The Fujifilm X-Pro2 Receives Its Long Promised 4K Video Capability at Last, But Is It Everything We’ve Been Hoping For?

Fujifilm released its long-awaited firmware version 4.00 for the X-Pro2 digital rangefinder camera late December 2017, bringing six significant new features to this still revolutionary APS-C/Super 35 interchangeable lens hybrid camera. 

Fujifilm’s X-Pro2 rangefinder camera is available in two versions, basic black or graphite.

Foremost of the new features is the long-promised 4K video mode (minus HDMI out for recording onto external recorders like this made by Atomos), a new autofocus algorithm for tracking subjects in motion, improved radio flash control usability, tethered shooting via USB or Wi-Fi connections, the ability to use the free Fujifilm  X Raw Studio application, and back-up and restoration of camera settings through the free Fujifilm X Acquire application via USB connection to your computer.

I have briefly tried out Fujifilm X Raw Studio and Fujifilm X Acquire and it is particularly good to now be able to save and restore camera settings that often take some time to make in-camera.

The Fujifilm GFX 50S saves and exports photographs as raw, TIFF or JPEG files.

Fujifilm X Raw Studio is interesting in that it processes on-computer raw files via the X-Pro2’s raw conversion engine, permitting them to be exported as JPEGs, a feature I would find much more useful if the X-Pro2 had an option to export as TIFF files as does the Fujifilm GFX 50S medium format mirrorless camera.

I do not currently use electronic flash or radio controllers for flash units so usability improvements are lost on me for the time being.

I use my X-Pro2 in a way not unlike non-digital manually-focussing rangefinder cameras so autofocus and especially AF-C continuous autofocus mode is not something I have used much so far, but I will investigate it when the right subject matter arises.

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1189478-REG/tascam_dr_701d_linear_pcm_recorder.html/BI/20140/KBID/14125/DFF/d10-v21-t1-x685974/SID/EZ
Tascam DR-701D 6-Track Field Recorder with SMPTE Timecode, that can be attached beneath your camera when handheld or on a tripod, for top-quality field audio recording. I have the DR-70D.

Tethered shooting is something I have planned on investigating when I have updated my production gear collection later this year with the addition of one of the coming 2018 Apple 15.4″ MacBook Pro portable computers maxed out for on-location editing and production work, with the addition of some Tether Tools hardware and a stable though portable tripod, perhaps 3 Legged Thing’s Winston.

The brand new feature I am most excited about is the X-Pro2’s ability to shoot 4K video using Fujifilm’s justly famous film simulations modes, coupled with the ability to input audio from a camera-mounted microphone or a below-camera audio recorder like the Tascam DR-70D or DR-701D field recorders.


Seven X-Pro2 film simulations customized by cinematographers and photographers

A while back I decided to explore customized JPEG settings on my X-Pro2 to see what all the fuss was about. I prefer to shoot raw files and process them in a range of raw processors but it is always good to explore the alternatives.

I set up seven customized film simulations based on setting shared by Andrew Reid, Thomas Fitzgerald and Peter Evans, then used them to shoot this test.

Slight differences in exposure aside, all three Acros clips look the same as do both Provia clips.

ProNeg S is the softest and best for grading while Classic Chrome looks good if one needs ungraded but publication-ready footage straight out of camera.

 


Fujifilm’s X-T2 permits full customization of Fujifilm’s famous digital film simulations as do the X-E3 and X-T20 cameras, so why is this crucial moviemaking feature left out of the X-Pro2’s 4K video implementation?

But…

As Fujifilm’s other 4K video-capable cameras like the X-T2 and X-E3 permit customizing their film simulations for video as well as in-camera JPEG creation, I had expected the X-Pro2’s new 4K video feature to work the same way.

It does not.

Instead one can only select a particular film simulation from the X-Pro2’s current fifteen modes and shoot without benefit of tailoring its sharpness, noise reduction, highlight tone, shadow tone or colour to suit.

The camera’s video can often be too sharp, especially when shooting with some of Fujifilm’s excellent top-end prime or zoom lenses and one’s only recourse is to apply plenty of neutral density filtration to the longer focal lengths while opening up the aperture as far as one can go.

Shadow tone, highlight tone and color can be controlled to some degree when grading footage in your non-linear editor or colour grading software, but as with sharpness, noise reduction cannot be controlled in-camera either.

This limits the X-Pro’s video usability and this is deeply disappointing after waiting such a long time for 4K to finally appear after it was promised by Fujifilm staff members who believed it would appear on the X-Pro2 after the release of the X-T2.


A video lens set for prime lens lovers

The best video lenses, in my opinion, have manual clutch focus, a reasonable filter diameter to allow attaching 77mm or 82mm neutral density filters via step-up rings, and are long enough to permit easy access to focussing and aperture rings.

 


Another disappointment is Fujifilm’s seeming ongoing inability, or unwillingness, to add the industry-standard exposure zebras functionality to its cameras including the X-Pro2.

Instead we are given highlight overexposure blinkies, an annoying feature whereby areas of the image that may be overexposed at current settings flash black and white on and off.

If you have selected focus peaking as your focussing aid, the focus peaking lines also flash, an irritating behaviour that started to drive me crazy after a few minutes of use.

I found that resorting to the standard manual focussing aid whereby the point of focus is magnified eliminates the annoying flashing focus peaking but an often crucial fast focussing aid is thereby lost.


Some LookLabs Digital Film Stock (DFS) LUTs applied to X-Pro2 ProNeg S 4K footage

Having been disappointed by the 4K film simulation footage straight out of the camera, I wondered whether applying a creative aka looks LUT might be useful.

LookLabs released its excellent Digital Film Stock (DFS) bundle of nineteen LUTs based on some of the most popular Fuji and Kodak film stocks, many long discontinued, a while back so I applied all of them to a still frame extracted from my ProNeg S footage, with a small selection above.

I will be testing a range of creative aka looks LUTs over the coming weeks in conjunction with colour grading’s standard controls in my current non-linear editor of choice, Final Cut Pro X, as well as CoreMelt’s excellent Chromatic pro-quality colour grading plug-in.


Just in, Leeming LUT One for Fujifilm 402 beta

While writing this article, Paul Leeming of Leeming LUT One and Visceral Psyche Films sent over his version 402 beta of Leeming LUT One camera LUT for Fujifilm cameras, so I applied it and some creative LUTs to some new X-Pro2 4K ProNeg S footage shot in  local café.

Mr Leeming plans on updating his Leeming LUT One for Fujifilm to version 502 with his new methodology to bring it into alignment with Leeming LUT One 502 for Panasonic cameras, sometime later this year.

I will be trying out this current beta on more X-Pro2 4K footage soon and look forward to version 502 in due course.

Further thoughts

A while after the X-Pro2’s release, Canadian Fuji Guy Billy Luong went on record about 4K support on the camera saying that “I’m fighting with Japan for that”.

The year before, Mr Luong stated that the “X-Pro2 is over-engineered” and that “a lot of potential [is] not harnessed yet” with “firmware improvements coming”.

Some of those firmware improvements are here now but some remain missing in action.


A stabilized video lens set for zoom lens lovers


It is hard to believe that the X-Pro2 is not over-engineered enough or not powerful to accept the necessary ability to customize noise reduction, highlight tone, shadow tone, colour and sharpness for shooting video.

Mr Billy Luong, over to you!

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FUJIFILMglobal: Dual Vision -A Tale of 2 Cameras and 2 Photographers

“X-Photographer Flemming Bo Jensen and Charlene Winfred go head to head. Find out why Flemming uses the X-T2 meanwhile Charlene uses the X-Pro2. Filmed 4K on FUJIFILM X-E3…”

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Joel Wolfson: ON1 Photo Raw 2018 Released- Why it Rocks!

http://joelwolfson.com/photo-raw-2018-released/

“This image is from an X-Trans raw file (Fuji sensor.) These are normally a big challenge for raw processors but I was able to process it quickly and effectively with ON1 Photo Raw 2018 using 2 of my favorite filters- Dynamic Contrast and Color Enhancer….”

Panasonic Announces Lumix DC-G9, DSLR-Style Micro Four Thirds Stills Photography Flagship Camera and Panasonic Leica DG Elmarit 200mm f/2.8 Telephoto

Panasonic has pulled one out of its hat with the Panasonic Lumix DC-G9, an almost unexpected DSLR-style high-end flagship camera aimed directly at stills photographers but also with video capability, as well as the Panasonic Leica DG Elmarit 200mm f/2.8 telephoto zoom with included 1.4x teleconvertor and optional Panasonic DMW-TC20 2x Teleconverter

Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 camera with Panasonic DMW-BGG9 Battery Grip and Panasonic Leica G 200mm f/2.8 Aspheric Power OIS lens.

Commentary

Although I am not fond of DLSR-style cameras for stills photography, preferring the DSLR form factor for video cameras so long as they are equipped with fully articulating monitors, I find the Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 intriguing for its feature set and its promise as a smallish, fast-to-use camera for news, events and magazine feature photography.

For the urban documentary stills photography which I also practise, I still vastly prefer rangefinder and rangefinder-style cameras with tilting electronic viewfinders and hope that we can expect a Panasonic Lumix DC-GX9 tilting EVF camera in the near future.

It is early days insofar as hands-on professional user reviews of the Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 go, and I am looking forward to learning about how its many new features work out in practice.

I can visualize how the G9’s wildlife and sports photography-oriented features will make the job of those photographers lighter, faster and easier.

As a former magazine and daily newspaper photographer I can extrapolate how photographers in those fields will benefit especially given the tight deadlines of the newspaper business.

The G9’s 80-megapixel high resolution mode has piqued my interest, even more so now that I have been asked if I want to take up architectural photography again.

Food for thought.

Digital medium format photography costs far more to get into than large format analog photography ever did, in my experience.

Unless shot strictly for magazine, print or web publication, architectural photographs need to be usable at high reproduction sizes for displays and posters.

I love Micro Four Thirds and APS-C mirrorless, and medium format digital hardware suitable for architectural photography is well beyond my current means.

Medium format image quality, micro four thirds sensor size?

The Panasonic Lumix DC-G9’s 80-megapixel high resolution mode used for landscape photography. Not the best way to demonstrate its effectiveness. I would like to see the 80-megapixel mode well demonstrated for use in architectural and environmental portrait photography, in HDR multiple bracketing for architecture and a single shot for portraits.
The incredible Linhof Master Technika Classic 4″x5″ hand-and-stand sheet film camera with universal viewfinder, rangefinder and shift, swing and tilt camera movements. Perfect for architectural photography and portraiture. I learned photography with one of these and taught photography with it at the same university art school.

Is the G9’s 80-megapixel high resolution mode the way to go when needing to go large?

Combine the G9 with a super wide-angle Olympus or Panasonic zoom lens, or a Laowa M43 or adapted prime lens, choose the ones offering the best optical correction, and select an easily portable tripod that extends high enough to shoot above eye level as needed.

Above all buy lenses with the very least optical distortions to avoid nasty curved parallels when shooting video.

The legendary medium format Rolleiflex 4.0 FT telephoto twin lens reflex camera, brilliant for portrait and documentary photography along with its siblings the Rolleiflex 2.8 FX-N with standard lens and Rolleiflex 4.0 FW TLR with wide lens, last in a long line of such instruments. I had a couple of Rolleiflex TLRs and used them for documentary and portrait photography until they were stolen.

Shoot HDR brackets when the light and subject dynamic range demand it, then process in Skylum (formerly Macphun) Aurora HDR 2018.

Apply optical and perspective corrections there or in other applications like Capture One Pro, DxO ViewPoint, Luminar 2018PTLens or Photoshop and there you have it.

Another possibility comes to mind.

I made a living in magazine editorial portraiture as a result of my fine art portrait photography, relying on large and medium format analog cameras for the most part, supplemented with Leica analog rangefinders when portability and speed were of the essence.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 tilting viewfinder camera. I found that using TLR cameras’ waist-level viewfinders allowed me to be right in the middle of the action when shooting documentary photographs, effectively almost invisible. Shooting portraits the same way had a similar effect in that looking downwards with the top of my head to my subjects helped them relax far more than if I had been pointing an SLR at them at eye level. The GX8 gives me a similar experience to that of my Rolleiflexes and it is unique amongst contemporary digital cameras.

Photographic prints shown in galleries gain authority and power when printed large, traits often lost when reproduced small.

Should I consider getting back into creating larger format photographs for exhibition?

My question is, then, does the G9’s 80-megapixel high resolution mode permit applying it to the sort of portrait photography I love to this day?

One thing I know for sure is that Panasonic’s Micro Four Thirds sensors have close to the perfect aspect ratio for environmental, full-face, head-and-shoulders and full-figure portrait photography, whether in landscape (horizontal) or portrait (vertical) orientation – 4:3 or 3:4.

If the Panasonic Lumix G9’s 80 megapixel high res mode proves usable for my type of portrait photography, then that nudges it well into medium format territory for me, but at a far more affordable price than the other current contender, the Fujifilm GFX 50S.

Panasonic Lumix GH5, G9 and GX8 and then some, compared at Compact Camera Meter

Until the unexpected appearance of the G9, the GX9 was the Lumix stills-oriented camera most expected to be announced late this year or early the next.

Until now, the GX8 has been Panasonic’s flagship stills photography camera.

Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5, DC-G9 and DMC-GX8 with Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 8-18mm f2.8-4.0 Aspheric zoom lens, at Compact Camera Meter.
Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5, DC-G9 and DMC-GX8 with Panasonic Leica DG Elmarit 200mm f2.8 Power OIS telephoto lens, at Compact Camera Meter.

The rangefinder-style GX8 is very different in size and weight to the DSLR-style G9 so I compared it with the G9 and GH5 at the Camera Size website, with two lenses in which I am interested, the Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 8-18mm f/2.8-4.0 Aspheric zoom and the Panasonic Leica DG Elmarit 200m f/2.8 Power OIS telephoto.

Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 with Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm f/2.8 Pro, DC-G9 with Panasonic Leica Elmarit 200mm f2.8 Power OIS telephoto, and Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with Canon EF 400mm f/2.8 L IS II USM at Compact Camera Meter. Enough said.

Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 gallery

Panasonic Leica DG Elmarit 200m f/2.8 Power OIS gallery

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Image Credits

Header image concept and hack by Carmel D. Morris. Samurai image from Wallhaven.

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Fujifilm, Damn It, Get a Grip!

One thing my partner learned from ten years working in Canon’s research and development division is that even photographic market leaders have hardware and firmware blindspots, and in that instance they were legion and persistent, and remain so to this day. 

Fujifilm has its own persistent camera and lens hardware and firmware idiosyncrasies, which I have covered in other articles on this site, with one of its most recent hardware blindspots being the failure to issue a hand grip for the camera most in need of one, the Fujifilm X100F. 

Fujifilm Finepix X100 camera with Fujifilm MHG-X100 hand grip and Peak Design original Cuff and CL-2 Clutch camera straps. I am waiting for Peak Design AL-3 Anchor Links to appear locally so I can replace the original AL and current AL-2 Anchor Links illustrated as they are too thick to permit easily opening the camera’s battery and card door.

When I managed to see an X100, I was impressed by Fujifilm’s achievement but dismayed by its minimal built-in grip and the slipperiness of its tiny body.

I ordered one and it arrived just before a trip to San Francisco where I carried it everywhere every day.

It helped me produce some terrific photographs but my ability to hold it comfortably and safely at all times was compromised by the lack of a hand grip, despite finding a reasonable wrist strap to attach the camera.

I eventually came across Fujifilm’s MHG-X100 hand grip and snapped it up, attaching it to the camera along with Peak Design’s Clutch and Cuff camera straps.

I was impressed by how Fujifilm had thought of everything, by designing a rectangular notch into the side of the hand grip to allow attaching camera straps like the first one I bought for it, from San Francisco’s DSPTCH travel company.

Gallery of X100 images, before and after hand grip

The top three photographs were made when I did not have a hand grip for my X100, and the three photographs below were made after I bought a Fujifilm hand grip.

The safer former grip afforded by the hand grip gave me far more confidence and allowed me to be far more gestural in my approach, working faster and getting close in to the action.

I use my X100 with hand grip for documentary projects to this day.

No Fujifilm hand grip for the X100F!

I was shocked to learn that Fujifilm had failed to produce an updated version of its MHG-X100 hand grip for the X100F, when I was kindly loaned an X100F.

Like the X100 and its two successors, the X100S and X100T, the X100F’s body is small and slippery, and its taller built-in slippery grip bump does little or nothing to aid in ensuring a good hand-hold of the camera.

I attached my usual Peak Design Clutch and Cuff via Peak Design’s Arca-Swiss compatible camera plate, as in the photographs above, but it was a compromise compared to my hand-grip-plus-camera-straps solution for the X100.

Compromise, too is the word I would apply to each third party camera grip design I have seen online so far, linked to in my list of links blow.

None of them appeal to me and I am wondering whether even Really Right Stuff’s L-Plate Set and Grip might be worth the investment given its size, weight and slippery CNC surface, despite the potential usefulness of its optional L-Component for tripod-mounting in portrait orientation via an Arca-Swiss tripod head.

Really Right Stuff’s X100F solution has one really big downside besides slipperiness, size, expense and weight, and that is its lack of provision for attaching my two Peak Design camera straps.

Instead the company offers its Magpul Gen 2 MS4 Dual QD Sling for carrying the plated and gripped-up X100F rather than my smaller, safer, lighter and more elegant Clutch plus Cuff solution.

A long, long time ago… even the Leica CL, Leitz Minolta CL and Minolta CLE had a hand grip

My first thought on first seeing preview images of the Fujifilm Finepix X100 online some years ago was that it might be the closest digital equivalent to a Leica CL, Leitz Minolta CL or a Minolta CLE.

The Leitz camera company, now Leica Camera AG, reportedly killed off the Leica CL as sales were eating into those of the far more expensive Leica M5, and having seen and tried an M5 I can see why.

According to Ken Rockwell, “the CLE is a joy to carry, and a joy to shoot” and that it “could be photography’s messiah: the smallest, lightest possible solution for a complete advanced camera system” but as none of its versions appeared in my part of the world at the time I have never had the pleasure of using one.

It is remarkable how popular the Minolta CLE remains amongst those in the know to this day, including Take Kayo of Big Head Taco who reportedly has two of them.

Three lenses were created specially for these three cameras – the Minolta M-Rokkor 28mm f/2.8 wide-angle, the M-Rokkor 40mm f/2.0 “perfect normal” and the M-Rokkor 90mm f/4.0 medium telephoto.

But I digress..

The Fujfilm X100F achieves a similar result with its 35mm-equivalent 23mm fixed lens and its optional TCL-X100 II Tele Conversion and WCL-X100 II Wide Conversion lenses providing the equivalent to the 28mm and 50mm focal lengths in 35mm sensor terms, making it close to a credible digital “complete advanced camera system” able to fit in a small waist bag or shoulder bag.

Now if only Fujifilm could release its own hand grip for the X100F to make it a complete camera system, then we would be much happier. 🙂

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Header image concept and hack by Carmel D. Morris. Hero image of the Fujifilm X100 with hand grip photographed as 5-bracket HDR on Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 with Panasonic Lumix 25mm f/1.7 Aspheric lens then processed with Skylum Aurora HDR 2018 and Luminar 2018.

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  • Really Right Stuff Base Plate and Grip for Fujifilm X100F – B&H
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How I Use My Fujifilm X-Pro2 Advanced Multi Viewfinder OVF Rangefinder Camera for Documentary Photography

Events involving more than a handful of people closely interacting with each other in public rarely occur where I live now and creative events are rarer still, so this year’s Fujifilm People with Cameras event in the city of Sydney provided an excellent opportunity to exercise my documentary photography muscle memory.

I carried my Fujifilm X-Pro2 with Fujinon XF 23mm f/1.4 R lens attached and my Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 in a Think Tank PhotoSpectral 8 shoulder bag.

The Cosyspeed Camslinger Streetomatic Plus Camera Bag is also a terrific waist bag for the urban documentary photographer. It can carry one mirrorless camera and one, or two or three lenses if they are small primes or zooms. This model easily carries an X-Pro2 with two Fujicron lenses or a Panasonic Lumix GH5 with standard zoom lens.

The Spectral 8 looks like anything but a typical camera bag, making it a great choice for working events and crowds, and it is the first shoulder bag that has not given me spine and shoulder problems whichever mirrorless camera and however many lenses I carry in it.

If working with just one lens and one camera, and traveling light with personal items too, I choose a Cosyspeed waist bag such as the Cosyspeed Camslinger Streetomatic Plus Camera Bag.

The Advanced Hybrid Multi Viewfinder

The Fujinon XF 23mm f/1.4 R is an excellent lens for documentary photography and photojournalism, especially when working in available darkness.

I chose the X-Pro2 for its Hybrid Multi Viewfinder (HMVF), a considerable evolutionary step beyond the non-digital optical viewfinder (OVF) cameras in all film sizes from my analog photography days.

My documentary photography style was shaped by my first rangefinder camera, a second-hand Leica M-4P, and my first Leica M-System lens, a Summicron-M 35mm f/2.0.

I soon added an Elmarit-M 28mm f/2.8 after finding the narrower 35mm focal length more suited to a feeling of contemplative distance rather than emotive immersion in fast-moving events.

I purchased my X-Pro2 along with the 23mm f/1.4 and 56mm f/1.2 lenses after reading about Kevin Mullins, a documentary-style wedding photographer and Fujifilm X-Photographer from the UK who often works in adverse lighting conditions, reminding me of when going down the mines as a corporate photographer.

Available light and gestural photography

The Fujinon XF 56mm f1/2 R lens is one of the best head and shoulders or full face portrait lenses I have ever used. I also use it for urban documentary photography as a short telephoto lens.

I was excited about these two lenses due to their reportedly high image quality when used wide open in available darkness, a lighting condition common to events I had covered with other digital cameras and lenses for a charity for several years.

What I enjoy about using rangefinder cameras, as opposed to rangefinder-style cameras, is their conduciveness to being used in a gestural manner, seeing the world as if through a window into deep space, and making creative decisions and photographs within a fraction of a second without shutter blackout.

One of my two battered old Leica M4P rangefinder cameras, sold after I contracted severe photochemical reaction dermatitis, prematurely ending my professional magazine photography career. I had to wait years until digital cameras and software were affordable and at the right stage of development to buy back into photography and moviemaking.

All that is the direct consequence of the cameras’ optical viewfinders showing you more than what will end up in your photograph, in combination with having both eyes open at all times, seeing the wider scene with left eye and through viewfinder with right, superimposing one upon the other.

A short movie was once made of me photographing a public event, and the cinematographer swore that I surely could not have been making photographs at all, so rapidly and so casually was I handling my Leica.

Camera in right hand attached by wrist strap, concentrate on the scene, anticipate and visualize the possibilities, wait until a fraction of a second before the perfect conjunction of people, objects and events, raise camera, pass in front of eyes, snap and it is done.

Repeat until you are in the zone and amazing images keep coming thick and fast.

I use my X-Pro2 in manual focussing mode in a similar but now digitally enhanced way, relying on the electronic rangefinder (ERF) set to show the whole scene at lower right of the OVF and with focus peaking set to on.

Fujifilm, exposure zebras please!

The Fujifilm X-Pro2 camera’s Advanced Hybrid Multi Viewfinder is key to how I get the best out of it. Depicted, the X-Pro2’s finder window with ERF-in-OVF viewing mode selected.

If the firmware for X-Pro2 and other Fujifilm cameras had exposure zebras built-in then I would swap zebras for focus peaking in full image ERF view to ensure perfect exposure under challenging extreme subject dynamic range such as blacks in deep shade combined with whites in bright sun.

In combination with back-button focus on the X-Pro2 via AF-L button or the 23mm f/1.4 lens’ manual clutch focus mechanism, I can see everything on all four sides of the lens’ field of view, have access to plenty of focus and exposure information, can make creative decisions rapidly and accurately, use joystick to select the most critical point of focus then make the exposure with minimal lag time.

A photograph from Fujifilm Australia’s People with Cameras event in the Sydney CBD in October 2017.

As a result the X-Pro2 is the first digital camera that allows me to achieve split-second speeds to photograph the perfect combination of actions and encounters across the frame.

You will notice that I often place my main subjects within a broader field of view, depicting unrelated figures going about their daily business yet in apparent choreographic unison with each other, as if under the command of a dance master instead of blind chance.

Another photograph from Fujifilm Australia’s People with Cameras event in the Sydney CBD in October 2017.

These are image design decisions I came up with years ago after studying painting and visual storytelling throughout the ages in art galleries and museums in Europe.

I find a particular satisfaction in suggesting possible deeper stories and apparent relationships than what may really be going on in the central focus of the action.

More than meets the eye?

The Leica Elmarit-M 28mm f/2.8 Aspheric lens. I loved using an older, larger version of this lens for immersive, gestural urban documentary photography.

In other words, my photographs are intended to suggest that there is more there than meets the eye.

Although I enjoy the remarkable optical qualities of the 23mm f/1.4 lens, I often find myself wishing for a similar but wider lens for more immersively photographing events outdoors and indoors.

My Leica 28mm lens hit the immersive sweet spot in comparison with wider or narrower lenses and there is no substitute for that specific focal length.

The Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 lens, one of the first three lenses released by Fujifilm for its interchangeable lens APS-C cameras along with the XF 35mm f/1.4 R and XF 60mm f/2.8 R Macro lens. It needs to be updated to current lens optical and mechanical design standards to suit my needs for high-speed gestural documentary photography.

Its Fujifilm APS-C equivalent is 18mm, but having tried the Fujinon 18mm f/2.0 lens, I rejected buying it due to its lack of manual clutch focus, slow autofocus speed, clanky aperture ring and clunky construction despite its quite reasonable optics.

Fujifilm needs to produce a radically updated version of this lens, and although I prefer the clutch manual focus design of the 23mm f/1.4 and 14mm f/2.8 Fujinon lenses, I could cope with a Fujicron-style design such as that of the small XF 23mm f/2.0 R WR, XF 35mm f/2.0 R WR and XF 50mm f/2.0 R WR primes that are particularly suited to the X-Pro2 due to their small front end that protrudes less into the camera’s OVF.

The curse of funky chic

The Fujifilm XF 50mm f/2.0 R WR “Fujicron” lens, equivalent to 75mm in 35mm sensor terms. One of my favourite analog 35mm film format lens pairs was 28mm and 75mm, an excellent combo for two-camera, two-lens documentary photography so long as each lens is quick and accurate to use.

On Sunday I was told that the ageing XF 18mm f/2.0 lens has undergone a sales resurgence recently, and I suspect that is due to its olde worlde funky chic that is being promoted online by certain photographers.

If I really wanted funky chic there are plenty of other lenses that go the extra mile and were built specifically for that.

Fujifilm, please do not shelve your reported plans for a Fujicron-style Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 R WR just because funky chic has become a thing with a clearly mechanically inferior lens.

I have considered adding Fujifilm’s reportedly excellent kit zoom, the Fujinon XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS, to my nascent lens collection but having tried it out at an event last year decided it was not for me due to its size and its front element protruding into the OVF.

The Fujinon 18-55mm f/2.8-4.0 R LM OIS zoom lens, which I had considered purchasing when I got my XF 23mm f/1.4 and XF 56mm f/1.2 lenses but had to let go due to budgetary constraints and other reasons.

At the 18mm setting, the X-Pro2’s 18mm bright frame is almost equivalent to the whole of the OVF window and with ERF activated I would be losing fast and easy view of a crucial percentage of the action.

That view would be further reduced with the addition of Fujifilm’s lens hood for the 18-55mm lens, a necessity in the extremes of light and shade found in an average city scene.

I like the idea, though, of the 18-55mm zoom for its access to much-loved focal lengths from my Leica days – 28mm, 40mm and 75mm in the 35mm sensor size or in APS-C terms, 18mm, 27mm and 50mm – as well as 35mm which for me is more of a video focal length than a stills focal length.

Fujifilm X100F with WCL-X100 II Wide Conversion lens attached, converting the camera’s 23mm f/2.0 lens to an 18mm f/2.0 lens. In 35mm sensor terms, converting a 35mm focal length into 28mm.

The Leica 40mm true normal lens is now sadly discontinued but the closest currently available 40mm lens is the reportedly excellent Voigtlaender Nokton Classic 40mm f/1.4 SC.

There is one less obvious solution to my 18mm dilemma and that is an X100F with WCL-X100 Wide Conversion lens to convert its fixed 23mm focal length lens to 18mm, with Peak Design Cuff and Clutch camera straps essential for good grip of its small, slick-surfaced camera body.

The Fujifilm MHG-X100 hand grip with notch for attaching Peak Design camera straps, for the X100, X100S and X100T cameras, but, bizarrely Fujifilm has not released a version for the X100F and it is an essential for tight, safe grip especially when using convertor lenses.

The one downside to that set-up is that Fujifilm has, bizarrely, failed to release an updated X100F version of its small but effective MHG-X100 hand grip previously made available for the X100, X100S and X100T.

Fujifilm’s hand grips are the only ones I have come across that have a notch for attaching Peak Design’s camera strap AL-3 Anchor Links and are smaller and neater than those of third party competitors.

A hand grip for the X100F, yet another silly Fujifilm blind spot?

Primes, not zooms

Fujifilm X-Pro2 attached to 3 Legged Thing Equinox Albert Carbon Fibre Travel Tripod with AirHed 360 Ball Head via 3 Legged Thing QR11-LC Universal L-Bracket, an excellent set-up for on-location portraiture. Albert extends high enough for full face close-up portraits and is great for environmental portraits too. For studio use I recommend 3 Legged Thing Winston.

For me at least, zoom lenses are more suited to EVFs and LCDs, not OVFs.

During Sunday’s Fujifilm People with Cameras event I was lucky enough to have a few moments with a save-disabled pre-production model of the coming Fujifilm X-E3 rangefinder-style camera.

It is easy to forget that contemporary mirrorless digital cameras offer two or, in the case of the X-Pro2 and X100F, three ways of seeing in one due to offering an EVF and an LCD, and in the case of those two cameras, an OVF as well.

Fujifilm has a long history of producing excellent analog film cameras, lenses and film stocks.

Two or three ways of seeing, two or three cameras in one. 

Each way of seeing equal to one camera only during the analog era, with the rare exception of the Linhof and Speed Graphic cameras that I used as handheld rangefinder cameras or tripod-mounted view cameras.

The X-Pro2 is, in my opinion, a superb OVF hand camera while other Fujifilm cameras have better quality EVFs better suiting them to use with zoom lenses, prime lenses outside the X-Pro2’s optimum range of 18mm to 56mm, and tripod-mounted use like a miniature view camera via the LCD monitor.

Matching cameras, complementary lenses

Every Fujifilm camera needs an optional hand grip or battery grip in my experience. Fujifilm X-Pro2 with Fujifilm MHG-XPRO2 metal hand grip.

Having always relied on carrying two matched cameras for documentary photography I am uncomfortable with just one camera and two lenses, thus risking dropping while changing lenses at speed in the field, or missing shots because I have the wrong lens on it at the time.

I need a second camera for documentary photography projects.

Will an X-Pro2S or X-Pro3 improve their EVFs to match those in the X-T2 and its successors?

Will Fujifilm add the X-Tn series’ excellent and incredibly useful Dual viewfinder mode to cameras in the X-Pron series?

Will Fujifilm finally relent and add exposure zebras to all its cameras, for stills and video?

The Fujifilm X-E3 EVF/LCD rangefinder-style camera with MHG-XE3 hand grip, essential for balancing big lenses and safely holding the camera itself.

Will the X-E3 make for a good EVF rangefinder-style companion camera to the X-Pro2 so I can get back to my well-proven two-camera, two-lens documentary default mode?

Should I seriously consider a Fujifilm X100F with WCL-X100 II Wide Conversion Lens attached, now that the X100F sensor’s specifications are closer to that of the X-Pro2, X-E3 and other Fujifilm cameras?

Time will tell and, no doubt, so will access to a production-run Fujifilm X-E3 for a really good tryout in typical documentary photography conditions in the field.

One thing I know for sure, resulting from handling the X-E3 for even a short time is that, like the X-Pro2 and X100F, it needs a hand grip whether mounting small lenses or large ones on it, whether primes or zooms, as well as Peak Design Cuff and Clutch camera straps.

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Photography Image Editing & Raw Processing Software is Going Through Interesting Times Right Now

We live in interesting times for digital photography with some great cameras now on the market and an ever-growing, ever-evolving set of choices in image editing and raw processing software available to those with deep pockets as well as those with less so. 

Photograph made with Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 camera and Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f2.8 Pro lens, then processed in DxO PhotoLab with DxO FilmPack plug-in, making liberal use of PhotoLab’s Nik-like U-Point masking technology to select areas within the image for application of editing controls like exposures, contrast, micro contrast and so on.

Headline news at the moment is Google selling Google Nik Collection, which it acquired when buying Nik Software for access to their Snapseed mobile image editing app, to DxO with DxO continuing Google’s recent move to give Nik Collection away for free.

DxO has stated that they will continue developing the Nik Collection though not how they will apply all the technology within it.

All hail the U Point

The company has already made good use of one key complement of all applications within the Nik Collection, its U Point technology that is a more accurate, more sophisticated alternative to using brush tools for masking.

I first came across U Point selection and masking at a photography trade show in Sydney at the Nik Software stand where Nik Collection component Viveza was being demonstrated.

I immediately bought a copy and found I could use it to bring to stunning life images shot under lighting circumstances too challenging for the image editing suites of the day to get the best out of with their then-current tool sets.

Make precise edits quickly

Use U Point® technology to selectively edit just the parts of your photos that need touching up without losing time on complex masks and selections.

As soon as I downloaded the PhotoLab trial version I put it to good use editing the monochrome image at the top of this page, relying heavily on DxO’s new iteration of U Points.

DxO is on to a winner

DxO PhotoLab was formerly named DxO OpticsPro, the Elite version of which I bought as my very first raw processor at the same time as a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, on the recommendation of a Danish photographer friend.

Photograph made with Panasonic DMC-GX8 camera with Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro lens, processed in DxO PhotoLab using the Leica M9 camera profile, with U Point applied to the dog’s face. DxO PhotoLab Elite’s big collection of excellent camera profiles are only accessible when processing raw files, not TIFFs or JPEGs.

I quickly added DxO FilmPack and DxO ViewPoint, both of which work as plug-ins extending DxO OpticsPro and now DxO PhotoLab, as well as being standalone editors and plug-ins for image editing products like the long-discontinued Apple Aperture, Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom.

I recall that Nik’s version of U Point seemed to have worked faster than DxO’s, which takes a little longer to display the tooltips that explain just what each icon represents but I am sure DxO will be ramping up its U Point display and operation speeds each new version.

It was refreshing to get back to using U Points in DxO PhotoLab as they have always been and remain my preferred selection and masking tool.

Given Google’s neglect of the Nik Collection, recent versions including the current one under the DxO aegis fail to function as plug-ins within recent versions of Photoshop and no doubt Lightroom, causing weird error messages as seen in the header image on this page.

DxO and Fujifilm X-Trans raw files

The only downside to DxO buying Nik Collection is to do with the camera sensor types that all DxO software supports.

Photograph made with Fujifilm X-Pro2 with Fujinon XF 23mm f/1.4 R lens, raw file processed with Iridient X-Transformer, exported as a DNG, converted to a TIFF in Adobe Photoshop then further processed in DxO OpticsPro applying film simulation preset via DxO FilmPack as a plug-in within OpticsPro.

Some time ago, the DxO people told me that they will never support X-Trans raw files due to their non-Bayer technology and would only ever support Bayer pattern sensors.

Right now, though I am wondering if the name change of DxO OpticsPro to DxO PhotoLab might be signalling grander intentions for DxO’s key software product.

More than a sophisticated raw developer?

If they are intending to turn DxO PhotoLab into more than a very fine raw processor with built-in camera, lens and analog film simulation profiles, with the addition of all the many image editing features of the Nik Collection, then surely they must be considering adding support for Fujifilm’s X-Trans and non-X-Trans sensors, cameras and lenses.

As I have found time and again, it can be a real pain having to process Fujifilm rare files in one raw processor then raw files from all one’s other, non-Fujifilm cameras in another raw processor, then editing them all together in an image editor once having imported them as TIFF or PSD files.

Always best to do as much as one can in one raw processor regardless of camera used, preserving the ability go back make non-destructive changes.

A range of cameras and sensor types

Like many photographers and cinematographers these days, I rely on a range of camera, lens and sensors types in order to best suit my subjects and how I wish to depict them, and having limitations imposed on me by software companies being unwilling or unable to support all my hardware is a massive pain.

I have yet to establish a fixed workflow that gets the best out of all my gear and continue to try out various options.

Now that Iridient Digital has released the first version of its Iridient X-Transformer aimed at converting Fujifilm X-Trans raw files to DNG files, I have begun running files from my X-Pro2 through X-Transformer then opening them in various image editing applications to see which may work best with them.

DxO’s three core products, PhotoLab, FilmPack and ViewPoint, accept and process TIFF and JPEG files as well as raw files from Bayer image sensors, minus certain core functionality, so they can be introduced into your workflow after your initial raw file processing stage.

Meanwhile, other developments

Lest what started as a small article grows too large and boring, let me list other recent developments in raw processing software.

Adobe recently outraged and panicked many dedicated Adobe Photoshop Lightroom (to use its full name) users by signalling the end of the non-suscriber version of Lightroom aka Lightroom CS in favour of the subscription-only version named Lightroom CC, those initials standing for Creative Cloud.

Like a surprising number of Australian pro photographer colleagues, I have never been a serious Lightroom user having stuck with Photoshop and Camera Raw for years and then jumping ship to DxO OpticsPro and other image editing software.

Irish photographer Thomas Fitzgerald is quite the expert on the pros and cons of various raw processors and image editors as well as workflows, so I will refer you to his Thomas Fitzgerald Photography blog for further details and clarification of Adobe’s now more confusing naming conventions for its two current versions of Lightroom.

Coming from a traditional photography technical background, Mr Fitzgerald is also a highly recommended authority on other software such as Capture One Pro, Macphun (now Skylum) Luminar, ON1 Photo Raw, Apple Photos and plenty more besides.

I highly recommend making him a regular stop on your daily photography reading list.

Meanwhile I will be catching up on the other new developments in software and will be covering them here soon.

My photo editing and raw processing watch list

These are the brands and products I try to keep an eye on, or have used and liked, and I currently use a subset of them in my work.

There are quite a few more of them, paid-for and open source, but I can’t keep an eye on everything out there!

Tastes and needs are different for everyone, so this list may be useful for you when working out your own photography workflow.

Trial versions are generally available.

Header Image Notes

The header image is based on a DxO OpticsPro raw sample photograph that I edited in DxO PhotoLab using the Nik Collection’s U Point adapted by DxO since buying it from Google.

The biggest difference between DxO’s version of U Point and Nik Collections’ is that DxO’s displays icons first and then tool tips appear later after hovering your cursor over an icon.

Given that there is no universally understood icon language, are icons the best solution for a GUI like this or should DxO revert to the Nik Collection’s text-only U Point GUI?

I exported the file from DxO PhotoLab as a TIFF then imported it into Adobe Photoshop where I attempted to apply the Nik Collection Analog Efex Pro 2, resulting in the error message depicted in this screenshot.

TheCameraStoreTV: Fuji X-E3 Hands-On Field Test

“The Fuji X-E series has gone some time without a major model release, but we were hardly expecting the completely new body design of the X-E3. Chris Niccolls is a huge fan of the X-T20, and wanted to see if the new X-E3 could give it a run for its money!”

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Capture One Pro: Capture One & Fuji with Eivind Røhne

“Eivind Røhne is an editorial and commercial photographer based in Oslo, Norway. He photographs people, fashion, architecture and industrial subjects for national and international clients.

Eivind is also a Fuji X photographer, a brand ambassador for Fuji cameras.

Therefore, in this webinar Eivind will show us his processing techniques in Capture One, specifically to optimise images from X-Trans cameras.”

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