Back in 2013 I posted some motorsport pictures on a few forums taken with an X-E1 and 55-200mm and got a pretty amazing response; at that time (shortly after the 55-200mm release) hardly anyone had considered Fuji gear for anything remotely ‘sporty’. Fast forward a few years and whilst it’s still not exactly widespread, plenty of photographers around the world are using Fuji X gear for pretty much every style of photography you can think of, including plenty of pros. A few of my ‘pre X-T2’ motorsport photos can be found below…
The X-T1 was the first major step on the path towards mainstream acceptance, but the X-T2 seems to have really captured the imagination of photographers traditionally welded to their CaNikons. I’ve run various Fuji bodies alongside my Nikon gear for a few years now, but the arrival of the X-T2 marks the start of me going ‘Full Fuji’, with all the Nikon kit now having gone.
I arrived with the Fuji X-T2, an X-T10, Fuji 23mm 1.4 and 100-400mm f4.5-5.6. Current security concerns in the UK meant lengthy bag checks, so I ditched the idea of a bag (and the 56mm 1.2) and slung my cameras over my neck so I could join the speedy ‘no bag’ queue, unthinkable with my previous Nikon gear. My FoS day is a long and tiring one (4am to 8pm door to door) so any weight savings are welcome, but a near 2kg decrease in weight is huge and very noticeable.
I started as always in the various paddocks, X-T10 and 23mm 1.4 in hand. Having full autofocus functionality through the tilting LCD screen completely changed my approach and made things so much quicker and easier. The light wasn’t a patch on the previous year so I had to work a bit harder to find some interesting angles, but the 23mm performed well and shooting wide open was a breeze with the X-T10 Electronic Shutter kicking in if it ever got too bright.
With the paddock done I made my way up the hill, but not before stopping for a few minutes mid-way up to test the head-on capabilities of the X-T2. Panning is pretty straightforward for any AF system, but head-on stuff is where previously many mirrorless cameras have fallen down. It’s worth noting that these are genuinely the first frames I’d ever shot with an X-T2, I’d only managed to unbox it the night before.
As is always the case with a new camera, I go in with an open mind and good intentions regarding the fancy AF tracking abilities…before quickly returning to good ol’ single point continuous AF (even with the D750, which has excellent tracking ability). The X-T2 was no different. Zone AF actually appeared to be working fine, green boxes flying all around the frame as the cars approached, the early shots that I took with it all came out perfectly sharp. However, it didn’t seem to be offering any particular benefit over single point and removed precise AF control from my hands (plus boxes flying around really annoy me). I’m sure for smaller objects it has a use, but for larger objects like cars the standard single point setting was more than capable of locking and hanging on with no bother.
At the top of the hill I like to shoot into the dark tree canopy as the cars appear from a hidden corner. In previous years this has offered up some nice dappled light and patches of sunlight to play around with. This year it was just plain dark, but I figured that would be another good test…
The D750 was pretty remarkable in these circumstances, hit after hit after hit. The X-T2 was, to my surprise, not far short of that. It would occasionally lose its way and take a second to lock back on, but those situations were few and far between, I had far more hits than misses overall.
Finally, my favourite hobby: panning. As expected the X-T2 coped perfectly with this, but then most cameras do. The real benefit came from the refresh rate of the EVF in boost mode, it’s a subtle difference but it is a difference, the entire experience is smoother and I can’t recall ever even thinking about viewfinder blackout, which was very noticeable in previous bodies.
To mix things up a little I spent a bit of time at a location where the cars/bikes appear suddenly from behind a wall going at a pretty decent pace. This is a challenge (for the camera and operator) and one that previous Fuji bodies have struggled with. The X-T2 nailed it.
Before heading off I had one more test in mind: panning through a crowd of people. One of the new AF-C custom settings (option 2: “Ignore Objects...”) aims to keep a subject in focus even if it moves behind obstructions etc, I was apprehensive to say the least, especially given my subjects were partially obscured by straw bales as it was. Remarkably I had a 100% hit rate with these, rather than the focus motor jumping all over the place to try and figure out what was going on, it just locked and ignored everything else going on. Very impressive and I think the results speak for themselves.
It’s worth mentioning I’m very much a single shot kinda guy so for the vast majority of the day I left the X-T2 in ‘CL’ mode (Continuous Low Speed) with that configured at 3fps. For testing purposes I tinkered with Continuous High for a brief period, which is just staggeringly fast. I shoot compressed RAW but only had UHS-I cards (Sandisk Ultra) to hand, interestingly the buffer was holding me up way before I would have expected it to. Presumably it’s therefore worth investing in fast UHS-II cards if you’re going to be hammering the shutter at full speed.
I guess battery life is worth a mention as I know there is some serious ‘range anxiety’ with mirrorless cameras. I’ve regularly had around 2000 shots out of a single standard X-T10 battery (not a typo, two thousand) when shooting motorsport so I had no concerns with regards to battery life. I fired off 2600 frames with the X-T2, always in boost mode, frequently reviewing images in the EVF and converting/transferring a couple images per hour throughout the day. It fully discharged one battery and ran down the other two around to around 40-50% (in boost mode it draws power from two batteries). CIPA ratings be damned!
A brief word also about the Vertical Power Booster Grip whilst we’re at it, this thing is actual magic. Grips rarely justify their ridiculous cost but this one just about manages it. 3 batteries + an overall speed boost + in-grip charging + extra buttons = magic. It also manages to feel like part of the camera rather than an extension of it. The increase in refresh rate is subtle but really welcome for fast moving motorsport.
Overall? Thrilled, hopefully the results speak for themselves. In fairness to the X-T1, it was and remains good enough and perfectly usable for motorsport. The X-T2 just notches it up a few levels and really comes into its own in challenging situations.