Fuji X-Pro2 Initial thoughts and review
I first got into Fuji cameras in 2013 when I was looking for something that was a little lighter and more compact than my DSLR, but without sacrificing too much image quality. After trying my friends Fuji X-E1 and liking it, I went ahead and purchased my own X-E1. The X-E1 soon became my everyday camera, although I kept on using my D700 for professional work, as there were still a few things lacking on the X-E1 that made me hold off fully committing to Fuji: The slight niggly use of the directional buttons to select 1/3rd-stop shutter speeds, the 1/125 flash sync, the 1/4000 max shutter speed and the fact it wasn’t quite as fast as my D700 in practice. Once the rumors of a Fuji X-Pro2 started to trickle in and the hype-train started to roll, it started to look like the camera that could finally make me switch fully.
Once the Fuji X-Pro2 was announced, it was clear that it filled in the gaps that were stopping me making the switch. Apart from the headline specs of a 24MP count and 12,800 ISO, I was pleased to see the retention of the screw-in remote shutter release, a flash sync of 1/250, and an increase in dynamic range. Along with the inevitable upgrade of IQ and low noise that comes with new technology I was eager to buy one, and pre-ordered it off Amazon. Apart from a minor hiccup with stock levels (they sold out) I then bough one from the lovely people at LCE.
Out the box things are as you would expect from a camera bearing a ‘pro’ moniker – solid, robust and just nice. This extends to the lovely shutter noise – it’s very subtle and quiet with a tiny whistle and a descreet “thnnk” sound that reminds you what a shutter should sound like. In my D200, X-E1, even the D700, the shutter always sounded a bit “rattly”, more like it was more falling down some stairs with a tray of crockery. Not with the X-pro2 – this was much more in line with my F5. No messing about, open-shut-done. It’s also fast – with the X-E1, you did feel like you could miss a shot while things were being re-set to take another photo – in reality this was still less than a second – but the X-pro2 is ready to take another almost instantly.
One feature I was pleasantly surprised about, was the integrated ISO / Shutter dial. To change the ISO, one lifts and rotates an inner dial. This is a feature I really like as it reminds me of my Contax 139 which uses the same system. It it retro hipster? Probably, does it work? Very much so. The exposure comp dial (now +/- 3EV) was one thing that I kept knocking on the X-E1 without realising it, although it seems a lot stiffer on the X-Pro2, only time will tell if it’s an improvement.
The Fuji X-Pro2 styling is based on the classic rangefinder look, and the big draw to it over the “SLR” form factor X-T1 is the optical viewfinder (OVF). I really like this, although it takes some getting used too. There is a digital overlay that appears in the OVF that shows you everything you need to know (customisable of course) and there is a leaver on the front of the camera to easily swap between the OVF and EVF. I can see street photographers loving the OVF as it allows you to see outside the field of view of the lens and anticipate what is going to enter the frame. One thing I was a little worried about was the parallax. With a rangefinder camera as the lens and viewfinder are in different places, so see things slightly differently. Taking landscapes and things this isn’t too much of an issue, but closeup and portrait work, you don’t really want to cut things out the shot. Luckily the X-Pro2 has this covered and in the OVF I have a small EVF in the lower corner and a separate box in the middle of the viewfinder that allows me to compose shots with parallax in mind. Very clever. One other feature of the X-Pro2 I like is the inclusion of a small joystick on the back. In practice this allows you to easily choose one of the 77 (or 273 – depending how you set it up) AF focus points without having to remove your eye from the view finder.
Coming from the Fuji X-E1 many things were familiar, although generally everything is faster and better. The ergonomics seem much improved – although noticeably heavier, the built-in grips on the front and back of the camera fit my hands fine (although I don’t have particularly big hands). All the dials and buttons are on the right hand side of the body, another move to make them easier to reach while still looking though the viewfinder. I like the idea of the two-card slot, although I’m not sure I’d use it that much in practice. I am a RAW shooter, and have a good workflow built up around processing photos through Lightroom, as a lot of my “style” comes from post processing. Many people will shoot RAW+jpg over the two cards, that’s great for them, the jpgs are really nice, but I’m just used to shooting RAW.
I’ve been shooting a lot in an effort to get to know how things work and familierise myself with the camera, although I’m not one for trying to find the extremes of what it can do, I do admit for my Freshwater bay shots I did try to put it into situations with lots of contrast to push it a little, especially in the shot below – shooting into the sun while in a shadow – to see how it coped. (Rather well in fact. Shame about the boring sky though…). In the field it almost behaves exactly the same as the X-E1, but it’s the things you don’t notice until it does it that set it apart. I like to shoot fairly wide apertures, but where I was limited to 1/4000 shutter on the X-E1, I found myself shooting at 1/6000 with out realising, if I needed to change a focus point, I just moved it over with the little joystick. Not having to open the battery compartment to get to the memory card, and not having to remove the tripod mount to get to the battery compartment – It’s the little things that make shooting with the Fuji X-Pro2 just a really nice experience.
As with anything that is brand new new, there are always a few niggles, and despite Fuji building a really top-notch camera, I have experienced one (small) thing that has cropped up with other Fuji X-Pro2’s. This was the menu-reset bug. After changing lenses on the third day, I discovered that all my custom settings had reverted back to the factory defaults. I Googled this and it appears to be a common problem, however I’ve since changed lenses a lot and swapped batteries, and the issue hasn’t happened again. I’m sure there will be a Firmware update soon that will address this though.
One other thing people have noted – although not necessarily a niggle – is the battery life. I’m showing two bars left after five days of light to medium shooting, which I do admit is a little power hungry, although this is sort of to be expected: The X-Pro2 has a lot of things going on under the hood that require lots of power. There are however three power modes – high performance, standard, and economy, so depending on your type of shooting you may be able to eek out a little more juice. Fuji have kept the same battery as in all the Fuji cameras though, so while the battery may not last quite as long, anyone who already has a Fuji camera already has a spare – swings and roundabouts.
I really like this camera. It does everything I need it to and does it well. It’s quiet, compact (compared to a DSLR), fast, and has superb image quality. Is it a DSLR killer?? I can’t really say. Technology is always moving on. I originally said my X-E1 was almost on a par with my D700 (although the D700 still edged it due to speed), although I’m pretty sure the Fuji X-Pro2 is a step above that.
Comparing it to a Nikon D5 or Canon 1D mk5 I really can’t say – Different tools for different jobs, but I’d say probably not. While the IQ is probably there or there about for day-to-day shooting, it’s in the extremes where a pro DSLR wins out, and is the reason why they’re still selling to the people that need them. The Fuji X-Pro2 is a very capable camera, I’d have no hesitation in recommending it to people who shoot street, documentary, weddings or landscapes where the smaller size is a plus, but there is no compromise in image quality or speed. The ‘perfect’ camera?? For me, quite possibly.