in it.

Performance

The big news here is the autofocus system. It uses 325 points in total, 169 of which are of the faster phase-detection variety. It’s a huge improvement over previous X-series cameras (save for the X-Pro2, which saw its AF system brought up to par with the X-T2 in a recent firmware update). Additionally, Fujifilm has continued to refine the AF algorithms in firmware updates, improving tracking performance to track objects twice as small and moving twice as quickly compared to when the camera launched.

In most situations, the X-T2 can lock focus blazingly fast. Like always, however, performance depends on the lens used and available light. For example, we tested the camera with three lenses, including the XF 56mm F1.2R APD portrait lens, which doesn’t allow for the use of phase-detection AF. With that lens, AF performance is noticeably slower compared to others, particularly in low-light situations. Many first-generation Fujifilm primes, like the 35mm f/1.4, also focus more slowly due to their designs. Newer lenses, like the XF 10-24mm F4 wide-angle zoom we tested, have been optimized for faster autofocus and are lightning quick.

Fujifilm cameras have always been defined more by the experience of using them than their performance, but the X-T2 may be the first to buck this trend.

Focus speed can further be increased using the new Boost mode, which Fujifilm claims decreases focus time from 0.08 to 0.06 seconds. Boost mode also bumps the EVF refresh rate from 60 to 100 frames per second, while reducing false color, or moiré, effects. In our testing, we found any improvement in focus speed to be negligible when Boost mode was turned on, but the reduction of false color in the viewfinder was noticeable and made a worthwhile difference.

Continuous AF has also been improved, making the X-T2 a surprisingly capable sports and action camera. Fujifilm’s limited selection of telephoto lenses means the X-T2 likely won’t find itself on the sidelines of many football games, but it’s nice to know the camera is ready to handle a large variety of assignments.

Battery life is rated at 340 shots based on CIPA testing (a slight decrease from the 350-shot rating of the X-T1). However, real world performance may be much better, depending on your use. In our testing, we captured 424 exposures with the battery indicating 50-percent capacity remaining (with Boost mode turned off). 

Pro users looking for even more performance can add the Vertical Power Booster Grip ($330). The aptly named accessory holds two additional batteries (for a total of three), bumps the burst rate from eight to 11 frames per second, reduces shutter lag and blackout times, adds a headphone jack, and increases the maximum video clip length from 10 to 30 minutes. If you’re shooting videos for serious work, the grip is handy.

Of course, it also makes the camera larger, erasing one of the key advantages of using a mirrorless camera in the first place, but the sacrifice is likely worth it for users who need the extra power and capability.

Perhaps the biggest feature the X-T2 lacks is in-body image stabilization (IBIS). Sony, Olympus, and Panasonic all now make mirrorless cameras that have five-axis IBIS. Fujifilm offers many lenses with optical stabilization, but this isn’t a feature found on its fast primes. That may be fine for still photography, but given the X-T2’s newfound focus on video, IBIS would have been a welcome addition.

Image quality

When we reviewed the X-T1 over two years ago, we confidently stated that it could go head-to-head with a full-frame camera and hold its own. The X-T2 is no different. Simply put, with APS-C sensors this good, the majority of photographers don’t have a need for a full-frame camera. (This explains Fujifilm’s decision to skip full-frame and move straight to medium-format with its upcoming GFX system.) 

The X-T2 uses Fujifilm’s latest 24-megapixel, X-TRANS CMOS III sensor, the same unit first introduced in the X-Pro2. While the 16MP sensor of the X-T1 was no slouch, the added resolution makes a noticeable difference. Pixel peepers will not be disappointed, as the new sensor delivers oodles of detail, even when cropped.

Also carried over from the X-Pro2 is the X-Processor Pro image processor. Combined with the new sensor, this means high ISO noise performance is equally impressive. Especially when combined with Fujifilm’s vast selection of ultra-fast lenses, the X-T2 can shoot in some very low-light situations and still come up with clean results. JPEG noise reduction can be a bit heavy-handed, blurring away detail along with the noise, but the camera fortunately gives users a lot of control here, from +4 down to -3. Unless you’re just outputting to Instagram, we recommend keeping this at or below zero.

Dynamic range is also unsurprisingly great, as this is always a high point of cameras that make use of Sony silicon. When shooting in RAW, recovering shadow detail in post is no problem, as even extreme adjustments don’t introduce additional noise.

As with previous Fujifilm cameras, JPEG shooters can take advantage of an expanded DR mode, which increases dynamic range by underexposing the sensor to preserve highlight detail and then raising the shadows automatically. Note that this is only available on ISO settings above 200, and may have an adverse effect on RAW files. If you only shoot in JPEG, however, or simply don’t want to mess around with your photos in post, it’s a good way to capture more detail in high-contrast scenes.

The X-T2 also produces some of the best out-of-camera JPEGs you’ll ever see, thanks in part to Fujifilm’s great film simulation modes. In our testing, we often found ourselves working with the RAW files in Adobe Lightroom to try to bring back to the look of the in-camera JPEGs.

Video

Undoubtedly, the biggest surprise of the X-T2 was the video mode. It’s the first Fujifilm camera to shoot in Ultra HD, and this wasn’t just some last-minute add-on to check off a box on the spec sheet. The camera records video from a 6K crop of the sensor, producing oversampled 4K that makes for crisper results.

Furthermore, 8-bit, 4:2:2, 4K video can be captured via an external recorder, thanks to a clean HDMI output. When recording externally, users also have the option of shooting in Fujifilm’s F-Log profile for increased dynamic range. If working in a log profile sounds like too much work, you can still use all of Fujifilm’s well-regarded film simulation profiles when in video, too.

In April 2018, over a year-and-a-half into the X-T2’s lifespan, Fujifilm announced a firmware update that brought internal F-Log recording and 1080p/120 fps options. This update followed the launch of the X-H1, a more video-oriented camera built around the same basic tech as the X-T2. We’re please to see that Fujifilm continues to keep its flagship products fresh with new features, particularly this long after launch.

Thanks to fast autofocus, the X-T2 is ready to handle a wide variety of assignments.

One potential downside of the video mode, which we alluded to, is that clip length is limited to just 10 minutes (this can be bypassed by recording externally). This likely won’t be a problem in most scenarios, but could be an issue for long interviews or event videography. In those situations, it is probably worth it to add the Vertical Power Booster Grip, which will extend continuous record time to 30 minutes while tripling battery life.

Features like these show that Fujifilm has taken a keen interest in the higher-end videography market. It’s an unexpected move for the company, which seemed to pride itself on building niche cameras for still photographers, but it is certainly a welcome one. Hybrid still and video shooters who may have been interested in the X-T1, but had to look elsewhere due to that camera’s lackluster video capabilities, now have a very good reason to reconsider Fujifilm.

Compared to the X-Pro2

If you’re considering buying the X-T2, one of the strongest competitors is Fujifilm’s own X-Pro2. The difference between these two flagship models is less about capability and more about personal preference, as both share much of the same internals.

The more obvious differences include the hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder on the X-Pro2 and 4K video on the X-T2. The LCD screen on the X-Pro2 is higher resolution, at 1.62 million dots, but it doesn’t articulate like that of the X-T2. The X-Pro2 also still relies on an older USB 2 connection, although users can work around this by using a card reader.

Perhaps counter-intuitively, the X-Pro2 costs $100 more than the X-T2, likely due to its smaller target demographic. This makes the X-T2 the better choice for most users, but it is the clear choice for videographers, photojournalists, or anyone who may need the extra performance of the Vertical Power Booster Grip, which isn’t available on the X-Pro2.

The X-Pro2, however, is a perfect match for the street photographer. Its minimalist, rangefinder-inspired design and optical viewfinder will appeal to people who enjoy practicing a slower form of photography. Which camera is right for you depends more on, well, you than it does the camera.

Our Take

Fujifilm has always made cameras that are defined more by the experience of using them than their performance, but the X-T2 may be the first to buck this trend. With it, Fujifilm is hitting its stride and showing that it isn’t afraid of comparing the X-T2 to cameras from other brands based on specs, even with regard to video. It is the most full-featured camera the company has ever put out, and it still offers a best-in-class user experience for advanced users.

Are there better alternatives?

The biggest issue most photographers will have to stomach with the X-T2 is its price. At $1,600 for the body only, there are certainly less-expensive alternatives, such as the recently introduced Sony A6500 at $1,400. That camera also features a 24MP sensor and advanced 4K video, but also includes five-axis internal stabilization.

Where the X-T2 remains ahead is with its weatherproof design and smart layout of direct-access controls. It also has an impressive lens lineup, particularly for photographers who prefer shooting with primes. Professionals and enthusiasts will likely prefer the X-T2 to alternatives, but novice photographers may want to opt for the simplicity (and lower price) of other cameras.

How long will it last?

It has been about two and half years since Fujifilm introduced the original X-T1, and it remains a decent camera today (at least with regard to still photography). We expect a similar life cycle for the X-T2, but with the advanced features added on it, like 4K video, it should remain competitive for quite some time into the future.

Should you buy it?

With a new sensor, vastly improved autofocus, and Fujifilm’s best implementation of a video mode yet, the X-T2 is a worthy successor to the original. But the heart of this camera still lies in its exquisite design, solid build quality, and refined shooting experience. If you appreciate those things, there’s really no camera that does it better.

Updated with information on firmware updates in December 2017 and May 2018 bringing improved autofocus performance and new video features.

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