It was whilst preparing for my trip to Washington and Oregon earlier this year that I began to question whether my DSLR setup was really the best choice for travelling.
Somewhere along the way I have become tired of having to lug a full DSLR kit and lenses for the easier hikes or strolling around a city. I consider myself fairly disciplined with my gear but I favour primes and don’t use a mid-range zoom, so it’s not a setup designed with convenience in mind.
This is not a problem when I’m doing dedicated landscape photography in a particular location but when the scenery is constantly changing, I have come to accept that a little flexibility is very helpful.
So I started to look for an alternative; not a replacement for my DSLR but a complementing camera that would provide high IQ with greater convenience and less weight.
I picked the Fuji XT-2 and here are my thoughts on why it is the best travel camera I have ever used.
For travelling, it has to be mirrorless
Given my priorities for weight and flexibility, going mirrorless was a logical choice. I didn’t see any point getting another DSLR for marginal gains. I already own a Fuji X100S and didn’t want to invest in yet another system so the choice narrowed to Fuji and Nikon’s offerings.
I ruled out the Fuji X-Pro series and X-H1 for being too heavy and large. The XT-3 was already out in May 2019 but I couldn’t see any major differences in specs between this and the cheaper XT-2.
Nikon had also recently announced the Z6 – their first mirrorless camera – which was seriously tempting, but is nearly 200g heavier than the XT-2. Plus I am always wary of purchasing the first iteration of any camera in a line-up.
With all that in mind, my path led me to the Fuji XT-2 and 18-55mm lens.
So what is there to like?
If you have used a Fuji mirrorless camera you will not need me to explain. All I will say is that they just feel great. The dedicated dials. The look. The simplicity. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: they make me feel connected to the process of taking photographs. You feel truly in control of the output.
With the 18-55mm f/2.8-4 lens attached it comes in at around 800g which is slightly lighter than the body of my D750 alone. It is perfect for hiking – the kind of camera I can sling around my neck for a day-hike without a second thought and still offering sufficient IQ to take a worthy shot at the end.
The zoom range is great for my needs. In a perfect world I would like it to go a little wider and the 16-55mm was tempting, but is also much heavier. Nevertheless, having the option to go from 24mm to 50mm to 85mm equivalents – my favourite focal lengths – with a turn of the ring is so refreshing to someone who has three Nikon primes for exactly the same job.
An electronic viewfinder is one of the big advantages of mirrorless cameras but especially so when it comes to using filters. I took the XT-2 to Glen Coe and the Lake District in September and used a mix of 3, 6 and 10-stop ND filters. Being able to see the impact of each immediately in the viewfinder makes working a scene that much quicker, which is a huge benefit when the light is changing quickly.
And finally it is discreet. Walking around Portland, Seattle or indeed any major city with a DSLR slung around your neck makes you feel conspicuous. The XT-2 is more subtle and blends in with the environment.
I always try to balance my reviews with critiques but I have to confess I found this a challenge with the XT-2. As with most mirrorless cameras the battery life could be improved. With regular use I couldn’t get a full day of shooting off one charge so I'd always recommend buying a second battery to ensure you can shoot uninterrupted.
The other point to address is that the X-T2 has an APS-C sensor. A few years back I might have been more wary of ‘downgrading’ from a full-frame DSLR to a cropped sensor. But times have changed and the reality is that the IQ of even the most entry-level cameras is excellent. I can only speak to my own needs but based on IQ alone, I think the distinction between the two systems is sufficiently minor for it not to be a concern. This has proven true when editing the images I’ve shot.
Oh – one practical gripe: the filter size of the 18-55mm is an annoying 58mm which means that none of my filters fit. I’ve had to purchase a ridiculous 58-77mm step-up ring which makes it impossible to fit the lens cap or lens hood, but it is the best compromise I can find.
It makes me photograph more
The XT-2 is not going to replace my D750. When I need ultimate image quality in a controlled environment I will always choose the DSLR. It is my workhorse for portrait and branding shoots. And also for landscape photography when I have more time to dedicate to a scene or need to shoot wider than a cropped sensor will allow (which is, to be fair, quite often).
But for day hikes, scouting trips, street photography, and just about any other scenario when I am not thinking about clients or how it will look printed and hanging on my wall, I have a feeling that the XT-2 will become my first choice.
However, perhaps more importantly than anything else, since I bought the XT-2 I have taken a camera out with me more often. Walks to the woods, heading into London, local day trips – all instances where I previously might have thought twice about taking my DSLR I now have no hesitation in taking my XT-2.
And any camera that helps get you out shooting more has got to be a winner in my book.
Do you use the XT-2? I’d love to hear your thoughts below!