The Fujifilm X-Pro2, the Optical Viewfinder Documentary Hybrid Camera for the Rest of Us? Plus Notes About the X-T2

While researching this reference page, I encountered X-Pro2 users producing not just one blog post about the camera but often a whole series of them. Why? The X-Pro2 appears simple enough on the surface but there is so much more than meets the eye, so much buried in the menu system and in the camera’s many features and capabilities. So many, I discovered, that it took several days to work my way through them, all the better to understand how to get the best out of this unique and very promising camera, one of the few digital rangefinder cameras available now. 

_2230106_1_DxO_1024px_683px_144ppi
The amazing Fujifilm X-Pro2 with Fujinon 35mm f2 lens, with Peak Design Clutch and Cuff straps, mounted on Joby Gorillapod Focus. Product photographs lit with Rotolight Neo 3 Light Kit and Neo Barndoors. Raw files processed with Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop CC2015 using Fujifilm presets.

I had more questions about the X-Pro2 than those other writers were answering, solo or collectively. Too many questions still unanswered in a very different way to my first big non-DSLR camera purchase, the Panasonic Lumix GH4. So, what to do? Where to turn for answers in the absence of in-depth websites and ebooks. Then, I was lucky enough to be loaned an X-Pro2 along with Fujinon XF35mmF2 R WR standard prime lens. Now I could discover my own answers.

My aim in this article is to answer some of those questions that have gone unanswered until now, if I can, and provide some personal insights into the X-Pro2 based on many years relying on OVF – optical viewfinder aka rangefinder – cameras in all formats from 35mm through 120 to 4”x5” sheet film for my professional work during the analog film era.

The most sophisticated optical viewfinder camera so far?

Ever since Canon’s EOS 5D Mark II reopened the doors to photography and moviemaking to me after too many years sidelined due to severe photochemical allergies, I have been waiting for a worthy and affordable digital successor to the Leica M analog rangefinder cameras that gave birth to my way of seeing and creating images, whether still or moving.

I had tried the X-Pro1 but found it disappointing – its lack of built-in diopter correction, fairly average ergonomics and glacial autofocus speed being the top three disappointments amongst several. Would its successor, the X-Pro2, rectify those faults and be what I had been waiting for all this time? Would it be the poor person’s Leica surpassing Leica’s own efforts at creating a rangefinder camera truly fit for the digital age?

OVF or EVF? Or both?

One thing puzzled me about the existing articles and videos about the X-Pro2 – most X-Pro2 users seemed to prefer using the camera’s electronic viewfinder (EVF) to its optical viewfinder (OVF). In some cases, they testified that they had never used their X-Pro2’s OVF at all. Odd, and rather cavalier I thought, considering that the X-Pro2’s EVF is good but not a patch on the X-T1‘s groundbreaking high magnification EVF.

I am not a massive fan of the centralised viewfinder DSLR style of most current hybrid cameras, except for zoom lens-equipped documentary 4K video where I rely on my Panasonic Lumix GH4, with my Panasonic Lumix GX8 serving as video B-camera and stills A-camera due to its rangefinder-style form factor and 20MP sensor.

Not to forget the fully articulated LCD monitor on both, which I especially rely on for stills when I want to concentrate wholly on the subject, forgoing the distraction of chimping as you go. It also provides effective protection for the LCD itself and is a boon when shooting video. Tilted LCDs are, for me, half-baked by comparison.

Optical viewfinder window clearly visible: review loaner Fujifilm X-Pro2 with Fujinon XF 35mm f/2 lens. I equip all my cameras with Peak Design straps for firm grip, safety and security.
Optical viewfinder window clearly visible: review loaner Fujifilm X-Pro2 with Fujinon XF 35mm f/2 lens. I equip all my cameras with Peak Design straps for firm grip, safety and security.

The X-Pro2’s state-of-the-art OVF, that Fujifilm refers to as its Advanced Hybrid Multi Viewfinder (HMVF), is more advanced than any digital Leica optical viewfinder and is responsible for eating up a large chunk of the X-Pro2’s research and development budget. The HMVF surely has to account for a big slice of the camera’s purchase price too, well above that of Fujifilm’s other pro-quality camera, the X-T1. And, no doubt, the X-T1’s successor when it appears sometime this year or next.

X-Pro2’s number one attraction – its OVF

Yet, for me, given my long history of rangefinder cameras in a range of film formats, the X-Pro2’s HMVF is the prime reason for placing this camera at the very top of my hardware wishlist. The X-Pro’s local purchase price is enough to make one wince, given the exchange rate, but I am willing to bite the bullet for the sake of that very special OVF as soon as I have the funds.

I am, however, grateful for the existence of the EVF in the X-Pro2 for one very big reason – what it brings to the X-Pro2’s optical viewfinder on steroids, the HMVF aka Hybrid Multi Viewfinder.

The Fujinon XF 35mm f2 prime lens with supplied plastic lens hood which tends to bind or become loose and drop off. I recommend the optional metal Leica-style vented lens hood.
The Fujinon XF 35mm f2 prime lens with supplied plastic lens hood which tends to bind or become loose and drop off. I recommend the optional metal vented lens hood.

The HMVF can be used in either of two ways, both accessible via the X-Pro’s front lever. Flip the lever to the left – camera left that is – to switch between an OVF enhanced with a small EVF image lower right, and an OVF without it. Fujifilm refers to that small, in-HMVF EVF image as the ERF – the electronic rangefinder. Flip the lever to camera right and on comes the EVF itself.

Ah! Acronyms, acronyms – the digital world is replete with them. Apologies.

The X-Pro2 DOES shoot video in OVF mode

The  in-OVF ERF allows you to accurately and quickly check focus with or without focus peaking. I like focus peaking. The ERF also, I discovered to my very great pleasure, displays the whole scene that you are shooting in video, once you have completed focussing and have hit function button number one to begin recording video. Do most of your video viewing through the camera’s optical viewfinder window but keep an eye on that nice little ERF image at lower right too.

Try to shoot video in the ERF-less OVF and the X-Pro2 automatically flips into full EVF. Is this why several video pundits enthusing about the X-Pro2 soon after its arrival informed us that video cannot be shot via OVF at all? Not so, as it turned out. Just ensure you flip into an ERF-ed OVF via a lever flick to camera left and worry about full EVF no more.

So here’s the drill if you want to experience the pleasures and terrors (I’m kidding) of OVF video, sort of like in the good old days of those two cameras in the picture below:

  • Push the front lever to camera left to select ERF mode if you are in ERF-less OVF mode or full EVF.
  • Having chosen peaking for your manual focusing assist, focus while checking for sharp peaked outlines in the ERF at lower right of the OVF window. I always shoot video with manual focus by the way.
  • Complete focussing then glance at the ERF image once again. There is your overview of the whole scene as seen through the camera’s lens and sensor. Get used to relating it to the slightly parallaxed scene through the OVF and to what you see with your still open left eye.

If this is bit too much information right now, I am hoping that Rico Pfirstinger’s book on the X-Pro2 will tell you everything that you need to know.

_2230077_1024px
Classic 8mm movie cameras with optical viewfinders, by Paillard Bolex and Meopta.

My rangefinders taught me to keep both eyes wide open years ago, processing the images coming through each as if projected side-by-side onto a screen in the movie theatre in my mind, or superimposed on each other at will. That skill gave me a whole new way of seeing well beyond the monocular vision of the SLRs of the time. Call it enhanced 3D binocular vision, if you like.

The X-Pro’s ERF-enhanced OVF makes the X-Pro2 very attractive as a specialized 1080p video camera to supplement my Panasonic 4K EVF-only stills/video hybrids. The other benefit of shooting video on an X-Pro2? Its wonderful film simulation modes for out-of-camera video that doesn’t need grading to look good. Go further down the page for some frame grab examples.

Some deep personal history, and serendipity

I learned to shoot movie film with vintage OVF-equipped movie cameras like those made by Bolex. Whether shooting stills or movies, optical viewfinders lend a degree of serendipitous chaos to the contents of the frame that is a truer reflection of real life than the often over-designed, too precisely-framed imagery shot through DSLR and EVF viewfinders. Especially when producing documentaries.

The other benefit of an OVF versus an EVF or, indeed, a DSLR camera is that it provides a deep space window into the world where everything from near to far is in sharp focus.

Add that to the extra space around the brightframe corresponding to each lens’ field of view, to allow you to see what is about to pop into frame, and you have a unique viewing and photographing experience. An experience often cherished by longtime Leica users like David Alan Harvey or David Burnett.

About the same size: Paillard Bolex 8mm OVF movie camera and Fujifilm X-Pro2 APS-C Super 35mm movie-cum-stills camera.
About the same size: Paillard Bolex 8mm OVF movie camera and Fujifilm X-Pro2 APS-C Super 35mm movie-cum-stills camera.

And don’t forget another oft-ignored OVF benefit – no shutter blackout at the exact moment of exposure. These three OVF-only features combine to make possible images I have struggled to precisely emulate using EVF and DSLR cameras with their shutter blackouts, narrow plane of focus, blinkered vision and sometimes too much precision.

An ever-growing collection of top quality lenses

My prime subject matter is the act of living in the world with all its quirks and surprises and the X-Pro2’s HMVF is a blessing in how it allows me to capture that. So is Fujifilm’s ever-growing collection of top-quality prime and zoom lenses. As they say, enthusiasts wax lyrical about cameras while professionals devote the same degree of attention to lenses. The trick is to choose the right set of lenses for the job, and nobody’s lens wishlist is the same.

I relied on four focal lengths during my Leica M-series 35mm film days – 28mm, 35mm, 50mm and 90mm. In Fujifilm APS-C terms, that is 18mm, 23mm, 35mm and 56mm. Occasionally I would borrow a Noctilux from the Leica reps for really challenging available darkness assignments. Perhaps Fujifilm has some ultrafast optics planned for the future – they are certainly capable of designing and producing them.

I usually carried two Leicas on magazine assignments, one with a wider lens and one with a longer one, typically 28mm with 50mm and 35mm with 90mm. Mostly though I relied on the wider end of the scale. All my Leica lenses were Summicrons with maximum apertures of f/2, demanding grainy high speed films for such projects. Chunky grain has its charms but I am so glad it is no longer the only choice for challenging photographs.

The magic of ISO invariance.

Those filmic days of golf ball grain are well over now, especially with the current crop of ISO invariant sensors which includes the X-Pro2 and which first appeared on Sony’s A7 series of cameras. Super fast lenses are nice to have, especially when heavily out-of-focus backgrounds are a virtue, but slower maximum apertures like f/2 are not a problem with ISO invariance.

Fujifilm NP-W126 Lithium Ion battery for the X-Pro2, and Think Tank Photo CF/SD+ Battery Wallet. At time of writing, extra batteries are in short supply, apparently awaiting the release of version 2 of these batteries. When used in high performance mode the X-Pro2 tends to eat batteries so ensure you carry spares.
Fujifilm NP-W126 Lithium Ion battery pack for the X-Pro2, and Think Tank Photo CF/SD+ Battery Wallet. At time of writing, extra batteries are in short supply, apparently awaiting the release of version 2 of these batteries. When used in high performance mode the X-Pro2 tends to eat batteries so ensure you carry spares.

That was obvious when using the lens supplied with the X-Pro2, the 35mm f/2. Fujifilm designed this lens concurrently with the X-Pro2 as its perfect standard prime lens accompaniment.

Although I owned two different f/2 50mm Summicrons, they were my least-used optics. My personal standard lens for stills, the 35mm in 35mm full frame format, may be wider than most people’s, or at least the industry’s received wisdom. But video is a different kettle of fish, especially narrative video where a matched set of well-spaced primes centred around a 50mm equivalent core is essential.

The Fujinon XF 35mm f/2 – now or later?

While I struggled somewhat with the XF35mmF2’s narrower focal length for stills, I felt right at home with it when shooting video. Two different ways of seeing and image-making, two different aspect ratios, the lens a comfortable fit for video, not so comfortable for photography.

The 35mm f/2 complements the X-Pro2 beautifully with its narrow front end and compact size. As I quickly learned during my Leica days, lens front ends and lens hoods jutting into lower right of frame can be an annoyance, sometimes impeding uncluttered vision of the entire image-to-be.

The X-Pro2 has SD card slots, one of which takes the latest generation high speed cards. I bought a Lexar SDXC II U3 64GB SD card that writes at up 150 MB/s. A 300MB/s SD card is available from Lexar at about double the price. These cards write fast!
The X-Pro2 has two SD card slots, one of which takes the latest generation UHS II high speed cards. I bought a Lexar SDXC UHS II U3 64GB SD card that writes at up 150 MB/s. A 300MB/s SD card is available from Lexar at about double the price. The Lexar 150s write fast compared to my slower, once state of the art, Transcends! I have added two more Lexars to my wishlist.

The screw-on plastic lens hood supplied with the 35mm f/2 is short and narrow with no risk of impeding the view through the OVF. It tends to bind or become too loose though, often one followed by the other. I longed for a Leica-style bayonet-on lens hood and found out that Fujifilm makes one available separately, the LH-XF35-2. It is a must-have, though I have not had the pleasure of trying one out yet.

The question for me now is what lenses to go with a possible new X-Pro2? If money was no object, I would buy the XF35mmF2 right now along with the camera, knowing that this focal length would not be my number one choice but would sit in the dry cabinet waiting for an appropriate video project or portrait assignment where it doubtless would shine.

Which lenses do I want?

If I could have only one focal length to begin with then it would have to be 23mm – in 35mm full frame terms, a 35mm lens. Just like I did in my early Leica days when the only lens I owned for a while was a 35mm f/2 Summicron.

Meanwhile, the vexed question of which other lenses. As an OVF aficionada, my lens selection needs to be based on OVF parameters – compact, narrow enough front element, vented bayonet-mounted lens hood even if third-party and reasonably lightweight. For handheld video, optical image stabilization would be invaluable.

Fujifilm X-Pro2 and Panasonic GX8 back to back. I have read some complaints that the X-Pro2 is big and heavy, and the same about the GX8. For me they are both the perfect size as I find smaller, lighter cameras harder to hold, especially when shooting video.
Fujifilm X-Pro2 and Panasonic GX8 back to back. I have read some comments that the X-Pro2 is too big and heavy, and the same about the GX8. For me they are both the perfect size as I find smaller, lighter cameras harder to hold, especially when shooting video.

Right now I am breaking old habits and seriously considering either of two zooms as first lens for the X-Pro2, instead of primes. The X-Pro2 needs to earn its keep as soon as I open the box. The first lens I buy must do the same and that is easier to do with a multi-focal lens. Right now it is a toss up between the Fujinon 18-55mm f/2.8-4 and the Fujinon 16-55mm f/2.8, the latter almost twice the price of the former.

I have tried both out too briefly in-store to come to concrete conclusions right now though I am leaning towards the first of the two zooms. The second seems better suited to the X-T1 and the coming X-T2 in terms of size, weight, front-end diameter and the non-issue of OVF window protrusion in both DSLR-style cameras. There is also the question of balance. I prefer DSLR-style cameras to be equipped with battery grips, all the better to counterbalance the zoom lenses and long lenses I prefer to use with them.

I do know that David Alan Harvey uses the 18-55mm f/2.8-4 alongside a 35mm f/2 prime on his X-Pro2. The 18-55 is smallish, lightweight, doesn’t protrude too much into the OVF and has optical image stabilization, an asset for shooting video and for stills shot in low light.

The 16-55mm f/2.8 is Fujifilm’s version of the lens I most rely on right now with my Micro Four Thirds cameras for movies and stills, the Olympus M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro. Neither has stabilization built-in but both have excellent optics. Neither is light in weight and Fujifilm’s pro standard zoom is wider and longer than its kit zoom alternative.

I am still going to want a set of primes for the X-Pro2 but perhaps I should think of either Fujifilm zoom as a multifocal length lens to be used in a similar way as Leica’s Tri-Elmar-M 16-18-21mm f/4 lens. Be there, be aware, visualize the images you want, choose a focal length, set it then shoot. Zoom with one’s feet and not with one’s lens, if you can.

The example of Magnum photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson popularised the use of the 50mm lens, equivalent to 35mm in APS-C format and 25mm in Micro Four Thirds. A lifelong committed Surrealist, HCB adopted the Surrealists' ironic stance from his subjects and the 50mm focal length aided him in that sense of distance. He reportedly owned lenses of other focal lengths.
The example of Magnum photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson popularized the use of the 50mm lens, equivalent to 35mm in APS-C format and 25mm in Micro Four Thirds. A lifelong committed Surrealist, HCB adopted the Surrealists’ ironic stance regard of his subjects and the 50mm focal length aided him in maintaining that sense of distance. He reportedly owned lenses of other focal lengths though was rarely seen using them.

The 16-55mm f/2.8 has two focal lengths that may be better served by flipping over to the X-Pro2’s EVF – 16mm and 55mm. The first does not have a corresponding bright frame in the OVF and the bright frame for the second is small. Now that I am more comfortable with the X-Pro2 itself, time to drop into some camera stores to spend more time with both zooms if I can.

The combo ISO/shutter speed dial – it works for me

Meanwhile, some other issues. Many reviewers have complained about the X-Pro2’s combined ISO and shutter speed dials. Some absolutely hate it. I don’t mind it at all. In fact I find it comfortingly familiar from having used Mamiya’s marvellous Mamiya 6, 7 and 7 II 120 roll film rangefinder cameras.

The X-Pro2 doesn’t demand constant switching between ISOs. Auto ISO and front and rear command dials take care of shutter speed selection as well as f-stops. The X-Pro2 may resemble the mostly manual cameras of yesteryear but its heart is entirely digital.

On the other hand Fujifilm’s long history making premium quality color and monochrome films continues to pay off in how it shoots video and stills. The X-Pro2’s analog-like JPEGs are second to none and applying the same film simulations to video produces results more than good enough to go straight to the Web or into mobile apps.

_2230110_1024px
The X-Pro2’s diopter adjustment is a considerable improvement on the X-Pro1’s which required inserting lenses that were not available for some time after the release of that camera. The X-Pro2 diopter wheel is, though, easily knocked off setting when inserted into or removed from camera bags. I hope Fujifilm finds a safer location for it in the next X-Pro camera.

Not without its flaws and annoyances

The X-Pro2 is not without its flaws. I passed on the X-Pro1 due to its diopter problems, its hardware user interface and maddeningly slow autofocus. The X-Pro2’s designers have radically improved on each but they need to do better again, reason enough for me not to consider selling other cameras and converting to the X-Pro2 for everything or planning on buying two of them for the moment.

Much has been written online about how the X-Pro2 was not intended for 4K video. I can be okay with that, if I really must, but why did Fujifilm leave out a headphone jack for audio monitoring? Especially given they have also forgotten about monitoring audio levels in the viewfinder and LCD. Video needs some special attention in a not too distant firmware update. More on that further down.

Meanwhile a recent set of firmware updates seems to have improved autofocus, manual focus and optical image stabilization in some Fujinon lenses, though I have yet to put that to the test.

A rig I often use to shoot video with my Panasonic GX8 and GH4 and now the X-Pro2. Peak Design Cuff and Clutch, Manfrotto Pixi table tripod-cum-handle and Røde VideoMic Pro.
A rig I often use to shoot video with my Panasonic GX8 and GH4 and now the X-Pro2. Peak Design Cuff and Clutch, Manfrotto Pixi table tripod-cum-handle and Røde VideoMic Pro.

Some hardware annoyances – diopter dial, eye relief and AF-L button

So the many ergonomics flaws in the X-Pro1 that caused me to pass on it do not exist in the X-Pro2, but it certainly has its annoyances. They are not big enough nor so many that I am passing on the X-Pro2 altogether, clearly. I have been hanging out for this camera for so long that I have no choice. I need a practical interchangeable lens rangefinder camera for what I cannot do with EVF or DSLR cameras, to create the deep space, near-far, perfect moment imagery upon which I built my vision and my career.

Like Strobist David Hobby, I am a little peeved that, although diopter lenses no longer have to be applied to the viewfinder for diopter correction, consequently dropping off, the X-Pro2’s solution is likewise a little flakey and could have been much better. The diopter correction dial is located on the camera’s outside, unlike my other cameras where it is located in much safer places, and is prone to being knocked off setting. If your viewfinder image looks a little off, you will need to reset the dial. Quite often.

Unlike every other Fujifilm X-series camera I have tried, the X-Pro2’s eye relief leaves something to be desired. So much so that I will be in the market for contact lenses just for shooting with the X-Pro2 when I buy it, after successfully sticking with spectacles for a decade or so. I hope current contact lenses are multifocal like my spectacles. We will see.

Lastly, the AF-L button and its companion in annoyance, the Q menu button. Both are located in what are for me and reportedly many other users,  sub-optimal positions on the far right of the rear of the camera. This is something of a surprise given how much good work Fujifilm’s designers put into the rest of the camera’s hardware interface.

The X-Pro2 accepts audio input via a 2.5mm jack. You will need a 2.5mm to 3.5mm adapter like the two shown here. I bought them at a local electronics store.
The X-Pro2 accepts audio input via a 2.5mm jack. You will need a 2.5mm to 3.5mm adapter like the two shown here. I bought them at a local electronics store, originally for my Panasonic GX8.

I love that they moved all the buttons that were left of the LCD on the X-Pro1 over to the right and where they located them, mostly. The View Mode, Photometry and AE-L buttons are easy to find and use without looking at them. The focus lever aka joystick is a delight to use and easy to find without taking your eye off the viewfinder. Same goes for the Playback, Trash and Display/Back buttons.

But why did they put the Q button in a place where it is so easy to set it off by accident at exactly the worst time, and the AF-L button where it can be hard to find with thumb frantically searching for back button focus?

As with all my other cameras, I rely on back button autofocus with focusing set to M for manual mode far more than I do on actual fully manual focussing now. The Q and AF-L buttons are flush with their surroundings and neither has a texture or little nubbins on them like such buttons on other cameras.

I searched in vain for third party stick-on button solutions online, until I remembered Sugru the wonder glue that turns into a 3D solid. I ordered a pack online just to have it here for when I get my own X-Pro2. I had hoped that time and familiarity would get me through the ongoing problem with failing to find AF-L and accidentally activating Q, but that proved not to be the case.

I agree with the cinematographers who have hailed the X-Pro2's video qualities given Fujifilm's beautiful analog film simulation presets aka photo styles. It makes a fine 1080p FHD B or C camera or MOS on-location A camera. The X-Pro2's lack of a headphone jack for monitoring can be compensated for with field recorders like the Tascam DR70-D 4-channel audio recorder directly attached beneath the camera. The DR70-D has built-in stereo mics and can accept external mics too, like the Røde Stereo VideoMic X and NTG4+.
I agree with the cinematographers who have hailed the X-Pro2’s video qualities given Fujifilm’s beautiful analog film simulation presets aka photo styles. It makes a fine 1080p FHD B or C camera or MOS on-location A camera. The X-Pro2’s lack of a headphone jack for monitoring can be compensated for with audio field recorders like the Tascam DR70-D 4-channel device directly attached beneath the camera. The DR70-D has built-in stereo mics and can accept external mics too, like the Røde Stereo VideoMic X and Røde NTG4+.

Video – great, but much room for improvement

I am going to have to wait for the X-Pro3, or perhaps X-Pro2S, for possible improvements in the area of hardware annoyances and basic flaws but there are usability and feature improvements that Fujifilm can add via firmware. Prime amongst them being video.

Although I was told, in February of this year, that Fujifilm would be adding 4K capability to the X-Pro2 after they release the X-T2, other Fujifilm employees have opined that 4K will never come to the X-Pro2. Sorry but I want it, I want it now and I do not care in the least that 4K may be limited to short shooting durations due to possible overheating issues. I am not planning on shooting an entire wedding video on it, non-stop, for example. Shortish video bursts will do.

I want great video on the X-Pro2 for the same reason that Reuters asked Canon to add video capability to the Canon EOS 5D Mark II. The X-Pro2 is the camera I want to carry everywhere everyday, into all sorts of challenging situations if need and opportunity arise. Whereas Canon has a long history of crippling its cameras via firmware, Fujifilm’s is a happier history of continuous improvement via the Kaizen principle. Fujifilm, please, do not do a Canon upon the X-Pro2.

The X-Pro2 is brilliant at getting through nasty weather – shooting video and stills under some of the heaviest rain for months proved that. I want to be prepared for everything that might happen and there are times when video is the best and only way to tell a story. I want the best video that I can get, as safely and as discretely as I can do it. On the X-Pro2.

_2230123_HDR_1024px_683px_144ppi
The weather was rather dire through much of my time with the X-Pro2 so I carried it about in a MindShift Gear Multi-Mount Holster 10.

The X-Pro2 proved itself to me by producing beautiful 1080p video ready graded with Fujifilm’s superb film simulations. I want those evocations of Fujifilm’s analog glory days to be supplemented with a flat, grading-ready, cinematic profile such as Cinelike D on the Panasonic Lumix GH4, GX8 and G7.

I need to be able colour match footage from the X-Pro2 with video from my GH4 and GX8 when the project demands it. Australian cinematographer Paul Leeming is doing a terrific job of matching colour rendition across cameras with his Leeming LUT One, “the world’s first unified, corrective Look Up Table (LUT) system for supported cameras, designed to maximise dynamic range, fix skin tones, remove unwanted colour casts and provide an accurate Rec709 starting point for further creative colour grading.”

Leeming LUT One removes the need for log profiles when shooting video, making great video possible on Rec. 709-only cameras. Likewise, LookLabs’ SpeedLooks camera profiles in combo with their gorgeous range of looks LUTs enable similar easy footage colour matching in non-linear editors (NLEs) and colour grading software suites like BlackMagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve and Resolve Studio.

Under the firmware version current at time of writing, the X-Pro2 menu’s video options are thin, very thin. Three only in fact.  We need the same pro-quality video controls in the X-Pro2, and X-T2 for that matter, that exist in other mirrorless hybrid ILC systems – for contrast, sharpness, noise reduction, color tone, hue, highlight/shadow tone and so on. We need the best video that the X-Pro2 is capable of, just as we already have amazing stills quality.

Fujifilm, please step up to the plate on video-ready firmware and please add video-shooting professionals to your list of non-videoshooting photo professionals. There is little point in asking people who don’t shoot video about what video features they want in their Fujifilm hybrids. The obvious answer? None.

In conclusion…

Upon reviewing this article, it feels like there is so much more  I can say about the X-Pro2 but I will leave that up to others who went before me, as well as the evidence of the photographs, still frames and lists to come further down.

My headline asks whether the X-Pro2 is the OVF camera for the rest of us. My answer is a wholehearted yes, despite the flaws and annoyances I have written about here.

The X-Pro2 bestows a uniquely analog look to the images created with it, but without analog’s grain and allergy-inducing photochemicals. Attribute it to Fujifilm’s long history of making some of the finest photography and movie films ever, as well as the company’s long list of achievements in premium lens design and manufacture.

I love my Panasonic Lumix Micro Four Thirds cameras and lenses for their Super 16 documentary video quality, their rewarding stills quality, their back-friendly size and weight, and their affordability when I no longer have the budgets I used to. But there is something ineffable, something marvellous that I cannot quite place my finger on about the X-Pro2’s Super 35mm stills and video quality, and I want more of it and better.

I relied on a wide a variety of cameras, lenses and photographic films during my newspaper, magazine and corporate photography days. The same when shooting movies. I could match my creative intent with the means of production, and achieved different looks based on the stories and emotions I wanted to convey.

Digital changed everything, channeling all that creative variety through a narrow funnel of DSLRs and point-and-shoot compacts until mirrorless system cameras appeared on the scene. Little wonder that, as one of the most creative wedding photographers I know shared recently, “everything now looks the same and everyone is doing it the same way with the same gear. Photography has become a club you join in order to do exactly the same thing as everyone else.”

Fujifilm’s X-Pro2 may not be the camera for everyone. I would be shocked if it was. But what it does above all else is add some choice back into contemporary photography and moviemaking, choice that has been missing presumed dead for too long.

I want an X-Pro2 and a well-selected set of lenses, to make the sorts of images I so loved to make with an assortment of rangefinder cameras in analog days.

I want Fujifilm to avoid the mistakes of other camera makers and upgrade the X-Pro2’s firmware with all the necessary video-centric and 4K functionality.

I want to see better ergonomics and corrections for the X-Pro2’s current problems with eye relief and the diopter dial, as well as a much better EVF, in the X-Pro2S or X-Pro3, without having to wait years for it.

And I want the X-T2 to be the DSLR-style stills and 4K video camera that so many of us had hoped Samsung’s kick in the pants of the camera industry foreshadowed by the NX1 would be, until they pulled the plug and killed their revolutionary effort worse than dead.

What most of the other camera makers are doing right now is hardly revolutionary. Fujifilm has the talent, the history and the power to keep pushing things along at a good pace in photography and video. I sincerely hope that they do.

Sample video and stills

I love how the X-Pro2’s film simulations delivers such cinematic looks straight from camera. I did minor tweaking of the video footage then selected still frames for export.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I processed the raw files in Adobe Camera Raw CC2015 using Fujifilm’s film simulations including Acros, Provia, Astia, Velvia and Classic Chrome. I chose them according to how I visualized the images at the moment of shooting. That was made so much easier due to having relied mostly on Fujifilm films after my beloved Kodachrome became so much harder to get in its latter years.

I resized the images in Adobe Photoshop CC2015 then sharpened them with Google Nik Sharpener Pro using the Hybrid Device preset. For comparison purposes, I processed just one of these images through another Photoshop plug-in containing film simulation presets. I much prefer how the majority have turned out using the Camera Raw presets that Fujifilm worked on with the folks at Adobe.

Lists

X-Pro2 Likes

  • State of the art optical viewfinder and rangefinder – Loving shooting with an OVF camera again after far too many years without, loving shooting video via OVF view, loving the ERF-in-OVF, and loving having as much or as little data in the OVF, EVF and LCD as needed.
  • It jumps into my hand – And it feels just right when it is there, more so than other digital camera I have used or own. The materials, manufacturing and weather sealing are excellent.
  • Autofocus speed – Vastly improved over the X-Pro1 and apparently there is so much processing power in reserve that it can be improved even further.
  • Joystick – Especially useful for portraits and documentary photography and video, with spot photometry linked to spot focus.
  • Auto ISO and the Dual ISO/Shutter Speed Dial – I like the convenience of the dual dial, familiar from my Mamiya 6, 7 and 7II days, and three choices for Auto ISO covers almost all my usual shooting situations.
  • Ergonomics – With some reservations, below, the X-Pro2’s new hardware UI enables right-handed holding and shooting in a way not possible with the X-Pro1.
  • Built-in diopter correction – Again, with reservations below, the X-Pro2 sees an end to fiddly diopter correction lenses that drop off during shoots.
  • 24MP sensor – I may not be shooting for exhibiting prints in galleries right now, but I may get back into fine art photography again soon and bigger can be better.
  • ISO invariant sensor – This is bigger than most users realize, I suspect. I love getting beautiful results at a range of ISOs, and the filmic grain is wonderful. I don’t feel the need to reduce grain down to nothing as I often do with raw files from other cameras.
  • Beautiful film simulations – Although I generally shoot raw only, I really appreciate previewing how I may process those files using Fujifilm’s presets in Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom, or riff on in other raw processors and film simulation products.
  • People almost never take any notice of it – Except when they do and demand to know why I am “playing with that old-fashioned thing”. Brilliant for discrete photojournalism and documentary work.

X-Pro2 Dislikes

  • No 4K video – Video is important to this photographer who also shoots video, despite what X Series Senior Product Manager Takashi Ueno told Damien Demolder of The British Journal of Photography.
  • Lack of other essential video features – No audio levels monitoring, no other standard video customization options, no flat profile like Panasonic’s Cinelike D.
  • Poor eye relief for eyeglasses wearers – It can be a real pain for longer shoots and a nuisance for shorter ones, demanding I now look into the current state of multifocal contact lenses for use with the X-Pro2.
  • Ergonomics still need improving – Diopter correction is easily knocked off-setting, AF-L button and Q Menu button in sub-optimal locations.
  • No fully articulated LCD – I love flipping the monitors around on my Panasonic Lumix GH4 and GX8 for their protection and to avoid any temptation to chimp. I find tilting LCDs frustratingly half-baked. Nonetheless, either is better than the X-Pro2’s fixed LCD for discretely covering events.
  • Batteries are too small – A day out shooting intermittently with the camera at the ready and set for high performance ate up both supplied batteries. I have six Fujifilm NP-W126 Li-Ion batteries on my wishlist and may need more for covering all day, all night events. I have also added a Watson Duo LCD Charger with 2 NP-W126 Battery Plates for faster recharging on location and back at my home office.

Starter Lens Set

The best set of lenses for the X-Pro2 depends on whether you want to to use it for its OVF or its EVF, or both, and if you plan on shooting videos as well as stills. My choice is OVF, stills and video. Other lenses in Fujifilm’s considerable and growing lens line-up may also work well in OVF mode but I have not had the opportunity to try them all out yet. I plan on adding the XF 35mm f/2 for video and portraiture after starting off with the following.

  • XF 18-55mm F2.8-4.0 R LM OIS – Although I am not a fan of variable maximum aperture lenses, this kit zoom has received plenty of rave reviews and its optical image stabilization makes it a good choice for video. Zooms aka multi-focal lenses are great for everyday carry, with this one providing all the focal lengths I like for documentary, street photography and most video tasks – 18mm, 23mm, 35mm and 55mm. Its 18mm focal length is reportedly optically superior to the XF 18mm F2.0 R prime lens, though f/4.0 at the long end reduces its attractiveness in the light of Fujifilm’s XF 56mm f/1.2.
  • XF 23mm F1.4 R – My standard prime lens is other people’s medium wide lens, the equivalent of 35mm in 35mm full-frame format. In combo with the above kit zoom, this provides a fast maximum aperture for available darkness projects and during the short time I tried one out, had a good balance sitting on front of the X-Pro2. If you can wait, the coming XF 23mm F2.0 may be a smaller, weather-resistant, more affordable alternative. I particularly like this lens’ manual focus mechanism and engraved depth of field scale for street and documentary photography.
  • XF 56mm F1.2 R – Another excellent lens for available darkness stills and video, Fujinon’s 85mm full frame equivalent classical portrait prime lens has amazing optical qualities whether stopped down or wide open. I have successfully used it in OVF mode, in a way that reminds me of my Leica Summicron 90mm f/2. Close-up monochrome portraits that I have shot with this lens wide open remind me of images I used to make on 4”x5” sheet film for magazine clients.

Suggested Accessories

Although Fujifilm’s designers and engineers have improved the X-Pro2’s built-in grip since the X-Pro1, I prefer adding as much speed, safety and security to all cameras I use. These include camera straps, soft releases, grips, l-plates, lens hoods and protection or UV filters. Here is a selection for the X-Pro2 and lenses in my starter list.

  • UV filters,  ND filters, circular polarizers & step-up rings – I am so impressed with the design and quality of Breakthrough Photography‘s filters and step-up rings that I will now be standardizing on them. They don’t make absolutely every filter diameter size under the sun but what they have amply caters for Fujifilm’s lenses. UV continues to be a problem locally and I am considering using UV filters instead of non-UV protection filters.
  • Peak Design camera straps – I have Clutch and Cuff attached to almost every camera  along with extra Anchor Links for Slide Lite, Leash or Slide depending on the weight of the rigged-up camera and as needed. No more wrapping conventional narrow camera neck straps around your wrist wondering when it is going to slip off. Peak Design’s camera straps are grip ne plus ultra.
  • Fujifilm MHG-XPRO2 Metal Hand Grip – Although my grip of the X-Pro2 was considerably improved with a Peak design Clutch and Cuff, there will be times I want an even better hold on the camera. You can choose between Fujifilm’s own solution, or third party grips or gripless l-plates like those from PhotoMadd, Sunway or Really Right Stuff.
  • Soft releases and thumb gripsMatch Technical is my choice of soft release and thumb grip maker, and I have used their products since Fujifilm’s X100. Their Thumbs Up EP-7S and Boop-O-S work beautifully on the X-Pro2.
  • Vented and non-vented lens hoods – Leica’s vented bayonet-on metal lens hoods served me well for years, minimising occlusion in Leica M-Series’ OVF windows. AFshoot has a strong selection of vented and non-vented screw-on lens hoods to replace the petal or other lens hoods that come with Fujifilm lenses. Fujifilm itself has been releasing alternative lens hoods including the Fujifilm LH-XF35-2 for the XF 35mm f/2 and Fujifilm LH-XF23 for the XF 23mm f/1.4.

Dedicated Raw Processing Software

There is dedicated raw processing software and there is photo editing software that accepts raw files as well as a range of other image formats. The latter includes Affinity PhotoAlien Skin Exposure XMacphun Creative Kit 2016, Apple Photos and more.

The biggest difference between the two classes of software is that raw processors should include plenty of profiles for raw-shooting cameras, sensors and lenses so that the best interpretations possible can be extracted from what are, essentially, digital negatives.

Not all image editing or raw processing software is the same nor produces identical results. The X-Pro2 is about choice in hardware to produce your digital negatives and  there should be choice in how you interpret them.

Note: I have not tested all these raw processors with X-Pro2 raw files but they are all worthy of your consideration.

  • AccuRaw and AccuRaw Monochrome – I recently came across this raw processor via expert Fujifilm camera user Rico Pfirstinger and have downloaded the trial version of each. Developer Andrew McGuffog states that AccuRaw “delivers unmatched resolution and control over how your images are processed”. He recommends using AccuRaw Monochrome if you specialize in monochrome photography and AccuRaw if you shoot monochrome and colour. Both versions are priced identically and are available through the Mac App Store.
  • Adobe Camera Raw & Adobe Photoshop Lightroom – When reviewing Fujifilm’s X-T1, I found Camera Raw and Lightroom’s ability to interpret its raw films to be, well, lust a little mundane, try as I might with the software’s functions and sliders. Both have moved on considerably since then, especially since Fujifilm began collaborating with Adobe on their support for X-Sensor cameras. Many photographers needing a new raw processor since Apple abandoned Aperture have chosen Lightroom for its catalog capabilities. I particularly like both products’ inclusion of Fujifilm’s film simulations settings.
  • Apple Aperture – No longer in development but abandoned much to the chagrin of its professional and institutional user base. Once the powerhouse professional raw processing, photo editing and management application par excellence. Apple told its Aperture users to switch to Photos, which remains no substitute for professional users. Still semi-usable until it starts breaking under new versions of OS X, Aperture’s last version appeared in October 2014 and so does not support the X-Pro2.
  • Capture One Pro – The other raw processor Aperture users turned to after Apple abandoned them, and possibly the earliest dedicated raw processor to appear on the market. Originally just for Phase One cameras, sensors and lenses, Capture One Pro now supports almost all brands and is adding camera and lens profiles ongoingly. Many Aperture users have migrated to Capture One due to its tool set, processing quality and choice of catalogs or sessions modes. I would like to see Capture One Pro  integrated with Media One SE for a raw editing and image management powerhouse like Aperture but better again.
  • Corel AfterShot Pro – something of a dark horse amongst Mac-centric professionals,   Corel’s AfterShot Pro 3 has introduced lens corrections, a lens correction development kit and a dynamic camera profile updater. Corel states that AfterShot Pro 3 is “up to 4x faster than Adobe Lightroom”.
  • DxO OpticsPro – My number one raw processor in conjunction with DxO FilmPack and DxO ViewPoint, but, alas, it does not support Fujilfilm’s non-Bayer X-Sensors and I so wish it would. The only Fujifilm camera I have that is supported is the X100, and DxO OpticsPro produces stunning results with it.
  • Hasselblad Phocus – The world’s best kept secret when it comes to top end professional raw processing software and it is absolutely free! Phocus supports raw files from almost 200 non-Hasselblad cameras including many from Fujifilm. The version of Phocus current at time of writing, 3.0.2, does not support X-Pro2 .raf raw files so here is hoping the next version will.
  • Iridient Developer – Often praised by users for its ability to obtain the sharpest, most detailed images from Fujifilm X-Series cameras above all other raw processors, Iridient has long achieved more impressive results from Fujifilm X-Sensor cameras than any other raw processor, according to users. I have yet to purchase a licence but tryouts of Iridient demo versions have been impressive, achieving great results almost instantly that took time and effort in other raw processors. Camera settings based on most of Fujifilm’s film simulations are available for download.
  • On1 Raw – Raw processing is all about non-destructive image editing and the ability to constantly fine tune your interpretation of your negative. But what if you could so much more in your raw processing software than the current generation of raw processors permit? What if your raw processor was also a top notch photo editor, with portrait retouching and non-destructive photo effects built-in? Add to that state-of-the-art high speed processing and no need to import files into a catalog and you have On1 Raw, due out later this year, according to its developers.
  • Open source raw processors – RawTherapee, Darktable and UFRaw are free, open source raw processors that are well worth looking into if cost is a barrier to commercial alternatives.
  • Photo Ninja – Evolving out of photo industry legend noise reduction product Noise Ninja, developer PictureCode states that Photo Ninja “delivers exceptional detail, outstanding image quality, and a distinctive, natural look.” Photo Ninja is another raw processor cited by some Fujifilm X-Sensor camera users as delivering better results than most others.
  • Raw Photo Processor – Very promising raw processor that has not been updated since mid-October 2014. Supports older Fujifilm and other cameras but not the X-Pro2. Has a nice set of built-in film simulation and monochrome split-toning presets.
  • SilkyPix – A special edition of SilkyPix is bundled by Fujifilm with its cameras and it is all-too-easily overlooked as a raw processor. It has proven invaluable when other raw processor software makers have lagged in supporting new Fujifilm cameras. SilkyPix is also available in a professional-oriented edition, SilkyPix Developer Studio Pro, now in version 7, as well as a more affordable standard edition. It may be wise to keep SilkyPix in reserve and compare its results with other raw processor from time to time. You may be pleasantly surprised.

LUTs for X-Pro2 video

Cinematographer James Miller has created a set of LUTs – look up tables – for use with video footage shot on the X-Pro2 using the Astia soft film simulation, under his DeLUTs brand name. DeLUTs LUTs are used by many top cinematographers, colourists and advertising agencies, and are highly recommended.

The samples below were made from footage shot with Pro Negative Standard instead of Astia but Mr Miller’s X-Pro2 LUTs work well with this film simulation too.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

That a cinematographer and LUTs creator of Mr Miller’s stature has taken the X-Pro2 seriously as a video camera is high praise that Fujifilm needs to take equally seriously and act on with improvements to its video functionality. I look forward to seeing more LUTs for the X-Pro2 from other LUT makers.

Suggested Reading

Page Header Image

  • Still frame from video shot on Fujifilm X-Pro2 with Fujinon XF 35mm f/2 WR lens using Pro Negative Standard film simulation. No grading applied.

Update: Fujifilm X-T2 DSLR-Style EVF Camera & New Lens Roadmap Announced

On Thursday July 7 Fujifilm Corporation released details of the new, 4K-video-capable X-T2 camera along with accessories including optional Vertical Power Booster Grip as well as a new lens roadmap which includes the long-awaited Fujinon XF23mmF2 R WR prime lens especially suited to the X-Pro2.

The X-T2 brilliantly complements the X-Pro2 as DSLR-style central viewfinder cameras complement rangefinder-style offset viewfinder cameras. The X-Pro2 is a nimble, prime lens-toting documentary-shooter’s specialist photographic instrument while the X-T2 appears to be an all-purpose photo and video powerhouse at home with all of Fujifilm’s lenses, most especially its wide through standard to long zooms.

I look forward to trying out a Fujifilm X-T2 with Vertical Power Booster Grip and a selection of lenses in due course. Meanwhile a detailed post at FujiRumors.com includes plenty of articles and videos that should answer most questions.

Three new lenses are on their way

On the subject of lenses, Fujifilm is continuing with the X-Pro2 rangefinder-oriented smaller prime lenses initiative begun with the XF 35mm f/2 R WR by adding the XF 23mm f/2 R WR due out this year and the XF 50mm f/2 R WR scheduled for release in 2017. Both focal lengths, the 35mm equivalents of 35mm and 75mm, are favourites from film rangefinder days and make a fine pair for highly mobile documentary photography in all weather conditions.

The other new lens that has appeared on Fujifilm’s roadmap is the XF 80mm f/2.8 OIS R LM OIS WR Macro, which looks like an excellent portrait and close-up lens, especially when handheld.

I often relied on moderately long macro lenses during my magazine days for both types of subject matter, and have been wondering lately how to emulate and surpass how I handled them then, especially the close-up face-frontal portraits that became a trademark and counterfoil for the environmental portraits I shot with moderately wide lenses.

I was often a two-fer photographer, supplying information-packed horizontal landscape-format wide shots of people in their work or home environments along with emotive, vertical portrait-format narrow depth-of-focus that filled the page with impact.

My magazine clients seldom published more than two images to illustrate their articles, but I often also supplied close-up images of significant objects and views in my subjects’ environments. Those free extras were rarely used.

One of the many joys of online publishing is that the word and page limitations of print magazines are no longer limiting factors so now I can publish all the images that will effectively support my stories. One of the many pleasures of digital photography is that film and processing costs are no longer prime considerations.

A Super 35 4K video powerhouse?

The X-T2’s support for 4K video via Fujifilm’s own F-Log flat video profile as well as the full range of beautiful film simulations seen on the X-Pro2 will be especially welcome amongst independent moviemakers, many of whom were let down by Samsung’s closure of its camera division and the loss of the NX1 and their Super 35 hybrid stills/video hopes, or who have expressed the desire for accurate analog film simulation presets in their video as well as stills cameras.

A moviemaker friend bought into the Samsung NX1 and Digital Bolex D16 camera systems  before the premature demise of both, as did many others of my acquaintance. Their prime rationales were the 4K Super 35 sensor of one and the straight-out-of-camera cinematic quality of the other. From the X-T2’s video specifications, it may be the perfect camera system to replace both, combining accurate analog film simulations with high resolution that can be downsized to 1080p or 720p for better than native image quality.

Then there is Fujifilm’s ever-growing list of zooms, with the most attractive for documentary moviemaking being the XF 10-24mm f/4 OIS, the XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR and the XF 50-140mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR. A maximum aperture boost to a future version of the 10-24mm lens might be nice but adding OIS to the 16-55mm f/2.8 would go down very well in the moviemaking community. Meanwhile, the variable maximum aperture XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS provides a fallback standard zoom lens.

Further details of the X-T2’s video support are sketchy at the moment but its clean HDMI-out enabling use of the many excellent third-party monitor/recorders made by companies like Atomos, Blackmagic Design, Convergent Design and Video Devices amongst others is a real bonus. So is the addition of headphone jacks to the camera and battery grip – I am fact checking on that at the moment so please take that as provisional.

Also of interest is Fujifilm’s own hotshoe-mounted stereo video microphone, the MIC-ST1. Does that sync up with the X-T2’s firmware in a similar way to Panasonic’s stereo video mic, or will it operate like popular third-party video microphones such as those made by Australia’s own Røde Microphones? I am searching for in-depth video-oriented hands-on reviews of the X-T2 as we speak, as it were.

Concluding thoughts

One thing that my magazine career taught me was that one must always have more than one camera system on hand as well as two or more cameras from each. There is no universal panacea where it comes to stills or video, no “there can be only one”. The pairing of the X-Pro2 with the X-T2 as Fujifilm’s top-end professional camera offerings proves that.

Mating an X-T2 up with an X-Pro2 in one’s camera bag or in my case more likely a Think Tank Photo or MindShift Gear camera backpack, along with a good selection of Fujinon prime and zoom lenses as well as microphones and portable LED lights – I am name-checking the Rotolight Neo here – will provide ample photographic and video solutions for many working professionals nowadays. I would have loved such cameras, lenses and lights to be available back then.

That Fujifilm has blessed us with such remarkable hardware now has got me hot and bothered over photography and moviemaking all over again, and has me feeling a great deal better about my too-long enforced vacation from both caused by severe allergies to photographic film and chemicals.

This year and next have and will see some exciting developments in the gear I have always wanted to create the photoessays and short documentaries to be featured in this project website. Thank you, Fujifilm, for pushing the edge of the envelope out yet again.

I am really looking forward to what appears next on the horizon. A medium format mirrorless camera with a starter set of three lenses, perhaps? Now that puts me in mind of Fujifilm’s 120 roll film Texas rangefinder glory days!

Help support ‘Untitled’

Clicking on these affiliate links helps us continue our work for ‘Untitled: Stories of Creativity, Innovation, Success’.

  • Fujifilm X-Pro2 Mirrorless Digital Camera (Body Only) and related items – B&H
  • Fujifilm X-T2 Mirrorless Digital Camera (Body Only) and related items – B&H
Advertisements