Thursday, January 19, 2017

FIRST LOOK: FUJIFILM X-T20 review

The new year is off to a great start for Fujifilm! Beside the announcement of the first mirrorless Medium format (GFX), a new 50mm f2 lens, the new rangefinder like X-100F review here), Fujifilm also announced the X-T20 today! 


When the X-T2 (review here) was released 6 months ago, it didn't go unnoticed in the photography community! As of today, a lot of the camera shops are still having the camera on backorder. Personally I believe it is probably the best and most featured camera in the X-series line, as of today. 

Immediately after the announcement of the X-T2, some people started speculating whether the fine people of Fujifilm Japan, would make a scaled down version like they did with the X-T1. This little brother was appropriately called the X-T10. 

Well just after Christmas 2016, a black Fujifilm box from Japan was delivered to my home; courtesy of the great guys of Fujifilm Middle East. Inside I found an all black sample copy of the X-T20!



As I got the camera pre-release, it obviously comes with the usual disclaimer that the image quality and camera firmware might not be final; the hardware did however look pretty close to the final product.


The camera comes in both a silver and black version; personally I find the black which I tested, more stealthy but that is of course a personal choice.

HOW DOES THE X-T20 COMPARE TO X-T10?
Size and weight wise, the camera is very similar to its older brother; for all practical purposes I will call it identical. Weight with SD card and battery is 383gr; significantly lower than the 507gr of the X-T2. 

Externally both cameras look almost identical. Differences at the top are that the drive button now has a video setting (like the X-T2) and that the old video start button has now become a Fn button; a good thing! The Exposure compensation now also has the new C (Custom up to 5 stops) position. 


The back of the camera has virtually the same button layout except for the lack of bottom right Fn button which has moved to the top (old video button position). 


Just like the other newer X-series, it also has a fourth metering mode called center weighted, but the camera does not have a specific metering knob/dial. 


The camera will ship with the newer NP-W126S battery; although it has the same battery capacity (1260mAh), it does manage heat better, which especially is much needed for 4K videoI was easily able to achieve the advertised 350 shots on a single NP-W126S battery; even slightly exceeding it. The older NP-W126 batteries will work just fine with the camera.


The biggest change happened under the hood; as expected the X-T20 has the same 24.3MP X-Trans CMOS III sensor and X processor Pro as the X-T2, X-Pro2 and as of today on the X-100F!





For those of you that don't like the idea of having more megapixels and therefore potentially larger files, the following average file size overview might make you change opinions:


X-T10 with X-Trans II sensor (16Mpx)


  • Fine jpeg 6-8 MB 
  • RAW average 33 MB
X-T20 with X-Trans III sensor (24Mpx)
  • Fine jpeg 11-14 MB
  • RAW Lossless compressed average 23MB
  • RAW Uncompressed average 50 MB
Since the X-Pro2 (and XT2), the RAW Lossless compressed are my new go to RAW files. I personally don't see any loss in image quality when using the lossless compressed files. As always some pixel peepers might think differently but I surely appreciate being able to shoot more pixels in a smaller RAW file package!

While the X-T10 shoots at 3 fps (frames per second) in CL mode and 8fps in CH, its younger brother gives us a few more options; the Drive setting menu allows one to choose between 3,4 and 5fps for CL Low speed burst and 8, 11 and 14fps for CH High speed burst. The last two frame rates being limited to the Electronic Shutter only. 

One of the most important advantages of a mirrorless camera is having an Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) It allows one to see the shot before clicking the shutter. The 0.39 inch EVF is identical to its predecessor; with its 0.62x magnification factor it is less than the 0.77x of the X-T2. The refresh rate remains at 54 fps. Disregarding all the numbers, the EVF is good but clearly not as bright and large as the higher end X-T2 one. 

The camera comes with 
a slightly higher resolution (1040K instead of 920K) 3 inch tilt screen which is now also touchscreen! While the X-70 has three options (OFF, SHOT, FOCUS), the X-T20 has 4; OFF, SHOT, AF and AREA. The last one (AREA) being the new one. It allows to place the focus point on a new area without focusing. 
In playback mode one can zoom in and out (pinch two fingers), double tap to zoom in on the focus point used, drag across the frame when zoomed in and swipe across the screen to view the images.






The number of focus points has been increased from 77 (X-T10) to a staggering 325 (contrast and phase detect). The option to "only" have 91 and move faster across the screen with the D-pad, is available as well. The 169 (13x13) focus points in the center of the frame (40%) are of the better Phase detect system; AF points cover about 85% of the total of the frame; similar to the X-T2.

WHAT IS MISSING COMPARED TO THE X-T2?
While shooting the new camera, one of the first obvious comparisons to the X-T2, is that the EVF (Electronic Viewfinder) is not as bright and large. It is very good and fast enough but once spoiled with the X-T2 EVF, it is really hard to go back.

Not immediately obvious but important if you are an all weather shooter, the X-T20 is not weather sealed


While it has a nice tilt screen (unlike the X-100F and X-Pro2), it isn't a 3-axis tilt screen like on the X-T2; not a big deal but a nice feature to have.


I do highly recommend using a metal hand grip if shooting with the larger lenses such as the XF50-140 and XF100-400. The Metal Hand grip for the X-T10 should work fine on the X-T20; not tested but I've been told my Fujifilm.

The camera does not have a dual memory card slot; more than likely because there is not enough space for it! Like the X-T10, both the battery and memory card live together at the bottom right of the camera.


The tripod mount at the bottom of the camera doesn't sit below the center of the lens, again probably because of lack of space in the bottom section of the body. I
f using a separate camera plate to mount it on a tripod, one will need to remove it in order to access the battery compartment; another reason to invest in a Metal Hand grip!




I've quickly a fan on how the top buttons of the X-T2 are set-up and work. As its smaller brother does not have a dedicated ISO dial, you will have to use one of the function buttons and/or revert to using the Auto ISO function, which by the way does a great job! 


Unfortunately the camera does not have the newer 1/8000s maximum mechanical shutter speed the X-T2 and X-Pro2 have; I guess this is one of the reasons why we pay more money for these cameras... It also doesn't have the great new 
X-T2 (and X-Pro2) "soft shutter sound". Although I no longer have an X-T10 to test it side by side, I suspect the sound is very similar to its older brother. As this camera will make for a great street photographers camera, I'm somewhat disappointed that it is not a bit quieter. Having said that, it is definitively not as loud as a classic clunky DSLR body neither. 



Lets talk buttons and dials: as the new camera has a touchscreen (one of the only things the X-T2 does not have!), the great new joystick at the back is missing. The four way D-pad looks and feels very similar to the X-T10 one. It is definitively not as clumsy to use as the one on the X-T1. 




While the X-T2 is clearly marked as being made in Japan, the little label at the bottom back is missing and small print on the battery cover shows made in China. The camera does might feel a little less sturdy than the X-T2 but does by no means feel plasticky; it clearly is still a quality X-series camera.


AUTO-FOCUS

When the X-T2 came out its excellent auto-focus and more importantly focus tracking functions, rocked the mirrorless boat with its AF-C Custom settingsI was pleasantly surprised that it has pretty much the same functionality since the X-Pro2 does not have it. One difference I noted was that their was no possibility of customising the AF-C settings like in the X-T2 (custom setting 6); only the 5 presets were available to choose from. A specific Fujifilm website explains the details of the new Autofocus system here

As an aviation photographer my ultimate test when it comes to auto-focus tracking, is photographing an airshow with long glass. As there were virtually none in the Northern hemisphere at the time of writing, I wasn't able to fully test it. A quick shoot at a 24hr car race in Dubai with my XF100-400 super telephoto lens, showed very similar results and keeper rates, compared to shooting with the X-T2. A few images below can be found below:



1/1250s, f8,  ISO 1250, with XF100-400 lens


Panning shot, 1/250s, f8,  ISO 200, with XF100-400 lens
Single shot focus feels at snappy as on the X-T2, even in low light as long as the newer lenses are used. Main testing was done with the XF23 and XF35mm f2 lenses.

IMAGE QUALITY 

It's a well documented fact, that the high ISO image quality of the new X-trans CMOS III sensor is at least one stop better than on the previous X-Trans II sensors. Something that we can't take for granted since the megapixels have increased quite a bit and which often leads to less optimal high ISO performance.

I will not hesitate to shoot at ISO 6400 and will increase up to the maximum native ISO of 12800 if needed. Yes, 12800 has some noise which can be easily removed but I actually often leave it in as it gives an more organic look than on the X-Trans II sensors. Below are two images shot right after each other at ISO 12800 and ISO 6400 with no noise reduction in post-editting.




1/60s, 5.6, ISO 12800
1/30s, 5.6, ISO 6400
VIDEO
First of all I'm a still photographer and not a videographer; so no expert video reviews here. The good news is that the X-T20 is able to shoot 4K, at the usual frame rates (29.97, 25, 24, 23.98p) at 100Mbps for about maximum 10 min and 15 min at 36Mbps. As the camera comes with the new NP-W126S battery it should be able to deal better with heat management. 

The LCD touch screen allows "touch to AF" while using the video function and all Fujifilm Film Simulations can be used when shooting video as well. 


SAMPLE IMAGES

At the time of publishing, an external RAW converter was not available for the X-T20 so all images below are in camera jpegs. Most color ones were shot in Classic Chrome, the few Black and White are using the newer Acros Film Simulation. Almost all were shot with the XF23mm f2, a few with the XF35mm f2 and some other good quality glass.

Images can NOT be used for any other means or publication. 






1/250s, f8.0, ISO 500


1/250s, f13, ISO 640


1/250s, f5, ISO 640


1/80s, f4, ISO 6400


1/250s, f6.4, ISO 640


1/250s, f4, ISO 640


1/250s, f4.0, ISO 2500


1/320s, f4, ISO 6400



1/250s, f2.8, ISO 400



1/420s, f5.6 ISO 6400


1/60s, f5.6, ISO 6400


1/200s, f4, ISO 6400


1/200s, f4, ISO 6400
1/1250s, f8, ISO 1250

1/340s, f11, ISO 400



1/160s, f5.6, ISO 6400


CONCLUSIONS
First of all my usual question; "Who is this camera for?". Well I guess the answer is not that straight forward. I see a few main markets; first of all, it is definitively a camera I would recommend to somebody who is either new to photography or to an experienced DSLR user who wants to have a lighter mirrorless camera for travel and street photography.

Secondly, I can see some Pro shooters looking for a back-up body which is cheaper and smaller than their main X-T2 camera. 


Last but not least, I really see the X-T20 as a near perfect "Street Photography camera"; pair it with a 23mm f2 (or 35mm f2 if you prefer) and you pretty much have the perfect fit. Want to go even smaller; throw a 27mm f2.8 pancake lens on it! I especially like the touch LCD for candid street photography. 
Only thing I wish for, is that the shutter would be a little bit more silent.




We tend to think about the X-T20 as a less featured and scaled down version of the X-T2 but it does however also have few things the more expensive body does not have! The LCD touchscreen being the main one, it also has a pop-up flash. The smaller form factor will definitively be appreciated for a lot of travel/street photographers. 


Will I buy it? Today I still have my perfectly fine working X-T1 as a back-up to my X-T2. If I would find a good new owner for it, I will definitively consider picking up an X-T20. Expected launch price is expected to be 899USD.  Overall I do give it a "Recommended" tag!



The above review can be shared on Social media and Blogs without prior approval, as long as credit to Bjorn Moerman PHOTOGRAPHY (www.bjornmoerman.com) is given.  



BJORN



FIRST LOOK: FUJIFILM X-100F review

Today, January 19 2017 is an important day for Fujifilm! Beside the release of the first mirrorless Medium format (GFX), a new 50mm f2 lens, the new X-T20 (review here), Fujifilm also announced the X-100F today!

It is hard to believe it has been 6 years since Fujifilm announced their first X-100 series camera! Today the fourth generation of the X-100 camera, the X-100F (F for Fourth, in case you missed it!) has been announced but lets first have a brief look into the history of the X-100 series...


It wasn't all wine and roses from the early days of the X-100 in 2011! The vintage "rangefinder like" camera, delivered great image quality but its unpredictable auto-focus quickly became somewhat of a running joke amongst pro and serious amateur photographers. 

In 2012, Fujifilm launched the second generation X-100S, giving the camera a complete new X-Trans II sensor and a vastly improved auto-focus system. The X-100S became a go to camera for a lot of Street photographers all over the globe.

The Third release, the X-100T, made a good camera even better; new items such as a higher pixel density LCD screen, a new additional electronic shutter function, classic chrome film simulation mode and the introduction of the Hybrid viewfinder; to name only a few. 

Fujifilm Middle East, was provided me with an early silver "sample" X-100F end of November 2016 for about two weeks. Given the camera was tested well before todays release date, the image quality of the final product (especially jpegs) might vary and the firmware tested was definitively not final. The hardware was pretty much (if not 100%) close to final. 


WHAT IS INHERITED FROM THE X-100T?
The X-100F has kept the same overall form factor and dimensions, which is definitively a good thing. Why change a winning team! With its 469g (16.5oz) it did put on 29g of weight, likely due to the larger battery. 

The number one advantage of using an X-100 series camera compared to an X-Pro2 (even X-T2) is its leaf shutter; being almost completely silent this is great for shooting candids and other stealthy photography. A limitation however is that the maximum mechanical shutter speed, remains at 1/4000s. Needless to say that the Electronic shutter (max 1/32000s) is available if one wants to shoot a shallow depth of field in bright daylight. If shooting moving subjects, it will however come with some possible rolling shutter artifacts.  


Like the original X-100 (and X-100S / X-100T), the camera has a built in 3 stop ND (Neutral Density) filter. 


Beside the great standard Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) it comes with an Optical Viewfinder (OVF) and the newer Hybrid Viewfinder, which was first introduced as on the X-100T. I personally don't actively use the optical viewfinder since the EVF's have become so good. Both the 
0.48inch EVF and OVF specifications seem to be virtually identical to the X-100T except for having a slightly higher refresh rate (60fps i.s.o. 54fps).


The camera comes in both a silver and black version; personally I find the black more stealthy but that is of course a personal choice.

WHAT IS NEW?
The front of the X-100F looks very similar to its 2 and a half year older brother. The most notable change is that a front dial has been added, which can now be set-up as a function button; similar to cameras like the X-T2 and X-Pro2. A minor detail is that the Autofocus LED now sits close to the built in flash.




The backside of the camera has received the biggest update from the hardware point of view. The button configuration is very similar to the X-Pro2; with no buttons on the left, allowing for a much better single hand operation. And yes, it has the new little "joystick" (officially called the focus lever). The Q button has moved more to the righthand side of the camera; leading to occasionally touching it unintentionally. 




The 3 inch LCD is with its 1040K dots, exactly the same as on its predecessor. 

The first thing that stands out on the top of the camera, is the combined Shutter speed and ISO dial; something that was first introduced on the X-Pro2. It seems that photographers can't really agree to love or hate it... Given the camera doesn't ergonomically allow for the extra separate ISO button, it is for me defentively a step forward from the X-100T! I do however find changing the ISO with the combined button, not as quick as on the X-T2. 




The good news for the "combined ISO/Shutter speed dial" haters is that the ISO can also be set with the command dial; one only need to set the ISO on A and then change the Auto ISO to COMMAND from AUTO in the menu to make it work. The Auto ISO allows now for a 1/500s minimum shutter speed from the previous 1/125s; something that is very valuable for street photographers.

The X-100F now takes the new NP-W126(S) batteries; so all of your old NP-95 (X100, X-100S and X-100T) batteries will not fit anymore. On the other hand, the older NP-W126 batteries (X-E1/2, X-T1, X-Pro1/2) will work just fine. 

The camera has the 24.3 MP new X-Trans CMOS III which we first saw on the X-Pro2 and X-T2 last year. To me this sensor size is the sweet spot of the CMOS sensor format. It has the X-processor Pro which provides the camera with much faster writing speeds and a slightly faster focus. As the lens is the same as on the X-100T, we will likely see less of an increase in auto-focus speed compared to for example the X-T10 to X-T20 upgrade. Again, the tested firmware was not final.


For those of you that don't like the idea of having more megapixels and therefore potentially larger files, the following average file size overview might make you change opinions:

X-T10 with X-Trans II sensor (16Mpx)

  • Fine jpeg 6-8 MB 
  • RAW average 33 MB
X-T20 with X-Trans III sensor (24Mpx)
  • Fine jpeg 11-14 MB
  • RAW Lossless compressed average 23MB
  • RAW Uncompressed average 50 MB
Since the X-Pro2 (and XT2), the RAW Lossless compressed are my new go to RAW files. I personally don't see any loss in image quality when using the lossless compressed files. As always some pixel peepers might think differently but I surely appreciate being able to shoot more pixels in a smaller RAW file package!



The number of focus points has seen an dramatic increase from 49 to 325 in the new model; the center 49 are covered with Phase detection points. If you like to work with less focus points, one can also select the 91 option.

Flash shooters have been big fans of leaf shutter cameras for a different reason; they don't have a maximum flash sync speed limitation (1/180 or 1/250s) unlike focal plane shutters, so they can be used with flash at much higher shutter speeds. For more info please refer to this well written article on FujiLove here
Something inherited from its smaller brother, the now discontinued X-70, is the "Digital Teleconverter". When shooting in jpeg only mode, one can shoot in a 35mm (no teleconverter), 50mm and 70mm cropped mode; all of the focal lengths being full frame equivalent. The image output remains a 24MP file, however some pixel interpolation is done in the background to bump up the file to the original resolution. A close look will reveal some degradation of the final image but it is definitively useable and more than just a gimmick. A shame that it doesn't presently (likely never?) work when shooting RAW. 

Another item that we saw on the X-70 was the control ring at the front of the lens element. It can be set-up for different functions such as scrolling through the different Film Simulations, using the Digital Teleconverter and a few more. I tend to stay away from that function as it is very easy to change your settings without realising. I'm sure some photographers will probably be very excited about this feature!  
Unfortunately, at the time of testing, it could not be disabled; something that will likely be sorted in a firmware update.

Last but not least, the beloved Acros Black and White Film Simulation modes from the X-T2 and X-Pro2, can now be found in the X-100F. 



IMAGE QUALITY
When the camera was first rumored some months ago, people were speculating that the lens would be replaced with a new 18.5mm lens (similar to the X-70). It turned out to be not the case which is a good thing as the 35mm full frame equivalent (23mm on the cropped CMOS sensor) is pretty much the gold standard for street photography. Beside the existing 28mm wide-conversion lens (WCL-X100) and 50mm tele-converison lens (TCL-X100) do still work fine with the new camera. There will be a second version of the conversion lenses, which will likely be even better with the new sensor. At the time of publication, I was however not able to test them. 

As the lens is the same as on the X-100T, the same flaws are still evident. Although it focuses at a relative short shooting distance, when shooting wide open (f2 or close to that), the image is very soft; giving it a kind of a dreamy look; some people might even like the artistic effect... To be fair to Fujifilm, they even mention the effect in the X-100 series camera manuals. 



  
Shooting at f4 the effect is completely gone. At a normal focus range (more than 1m/3ft) the lens is very sharp in the center portion of the frame. 


I did some comparison shots with the new 23mm f2 lens on my X-T2, shooting the subject at about 1.5m (just over 4ft) on a sturdy tripod, using all default settings and in-camera jpeg processing. X-100F shots are on the right and these are 1:1 zooms in Lightroom CC.  


f2 ISO 200 1/45s
Center sharpness is very close to the 23mm f2 lens on a X-T2; virtually identical. 


f2 ISO 200 1/45s
Corner sharpness on the X-100F is significantly softer on the edges at f2. Not unexpected as the X-100F lens is still quite a bit more compact than the 23mm f2.

At f5.6 the difference on corner sharpness is still noticeable but much less pronounced. 


As expected, I find the ISO performance on par with the first two as the exact same sensor and image processor are used; I will shoot at ISO 6400 without even questioning it and will increase my ISO to 12800 if needed. The little bit of noise at ISO 12800 has a very organic feel to it and 
if so desired can easily be removed

AUTOFOCUS

First of all this is not an action or sports camera, so the autofocus is definitively a bit slower than the high end X-T2 and as today the brand new X-T20. Although it now has the option of choosing between Single point, Zone and Wide tracking AF modes, it does not have the AF-C Custom settings like the X-T2 and X-T20, but I did use the zone focussing a lot during my street sessions with the camera; a great addition.

Compared to the X-100T, I the Auto-focus is definitively better in single shot. In Continuous Auto-focus the change is less obvious; so overall not a huge jump but noticeable. 
Again, the tested firmware was not final and therefore results might (will) improve at release. Look at how firmware updates have further improved the X-Pro2 auto-focus speed! 

WHAT IS MISSING?
Personally I was hoping for a tilt screen; as the camera is promoted as a "Street Photographers" camera and I personally believe that having a tilt screen for Street Photography is becoming more important; especially in todays world where taking candid images of people becomes a real challenge. I do realize that some photographers might disagree...

The X-Pro2 was released as a weather sealed camera; needless to say I was a bit disappointed that this wasn't the case with the latest X-100 series as a lot of shooters will be using the camera in a wide variety of weather conditions. Speaking to Fujifilm it seems that because the same lens is used as on the X-100T and S, weather sealing was not possible. 


Some photographers (especially pro's) will regret not having a second memory card slot like on the X-T2 and X-Pro2; I suspect the lack of space in the camerabody (especially with the larger battery), the main reason it isn't there.


I strongly believe that the camera should have the option of installing a longer eyecup like the one first seen on the X-T1; unfortunately this will more than likely not be possible due to the design of the present eyecup. Having a more significant eyecup would improve the perceived brightness in the viewfinder by a large factor; especially for all of you wearing glasses.


SAMPLE IMAGES

Images below are in camera jpegs (RAW converter was not available at the time of writing). They are downsized to 2560px/150dpi and can not be used for anything else without prior approval. Please click on the image for a larger view.


ISO 200, f6.4, 1/400s


ISO 250, f6.4, 1/400s


ISO 400, f5.6, 1/125s


ISO 640, f8, 1/125s


ISO 2000, f4, 1/125s


DIGITAL CONVERTER OFF (35mm equivalent focal lenght), ISO 200, f8, 1/25s


DIGITAL CONVERTER 50mm in 35mm equivalent focal length, ISO 200, f8, 1/25s


DIGITAL CONVERTER 70mm in 35mm equivalent focal length, ISO 200, f8, 1/25s


ISO 2000, f5.6, 1/125s


ISO 3200, f4.5, 1/640s


ISO 3200, f2.8, 1/200s
ISO 3200, f4.5, 1/640s


ISO 3200, f4, 1/75s


ISO 400, f10, 0.8s



ISO 500, f2.0 /125s


ISO 200, f2.0 /750s
ISO 3200, f5.6, 1/60s


WITH WIDE CONVERSION LENS WCL-X100, ISO 3200, f5.6, 1/40s

CONCLUSIONS

Who is the camera targeted at? The X-100 series is probably not aimed at somebody starting in photography but rather as a second camera for the serious amateurs or pros. 

Its retro design and overall look will still appeal to a lot of Street Photographers. Beside the good looks, its 35mm equivalent lens and more importantly its very quiet leaf shutter are its two strongest points. Something that none of the other X-series (except X-70) presently offer right now!




Just like the X-E and X-Pro series, the camera has a viewfinder which is mounted on the left hand side; i.e. "Rangefinder like". Left eye shooters like myself, tend have their noses smashed against the LCD. Besides they don't have the benefit of being able to look with the other eye at the scene during the framing, something normal right eye shooters praise the rangefinder cameras for. If you are a left eye shooter you might want to take this into consideration before ordering. Maybe a camera like the X-T20 announced today, will be better for you.

I must say that I'm personally a bit disappointed that the camera is not weather sealed and doesn't have a tilt screen; two of the reasons why I won't likely rush out and buy the camera myself. But then again, I've taken non-weather sealed cameras out in more than just a little bit of rain and they have never given me a problem... 


I'm sure plenty of X-100 series will upgrade, especially the ones that still have an original X-100 or X-100S. Expected retail price is 1299,-USD; the same as the launch price for the X-100T in September 2014 for quite a bit more camera! 

The above review can be shared on Social media and Blogs without prior approval, as long as credit to Bjorn Moerman PHOTOGRAPHY (www.bjornmoerman.com) is given.  



BJORN