A System Guide to Fujifilm X

bythom fujifilm x system

Items on same line indicate model updates. Different lines indicate varying model levels.

Fujifilm was one of the original digital ILC makers, cooperating with Nikon to make a small DSLR-type camera in the 1990’s, then eventually making their own DSLRs based on Nikon film bodies (S1 Pro, S2 Pro, S3 Pro, S5 Pro) with special Fujifilm-designed sensors, but using Nikon F-mount lenses.

Fujifilm left the ILC business sometime in the 2007-2008 time period, then returned with APS-C mirrorless cameras instead of DSLRs in 2012. Since 2012, Fujifilm has been been fairly rapidly iterating models in their mirrorless lineup, which uses Fujifilm X lenses.

For crop sensor models, there are basically five lines:

  • The dual-viewfinder X-Pro models, which feature both optical and EVF viewfinder options (via an ingenious design controlled by a mechanical switch).
  • The DSLR-like X-T models, with a big, bright, fast EVF. This seems to be where most of Fujifilm’s design activity begins for all models, as focus and other systems seem to originate in this model and then get spread to the other models.
  • The X-E models, which are a more rangefinder style camera, but with a built-in EVF.
  • A range of lower-priced rangefinder-style cameras that rely on the rear LCD to compose: X-M and X-A.

The first two lines are very “retro” in control design, the latter two are more modern compact-camera style in controls. The middle line is somewhere in between, though closer to the retro designs than compact.

The original models were all 16mp using Fujifilm’s special X-Trans sensor filtration on a Sony-made APS-C Exmor sensor (crop factor of 1.5x). The current models are now either 24mp or due to be iterated to 24mp, and still APS-C. The X-Trans sensor filtration is a little controversial. Fujifilm originally claimed it was moire-free (it isn’t). But because it isn’t the very symmetrical Bayer filtration, raw converters seem to have a little more trouble keeping low level artifacts from creeping in, especially fine detail that has colors slanted towards red or blue.

Fujifilm’s ISO choices tend to be overstated for actual light levels. Similar Sony-based sensors tend to produce the same exposure at nearly twice the ISO level as Fujifilm, so be careful of comparing “ISO 3200 with ISO 3200” across brands other than Fujifilm.

Personally, the X-T2 model is the clear flagship of the Fujifilm lineup, and the most traditional of all their cameras. It’s my choice of Fujifilm X models at the moment, and clearly so.

In terms of lenses, Fujifilm was highly active the first two years, with five lenses in 2012 and six in 2013. We got four lenses in 2014, six again in 2015, but only two in 2016. At this point, Fujifilm has a strong basic lens set, with the following choices:

  • Primes: 14mm f/2.8, 16mm f/1.4, 18mm f/2, 23mm f/1.4, 23mm f/2, 27mm f/2.8, 35mm f/1.4, 35mm f/2, 56mm f/1.2, 60mm f/2.4 macro, 90mm f/2
  • Zooms: 10-24mm f/4, 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6, 16-55mm f/2.8, 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6, 50-140mm f/2.8, 50-230mm f/4.5-6.7, 55-200mm f/3.4-4.8, 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6

In the above list, my favorite—and I believe best—Fujifilm lenses are in bold. That’s not to say the others are bad lenses, but each of the non-bolded lenses have something about them I find a little less satisfying than the others. The 60mm f/2.4 macro, for instance, is very sharp, but focuses more slowly than most of the others.

If Fujifilm has a weakness in lenses, it tends to be in the zooms. The variable aperture zooms, in particular, are the weakest optically of the Fujifilm X lens set. The prime lens set is very strong overall, and gives you 21mm, 24mm, 28mm, 35mm, 52mm, 84mm, 90mm, and 135mm options: basically a very wide to moderate telephoto choice.

More recently, Fujifilm announced a second mirrorless line, the GXF. This product is scheduled to ship in 2017, and is a medium format mirrorless product patterned on the X-T2 design I prefer in their lineup. The crop factor for the GXF is 0.79x (compared to the old 35mm film full frame).

This brings up a point that Fujifilm made: Canon, Nikon, Pentax, and Sony all have multiple sensor formats. Most of those are APS and full frame (Nikon adds 1”). APS and full frame are about a stop apart in performance, all else equal. Fujifilm regarded that as not enough differential. That’s why the GFX is a small medium format, basically two stops removed from the X system in performance, all else equal.

The lens set for the GXF looks like it will be (still basically unannounced, though):

  • 23mm f/4
  • 45mm f/2.8
  • 63mm f/2.8
  • 110mm f/2
  • 120mm f/4 macro
  • 32-64mm f/4
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