Week 4, 2017: Fujifilm mirrorless cameras and the new X-T2 and X-T20

Sound Advice

By Don Lindich

Week 4, 2017

Q. About ten years ago I purchased a Fujifilm F20 pocket camera based on your column’s recommendation. I don’t think I have seen you write about Fujifilm cameras since then. Do you recommend their mirrorless cameras? I want to get a mirrorless camera to record my growing family’s adventures.

-L.K., Bethel Park, PA

A. Fujifilm X-series mirrorless cameras have always created very beautiful images, but typically had other limitations that limited their widespread appeal. These cameras have a strong cult following, especially among traditionalists. The still picture quality rates among the best in the business, and many Fujifilm cameras and lenses have manual control dials with markings instead of buttons. This “old school” experience with manual control dials extends to other areas where maybe it is not so welcome. The camera bodies do not offer image stabilization, and many of the best lenses do not have optical stabilization either. Unless you are using a tripod you will be shooting completely without stabilization with these lenses, just like a 1970s 35mm camera.

The system’s lenses are phenomenally good. It’s a bit of an open secret that Fuji is one of the world’s finest lens manufacturers, and this has been true for decades. Back when I used film exclusively, Fuji enlarging and large format lenses were my top choice. Fuji lenses are widely used by the major TV and cable networks and if you have watched any football in high definition lately, a lot of it was brought to you through Fujinon video lenses.

The Achilles heel with past Fujifilm mirrorless cameras has been video quality. While still picture quality has always rated as an A to A+, video quality has usually been a D to an F. If you wanted to do some video with your still photography, a Fujifilm camera was usually left off the shopping list. The lack of competitive video was the primary reason I haven’t been recommending them the past few years

This changed with last year’s Fujifilm X-T2, a 24.3 megapixel APS-C camera using Fujifilm’s X-Trans sensor. This sensor uses a unique pixel layout for better images than you would expect given the sensor size, images described as mimicking the look of film. Not only does the X-T2 record 4K video, it records great looking video that is competitive with its contemporaries. Regular readers of this column have read about Grado cartridges and headphones, and Grado family member Jonathan is quite an accomplished photographer. He uses an X-T2 and you can see some of his images at http://jonathangrado.com. As you will see, in the hands of a skilled photographer the X-T2 can create exquisite images.

An X-T2 body is quite expensive at $1,599, making it a tool for professionals and serious amateurs. The great news for everyone else is Fujifilm recently introduced the X-T20, which uses the same sensor and delivers almost all of the X-T2’s goodness for only $899. Two kits with zoom lenses are available. The kit to get includes the optically stabilized 18-55mm lens for $1,199. Add the 50-230mm lens for $399 and you have a good starter outfit for about $1,600.

If video is not important to you, check out the other models starting with the $599 X-A3 with kit lens. While the sensors and features may vary across the camera model line, picture quality is always top-notch. The lenses are a bit pricy and choices are relatively limited, so be sure to check them out and look at the big picture before you decide on this system.