On Flagships: X-T2 and X-Pro2
So you've been following the news, the leaks and now—finally—it's official: the X-T2 is a real, tangible piece of hardware coming to a store near you. Cue G.A.S.
I wasn't part of the beta project this time around but if you're looking for an extensive hands-on review, check out my good friend Kevin Mullin's yet-again-insanely-in-depth take; frankly, he's now making me feel self-conscious about reviews—take it down a notch will you Kev? Geez. My Canadian X comrade Don Craig also has a very nice review of the camera and my buddy Bert Stephani has a video as well. Obviously, tons of content out there.
I should eventually get some hands-on experience but for now, I thought I'd look at the..."philosophical" implications of this release.
When FUJIFILM released the X-Pro1 five years ago, it was immediately labelled as the flagship camera of the fledgling X-series system. But with the release of the X-T1, that title suddenly became unclear: we now had more advanced technology (perfectly normal given how fast the series was being developed) and yet the X-Pro1 still maintained its official flagship status. I remember silly debates around this. I think these were growing pains, a transition period—I'd even go so far as to call it "live brainstorming" to a certain extent. The company was testing the waters in terms of design, features and overall direction.
During a small meeting in NYC in the fall of 2014, some of us were briefed (and questioned) about an eventual X-Pro2 and X-T2 and it was apparent, even in those very early days, that FUJIFILM were getting serious about differentiation between both camera lines. We saw various mockups but also preliminary specs—allhinting at a fork in the road. The final results however, go beyond what I think any of us expected: with the X-Pro2 and the new X-T2 the story is no longer about featuritis or leapfrogging between models: what we have now are two very distinct flagship cameras.
SAME BUT DIFFERENT
At their core, both the X-Pro2 and X-T2 are identical: same 24mp sensor, same X-Trans CMOS III processor etc. In terms of image quality and rendition, they'll be indistinguishable. But the X-T2 pulls away in areas that are defined not by a random addition of features, but by the intended use of the camera itself: this is the workhorse body. It's about versatility and speed...and then more speed. Case in point: the vertical battery grip is dead and we now have a Vertical Power Booster Grip —this isn't just empty rhetoric, the new grip is designed to work in conjunction with the camera not only to extend battery life (although it does, with 2 extra batteries) but also video shooting time, burst rate and EVF refresh rate. In fact when used in boost mode, it'll use all three batteries simultaneously to offer performance tweaks unavailable otherwise. It even includes a headphone jack for video monitoring purposes and doubles as a fast charger. Different beast altogether.
And video is now a serious concern on the X-T2 with 4K capture (higher than 4K actually but standard output), upcoming LUT tables for colour grading, quality HDMI output for monitoring...the list goes on. Most importantly though, there's a new commitment here—and this is only day one, trust me.
With the X-T2 the operative word isn't so much soul as it is performance. A friend in Tokyo said the X-Pros are for the heart, the XTs are for the head; quite an apt way to put it IMHO.
Can this go too far? In certain areas it can. For instance there are no plans to include tethering for the X-Pro2 and I personally think this is a mistake: when tethering became possible on the X-T1, I assumed all cameras going forward would include that option. I was wrong and I'm a bit surprised. I can understand hardware limitations preventing certain features from being included in a specific body, but this one feels odd to me. Overall however, the strategy makes sense: the X-Pro2 is the high performance, low-profile documentary camera; the X-T2 is the technical, extendible playground. Kaizen will take care of bringing some of the new AF improvements to the X-Pro2 this fall.
The way I see it, this is a new beginning— an affirmation actually. The system has matured and can now cater to distinct categories that aren't simply bound to spec sheets and feature lists. I'm sure some will argue that all cameras should offer everything all the time, that the X-Pro2 now feels crippled...I don't see it that way. As Steve Jobs famously said: it's about cars and trucks now. Tethering issues aside, I've come to the conclusion that I'm generally much more of a car guy...although I haven't yet decided what I'm going to do. The good news? We have choice.
The heart or the head.