These days, it seems (and they’re gonna kill me for this) the only thing that separates a professional photographer from an enthusiastic Instagrammer is equipment and the commitment to carry said equipment around. Of course, there’s talent, but note that I said “professional” and not “talented.” Two things keep me from getting a better camera (than my very basic and low-light reliable Nikon point-and-shoot): back and budget constraints. Why would I invest in heavy digital SLR camera when I know I would never ever bring it anywhere or fully comprehend how to use it? In my line of work, my photos don’t have to be super spectacular. Photos taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III register the same way on newsprint as those taken with an iPhone 5 — it’s all about the subject and composition (and this is where our pro photographers come in). For everyday press conferences and non-crucial stories, I just use my iPhone 7, which unspectacularly does the job but gets it done nonetheless.
I agreed to review the Fujifilm X-T20 because I had previously used a Fuji camera on a trip and loved it. If your objective is to get film-like, dreamy photographs, it’s a good camera to have. I struggled with the semi-automatic aspect of it, so I always left it in auto, or punched in custom presets beforehand. When you’re running from coverage to coverage, interviewing, recording, and trying to come up with something witty to say simultaneously, you tend to not have the time to tinker with knobs and buttons. Anyway, the auto mode is idiot-proof and does all that for you, and the presets that you key in lets you shoot in a more stylized manner.
The X-T20 is supposedly the camera that many influencers are using for their IG posts. That was enticing and also a challenge — because really? I wouldn’t have known. I was determined to prove that there was better use for the X-T20 than just taking OOTDs, but honestly, you kind of have to go there when you’re testing a camera because no one cares about macros.
During the first few days that I had the X-T20 with me, I always forgot that I had it. Gingerly attaching and detaching the lens was a step I did not look forward to. The first time I took it out of the box, I accidentally held the camera by the viewfinder, planting my greasy thumb right on the glass. Obviously, I’m not used to any camera that’s bigger than my hand anymore. I forced myself to get used to it and brought it everywhere.
There’s something about using the viewfinder that made me self-conscious. The X-T20 has a large, fast Viewfinder, with a magnification of 0.62×5 and a display lag time of just 0.005 seconds. Using the LDC screen made more sense — it’s right there, it’s even touch screen and you get to use two eyes. But as I got the hang of peering through the lens the old-fashioned way, I found a comforting aspect to it. While the traditional use of a viewfinder is to allow the photographer to focus, i.e. not get a blurry shot, it also serves as an effective tool for seeing everyday objects differently. We’re so used to how subjects translate on the screens of our phones — through a viewfinder, I felt like I got to dissect larger scenes into more interesting parts.
The camera, albeit large and has substantial weight (note that my point of comparison is a pocket-size camera), has grips that make a lot of sense and rubbery handles so you don’t feel like you’re going to drop it — such is the feeling when you’re using a “borrowed” product; I mean, my phone is just as fragile but I don’t handle it with as much care.
Ah, and yes, the sounds it makes. I think that’s what I love the most about handling an actual camera. When you accidentally leave your phone sound on and make a loud “shutter” sound when you take a photo, it makes you seem so ancient, so uncool. I didn’t even bother turning the sound off on the X-T20; for me, it enhanced the experience. The “focusing” sound is my favorite — that zooming buzz is hypnotic.
The Fujifilm X-T20’s final test was conducted at a jewelry and vintage watch auction. And my dog. The X-T20 is equipped with APS-C sized 24.3MP X-TransTM CMOS III 1 sensor and X-Processor Pro image processing engine. The updated sensor and processor, along with a reworked AF algorithm, boost the camera’s startup time and AF performance, dramatically improving its ability to track moving subjects. Great with moving objects indeed. I noticed though that you’d have to keep very steady as it had a tendency to adjust focus to quickly, resulting in a not-that-sharp photo.
While shooting with the X-T20, I forgot I had a camera (and had to do Insta stories for work). It was just in my pocket the entire time, happily conserving battery life. If you’re going to get a “real” camera and you can afford beyond the basic point-and-shoot kind (price of the kit is P56,990), the Fujifilm X-T20 is a good buy. It’s professional looking without making you look like you care too much (as with a DSLR), or too little (as with a phone cam).