If 2016 has made one thing very clear it’s that not everyone agrees with one another about what is logically sound. Indeed there’s been a considerable trend towards questioning the very value of expertise and facts. So perhaps it’s fitting that my camera of the year wasn’t chosen with the logical, dispassionate approach that is often necessary for my job.
I just chose the one I enjoyed the most.
If technical capability alone were my primary consideration, the Nikon D500 makes a strong case. Its autofocus is jaw-dropping, even compared with top-end sports cameras and its ergonomics are amongst the best I’ve encountered. The Sony a6300 is technically impressive, too, and I loved the video footage I got out of it (though it helped that I shot a series of short clips, so never encountered the temperature limitations that have got parts of the Internet so hot and bothered).
But my product of the year is, without question, the Fujifilm X-T2. Not because it’s unquestionably better (it isn’t), but because it’s the camera the most made me want to get out and shoot, this year.
Completing the picture
Maybe it’s a question of delayed gratification. I loved a lot about the X-Pro2 when I reviewed it at the beginning of the year, not least the image quality. I also really enjoyed shooting on a system with a good range of prime lenses for the APS-C format, rather than one that, through omission, tries to push me into buying a different format.
But that experience didn’t prepare me for just how good the X-T2 was going to be. Looking back, the X-Pro2 gave hints at the video and autofocus improvements Fujifilm had made, but the full impact didn’t really hit me until I got to spend some time shooting with the X-T2, which gives a little more control and flexibility to both.
With the X-T2 it feels like all the pieces have come together: a camera that captures beautiful color with ergonomics I enjoy that can shoot pretty much anything I point it at, without me ever feeling I’m working around its shortcomings. And, as a bonus, that will produce excellent footage when I come up with an idea for a short film, rather than a series of stills. Having something like that sitting in your desk is tremendous encouragement to go out and shoot.
Projects like this video, for instance, shot by some friends and I using the X-T2, battery grip and BlackMagic Video Assist:
Parts of the video were shot in F-Log and graded with the help of the color correction profile (LUT) that the company provides, which gives a hint about how much thought has gone into the T2’s video capabilities. The battery grip improves the battery/heat management for video shooting, though in near 0°C (32°F) conditions, overheating was the least of our problems. I’ll admit that I like the camera less if I have to operate it with gloves on.
A question of style
And, before you think I’ve just been bewitched by the X-T2’s retro looks and handling, I should make clear that, while I think it’s an attractive camera, my reason for enjoying the X-T2 isn’t that I believe camera ergonomics reached their zenith in 1987. For instance I don’t, personally, find the dedicated shutter speed dial especially useful: locking it to ‘A’ for most stills shooting and having to set to 1/60th then spin the rear dial one notch to shoot video at 1/50th of a second.
However, between the AF point joystick, large, well-placed exposure comp dial, lenses with aperture rings and enough custom buttons to give me access to the settings I change most often, I find the X-T2 as quick and easy to use as the most polished contemporary DSLR. Not inherently better, but similarly good, for the way I shoot. And yes, this is all about me.
It’s such a truism that I’m sure I’ve said it before: having a camera you know will give you the results you want can be an inspiration. The X-T2 is not cheap, by any means. Even as an occasional video shooter, I’d also need to shell-out for the battery grip, so the costs would add up pretty quickly. But, if I had to put my hand in my pocket and buy one camera tomorrow, this would be it.
And, as we enter the last week of our loan period, the X-T2 is the camera I’m least looking forward to shipping back. I’ll miss it, and I’ll miss the encouragement that it’s given me. Merry bloody Christmas.