Photography

Sykesville Saturday – Fujfilm X-T200 Review

I spent a really nice afternoon yesterday visiting Sykesville, catching up with my good friend Erik and his daughter, Lauren. She’s interested in learning about photography, I haven’t seen Erik in an age, and I had a camera to test. What’s more, the weather was fantastic.

As is usual with my camera commentaries, I’m not going to dwell on technical specs. There are plenty of other websites out there for that. Instead, I’ll concentrate on my impressions of the camera (and lens) as it applies to my intended usage. In this case, I’m looking for something small and lightweight that’s not terribly expensive that I can carry with me all the time for vlogging and daily photography. The X-T200 intrigued me because it could also become part of my regular photo kit as a second body.

In addition to being small and light, a vlogging camera needs to tick a few more boxes, which none of my current cameras do entirely:

  • Great full-HD (1080p) video quality
  • Large, bright rear screen that rotates so it can be seen from the “business end” of the camera
  • A sharp wide angle lens equivalent to around a 24mm “full-frame” lens. A zoom lens is a bonus, and it should be at least 4X.
  • Very good image stabilization
  • Outstanding autofocus with face/eye and object tracking
  • Tripod socket
  • Hot shoe
  • External audio input
  • Headphone output
  • Fun, intuitive controls and features

On paper, the X-T200 ticks every one of those boxes, and then some, with a neat light trails mode, slow-motion video, time lapse video, and quite a few other neat features.

The X-T200 is targeted as an entry-level camera for the casual shooter who wants something better than a smart phone with great image quality, but without the usual intimidating array of controls and menus. As such, the X-T200 features a gorgeous touchscreen around the back, with a somewhat smartphonesque user interface. Some of the touch points can be customized, while others are fixed control points, some of which change based on the mode the camera’s in. Other reviewers found the touch interface to be confusing or counter-intuitive, but I actually think it’s really well thought out. It offers nice, simplified control, and you can preview the results right on the screen before snapping the shutter. Unlike Fujifilm’s earlier attempts at touchscreen controls, this one hits it out of the park. And, as I mentioned, the screen is simply gorgeous and bright! I was able to use it outside in bright sunlight with minimal fuss. What’s more, it folds and flips any which way you need. Of course, there’s also a quite decent viewfinder on this little bugger.

Some other reviewers also complained about the layout of the knobs and buttons, saying that since so many weren’t labeled (they’re not), they couldn’t find their way around the camera, despite being familiar with Fujifilm cameras like the X-T3 or X-T30. But I say that, as a long-time user of X-series cameras, most everything is exactly where it belongs, or can be programmed to be there. I had absolutely no problem adjusting the … adjustments.

Star trails created using the X-T200 light trails function

There are a few neat features I didn’t play around with that I had initially wanted to, at least not in the way that Fuji intended. I did fiddle a little with the progressive light trails feature, as I wanted to see if it could be used for star trail images. These images take hours to produce, and with most cameras, creating them is pretty hit-or-miss. The light trails function does show promise, though. With most cameras, you need to leave the shutter open for the entire exposure, which introduces a lot of heat-induced noise and asks a lot of the camera battery. Fujifilm’s approach to light trails, however, uses a multiple exposures to create almost noiseless images at the sensor’s base ISO, and greatly reduces sensor heat buildup. The exposure here was recorded for 20 minutes, and used very little power. I estimate that a full sweep would need four to six hours to complete, which under normal circumstances, would kill battery long before the image was recorded. Of course, if you’re doing this within an extension cord length of a power source, battery life becomes a non-issue, assuming that the camera can be externally powered — and the X-T200 can!

The X-T200 also sports a “defog” mode, a “star filter” mode, fireworks mode, soft-focus mode, as well as many that have become Fuji staples. Also included are most of Fuji’s film simulation modes including Classic Chrome and Pro Neg, although Acros black-and-white and the new Eterna simulation are conspicuously absent.

By the way, most of what can be said about the X-T200 is also true of the new X-A7, although the X-A7 lacks the viewfinder and the ability to connect a pair of headphones for monitoring recorded audio, and the external microphone jack is an odd 2.5mm size instead of the more standard 3.5mm jack. (an adapter is included, but really? A 3.5mm jack takes almost zero additional space when compared to a 2.5mm jack).

That’s not to say the X-T200 is not without its faults. But, before we talk about those, let’s look at some pictures. Images were taken either in Sykesville yesterday, or in my yard on Friday afternoon. All are just as they came out of the camera — there’s no post processing involved whatsoever.

Well, then, what’s not to like?

I have very little complain about the still photography functionality of the X-T200, with a couple of exceptions. First, the autofocus’ object, face, and eye tracking leaves much to be desired. While not incredibly bad for stills, it really could be better and faster. And for this camera’s target customer — people coming over from smartphones as a step up camera for photographing their friends, families, and kids, as well as taking selfies, that’s a major problem. That, coupled with Fujfilm’s perennially bad battery life and this camera’s propensity for overheating, could almost make this a real no-go.

Matters get worse when shooting video, especially when vlogging. The face/eye-detect autofocus constantly unlocks, assuming it locked to begin with, and I couldn’t get object tracking to work … period. The camera displayed an overheating warning after about two hours, and finally shut down about fifteen minutes later, in the middle of recording a section of What’s In My Head, I was able to get it going again for a few minutes by cooling it in front of the A/C vent in the car — twice — after which I gave up. What was most disturbing about that was that it really wasn’t all that hot, and I don’t think I really pushed the camera all that hard. I was nowhere near the advertised video recording time limits, either.

The build quality isn’t really up to Fujifilm’s standard, either, though it’s not as bad as many make it out to be. It is made of plastic, and you can tell. But what I think compounds that as a problem (really, many good cameras are made from plastic these days) is that the plastic can’t dissipate the heat adequately. And, being as there are no cooling vents, it’s no wonder that the camera overheats. If it had been Fuji’s usual metal construction, I don’t think there would have been a problem.

Based on these issues alone, I hate to say that I really can’t recommend this camera. It’s a shame. I really wanted to love this little machine.

There’s more commentary, including my thoughts on Fujifilm’s new low-cost kit lens, in the current installment of What’s In My Head, which is up on YouTube now. Please watch — and while you’re at it, subscribe to my channel and give the video a “thumbs up”.