First Blooms in Wilkes Barre (Fujifilm X Pro 2, XF 35mm f1.4)
I don’t need to make excuses. The Fujifilm X Pro 2 is an excellent camera. No more hearing how my camera is “cool but quirky”, no more defending the brands performance deficits. This camera just works.
For many years, Fujifilm’s offerings to the Pro/ serious amateur photo consumer were a series of reworked Nikon DSLRs with unique to Fuji sensors. But this hybridization always seemed to induce foibles in the camera’s performance, and behavior. I owned several, and was drawn to the pleasing color balance, and fairly high resolution, but like all Fuji shooters put up with substandard autofocus and responsiveness, relative to their Nikon cousins.
After the Last Nikon/Fuji DSLR, the S5Pro, launched in 2006, Fujifilm then seemed to abandon the serious photography market until 2010, when they introduced the lovely and very premium X100 retro-rangefinder style camera, signaling the companies return to the manufacture of camera bodies and optics. In 2012 they followed up with the interchangeable lens X Pro 1.
These early efforts were beguiling as a tactile experience , as well as quite compelling optically . But keeping to Fuji tradition, they were functionally crude, tending to be slow, with weird controls and unreliable autofocus. Laudably, this time, Fujifilm invested the resources to correct many of these problems, and with the latest firmware, these early cameras evolved into very pleasant and useful photographic tools.
Scintillating Dinner Companions (X Pro 2, XF 23mm f1.4)
Nowadays, having absorbed the lessons of the past, each new Fujifilm product, tends to be well developed at its release. So it is with the long-awaited X Pro 2.
As usual, this is not a technical review; those are readily available at places like Dpreview, and at Sean Reid’s subscription site. I offer however my observations after several weeks of continuous use for landscape, street and event photography.
I miss the unboxing experience of the original X Pro 1. Someone at the time created packaging that really created the impression of a premium product. Oh well. Better I guess that the effort was focused of the firmware, not the wrapper.
X Pro 1, X Pro 2 (Sony RX 100 Mk III)
The X Pro 2 is distinctly larger than the other Fuji bodies that I own. It dwarfs the XT-10 and it’s slightly larger and heavier built, than my X Pro 1. As I love the compact size of the other Fujifilm products, this did not initially seem to be an advantage. Now of course, the X Pro 2 is weatherproof. This is good. I wish my lenses were.
There is of course the hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder which has been a feature of the X100 and X Pro series since the beginning. The function of this is well described elsewhere. As I use the electronic side perhaps 99% of the time, it’s less important to me.
I have discovered recently however, that if you the camera set up to shoot black and white jpgs, the little video window in the corner focus aid in the optical finder also becomes black and white, and much more revealing as to the state of focus.
Bikes (Fujifilm X Pro 2, XF 23mm f1.4)
And BTW, thanks for the adjustable diopter. It’s about time.
I have subsequently noticed several important details related to the X Pro 2’s size that have proved very charming.
#1 Finally Fuji designs a camera where the tripod mount sits at the centerline of the lens. This plus the extra length of the body, allows the battery door to finally be clear of the tripod puck, facilitating quick battery changes in the field.
Lunch at Around Town Bikes (Fujifilm X Pro 2, XF 23mm f1.4)
#2 the memory card slot has moved from the battery compartment to the side plate of the camera, and a second one added. This means an end to the frequent annoyance of unscrewing the tripod mount to change memory and then replacing it, only to repeat the process when 2 minutes later, the battery craps out.
All is not well with this however. There are changes in the menus that bury certain functions such as SD card formatting, and memory card slot selection behind other vague menu items. So far I cannot assign these functions to the new “my menu” feature. I wish Fuji would have stuck to the menu format of recent products which is very familiar. Fujifilm should look to Nikon who has far better approach for dealing with multiple card slots and formatting.
Watching the Parade ( Fujifilm X Pro 2, XF 23mm f1.4)
The other controls are fine. I really like all of the places where there are now programmable function buttons. I also love the idea of the new autofocus joystick but I tend to ignore it, having assigned the bottom button of the 4 way controller to autofocus selection in sync with my other Fuji bodies. I don’t want to miss a shot with for instance my X100t, while I search for a joystick that isn’t there.
They also managed to retain a threaded shutter button for cable releases, also a pleasant surprise.
Recently I have been seeing reviews of the X Pro 2 that are critical of the combined shutter speed/ISO dial. I have no issue as I tend to use custom auto ISO settings. To me the ISO portion of the dial lets me move quickly between auto vs. a fixed ISO, when I shoot moving water or panoramas.
Elsa? (Fujifilm X Pro 2, XF 23mm f1.4)
And yes, the exposure compensation dial is larger than on other bodies, and more prone to being accidentally moved.
This time of year in Eastern Pennsylvania, the landscapes are bleak as we wait for foliage which will begin to emerge in the mountains in mid to late April. Our St Patrick’s day parade is one opportunity for bored photographers waiting for nature to provide some color. On that day I carried the X Pro 2 with the XF 23mm f1.4, and my XE2 with the XF55-200mm f3.5.
Father and Son (Fujifilm XE2, XF 55-200 f3.5)
In use, the X Pro 2 starts up quickly. Autofocus is almost instantaneous in good light, a hair quicker in comparison to my XT-10. Autofocus also seems slightly better on low light/contrast situations, but again, the improvement in my experience, is subtle (I was already pretty happy with focusing on recent Fuji cameras). There are apparently 273 separate focus points, up from 77 on the previous bodies. I did not test focus tracking, but it works well enough on my XT-10, so it is likely no worse. Face and eye detection work nicely, though it continues to amuse me that when shooting a mixed gender group, the camera almost always focuses on a woman. Maybe it is looking for the bride?
Focus on the Women (Fujifilm X Pro 2, XF 23mm f1.4)
I have not yet tested its video capabilities, but I understand they have been improved to the point that at least 1080p video is decent. There is scuttlebutt on the web suggesting that Fujifilm has disabled the cameras 4K video capability due to a tendency to overheat.
The new sensor is where to me, things get interesting, though not completely in a good way. Image quality from the new Trans-X series III sensor is excellent. Captures, particularly in Raw, are detailed, and very malleable, with excellent dynamic range. Raw files can finally be compressed losslessly, per Fuji. I still find that the Silkypix software downloadable from Fuji (or in-camera conversion) performs a slightly cleaner raw conversion than Adobe Camera Raw (Capture One does not recognize X Pro 2 files yet).
So what’s the problem? At least in my informal testing, I can discern maybe a little improvement in resolution, and high ISO performance, for the new 24mp sensor over the old 16mp chip in comparisons using the same camera and raw conversion settings, and lenses.
X Pro 2 ISO 200 100%
XE2 ISO 200 100%
X Pro 2 ISO 6400 100%
XE2 ISO 6400 100%
Looking at Dpreview’s test shots, there does at least seem to be a reasonable increase in apparent resolution in their hands. To those of us hoping for huge leaps forward, this is slightly disappointing (though I already really like the image quality I obtain with the brand). At least I won’t pine for the X Pro 2 sensor when using my other bodies.
Vernal Light and Shadows (Fujifilm X Pro 2, XF 35mm f1.4)
Let’s talk about film simulations. Now I have never been much of a jpg shooter. But I was intrigued, by the images shot using the Acros film simulations that I saw in various reviews of the X Pro 2. So I began to experiment with myself. I have either shot the camera set up for raw and jpg, or used the Fujifilm profiles included in Adobe Camera Raw, and the bundled Raw Converter (Silkypix) when X Pro 2 files are processed. I really like the results that I am getting.
Silkypix (Raw File Converter)100%
I’m not sure I understand why the profiles for Acros can’t be applied to other Fujifilm cameras raw files . Fujifilm says that the new processor in the X Pro 2 is necessary for creation of an in-camera “Acros” jpg, but certainly a computer running either above raw processor should be adequate to make the conversion for other camera files. At any rate, I’ve created a custom setting in ACR which is a pretty close match for the straight Acros conversion (no filter).
Charlie (Fujifilm X 100s Acros simulation)
The X Pro 2 is a polished followup to the original X Pro 1 with most if not all of the Fujifilm quirks ironed out. In speed, image quality, and functionality it is certainly competitive with the best equipment out there. It is no longer dependent on camera nostalgia for its appeal (though that appeal remains strong).
No more excuses. Not necessary.
Addendum: I received a very kind note from Stacey Moore, who is a Field Training Representative for Fujifilm North America. Addressing specifically my comments on the SD card selection and formatting options she writes:
“I noticed a couple of tips I can pass on to you: shortcut for formatting cards is to press/hold trash can button and brief press on the rear sub-command dial…it will take you to a selection option to format slot 1 or slot 2. It is rather tricky, I have found – it takes me a few tries sometimes to get it right. Another shortcut is is press/hold playback and a brief press on the rear sub-command dial will allows a quick switch between slot 1 and slot 2.”
I checked it out. Both commands work nicely, but only on the X Pro 2. The format command does not seem to work for instance, with my X 100t. Fuji should consider little red “format labels” near the appropriate buttons, like Nikon does
Thanks very much Stacey. Chime in anytime.
Just a Reminder: you can left click on the images to see a larger version. Better yet you can visit my Smugmug site here.