It took us about three minutes to fall in love with the Fujifilm X-T1. So when we were shown the Fujifilm X-T2 ahead of its official unveil, it only took about three seconds. For Fuji's latest compact system camera is, perhaps, the most advanced offering we've seen in its field to date - it's certainly gunning to take-down those high-end DSLR cameras with its advanced continuous autofocus options anyway.
Like the X-T1, the X-T2's key sell is not only that it looks retro, cool and charming in its weather-sealed skin, but delivers top-spec features in abundance: from a huge 0.77x magnification electronic viewfinder to its centre (this time the 2.36m-dot OLED panel has a better refresh rate, is twice as bright as before - plus has "Boost mode" options, which we'll come to later), to the comprehensive layout and autofocus system.
Fujfilm X-T2 preview: Enhanced layout
For the X-T sequel the layout has changed a little - but for the better. The dials are now bigger, fuller in both height and reach, with both the dedicated shutter speed and ISO sensitivity dials offering press-to-lock buttons to avoid accidental knocks.
The exposure compensation dial - which like that of the Fujifilm X-Pro2 can cater for +/-3EV or +/-5EV via the custom "C" option - lacks such a lock/release mechanism, though. The only true frustration about the dials are the toggles around them - used to select between drive mode and metering, respectively - being rather squat in terms of height, thus really fiddly to manoeuvre.
But we're being fussy, for everything the X-T2 offers puts it a step ahead of the X-T1. The new model even comes with a 3-directional LCD screen, meaning it can be tilted vertically upwards and downwards or, via the flick of a switch to the screen's side, horizontally to a right angle - which is handy for low-level portrait orientation work.
Thing is, this switch, like those toggles, is also fussy to handle; we'd rather have seen a Pentax-K1-style fully manoeuvrable one instead. Still, Fujifilm's implementation of a 3-directional screen isn't just a first for the company, it's the first time we've seen one - and clever it is too. Chances are you'll typically use it in one direction or another anyway, depending if you're more heavily portrait- or landscape-orientation based when shooting.
Fujfilm X-T2 preview: 4K video shows face
There are other design tweaks too, from the dedicated thumbstick control on the rear (we're desperately keen to call it a "nipple", after overhearing that) used for quickly adjusting autofocus point - there's still no touchscreen option this time around, which we think is just daft - through to the twin SD card slots both being UHS-II compatible.
Extra handy if you intend to shoot 4K video, which Fuji has really got behind this time around (except, oddly, for the total absence of a one-touch movie button like the earlier X-T1). There's full F-Log Gamma options, in among "Quick 4K" which means Film Simulation modes can be used during capture too, for a graded-like result without the need to post-process. There's a 4:2:2 HDMI out for serious shooters looking to capture off-camera, plus 3.5mm headphone and microphone jacks.
Fujfilm X-T2 preview: King of continuous AF
Which leads us onto the more complex and detailed stuff in the X-T2's continuous autofocus settings: this camera is more akin to a high-end DSLR, a la Canon 1D X II or Nikon D5, in the way it sets up its continuous autofocus adjustment. There are options to tweak tracking sensitivity for subjects entering ahead/behind the current subject, speed tracking sensitivity for steady or fast-accelerating/decelerating subjects, and zone area switching to prioritise subjects based on zonal positions.
Phew, confused yet? You needn't be: the camera is setup with five pre-sets and a sixth custom setting so you can do as you please with the controls. Exactly how well it'll work we'll have to wait and see, but with pro photographers on hand at the preview event waxing lyrical about its abilities in sports situations, it's a convincing start.
Fujfilm X-T2 preview: Battery grip enhancements
It's not entirely that simple, however, as the continuous autofocus ability is enhanced considerably with the inclusion of the VPB-XT2 battery grip. Not only does this add an extra two batteries (totalling three) for added longevity, it can also boost burst shooting maximum to 11fps (from 5fps/8fps).
The X-T2 has continuous autofocus that is potentially some six times more capable than the X-T1. As an example, Fujifilm demonstrated how the boost in processing, reduced shooting interval, blackout time and shutter time-lag would free-up more time in a 3fps burst to allow six opportunities to refocus in the X-T2, compared to the X-T1's one opportunity (because of slower processing, and longer interval/blackout/lag times).
As the burst speed increases the number of opportunities for refocus to be possible within a burst are reduced, but Fujifilm still cites that 5fps on the X-T2 is twice as capable as in the X-T1. We're talking accuracy here, as the system has those additional opportunities to refocus on a moving subject.
Sounds a bit confusing, though, doesn't it? Relying on an accessory grip to enhance functionality is a bit of a nonsense, some might think. But Boost mode does also exist in the X-T2 without the grip attached (accessed using the down button on the d-pad). It's used to up the finder refresh rate to 100fps (from 60fps) and maximise burst shooting to 8fps. So if you're not a power user you needn't worry about the grip purchase, which transforms the X-T2 into pretty much a pro-spec DSLR (well, minus the mirror, of course), if that's what you're after.
Fujfilm X-T2 preview: X-Trans CMOS III returns
The remainder of the X-T2's innards will be familiar to any X-Pro2 users: there's the same 24.3-megapixel X-Trans CMOS III sensor, paired with X-Processor Pro, for ultra high-quality images.
READ: Fujifilm X-Pro2 review
We're sold on the X-Trans CMOS III from our experience with the X-Pro2 - read our review for fuller details about how it works compared to a more "standard" sensor - so it's good to see it reappear here.
It is a tweaked sensor, though, with the on-board phase-detection autofocus area increased to 75 per cent vertical and 50 per cent horizontal - up from 40 per cent both directions in the X-T1. That expands the most responsive focus area to ally with the continuous autofocus options, but works a treat for single autofocus too.
However, as we so often say, we'd like to see more detailed single point control - there aren't pinpoint options, like with Panasonic's G-series cameras, nor the kind of group/area options you'll find with advanced DSLR cameras (which the X-T2 very much wants to beat). In dim interior conditions the autofocus felt fine, but not as snappy as we'd have anticipated giving the maker's claims.
All this sounds rather formidable, so what of the just-released Fujifilm X-Pro2? Well, that will receive a firmware boost to improve AF accuracy, enhance battery life and tweak parallax correction precision.
For our money, though, the "Pro" model just doesn't seem as, well, pro - it looks more like the prime lens street snappers' camera, compared to the DSLR-beater that the X-T2 wants to be.
The big question is whether a mirrorless camera such as the X-T2 can lure those DSLR users away from the familiar. It's got the look, it's got the ability, it's got a whole lot going for it.
There's no official price just yet, but we're hoping it will launch at a competitive rate when it arrives in the UK this September. Because the Fujfiilm X-T2 is up there with the most impressive compact system cameras we've seen to date.