, , , , , , , , ,

Why does someone buy a new camera body?  I can think of a couple of different reasons, but I’d have to say they generally fall into the following categories:

1) First-time buyer – I bought into the Nikon system with the first camera I bought for myself, a Nikon F80.
2) Significant upgrade or new technology available to currently used system – I considered that the latest Nikon D810 had enough new features and overall improvements compared to the Nikon D800 I already had to make the purchase.
3) Switching over to a new system – I did this when I bought my Nikon F80 as I had previously used a Canon A-1 and Canon F-1.
4) Buying a new system which better reflects the bulk of the photography an individual does – interests change with time and opportunity.  Living in a beautiful old city like Quebec and spending my vacations in interesting cities like Nagoya and Budapest made me much more interested in walking, which in turn led to a desire to carry less equipment.
5) Buying a new system which didn’t previously exist – the introduction of digital medium format cameras (like the Phase One system, Pentax 645Z, and now cheaper Hasselblad options) at price points which made it reasonable for professionals and advanced amateurs to own them.
6) Entering aggressively into the market with new technologies and designs which make it possible to own high performing equipment at prices which don’t melt your credit card.  Fujifilm is such a company, first having introduced models like the X100 which quickly became the go-to camera for a generation of street-shooters who lusted after Leicas but didn’t have the cash.  Fujifilm is attempting the same again with the introduction of a medium format mirrorless camera (Fuji GFX 50S) which is clearly designed to compete with the other existing systems, and likely at a lower price point.

I had always been interested in Fujifilm products (being the happy owner of a Fujifilm X100) and with the introduction of a new series of mirrorless cameras from Sony and Fujifilm became intrigued by the possibility of having a smaller and lighter camera.  My first experiments were conducted with a Ricoh GR II which remains my go-to camera any time I go out as it can be stuffed in my pocket and the file RAWs are flexible and high quality enough to more than satisfy my normal output requirements.  However, I kept reading about these smaller mirrorless cameras with interchangeable lenses and wondering if I could have my cake and eat it.  I also very much appreciate Fujifilm’s design philosophy of having dials instead of menus.  A camera like the Ricoh is fully manual in a certain sense, but it takes extra time to go through the menus and extract what you want.  Even my Nikon D810 (and I have no intention of giving it up) can be obnoxious on occasion, with miles of menus.  Enter the Fujifilm X-T2.

Sometimes I get tired with Nikon.  A lot of the latest refinements seem to get pushed out only when absolutely required to compete with other companies (the same could be said for Canon).  I wanted to see what it was like to have an absolutely cutting edge camera in a classic design of a body, with lenses that would fit in a small bag.  I also wanted to try other lens systems (Leica M-mount lenses and various anamorphic lenses), which a mirrorless system makes possible.  After reading through several of the Fujifilm Ambassador websites (Jonas Rask’s website is a particularly good read and his photographs are top notch) and seeing what was possible with the X-T2, I decided to have a look at the camera myself.  Luckily for me, I travel to Japan on occasion (a previous trip coincided with the arrival of the D810) so it was possible for me to actually see the camera and use it before deciding on the purchase (and as a traveller to Japan, it would be tax-free which doesn’t hurt) as opposed to going on a waiting list.

Concerns I had from reading reviews of the X-T1:

1) Slow AF performance (I take a lot of low light photos on the street)
2) EVF performance which was a bit laggy
3) Native lens selection from Fujinon (I use Zeiss lenses and am used to insanely high IQ, beautiful bokeh, and micro-contrast by the boatload).
4) Battery performance
5) Start-up time
6) Low ISO performance (dynamic range)
7) Performance of weather sealed body and lenses (I like taking pictures on dark, rainy nights)
8) Weight of the body and lenses – would it be significantly different from my Nikon?
9) RAW flexibility and compatibility with the software packages that I currently use – Adobe Lightroom and DXO Optics Pro.
10) Brightness of the viewfinder (I wear glasses so strong that I can see the deceased with them).

I bought the camera at キタムラのカメラ (Kitamura camera), Japan’s largest chain of camera stores.  They generally have the cheapest prices as the size of their institution (and ubiquitous presence all over Japan) allows them to use bulk buying to reduce their prices, and they almost always have what you’re looking for in the 35mm and smaller formats.  I purchased it with the kit lens (FUJINON XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS), and was able to find two other primes at a nearby used store (FUJINON XF 35mm F1.4 R and FUJINON XF 18mm F2 R).  My favourite prime size is 28mm and the XF 18mm is the APS-C format equivalent (there is currently a Japan-wide shortage of the XF 18mm, which will shortly be replaced by a WR (weather resistance) model).  I also felt it was important to get as small a lens as possible (I didn’t find the XF27mm F2.8 was fast enough for my needs, so I didn’t get the smallest) so that I could see how it was when I went walking with just one lens.  The body and three lenses cost me less than the price of a new Nikon D810 in Canada.  I was feeling confident right out of the gate as the Fujifilm company has a long history of producing high quality lenses for other applications than cameras, and thus wasn’t a recent entrant to the market.  Also, in most reviews, their lenses competed favourably with Zeiss lenses.  There were several used Touits floating about, but it didn’t seem that Zeiss had hit their usual standards with several of them.

I’ve now been using this camera for about 10 days, having shot approximately 1200 images, and used it in a variety of conditions (mostly rainy, but with some occasionally sunny and overcast conditions).  My plan for this review is to provide the information that I think some of the Fujifilm reviewers glossed over, representing an unbiased opinion (I get nothing for this except for the satisfaction of giving the information I would have wanted before the purchase) and some (I hope) decent photographs that better represent what the average purchaser can expect to achieve with the camera.  I will also cover the concerns I had before purchasing in as much detail as possible.  So, until part II.