Fujifilm X-T2 at Le Mans Classic: First Impressions

Overtaking

I’m responsible for Fujifilm products where I work, so Fujifilm invited me to the European launch event for their new X-T2 camera!

Although I never got around to do a review/first impression of either X-T1, X-T10 (my preferred camera at the moment) or the X-Pro2, I feel I have to do one on the X-T2 because I got to do some extensive testing and have a lot of images (skip to the end for the gallery).

During my stay in Paris I got to spend a little over 12 hours with the brand new X-T2 at the Le Mans Classic car show. The cameras we used were, as far as I know, more or less complete with all features enabled. However, the firmware on our cameras was not the final version, so some things may yet change.

Whats new?
So, in case you’ve missed it the main features on this camera include the same processor and 24MP X-Trans sensor as the X-Pro2, new and improved autofocus, more frames per second, better EVF with higher frequency and shorter “blackout” between shots, tethered shooting, and 4K video.

Build and handling

Taking the camera for a walkThe camera has a solid magnesium alloy weather sealed build. It’s not much bigger than the X-T1, got a good grip and handles well. If you’re already familiar with Fuji cameras you’ll know your way around the camera in a matter of minutes. Everything feels familiar, but improved. Like the selector buttons on the back, that were a nightmare on the X-T1, are now much better and the dials on top are a little higher for better grip and can also be locked. I was a little dissapointed to see that the X-T2 did not get the same ISO dial as the X-Pro2, but a regular one. I really like the one they have on the X-Pro2. There are a couple of new buttons on the back (some of which didn’t work, but I suspect the beta-firmware is to blame there), but most notably the joystick used for changing focus point. Very handy!

I used the camera most of the time with the vertical grip attached. The grip actually gives you improved and deeper grip in the horizontal position as well as improving handling in the vertical position of course. The grip has dedicated buttons in vertical position (like you would expect of a vertical grip…), and improved handling when used with big zooms like XF100-400mm or XF50-140mm. With the big lenses the set up became more balanced with the grip. On my Nikon D800 I would never use a grip as I felt it would be too big and bulky, but even with the grip the X-T2 is still not a big camera.

Another major update to the X-T2 is the EVF. It’s brighter, faster and better than before. It’s a joy to use and it’s 100fps means you’ll have no problem using it on fast moving subjects. I did experience some troubles with the eye sensor, it didn’t always activate properly, but again this could be a firmware issue.

The screen is mostly the same as before, but with the added tilt upwards when shooting in the vertical position. To me this is not a very big deal, but I do see the use for some, particularly when shooting portraits. However, a traditional sort of tilt screen would be more flexible, especially when it comes to video.

Autofocus

Close raceAutofocus have been dramatically improved on the X-T2. Both speed and accuracy, but also performance all over. There’s a reason they took us to Le Mans to test this… It’s fast. They also introduced a set of new AF modes that specifically lets you fine tune the AF to the situation. The idea is to make the camera predict the subjects motion to improve the AF. You can even make your own preset, specifically design for the situation you’re in. I tried a bunch of them to see if I noticed a difference. While the difference is there it’s may not always be obvious. The standard auto mode is actually pretty good for most uses, but it’s clear that they try to approach the demands of a professional sport/action photographer with this feature.

Image quality

The X-T2 have the same image quality as the X-Pro2 and then some. Better firmware (which will be available for X-Pro2 as well) means better image rendering and quality. The 24MP X-Trans sensor delivers wonderful images! When combined with the high quality Fujinon XF lenses this camera delivers a stunning image quality and very rich details. If you’re used to high-resolution files from Nikon D800, this is not far behind.

A quick ISO test to see what this camera can do.

A quick ISO test to see what this camera can do. Shot with Fujifilm X-T2 and XF16mm f/1.4 @ ISO8000, f/4,

I didn’t shoot on the far end of the ISO range, but I did some shots on ISO 8000 and 12800 and it delivers a very good result. There are much less noise and much more detail in the images shot on ISO8000 with the X-T2, than images shot on ISO6400 with the X-T10. I printed some of the ISO8000 shots in 30x45cm and they look great! There are of course noise, but it’s that nice Fuji-noise.

Combine the amazing image quality with the excellent film simulation Fujifilm offer and you get amazing looking images straight out of the camera. In fact most of the images shown in the gallery at the end are straight out of the camera. Not because Lightroom doesn’t support the camera yet, because it does, but because they look so darn good! I really like the new Acros simulation. That alone is a reason I’m seriously considering an upgrade from my X-T10!

Video mode

It’s clear Fuji is finally breaking into the video marked with this camera. The X-T2 got a new video mode. It’s selected on the same dial as you select continuous shooting and bracketing. In the menu, they’ve put in a new video shooting menu.

Unfortunately I did not get the chance to test the video properly. I’ve seen some 4K footage shot with the camera and it certainly looks very promising, as does the specs. The 4K uses a 1.8x oversampling and new features include 3.5mm jack input for microphone (they finally got rid of the useless 2.5mm…), you can adjust sound input levels during shooting, 4:2:2 8-bit F-log out the HDMI, 100 Mbps internal recording and of course 4K! They finally deliver som very interesting specs.

Another cool feature, dubbed “Quick 4K” by the Fuji-guys I talked to, is the possibility to use the film simulations on video! This means if you know what you want and have a proper set up with lights and stuff you can get really good-looking footage straight out of the camera. A cool feature for a lot of photographers out there starting to do video, but not wanting to do all the heavy post production.

Their video feature is still made up of some compromises, though. You really need the vertical grip to get a proper video setup. The grip will give you a 3.5mm headphone jack, increase the recording time from 10 to 30 minutes and give you an AC-adapter.

VPB-XT2: Vertical Power Boost Grip

Gare Montparnasse

Shot with Fujifilm X-T2 and XF16mm f/1.4 @ ISO800, f/2, 1/3500, Acros

I’ve said a bit about the grip already, but it’s worth to sum up what this grip actually is. It’s not just a grip it’s also a performance enhancement. On the grip you can actually flip a switch called “boost” to enhance a couple of features. This include 11 fps continuous shooting, 30 minutes of 4K shooting, faster AF, higher update frequency in the EVF as well as shorter blackout between shots and a 3.5mm headphone jack. In addition it is of course a vertical grip with better ergonomics and an extra set of buttons when shooting in the vertical position.

The grip can hold two batteries and you can have one in the camera, giving you a total of three batteries that improves battery life a lot. The official number is 1000 exposures with this setup, but during my day at Le Mans I shot almost double that and still had some power left at the end of the day. You also get a AC-adapter with the grip. Plug it into the grip and it can power the camera from an AC power source or it can use the grip as a dual battery charger and charge both the batteries in the grip simultaneous and in record time.

So should you get the grip? If you shoot video it’s a no brainer. Also if you shoot events or  work long days and shoot a lot of pictures, then the extra power is nice. If you do wildlife, sport or action and need the extra speed and performance then you should definitely get it! However, if you do street, journalism, portraits or travel and want to keep the size to a minimum and don’t need the extra enhancement, then you can safely drop the grip and still have a very good camera.

Conclusion

Fujifilm X-T2 certainly is a very interesting camera. It was a bit of a disappointment handing it back in and going back to my X-T10. When I decided to get the X-T10 I also tested the X-T1 and build quality aside, the X-T10 does not lack anything. Until now. The X-T2 is a big step up in every way. The image quality is very good and the image quality when shooting on high ISO-values is vastly improved. As is the autofocus.

So worth an upgrade? Should you get it? Well, I’m seriously considering it myself. Now I’m not saying it can compete with a Nikon D5 or a Canon 1D X II. If you’re using one of those cameras you probably do a lot of low light, fast autofocus, high-speed stuff, like wildlife or sports. While the X-T2s performance is dramatically improved in all those three areas and can probably handle much of it very well it’s not quite there yet. However, if you’re upgrading from a Nikon D300 or D7xxx or even a D800 or a Canon 6D or 7D and looking for a smaller set up and a good all-round camera then the X-T2 is a serious contender. Street photography, journalism, portrait, weddings, events, landscapes and the occasional wildlife and sports, the X-T2 can handle it!

Check out the gallery below for images taken with the X-T2. Most of these are straight from the camera, no post-processing. I mostly used Acros and Classic Chrome film simulation.

Photo tip! Try panning fast moving subjects by slowing down the shutter speed and follow the subject in a panning motion as it moves by. It creates a nice blurry background.

Long exposures in the night

Summer nights is Norway can be a blessing or a curse, depending on how you look at it. The sun sets late and rises early leaving the summer nights almost as bright as day. This is great can be great for photographers as you can continue to shoot with ease long into the night!

I took these photos on a cabin trip last weekend because I was curious to see how the Fujifilm X-T10 handled long exposures and I wanted to do a little test. I didn’t have any ND-filters so I decided to wait until the sun had set and the moon came up. So, when the others went to sleep, I went out and set up my camera.

I took these photos at about 1.30 in the morning. I used a tripod and up to 30 seconds long exposure time to capture the liquid motion of the sea. I also stepped down to f/16. Partly to get good depth of field and partly because it allowed me to use longer exposure times.

It was not a planned shoot, so the set up lacked remote and the tripod was a bit wobbly, but I got a few nice shots and I’m pleased to see that the X-T10 handles long exposures very well!

Review: Nikon AF 85mm 1:1.8D

I consider this a great value for money lens. It’s focal length along with its f/1.8 max aperture makes this an ideal portrait lens for beginners, amateurs and even professionals, and you can find this lens fairly cheap second-hand. However, is it really a bargain? Does the quality hold up?

Nikon AF 85mm 1:1.8D

About the lens
The Nikon AF 85mm 1:1.8D is an older, now discontinued lens. It’s a simple lens and it does not feature image stabilizer, and it does not have an internal focus motor. The lack of focus motor means smaller cameras like the D3xxx and D5xxx series can only use this lens in manual focus mode. Nikon has released this lens in two versions. First there was a version labeled just AF, then in 1994 came the AF-D version. Optically they’re the same, however the AF-D supported 3D Matrix Metering and may have been coated with an improved coating.

Build & handling
This lens is the little brother of the 85mm 1.4 lens and build quality is one of the major differences. This lens does not have the same quality build its bigger brother has. This lens has a plastic casing and does not feel as sturdy. It doesn’t have the professional build quality and feel to it. Never the less it’s build quality feels much better than say a cheap 18-55mm zoom lens. One thing feels solid about the lens though; it’s lens hood! The all metal screw in lens hood is in a different league than the modern plastic ones.

The 85mm 1.8 is a fairly small and handy lens. At 380g it’s a little heavier than the newer AF-S model. However, it’s a well-balanced lens on the camera and my D800 with this lens feels like a rather compact and light kit.

Unlike it newer AF-S sibling, this lens features an aperture ring. This means it can be used on older manual cameras or mounted on different cameras by adapters and still be in full control of the aperture. This can also be a nice feature for video shooters for easier and quicker adjustment of exposure.

The manual focus of this lens is one thing that did not impress me. The manual focus ring is very light and there’s very little resistance. It’s not at all as smooth as a proper manual focus lens. This makes it very easy to focus fast, but hard to be precise. However it does feature good distance from close focus to infinity, and a focus distance window which is a great feature for those shooting manual focus photo or video.

Performance
The AF 85mm 1:1.8D is a solid performer when it comes to image quality. It’s sharp even wide open and it’s performance improves if stopped down. Corner sharpness is a little weaker wide open, but all in all it’s fairly uniform. The newer 85mm 1:1.8 AF-S is a little step ahead when it comes to image quality, but considering its double the price for a new lens the AF-D does good! This is a lens that renders nice colors and contrasts and is still sharp enough for the D800.

In difficult conditions with highlights and contrasts it may show some CA, however this is easily removed in post processing, so I don’t consider this a big problem. At f/1.8 this lens shows some vignetting, but not at all bad. It’s mainly just visible in the far corners and it decreases rapidly as you step down.

The auto focus on this lens is quite noisy, but actually quite fast. I shot a session with my dog at an agility coarse and the auto focus kept up with the action.

Conclusion
This lens can be found second-hand for half the price of the new 85mm 1:1.8 AF-S. If you’re starting up with photography and don’t want to spend a lot of money, or if you’re just on a budget this lens is definitely something to consider. While newer and more expensive lenses may perform better this lens is still a solid performer! It’s capable of delivering stunning images even on modern high-resolution cameras.

Below is a selection of images taken with this lens. The images may have been edited and/or cropped.

 

Further reading:
– Bjørn Rørslett has a short review

– More info on Nikon 85mm lenses at mir.com

– Info and user experienced at DPreview.com

Expanding laptop storage

A couple of weeks ago I upgraded my laptop by swapping the current hard drive, a SSHD type disk, with a new SSD. The performance was noticeable increased at once!

However, now I had another problem. My old hard drive was 750 GB and my new SSD only 240 GB. So, storage became a problem. I store most my stuff on a NAS with a Raid setup, but this is more of an archive. It’s slow to work with video files from network storage, so I need a bit of storage locally on my computer as well.

The solution was to take out the DVD-player and put my old hard drive back in as a second disk. I’ve rarely used my DVD-player at all so this is no loss to me. I bought a kit from IcyBox, IcyBox IBAC642. The kit consisted of a caddy for the HDD so that it could be installed in the optical drive bay of my laptop. The kit also had a chassis for the DVD-player so that I can use it as an external USB DVD-player. While the DVD-player chassis was metal, the caddy was plastic. All in all the build quality of the kit did not impress me, but then again it was cheap and it does exactly what I need it to do.

IcyBox  IBAC642, SSD/HDD caddy

IcyBox IBAC642, SSD/HDD caddy. Comes with caddy for your HDD/SSD, and external USB chassis for you DVD.

Installing it was really simple. It does need you to know your way around a computer, but no it does not require any special knowledge. The job took less than 10 minutes and involved less than 10 screws. The result is that I now have a high performance SSD, making my computer fast and more than enough storage space for other stuff.

Review: Nikkor 400mm 1:5.6 ED-IF Ai

I don’t do a lot photography that requires a long tele-lens. My 70-200mm usually covers it and so I’ve never considered investing a lot of money in something longer. However, I stumbled across this older lens at a cheap price and thought that it might be interesting. I’ve been playing around with it for a while and here are my thoughts on this lens.

Nikon 400mm 5.6 ED-IF Ai

Nikon 400mm 5.6 ED-IF Ai

Before you read further I only want to note that my lens was quite beat up and not exactly in good condition when I bought it. This may affect some of my views on this lens. However the glass on my lens is flawless, so it should not affect the image quality. It’s usually sold for around $600 on eBay. I paid about $120 for mine so let that tell you something about its condition.

Build & handling

The build quality on this lens is very good! It’s metal and glass all the way like most older manual Nikons and it comes with a screw on cap, a built-in retractable lens hood and a tripod mount that can rotate. It also has a little focus stopping feature. If you’re lucky you’ll even get the original leather case.

This lens is very light considering the focal length. It’s almost a little too light for shooting hand-held, because it’s very prone to shake. I would recommend using it with a good and steady tripod on slower shutter speeds, but I’ve used it mostly hand-held and with a high shutter speed and a good and steady pose it’s still possible to shoot hand-held.

However there are a couple of things that annoy me about the design. First the screw-in cap. It’s a hassle to screw the cap on and off every time. At least now that we’re used to the snap-on caps. Second it’s the hood. It’s nice to have a built-in hood as older second-hand lenses almost never comes with the original hood. However it slides back if you tilt the lens up. This is probably a result of a beat up lens, but still. Third it’s the focus stopping feature which hardly work on mine and is mainly just annoying.

Apart from that this is a fine little lens. It has a good focus pulling distance and while the focus on mine is not as smooth as I’d like, after many years of wear and tear there are still no mechanical problems.

Performance

As I don’t do a lot of work on long lenses I don’t really have anything to compare it to. Earlier I’ve tried a Nikon 500mm 1:8 reflex lens. This did not impress me. On my D800 it was never properly sharp. F/8 also made it a very slow lens, however it was compact and otherwise nice.

Unlike that 500mm this lens is sharp. I’ve seen a lot sharper, however it’s not bad. It’s certainly usable. I’ve used this lens mainly at 5.6 and it’s no problem. It gets a little sharper stepped down, but on the D800 diffraction starts kicking in at f/8. At f/5.6 this lens performs nicely. It’s sharp enough and renders nice colors and contrast.

At f/5.6 this is not a very fast lens, but not particularly slow either. At least not if you’re shooting on a full frame camera and can boost the ISO a bit. For general use I never had trouble with this lens being too slow. It also quite easy to focus. For me focus hit almost every time when focusing both by eye and with the help of the in-camera focus confirmation. Being a manual focus it’s a bit harder to focus on moving subjects, but not impossible.

Conclusion

This lens does not give you the same image quality as a newer or faster lens. I would not recommend or talk about this lens as a pro lens. However, for someone like me who don’t do a lot of long tele shots and don’t want to spend a lot of money on a big hunk of a lens this one is a very good alternative. It gives you a bit more than say a 70-300mm or a 70-200mm and the quality is not bad at all! It’s also light weight which makes it a very portable lens.

Below is a selection of images taken with this lens. The images may have been edited and/or cropped.

Further reading

– Bjørn Rørslett has a short review

– More info on this lens at MIR.com