“Having earned the top spot as our Best Wide Angle Prime of 2017 in our annual Lens of the Year awards, we’ve now finalized our lab testing of the Olympus 17mm f/1.2 Pro lens. This 35mm-eq. wide-angle prime lens is undoubtedly a professional-level optic that offers excellent performance. Image quality is spectacular, even at f/1.2, with very low distortion and low chromatic aberration….”
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 17mm f/1.2 Pro
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II DSLR-style camera with Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 17mm f/1.2 Pro lens with manual clutch focus. Photograph courtesy of Olympus.
The M.Zuiko Pro 17mm f/1.2 on an Olympus Pen-F, probably not much larger or heavier than, say, the popular 12-40mm f/2.8 zoom lens.
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 17mm f/1.2 Pro, Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 Pro and Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f/1.2 Pro professional prime lenses with manual clutch focusing, brilliant for shooting video or stills where accurate focus is absolutely critical.
Screenshot from the Olympus 2018 financial report.
With the coming release of Blackmagic Design’s Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K aka BMPCC 4K aka P4K later this year, along with the already-released Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 IBIS hybrid 4K stills/video camera and the Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5S high-end compact 4K video camera, attention is on affordable yet high-end professional-quality lenses capable of delivering excellent results whether manually-focussed or used with those cameras’ autofocus functionality if they have it.
After trying out prime and zoom optics from several ranges of Micro Four Thirds lenses, I have chosen to invest in Olympus’ M.Zuiko Pro range and will be adding more as availability and finances permit.
My documentary photography and moviemaking work demands gear that can withstand years of use and potentially challenging environments without succumbing, and the weather resistance, durability, quality and relative low weight and size put the M.Zuiko Pro lens range in the frame.
I will be adding Xume fast-on, fast-off filter holders, Breakthrough Photography brass knurled step-up rings and UV protection filters, and a full set of top-quality variable and fixed ND filters to my kit in the 82mm and 105mm sizes soon.
I hope that Olympus will continue to expand its M.Zuiko Pro offerings into the 10.5mm and 14mm prime lens sizes as part of the company’s stated commitment to its professional lens range.
Both focal lengths, in 35mm sensor terms equivalent to 21mm and 28mm, are crucial to my work in documentary photography and video, and are essential to any well-rounded collection of professional-quality prime lenses.
I would also like to see a 75mm equivalent lens added to the Olympus M.Zuiko Pro lens collection – 21mm, 28mm and 75mm is one of my favourite 35mm sensor focal length triplet for documentary stills and video, or in M43 sensor terms 10.5mm, 14mm and 37.5mm.
That aside, I am very pleased that Olympus has released the 17mm f/1.2 in its second tranche of M.Zuiko Pro primes as I have been badly missing this focal length in my M43 sensor format cameras.
My head was further turned towards the M.Zuiko Pro lens collection by Cosyspeed’s Thomas Ludwig’s review of the M.Zuiko Pro 25mm f/1.2 and its beautiful skin-tone rendering.
“What makes a good lens? This is in many ways a question that can only be answered individually. To me it is not important that it is super sharp wide open or does not vignette etc. – to me the most important point is the esthetics, the look and feel it delivers. When I look at the images of a certain lens and it “feels” good, well, than it is a good lens. And you know what? The OLY 25/1.2 is a lens of this category. I’m simply amazed especially when looking at the portraits I made in Hamburg. Amazed not by my images but by the clean, natural and three dimensional look.
The OLY 25/1.2 has a certain magic and I would describe it’s special character in the way it closes the gap between a pronounced three dimensional look and a portrait friendly (lower) level of micro contrast. A high level of micro contrast gives 3D pop for example to LEICA and ZEISS lenses, but it can be a bit harsh when shooting portraits. I don’t know how the OLYMPUS engineers made it, but they found a way to give it a lot of 3D pop while micro contrast is on a natural level.”
I have tried out the Panasonic Leica Summilux 15mm f/1.7, equivalent in 35mm sensor terms to 30mm, but I found the focal length an uneasy in-between, too wide for the subjects I prefer photographing with a 35mm equivalent lens and too long for those much better suited to a 28mm focal length equivalent.
When I began researching the Micro Four Thirds format for moviemaking and photography several years ago, its detractors harped on about how few M43 lenses existed back then.
The critics were factually wrong then and the number of M43 prime and zoom lenses has grown considerably since, but gaps still remain in the major lens makers’ offerings, especially at M43 system co-founders Olympus and Panasonic.
Olympus has hit the right notes with its M.Zuiko Pro collection but it needs to keep growing its prime lenses and long focal-length subsets, in the former case taking a leaf out of the book Leica Camera wrote some years ago with its Leica M-System lenses for stills photography and its recent cinema lens spin-off, Leica sister company CW Sonderoptic’s five-strong Leica M 0.8 series.
“FUJIFILM Corporation (President: Kenji Sukeno) will release free firmware updates for the FUJIFILM X-H1 (“X-H1”), FUJIFILM X-T2 (“X-T2”), FUJIFILM X-Pro2 (“X-Pro2”), FUJIFILM X-E3 (“X-E3”) and FUJIFILM X100F (“X100F”) X Series digital cameras. Due for release late April and May, the updates reflect the feedback received by FUJIFILM X Series users with regards to improving usability and adding new functions….
… FUJIFILM X-Pro2 (Ver.5.0.0) – due May 2018
1. Enlarged and customizable indicators or information
The upgrade allows users to enlarge indicators and information in the viewfinder and/or LCD monitor. This upgrade will also enable users to customize the location of where the information is shown on the display.
2. Enhanced Phase Detection AF
Latest updates to the AF algorithm provide the following performance enhancements
(1) The low-light limit for phase detection autofocus has been improved by approximately 1.5 stops from 0.5EV to -1.0EV, raising the precision and speed of autofocus in low-light environments.
(2) The range at minimum aperture has been expanded from F8 to F11. For example, even when using the XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR with the tele converter XF2X TC WR, phase detection autofocus can now be used.
(3) Major improvements have been made to the AF-C performance while operating the zoom, which provides major benefits when shooting sports and other scenarios in which the subjects moves unpredictably.
(4) Finely-detailed surface textures of wild birds and wild animals can now be captured at high speed and with high precision as a result of improvement in phase detection autofocus.
3. Addition of “Flicker Reduction”
For enhancing the quality of indoor sports photography, the upgrade allows users to reduce flicker in pictures and the display when shooting under fluorescent lighting and other similar light sources.
4. Addition of “Select Folder” and “Create Folder”
Enable to choose the folder in which subsequent pictures will be stored. And also enable to enter a five-character folder name to create a new folder in which to store subsequent pictures….”
Fujifilm has done it again with its commitment to continually improving the functionality of most of its cameras long after their initial release with firmware updates that squash bugs, introduce major new features and update major and minor core functionality.
As an X-Pro2 owner my interest in the current round of announced and already released firmware updates is primarily to do with that camera but I note the usefulness of Fujifilm’s updates for the X100F, X-E3, X-T2 and X-H1.
I am grateful that with X-Pro2 Firmware Version 5.00 Fujifilm will be adding the ability to enlarge information and indicators in the X-Pro2’s remarkable Advanced Hybrid Multi Viewfinder and its LCD monitor as some, under the current firmware, are a little too small to be as useful and easy to read as they could be.
I am looking forward to the coming enhancements to the X-Pro2’s Phase Detection Autofocus although I tend to prefer using back-button autofocus in Manual mode for precision focussing when shooting documentary stills in available darkness.
The X-Pro2 is nothing if not versatile given its four different viewing methods – LCD, OVF-only, EVF-in-OVF and straight EVF – that effectively make it four cameras in one, and I use it for a range of other subjects and shooting conditions which call for improved AF-S and AF-C focussing functionality.
As the cliché goes, my X-Pro2 may well feel like a while new camera again, yet again.
The addition of a flicker reduction feature will also be very welcome.
I am based in a country with 50 Hz mains power and despite following the common advice to select shutter speeds that are multiples of 50, banding or flicker can be a constant problem especially in places lit by ageing fluorescent lights or mixed lighting that includes flickering light sources.
The ability to choose folders or enter five-character folder names on my SD cards is one the usefulness of which I have not considered but it may be worth trying if I am shooting two or more different subjects or projects in the same day to otherwise needing to keep files clearly separate.
X-Pro2 Firmware version 5.00 does not, however, include improvements that we have been waiting a long time for now.
Foremost of these is pixel-level view of photographs to ensure accurate focus of critical image elements, an essential professional-quality feature even the X-E3 comes with straight out of the box.
Second is exposure zebras for fast and accurate exposure-to-the-right aka ETTR, instead of the blinkies that appeared in an earlier X-Pro2 firmware update.
Blinkies on already shot images are fine when chimping in poor visibility but diabolical when actually shooting.
The X-Pro2’s blinkies often drive me mad especially when used in conjunction with focus peaking for manual focussing which also blinks in unison, a needless distraction that should, at the very least, be able to be switched off in the menu settings.
Thirdly, the EVF badly needs improving if that can be done in firmware alone so that its clarity and colour cast can be made to approach if not match the quality of non-Fujifilm EVF cameras such as those made by Panasonic or by Fujifilm in its also-flagship X-T2 and X-H1 cameras.
If this problem with the X-Pro2’s EVF is a hardware issue, then I hope it will be fixed in the X-Pro3 when it arrives, perhaps, sometime in 2019.
Missing feature number four is the ability to apply picture profile customizations to video in the same way currently exists for JPEGs.
I am grateful to Fujifilm for finally giving us the long-promised 4K video in X-Pro2 firmware version 4.00 but they forgot that decent quality video also requires the ability to customize Noise Reduction, Highlight Tone, Shadow Tone, Color and Sharpness exactly the same as exists in Fujifilm’s other stills and video-capable hybrid cameras.
Lastly, and as firmware wishlist item number five, I would love to see the X-H1’s Eterna film simulation come to the X-Pro2 as a more viable alternative to Fujifilm’s more stills-appropriate film simulations.
Other useful features come to mind but these five are first and foremost for me as a documentary stills and video creator who needs all her cameras to be as capable and as feature-rich as possible.
As a purely self-funded independent visual storyteller, I no longer have the commissions nor the budgets to maintain a number of different camera systems in parallel, nor do I have the physical strength to carry two complete sets of cameras and lenses with one for stills and one for video on any given project.
Accordingly, each camera system that I have must be capable of producing good enough stills and good enough video as the project, the subject and the often unpredictable circumstances of the day demand.
These sorts of side-by-side tryouts are useful when assembling an optimal set of lenses for any camera system, and are something I would love to do myself with more of an in-the-field as-close-to-real-life-as-possible tryout, less of a techie pixel-peeping and specifications-comparing spiel.
Given my relative lack of access to the range of gear I would want to try out and write about, I am glad that others out there in the northern hemisphere do have access to items of interest, like MirrorLessons’ Wales-based Heather Broster and Mathieu Gasquet, and are great at more technical reviewing.
Olympus M.Zuiko Pro 17mm and 45mm f/1.2 primes and their f/1.8 counterparts
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f/1.2 Pro prime lens with manual clutch focusing via retracting focus control ring. Equivalent to 90mm in the 35mm sensor format. If only ALL lenses offered manual clutch focus!
I learned to select camera systems first by the quality of their lenses, second by the functionality of their camera bodies and those principles remain in force despite the digital era’s constantly evolving hardware and software technologies.
Lens choice should be based on genre, camera shape and size, and other shooting stills, video or both.
In my case (mostly) available light documentary, small to medium size mirrorless rangefinder and rangefinder-style cameras when possible, and both video and stills, often in the same project.
I do appreciate the smaller Micro Four Thirds and APS-C lenses, especially the pancake and “Fujicron” lens designs, for allowing me to be discrete and unobtrusive when shooting in public but find manual clutch focus lenses invaluable when shooting video and for critical focus with fast apertures and longer focal lengths.
Most lenses in the Olympus M.Zuiko Pro collection feature filter diameters of 62mm or more, wide focussing rings suitable for follow-focus devices and lens bodies large enough to grip well.
Video brings other lens features into consideration, too, especially when shooting in the great outdoors under bright sunlight or with fast sensors of 400 ISO and over.
One thing to bear in mind when shooting video outdoors on sunny days is that variable NDs with maximum densities of 6 stops may be inadequate, so please consider variable NDs with higher density values such as the Aurora-Aperture or SLR Magic products in the list at the bottom of this page.
Alternatively, if choosing fixed NDs then space them well and ensure the highest density is 10 or more stops for shooting in bright sun with high ISO sensors, an even more important consideration with Panasonic rumoured soon to be announcing a new low-light version of the GH5 with higher base ISO sensor than the current GH5’s 200 ISO.
TheCameraStoreTV – Focus By Wire: Why It Sucks (Featuring Possible Solutions!) – “It seems every other TCSTV episode, Jordan Drake is complaining about focus-by-wire lenses. So Jordan and Chris Niccolls decided to explain what focus-by-wire is, and why you probably don’t want it if you’re shooting video.”
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Aurora-Aperture PowerXND 2000 Variable Neutral Density 1.2 to 3.3 Filter (4 to 11 Stops) – B&H
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 17mm f/1.2 PRO Lens – B&H
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.
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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?
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.
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
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.
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.
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 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
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.
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
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?
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.
“…The X-E3 is, in a nutshell, all my favourite things, in an even smaller package than its predecessor. It’s like Yoda. You think it’s a small frog, then it turns out to be a Jedi Master….
… I’ve been using the X-Pro2 since November 2015, and I still love everything about it, so I’m stoked to have that same image quality and high ISO capability… in a smaller body. And it is really tiny…
… The X-E3 is a tiny machine that packs a punch. If you’re a Pro2 shooter looking for a smaller, stripped down body to throw in your bag, this is it. If you’re a beginner looking for something rangefinder-like that will help you along with your learning curve, this is it. Me? I just love it.”
“Utilising the X-Processor Pro for best in class color reproduction in both stills and 4K movies. Made for photographers who want to seamlessly upload photos directly to their smartphone or tablet.
The X-E3 features APS-C 24.3 megapixel X-Trans™* CMOS III sensor and the X-Processor Pro high-speed image processing engine. The X-E3 is the first X Series model to feature Bluetooth ®** low energy wireless communication. You can pair the camera with your smartphone or tablet device for easy transfer of pictures taken. The LCD monitor, on the back of the camera, uses a static touchscreen panel which supports the conventional “Touch Shot”, “Touch AF” and “Focus Area Selection” capabilities. An all-new “Touch Function” feature will be available on the X-E3, which enables gesture control like flick and pinch zoom, to further enhance touchscreen operation. The AF algorithm has been updated to enhance the camera’s performance for tracking a moving subject. The X-E3’s premium exterior design, agility and functional beauty make it a mirrorless camera that is “a pleasure to own and fun to shoot with” at the same time….”
Fujifilm X-E3 rangefinder-style camera with Fujinon XF 14mm f/2.8 f/2.8 ultra wide-angle lens.
Fuji Guys Channel – currently showing six photographer videos showing them using the X-E3, with three photographers being female. Yes! Fuji Guys gets it absolutely right at 50/50. They also have a good record on female inclusion in videos for other Fujifilm cameras and lenses.
FUJIFILMGlobal – at time of writing, Fujifilm’s global YouTube channel is showing 17 photographer videos on the X-E3 camera with 7 of those video featuring female photographers. Congratulations on improving your current gender inequality, Fujifilm! I hope we can look forward to full gender equality in the very near future.
Fujifilm has a well-deserved reputation for its Kaizen – continuous improvement – firmware updates, a practice I first encountered with my first Fujifilm digital camera, the classic rangefinder-style Finepix X100S. The X100’s updates turned a revolutionary camera into one that remains fun to use and usable for documentary photography assignments to this day. And now, Fujifilm is set to outdo itself with a massive list of firmware improvements to its two flagship cameras, the rangefinder-style X-Pro2 and the DSLR-style X-T2. Happy days.
The full firmware list contains a record-breaking 33 new and improved items of which 27 will appear in late March and the final 6 in late May. Some are for both the X-Pro2 and X-T2, some are for the X-T2 only and some are for the X-Pro in a catchup with the X-T2’s current feature set.
For the X-T2 only, 😦
The X-T2-only updates indicate that Fujifilm has chosen to increase its differentiation between both cameras’ video capabilities. The X-T2 is about to gain:
#14. Activation of the Eye Sensor in video recording (X-T2 only).
#15. Change of ISO sensitivity during video recording (X-T2 only).
#17. Display live histogram during video recording (X-T2 only).
#18. Optimization of external microphone’s input level (X-T2 only).
Other X-T2-only updates indicate other differentiations by Fujifilm between its flagship cameras, in tethering and for portraiture and other genres often requiring vertical orientation of the camera:
#22. Automatic vertical GUI for LCD (X-T2 only).
#28. Support for computer tethering via Wi-Fi (X-T2 only).
Tethering, the ability to connect cameras to computers by wire or Wi-Fi, has been an accepted, often client-demanded, tool in commercial photography for some time now and has been well supported by medium format and DSLR camera makers, and some raw processing software. USB tethering recently came to the X-T2 via standalone software and plug-ins for Adobe Lightroom.
Many of the new and improved firmware items for both cameras are welcome indeed, speeding up their accuracy and operability. Some may have limited usefulness while one glaring omission from the firmware of both camera remains AWOL – zebras.
AWOL, an immigrant from video world
Zebras for ensuring accurate exposure are welcome immigrants from the world of video camcorders and high-end stills/video hybrid cameras like Panasonic’s Super 16/Micro Four Thirds GH4, GX8 and the new GH5.
Zebras have rapidly proven themselves just as useful for stills as for video, helping combat the all-too-prevalent problem of overexposure that pushes high values over the shoulder into unrecoverable burn-out territory.
High value or highlight burn-out is as problematic in stills as it is in video, whether one is shooting raw or JPEG files. Although extreme high values can be recovered to some degree in raw files with recovery function sliders – going under names like “whites” or ‘highlight” in raw processing software – doing so in video or for JPEGs results in muddy high values that can become an eye trap for viewers.
Eye traps are areas in the frame that draw viewers’ attention at the expense of the most meaningful objects in the image, weakening its message and damaging effective storytelling. Hard-edged burnt-out bright patches are particular eye-trap culprits even when their values are lowered in post-processing.
Avoiding burn-out and needless processing
Far better to avoid the burn-out eye-trap problem and fruitless correction work in post-production altogether by getting exposure right in the first place, and that is where zebras excel compared with histograms.
Above: Photographing in high dynamic range environments like this can be challenging when trying to achieve correct exposure without burning out the high values. Here I used exposure zebras on a Panasonic Lumix GH4 to ensure the best exposure of sky and footpath then raised the middle and low values in a raw processor.
Histograms have their uses in assessing your scene or subject’s dynamic range and determining whether to add a light or accept low value details that can be raised in grading or raw processing.
Both the X-Pro2 and X-T2 have histograms that could be improved by enlargement and better delineating their right and left edges. Judging then setting accurate exposure via histogram can be a slow process unsuited to the speed and stresses of documentary photography or video.
As cinematographer/director Paul Leeming demonstrates in his tutorial on ETTR – expose to the right – zebras are a fast and accurate exposure method that can benefit photographers and videographers using Fujifilm cameras, should Fujifilm see fit to add it to firmware. Zebras are not included in late March and late May’s firmware.
Useful updates for both cameras
There are plenty of impressive improvements for both cameras, many of which photographers have been requesting for some time now, most notably the following:
#3. Programmable long exposure of up to 15 minutes.
#6. “AUTO” setting added for the minimum shutter speed in the ISO Auto setting.
#7. Faster “Face Detection AF”.
#8. Improved in-focus indication in the AF-C mode.
#9. Addition of a smaller Focus Point size in Single Point AF.
#13. Change of focus frame position while enlarging it.
#19. Addition of “Eye Sensor + LCD Image Display” in the View Mode.
#23. Name Custom Settings.
#24. Copyright information in EXIF data.
#25. Voice Memo function.
#26. Extended AE Bracketing.
#27. Addition of “Shoot Without Card” mode.
#31. Addition of “-6” and “-7” to EVF’s brightness setting.
#33. Function assignment to the Rear Command Dial.
Having tried shooting HDR with the X-Pro2 and X-T2’s three-bracket-only functionality, I have badly missed the larger bracket range available on many other cameras including my Panasonic Lumix GH4 and GX8.
Some of my favourites for X-Pro2 and X-T2
Number 26, Extended AE Bracketing is particularly welcome. Extreme dynamic range scenes demand five, seven or even nine AE brackets to give a wide enough range for HDR processing in products like Macphun’s Aurora HDR 2017, causing me to rely on other cameras than Fujifilm’s for interior and some exterior HDR work.
I bought my X-Pro2 for the benefits of Fujifilm’s legendary colour rendering and its APS-C sensor as opposed to my other cameras’ Micro Four Thirds sensors, and new feature 26 gives me added incentive to add an X-T2 as a companion to my X-Pro2.
Numbers 24 and 25, Copyright information in EXIF data and Voice Memo function, are invaluable when shooting documentary projects, portraits and similar assignments. Every photograph, not just those shot commercially, needs to have copyright data embedded in its EXIF data from the moment of exposure.
Voice memo functionality is crucial when covering an event or shooting a series of portraits, especially without an assistant. Ever tried making a photograph then whipping out a notebook to jot down your subject’s name and other details? Voice memo features in other brands of cameras name audio files similarly to the photographs they relate to, making them easy to find and transcribe back at home base.
Number 23, Name Custom Settings, is a great improvement over the nuisance of having to remember what subject matter or customized look relates to a cryptically-named custom setting.
Numbers 2 and 3, Extended ISO 125 and 160 selectable and Programmable long exposure of up to 15 minute, are functions that may come in handy for some low light and night scene cityscape projects coming my way soon.
Although I generally stick to ISO 200 or 400 for daylight documentary work, habit and years of successful analog practice means I prefer the lowest ISOs I can get for tripod-mounted small aperture photography. Conversely, Fujifilm’s excellent wide aperture lenses like the XF 56mm f/1.2 R and XF 23mm f1/4 R and their incredible bokeh tempts me to shoot wide open with low ISOs.
Cable releases and remote releases are increasingly becoming things of the past for long-exposure photography as well as all-to—easily forgotten or lose on location so I suspect programmable long exposures will be lifesavers.
Number 9, Addition of a smaller Focus Point size in Single Point AF, brings the X-T2 and X-Pro2’s focus point size choice to six with pinpoint focussing, crucial when shooting with long lenses on the X-Pro2 and even longer lenses on the X-T2 when picking out the most essential object in a field of them.
I am going to love this one for shooting portraits with the X-Pro2 and the XF 56mm f/1.2 R lens with aperture wide open for razor-sharp highlights in one eye.
Just for the X-Pro2
Several of the 33 items are for the X-Pro2 only, adding features already in the X-T2’s current firmware:
#10. Addition of “AF Point Display” (X-Pro2 only – already on X-T2).
#11. Addition of “AF-C Custom Setting” (X-Pro2 only – already on X-T2).
#20. Shorter EVF display time-lag (X-Pro2 only – already in X-T2).
Number 11, AF-C Custom Setting, adds action-photography autofocus settings that have well-proven themselves on the X-T2 and that I would have loved on the X-Pro2 for covering intense, fast-moving events like demonstrations. Pine no more.
Likewise, number 10, AF Point Display, will bring more surety when covering those same kind of situations as well as fast-moving portrait subjects flitting in and out of inner city crowds.
Number 20, Shorter EVF display time-lag, will be useful in the same circumstances when shooting with the X-Pro2’s EVF. I default to the OVF or ERF-in-OVF most of the time but switch to the EVF when shooting with a monochrome film simulation or my subjects are moving through mixed bright sun and deep shadow.
Times like that you need a sharp eye on your prime subject in order to hit the shutter at exactly the right moment and the less EVF lag the better.
Plenty of gains, some losses
Thirty-three feature additions and updates for two closely-related cameras sharing sensors, processors and more is quite some feat and Fujifilm deserves heaps of praise and kudos for that.
I suspect that most photographers will be very happy indeed with this list, and some have already described it as “awesome!”. Until the firmware appears, and it is clear exactly how each new item or improvement works in practice, we can only guess as to their implementation and usability but, fingers crossed!
The X-T2 wins some great new video features that I have long wanted on the X-Pro2 and that it will not be getting any time soon if at all, it seems. I will be buying an X-T2 soon enough, as a companion to my X-Pro2 instead of the second X-Pro2 I was originally planning on, but right now my next video-centric choice will be Panasonic’s Lumix GH5 due to its full, mature feature set and sheer usability.
I may not be counted amongst “most photographers” given an equal dedication to still and video that seems to be rare in some parts of the world, but then the X-T2 and X-Pro2 are cameras that appeal to photographers whose work and needs are anything but the norm, well beyond what most photographers demand of their cameras and lenses.
Most photographers, from what I see in the streets of this fair city, are more than happy with the many limitations of DSLR cameras but Fujifilm flagship camera users are a very rare and demanding breed.
And that is, to a large degree, Fujifilm’s own fault. At a time when the independent photo and video landscape was dominated by model after model of DSLRs that barely looked any different from each other, the Fujifilm Finepix X100 was a radical breath of fresh air.
It promised so much, then delivered on it with a succession of great firmware updates that set the expectation of brilliant firmware kaizen for every Fujifilm camera coming after it.
The X-Pro2 3.00 and 3.10, and X-T2 2.00 and 2.10, firmware updates continue in that tradition of satisfying high expectations and have extended both cameras’ usability and capabilities.
Gaps do remain, though, and they are mostly on the X-Pro2 side. Not everyone with high expectations loves the DSLR-style form factor of the X-T2 and there are many of us who are digital refugees from Leica rangefinder days or who could never afford their digital M-System cameras and who can now satisfy their rangefinder-style needs with the X-Pro2.
Will the X-Pro3 one day gain what Fujifilm has left out of the X-Pro2?
Will the X-Pro series lag behind the X-T series’ feature set turning the former into stills-only camera and the latter into a stills-plus-video compromise?
Is the rumoured APS-C super camera the one to watch for high-end Super 35 video?
Does Fujifilm have a blind spot for the incredibly useful exposure zebras functionality on its cameras? And if so, why?
I know I will be getting an X-T2 sometime soon, for the subjects and lenses to which its DSLR-style form factor is well-suited.
I know I will continue to love the X-Pro2 for giving me back the rangefinder-style way of documentary photography I had thought had gone forever during the DSLR ascendancy.
I want another X-Pro2 in my documentary kit as a backup and for when Fujifilm comes out with a revamped XF 18mm f/2.0, as wide lens to the XF 50mm f/2.0’s narrower vision.
But like more than a few fellow X-Pro2 users out there, I want to see the X-Pro2 series flagship cameras remain on a near-equal feature-set footing with their X-T series sisters and that demands improving the video features on both.
Is Fujifilm already planning the next pair of firmware updates and are they listening just as intently to their ever-growing user base?
Good in-depth interviews with camera company decision-makers, product designers and engineers are all too rare and very welcome when they appear, especially when from those companies with histories of listening to professional customers expressing their needs. Fujifilm has a reputation for being one such good listener.
Three senior Fujifilm camera division figures such as Yuji Igarashi, GM of the Electronic Imaging Division, Makoto Oishi, Manager of Sales and Marketing Group and Billy Luong, Manager for Technical Marketing and Product Specialist Group were interviewed on new directions and past achievements by Amazon.com publication DPReview shortly before Fujifilm’s recent announcement of its latest cameras and lenses, most notably the Fujifilm GFX 50S, X100F, X-T20 and the XF 50mm f/2.0 R WR.
The interview was also a reminder that there are Fujfilm cameras I currently don’t have hands-on experience with and that are worth further thought and investigation, the X-En series and the X-Tn0 series, n standing for product version number thus the recently announced X-T20, successor to the X-T10.
Fujifilm GFX 50S and its successors
For whom is the GFX 50S medium format digital camera intended?
‘Fashion, commercial and landscape photographers are the main targets,’ says Oishi. …
‘The tonality and dynamic range also mean it’ll appeal to wedding photographers,’ adds Luong. ‘And architecture,’ says Oishi.
The GFX 50S’ 50MP sensor will also prove useful for fine art and portrait photographers many of whom produce large-format prints for exhibition and for clients. For example, British photographer Brian Griffin shows his fine art portrait medium format photographs as large full-colour prints to great effect.
Architectural photography was traditionally made with 4″x5″ sheet film cameras during the analog era using camera movements for perspective correction.
Tilt/shift lenses for 35mm DSLRs are expensive and similar lenses in medium format would be even more costly, so perspective correction is more often done in software using products like DxO ViewPoint or similar features built into raw processors and image editors.
Fujifilm has taken a different direction by providing adapters so GFX series cameras can be used as sensors attached to the rear of view cameras.
Fujifilm X100F and the X100 Series
What place does Fujfilm have for the X100 series now represented by the X100F?
‘… the X100 is often photographers’ first foray into the Fujifilm system. The size, the weight, the image quality. A good proportion of our customers are saying the X100 brought back their passion for photography. That type of person is very much part of the equation,’ says Luong.
The Fujifilm Finepix X100 was a revolutionary camera bringing a precision digital rangefinder within reach of the masses. It was the digital stills camera I had been waiting for after finding DSLRs just as irritating for their mirror slap, shutter shake and lack of deep space window vision as analog SLRs had been.
I was immediately sold on Fujifilm digital cameras but they lost me temporarily when the X-Pro1 proved to be something of a promising dud, especially for spectacle-wearers and those of use needing high-speed focussing in fast-moving situations.
The X-Pro2 and X-T2 are a welcome return to cameras with traits reminiscent of Fujifilm’s analog glory days under the Fujica brand name, especially its big range of 120 roll film rangefinder masterpieces and the incredible GX680 series of technical studio cameras that combined medium format SLR technology with sheet film cameras’ tilt, swing and shift movements.
Might a medium format rangefinder camera be in the works?
‘It depends on demand and the market. The GFX 50S is one style: the ‘S’ means ‘SLR-style.’ Another way to do it would be a rangefinder style camera. Maybe an ‘R’ could be a rangefinder,’ says Oishi.
Then there is the possibility of a medium format digital rangefinder camera evolving from Fujifilm’s own many fixed lens medium format roll film cameras produced in formats from 6×4.5cm through 6x7cm, 6x8cm and 6x9cm.
‘If mirrorless interchangeable lens camera is too big as a rangefinder style, a fixed lens camera could be smaller, like the GF670.’
Fujfilm X-T20 and the X-Tn0 Series
Fujifilm’s smaller, more affordable spin-off DSLR-style camera series currently represented by the X-T20 is one with which I am entirely unfamiliar yet bears serious consideration as a second or backup camera to the flagship X-Tn series currently represented by the X-T2.
Luong explains: ‘The SLR style targets a wider audience. We find pro and enthusiast photographers gravitate towards the SLR-style camera. Back to the GFX camera, that’s why we went with the SLR style.’
Fujifilm X-E2S and the X-En Series
Like the X-Tn0 series cameras, I have to try out the latest representative of the X-En series, the X-E2S. Now that the X-T20 has gained X-Pro2 and X-T2 traits like the 24.3MP X-Trans sensor and speedier autofocus, I can see why X-En series enthusiasts have been agitating for similarly updated features and functionalities.
Given a choice between the DSLR-style of the X-T20 and the non-OVF rangefinder-style of the X-E2S, I would tend towards the latter. Although I prefer optical viewfinder cameras for certain tasks, electronic viewfinder cameras (EVF) have many virtues and bring a different way of seeing and depicting into play.
Luckily, ‘XE is an important series for us,’ Oishi says: ‘There are so many XE1, 2 and 2S users in the world…. Obviously we can’t confirm anything at this point but we are aware there are many requests for this type of camera.’
Although Fujifilm’s two current flagship cameras have considerably improved video capabilities compared to their predecessors, there is still some way to go with the firmware in both.
As a GH4 owner myself, I can attest that this and related Lumix cameras like the GX8 and GX80/85 possess a videocentric feature list and ease-of-use that have yet to be beaten by any other current hybrid camera including the Fujifilm X-T2.
‘Video is a big growth area for us,’ acknowledges Luong: ‘Our latest cameras such as the X-Pro2 and X-T2 show there’s a lot we’ve learned.’
Paul Leeming and I both want to see Fujifilm bring its current and future flagship cameras’ video capabilities up to par or surpass those of the GH4 and the soon-to-be-released GH5 is that we will have excellent Super 35 alternatives to Panasonic’s Super 16 cameras.
Then there is the question of more video-capable Fujinon lenses, both primes and zooms.
‘We already have cinema lenses that are Super 35,’ Luong reminds us. ‘We’re continuing to develop video features, so we’ll continue to investigate.’
Listening to Customer Feedback
While there does not appear to be a direct channel into Fujifilm for user feedback, Fujifilm staff members are known to read certain online publications, and articles published here are passed on up the system hopefully to end up in front of Fujifilm staffers like Messers Yuji Igarashi, Makoto Oishi and Billy Luong.
‘Our X Photographers: professionals who use the camera day in, day out, that’s the first line of feedback,’ says Luong: ‘It’s quite a large group. With the GFX we had something like 50 photographers around the world using pre-production cameras.’
That figure of 5o GFX 50S pre-production camera users is impressive. I hope that Fujifilm will seek feedback like Mr Leeming’s from plenty of well-qualified video professionals and improve the firmware in the X-Pro2 and X-T2 as soon as possible while planning major video-centred hardware and firmware improvements in the X-T2’s and X-Pro2’s successors.
Header aka featured image created for this website in Photoshop by Carmel D. Morris. Product photographs kindly supplied by Fujifilm.
Product photographs in the body of this article have been processed in MacphunLuminar using the Majestic Dreams preset from the premium Photo Essentials Pack. Portrait of Brad Latta made as 3-bracket HDR on Fujifilm X-T2 with XF 56mm f/1.2 lens then processed in Macphun Aurora HDR 2017 and Luminar.