Articles Tagged with: review
Fujifilm X-T2 Review

First Impressions of Fujifilm’s X-T2

I love new gadgets, especially the latest camera equipment. Over the past decade I’ve owned various cameras, which has given me the opportunity to understand what I want, need and dislike about many of them. I have found that there’s no ‘magic camera’, and there will always be room for improvement. The perfect balance for me is finding the camera that’s lightweight for travel, works how I need it to work, and has a few bonus features thrown in to keep me satisfied. Am I asking too much?

Physically, the X-T2 is very similar to the X-T1. I know looks aren’t everything, and it probably shouldn’t determine whether it’s a suitable camera or not, but it does have a classic look and feel to it that I really like. For years I shot primarily with DSLRs and recently added a Fujifilm X100S to my arsenal, which has become my go to camera for travel and street photography. When I saw the specs of the X-T2, I knew Fujifilm had taken a good long look at their rivals, and have made serious attempts to offer a camera similar in performance to a DSLR, wrapped in a more compact body.

On the surface, the shutter speed and ISO dials have been refined and improved with the inclusion of click and declick locks. This really helps avoid accidently knocking the dials during use. Fujifilm have also added photometry functions to the base of the shutter dial, leaving the left hand ISO dial to select drive modes. The X-T2 now shoots 4K video, a first in the x-series, with the video function set on the left hand dial. It’s a nice placement, allowing for easy switching between stills and video. There are also plenty of function buttons (Fn) to allow complete customisation, all of which make it easy to setup an ergonomic workflow.

In the hand, the X-T2 feels solid and water resistant. On the left hand side of the body you’ll find an HDMI port, USB port and a mic jack, which videographers will appreciate. With its dual SD card slots and a redesigned locking door hinge, you’ll be left in doubt how serious this camera is.

I like that Fujifilm have added a joystick/lever that can be used to set focus point similar to what can be found on high-end DSLRs – your days of using the focus assist button are over. Browsing the menus is a breeze using the joystick, as well as playing back images on the LCD.

Speaking of the LCD, one of the biggest improvements is the 3-axis tilt screen, giving both landscape and horizontal orientations. This makes shooting from the hip responsive and really helps you nail the shot. There’s also a new EVF (electronic viewfinder) with a refresh rate of 60fps in normal mode and a whopping 100fps in boost mode with the new booster grip installed (more on that later). I didn’t notice any lag – it feels very smooth. The EVF performs exceptionally well in low light even manual focusing with the split focus screen. It’s responsive with barely any suppression between shots, which some X-T1 users have mentioned.Battery life and speed is where the X-T2 shines with the addition of the new booster grip. As mentioned earlier, you’ll get a refresh rate of 100fps with continuous bursts at 7fps when using the mechanical shutter, and 14fps with the electronic shutter. Attach the grip and you’ll get an astonishing 11fps with the mechanical shutter. I have no hesitation shooting all day with the grip installed – goodbye spare batteries!

Inside, image quality is superb with the same 24.3MP sensor as the X-Pro2, producing a crisp resolution of 6000 x 4000px. The dynamic range is impressive, allowing you to really push the shadow/highlight detail without the need to bracket exposure – perfect for landscapes when you don’t want to use graduated ND filters. You will of course still have to watch your histogram, as it does still have limitations to how much information can be recovered in the highlights, but it’s very impressive. High ISO is clean; I had no issues shooting ISO 6400 at night.

The most significant upgrade of all is the Autofocus, an outstanding 325 AF points, with 49 being phase detection. Auto focus is important for my travel and street photography, so it’s critical that my camera nails focus at least 98% of the time. AF is accurate and fast; even in low light it locks focus quickly. In AF-C mode you now have various profiles with three simple parameters: Tracking sensitivity, speed tracking sensitivity and zone area switching. It means you can make your own adjustments to fine tune AF for any situation, which is really useful.

Inside, image quality is superb with the same 24.3MP sensor as the X-Pro2, producing a crisp resolution of 6000 x 4000px. The dynamic range is impressive, allowing you to really push the shadow/highlight detail without the need to bracket exposure – perfect for landscapes when you don’t want to use graduated ND filters. You will of course still have to watch your histogram, as it does still have limitations to how much information can be recovered in the highlights, but it’s very impressive. High ISO is clean; I had no issues shooting ISO 6400 at night.

 

My Personal Rating

Handling (5 stars)
The X-T2 is one fine piece of kit featuring Fujifilm’s classic stylish looks: it’s sure to be a conversation starter. The body feels pro and it responds like a pro body. I had no need to read the manual everything works as you’d expect it to. The buttons and controls are positioned for ease of use, I had no problem adjusting the settings during mid-shoot, although I did find the exposure compensation dial a little awkward at times. I prefer the exposure compensation dial on the X-Pro1, with the slight indentation for my thumb. That aside, the menu was simple to navigate. The new joystick made AF selection quick and simple.

Features (4 1/2 stars)
With an abundance of features the X-T2 packs a punch. The EVF has been improved substantially, making it more adaptable when shooting fast paced subjects or photographing in difficult lighting. AF-C settings strengthen AF performance. If you shoot video you will appreciate having 4K video, I tried it briefly and it worked well. I did miss not having a built-in ND filter like the X100S; I found the ND useful for landscapes, but this is easily overcome by purchasing ND filters. Like all Fujifilm cameras the X-T2 has film simulation with my favourite being Classic Chrome, a perfect all rounder.

Exposure (5 stars)
Adjusting exposure is simple with a dedicated shutter dial on the top of the camera. Auto exposure is accurate 99% of the time. I shot mostly with the exposure set to ‘A’ mode and set my aperture accordingly. Auto white balance was also accurate. No complaints here.

Image Quality (4 1/2 stars)
Images are sharp even at 100%, and it handles high ISO surprisingly well. I found I was able to achieve clean results up to ISO 12800. The Classic Chrome film simulation for people photography is absolutely gorgeous. I did find the images a little contrasty when shooting landscapes, however I was able to adjust this in Lightroom. Dynamic range is really impressive, allowing me to really push the shadow details to obtain a natural looking HDR. I do feel it performs better shooting people than it does landscapes, but it did a very nice job overall.

Value For Money (5 stars)
In the world of mirrorless APS-C, I feel there’s no other camera that compares to the Fujifilm X-T2.

This review was originally published inside Australian Photography magazine, and shared with consent on my blog. 

Sleeklens Landscape Adventure Collection Review

In this blog post I’d like to introduce and review of some new actions I’ve been playing with from Sleeklens. I was contacted by Sleeklens, who were interested in having me use and review their actions. It was perfect timing because I was on the market for some new editing tools, so of course I said yes.

As a travel photographer I’m dedicated to capturing stunning landscapes and portraying them in their finest form. Sometimes the photos require a bit more ‘punch’ to really bring the environment to life, therefore I use post-processing as a method of enhancing a photograph. I take pride in keeping my editing to the basics, usually with a minimal amount of editing applied to an image. I favour a natural processing, editing that brings out the atmosphere of a place rather than altering it completely in post.

One of my favourite ways of working on my images is by implementing various actions, presets and other editing filters in Adobe Lightroom/Photoshop. Not only does this speed up the process, it also means my images have consistency to help give my work distinctive style or feeling. Seeing as I’m trying these new actions I wanted to really see how far I could push the image files, so the processing may be slightly more ‘overdone’ than my usual editing. Nonetheless, this really shows how to drastically improve your pictures with a few quick clicks using Sleeklens ‘Landscape Adventure Collection’.

Sleeklens was founded in 2015 by the current CEO and CoFounder Daniel Chabert. He started Sleeklens after being dissatisfied with the quality of products on the market. He would often end up with Lightroom or Photoshop products that were designed to be a “quick-fix” or an “all-in-one” solution. You will find no such products at Sleeklens. Their goal is to provide a product that works “with” you, not “for” you. This statement was what intrigued me to try their actions to see what it’s all about, and I must say I’m quite impressed so far.

At Sleeklens they understand that some photographers are just starting out in the big world of post-processing. This is why they ensure that all their products suitable for all photographers, no matter what level of experience. Their easy to follow instructional video helps explain, step by step, how to install each set of actions/presets. In addition, their actions include instructions on how to install and use each effect, which are delivered straight to your email in ZIP files after you’ve made your purchase. Brilliant service!

Before/After Edits

Drag arrows back and forth to reveal before/after

The magical dusty plains of Bagan is a truly inspirational place for landscape photography. The best time to shoot is early morning and late afternoon during golden hour. This can be challenging especially when shooting straight into the setting sun. Most of my images were underexposed for the highlights, which meant a loss in shadow detail. Fortunately the Canon 6D has decent dynamic range that aided in bringing back the detail in the foreground. The ‘before’ image is the RAW file straight out of camera with the ‘after’ being the final edit using Sleeklens ‘Landscape Adventure Collection’. Below are the adjustments applied using the actions.

  • Applied ‘Detail Enhancer’ at 20% to brighten highlights in foreground trees

  • Applied ‘Digital Speciality’ to entire image at 30% to add more detail to shadows

  • Applied ‘Warm Temperature’ at 20% to give the image a warmer tone

  • Applied ‘Base Clarity’ at 50% to entire image

  • Applied ‘ALL IN One Soft Golden Hour’ at 10% to entire image

  • Applied ‘Base Morning Light’ at 60% to entire image

Lush green Gondwana Rainforest in Dorrigo World Heritage National Park, the ultimate jungle environment for landscape photography. I’ve spent countless hours exploring the many tracks and hidden gems beneath the canopy, always finding something new to inspire me to shoot. Shooting in the forest can be overwhelming, mostly due to it being cluttered with detail and often patchy light resulting in underexposed shadows or blown highlights. By visiting on a rainy overcast day I was able to eliminate those hurdles to capture an image rich in detail, colour and interest. Below I’ve listed the adjustments I applied utilising Sleeklens ‘Landscape Adventure Collection’.

  • Applied ‘Detail Enhancer’ at 10% to lighten shadows

  • Applied ‘Base Clarity’ at 20% to entire image

  • Applied ‘Exposure Contrast’ at 10% to entire image

  • Applied ‘Speciality Dreamy Landscape’ at 30% to add slight glow to foliage

Aerial photography opens up many new opportunities to capture the landscape from a different perspective from what most people would normally see. One of the troubles I’ve faced with my DJI Phantom 4, is that the still image quality isn’t exactly amazing. I’ve found the images require a fair amount of editing to really make them jump off the screen. This edit was probably my most drastic using the Sleeklens ‘Landscape Adventure Collection’. As you can see I’ve transformed the entire atmosphere using the action set – just brilliant the possibilities!

  • Applied ‘Base Clarity’ globally to entire image

  • Applied ‘Exposure Contrast’ at 30% opacity entire image

  • Applied ‘Tone Warm Highlights’ 50% to entire image 

  • Applied ‘Tone Colour Pop’ at 10% to entire image

  • Burnt in shadows selectively to add contrast to shadow areas (using Photoshops dodge/burn tool)

  • Applied Orton effect at %10 to trees to slightly soften details 

Conclusion

My overall thoughts

After trying the different actions included with the Sleeklens ‘Landscape Adventure Collection’, I can confidently say that I’ll continue using these tools to enhance my landscape photography. I particuarly liked how the ‘Detail Enhancer’ action dramatically increased detail in the shadows without being too heavy HDR – I can see myself using this for almost all my landscape images whenever I need to bring out lost details.

Overall, I think Sleeklens have compiled a solid list of tools to help photographers of all levels liven their images. There’s really something for everyone depending on your shooting style. Whats not to like? I’ve tried various action sets online and very rarely have I been satisfied with the result. Most are tacky Instagram styled filters, vignettes and horrible flares that don’t look pleasant. Sleeklens seem to understand what photographers want and deliver just that in a clean and intuitive package – win win.

Anyway, I’ll share more before/after samples in the coming weeks after I have had more time to try more features.

Enjoy!