Fuji's X-Pro2

Fuji film's new X-Pro2...very retro

Fuji film's new X-Pro2...very retro

The new Fujifilm X-Pro2 is a pretty darned good little camera. I don’t mean little as in so small that it will fit in a coat pocket but compared to even a smallish DSLR, its pretty compact. I’ve had mine for a few weeks so I thought I might pass along my impressions. This is not a COMPLETE review. It’s not a terribly technical review. It’s just my impressions after using it for a while as compared to the other Fuji’s I own and use. My thoughts obviously stray to how it works as compared to my Nikon’s (D4s, D810 and Df) which are my "work" cameras. 

The X-Pro2 is the next gen of the four-year-old X-Pro1, a camera I still have and use. It was my first mirrorless camera experiment. I also have the X-T1, which is also mirrorless (all Fuji’s are), an X100 and an X100T. They are all different. I happen to think they are all good too. I love the handling, the look and, most importantly, the results the Fuji’s deliver.

The X-Pro2 was well-hyped prior even to its announcement. My pre-order was placed in January 2016 after Fuji formally announced the camera. The things (and there are a few) most people, myself included, love about the Fuji cameras that make them somewhat unique, are 1) they are designed to be cameras with video more an after thought, AND 2) they are designed and manufactured to produce a film like result from a digital sensor. They do this with their internal firmware using the vast experience they have with their films, coupled with a sensor, filter and processor combination designed to work in concert with that firmware. If you desire a film like result right out of camera, then you might want to investigate shooting with a Fuji. They actually have their film engineers (I guess that’s what you call them) working with their electronics engineers in a collaborative effort to build the film simulations they offer. Another group of engineers are tasked with building a sometime “retro”, always old school look and feel into an advanced up-to-date camera; with camera being the operative word. Fuji cameras by and large look and feel like cameras of old. Aperture selection is a ring on a lens. Shutter a dial on the top plate. Yeah. I have to add a (3) third "thing" people really dig; the lens lineup. The offering of lenses for their cameras is outstanding.

The X-Pro2 is updated with a new 24.3 MP sensor versus the 16.3 MP four years ago. All the colors and contrast of the past film simulations carry over and a new B&W one has been added. Oh, yeah…I happen to think no one does B&W images as well as Fuji – including even the big name L camera. This new film type called “ACROS” builds on that and it is good. Fuji uses an X-Trans filter array on their sensor, which is atypical of the normal Bayer filter array used by the rest of the world. There are a few camps of thought about this. Fuji says this sensor filter array lets them get the colors they need to build their film simulations and I believe them. I buy into it. Many don’t. This does mean the X-Trans based sensor produces a different RAW file format totally different from a Bayer based format. And that really frosts a lot of people. The biggest reason is that so many people use Adobe to process their RAW files and Adobe support of X-Trans is wanting (I’m being nice to Adobe). I’m not an Adobe RAW conversion guy having switched to Capture One but Iridient Developer to me is still the best Fuji converter available. .

The old X-Pro1 was a quirky beast. Its auto focus was tedious. Fuji came around with some nice firmware eventually and that helped but it’s still not on par with what we have today. I find it useable if you work slow and deliberate. I also get fantastic results with its sensor and the 35mm f/1.4 lens. Its uncanny but it makes it a keeper. Understand, mirrorless systems were first based on contrast detection off the sensor for auto focus, which is more accurate but slower in use and you need more light to detect those differences in contrast.  Phase detection is pixel based, very fast, and can work almost in the dark but lacks a teeny bit in accuracy. DSLR’s have phase detection AF systems down. That’s why they rock where you need to focus on speedy subjects. They also have AF modules which is another sensor in itself to assist with  AF. There were some other quirks associated with the X-Pro1 besides AF. Controls were sort of laid out strange. The menu was oddly configured and it brought forth Fuji’s 1st gen hybrid viewfinder, which is your run of the mill optical viewfinder, or OVF, coupled with an electronic viewfinder, or EVF, which are mini LCD panels. One in the viewfinder and one on the back of the camera. So you could go old school with the OVF meaning you frame up and then adjust for parallax when you did the half shutter button press. Or switch it over to EVF and go with what you see.  Old school can be cool. But not to a lot of people or uses. The EVF was necessary for everything but smaller wide and normal angle lenses.

This OVF/EVF hybrid viewfinder is pretty common across Fuji cameras so in the last four years there have been lots of upgrades and the X-Pro2 is about the best iteration so far. The OVF does correct for parallax now and the EVF updates very fast so there is no delay or flickering. Its very “optical” DSLR like. No more bitching (But someone will). The X-Pro2 is beefier in size than the X-Pro1, not by much, and the grip and fit to the hand is much improved. It’s all metal and solid. The controls are laid out very different but they are easy to use with the exception of the ISO adjustment dial. Someone missed something there. I have no idea how this design got through QA but it sucks besides having a cheap plastic feel to it. I have also found the little dial for adjusting the viewfinder diopter while being a nice add, gets moved every time I store and remove the camera from the bag. In that vein, the exposure compensation dial could use a tighter detent as it moves pretty easy too. Otherwise the controls are about perfect. They are responsive with a nice feel to them. The X-Pro2 uses a new Focus Lever. The person who added this needs to work on the ISO adjustment dial. The Focus Lever is brilliant. It’s a joystick like control, which lets you move the focus point all over the viewfinder EASILY. Intuitively. The X-Pro2 also has all the updates like electronic shutter to 1/32000th, flash sync to 1/250th, max (mechanical) shutter of 1/8000th, a new AF system with 273 auto focus points – 169 are phase detection type, and all of them are selectable via that cool Focus Lever.  It also has the Zone and wide tracking predictive AF system like the X100T and X-T1. Fuji did upgrade the movie capability but since I’m not a video guy, I can’t speak to that. I've heard its a huge improvement though from other sources. 

So its got great guts (sensor) and a good interface (controls) but what’s always set Fuji cameras apart are the film like quality results derived from their digital data capture. The X-Pro2 has excellent color, outstanding ISO performance and dynamic range for an APS-C sensor. It’s detail and acuity is outstanding. In use the camera just performs and I have to say that certain things like using the lever to select focus and the Q (Quick) menu to configure the Auto ISO, DR, Film simulation, WB, among other features, just makes it soooo easy to use. There is a lot more here than just an extra 8 MP. I think those excellent Fujinon lenses the company offers really help in getting the results this camera is capable of. I own eight lenses covering 10mm to 400mm focal lengths and there is not a dud among them. Fuji says right up front in their presentations, the number of pixels per se doesn’t matter so much, what matters is output resolution. They design the camera and the lenses to work together to achieve their desired output goal. Like I said before. I am a believer. I have some very large prints using the older sensor and there are no issues. My printer once asked what camera I was using to get the detail he saw in a 24x36 print. 

So I have a few studio shoots scheduled to test the camera further. I’ve used it outdoors to cover events, in the studio with a mannequin to test flash results, custom WB, triggering, etc. And I’ve taken pictures of my pets and anyone that will stand still long enough. I like what I am seeing. I’ll update this post with more info as I work with the camera. As much as I gush over the camera, its not perfect. I think the system still lacks decent flash support. Fuji also announced a new HSS capable, TTL flash unit with optical triggering (yawn) which is due in May, or so. Right now, I use standard triggers with my Profoto lights and Nikon/LumoPro 180R speedlights and it works fine. Just no HSS, which is something I use often. We will see how this stands up to my good old tried and true Nikon system. I look forward to testing with it. The battery life is one of the negatives. It uses a small battery. You need a lot of them. So far it seems to be better than the X-T1 but not by a lot. There is no tethering support worth a crap for it either. THAT is a studio issue for me. My Fuji system in a Gura Gear Kiboto 22L backpack with 6 of the eight lenses and three bodies weighs around 26 lbs. My Think Tank Roller Airport Security roller with my 5-6 Nikon standard work lenses and two bodies plus a lot more accessories I use weighs double - just over 50 lbs but can easily get trimmed back to under 40 lbs for travel on an airline. The Fuji's can provide similar results at half the weight. 

There are a lot of mirrorless cameras out now.  Mega pixels and resolution are only one part of what makes a camera good. You have to enjoy using it for one thing. It should inspire. I like the older retro look and feel since I grew up shooting those sorts of cameras. Fuji’s feel like cameras. I’ve not had to have much service done on any Fuji; my X-T1 required shipment for a recall but it was quick painless and free. Their newer cameras are weather resistant and most of their new lenses are too. They seem built for the long haul. I can’t say that about other mirrorless sytems I have owned or used from other companies. And then there is that film like quality from a digital camera that’s closer to a film camera than anything I have found. It could make shooting RAW something for a museum display.