by Sebastian Wöber | 3rd October 2016
The Fujifilm X-T2 mirrorless camera is quickly becoming a candidate as the new gold standard in affordable 4K video. But will it be replacing the famous Sony a7S II as the best mirrorless video camera for cinematic shooting? Fujifilm X-T2 – Best Mirrorless Video Quality? Video shooters live in good times. Every few months, a new video shooting mirrorless camera rocks the market and gives us better cinema-like quality and features. Last year, the Sony a7S II quickly became the best mirrorless video camera you could get, with a nice 4K image, numerous useful video features and impressive lowlight performance. Just two weeks ago, the Panasonic GH5 was announced and raised the bar once more with its specs, offering internal 4:2:2 10bit in 4K, though this camera will only see the light of day in 2017. For now, the Fujifilm X-T2 has landed on our desk and stands a serious contender against the Sony a7s II as the new gold standard. Let’s take a look. We recently tested the Fujifilm X-T2 in a documentary style situation (check out our review). Few people expected that this camera would be quite so interesting for both photographers as well as video shooters. This is only Fujifilm’s first attempt at implementing 4K video into one of their mirrorless cameras, yet they got a lot of things right, and even since our review some new features have been implemented via a firmware update: Now you can get extended dynamic range (H-2, S-2) when recording internally. Comparison: Fujifilm X-T2 vs. Sony a7S II Both the Fujfilm X-T2 as well as the Sony a7S II are designed as mirror-less cameras in a photo body. The Fujifilm X-T2 has the Fuji X-Mount and houses an APS-C sized sensor. The Sony a7S II has the Sony E-mount and houses a full-frame sensor. There are fans for both sensor sizes, but in terms of the lens-mount, there are only a few adapters for Fuji right now, while there are many options for Sony E. This could change in the future, if user interest for Fuji X-Mount adapters rises. In our cinema5D Test Lab we have tested and compared many cameras. In this review we will take a closer look at how the Fujifilm X-T2 sensor performs in comparison to the one in the Sony a7S II. Fujifilm X-T2: Max Resolution: 4K UHD Max Framerate 4K: 29.97fps Max Framerate HD: 59.94 Log Gamma: F Log Sensor: Aps-C Mount: Fuji X Codec Bitrate 4K: 105mbit Price: About $1600 Sony a7S II: Max Resolution: 4K UHD Max Framerate 4K: 29.97fps Max Framerate HD: 120fps Log Gamma: Slog2 & Slog3 Sensor: Full-Frame Mount: Sony E Codec Bitrate: 95mbit Price: About $3000 Use the Fujifilm X-T2 with “F Log” The Fujifilm X-T2 has some unique properties, most notably “F Log”, Fujifilm’s very own log gamma setting that creates the most neutral and natural image with the highest dynamic range. Unlike the Sony a7S II which records Slog 2 (or Slog 3) internally, Fujifilm has restricted F Log to external recorders. Why did Fujifilm decide to do that? We actually talked to Jun Watanabe from Fujifilm about this recently, and it seems that they are open to implementing internal F Log should user interest be there (see the whole interview here). Considering that the Fujifilm X-T2 comes at half the price of the Sony a7S II, and how beautiful the X-T2 image is (more on that later), it’s still quite a valid option to connect a $1300 external recorder (eg: Atomos Ninja Flame) to it, in order to get that nice 4:2:2 8bit F Log image in 4K. The Fujifilm XT-2 has a micro hdmi connection to output F Log in 4K to external recorders. Back at the editing desk you will notice that the XT-2 has the same problems when it comes to external recording as the Sony a7S II in Slog2 gamma. In practice, this means you will lose 1 stop of dynamic range unless you find a way to turn those video levels into their proper values. This can be done with our Slog FIX LUT either during recording or in post with no quality loss (Get it here). Flip out lcd monitor on the Fujifilm XT-2 If you use this camera for internal recording only, the X-T2 also offers some very nice film simulations (picture profiles) and still has very good image quality. But if you are dependent on a Log gamma for your post workflow, you will need an external recorder. We hope Fujfilm will include internal F Log in a future firmware update. Dynamic Range A good dynamic range rating allows us to capture a larger range of shadows and highlights in high-contrast scenes. An important property when it comes to evaluating the best mirrorless video camera. We’re testing with a DSC labs XYLA-21 transmissive test chart. For this review we used the Fujifilm 56mm F/1.2 lens instead of the Zeiss 50mm Cp2 macro (more on how we test HERE). Our software measured about 12 stops of usable dynamic range on the Fujifilm X-T2. This is very similar to the rating of the Sony a7S II and Canon C300 mark II. Here’s a screenshot of the dynamic range of a few popular cameras compared. Usable Dynamic Range (SNR 1/0.5) – Blacks adjusted in the chart above for your convenience. 12 stops is very a good rating for a cinema camera. Many videographers today praise the Canon C300 mark II for its dynamic range qualities and when we take a closer look, the Fujifilm X-T2 isn’t far behind. High end cinematic productions still use the Arri ALEXA, as it outperforms all other cameras we have tested with its 14 stops of usable range. Image Quality This is where the Fujifilm X-T2 blows away most other cameras we have tested. The image of the X-T2 is very homogenous, clean and has a high resolution that dissolves lots of detail with a nice filmic grain. In the shot below you can see that the Fujfilm XT-2 offers slightly more detail than the Sony a7S II and seems to have better aliasing properties than both the Canon C300 mark II and Panasonic VariCam 35: Image resolution. 100% crops from 4K images In the star graphic above, the a7S II and X-T2 look very similar. However, when you compare the image detail of other shots of the X-T2 vs a7S II (see below), you quickly see that the Fujifilm X-T2 always produces cleaner and more accurate shots: Image detail. 100% crops from 4K images In practice, of course most users will downscale their images to HD, and for this purpose all mentioned cameras perform admirably. Still, the kind of quality you get out of the Fujfilm X-T2 is impressive and leaves even our beloved Sony a7SII behind. This is also true for internal recordings and certainly makes the XT-2 one of the best mirrorless video camera when it comes to image quality in 4K. The only comparable camera in this field is the wonderful Sony a6300 (see our test here). the a6300 however has strong weaknesses in other areas. Despite the lack of internal F Log, as mentioned earlier, the Fujifilm X-T2 comes with a variety of film simulating picture profiles in-camera. This is a very nice feature that we haven’t seen on any other camera yet. Others do offer “video picture profiles”, but none of them simulate filmic colors and contrast. Here are two different film simulations, recorded internally (105mbit H.264): Fujifilm X-T2 colors. 100% crops from 4K images As you can see image quality is just as impressive for internal recordings as it is when recording external 4K with an Atomos Ninja Assasin, like we did, or any other external 4K recorder. And HD Quality? Image quality in HD is not as impressive as in 4K mode. It is comparable to the Sony a7S II, but unfortunately there is also a lot of aliasing which creates lots of moire artefacts in contrasty image areas. The Sony a7S II performs better there and also offers 120fps, while the X-T2 only reaches 60fps. Below is a shot of the star chart and sieve comparing HD on both cameras: 100% crops of HD image Best Settings for Video on the Fujifilm X-T2 Fujifilm X-T2 Settings Menu Accessible via the “Q” button. Sharpness Sharpness should always be set to -4. Otherwise artificial sharpening is added in-camera and gives you a video-ish look. If needed, you can also add sharpness in post. H-Tone and S-Tone These two settings add a smooth highlight and shadow rolloff and increase the dynamic range of your image when set to -2 and -2. This was recently enabled via a new firmware update. Film Simulation There are several film simulation settings available for in-camera looks. Try them. We liked their “Ns” setting best. All other settings (besides “white balance” which you set as needed) should be left untouched for best results. You should always shoot in 4K and downsample as needed later on, to get the best results. Rolling Shutter The Sony a7S II suffered from severe rolling shutter effect, a phenomenon also referred to as “jello”. Unfortunately, the rolling shutter that we see on most CMOS sensor video cameras is also present on the Fujifilm X-T2, but in comparison it is less pronounced than on the a7S II. Lowlight The Sony a7S II is an absolute miracle when it comes to lowlight performance. In comparison, the Fujifilm can’t reach the same high ISO’s but holds up well until ISO 3200, which is not bad in comparison to other mirrorless video cameras. Unfortunately, beyond that the X-T2 should be used with caution, because there is heavy and visible noise reduction going on that does not even look nice when downsampled to HD. We wish it could be disabled. The following shot compares the Fujifilm X-T2 in F Log (ISO 800) and Sony a7S II in Slog 2 (ISO 1600) at both their base ISO’s and then at higher ISO’s. 100% crop from 4K image The a7S II retains image detail much better up until high ISO’s. This is especially visible in motion. Conclusion If you thought the Fujifilm X-T2 is just another ordinary attempt by a stills manufacturer to implement video as an additional selling point, then you were wrong. This small mirrorless camera shows us how image detail and an organic in-camera look is supposed to be executed and in our opinion brings it into the class of best mirrorless video cameras. The 4K (UHD) image from the Fujfilm X-T2 is nicer and cleaner than that of the Sony a7S II, and outperforms our favourite low cost 4K camera in the rolling shutter test while achieving the same dynamic range rating of 12 usable stops. When it comes to HD quality and frame rates, internal log recording and lowlight, the Sony a7S II still has the upper hand. Considering the availability of E-mount adapters for Sony, available accessories (like the Sony XLR-K2M audio module) and the compatibility of the Slog 2 gamma, the a7S II currently remains our camera of choice and holds the position of best mirrorless video camera. For those interested in the built-in film simulation, outstanding stills camera performance and superb image quality at half the price of the a7S II, the Fujfilm X-T2 should be a clear winner. Whichever you choose, both are outstanding cameras that leave most competition behind. Only the Sony a6300 is another camera you should look at if the budget is tight (see our a6300 review here). We hope this review helped you. Please consider getting your gear from one of our recommended retailers and let us know your thoughts in the comments.Read more
by Johnnie Behiri | 9th August 2016
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). Conclusion: 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. Music supplied by: Art-list – The East Mother by Alon Ohana – Nova Beat, Audiojungle – The Love Angel, Travelling Japan Many thanks to Machico-san an her beautiful family.Read more
by Johnnie Behiri | 1st August 2016
During my recent trip to Japan, I had a chance to visit FUJIFILM HQ and discuss the future of their X camera line, particularly the new X-T2. The talk was centred around the video capabilities of this new camera. Later this week, I will publish my review and a short video that I took with the X-T2. But first things first, and to anyone who is not familiar with the new camera, here is a short summary: As reported by us during early July, Fujifilm announced their first 4K APS-C sensor size mirrorless camera, promising to shake the somehow crowded DSLR/mirrorless camera market with a new filming tool that includes their famous film simulation. In addition, they have added an F-log function for achieving greater dynamic range and maximum flexibility during the color correction stage for anyone who is willing to use and invest in an external recorder. The additional offered VPB-XT2 handgrip will let you enjoy longer recording times in 4K mode (approximately 30 min. instead of 10 min.) and increased continuous recording time with a total of 3 batteries (one in camera plus two in the grip). Last but not least, it allows you to monitor the recorded audio, as the headphone jack is located on that grip. Jun Watanabe presenting the new Fujifilm X-T2 I must say that the people at FUJIFILM were very humble yet confident about their new creation. If you take a moment to look at the interview we did with Jun Watanabe, a manager at FUJIFILM corporation, you will clearly understand that the X-T2 is just the beginning for FUJIFILM when it comes to video-enabled mirrorless cameras. Now that they have acknowledged the need for a video function in their cameras, they will continue to improve and perfect this filming tool. Maybe the biggest news coming out of this interview is the likelihood of a firmware update that allows implementing Fuji’s F-log function in-camera, and not just through recording with an external device. In order to do so, FUJIFILM needs to be assured it is a highly requested feature. I truly urge anyone who watches this interview or reads this article to contribute by writing a short line and let FUJIFILM know it is indeed an important request. Please take into account that, while this implementation is certainly possible, it is still recommended to use the grip and record externally to achieve the highest recorded picture quality: uncompressed 4:2:2 8 bit externally, vs. compressed 4:2:0 8 bit internally. Another matter to point out is the subject of lenses. Apparently, the XF optics are designed by the same team in charge of Fujinon’s professional line of lenses. It is worth pointing out that FUJIFILM will consider expanding their selection of video zoom lenses according to market demand. Other topics discussed in the interview are FUJIFILM’s take on creating tools for professional filmmakers, and an answer to my question if we will ever see a full frame sensor size X camera. Stay tuned for more fresh content about Fuji’s new X-T2 camera, and please don’t forget to raise your voice and ask for in-camera F-log. Many thanks to Jun Watanabe, Kiyoshi Inoue and Fabian Chaundy for helping conducting and translating this interview.Read more
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