I have had the great privilege of using a prototype of the highly anticipated Fujifilm X-Pro2 camera since late October 2015. I arrived in my second home Singapore on 29th of October 2015, Charlene was already there and had just received our X-Pro2 pre-production copy two days earlier. It was super exciting to actually have the X-Pro2 in my hands. The return of the legend had been rumoured for years, and it was finally here and I could not wait to try it out!
What follows are entirely my own impressions based on a prototype X-Pro2, with some history, some pictures and some silliness thrown in.
HIP HIP HOORAY!
The Fujifilm X-camera series celebrates it’s 5th birthday today! I bought the original X-100 back in April 2011 and I am glad to have been there almost from the start. The v1.0 firmware was quirky to say the least, but I loved the X-100 and in May 2012 I sold all of my Canon gear and bought the Fujifilm X-Pro1 with 18mm & 35mm lenses. I switched to exclusively using Fujifilm X-cameras. In March of 2013 I was honoured to be named an official Fujifilm X-photographer and so many awesome things have happened since. Congratulations Fujifilm, it has been a fantastic ride and I really look forward to the next 5 years.
THE LEGENDARY FUJIFILM X-PRO1
The Fujifilm X-Pro1 was my camera of choice for nearly 2 years till the X-T1 came out. It traveled several times around the world with me and worked many music events. While the X-T1 wildly outperforms it and has replaced my battered old X-Pro1 completely, I still feel the X-Pro1 has the best camera body of all the X-cameras. I also have a nostalgic attachment to it, the ole’ X-Pro1 started many things for me, and I have made a lot of my best pictures with it. There is so much history and emotional attachment to the it that it must have been a scary task to try and make a followup. So I was wildly anticipating the new Star Wars movie! – and I was also really looking forward to what Fujifilm would come up with for the X-Pro2!
THE FUJIFILM X-PRO2 AT MUSIC EVENTS
This is the biggest test for me: how does the camera work, perform and feel when I use it at gigs? I work as a music photographer and I have shot gigs with the Fujifilm X-100 (the original), the X-Pro1, the X-E2 and the X-T1. For the past nearly two years my camera of choice has been the X-T1 and it is an incredible performer at gigs (read more about it here). It is almost the perfect music photography camera, so how would the X-Pro2 fare?
I had the chance to find out just a few days after arriving in Singapore, when Zouk Singapore nightclub very kindly allowed Charlene and I to photograph their Halloween party (thanks to Fujifilm Japan for sending the X-Pro2 so quickly that I had it available for this event). Later on, in December, Club kyo in Singapore very kindly allowed me to shoot when the legendary Francois K played. What follows are some of the images and my impressions.
THINGS I REALLY LIKE
- The new 24.3MP X-Trans CMOS III sensor. It combines extremely high image quality, with a remarkable lack of noise. Wow does the new sensor deliver! The lack of noise at high ISO is spectacular. I thought the X-T1 was fantastic, but this is mad good. How can we be able to shoot at ISO 12,800 with so little noise when it seems like yesterday TV was in black and white? I am blown away. Think about it, we can shoot, hand held, no noise, in almost pitch black conditions. The cameras nowadays sees better than I do at night. It is mad good. Oh and we now have 24 megapixel and still have lower noise than before!
Almost all of my professional work requires at least ISO 6400 so low noise capability is extremely important to me. ISO 6400 on the X-Pro2 is almost free of noise, and it even goes up to ISO 12,800 and is still very clean. Remarkable. On the X-T1 I would happily shoot and deliver images from an entire event at ISO 6400. That limit just became ISO 12,800 with a lot less noise too, oh and with 24 megapixels. The images in this blog post are mostly from ISO 6400 to 10000 and they show a very low level of noise.
- The fast shutter. It is practically instant, it has a great feel to it, and sounds nice as well. It is such a pleasure to shoot with and makes it easier to capture fast moving action and lights. I thought the X-T1 shutter was reasonably fast, but there is a very noticeable shutter lag compared to the X-Pro2. This shutter does the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs, it is that fast. Also, the time the EVF goes black in between shooting is much shorter now.
- The new super fast X-Processor Pro image processor. The camera is just in general fast responding and I especially like how fast the startup time now is.
- Body shape. Oh yeah, the good old X-Pro 1 body! This is the feeling of return of a legend. The rangefinder shape is so nice and much better in many respects than the X-T1 body.
- Double memory card slot. This is cool feature for commercial work such as weddings and other events where card failure is catastrophic. I might use it too for backup purposes at music events. I have never had a card corrupt on me, but backups are always nice.
- Battery life. It was actually much better than expected. I shot 830 images on RAW+JPEG setting in Zouk Singapore and used a little under 2 batteries. That is quite good I find, on par with my X-T1.
THINGS I DISLIKE
- The AF-L “back focus” button. On the prototype, the AF-L button is so recessed that it is unusable (this will apparently however be fixed in the production models). For me, the AF-L button is also in a place that is almost unreachable for my thumb. Fortunately the AE-L and AF-L buttons can be swapped in firmware. The AE-L button then becomes the AF-L button and this is a lot better, but still not great. The X100 series has probably the best placement of AF-L button but every X-camera has a new placement for it, and none of them ideal. For me, the X-Pro2 is worse for back button focus than the X-T1. It continues to puzzle me that Fujifilm do not seem to understand that a lot of us shoot 99% of the time in manual mode using back button focus. Like any button on the back of the camera that I need to use during shooting, the placement and design of the button is super important.
- The new ISO wheel. This is the second ISO wheel design on an X-camera, and here we have ISO selection built into the shutter speed wheel. You sort of lift up the button to change ISO. It is different but not better than the ISO wheel on the X-T1, which I am not a big fan of either. To be honest, on the X-pro2 I would prefer it to be menu and hotkey based like the X-Pro 1, I feel this ISO wheel is over-engineered and not an improvement and I really dislike using it while shooting.
- The “format” option in the new menu system. With the X-Pro 2 we have a new menu, which is fine, I do not mind. But the format option, which I and probably most photographers use constantly, is now hiding under a User Setting 2 levels deep in the menu. It requires way too many clicks to get to. Ok, we can now create our own custom menu now so surely we can add “format” and cure the problem? Nope. You cannot add “format” to your own menu. We are stuck with finding format 2 levels deep in the menu every single time we format a card. Arghhh, cue throwing a Kylo Ren lightsabre hissy fit!
A shortcut: OK, just been informed that it turns out there is a shortcut (thank you Karl!): press and hold the “trash bin” button for 2 secs, then click down on the back command wheel and this brings up the format option.
THINGS THAT MAKE ME GO HMMM
None of these are deal breakers for me, just random thoughts on using the camera.
- The EV wheel now includes a C mode that enables you to go to +/- 5 in EV by first setting the EV wheel to C and then using another wheel to change EV. Cool, but why not just make the wheel go to +/-5? Also, now the wheel can rotate freely, meaning that having walked with the camera over the shoulder, when you pick it up the EV has probably played Russian Roulette and landed on any random setting! That means you can set it to C but it will not stay there if you have a habit like me of walking around with your camera turned on, hanging on your shoulder.
- The new joystick to move focus point. It is very cool but I am probably the only photographer who never moves the focus point. The only time I do it, is when I have accidentally moved it and I am trying to figure out how to get the darn thing centered again! But the joystick is a cool and fast way to move it. It can be set so you have to click it down first to move the focus point, a very good thing for those of us who like to walk around with the camera turned on which means all the buttons will be randomly activated by rubbing against my belt, bag etc.
- The EVF viewfinder. It is very nice, high resolution and very fast refresh rate. Coming from the X-T1 though, it is a lot smaller. For working in pitch black nightclubs there is just nothing like that X-T1 viewfinder, the sheer size of it is like having night vision goggles and I do really miss the X-T1 viewfinder.
- No flip screen. OK, I can live without it, I have before and it was ok. But I remember when the X-T1 came out with the flip screen, I had never used a flip screen before and was not sure what I would need it for. Then I started using it at music events and found the flip screen to be an amazing tool to enable me shoot from really high or really low positions. I can still do that with the X-Pro 2, I just cannot see quite as well what I am doing. Not a deal breaker, just not ideal for gigs, a flip screen is better.
- Optical viewfinder. Ehem, sometime in the last century, when it always snowed on Christmas eve, this grumpy old man stated something like “I will never use an electronic viewfinder (EVF)”. Fast forward some years, and I have actually yet to use the optical viewfinder on the X-Pro2! The EVF is now so good on the X-T1 and X-Pro2 that I simply have no need anymore for an optical viewfinder. Also, I shoot music in really dark nightclubs, and the EVF means I can see in the dark, something the optical viewfinder cannot. Even an old dog can apparently learn something new!
- Video. I have tested it for all of 5 minutes but it does appear to have improved image quality. I will get some more experience with this over the next 4 months of travel in the USA and Mexico.
- The size of the RAW files. Un-compressed, they are now at 50MB so they do end up taking up a lot of space! The production models will fortunately support lossless compressed RAW, probably almost halving the file size to a more managable level.
- No panorama mode. The pre-production mode has no panorama shooting mode unlike every other X-camera. I really like using the panorama mode and hope it returns in the production firmware.
This is not a review, these are simply my experiences from using the X-Pro2 prototype for two months. I used it for some music gigs and a little bit of travel photography in Sri Lanka and Singapore. I have not tested everything on the X-Pro2, far from it. I probably use about 30% of what these cameras can actually do, I just shoot how I like to shoot and forget about the rest. Example: I only move the focus point on accident and then I always have to try and figure out how do I get it back to center! I am an official Fujifilm X-photographer, but these are entirely my own impressions. Notably, they are also based on a prototype with beta firmware.
Is the X-Pro2 everything we hoped for in? That is an impossible request, you can never please all of us – but it certainly delivers on many very important fronts. Whether The X-pro2 is the camera for you I cannot say, you really need to try that out for yourself. I use my cameras in a specific way for some specific purposes and your findings may be wildly different from mine.
Compared to using the X-T1 for music photography, I do very much miss the big viewfinder and the flip screen – but then the X-Pro2 has the amazing new sensor, fast overall response and fast shutter with almost no blackout and and that lovely rangefinder body.
In the end, always do remember: it is still just a camera, it will not make you a better photographer.
I plan to write a followup to using the X-Pro2 for music events later in the year when I have a lot more experience with the camera.
As I like to say, The conclusion is that there is no conclusion. The Fujifilm X-Pro2 is an amazing camera with a fantastic new low noise and high image quality sensor, a really fast shutter and the much-loved X-Pro1 rangefinder body. Of course, it also has some drawbacks and things I dislike. It is super exciting to have and use the X-Pro2 and I do look forward to getting to know it much better.
Do check out these other great reviews of the X-Pro2:
Charlene Winfred – featuring a great in-depth review and amazing images from Sri Lanka.
KAGE International Photography Collective – January 2015 magazine – our new magazine format launches with a huge X-Pro2 special, many X-Pro2 stories and reviews!
Thank you so much to: