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Mini-me and the Beast

Jul 18, 2018

Last year when I sold off my Canon equipment and went all mirrorless, switching to Fuji, I was stuck for a full year without a decent backup camera – or second body for those special needs. This posting is a little break to do a quick review of my solution to that problem and post more information on my upcoming program on Easter Island at the Opera House.

I’ll preface my review with a short defense of my rather exhuberant review. When I shed my actually pretty awesome Canon equipment and switched to Fuji, I found myself picking up my camera much more often, carrying it around when I didn’t need it, never putting it away in the bag and occasionally actually fondling it. Photography is fun again, more fun than it has been since my last film camera. At first I expected that I was alone in this, but have since learned that this is not an uncommon response to the Fuji system.

FUJI X-T20 Quick Review

(Review ranking: a sigh of relief, two chuckles and three fist pumps)

     I finally managet to adopt us a little used Fuji X-T20 to serve as a second camera body, backup and something for Nan to shoot. This is really going to be an asset – pictured above is my beast and thenew/used mini-me. I've had it just 48 hours at this point and have a number of observations – most of them GOOD. Above, the X-T20 has the 18-55 (27-84 equiv.) zoom on it while the X-T2 sports the considerably larger 55-200 (84-305 equiv.

1– Half the size and weight of my X-T2. I've ordered a little grip to bulk it up a tad.

2– Does the more important 90% of what the X-T2 does at half the price.

3- Takes the same lenses, batteries, cards, etc. as the X-T2

4– Has the same 24 megapixel sensor, a tilt view screen plus eyepiece (and even a little built-in flash), shoots 4K video and has a couple of neat things that are missing on my X-T2 - like a super-auto switch that overrides more user-controlling settings.

5– But the big plus for this thing is in design and menus. It's like Fuji decided to do something better than anyone I've found – make one of these modern, very complex machines that is easy to comprehend and at the same time efficient, quick and FUN to use. Everything is laid out logically – sort of like the difference between using a Windows computer vs an iPad. And it doesn't hurt that it has become so popular that there are many, many videos on YouTube demonstrating how various photographers use it. Among the best are HERE by Omar Gonzalez. Sure, the beast can be just as intuitive and FUN to use, but is much larger, heavier and includes some rather sophistocated capabilities.

6– Naturally a couple of things are lost in the process. It only holds one battery, one SD card and lacks a few of the odder functions (most of which most people have never heard of). Slightly smaller rear screen and eyepiece viewer also – duh, the whole thing is "smallish".

Conclusions: Sweetest backup/second body camera I have ever posessed. Plus Nan actually likes it and uses it – and she's like Mikey, very very difficult to please – it has to be intuitive for her to want to bother. An added benefit is that when I don't feel like carrying the beast, I'm perfectly comfortable toting this very capable little thing. GO FUJI.

While I rarely recommend a particular brand camera (they're all good now), and almost never a particular model, I would push for anyone looking to get a good camera, who is at all frustrated with and intimidated by the complexity, to at least find one of these to play with. It could be life-changing. Again, the big selling point is the Fuji dedication to being user-friendly instead of catering to photography geeks – although some of us do prefer the intuitive. There’s no excuse for the basics being as tricky to navagate as the rarely used settings.

When I try to help someone understand their camera and get into their manual, the norm seems to be:

Ok so that's how you do that on this thing. I hope the heck I can explain that so them, let alone remember it for next time. Let me read that again to make sure I got it right.

On the X-T20 I find that my response to be:

Aha, so that's all there is to it, that makes sense. Explaining it is easy and there's no issue remembering how. That's refreshing.

Side notes:

     1– I do like the ISO dial on top of my X-T2, right there for me to tweak, I'm a big total-control guy. The X-T20 lacks this dial and the setting is in the menus. BUT I reprogrammed the function wheel right by my thumb to bring up the selection with a quick press, I can then spin the dial to set and then shoot. Turns out it's actually quicker that way than reaching for the dial with the other hand on the beast. Go figure.

     2– My only real frustration with the X-T20 arises because there's no way I can program function buttons to match on the two cameras. In order to make the needed menus quick and easy to access requires a totally different set-up. I tried, I really did – BUMMER. Getting used to that is gong to take a little time – for now, every time I pick one up I run through the buttons to refresh my memory.

      3- On my wish list is something I seem to need on these new smaller zoom lenses: there are times when one simply wants to shoot with the lens wide open but at the same time be using Aperture Priority mode. Ususally this is easy but if doing a lot of shooting, zooming, etc. one can accidentally throw off the aperture setting without noticing it – especially when working fast and letting one’s zoom-hand shift the setting. A quick-lock switch or setting for the aperture ring would be really nice. Are you listening Fuji?

Update – Opera House Presentation Tuesday August 28

     Been spreading the word on my Opera House presentation/benefit. I'm really anxious that this succeeds in raising some money for this phenomenal addition to our community – funds we certainly can't otherwise afford to donate. I've already begun handing out postcards to people I might not see again before late August. The goal is to get up to 100 people there ($1K for the Opera House), seating people in the back half of the theater area so I can present from the open area in the middle.