How Useful are the Fujifilm X-T2’s High ISO Settings in Real-World Shooting?

Wondering how useful the Fujifilm X-T2's high-ISO settings are that go all the way up to ISO 51200? I shot some images to find out.

The advances in sensor technology in recent years have opened up incredible opportunities for low-light photography. And when you’re doing travel photography, being able to shoot in low light is a must. The quality you can get out of ISO 3200 in today’s cameras, for example, is leaps and bounds better than what it was just 5 years ago. But that doesn’t mean that every ISO setting on a camera is equal.

There’s always some cost. The best all-around image quality is generally around a camera’s lowest native ISO setting. As you go higher up the scale, you lose dynamic, gain noise (or mottling), and can end up with color shifts. Those issues become particularly pronounced as you get up to the top end of the ISO settings. Those are often in what’s known as an “extended” range, where software takes over from the native limits of the sensor hardware to push things that bit further. These extended numbers can make for good marketing copy, but it’s not always clear how useful they are.

The question then becomes: how steep is the cost? Do the downsides become too much to make shooting at the high ISO settings worth the reductions in image quality? The answer varies camera to camera; some cameras have much better high-ISO performance than others. The answer can also vary shot to shot and is an entirely subjective judgment from photographer to photographer. You might be more willing to overlook noise and color shifts in an urban street scene at night than you would with a portrait session at dusk, for example. One photographer might tolerate quite a lot of image noise, while another (or a stock agency) will reject any visible noise.

High ISO on the Fujifilm X-T2

There’s a lot to like about the Fujifilm X-T2, and it’s an excellent all-around choice for travel photography (and lots of other types of photography, for that matter). But I wanted to take a closer look specifically at its high-ISO performance to see how it performs in low-light situations.

The Fujifilm X-T2 has a native ISO range from 200 through 12800, but when you’re shooting still images, it also has some extended options at the high end of 25600 and 51200. I’ve previously posted some sample images shot throughout the X-T2’s ISO range, but here I’m focusing only on the top end, from 6400 up to 51200. I’m sharing them here in case someone else is interested to see some real-world examples of the X-T2’s high-ISO performance.

I shot these all in RAW. Other settings were image size (L / 3:2), grain effect (off), film simulation (Provia/Standard), dynamic range (100), white balance (auto), colorspace (AdobeRGB), and processing options such as shadow town, color, sharpness, and noise reduction all at 0. Normally, I’d do some processing in Lightroom, but the versions you can see embedded in the page here are essentially untouched. If you’d like a closer look, there are two options. You can click on each image to open a full-size JPG version. You can also use the link in each caption to download the original RAW (.arf) file (be warned that they’re approx. 50 MB each).

Examples of the Native High ISO of the Fujifilm X-T2

ISO 6400 – ISO 10000

Fujifilm X-T2 @ ISO 6400 | Download: Original RAW (.arf)

Fujifilm X-T2 @ ISO 6400 | Download: Original RAW (.arf)

Fujifilm X-T2 @ ISO 6400 | Download: Original RAW (.arf)

Fujifilm X-T2 @ ISO 6400 | Download: Original RAW (.arf)

Fujifilm X-T2 @ ISO 6400 | Download: Original RAW (.arf)

Fujifilm X-T2 @ ISO 8000 | Download: Original RAW (.arf)

Fujifilm X-T2 @ ISO 8000 | Download: Original RAW (.arf)

Fujifilm X-T2 @ ISO 8000 | Download: Original RAW (.arf)

Fujifilm X-T2 @ ISO 10000 | Download: Original RAW (.arf)

Fujifilm X-T2 @ ISO 10000 | Download: Original RAW (.arf)

ISO 12800

Fujifilm X-T2 @ ISO 12800 | Download: Original RAW (.arf)

Fujifilm X-T2 @ ISO 12800 | Download: Original RAW (.arf)

Fujifilm X-T2 @ ISO 12800 | Download: Original RAW (.arf)

Fujifilm X-T2 @ ISO 12800 | Download: Original RAW (.arf)

Fujifilm X-T2 @ ISO 12800 | Download: Original RAW (.arf)

Fujifilm X-T2 @ ISO 12800 | Download: Original RAW (.arf)

Fujifilm X-T2 @ ISO 12800 | Download: Original RAW (.arf)

Fujifilm X-T2 @ ISO 12800 | Download: Original RAW (.arf)

Fujifilm X-T2 @ ISO 12800 | Download: Original RAW (.arf)

Fujifilm X-T2 @ ISO 12800 | Download: Original RAW (.arf)

Fujifilm X-T2 @ ISO 12800 | Download: Original RAW (.arf)

Examples of the Extended High ISO of the Fujifilm X-T2

ISO 25600

Fujifilm X-T2 @ ISO 25600 | Download: Original RAW (.arf)

Fujifilm X-T2 @ ISO 25600 | Download: Original RAW (.arf)

Fujifilm X-T2 @ ISO 25600 | Download: Original RAW (.arf)

Fujifilm X-T2 @ ISO 25600 | Download: Original RAW (.arf)

Fujifilm X-T2 @ ISO 25600 | Download: Original RAW (.arf)

Fujifilm X-T2 @ ISO 25600 | Download: Original RAW (.arf)

Fujifilm X-T2 @ ISO 25600 | Download: Original RAW (.arf)

Fujifilm X-T2 @ ISO 25600 | Download: Original RAW (.arf)

Fujifilm X-T2 @ ISO 25600 | Download: Original RAW (.arf)

Fujifilm X-T2 @ ISO 25600 | Download: Original RAW (.arf)

Fujifilm X-T2 @ ISO 25600 | Download: Original RAW (.arf)

Fujifilm X-T2 @ ISO 25600 | Download: Original RAW (.arf)

Fujifilm X-T2 @ ISO 25600 | Download: Original RAW (.arf)

Fujifilm X-T2 @ ISO 25600 | Download: Original RAW (.arf)

ISO 51200

Fujifilm X-T2 @ ISO 51200 | Download: Original RAW (.arf)

Fujifilm X-T2 @ ISO 51200 | Download: Original RAW (.arf)

Fujifilm X-T2 @ ISO 51200 | Download: Original RAW (.arf)

Fujifilm X-T2 @ ISO 51200 | Download: Original RAW (.arf)

Fujifilm X-T2 @ ISO 51200 | Download: Original RAW (.arf)

Fujifilm X-T2 @ ISO 51200 | Download: Original RAW (.arf)

Fujifilm X-T2 @ ISO 51200 | Download: Original RAW (.arf)

Conclusion

I’ve found the performance is really impressive throughout the X-T2’s native ISO range, including 12800. Once you step beyond that into the extended range, as you’d expect, the quality starts to drop off markedly. ISO 25600 is also quite usable, but by 51200 things are heading downhill fast, and it’s not a setting I’d use in everyday shooting. Converting the black and white can hide some of the flaws, but even then it’s more a break-glass-in-emergency type of setting. But that you can get very good quality even up to ISO 12800 is itself impressive.

Find Them At

The Fujifilm X-T2 is available from B&H Photo in several configurations, including body only, with a kit lens, and bundled with some accessories. You can find them all here.

View Comments

  • These images are essentially of still life...meaning multiple exposures can be taken and easily stacked in photoshop to drastically reduce noise. Many cameras have this function built in...called something like "night shot", where the camera takes several images and combines them in-camera. I don't know if Fuji cameras offer that mode. Anyway good to see the X-T2 has decent low-light performance, and even a single frame can look good enough, esp if a good noise reduction software is used (DXO Photolab's "prime" noise reduction for example).

    • Sorry about that, but thanks for letting me know. I moved the cloud storage location recently and misplaced a single character in the process. Should be fixed now--you might need to refresh the page.

  • I use the X-T2, my 3rd Fuji, I however find anything over 6400 not very good. It could be just my photo skill. Yours look perfectly fine. What sharpness settings you use in LR. I just use the default amount 25 the updated 7.3, amount at 40.

    • I've not added any extra sharpening to any of these, so on the JPGs there's only Lightroom's default 25, 1.0, 25. The RAW versions don't have any.

  • Interesting looking at the pics - but i was really more interested in the 25600 & 51200 shots. Sometimes, the noise/ grain at the pushed settings can create atmosphere in an image that low noise/ grain just can;t give.

  • At the end of the day much depends on how the images are going to be used. If they are just going to be used small to illustrate a blog, or even a quarter-page in print then even 512000 could often be just about useable. Especially if the image is downsized to working size (say less than 1200 x 800px).

    Apart from ISO, the max usable size will also depend on the subject - lots of deep shadow will show up the noise earlier. A higher key image will usually get away with higher ISO.

    Of course larger print sizes are viewed at greater distance so there is point where noise/grain is unimportant as it is not visible at normal viewing distance. Of course pixel peeping will find noise at even low ISO's in the shadows of short exposures.

    Of course the raw processing should also change to reflect final usage.

    But it is useful to see that even 51`2000 could have applications but then it is down to the individuals decisons and priorities.

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