Fujifilm X-A2 Field Test, Part I

Old school charm with modern features

by Eamon Hickey | Posted

Handheld at 1/8s.
XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS
: 24mm, f/9.0, 1/8s, ISO 200, -0.7EV

Entry-level or enthusiast?

With a design that's more oriented towards the advanced photographer than most entry-level interchangeable-lens cameras, the Fujifilm X-A2 intrigued me. Could the X-A2 give me a satisfying enthusiast shooting experience for a relatively modest price? Let's find out.

Size, Design & Handling

Unpacking the Fujifilm X-A2, I discovered a reasonably compact and lightweight camera, but it's certainly not the smallest of the mirrorless models, especially considering the likes of the Panasonic GM5 or Sony A5100. That's especially true when it's paired with the XC 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 OIS II kit lens, which is bulkier than many competing mirrorless kit lenses. For me personally, that's a bit of a drawback since a big part of why I'm attracted to mirrorless models, compared to my old DSLRs, is the desire to lighten my load.

Along with the kit lens, I also received Fujifilm's XF 10-24mm F4 R OIS and XF 56mm F1.2 R lenses. I'll talk more about them in Part 2 of this shooter's report, but I'll note here that they are also comparatively big and heavy, further undermining the appeal of mirrorless for me. But here's where we prove for the one trillionth time that no lunch is free -- they are also unusually excellent and high-specification lenses, which is a big part of the appeal of Fujifilm's X system and a big part of why these lenses are on the hefty side. It's those pesky trade-offs. Every photographer has to decide which ones he or she wants to make. 

[A note on sample images in this report: Some of these example JPEG images were created from original RAW files using the Fujifilm X-A2's in-camera RAW development feature, which lets you apply film simulations and other camera settings to a RAW image on your SD card, then save a JPEG of the result.]

Shooting very wide on the street with the 10-24mm lens. This lens plus the 56mm are not a light load at all, as I learned on this walk. Converted in-camera from RAW with "Astia" film simulation.
XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS
: 10mm, f/4.0, 1/450s, ISO 400, +0.7EV

I also took an immediate liking to the retro looks of the X-A2; Fujifilm does a very tasteful job evoking the classic appearance of the 70s and 80s cameras that many people love. I personally don't go ga-ga over the looks of any camera, but if you covet that old-school charm, Fujifilm's X-series cameras, including this one, are among the most attractive, at least to my eye.

In my first two outings with the Fujifilm X-A2, I took it on long walks in the New York Botanical Garden and around Greenwich Village. In hand, the X-A2 felt nice. It's a bit more solidly built than most entry-level cameras, although it falls short of the precisely made feel of higher-end models. I quickly found that the X-A2 is very comfortable to hold and use. I'm not a strong aficionado of prominent grips on cameras -- the plain vanilla flat rectangular box is generally fine with me -- so the X-A2's relatively subtle right-hand grip didn't bother me, but photographers who like sizable finger holds might feel differently.

The reasonable weight of the X- A2 with kit lens was no problem on a long walk around the vast New York Botanical Garden.
XC 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS II: 32.5mm, f/5.6, 1/60s, ISO 800

Despite my modest reservations about the X-A2's size, on my Botanical Garden walk, the bulk of the camera plus kit lens wasn't a bother. On my Greenwich Village walk, however, I carried all three lenses, and I definitely felt their mass -- it's more weight than I care to schlep much any more.

Controls & LCD

The X-A2's twin dial control system let me quickly try a range of different exposure and depth-of-field choices in manual exposure mode.
XF 56mm f/1.2 R: 56mm, f/10.0, 1/160s, ISO 200

As I walked and shot with the Fujifilm X-A2, I immediately appreciated its semi-advanced, two-dial control setup, with separate dedicated controls for aperture and shutter speed settings -- depending on the lens you're using, aperture can be changed on the lens or with the sub-command dial. On lenses with aperture rings, like the XF 10-24mm and the XF 56mm, it worked well. On a walk with the 56mm lens near Eastchester Bay, for example, I used the two controls to easily cycle through a range of 17 different aperture and shutter speed combinations when I was experimenting with a shot of a boat under a hazy sky. (That's right, 17 combinations. If you can't shoot well, shoot a lot and hope.)

On the other hand, whenever I've had to use the Fujifilm X-A2 with the kit lens, which has no aperture ring, I had to use the sub-command dial, and I wasn't as happy with this. The dial's vertical orientation made it harder to access and use than it should be. It's also too loose, meaning I sometimes found myself inadvertently changing my settings.

I've now used the Fujifilm X-A2 on six different shooting days, and my overall summary of the control setup is: fairly satisfying for an enthusiast photographer. Among the things I like are direct access to exposure compensation, one-button access to ISO setting, reasonably flexible autofocus settings, and the Q menu, which lets you access most important settings quickly. The X-A2 also allows so-called back-button autofocus -- i.e. separating AF activation from the shutter release -- but it's done with the top-deck function button, making the feature much less useful than it is on cameras that use a rear-mounted button that you can push with your thumb.

Miniature poodle extraordinaire, L'il Joey Ramone, strikes a pose.
XF 56mm f/1.2 R: 56mm, f/2.8, 1/80s, ISO 1600

I've come to really like shooting in the classic waist-level viewfinder style with a tilting LCD screen, so I was glad to have this feature on the Fujifilm X-A2. It came in very handy when I used it to get eye-level for a shot of my girlfriend's parti-colored miniature poodle as he lounged on the couch one day. I did also test the new extended tilt for selfies, but I won't punish you with the resulting pictures. It's not pretty what camera reviewing does to a man. Nevertheless, I can report that the selfie flip mode works perfectly well, although I wonder how many people are serious enough about their selfies to use interchangeable-lens cameras instead of their smartphones.

Up Next

In part 2 of this report, I'll give my impressions of the Fujifilm X-A2's performance and talk a bit about using the excellent additional lenses I got with the camera. Stay tuned!


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