Hands-on with the bigger, better Fuji X-T2

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The Fuji X-T2 looks similar, but offers numerous fixes & tweaks

There's no doubt that the original Fuji X-T1 is an amazing camera. It's wonderful to look at, for starters, with its compact, thoroughly retro-inspired design. Its ergonomics are quite nice as well, with a good handgrip shape and excellent, tacky grip material. Then, add on the grip attachment, and things are even better in terms of grip and balance, especially with larger lenses.

On the surface, the Fujifilm X-T2 appears to be more or less identical to the original: the same DSLR-esque shape, similar top-deck array of control dials with the characteristic Fuji non-PASM dial layout, and a large electronic viewfinder. As before, the X-T2 is also meant to be rugged. It's fully dust- and moisture-resistant with a die-cast magnesium body. According to Fuji, there are 63 points of weather sealing, and the camera is freeze-resistent to 14°F (-10°C) like its predecessor.

However, upon a closer inspection, it's clear that there are a lot of small yet important new features and improvements to the design and the controls that make the Fuji X-T2 more user-friendly as well as much more appealing to the advanced enthusiast and professional photographer.

I was fortunate enough to have some hands-on time with a pre-production prototype, but the firmware is, at this time, far from complete, so we can't test the camera nor comment on its performance or AF capabilities yet. However, I can give you a rundown of the camera's new and improved ergonomics, design and its beefier vertical grip accessory.

The X-T2 is a bit larger, while the controls get refinements

Without the grip attached, right off the bat, one might be hard-pressed to see much difference between the new camera and the old one. The X-T2 is however slightly larger in terms of body thickness, but the overall shape and handgrip contour has not changed to a noticeable degree. The handgrip is very comfortable and somewhat deeper -- along with a sizable thumb notch on the back -- to provide a solid, secure grip without being overly large. Without the grip, the X-T2 still feels very compact and lightweight, and maintains a more "bar-like" profile of a slim, sleek mirrorless camera rather than a bulkier "L-shaped" design of a DSLR.

The top-deck controls of the Fuji X-T2 are laid out much like that of the original model, although noticeably absent is the red movie record button. Instead, Fuji has now added a dedicated Movie Mode option on the drive mode dial that sits under the ISO selection dial. As such, while in movie mode, you simply start and stop video recording with the shutter release button. No idea why the change here, as there appears to be plenty of room on the top deck of the camera to keep a record button in its former location, but perhaps it's to avoid accidental triggering of video recording.

Redesigned locking ISO, Shutter Speed dials now make sense

The other primary differences, or should I say, improvements to the top-deck controls are that not only are the ISO and shutter speed dials larger in diameter and a bit taller, but their locking switches have a bit more travel and provide a much more tactile 'click' when locking or unlocking them. It's much easier to see at a glance whether or not your dials are locked. Furthermore, the shutter speed dial also no longer auto-locks into place when rotated into the 'Auto' setting, which I quite like. Both the ISO and shutter speed dial can rotate freely while unlocked (unlike the ISO dial on the X-T1), and they only lock into place when you explicitly press the lock button -- no need to hold the lock button to rotate the ISO dial anymore!

Lastly, we noted that the exposure compensation dial on the X-T1 was easily bumped. On the X-T2, the EV dial is ever so slightly stiffer to rotate, though that could simply be due to the newness of the camera. But, it also sits a bit further back from the edge of the camera, which makes it feel less likely to get rotated accidentally.

One minor issue I encountered regarding the top control dials is with the two small, layered dials underneath the ISO and shutter speed dials. While it's a handy use of space, these small dials can be very difficult to rotate. Both dials now have more modes on them (a movie mode on the left one, and an additional metering mode -- center-weighted -- on the right), and my colleagues and I found that the small tabs used to rotate these dials (see photo on the right) can be be a bit clumsy to operate. For one, they can get crammed up against the EVF housing, which can make these dials frustrating to adjust especially if you don't have long fingernails.

Improved rear controls borrowed from the X-Pro2

The back of the camera includes one of my favorite new features of the X-T2, a multi-directional joystick button, just like on the X-Pro2. Not only can you use this joystick control to navigate menus, but also, more importantly, you can quickly and easily change the focus point immediately. Out in the field, this is such a handy, time-saving feature that lets you quickly compose your shots and get focus squared away in a moment's notice. The joystick control also clicks inwards as a button, letting you quickly adjust the size of the focus area by rotating the front or rear command dial.

The front and rear command dials also serve double duty as pushable buttons, just like on the X-Pro2. The rear command dial/button in particular now replaces the dedicated 'Focus Assist' button of the X-T1. That button was swapped for the 'Q' quick menu button, which then made room for the new joystick control. Pressing the rear command dial now offers an instant magnified view of the scene for precise focus control.

The four directional buttons on the back also get a subtle redesign and are now raised a bit more out away from the back of the camera. On the X-T1, these buttons were practically flush against the camera, and as such, were a bit frustrating to use. The new ones here are much easier to press and provide some noticeable tactile feedback, which to us is a very welcome change indeed.

Big, bright EVF and unique two-way tilting LCD

Continuing the exploration of the rear of the camera, the first thing you'll probably notice is the EVF and its slightly redesigned eyecup. The EVF itself feels just as big and as crisp as the X-T1's, with the same 0.77x magnification. It's gorgeous: bright, easy to read and very large. The rubbery eyecup now has a wider, flared design that offers a bit more protection against outside light and glare, which is nice.

The next major big feature is the all-new articulated LCD screen, though it's quite a bit different than other articulated screens I've come across. First, it offers more or less the same degree of vertical tilt as the X-T1's LCD screen, however the X-T2's screen now also offers a sideways tilt. Sideways? Yep, you now can have an upward-tilting screen for low-angle shooting in portrait orientation! Perhaps a bit gimmicky at first thought, but I can see it being quite useful for low-angle full-body portrait shots or better yet, wide-angle architectural photography. When using the camera with the grip, this new screen design makes a lot of sense.

Bigger, but new vertical grip has better grip, holds more batteries

OK, let's talk about the awesome grip accessory. On the X-T1, I think it's almost a necessary feature, not because the camera itself is too small, but rather that it just adds that much more to hold onto while not making the camera body that much larger, heavier or bulkier. It's a bit of a different story with the Fuji X-T2, though. The grip accessory is much more "large and in charge" this time around. Not only is it simply thicker along the vertical grip area -- which makes the camera much more secure to hold -- it also adds some additional grip and thickness up along the camera body itself for when you're holding it horizontally.

Altogether, it makes the X-T2 package quite a bit bulkier and handle much more like a regular DSLR...for better or worse, depending on your point of view. If you're trying to keep things light and compact, the X-T2's new battery grip might not be the way to go, but if you shoot with a lot of telephoto lenses, especially with the new 100-400mm, the grip is a welcomed addition.

I, personally, would probably deal with the extra bulk of the grip given its other big advantages: battery life and increased performance. While the X-T1's grip offered a spot for a second battery to be used in conjunction with the one already in the camera, the X-T2's battery grip can carry two additional battery packs, for a total of three  -- yes, three -- batteries all at once. Given the rather poor battery life from mirrorless cameras in general compared to their DSLR counterparts, this is very helpful. (The CIPA battery life rating for the X-T2 with a single battery is only 340 shots per charge, but up to about 1,000 shots are possible when using three batteries.) 

The camera indicates the capacity level of each battery separately, which is quite handy, and the grip has built-in charging capability, allowing you to fully charge two batteries at the same time in about two hours with the supplied AC adapter.

The final little tidbit to share about the new grip is that, as expected, it offers most of the same right-hand controls and buttons as you'd find while holding the camera horizontally. The new joystick control and pressable front and rear command dials are all there. The grips offers a couple of unique additional buttons, including a dedicated performance mode switch to toggle between Normal and Boost performance modes as well as a DC-In power port, which lets you power the camera directly without the need to use up your batteries.

Better get a "grip" if you want a headphone jack

As mentioned previously, the grip also provides a 3.5mm headphone jack, which is certainly a nice amenity for video shooters. It should be noted, however, that the X-T2 body itself does not have a headphone jack of its own, so you'll need to pick up the grip accessory if you want this feature.

Ports, slots & jacks: Standard mic jack, dual SD card slots

Speaking of ports, let's finish up the X-T2 tour with a look at the camera body's various ports and storage media. Ports are all located behind a door on the left-hand side of the camera just as with the predecessor, but there are a number of changes.

For starters, the X-T2 gets an upgrade to USB 3.0 over the USB 2.0 port of the X-T1. Also, there's now a standard 3.5mm microphone input and a standalone 2.5mm wired remote jack, which replaces the combined 2.5mm mic/remote port of the X-T1. HDMI, while still present, is now in the form of a Micro (Type-D) HDMI port rather than the Type-C Mini HDMI connector of the original model.

For storage media, the Fuji X-T2 features a much-welcomed setup that's sure to please pros and enthusiast alike: dual SD card slots. As opposed to the single card slot of the original camera, the X-T2 provides two UHS-II compatible card slots. The SD card slots sit behind a locking, spring-loaded card door that's released by a small switch. I find this a nice improvement over the slide-to-open card door of the X-T1, which can be opened easily by accident, though one of my colleagues disagrees and misses the older one.

The Fuji X-T2 feels bigger and better than ever

All told, by look and feel alone, the Fujifilm X-T2 seems to be a fantastic, much-improved flagship camera. With a focus on small details and ergonomic improvements rather than an all-new design, the Fuji X-T2, for the most part, addresses the original model's shortcomings while remaining wholly familiar and easy to use for long-time Fuji photographers -- but given all the new features and performance specs, the X-T2 might just draw even more seasoned DSLR shooters into the mirrorless world.

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