Fuji X-T2 Field Test Part III

Of portraits and performance

By Dave Pardue | Posted: 04/03/2017

Shortly after posting Field Test Part II, our X-T2 sample was abruptly confiscated from us by our friends at Fuji, in order to give other reviewers out there a shot at the camera. I went into a state of shock for some time, having really bonded with the camera and was eager to continue with our testing, but with no sample at my disposal all I could do was stare at the lenses on the shelf. This waiting further fueled my inner fire to finally get another sample, because I was yearning to try it out in the portrait world. My repeated requests were finally answered. What makes the X-T2 so special as a portrait-shooting companion? A variety of interweaving factors, and we'll take a closer look at many of them here.

1/950s / f/2.8 / ISO 200 / 210mm eq. / XF 50-140mm f/2.8 lens
[Film Simulation: Pro Neg Std]

(Images have been resized to fit this page, cropped and/or altered in post-production, primarily to balance shadows and highlights as needed. Clicking any image will take you to a carrier page with access to the original, full-resolution image as delivered by the X-T2. For additional images and EXIF data please see our Fuji X-T2 Gallery page.)

Fuji X-T2: Portraits

Everyone has their favorite type of shot they like to shoot, and mine are of the portrait variety. Not just people, but the notion of trying to capture the essence of something, anything. It's a very hard field to master, and I consider myself a learning amateur when compared to professional portrait photographers. But the X-T2 brings a lot of fire-power to the table in this regard and can certainly give a jump-start to budding amateurs like myself and to professionals alike.

For starters, and as we've discussed in other sections of this review, the autofocus engine has been beefed up considerably, and while that's not the most critical aspect to portrait work, it is certainly an important component to achieving success in the field. (See more details on autofocus testing in the next section down below.) Next up is the incredible lens selection at your disposal, and we'll look at a variety of options here in both prime and zoom varieties where portraits are concerned. And rounding out the overall package are the various film simulation modes and the beefier battery grip designed for steady shooting with virtually any lens, including the hearty and venerable Fujinon XF 50-140mm f/2.8.

1/3200s / f/2.8 / ISO 200 / 210mm eq. / XF 50-140mm f/2.8 lens
[Film Simulation: Pro Neg Std]

XF Portrait Ecosystem: 2 bright primes, 2 versatile zooms and 2 lovely film simulations

Once again, the lens selection available in the XF system is perhaps the single biggest draw for me regarding the flagship Fuji X-T2 and other camera bodies in the line. Beginning with the XF 56mm f/1.2 (and the APD version), you get the classic 85mm eq. focal length with an incredibly bright aperture for super-shallow depth of field potential. Then there's the newer XF 90mm f/2, which yields the also-classic "longer" portrait focal length of 135mm eq. Each lens is capable of gathering a lot of light while also offering terrific subject-to-background isolation, and can certainly bring potential "pop" to your subjects.

1/250s / f/1.2 / ISO 640 / 85mm eq. / XF 56mm f/1.2 lens
[Film Simulation: Pro Neg Hi]

1/125s / f/2 / ISO 800 / 135mm eq. / XF 90mm f/2 lens
[Film Simulation: Pro Neg Hi]

Raising Gain: As we've seen in the Print Quality section of this review, ISO 800 puts very little strain on the overall image quality delivered by the Fuji X-T2, still allowing for a robust 24 x 26 inch print at this setting. As the XF 90mm f/2 does not have on-board IS, this allowed me to use a 1/125s shutter speed here at dusk.

Moving onto the XF 50-140mm f/2.8, this lens allows for an ever greater range, while still providing a reasonably bright aperture for most purposes, though this lens is obviously more versatile in daylight situations than the even brighter primes mentioned earlier. And don't forget the super-wide XF 10-24mm f/4, which can be used to capture objects in dramatic fashion when desired. Wider angles tend to distort human faces, but can lend a dynamic perspective to objects such as this 1700's-era pistol replica perched atop some driftwood below.

1/60s / f/8 / ISO 200 / 15mm eq. / XF 10-24mm f/4 lens
[Film Simulation: Velvia]

1/1700s / f/2.8 / ISO 200 / 210mm eq. / XF 50-140mm f/2.8 lens
[Film Simulation: Pro Neg Std]

Film Simulation fondness: I've found Pro Neg Std to be by far the best portrait film simulation for skin tones and a generally pleasing result overall. Pro Neg Hi and Classic Chrome can also yield outstanding portrait results for people. For my tastes both Astia and Velvia bring too much red into the skin tones, although those simulations can be terrific for portrait purposes other than those of the people variety.

Fuji X-T2: Continuous Autofocus Performance

In Part II of our Field Testing for the Fuji X-T2, I took a deep dive into the C-AF world while venturing through several nature preserves along the South Carolina coast and came away more impressed with my keeper ratio than I'd ever experienced previously with a mirrorless camera. This led to my desire to explore it in a more controlled environment, and we'd fortunately just created a standardized C-AF test course to do just that. Our idea was to emulate a running back heading towards the photographer in the end zone, both running straight at the camera and also zig-zagging to emulate a player avoiding an opponent. Both are designed to tax a camera's C-AF system and bring to light just how good the camera is at staying with the subject in a controlled yet real-world scenario.

As also mentioned in that Field Test, the new custom presets are a helpful addition for quickly dialing in your desired shooting conditions, in order to capture various types of motion for sports or wildlife. For the sake of this test we're using Custom Preset 1, designed for an athlete moving in a more or less steady fashion without too much interference from opponents. We hope to be able to test some of the more complex preset varieties down the line, such as capturing a snow skier suddenly entering the frame or something moving more erratically across the frame. But this test gives a clear view of what to expect for a variety of traditional sports such as football, soccer and track.

1/1600s / f/2.8 / ISO 200 / 210mm eq. / XF 50-140mm f/2.8 lens
[Continuous AF - Custom preset 1 - CH 8fps - controlled 12mph speed]

Freezing the action: This is a still frame extracted from the burst series below, shot in Continuous High at 8fps with C-AF single point and using the mechanical shutter.

Continuous High mode allows for 8 frames-per-second with the mechanical shutter and continuous autofocus, which is what we've used for this test. Adding the optional booster grip allows for 11fps using mechanical shutter, but we weren't given the grip on this second time with the camera. You can shoot up to 14fps with the electronic shutter should you need even faster bursts, but there are some inherent potential issues with using electronic shutter, especially while photographing moving subjects.

C-AF: Aggressive prediction algorithms

In analyzing the images across three passes on our C-AF test course with my editorial partner William Brawley, we found the camera did a very good job at keeping pace with the test subject, our longtime senior lens technician Rob Murray. Rob's traveling at a controlled 12mph, again designed to yield an average speed for a player in a game. We found the algorithms for this preset were fairly aggressive in trying to remain with Rob to the point that, for any image that it trailed him slightly, it would sometimes overshoot and jump in front of him for the next frame, but usually would then lock right back onto him.

It's safe to report that we had no passes where we experienced a 100% keeper ratio, but in our collective experience here at IR that's rare for virtually any camera except the top-of-the-line sports DSLRs like the Canon 1DX II and Nikon D5, and even they have "misses" from time to time. I gather all sports photographers have their own idea of what constitutes an acceptable keeper ratio, but for this test in good lighting conditions, it's a safe bet that the roughly 80% keepers that we experienced will satisfy most discerning shooters. The camera does lose focus for a few noticeable frames towards the end of the burst before reacquiring focus for the last few frames in this series, although by that point the depth of field is quite shallow, therefore making slight misses appear more pronounced.

Of course, once again, this is with good lighting and no other "players" entering the frame. But there are sufficient objects in the near ground and background available to confuse the camera, and during our tests, the X-T2 never once attempted to lock onto anything else. The worst image we came away with was only off by a few feet in front of or behind our subject, and at least 80% were of the caliber of the still images displayed below for both straight-on and zig-zag passes.

1/1600s / f/2.8 / ISO 200 / 210mm eq. / XF 50-140mm f/2.8 lens
[Continuous AF - Custom preset 1 - Variable speed]

We used single point AF mode for these tests but also had good experience using zone AF in Field Test II while shooting birds in flight. In each case we found the X-T2's ability to lock onto a subject and keep it in focus for a burst to be quite good, with little in the way of unwanted hunting or losing focus and finding the background. Indeed, both this camera and the Olympus E-M1 Mark II represent big leaps forward for the mirrorless camp in terms of C-AF, and we look forward to taking our Panasonic GH5 to this same course to see how it performs in this department as well, so stay tuned for more on that to come.

Fuji X-T2: 4K video comes to the X-series

The X-T2 is the first X-series camera to offer Ultra-HD 4K video, and utilizing the power of the new internal processing chip, it can even render those large files while using the on-board film simulations. Because adding visual effects to video clips is a lot more time-consuming and processor-intensive on a computer than simply adding them to still images, this is a welcome feature, especially for X-shooters who've come to know and love the various simulations for still photography.

In addition to 4K (30p/24p) and Full HD (60p/30p/24p), standard HD 720p is also available (60p/30p/24p). As the cinematically-friendly frame rate of 24p (25p for you PAL shooters out there) is available at both 4K Ultra HD and 1080P Full HD resolutions, that's what I've chosen to shoot with for a few clips to display below. Both were shot with the Fujinon 18-55mm f/2.8-4 OIS lens with stabilization enabled, and using the versatile Classic Chrome film simulation.

(As these are heavily compressed by YouTube, feel free to download the full resolution files as delivered straight from the Fuji X-T2 in order to accurately gauge image quality.)

Fuji X-T2 Ultra HD 4K / 24p sample video
3840 x 2160, 24 fps, Classic Chrome film simulation
Download Original (245.6MB MOV)

Fuji X-T2 Full HD 1080 / 24p sample video
1920 x 1080, 24 fps, Classic Chrome film simulation
Download Original (337.4MB MOV)

For any X-T1 shooters new to this camera, you may have already noted the lack of a dedicated video button. Instead, you simply dial in the video icon on the drive dial and then use the shutter button to trigger the start and stop of your video clips. I find this a nice touch, and it also prevents the accidental triggering of video while shooting stills. Note that you will need a UHS Speed Class 3 card for 4K video, and in order to shoot for longer than 10 minutes you'll need the optional booster grip, which extends the 4K recording duration to 30 minutes.

Field Test Conclusion

And so my time with the Fuji X-T2 comes to an end, at least for the field testing part. It's been an enjoyable journey and a worthy camera to get to know. The X-T2 was already awarded several well-deserved 2016 COTY Awards by us here at IR, including a Camera of Distinction award for the Best Overall camera of 2016, so there's not much left to say except "Wow... what a camera."

When combined with the Fujinon lens selection, this eco system offers a terrific option for portraits, landscapes and wildlife shooters alike. Its weather sealing is robust, and its C-AF chops are miles ahead of its predecessor -- and have finally entered the ballpark with enthusiast DSLRs from this era. The retro styling, film simulations and beefed up battery grip all add to the overall package, and it's one I'd be thrilled to own.

1/2000s / f/2.8 / ISO 200 / 210mm eq. / XF 50-140mm f/2.8 lens
[Film Simulation: Pro Neg Std]

Fuji X-T2 Image Gallery

Fuji X-T2 Field Test Part I: Into the Eye of the Storm

Fuji X-T2 Field Test Part II: Toting 4 high-end zooms into the wild

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