Those of you who read my Sony A7II vs. Sony A6500 comparison know that I have been curious about the Fujifilm X-T2 for quite some time, I am still looking for a reliable, handy and fast camera to take pictures of people, especially children. Neither of the cameras that I have used so far could satisfy me completely, therefore I decided to take a look over the fence.
The Fujifilm X system is to me the most obvious alternatives to the Sony FE system. The approach to offer as many manual controls as possible as well as the broad but reasonable lens lineup and fast AF are very appealing to me. So when I got the chance to give the system a try I jumped on it. I will use a Fujifilm X-T2 with four lenses for a month. Will it suit my needs?
The half-time report
I have been a Sony user since I bought my first camera (Sony Alpha 200) in 2009 . Apart from an intensive but short affair with the Fujifilm X100 in 2012, I have been entirely brand loyal to Sony because they offered the products that met my needs. In that long time, Sony has grown as a camera manufacturer but I have also grown as a photographer.
With the birth of my child, my main subject moved rapidly from landscape and architecture towards people photography. The Sony A7II was a perfect camera when my boy was a baby and didn’t move a lot. Since he grew up and started to move, the auto focus was brought to its limits and beyond much more often than I had anticipated. This was especially the case in dim conditions.
Furthermore, I started to do shootings with other families quite regularly. It is more than embarrassing when the parents see the perfect smile of their kid on the camera monitor and you have to explain that it is just not sharp at all and that they can’t print the image. I really feel far away from being able to offer professional family photography with my a7ii and that keeps frustrating me. Luckily my customers still love what I do and I always get enough keepers to satisfy them. I just know that the results could be much better. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the behavior of the Sony FE 1.4/50 ZA in combination with the A7II in the studio. The combination is absolutely unusable because it focuses at working aperture, no matter what the live view settings are. I almost screwed a shooting because of that issue and at that point I knew that the A7II is not the right tool for my kind of people photography.
One side note – I still love manual focusing and it is my tool of choice whenever my subject is predictable. Children aren’t! 😉
The Sony A6500 was a big step in the right direction but the ergonomics of that camera just didn’t meet my expectations. I could have made the easy decision to get a DSLR with a few primes but I am a convinced mirrorless user now and I really enjoy all of the benefits that come with this decision. A DSLR would be my last choice if I knew for sure that I couldn’t satisfy my needs with a mirrorless camera. The range of choices boils down quickly, this is the way that I see my alternatives:
- Sony A9 – Perfect, but financially out of reach at this point
- Sony A7Rii – MP overkill and still too slow + studio problems
- Sony A7iii – How will it look like? If it will be an A9 without high FPS rate, it could be perfect.
- Olympus OM-D or Panasonic GH/GX – Some interesting features but the sensor is too small for my kind of people photography
- Fuji X-T2 – Questionable RAW-Editing but attractive handling and lens choices
- Nikon/Canon – Dinosaurs on steroids
Normally, a new generation Sony A7 should be the the obvious choice but the real A7-successor (the A7ii is just an update that made the original A7 work properly and added IBIS) is still a rumor and I start to loose my patience. The sensor is four years old and the autofocus has still the performance of mirrorless cameras in 2013.
In the end, the Fuji option seems to be the best compromise on the paper and a real alternative. One big factor for me was the support of Fujifilm by Godox which is the most attractive flash system on the market for the mortal people that don’t want to spend an arm and a leg.
A German retailer was kind enough to offer me a free rental for some time and I thought that it might be a good opportunity for me and maybe also for our readers to take a look over the fence. This is also great because I will be able to make a sound decision which way to go when the A7iii materializes (unless the Fuji will really blows my socks off).
I used to own an X100 (1st generation) that I loved and hated at the same time. Since that point, my photography but also Fujis cameras have come a long way – I am really curious how I will like the X-T2 and if it is a real alternative for my people photography. This will be a user report that contains my opinion. I will try to be as objective as I can but of course I will focus on my needs.
The gear that I am testing is the following:
- Fujifilm X-T2
- Booster Grip
- Fujifilm XF 2/23 R WR
- Fujifilm XF 1.4/35 R
- Fujifilm XF 2/90 R WR
- Fujifilm XF 4.5-5.6/100-400 R WR LM OIS
(Amazon.com affiliate links)
I have used the X-T2 for a few days now and I start to get a feel for that camera. Having wheels for all three important parameters (aperture, shutter speed, ISO) is not just retro or a gimmick.
If you have a basic understanding for what you are doing, you will be able to see instantly how your camera is set up and how you can change it for your subject. Every wheel has an “A” position where you can set the (semi-)automatic modes. Just like in the old days with a Nikon FE.
The ISO-automatic has three adjustable presets, where max ISO and minimum shutter speeds can be defined.
The wheels for ISO and shutter speed can be locked with a knob when it is pushed in. The wheels don’t turn that easy but it is a good insurance that you don’t change your settings accidenttally.
I often read that the X-T2 has way too many dials, that this is impractical, only for lovers of manual work. I am one but I can’t agree with that! I am able to setup all parameters fast and blind (looking through the EVF) after less than one week, so I’d call this intuitive for advanced photographers.
If you come from Sony, some things about the camera are confusing as well. I was just not able to get the camera in AF-C mode. In the next morning, I discovered the small switch at the front of the camera. It was not even possible to adjust it in the menu, because there is the physical switch. This is not a real criticism, I just needed some time to find it out.
I prefer the Sony position of the playback and delete buttons, because I can access them with the right hand. The “wheels under the wheels” for the drive mode and the metering are genious but a bit fiddly.
I appreciate that the Fuji has a viewfinder switch, where you can choose if you either use the viewfinder, the display or the sensor to switch between both automatically.
The Fuji menu system looks very different compared the Sony menu system. I quickly got used to it though. The menu of the Fuji X-T2 has two layouts- a full menu and a quick menu (like the FN menu of the Sony) that can be set up individually. So far, I needed the menu far less than with the Sony A7II because I can adjust almost every important setting with the physical dials.
I have to admit that my shooting style is a very simple one, that profits from the Fuji layout. I shoot RAWs and only care about exposure, shutter speed and focus. White balance is almost always set to AWB and everything else happens in the postprocessing. That also means that I have to edit every image but I can live with that because I spend rarely more than three minutes with an image.
The Fujifilm X-T2 has got two fast UHSII SD-card slots. They can be used for memory extension, backup and for the seperation of RAWs and JPEGs. This is a big deal for many event and wedding shooters and generally gives some additional confidence in the reliability. I didn’t have any buffer clearing issues so the whole data system seems to work fast and flawless.
The battery life of the Fuji X-T2 seems to be a bit better than the battery life of my Sony A7II, but actually not by much. The new Sony NP-FZ100 that is used in the A9 is much better than either and we can just hope that the battery will make its way into the Sony A7III.
One thing that was really worrying me in the first days was that the camrea froze for 4-5 times. I had to pull out the battery which was not a fast thing using the battery grip. I would have eaten the camera for that if that would have happened in professional use. Luckily this didn’t happen in the last three days but I will keep an eye on that. This would be a deal breaker for me if it continues to happen.
Viewfinder and Display
The viewfinder is a real gem of the Fujifilm X-T2. It has a huge 0.77x magnification and a large size (0.5″). It is very responsive and the contrast is very high. The eye point is farther away than the eye point of every other camera that I have used so far. This helps me a lot because I can see the whole viewfinder image when I wear glasses. I struggled a lot with the eye point of the cameras that I have used before because I composed my images not perfectly when I didn’t see the whole image. This is by far the best EVF that I have used so far.
The rear display is bright, contrasty and as large as the Sony A7II display (3″). The tilting mechanism of the Fujifilm X-T2 is very smart. The display can tilted up and down in landscape orientation and furthermore tilted up in portrait orientation. I have struggled with my Sony A7II’s up and down only monitors, especially when doing macro work on a tripod.
Everything about the camera feels well made and solid. The body has nice metal top and bottom plates. The battery door as well as the memory card door are made of plastic. Most of the camera body is covered by a rubbery fake-leather surface that adds a nice grip to the body. The camera also has a little heft to it (507g with battery and memory card) that emphasises the impression of good build quality.
I think that the rear buttons of the Sony cameras have a little better response, maybe this is a trade off to the weather resistant design.
The build quality of the lenses that I use is also consistently high with a nice metal finish. The painting seems to be quite scratch resistant. I would rate the build quality above the Sony FE and ZA lenses but below the (for my taste unmatched) build quality of the Sony GM or Zeiss Loxia lenses.
The plastic Fuji lens hoods are comparable to the cheaper Sony lens hoods (FE 2/28, 1.8/85) but less well build than the hoods of the Sony premium lenses. There are also some metal lens hoods available for a large premium.
The Grip of the X-T2 is a bit flat for my taste, I prefer the deeper Grip of the Sony A6500 or the Sony A7II. The grip gains a little more thickness with the battery grip, but it doesn’t change that much. The positioning of the shutter button is between the A7’s and the A7II’s position. I can live with that but prefer the Sony A7II’s positioning. The inclusion of a screw mount for a wired remote is a bit dated, but some people use it for soft release buttons.
The whole X system has a consistent and quite beautiful retro look to it. It is interesting that people often ask me about my camera when I use a Fuji and almost never about my Sony. That was the case when I used the X100 and is also now with the Fuji X-T2. There is just something special about that design. This is also very subjective and doesn’t result in nicer images.
This is a very big deal for me and something that I am really missing with my Sony. I don’t see a real sealing and naming concept from Sony that indicates which gear can stand the elements and which should better be kept dry.
Fujifilm claims exactly which gear is ready for rugged outdoor usage and which isn’t. Most of the newer lenses feature the WR (weather resistance) feature, which is also mentioned in the full name of the lens.
I don’t know for sure how reliable this is, but the looks of the sealing of the camera and the lenses inspires quite a bit of confidence. Shooting in the snow or in the rain is something that I wanted to do for a long time.
I took the camera out to the pouring rain and exposed it for 30 minutes to water from above. It was raining so strong that I wouldn’t even have pulled out my Sony A7ii of the bag. I kept the X-T2 under my jacket when I didn’t need it but I didn’t hesitate to get every shot that I wanted. I didn’t have any issues and everything is still working fine. It feels liberating to be able to use the camera even in bad weather and it motivates me to get my gear out.
Theses are some shots that I took in the rain:
So far, I use mostly AF-S. The general speed of the AF was very convincing so far. The modern Fuji lenses, especially the XF 4.5-5.6/100-400 and the XF 2/23 are blazingly fast and focus almost instantly when the shutter is half pressed. Maybe this gets even faster with top end DSLRs but this is definitely a focusing speed that I can use for my work.
I can also praise the precision of the AF-S so far, but this is only true for spot AF. The images that I take in that mode are almost always perfectly focused although the spot size is a little too large for my taste. It is easily possible to take even sharp pictures of landscapes with AF (spot), not matter if the lens is used wide open or stopped down. The precision of the zone and automatic mode wasn’t comparable, the results were consistently less sharp.
The face detection of the Fuji seems to work reliably although it is not a dedicated eye AF. I had the impression that the camera chooses not always the closer eye. Most of my portraits were focused perfectly, but in some pictures (10% maybe) the focus was slightly at the wrong spot. Still good enough for most applications but critical for larger prints.
I have used the AF-C of the Fujifilm X-T2 to take some pictures of moderately fast driving cars. It worked okay, but not as good as I have hoped. It had trouble to keep up with objects that were moving towards me and the scrap rate was high in general. There were not many series where the focus was locked to a target and stayed there. I mostly used the AF-C preset “basic” and also “appear” when the situation needed it. I guess it could be better if I had more practice but I expected a better performance here. I can’t compare it directly to the A6500 but I guess (subjectively!) that the Sony camera would have performed better in that scenario.
One thing that I really like and that I find very important for my cameras in the future is the AF joystick. It is possible to react much faster to situations than messing around with a touchscreen (A6500) or than pushing the central button of the command wheel twice and moving it around by pushing the wheel (A7ii). The A9 also features a joystick and I hope that Sony will introduce that in other cameras as weIl. All in all I absolutely like the handling of the XT-2.
Using an APS-C sensor
Already my time with the Sony A6500 has shown me that I can be very happy with an APS-C sensor in terms of pure image quality. The noise performance in general is good enough in most scenarios. I have noticed that you can’t push the shadows as much as with the Sony A7II without getting noise though. The dynamic range is very good at base ISO (which is unfortunately ISO 200) and so far sufficient for every shot I took. I have the impression that the loss of DR at higher ISOs is strong, I had to fight a lot with blown out windows in a documentation I did. That is usually not such a big issue for me when I shoot my a7ii, but the scenario was also demanding.
I use a lot of fast glass with my Sony A7II and my biggest worry about the APS-C sensor is that the maximum amount of subject isolation will not be sufficient. Actually this can be answered if the numbers of the available lenses are converted to full frame lenses. Luckily, Fujifilm has a few very fast lenses, that also make good full frame equivalents:
- 1.4/16 is equivalent to 2/24
- 1.4/23 is equivalent to 2/35
- 1.4/35 is equivalent to 2/50
- 1.2/56 is equivalent to 1.8/85
- 2/90 is equivalent to 2.8/135
Even if the equivalents are taken into account, the Fuji lenses offer a good amount of subject isolation. I am pretty sure that it could be enough for me, but keep in mind that the Fujifilm images will not match the look of the images of f/1.4 lenses on full frame cameras. If this is the defining element of your images, the Fuji is just not the tool for you. My impression has always been that the big two and also Sony degrade APS-C cameras artificially by offering the best lenses only for the full frame cameras. Of course, the FF lenses can also be used with the APS-C cameras but you will carry unnecessarily much bulk with you and you will have to play the game of equivalence. Fuji is a nice exception here, they offer capable and well matched lenses for their cameras.
Finally, take a look at this entertaining video by Zack Arias. Take it with a grain of salt but it is very funny and striking. Of course there is a difference in the performance between APS-C sensors and FF sensors, it’s more or less one stop depending on the sensor generation.
The RAF Files
I shot it for 2 days just with the Acros preset (RAF+JPEG) because I was so afraid to open these X-Trans RAWs and to get disappointed before I even started to get to know the camera. There are many articles that state that the X-Trans files are unusuable and that really caused some headache in advance.
There are dedicated Fuji sharpening solutions like Iridient but I try to keep my workflow as simple as possible as long as I can.
I have found these sharpening settings in Lightroom are making me happy for general use so far:
- Amount: 40
- Radius: 0.9
- Detail: 22
- Masking: 10
Please remember that different Fuji cameras need different settings, even if they are using the same sensor. The X-Pro 2 needs totally different sharpening settings.
If you need a huge amount of sharpening, artifacts that look like worms can appear. This is usually not a problem when the base material is sharp enough. Luckily, most if not all Fuji lenses are decent performers when it comes to sharpness.
Take a look at the crops to get an idea what you can expect in Lightroom.
One great thing about the Fuji files is that they include camera profiles for their film simulations. It’s hard to describe the difference to the Sony profiles but in my opinion these profiles work very well and the skin colors of the Provia standard preset are beautiful. Look at the selfie below, I just came out of the cold outside and had a little red cheeks, but it comes really close to my skin color and I just like it.
There are also profiles for the great Acros black and white film simulation, plain and with color filters.
Generally, the files have a beautiful vividness without looking artificial. I wouldn’t say that it is impossible to archieve that look with a Sony camera but I was really astonished how easy it is to get frequently nice and natural colors. Generally the postprocessing is very easy and intuitive, at least for my images.
A big difference to the Sony files can be found in the lens profiles, at least in combination with Lightroom. Sony offers to turn off the profiles and Fuji works with integrated profiles. I prefer to turn them on manually, especially when it comes to distortion (costs corner sharpness) and vignetting correction (increases noise in the corners).
If the subject movement allows it, image stabilization is a very useful tool that contributes to image quality.
The Sony A7II has in body image stabilization which helps to stabilize all 5 axes with lenses that feature OSS and which adds a rudimental image stabilization to every lens attached. In my experience it compensates no more than 1.5-2 stops but that is at least ISO800 instead of ISO3200.
The Fujifilm X-T2 doesn’t have an in body stabilizer. I don’t miss it with the XF 2/23 and the XF 1.4/35 so far, but I have the feeling that the 2/90 could make real use of some amount of stabilization, I need 1/200s shutter speed to get frequently sharp images and have to crank up ISO from time to time. There is a rumored X-T2s that should get IBIS but it is still just a rumor.
Apart from IBIS, I also have a lens with OSS, the XF 4.5-5.6/100-400. The image stabilizer of this lens puts every image stabilizer that I have used so far (IBIS, Sony 4/70-200, Sony 3.5-5.6/28-70, Sony 4/16-35) to shame. It is super impressive how the viewfinder image gets nailed and it is even more impressive to get consistently sharp images at 1/40s at 400mm (600mm FF-equivalent). If other stabilized Fuji lenses like the XF 2.8/40-150 perform on that level, I would always choose OSS over IBIS.
Half time considerations
Half of my time with the X-T2 is over and we got to know each other quite well. I enjoyed to use a different camera and to take a look over the fence. That alone was a great experience and I am happy that I got the opportunity to do this experiment.
I see no contest regarding the design, the fun of use and the controls in comparison with the Sony cameras that I have used so far. The Fuji X-T2 is a real pleasure to use and a well thought through camera. I never had a stronger feeling that everything is in my hands and happens exactly how I want it to. The amazing viewfinder is reinforcing my impression and I can finally use it perfectly with my glasses.
Regarding autofocus, it runs circles around the Sony A7II like we have seen with the Sony A6500 before. The Sony A7II is just dated in that regard and needs an update as soon as possible. One thing that surprised me is that the Fujifilm X-T2 performed even better than the Sony A6500 in AF-S mode. The fastest lenses (100-400, 2/23) were focusing almost instantly. On the other hand, AF-C is still a little disappointing, I will continue to try it out. The eye AF of the Sony cameras is still superior. I really like to use the AF joystick, this is a must have for me in the future, especially after the disappointing touchscreen experiences that I made with the Sony A6500.
Image quality is a mixed bag in my eyes. I really like my low ISO shots, especially the landscape shots. The sharpness of the files isn’t lacking as some reports in the net are claiming. The high ISO shots don’t convince me as much, this is probably where the full frame (or the Bayer) sensor pulls away, especially in terms of dynamic range and not in terms of pure noise. Otherwise I can handle the X-Trans files quite well and I can confirm that there is something special about the Fuji colors. Maybe this is not visible in the images that you see here but I had to put much less effort in getting the colors right.
The lack of IBIS has bothered me mostly with the XF 2/90 so far. In contrast to that, the OSS of the XF 4.5-5.6/100-400 is super impressive, better than any I have seen before.
I am not sure about the reliability yet. The camera froze a few times which could become a real dealbraker to me. Apart from that, WR is working and opens exciting new possibilities. The two SD slots are also a useful feature for me.
The big question is: Is the Fujifilm X-T2 the better than my Sony A7II and would it even motivate me to switch the system?
At this point, I am not sure about it and therefore I tend to say no. If I’d start from zero (like I did when I parted from A-Mount in 2013), I’d probably go the Fuji route. It is a very appealing package with a beautiful camera that handles great and is very modern. On the other hand, I have bought deeply into the Sony system, use a lot of manual legacy lenses for 35mm film and would have to put a big effort to do the switch. I don’t have the feeling yet that this would change enough for me and that my photography won’t profit enough to justify it. Obviously, I could make a job split: Use Sony for MF and Fuji for AF tasks. I have tried that and always missed the other option when I took only one camera (which was the case most of the time). It is also weird to use cameras of two different manufacturers simultaneously, especially because both cameras handle totally different.
I will talk about the lenses in the final update, stay tuned!
If you enjoyed the report, please consider to buy your gear using one of these affiliate links. It is completely free for you and it will help us to keep the site running and the articles coming:
- Fujifilm X-T2: Amazon.com
- Booster Grip: Amazon.com
- Fujifilm XF 2/23 R WR: Amazon.com
- Fujifilm XF 1.4/35 R: Amazon.com
- Fujifilm XF 2/90 R WR: Amazon.com
- Fujifilm XF 4.5-5.6/100-400 R WR LM OIS: Amazon.com | Amazon.de
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