Fujifilm X-A2 Field Test Part II

Testing performance & going beyond the kit lens

by Eamon Hickey | Posted

10-24mm f/4: 24mm, f/8, 1/105s, ISO 800, -0.7EV

Decently quick, but sluggish for bracketing & bursts with RAW

While the Fujifilm X-A2 has a bit more advanced control setup than most entry-level cameras, the same can't really be said for its performance, which is about par for this level of camera. On my first day fiddling and shooting with the Fujifilm X-A2, I found the control response -- how fast settings change and operations happen when you push buttons or turn dials -- to be perfectly adequate but not exceptional.

Bracketing of RAW+JPEG shots worked fine for this new vs. old architectural shot, but tripped me up on some moving subjects.
16-50mm f/3.5-5.6: 16.7mm, f/8, 1/480s, ISO 400, -0.7EV

For reviews, I often shoot with 3-shot auto-exposure bracketing enabled, which brings me to an odd thing I noticed on my first walk with the camera. With the reasonably fast UHS-1 class SD card I was using, the X-A2 needs to pause for about 8 seconds after shooting a 3-shot bracketed RAW+JPEG burst. (The pause was about a second shorter with RAW only, and there was almost no delay when shooting JPEG only.) This limited buffer/write time latitude was no problem for stationary subjects. But I missed shots a couple of times with moving subjects such as folks walking their dogs when I wanted to shoot a second burst sequence before they moved out of my frame, and the camera wouldn't fire. The issue puzzles me, however, because in regular burst mode (i.e. without bracketing) the camera can fire 10 or 11 RAW images with no delay before it stalls, and then it only needs to pause for 2 or 3 seconds before it can begin shooting again.

Single-shot AF works well, but the X-A2 is not for fast action

A frisbee master using hands and feet in Washington Square Park.
16-50mm f/3.5-5.6: 38.7mm, f/5.6, 1/420s, ISO 250

I tested the Fujifilm X-A2's autofocus system on several different outings and subjects and found the standard single AF to work reasonably well, with decent speed and decisiveness. I easily got sharp images of stationary or slow-moving subjects in situations where I needed to aim and shoot quickly, including Frisbee tricksters in Washington Square Park and two guys on The High Line elevated park making some kind of meta photo-within-a-photo image. (I one-upped them by making a photo of them making a photo within a photo. I know that sentence is hard to parse -- it's photography crossed with Alice in Wonderland!) Finally, I didn't notice any significant problems when using single AF on the X-A2 in low light, either.

Image of an image within an image on The High Line.
56mm f/1.2: 56mm, f/3.2, 1/1100s, ISO 400, -0.7EV

With fast-moving subjects like bicyclists and runners, I didn't have much luck with the Fujifilm X-A2's autofocus system, unfortunately. This just isn't a good camera for tracking action. In burst shooting mode, AF is disabled after the first image, but even that first image was often out-of-focus on any subject that was moving quickly. This may be the one area where the X-A2 lags behind the competition a bit. I also learned to be careful with its eye-detection AF mode, which was easily fooled by scenes that do not contain prominent, relatively nearby eyes.

Manual focus was tricky despite nice lenses

I was slightly disappointed with the Fujifilm X-A2's manual focus system, and that came as a modest surprise. The lens part of the equation is more than fine -- the two higher end lenses I used, especially, have good manual focus rings with a nice feel in manual focus mode. But I sometimes found it tricky to judge whether I was in focus or not using the camera's focus magnification feature, and I didn't find the X-A2's implementation of focus peaking to be as helpful as some others I've used. With some subjects, neither gave me a really clear idea of where the point of focus really was. There is, however, a nice electronic focus point/depth-of-field scale that can be displayed on the LCD, and I found that very handy for doing hyper-focal focusing on several shots.

Right-side-up Canada Geese swim past an upside-down boat. Handheld in twilight at 1/2 second using Optical Image Stabilization. The electronic distance scale came in handy for hyper-focal focusing on this shot.
16-50mm f/3.5-5.6: 21.1mm, f/9, 0.5s, ISO 200

The Fuji system really shines when it comes to lenses

As I mentioned before, a big part of the appeal of the Fujifilm X-series cameras is the lineup of excellent lenses for this system.

The good news begins with the XC16-50mm F3.5-5.6 OIS II kit lens for the Fujifilm X-A2. While not built like a tank, its mechanical quality feels above average for a kit lens to me. We tested its predecessor and found it to be optically very good, especially for a kit lens, and my 400 shots with this updated version gave me no reason to think it's any different. Fujifilm says the Optical Image Stabilization (O.I.S.) on this lens has been improved, and in my tests I could get sharp handheld shots at shutters speeds about 2.5 stops slower than I could with O.I.S. turned off. I put this to the test on a real-world handheld picture of a wrecked boat on the shore of Eastchester Bay, shot shortly after sunset (see above). My shutter speed was 1/2, and the picture is pretty sharp -- probably good enough for an 8 x 10 enlargement, in my judgment. The only potential drawback I can cite for this lens is that it's a bit bigger than many kit lenses for other systems, although it's not that heavy.

The XF10-24mm shows its wide field-of-view in Pelham Bay Park.
10-24mm f/4: 10mm, f/5.6, 1/60s, ISO 800, -0.7EV

I shot almost 200 pictures with the Fujifilm X-A2 and the XF10-24mm F4 R OIS lens. This is a terrific optic. It's not compact or lightweight, but it's very well built, and it sure makes excellent images -- sharp across the frame with low distortion. Check out our review for a thorough discussion of its optical qualities. I'll only add that I shot everything from interiors to flowers to landscapes with it, and it gave great results every time. This is a versatile, very high quality piece of glass.

56mm f/1.2: 56mm, f/1.4, 1/1600s, ISO 800, +0.7EV

Equally impressive (but also rather bulky) is the XF56mm F1.2 R. We reviewed this lens as well, noting its solid build and giving it stellar marks for optical quality. My own shots using it with the Fujifilm X-A2 confirm everything in that review -- it's beautifully sharp and it gives a very pleasing, smooth bokeh, or out-of-focus blur. Its ability to give very narrow depth-of-field let me separate subjects from busy backgrounds on my walk on The High Line. And I took the effect to some extremes in a picture I ended up liking of one of my girlfriend's dogs, leaving only his near eye in focus. The one slight issue I noted with this lens is that it focuses a bit slowly on the X-A2.

Bottom line is that all three lenses I used with the Fujifilm X-A2 were very good or excellent, among the best I've used on any mirrorless system camera. As I said earlier, they are also on the large side for APS-C mirrorless lenses. Pick your poison, I guess.

Ever alert, Toppy the rescue dog scans his domain for errant squirrels and mailmen. At f2, only his near eye is in focus.
56mm f/1.2: 56mm, f/2, 1/800s, ISO 200

Pleasing image quality & nice colors, but limited Film Simulation

Check out our test photos for a very detailed look at the excellent images that the Fujifilm X-A2 captures. I'll add my own subjective opinion that Fujifilm has always had a nice feel for color, and JPEGs from this camera continue in that tradition, with very pleasing colors and tones. I like the Film Simulation feature, and I think that the various looks available are very well implemented (with the possible exception of Velvia, which can be garish to my eye). The X-A2, unfortunately, is currently limited to a subset of Film Simulations, which do not include the Pro Negative looks. I think that's a pity because I've often found those simulations to be very nice for portraits.

10-24mm f/4: 10mm, f/4, 1/58s, ISO 3200

Disappointing Wi-Fi experience with no remote control

I spent some time playing around with the wireless connectivity features of the Fujifilm X-A2, and I wasn't impressed. First of all, Fujifilm has a two-tiered approach -- more advanced cameras are compatible with the Fujifilm Camera Remote app, which lets you transfer pictures from the camera to an iOS or Android smartphone or tablet and also control the camera from the device (and sync GPS data, too). Less advanced cameras use the Fujifilm Camera Application app, which does photo transfer and GPS but does not support remote control of the camera. The X-A2 uses this dumbed-down Camera Application app, and I think it's both odd and ill-advised to dump it (or any interchangeable-lens camera) into the lower tier.

But that aside, my biggest frustration with the Fujifilm X-A2's wireless features was the difficulty of making easy, reliable connections with my iPhone 5 running iOS 8.3. The pairing process just did not work consistently for me and connections didn't persist very well. This kind of thing can be very device- and configuration-specific, however, so somebody else using a different iPhone or an Android phone might have a better experience. When I did get a connection established, I could transfer pictures to my phone fairly easily, although not in any way better than the Wi-Fi functionality of most other cameras I've tried.

Video Quality: Lackluster C-AF & visible moiré artifact

Fujifilm X-A2 Sample Video
1,920 x 1,080, 30 fps, H.264
Download Original (72.5MB MOV)

On one of my last walks with the Fujifilm X-A2, I shot some test video footage in the dog run at Washington Square Park. Like nearly all modern mirrorless cameras, the X-A2 provides a lot of flexibility and control in its video recording mode -- you can set your shutter speed and aperture directly or use an auto-exposure mode. You can focus manually or automatically and record movies at almost any time with the touch of a button. In my brief tests, the continuous AF did not work very well in video mode, but I'm not sure I've ever used a camera that was much better. My footage was not particularly good, however, with what seemed to me to be worse-than-average moiré and artifacting (although it didn't seem as bad as the X100T that I reviewed early this year, which uses a Fujifilm X-Trans sensor, unlike this camera). I think it's fair to say that video remains one of the weak spots of the X-series cameras, at least the ones I've used, and the X-A2 is no real exception.

Wrapping it up

Taken altogether, I really enjoyed shooting with the X-A2. It feels and acts like a camera that's serious about photography. Mostly because of its AF limitations, I would not recommend it to anyone who wants to shoot very much action, but otherwise this is a camera with a lot going for it. Its interface and control setup is advanced enough for many enthusiast photographers, making it a distinct pleasure to shoot with compared to many entry-level DSLR and mirrorless cameras. Plus, Fujifilm makes a range of top-notch lenses that fit on the X-A2, and they help the camera make really excellent images, which it does with aplomb.


Buy the Fujifilm X-A2

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