It is hard to believe that it has been five years since Fuji first announced its mirrorless X system with the launch of the Fuji X-Pro1, along with the first three lenses. It was a pretty rough ride for Fuji, since the system looked very appealing and yet the initial feedback and reviews indicated that the camera was full of bugs and autofocus issues. But despite the negative reactions, Fuji did not give up, since it wanted to make the X system successful at all costs. Within a year, the X-Pro1 was transformed into a whole different camera – major firmware issues were taken care of and the AF system became much more polished and reliable. Fuji decided not to leave its original customers behind, letting them get the latest and greatest through “Kaizen” firmware upgrades. And although Fuji released a bunch of new X-series cameras, the X-Pro1 continued to receive firmware feature upgrades for another 4 years, something no other manufacturer has done in the past. That level of commitment did not go unnoticed by the photography community, creating a large and loyal Fuji fan base. After a long wait, Fuji finally revealed the much anticipated X-Pro2 that many photo enthusiasts and professionals have been waiting for. Last Christmas, an amazing gift from FujiFilm Italia gave me the opportunity to experience the Fuji X-Pro2. Since Nasim also had some thoughts to share with PL readers after using the camera for a few months, we decided to combine our efforts into a single review.
Let me openly disclose something: I am a loyal Fuji user and my Fuji X100S has long been the closest thing to a security blanket (I call it my Linus) I have ever had. The reason I continue to be in love with this brand is related to how much I appreciate working with their products (both analog and digital!)… even if they really disappointed me with the cancellation of the production of FP-100P cartridge films (the wound still hurts).
Before moving to the X-Pro2… Can you take great pictures with mirrorless cameras? Yes! Can you use an APS-C mirrorless camera as a professional tool? Yes, definitely! Is it worth switching your whole DSLR system to a mirrorless one? It all depends on what you are planning to use the camera for. For shooting everything but fast action, there is little reason to go with a DSLR nowadays, especially given the fact that major DSLR manufacturers like Canon and Nikon have long given up on making small and lightweight lenses for their APS-C cameras. However, if you shoot fast action such as sports and wildlife, DSLRs still reign supreme due to faster and more reliable autofocus, less blackouts / lags, and a wide selection of super telephoto lenses – things mirrorless systems still have to catch up with. But we are getting off-topic and the mirrorless vs DSLR debate is something we can leave for another day – let’s jump right back to the X-Pro2.
To focus on the intuitive understanding of the user experience, my test for the X-Pro2 was done without reading the manual. For the duration of my test I kept the same lens mounted, the Fujifilm XF 56mm f/1.2, which is equivalent in field of view to approximately 85mm (crop factor is 1.5x) on full frame. In contrast, Nasim used a number of different lenses such as the XF 23mm f/1.4, XF 35mm f/2, XF 56mm f/1.2 APD and XF 10-24mm f/4 OIS.
1) Fujifilm X-Pro2 Specifications
Main Features and Specifications:
- Sensor: 24.3 MP (1.5x crop factor), 3.9µ pixel size
- Sensor Size: 23.6 x 15.6mm
- Resolution: 6000 x 4000
- Native ISO Sensitivity: 200-12,800
- Boost Low ISO Sensitivity: 100 (JPEG-only)
- Boost High ISO Sensitivity: 25,600-51,200 (JPEG-only)
- Sensor Cleaning System: Yes
- Lens mount: FUJIFILM X mount
- Weather Sealing/Protection: Yes
- Body Build: Full Magnesium Alloy
- Shutter: Up to 1/8000 and 30 sec exposure
- Shutter Control: Focal Plane Shutter
- Storage: 2x SD slots (First Slot: UHS-II / Second Slot: UHS-I compatible)
- Viewfinder Type: Hybrid OVF / EVF Viewfinder with 2,360,000-dots
- Viewfinder Magnification: 0.36x / 0.60x for OVF and 0.59x for EVF
- Continuous Shooting Speed: Up to 8 FPS
- Exposure Meter: TTL 256-zones metering
- Built-in Flash: No
- Autofocus System: 325-point AF system
- LCD Screen: 3.0 inch, 1.62 million dot tilting LCD
- Movie Recording: Up to 1080p @ 60fps
- GPS: No
- WiFi: Yes
- Battery Type: NP-W126
- Battery Life: 350 shots (CIPA)
- USB Standard: 2.0
- Weight: 445g (excluding battery and accessories)
- Price: $1,699 MSRP body-only at launch
A detailed list of camera specifications is available at Fujifilm.com.
2) Camera Settings
My first move was setting the camera to shoot RAW+JPEG and setting JPEG processing based on the film simulation PRO Neg Hi (which has very punchy blacks and high contrast). It’s the setting that I almost always use on the Fuji X100S. I love this film simulation, because what I see in the JPEG is always much less than what I can get from the RAW file and having a pessimistic forecast helps me establish a sort of safety net for what I will have to work with, once I’m home and have downloaded the files. I also like the look and feel it gives. I was really tempted by the Classic Chrome simulation, but I knew I could get it later in Lightroom while tinkering with the RAW file.
Actually, to be honest, I did not think of using Lightroom at all. In the last couple of years, I rarely use it (my RAW development software of choice is Capture One). But in the configuration of the camera, I made the unfortunate mistake of choosing the lossless compression for RAW files…only to discover that Capture One does not support RAWs saved in this mode and there seems to be no software capable of converting from compressed RAFs to uncompressed RAFs. As a consequence, all the shots I took for this test had to pass through Lightroom.
Navigating the menu is absolutely simple and intuitive. Options are easy to understand and set. The only two minor notes in this section are the use of fonts with different spacing, size and kerning (very annoying for my taste), as well as some really funny translations in the Italian localization (I guess this isn’t a big deal for English speakers).
Fuji completely changed the menu system on the X-Pro2 when compared to the X-Pro1 and it is so much better in comparison. I love the way Fuji organized the menu into major sections and sub-sections, similar to what we are used to seeing on DSLR cameras from Nikon, Canon and Pentax.
The controls are well laid out, although I much prefer the layout of the Fuji X-T2. Controls are easy to reach and close at hand: perfect to avoid missing any opportunities. The ISO selector is aesthetically wonderful! A great retro-style addition and it is very convenient to have a real dedicated ring: definitely outstanding. The only drawback, in my opinion, is the way you need to operate it: it is necessary to select the ISO by pulling the ring and turning at the same time. This can often lead to unintentional modifications of the shutter speed (ISO and shutter speed are on the same dial). I know it’s not a big deal, but from my point of view, it’s decidedly impractical although aesthetically “gourgeously vintage”.
I also love that Fuji added a joystick to quickly move the focus point. Before the X-Pro1, none of the X-series cameras had a joystick and I am glad that Fuji finally incorporated one. Considering that the same joystick appeared on the Fuji X100F, X-T2 and the GFX 50S, it is an indication that Fuji is going to continue integrating focus joysticks into its future cameras, which is great! The joystick makes a huge difference in the overall experience of the camera, because you no longer need to assign any other button to change the focus point and you can customize the camera heavily if you would like by assigning different functions to each button.
5) The EVF (Electronic ViewFinder)
I really appreciate the “hybrid” approach which has always characterized both the “Pro” and the “100” members of the X family, mostly because of the general look: thanks to the OVF (Optical ViewFinder), you can eliminate any electronic mediation at will and see directly what is framed, almost like in an old rangefinder camera. In fact, one of the things that can be hard to get used to on mirrorless cameras is the Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) – on many cameras you have no immediate visual feed of reality, because everything is mediated by electronics and display capability (color, contrast, definition), sometimes offering a far from ideal perception of what is in the frame. This definitely bothers some people, including me. However, I must say that the EVF on the Fuji X-Pro2 is exceptional in performance, exhibiting virtually zero perceived lag, displaying exactly what will be recorded in the image, including set white balance and film simulation.
The ability to see what’s happening in real-time on the camera’s LCD with virtually no delay makes it much easier to take advantage of some shooting situations, where composition through the viewfinder might be difficult. In such cases, an articulated and tiltable screen such as the one present on the X-T2 is a valuable addition to the package. At the same time, this is not always helpful for me and my way of working. I’m thinking of situations, for example, when shooting with strobes and needing to totally get rid of ambient light, but still needing the possibility to figure out what to focus on and track subject movement… In that specific situation everything gets a little bit messy with mirrorless cameras. Even in very dim conditions, the combination of high-contrast settings that I usually adopt, combined with low light, make EVF use often difficult and unpleasant. If there was a way in which I could see the reality through EVF exactly like through a good old pentaprism it would be wonderful!
6) Size and Weight
Compared to the equipment I am used to dealing with, using the Fuji X-Pro2 coupled with the XF 56mm f/1.2 is like having nothing on me. The camera is very lightweight and compact. Comparing the same type of lens (same equivalent focal length) and weight of the equipment in my usual bag of gear (without giving up anything), a mirrorless kit would be approximately half the weight and size of a DSLR equivalent. So if you travel a lot, there is simply no comparison. Working with more than one camera body covering an event, I am sure the difference will be huge and clearly in favor of such compact mirrorless cameras.
7) Battery Life
As with all cameras used constantly in live view mode (yes, even a DSLR!), battery life is affected big time. In mirrorless cameras the problem is accentuated, because there’s practically no other other way to use them: in 4-5 days of actual use of the X-Pro2, I took about seventy shots (yes, 70, seven-zero) and the battery was drained to about half, but this is the price to pay for the always-on sensor and EVF or LCD screens always showing what you are framing. If you take your time to frame images and use EVF and LCD a lot, the battery will drain pretty quickly – and that’s something you should expect.
Battery consumption in this category of cameras is really abnormal. This is something I’m used to with the X100S: to be safe ahead of a full day of work, it’s best to have at least 3 fully charged batteries with you to complete your job safe and sound. That said, there are definitely ways you can tweak the camera so that it consumes less battery. For example, turning off image previews can boost battery life quite a bit and you can even configure the EVF and the LCD to turn off when the camera is away from your body. In addition, you can set specific camera parameters in the settings, which will optimize the use of the battery. Avoid using the “Boost” mode, since it gives much more juice to the EVF and the AF system, draining the battery much quicker compared to normal mode.
If there was one thing that really amazed me about the equipment I had the opportunity to test, it was the extreme quality of Fujinon lenses. Fuji is known for that, but it is a pleasure to see, literally, with your own eyes. I love to have the aperture control directly on the lens barrel instead of a dial, but what I love even more is tack sharp subjects with a pleasant bokeh behind. Well, the Fuji XF 56mm f/1.2 is a real pleasure to use, with a nice creamy bokeh and sharp details where it matters. If you are annoyed by lenses such as the Canon 50mm f/1.2L or 85mm f/1.2L being frustratingly soft wide open, give the Fuji XF 56mm f/1.2 a try and you will see that the sharpness of the lens is stunning, even at f/1.2! Sure it is full-frame vs APS-C, but when was the last time you saw an f/1.2 lens for APS-C DSLR cameras? Such lenses simply don’t exist…
When it comes to AF accuracy of the X-Pro2, I personally found it to be great with a very high keep rate, even when shooting scenes without pronounced contrast. Autofocus is fast and generally very accurate, especially when photographing people. If you have never used face detection AF with eye priority, prepare to be shocked – it works really well. In fact, if you are disappointed by not being able to always nail focus on your subjects with your DSLR, you should give mirrorless cameras like the X-Pro2 a try…they nail focus so much better in comparison. Many of us DSLR shooters end up with a lot of wasted frames, because we focus and shoot repeatedly with fast prime lenses, hoping that one of the shots turns out to be sharp – isn’t that the truth? The experience is vastly different on modern mirrorless cameras, since focus accuracy is so much better in comparison. And if for some reason focusing does not work, switching to manual focus and zooming in to your subject at 100% zoom is something you will never be able to do on a DSLR…
9) ISO Performance
ISO sensitivity…there is too much ISO sensitivity! I know it is never enough! Seriously… I used the camera mainly at ISO 800. When I use Fuji cameras, it is somehow “my base ISO”, because it allows me to recover highlights fantastically. The Fuji X-Trans sensor, and the one present in the X-Pro2 is no exception. It is practically ISO-invariant, so pushing ISO is something you might want to do during the post processing of the RAW file, without losing too much quality.
When using cameras with near ISO-invariant sensors, I generally prefer to shoot as if shooting slides (underexpose slightly and “push” in post-processing) rather than exposing to the right (I know, you’ll disagree Nasim!). The shots are all perfectly usable up to 6400 ISO if you want to print and if you are not a pixel-peeping-maniac.
10) Electronic Shutter
Another outstanding factor, especially for those who must shoot in environments where discretion and silence are important, is the lack of any shutter sound when the electronic shutter is activated. And if you want to hear the shutter sound, you can pick between three different shutter sounds from the camera menu. It is undeniable that having a completely “mute camera” during an event, a ceremony or a play at a theater makes the choice of a mirrorless camera such as Fuji X-Pro2 something that does not even require a second thought.
On a camera of this caliber and with ambitions to be a “flagship” camera for the whole line-up, lack of tethered shooting could be a real deal breaker for some photographers. WiFi is convenient to quickly download pictures in the field and bring them to your iPhone or iPad, but not having the ability to connect the camera to my Mac in the studio and shoot, while seeing the results delivered instantly on the big screen is something I can still not wrap my head around. Fuji, please stop the blatant excuses and fix this! There’s no need for another software or plugin to watch over a folder: it’s 2017 and PTP is a pretty standard straightforward protocol… it’s easy! Please, just implement it. The Fuji X-T2 already has tethering support with the latest firmware, so why can’t the higher-end X-Pro2 have it too?
12) Movie Shooting
Clearly, Fuji did not aim the X-Pro2 to be a video-friendly camera, since it is limited to shooting full HD video at 60 fps, which is far worse in quality and resolution than what the Fuji X-T2 can do. Although on one hand I can understand that the X-Pro2 is aimed at photographers rather than videographers, it does not make much sense that the lower-end X-T2 has more premium video recording features than the top-of-the-line X-Pro2. I am not sure if it was a timing issue on the Fuji’s end, or perhaps the X-T2 was drastically changed to be able to compete with other 4K video cameras on the market before its launch, but it is definitely confusing why the two cameras are so far apart in video shooting. It is also important to note that the X-Pro2 does not even have an option for a vertical battery grip, while the X-T2 has a very powerful grip that hosts two batteries and speeds up the camera’s continuous shooting speed all the way to 14 fps.
When it comes to ergonomics (ISO selector apart!), compactness, autofocus speed and accuracy, choice of lenses and overall image quality, the Fuji X-Pro2 proved to be outstanding. Just like with the original X-Pro1, I am sure Fuji will continue its Kaizen approach of continuous firmware development to make the X-Pro2 even better than it is today, but I would like to see such issues as tethering support addressed as quickly as possible. Also, Fuji should really work closer with post-processing software teams from Adobe, Capture One and others in order to improve compatibility with its RAW images. We know that it takes more post-processing power to process X-trans images, but there has to be a solution to improve this. And let’s not forget that Adobe ACR is still pretty bad when it comes to sharpening of Fuji RAW files. Iridient and PhotoNinja figured it out, so why can’t Adobe and other companies address it? Lastly, it would be wonderful if Fuji took flash photography a bit more seriously and spent a bit more R&D on bringing a better and more complete speedlight system. The new EF-X500 should have had radio control for its high price tag!
If you are in the market for a serious mirrorless camera, you should take a close look at the Fuji X system and evaluate cameras such as the X-Pro2 and X-T2. If you need compactness and discretion (events, weddings, theater, etc.), the X system has undeniable advantages and it is worthy of serious consideration. If you’re not ready for a complete switch, using a Fuji X series camera alongside your current gear would still make a lot of sense, since you would get the best of the two worlds. As for the use in the studio or with intensive use of flash and strobes, I think the X-Pro2 can get along just fine despite the weakness of the Fuji speedlight system, and I know some professional photographers using it with great success in the field!
Meanwhile, I would be happy to know what do you think! The community of lovers of the Fuji X-system is well-established, active and keeps growing…are you one of them? Please let me know in the comments section below!
14) Where to Buy and Availability
B&H is currently selling the Fuji X-Pro2 body-only for $1,699 as of 03/15/2017.
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