Fujifilm just announced the brand-new X-T5!
What makes this camera special? Who should buy it?
To understand the X-T5, one has to go back in time a few years. The X-H1 was Fujifilm’s original flagship, but due to poor timing on its release and an overly aggressive initial MSRP, it didn’t sell well. Fujifilm thought this camera was going to be a huge hit, but instead it flopped… at least until it was heavily discounted. Those who own an X-H1 love the camera, and regard it as one of Fujifilm’s best, a true workhorse. The X-T3, which was announced just months after the X-H1 was released, more or less killed the X-H1, just because it was the first X-Trans IV camera while the X-H1 was the last X-Trans III model. The X-T3 would become Fujifilm’s top selling camera of all time, and was only recently discontinued. The X-T4 came out when the X-T3 was just over a year old, and Fujifilm sold them both at the same time because the X-T4 wasn’t really the X-T3’s successor, but instead was another attempt at a flagship model, kind of a cross between the X-H1 and X-T3 (but with compromises that both X-T and X-H users weren’t thrilled about). Now that Fujifilm has released the X-H2 and X-H2s cameras, there isn’t a “need” for the X-T4, and it’s being discontinued. That brings us to the X-T5, which is the successor to both the X-T3 and X-T4, but is more like the X-T3 than the X-T4, yet sharing a legacy with both models. Make sense?
What makes the X-T5 special is that it walks back some of the unwanted “improvements” of the X-T4—yet improves upon the appreciated features of the X-T4—while in a package more similar to the X-T3, and with the new sensor and processor of the X-H2. So is it better than the X-T3? In many regards yes, in some regards it is a wash (not better or worse), and in a couple of regards no. Is it better than the X-T4? This depends on your definition of better, because the X-T4 was actually a more premium model, but with curious design choices that some don’t appreciate—if that’s you, then, yes, the X-T5 is better, but if you really like the X-T4, the X-T5 might be seen as a step backwards in some ways. I will say this: my wife has an X-T4 that she really loves, but she would prefer the screen of the X-T3/X-T5, so that makes it potentially a better camera for her. I say “potentially” because the screen is just one factor. If the X-T4 handles heat better—say, if the X-T5 has overheating issues when recording video—then that wouldn’t work out well, because she uses it more for for video than stills. “Better” is a subjective term, anyway, that’s perceived much differently depending on the person and how they use their gear. What’s “better” for one person might not be “better” for another—at all depends on your point-of-view.
But isn’t X-Trans V better than X-Trans IV? X-Trans IV was such an outdated sensor and overall technology, while X-Trans V is the pinnacle of APS-C camera technology advancements—doesn’t that mean it’s unquestionably better? That’s tough to say. I’m reminded of when Syndrome, in the movie The Incredibles, describes his new-and-improved superhero-destroying robot. “It’s bigger, it’s badder, ladies and gentleman,” Syndrome announces, “and it’s too much for Mr. Incredible!” Similarly, there’s no doubt that the X-T5 is metaphorically “bigger and badder” than the X-T3 and X-T4 (physically, it’s smaller than the X-T4), but perhaps “it’s too much for” most photographers. While some have decried the X-T3 and X-T4 as disappointments or not “good enough” for some reason, for the vast majority of photographers, both of those models are well above and beyond anything that they actually need. And, of course, with more megapixels come additional challenges—sometimes less is more. The point of this paragraph is that, yes, the technology of X-Trans V is surely an improvement, but, at a point of diminishing returns, do you really need those improvements? Some of you do, many of you don’t—and for those who don’t, the improvements of the X-T5 are really paper improvements and not something that will likely affect your photography in any practical way.
What I just stated is important because some of you right now are trying to decide if you should upgrade, and everyone’s telling you that you should. There’s a whole lot of hype—some FOMO and GAS even—and you’re not sure what to do. I will give you my advice as someone who has never touched or seen in-person an X-T5. Take it for what it’s worth, which is probably not a lot.
If you have an X-T2 and have been thinking of upgrading for awhile, but the X-T3 was too similar to the X-T2 (not enough of an upgrade), and the X-T4 had that darn flippy screen you didn’t like, then you’ll likely really appreciate the X-T5. If you have the money and desire, just do it and get it—I feel like this is the group that the X-T5 makes the most sense for. Those with an X-T3? I have a hard time with this one, because it might be a big difference for you, or it might be pretty much the same thing that you already have, depending on how you use the camera. Those who shoot JPEGs will likely find it significantly different with the new film simulations and JPEG options (although it doesn’t appear to be a whole lot different than the X-T4 in this regard). If you print your pictures poster-sized, those extra megapixels will come in handy. If you somehow find the autofocus lacking, that’s been improved. Use it for video? There’s some improvements there, too. Need IBIS? It has it. But if those things don’t matter that much to you, the X-T5 isn’t all that much different than the X-T3, and won’t necessarily be an improvement for you. So my suggestion to those considering upgrading from the X-T3 to the X-T5 is to think long and hard about how you use your camera and where you find it lacking, if you find it lacking at all. Those with an X-T4, the X-T5 is only an upgrade for you if you hate the flippy screen, if you somehow find the autofocus lacking, print posters, or need a slightly smaller body (apparently the X-T5 is just larger than an X-T1); otherwise, the X-T5 isn’t really an upgrade for you, and I don’t recommend getting the new camera. Still using an X-T1? Buy a used X-T2 or X-T3—there’s about to be a whole bunch of them. So to summarize, the X-T5 makes the most sense as an upgrade for those who currently have an X-T2; it’s 50-50 for those with an X-T3, depending on how you use your camera; many of those with an X-T4 will likely not trade in for the new model, although some will, obviously.
We’ve talked about upgrading from a like-model, but what about those who have some other camera? If you’ve been using an X-T20 or X-T30 and wanting a more premium model, the X-T5 might be just that for you. I don’t think it should be underestimated how many will be moving up from one of those models to an X-T5, or perhaps a used X-T3 or X-T4. I suspect that a used X-T3 will be pretty easily found for $700-$800 in the coming months—they’re still exceptional cameras, and that will be very tempting for those who don’t have $1,700 to drop on an X-T5. For those with an X-H1, I think the X-T4 is just as much (if not more so) of an “upgrade” as the X-T5 (for those who don’t consider the X-H2 and X-H2s to be the “real” successors), and obviously neither are really upgrades, so I don’t see the X-T5 as particularly appealing to the X-H1 owners, although I’m sure some will take the bait. I do believe that those who own an X100V as their only Fujifilm camera (and that’s a significant group… it really is a gateway into the Fujifilm system) will take a long look at the X-T5, as they should, and some will buy.
You might think, reading all of this, that I’m not especially excited for this camera, but you couldn’t be more wrong. I believe that Fujifilm is trying to do the right thing with the X-T5. Fujifilm walked back a lot of the changes that they made to the line with the X-T4, because those changes weren’t appreciated by the majority of X-T users. They did what they should have done (and what I previously suggested that they should do) and make the X-T5 more like the X-T3 and less like the X-T4. Bravo! I think the X-T5 is an important camera for Fujifilm, and a lot hinges on its success. I truly hope it’s a smashing success for Fujifilm, and I think it will be. With that said, I don’t work for Fujifilm, and I want to give good advice—honest advice—to my community, and the best advice I have is this: you shouldn’t upgrade with every new model release, experiences are more valuable than gear, and new gear will not make you a better photographer. On the flip side, if you have the money, and the X-T5 will help your photography in some way or make it more fun, then it definitely might be worth the expense. Only you can decide that for yourself. Trust your gut, and either go for it or pass, and feel good about that decision, whatever it is.
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Orders will apparently ship on November 17.