Thomas Fitzgerald Photography: Two Years with the Fuji X-Pro 2: A look back – COMMENTARY

https://blog.thomasfitzgeraldphotography.com/blog/2018/5/two-years-with-the-fuji-x-pro-2-a-look-back

“I discovered the other day, quite by accident, that my Fuji X-Pro 2 is two years old this week. Tomorrow in fact. What a few years it has been. I’ve had ups and downs with the camera, but it’s also been good to me. Writing about it and processing Fuji files has undoubtedly made a name for me in certain corners, and I probably wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today if it hadn’t been for buying that camera….”

 

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Fujifilm X-Pro2 with Fujinon XF 23mm f/2.0 R WR “Fujicron” lens and Fujifilm MHG-XPRO2 metal hand grip, a necessity when attaching lenses larger than this one.

Commentary

I have had my X-Pro2 for almost as long as Thomas Fitzgerald has had his, and I have benefited from his hard-won insights into how to get the best out the camera’s X-Trans raw image files thanks to his ebooks on the subject.

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Fujifilm X-Pro1 with Fujinon XF 35mm f/1.4 R, Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 R and Fujinon XF 60mm f/2.4 Macro prime lens, the first set of Fujinon XF lenses released by Fujifilm in March 2012, all with focus-by-wire non-manual clutch focussing mechanisms.

Unlike Mr Fitzgerald, I had passed on the X-Pro1 after some extensive hands-on testing at the sadly now defunct Sydney city CBD professional camera store Foto Reisel, due to its lack of diopter adjustment, the disappointing optical quality and mediocre mechanical operation of the Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 R, one of my most important focal lengths for documentary photography, the slow autofocus of that lens and its then companions the Fujinon XF 60mm f/2.4 Macro and the Fujinon 35mm f/1.4 , one of my least favourite focal lengths.

I had been hoping for those three lenses to have manual clutch focus to enable accurate focussing with aperture wide open in available darkness and fast setting of hyperfocal distance, like certain lenses made by Olympus such as its Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f/1.8  for Micro Four Thirds format, later joined by the entire M.Zuiko Pro professional-quality prime and zoom lens range.

Luckily that need has been satisfied in more recent years by Fujifilm’s APS-C format Fujinon XF 14mm f/2.8 R, Fujinon XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR and the Fujinon XF 23mm f/1.4 R, though there have been no indications that they will be joined by further manual clutch focus prime or zoom lenses any time soon.

That is puzzling given the need for fast and accurate manual focussing and focus pulling for video or for available light photojournalism that often cannot be usefully met by relying on autofocus alone or focus-by-wire only lenses such as the majority in Fujifilm’s Fujinon XF collection.

I wholeheartedly agree with Mr Fitzgerald’s dislike of the X-Pro2’s video implementation which turned out to be rather disappointing.

Although the X-Pro2 finally received its long-promised 4K video capability via firmware, Fujifilm just plain forgot to make it usable enough and left out all the associated video controls needed for quality moviemaking – see my list below.

The X-Pro2’s electronic rangefinder aka ERF in action in the optical viewfinder aka OVF.

I love the X-Pro2’s form factor, its size and weight and most of all its Advanced Hybrid Multi Viewfinder that I mostly use in ERF-in-OVF mode, that is, with the small electronic rangefinder window active lower right of the optical viewfinder window.

I tend to bypass the X-Pro2’s electronic viewfinder aka EVF much of the time, especially when working in available darkness, as it is not up to the standard of, say, my Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 rangefinder-style hybrid camera with its tilting 2.36m-Dot 0.77x OLED EVF or my Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4’s 2,359K-Dot OLED Live View Finder.

Unlike those two Panasonic cameras and all others made by Fujifilm, the X-Pro2 is remarkable in being three cameras in one, with its optical viewfinder, electronic viewfinder and LCD monitor.

In effect it is a rangefinder camera, a DSLR-style camera and a view camera all in one and of a size and shape in-between a classic Leica M-Series rangefinder camera and one of Fujifilm’s incredible 120 roll-film format “Texas Leicas”.

I am hoping that Fujifilm’s coming X-Pro3 will correct some of the X-Pro2’s shortcomings just as that camera was a huge advance on the X-Pro1, but in the meantime Fujifilm needs to issue another firmware update for the X-Pro2 as follows.

  • Custom settings for video – Noise Reduction, Highlight Tone, Shadow Tone, Color and Sharpness.
  • Exposure zebras – instead of the dreaded non-programmable overexposure “blinkies”.
  • Focus bracketing – for focus stacking for product and microphotography.
  • Eterna film simulation – for a flatter, more gradeable look for video.
  • Pixel view – for professional operation in all image review functionality and not just when ‘Eye Sensor + LCD Image Display’ is selected.

The X-Pro2 got it right in so many ways that the X-Pro1 got it wrong, but its successor the X-Pro3 can be much better again with an OLED electronic viewfinder and more, making it the perfect companion camera for longer and wider lenses than the X-Pro2’s OVF comfortably allows.

Fujifilm’s ongoing Kaizen firmware updates for the X-Pro2 has made it a much more usable camera than it was on release, and I am deeply grateful for that, but more still needs to come.

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