The Streets of Hong Kong with the Fujifilm X-T2 and Zooms
I’ve written many articles about my struggle choosing between the Fujifilm X-T2 and X-Pro2 as my travel camera on FujiLove magazine. I love both cameras, and before three major trips, I really had to think about which camera to take. I love the X-Pro2 for it’s sleek styling, the optical viewfinder, and slightly more compact size and weight. I love the X-T2 for everything else. Power, speed, dials, ergonomics, accessories (vertical control grip), video features, etc. In the end, I always chose the X-T2 because of it’s video capabilities. The ability to shoot consistent video with 3 batteries, a standard 3.5mm microphone input, start-stop using the shutter button, 4K, video audio monitoring (via the grip). It was a no-brainer for a photographer-YouTuber. As I’ve said before, my heart (and eyes) say X-Pro2, but my logical brain tells me the X-T2.
However, the more I shot with the X-T2, the more I liked it. The more I shot without having to think, the more intuitive the camera became. Having a large and easily viewable and accessible ISO dial is a big deal for me, since I do not like shooting in auto ISO (it’s a long story, but I have my reasons). I rarely use the articulating screen (1% of the time) but it’s nice to have if you need it. It’s nice using the vertical control grip as a battery charger as well, leaving the standard charger at home. I like the DSLR-like grip, and the ability to access most of my settings via dials and buttons.
After much thought, I realized my greater struggle was choosing which lenses to use for each of my projects. I needed a different lens for video (I prefer the XF18-55mm f/2.8-4 R OIS), a different lens for architecture (XF14mm f/2.8 or XF10-24mm f/4), and yet another lens for street (XF23mm or XF35mm). You can do everything with one lens, as long as you commit to that lens, but I couldn’t commit. That’s my problem. Commitment.
The problem with what I do as a camera reviewer is that I have to constantly review different cameras and lenses. Not only that, I also review Leica, Canon, Ricoh and other brands from time to time. One of the biggest tips I give other photographers is not to switch cameras too often. Stick to one brand and focus on your photography, forget gear, forget specs, forget the latest and the greatest. This is what I tell others, but unfortunately I can not follow my own advice. As a reviewer, I am required to pick up a new camera or lens every few months, and try to objectively review it the best I can. The best way to do this is by reviewing the camera or lens for as long as I can, which means I have to put aside my own preferences and my own style, and learn to adapt to the camera. Every time I jump from a Leica M system with manual lenses to a Fujifilm X Series camera with stabilized zoom lenses, I have to adapt my shooting style. Trying to keep a consistent style while changing cameras and lenses every month becomes challenging, especially when I’m reviewing multiple cameras at the same time. On this Hong Kong trip I was reviewing the Fujifilm X-T2, the Leica M-A, the Canon G7X MRK II, and a few more smaller accessories and lenses along the way. On top of that, there are various projects that overlap between cameras (I shot architecture with the Fujifilm, Leica, Hasselblad, Canon and my iPhone). Ok, I’ll stop complaining now. Back to Fujifilm and lenses.
The most important lesson I learned about my photography in Hong Kong is to commit to a focal length (or two) per project or theme. This could mean committing to two primes, or a single zoom. This could also mean committing to two focal lengths within a zoom. I made the mistake of switching lenses too often and I wish I just stuck with 3 focal lengths/lenses. If I had to do it again I would either take the XF14mm, XF18-55mm and the XF35mm, or just the XF18-55mm. However, I did enjoy the XF10-24mm and it really helped in getting dramatic building portraits as well as wide street shots. I wrote an article on FujiLove about choosing zooms versus primes, and as you can tell by these images, all these shots were taken with one of the two zoom lenses I brought with me. My favourite zoom is the standard XF18-55mm lens. It’s compact-ish, it’s reasonably fast (for a standard zoom) and covers the majority of the needed focal lengths (18mm, 23mm, 35mm, 55mm).
Another suggestion is having two bodies, both the same if possible. I know the X-T2 is expensive, but if you’re serious about your photography, having two bodies and two lenses will help you exponentially. Ask any working pro. Don’t waste time switching lenses if you must have two primes. Yes in the film days 2 bodies were necessary (different ISO films or no time to load a new roll of film), but in a busy city and shooting street, it’s a waste of time and dangerous (dropping lenses, moisture or dust on sensor) switching lenses while on the go. How about an X-T2 with an X-T1, or an X-Pro2 with an X-E2S for an alternate combination? How about carrying the X70 or X100T for your prime lens and a zoom on the X-T2?
My final thoughts on the Fujifilm X-T2 versus the X-Pro2 debate? I would take the X-T2 over the X-Pro2 any day. Although my aesthetic consideration and personal shooting style would impel me to choose the X-Pro2, I have to think about my camera as a work tool. As a photographer as well as a videographer (sort of) I must have a camera that can do both for me equally well. Although the X-Pro2 is a competent video camera, it’s strength is being the ultimate rangefinder style stills camera. I would gladly take the X-Pro2 on a photo-only trip, but this won’t be the case for me for a long time. I will also need to shoot videos wherever I decide to go.
The Fujifilm X-T2 does both videos and stills very well and is my number one choice for the Fujifilm X Series. In fact, I ‘m surprised that the X-Pro2 is still more expensive by $100 over the X-T2. Yes the X-Pro2 is the flagship, but there’s nothing in the build quality or spec sheet (other than the hybrid viewfinder) that makes it so. As I mentioned in a previous article, the X-T2 should really be called the X-T2 PRO since since spec-for-spec it’s superior to the X-Pro2.
The things I would change on the X-T2? Switch the position of the AF/AEL button (you can in custom settings) and make the buttons bigger. The AF button is used for back focus and is a very important way to shoot when you like shooting to a specific distance (allowing the subject to walk into your focal distance instead of chasing your subject with AF). I also dislike the way the rubber eye piece on the EVF sticks out. It digs into my ribs when carrying the camera cross-body with a strap. The X-Pro2 snuggles into my side very nicely (and so does the X100T). I also find the EVF diopter shifts too easy and I would like for it to either lock into place, or make it stiffer. Finally, I want the start-up time of the X-T2 from sleep to be faster…. much faster. I’ve missed shots because it takes the camera too long to wake-up. Please fix this Fuji.
My final thoughts on lens choice. Yes I’m primarily a prime lens shooter, although I’ve always used zooms when doing specific types of photography (sports, weddings). However, I’ve found a new love for lenses, and Fujifilm has some nice ones. The XF18-55mm is a highly underrated lens, especially for street photography. You have all the major focal lengths (18mm, 23mm, 35mm) for street, as well as a medium telephoto. If you know how to use a zoom lens properly (most don’t, including some pros) then there’s no need to be a prime lens snob. If you shoot street and you’re always at f/8, consider this lens. Two things to improve upon the XF18-55mm R OIS: update with WR and start at a slightly wider 16mm.
As this year 2016 comes to a close, Fujifilm has done an amazing job in innovating, not just in technology, but as well as design direction. The X-T2 has set the industry standard for the mirrorless alternative to the mid level DSLR system. The X-T2 (and the X-Pro2) has also given us a blueprint for upcoming updates to the current Fujifilm line-up (X100T, X-E2S, X-T10, X70, X30, etc.) and I’m looking forward to seeing how the Fujifilm engineers and designers in Japan decide to implement some of these new features in these future cameras. I took tons of pictures from my Hong Kong trip with the X-T2 (as well as videos) so look for more articles and pictures here on my blog as well as on FujiLove.
In addition, I apologize for the lack of updates on this blog. I am currently building a brand new website, thus much of my time and energy has been spent on my YouTube channel and FujiLove magazine. I promise more regular articles on my own website.
Thanks for visiting and happy shooting!