My life is shaped by the urgent need to wander and observe, and my camera is my passport.
While in Thailand, baking on the deck of a speedboat slicing through calm water, I did something very stupid: I changed the lens on my camera. The heat and humidity immediately latched on to the seal of my Nikon's lens, stretching it out so it didn't lock in place and leaked random light in my photos. Great. Once back in Zagreb, I wandered around looking for a camera repair shop, finally finding a camera importer that agreed to look at my lens only because I insisted (FYI, Nikon wouldn't touch the lens because it was a Tamron brand, or Nikon alternative; go figure). The salesman fixed my lens seal for about $15, but he did so much more in the process: he introduced me to the Fujifilm X-T20 and made me realize it was time to upgrade my camera.
For weeks I thought about the camera, a lightweight mirrorless system versus my clunky DSLR Nikon D3300. I read reviews online and spent an insane amount of time at cameradecision.com. My camera game had grown stale lately and I was ready to take it to a new level, and this camera was just the way to get there. So when I arrived in Spain, one of the first things I did was go to the local camera store Fotocasión to test it out and buy it. And a month later, I'm so in love with my X-T20 that I've put together this post.
For price, I paid 1160 euros for the Fuji camera body and lens, or about $1336 (as a price reference, Amazon.com in the US lists the camera for $1200 and entails a 1-2 month wait). Being Europe, the price I paid at the local camera shop includes a whopping 21% tax that I may be able to get back if I fly out of the EU within 90 days of purchase. Regardless, I consider the price to be extremely reasonable for the quality of camera I get in return, and I have yet to find an issues with my Fuji apart from the battery dying faster than my Nikon's. As I continue to learn how to use my X-T20, one thing is certain: this is a great camera, it has renewed my interest in improving my photography skills, and is perfect for traveling. Win, win, win
1. Cute, compact, quiet
Let's first address the elephant in the room: this camera is cute. Its retro silver (or black) body looks like an old school analog camera and it makes me feel a bit like a hipster, but in a good way. Apart from being cute, my Fuji X-T20 is compact, lightweight, and efficient. The total weight for my new camera system is 1 pound, 12 ounces (excluding the battery charger); everything with my Nikon weighed probably 4-5 pounds, and also took up significantly more space in my tiny suitcase or purse. And just as good as being easy to carry around, I can take pictures more discretely with my X-T20 because the shutter is very quiet, thus making this camera a great option for street photography (something I was too self-conscious to explore before with my clunky Nikon but will now try).
2. Bokeh effect
If purchased as a kit, the X-T20 comes with either the 16-50mm f3.5-5.6 lens or the 18-55mm f2.8-4 lens. I went with the latter to take advantage of the bokeh (blurred) effect, since the aperture of that lens opens to f2.8. I've been very impressed with this feature so far, so I can only imagine how good a Fuji lens with a greater aperture is.
3. Crisp colors, especially in bright sunlight
The Fuji salesman who introduced me to the X-T20 couldn't stop gushing over Fuji's reputation for producing vibrant, color-drenched photos. Color was one thing that frustrated me with my Nikon, and I was ready for a camera that took crisp, true colors. So far I have been extremely impressed with the bold colors I'm getting in my photos and the bracketing feature lets me quickly hone the exposure. Oh, and it helps to be in sunny, blue-skied Spain to test this all out :)
4. Good quality indoor photos
Just as important as shooting in bright light is shooting in low (or no) light, especially when trying to capture things like architectural details. I found it nearly impossible to take decent indoor photos with my Nikon, or at least without a lot of effort, so I'm having fun learning more about indoor photography with my Fuji.
5. Fun & user-friendly
Yeah, yeah, I know I already mentioned that this camera is cute. But it's also fun to use, and that makes me enjoy taking pictures more, feel confident and legit, and want to get creative with photography. The X-T20 has more dials than I'm used to, and that's a great thing because it means less time fooling around with annoying buttons and menus. Coming from a Nikon, Fuji's button-heavy top scared me at first but once I understood what each one does, I realized how simple the camera is to use. I'm still learning how to use it, but I imagine that going forward I'll be much faster and nimble when taking photos.
6. So many great features
My Nikon D3300 was very limited in the features department. Very limited, so having all of the X-T20's features in a cuter, smaller package really excites me. On top of its other great features I've listed in this post, this camera has bracketing, a tilting touchscreen, a viewfinder with eye/nose detection, wifi, remote control with a smartphone, and more.
7. Less time in Lightroom
After taking photos, I like to organize and edit them in Lightroom. With my Nikon, I'd spend hours not just taking multiple photos and culling the best ones, but I'd then spend more time touching up whatever meh photos were left over. That really sucked the joy from taking photos, and I started to doubt if my photography was progressing at all. But things are different with my Fujifilm X-T20, because I spend less time fussing over taking pictures; what makes it to Lightroom already looks good and just needs a few minor adjustments. Another time-saving feature in Lightroom that I've noticed is that Fujifilm has built-in lens profiles, cutting down on a few clicks (which also significantly slowed my Lightroom's performance). Lightroom tip: If shooting in RAW, make sure you are using the latest version of Lightroom so the software recognizes Fuji's special type of RAW files and imports them.
8. Less grain from "high" ISO settings
I really hit a wall with my Nikon because it did not handle light well. Looking through the photos I took with it in low light or with a high ISO, all I can see is grain; I don't think I could shoot above 1000 without grain intrusion. So far with my X-T20, the few photos I've taken in low-light have no sign of grain, just as the Fuji salesman assured me. And comparing photos taken with the ISO at 1600 in both cameras demonstrates that the Fuji handles light very well (going up to 12.800) and is easier to control and adjust while shooting.
Before getting my Fuji X-T20, I was using a Nikon D3300 I purchased new a few years ago for about $500. It was my first "real" camera and I replaced the kit lens with a Tamron 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 I purchased last year used for $300, ultimately a jack of all trades but master of none type of lens. Fotocasión in Madrid bought all of my equipment (including another lens) for about $350, so I think I made out pretty well. To be honest, I was so sick of my Nikon by then that I was prepared to just give it to them for spare parts, but alas my old camera will find a new owner soon. Overall, I think the Nikon D3300 was a decent camera to start with, although I do wonder if a camera like my new Fuji would have been a better starter camera. With my Nikon, I spent a lot of time fumbling over buttons that I never mastered and an inordinate amount of energy making up for poor-quality photos. Oh, and it was bulky and heavy, words travelers hate hearing.