FUJIFILM, a respected company well-known for making high quality stills cameras, photo lenses and professional video and cinema lenses, is now taking its first steps towards implementing proper 4K video recording into their new X-T2 mirrorless camera. If you take a moment to look at the interview we recently conducted with Jun Watanabe, a manager at FUJIFILM corporation, you will hear how serious they are in planning to develop and enhance the video capabilities of that camera, and establish their name as a company that listens to their customers by supplying them with the right tool for their work.
Tokyo, July 2016. The heat and humidity are almost unbearable. I guess the only person who really doesn’t care about it is me. After all, I just got the X-T2 for a short test ride, and learning its ins and outs completely distracts me from that heat wave. As the camera is still on a beta stage and the installed firmware is not final, I have to be very cautious with what I write. I know for sure that some of the key limitations I found while working with it are now being reviewed by FUJIFILM, and some if not most of them will be addressed in the final firmware release (or the one after). Before I continue, I must confess that during my meeting at FUJIFILM, I had the pleasure of meeting humble yet determined and professional people who really gave me the feeling of talking to a company that is willing to listen to customers. If the demand for a certain feature is there, they will do their best to fulfil those wishes and implement them as long as the hardware used allows for it.
In order to achieve maximum picture quality, FUJIFILM provided me with the X-T2 mirrorless camera and the Fujifilm XF 16-55mm f/2.8 lens. I had in my hands an APS-C mirrorless camera which uses the H.264 compressing method with a data rate of around 100 Mbit/s in 4K mode. I’ll write up front that this combination is not suited for the occasional documentary shooter, as neither the camera nor the lens have any kind of built-in stabilisation, and micro shakes become very noticeable. For my next test, I will be using the less expensive yet equally capable Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4. This lens has a built-in OIS, so I expect to have a different user experience.. (Note that buying the X-T2 together with that lens will save you $300 over buying those two items separately).
Here is a summary of what I found while working with the beta X-T2 camera.
Fujifilm X-T2 Pros: (in no particular order)
- World camera. UHD video in 25p and 24p, plus a variety of frame rates (up to 60p) in HD mode.
- F-log 4:2:2 (8 bit) through HDMI and external recording. For many, the 8 bit figure won’t cut, but with the current hardware being used, we have to be realistic.
- EVF is truly high quality!
- LCD screen is good and can be tilted.
- No dedicated video REC button. The photo shutter release button is used to start video recording. For people like me who are not interested in taking photos while shooting video, this is a plus as the button is located very logically. But for others, it might be a big obstacle, one that can result in skipping purchasing that camera all together. I’ve put this point in the Pros section because it works well for me.
- Testing during a relatively long interview, the camera did not get warm to the point of shutting off. I will experiment more when the final version is here.
- Rolling shutter looks well controlled in full HD 50/60p, but average in 4K 24p. To be checked in our lab test soon.
- Audio quality is well above what we are use to having in such small cameras when connecting an external microphone.
- Good battery life. Having 3 of those batteries (one in camera and 2 in the handgrip) helped me to shoot throughout the whole working day without a problem.
- The VPB-XT2 handgrip can serve as a very fast battery charger.
Fujifilm X-T2 Cons: (in no particular order)
- The camera together with a standard lens can only accommodate a very short photo tripod plate. Recommendation: use the additional VPB-XT2 handgrip to overcome that problem.
- Using the X-T2 together with the XF 16-55mm f/2,8 and VPB-XT2 handgrip, proved to heavily lean to the left side. On my next test, I will be using the Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 and hope to have a different experience.
- Eyecup is hard and not replaceable. Not so easy to judge exposure during daylight.
The headphones plastic cover on the VPB-XT2 handgrip is extremely hard to open. Patience is the keyword….
- The default setting for the ISO and SHUTTER wheels is “rotation free”. If you push the center lock button, THEN you can’t twist them anymore. To my opinion, the default should have been LOCKED and when pressing the center lock button, then be able to twist the wheels freely.
- Currently “punch-in zoom” in order to verify manual focus is not possible.
- Currently changing ISO values while recording is not possible.
- Currently changing WB while recording is not possible.
- Noticeable aliasing/moiré in some situations while shooting in 4K. In full HD/60p, it is more evident.
LCD/EVF are locked at the last viewing position. In other words, if one starts an interview looking at the picture in the viewfinder and then move away from the camera, the LCD will not turn on.
- Microphone and headphone jacks are located separately, one on the camera body, the other is on the handgrip. One will be forced to buy additional equipment in order to have total control over audio.
- Currently, waveform is not available in video mode
- In the beta camera I had, I could not monitor some of the changes I made in WB or film simulation. I know those are not possible to observe while in the Q menu mode, but I will repeat this test when I get the camera again and see why I couldn’t change it.
- One of my biggest concerns is the highlight roll-off when using the different film simulation modes. It is very easy to over expose the picture. FUJIFILM assured me that the highlight tone / shadow tone is based on a film simulation mode which was previously available only in photo mode, but that will now be available for video. This will help with addressing this phenomenon.
At times, it felt like it takes longer then usual to write the data onto the SD card after stopping the recording, despite the very fast card I had.
- No screen layouts to help with simulating 2,35:1 or any other ratio but 16:9
- Not all photo-related functions in the menu are greyed out. It can be confusing when judging what is available for video mode.
- Although the autofocus algorithm is totally the same, it is rather slow and inconsistent in 24p (as opposed to 60p).
- Dual SD slots are relevant for photo mode only. It would have been nice to see FUJIFILM using both for video too.
- Camera charger shows green light when charging. A bit confusing for the crowd who is used to translate green light as “charged”. As FUJIFILM is following its “illumination one color rules”, maybe the chosen color should be red instead of green (color on meaning charging, color off is battery fully charged, and blinking means battery fault).
For now, I will avoid giving a solid conclusion as the camera I worked with is still in its beta stage. The final version should be on our desk towards the end of August. What I would like to emphasize is that the potential is clearly there, and it is up to FUJIFILM to decide in which direction to go. Also, I do hope that FUJIFILM will decide to implement an in-camera F-log function, although it will be 4:2:0 8 bit only. I’m truly looking forward testing the X-T2 in its final form. Last but not least, as the competition gets tougher and the anticipation for newer models from Panasonic (GH5?) and Canon (EOS 5D mark IV?) gets real, I can only conclude this article with 3 words: “interesting times ahead!”.
Settings for the above video: 4k/24p, Film Simulation– “Pro Neg. Std”. Edited in Adobe Premiere CC latest edition. No color correction was done, but there was a minor change in exposure in a few shots. Audio with Machico-san was recorded in camera.
Many thanks to Machico-san an her beautiful family.