Fujifilm XT-2 review [and why you should get a grip]

Shot with the Fujifilm XT-2 somewhere near Pemberton, B.C.

This is my first camera review and, admittedly, I’ve struggled with it. I’d like it to be fair. Balanced. Engaging would be good, too. Let’s start with the backstory. I was headed to British Columbia to do some backcountry skiing with friends. I’m the sort who tends to shoot more while on the road and thought the trip would make for a perfect camera test. The XT-2 had just come out and a friend at Vistek had a contact at Fujifilm. The timing was perfect and he urged me to reach out. Sure enough, days later I’m unboxing a loaner and, with more than a little guilt, swapping my beloved XT-1 from my luggage.

It’s about here, in the spirit of full disclosure, I should admit to being a Fuji fanboy. When the X Series launched I was first in line for the x100. I got the x100s, too. I had been using the 5D MIII for work and have schlepped many a dSLR on vacation. The X cameras were a revelation for me and when the XT-1 landed I embraced it with open arms. With it I’ve shot an ad campaign (including a billboard) and carried it on all my trips for work or pleasure because it is just that: A pleasure to use. It even looks cool hanging off your shoulder. Sure, the XT-1 has its faults but, at least for me, it lived up to its billing as an SLR-killer. Needless to say, I was keen to get my hands on the XT-2 but the bar was set high. All this time I’ve been singing Fujifilm’s virtues so what if the new flagship model sucked? [Spoiler: It doesn’t.]

There’s already been a tonne written about the XT-2’s tech specs [here’s a couple I read from CameraLabs, The Verge and Fstoppers] so I don’t feel I’ve got much to add to that conversation. What I can offer is my real world experience using the XT-2 in some demanding conditions. I’ll touch on the big upgrades then move on to the bit I’m most excited about [Hint: it’s the battery grip.]

XT-2 > XT-1

Here are the differences, starting with the physical stuff. It’s got dual card slots, a brilliant thumb-operated AF joystick (that’s also a button) and an extra flippy rear view screen that now tilts out in portrait mode (or to the left in landscape) as well as up and down. The thumb and forefinger shutter/aperture controls (i.e. command dials) are buttons now, too. It’s also a touch bigger overall but not in a way I found noticeable. The ISO and shutter speed dials lock with the press of a button now, too, which I like.

It’s also beefed up its shutter speed and tops out at 1/8000 [compared to the XT-1’s top speed of 1/4000.] The ISO has been upped to a see-in-the-dark 12,800 [way higher than the XT-1’s 6,400] and that’s not all. The folks at Fujifilm continue to honour their heritage with the addition of another film simulation, ACROS BW, as well as a general film grain feature I found to be totally fun [see shot at the bottom.]

In addition to the Q button familiar to X shooters, there’s a new My Menu feature that lets you add the functions you’re likely to change more frequently to a personalized screen.

It also does 4K video [but frankly I don’t care… To find out why, read to the end.]

And then, there’s the 24 MP X-Trans III APS-C sensor. The XT-1 is a solid performer with a 16 MP chip but this new one is really quite dazzling, especially at long exposures. *If you’d like to pixel creep, the straight-out-of camera Fine JPG of that star shot up top is here on 500px, complete with specs.]

It’s right about here that I should mention this is the same sensor that is in the X Pro2 and the much more consumer-friendly (cheaper) XT20. So why pay twice as much for the XT-2? Well, the build, for one. The Deuce is fully weather sealed and comes with all those new features mentioned above. The XT20 doesn’t. Fuji puts a premium on those mostly physical features and therein lies the rub. It’s the feel. It was the compact heft of the XT-1 that sold me on it the moment I picked it up. It’s the same for the XT-2. Not to take anything away from the XT20. It is most likely the best pound-for-pound bargain going in cameras today. But, that said, I know which I’d have.

My work station at home. That blue bit of cordelette served as my camera strap while testing the XT-2.

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The road to paradise | Jumbo Wild story in KMC magazine

The proposed Jumbo development has loomed for a quarter century in the Kootenays as a palpable wedge separating two ideologically opposed camps: one in favour of an expansive four-season resort in the wild heart of the Purcell Mountains, the other completely opposed to it.

The proposed Jumbo development has loomed for a quarter century in the Kootenays as a palpable wedge separating two ideologically opposed camps: one in favour of an expansive four-season resort in the wild heart of the Purcell Mountains, the other completely opposed to it.

Last April I got the chance to revisit a spot I’d been to once before, on a very different assignment, and have felt drawn to ever since. By this point, news of Jumbo Glacier Resort’s long, complicated and more than a little confusing development process has more than likely crept through your Twitter feed or crawled across the ticker of your favourite news site so I’m going to spare you the details here… However, if the phrase ‘Jumbo Wild‘ isn’t ringing any bells, all the more reason to read on.

The following is an excerpt from the top of one of the many drafts that led to the piece, which you can read here, in full, on the website of Mountain Culture Magazine.

While mine is far from the first (Bruce Kirkby’s from the Globe and Mail a few years ago is hugely informative… dig through his site and you’ll find it), I hope that it serves to inform and entertain. Much of it is based on a week spent in Invermere this past spring while Nick Waggoner (the guy behind that naked ski segment in the film Valhalla) put the finishing touches on the Patagonia-backed docu/activism movie Jumbo Wild, which is currently in the festival circuit and bound for iTunes shortly… *I had the pleasure of reconnecting with Nick in Toronto in October and got a sneak peek at the film, which is well worth your time. Seek it out.

And, a massive thanks to the editors there for allowing me to take this on… and for shaping it into its present, polished form.


It is mid April and the heli-skiing operations in the East Kootenays are shut down for the season, leaving Nick Waggoner on the hook to charter a ride. The plan is for the 29-year-old skier and filmmaker to deliver architect Oberto Oberti to the 3,000 metre-high summit of Glacier Dome.

Oberto Oberti, the 71-year-old architect behind Jumbo Glacier Resort

Oberto Oberti, the 71-year-old architect behind Jumbo Glacier Resort’s design, on Glacier Dome in April 2015.

It’s here the 71-year-old resort designer hopes to one day install the highest ski lift on the continent. Oberti’s quarter century-long quest to turn that spot into the crown jewel atop a Kitzbühelesque resort in the wild heart of the Jumbo Valley represents a very different vision for the land than that of many of the region’s residents — including the Ktunaxa Nation, a vocal and well-funded environmental group and, as Oberti would later find out, Waggoner himself.

While the two make for an odd pair, they do share a common bond: a love of skiing. Waggoner, who is the driving force behind the award-winning ski film company Sweetgrass Productions, has spent a significant part of the past four years filming in the Kootenays. During that time, and in order to gain access to the normally media-shy developers of the proposed Jumbo Glacier Resort, the charismatic New Yorker put in a long courtship and forged a kind of friendship with Oberti. It was on his coattails I was able to slide into the mix.

Now, in order to hit a narrow weather window promising blue skies in the alpine, Oberti is en-route from Vancouver to shoot a crucial segment for Waggoner’s latest film, Jumbo Wild, and photographer Garrett Grove, Glacier Resorts Vice President Grant Costello, a local ski guide (who will remain nameless) and I are huddled around a table at an otherwise empty bar in Invermere, working out the strict conditions under which the helicopter will fly…

For the rest, (including some amazing pictures by Garret Grove) please read The Crusade: After a Quarter Century, What’s Really Behind Jumbo Glacier Resort?

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The Raft Cove report: paipos and product testing on a north island surf mission

Red sky at night, sailor

Red sky at night, sailor’s delight… so long as you’re not sailing at night, in which case its gonna get heavy.

Codenamed Raft Dunk, our north island surf/camp/fish adventure was the culmination of months of planning, weeks of sponsor calls, hours of packing and a whole lot of anticipation. The crew, seven in all, came together online. A convoy was assembled, groceries bought and equipment pooled through a combination of Facebook chats, iMessages and Google Docs. The whole lead up was an exercise in virtual trip planning that didn’t see us breathing the same air until our disparate ranks wandered out of the mist in twos and threes. Others, on account of a missed ferry, made their entrance as bobbing headlamps in the middle of the night.

A rare treat on the typically cloudy coast.

A rare treat on the typically cloudy coast.

Ewok village

The hike down to the beach offers up lessons in smallness as cedars, fir and spruce tower overhead.

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Sayulita surf reunion | Tequila, broken bones and small wave fun

The flight from Toronto Pearson to Puerto Vallarta was an odd mix of extremes. Seniors, infants and a hand full of young parents yo-yoing between their companion’s needs made up the bulk of the flight’s passengers, while a fleet of strollers must have had the cargo bay brimming. A noticeable absence of surfboard bags in the oversized luggage area should have been my first indication that this trip wasn’t going to go as expected. Here’s how it all played out. Back around Christmas, the boys and I got together to hash out our biannual surf adventure. Fresh off a trip to Tamarindo, Costa Rica, I was keen to keep the ball rolling on warm water destinations so, after kicking around a few bucket list spots, we settled on the Mainland Mexican village of Sayulita. None of us, except for my girlfriend (see picture of cast above), had been before and we’d heard the surf was consistent and the vibe friendly. With our various commitments: family, job, pets, etc., and only 7 days to burn, the gringo-friendly hamlet – which boasts a sand-bottomed river mouth and a left/right beach break steps from our rented villa – proved to be perfect.

Sayulita, the sandy jewel of the Riviera Nayarit

The town itself is inhabited by an eclectic mix of California ex-pats, snowbirds, local Cora and Huichol people and Mexican vacationers. With all the creature comforts one could ask for, including a gelato shop complete with creams – and staff – imported from Tuscany, myriad eateries, delicious, inexpensive street food and proximity to the resort Mecca of Puerto Vallarta, the plane packed with families should have come as no surprise. Sayulita was, however, refreshingly unlike other Mexican destinations I’ve been to – I’m thinking Cabo or Cancun – in that it was free of the all-inclusive, buffet-grazing set. The streets are cobbled, if paved at all. Unruly dogs and kids run rampant. You can take a 45-minute local bus ride from the PVR airport to Sayulita for 35 pesos… (and stop at WalMart or Mega on the way). There are even lots of surf shops from which to rent decent boards, which we did, rather than fly with your own. And, week-long villa rentals – the best way to stay, IMHO – are down right reasonable. Its even safe, although they do tell you to lock up at night.

Photograph Sayulita beach umbrella by Evan Mitsui on 500px
Photograph Mexican street meat by Evan Mitsui on 500px

Mexican street meat by Evan Mitsui on 500px

Getting there and away

Anastasiya (whom you see in the first picture) and I arrived on separate flights Saturday afternoon, a day after the first half of our party touched down in Mexico. She was coming off a month-long work assignment on the other side of the Pacific (basically skipping Toronto’s brutally cold winter all together. But I digress…) and I was locked into that not-so-cheap ‘discount,’ kid-filled flight on Air Canada Rouge. After braving the local bus (which I completely recommend, especially since a pre-barter taxi fare could run $60) Nastia, who’d landed ahead of me, met me at the dirt bus lot in town and we hiked the short but steep steps up Gringo Hill to our digs, where Rob, Sharon and Jacob were waiting. Tequila happened. Then Nastia and I slipped down to our room to catch up (we hadn’t seen one another in a month, after all). Then tacos. Cervezas. More tequila. All was good.

Sunday, after a sleep-in and a trip back into town for groceries, we cruised through Sayulita looking for boards to rent for the week. I got a nice mid-length McTavish Sumo – which made paddling and picking up close-outs close to shore a joy with its thick, fat nose – while Nastia picked out a similarly shaped Robert August, (whom we met) in a nod back to our recent trip to Costa Rica. The boys hauled away a couple longboards to round out the quiver and we were off for a sunset session.

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Mexican’t wait to go back! | sterlingpearce - […] PS – for a completely different yet mostly the same version of events, check out Evan’s blog post! […]

Trying out the new Getty embed feature

Earlier this week Getty launched a new embed feature, following on the heels of Flickr, which made its embed announcement in December – a move PetaPixel wrote about under the ominous headline: ‘Brace Yourself for Photographer Outrage.’ The tech bloggers are already responding similarly, approaching Getty’s shift towards providing a legal – and dare I say stylish – way for you, me or anybody with a website to crib the work of pro photographers with similar trepidation.

As the largest supplier of for-license imagery, Getty’s embed feature represents a major shift in the industry and, it would seem an admission of defeat in the war against those cribbing images for free.

Craig Peters, the senior VP of business development at Getty said as much in an interview with the British Journal of Photography. Peters described the typical rights infringers as “self publishers who typically don’t know anything about copyright… and who simply don’t have any budget to support their content needs.”

While it seems obvious to say that bloggers have no money — at least not money they’re willing to spend on images they can easily screen-capture for free — the move to open up almost half of Getty’s 80 million-image-strong archive could prove to be a boon for what many consider a struggling stock industry.

So, whats in it for photographers? Peters says the benefits are three-pronged.

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