Commack High School Girls Varsity Volleyball vs. Brentwood - Fujifilm XT-2 Eval Part 1
Congratulations to the Commack girls volleyball team on their win over Brentwood. They have a good season going. This the first shoot I've done with Fuji's new XT-2 mirrorless camera. I had Fuji's 50-140mm zoom mounted on it for this shoot. It was only my second day with the camera so there was a lot to get used to moving from Nikon's line of DSLR's. That's my way of saying, if you're looking for a highly technical review you came to the wrong place. There are lots of those on the web so I'm just going to concentrate on my experience with the camera with high school sports.
I had shot with the previous version, the XT-1, for a few days in the fall. That was a great camera but the EVF blackout during continuous shooting drove me nuts and made it virtually unusable for sports. This has been much improved on the XT-2, so much so that what little blackout there is has no effect on tracking your subject and, after a while, I tended to ignore it.
One thing I had always loved about the XT-1, and even my X100s, is the auto white balance. It was extremely accurate. I think it still is in the XT-2 but, for some reason, the bright blue and yellow walls of our gym made it totally freak. The first photos I shot all had a yellow-orange color cast. At first I thought it might be a defect in the camera I had but it worked perfectly on subsequent shoots in other locations. I chalking it off to the color of the walls. Luckily, there was a small white board mounted on the gym wall so I quickly did a custom white balance off that and things improved dramatically. Keep in mind this gym is lit by fluorescent tubes so you're not going to get great color no matter how good the white balance is. Also, the light is extremely flat so there's very little contrast.
Autofocus was another area where the older XT-1 sometimes fell short. The new XT-2 has a load of AF-C autofocus options you can tweak to customize them to the motion of your subject. I initially chose the zone focus mode with preset 5 which, according to the manual was suited for erratically moving subjects. This didn't work out as well as I expected so I moved from zone back to single point autofocus and got a much better hit rate. As I said, there is an extensive autofocus customization menu that I'll be using to tweak the settings before the next shoot, so stay tuned. I'll be experimenting with them next. One thing I must say is that this is the fastest zone autofocus I've ever used. I was amazed at the difference in autofocus speed and accuracy between the XT-1 and XT-2.
This gym, like all high school gyms I've ever shot at, is relatively dark. I was shooting at ISO 8000 to get 1/640 sec. @f/2.8. Looking at the photos I probably could have gotten away with 1/800 or just move the ISO down to 6400. At 8000 there definitely was noise in the photos but nothing that couldn't be handled by noise reduction in either Lightroom or Photoshop. I should probably mention I was shooting raw images, not jpegs, so I had a lot more latitude for noise removal and shadow and highlight tweaking.
One thing I wasn't thrilled with were the AF-L and AE-L buttons on the back of the camera. Unlike Nikon's rubber-like buttons these are smooth plastic and almost flush with the body. I'm sure Fuji recessed them to prevent accidental button presses but it makes back-button focusing a frustrating experience, at least initially. The locations of the buttons are not where your thumb would normally rest either. I'm hoping I'll get used to them as I use the camera more. Ironically enough, the Q button is in a much better location but it's the only button you can't reprogram for another function.
All in all, not a bad first day with the camera. Keeper-wise, I did as well with it as I do with my Nikon D3s, which is saying a lot for a camera I'm not really used to yet. I think Fuji finally has a camera that can be used for high school sports. Coming up, another shot a volleyball, this time in a different gym, and some field sports outside next week. Stay tuned.