FUJI X-PRO2 REVIEW
Photo of Vrbnik town on KRK island in Croatia
Every time I touch a Fuji camera, I have a bit more appreciation for Fuji’s design philosophy, which is based on the photographer’s needs, rather than the camera’s. It was an X-T1 that really showed me the potential of the Fuji X system, as well as the capabilities of the flagship camera. The only thing I didn’t like so much is the megapixel count of the X-trans sensor. In a world where 36MP sensors are becoming a standard, 16MP could be considered a bit low. Most landscape photographers usually want as many megapixels as they can get their hands on. Finally, with the new 24MP X-Trans sensor in X-Pro2, this has changed. For my style of shooting, 24MP is usually enough. So is it time that I change my mind about Fuji and start considering it as a viable option for landscape photography? To find out, I took an X-Pro2 and a Sony a7II along with a couple of fast lenses with me on a trip. Both 24MP, both mirrorless. All things equal, Sony should have a slight edge over the X-Pro2 in image quality because of its larger sensor. But this time, I am not so much interested in pixel peeping. I want to know what is the difference in usability and handling between these two cameras and could I live with Fuji X-Pro2 as my primary camera. Is the X-Pro2 so good that it could replace my full frame camera?
The answer lies below. Read on
If you’ve ever held a Fuji camera (or any camera) in your hands, you’ll be instantly familiar with the button layout on the X-Pro2. However, there are a few novelties, most notably a miniature joystick for choosing between 273 AF points (of which 169 are phase detect). This is probably the single best invention Fuji has made on the X bodies. Using the joystick speeds up things significantly and really separates the X-Pro2 from all other mirrorless cameras. Focusing doesn’t feel any slower than with the Nikon D800/810. Gone are the days of slow mirrorless cameras. Fuji has also added Extended ISO which now goes to ISO100 on the lower end and up to 12800. The big news is that now you can save RAW files in Extended ISO instead of JPEG, which is kind of a big deal for me.
The X-Pro2 is a rangefinder camera, with a hybrid viewfinder, which is pretty much taken from the X100T. I’ve never been a fan of rangefinder cameras and as it turns out, I am not going to become one. The same goes for the X-Pro2 but only if you use it with an optical viewfinder. You can’t really compose accurately because of the parallax and that large black blob in the lower right corner that represents the lens. This is especially noticeable with telephoto lenses. However, once you switch to the electronic viewfinder, things become much clearer, so to speak. EV has all the bells and whistles of previous Fuji cameras and I used X-Pro2 only in EV mode. However, if for some reason you need an optical or hybrid viewfinder, you can easily change from one to another without lifting your eye from the camera.
Fuji X-Pro2, Fujifilm XF 90mm f/2 R LM WR, @f/2,2, 1/5s, ISO200
The body feels rock solid, as any top of the line DSLR should. This is retro design done right. I didn’t have any real issues with handling or ergonomics. Some people might complain about the small grip, but I didn’t find that to be a problem. My only gripe is the ISO button. In order to to change the ISO settings, you must pull the wheel upwards and it feels a bit awkward to do that. That’s the one thing you can’t easily change while looking through the viewfinder. (I also think it looks funny to see someone trying to unplug their camera, when in fact, he is only trying to change the ISO.) Other than that, the X-Pro2 is a joy to use.
Fuji X-Pro2, Fujifilm XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR @f/9, 1/40s, ISO200
In the field
I’ll repeat what I’ve said before; you know you have a great camera if you don’t need a manual for it. And you really don’t need a manual for the Fuji X-Pro2. I was surprised (again) how responsive and intuitive the Fuji X-Pro2 is. It feels almost like a DSLR, only smaller. Everything from focusing to viewing images is noticeably faster than the Sony A7II and much more intuitive. All the features you need are on the tip of your finger and the features you don’t, are not there. This camera is intended for taking pictures and getting yourself immersed in photography. Here’s an example: I was on a dawn shoot with both cameras and needed to bracket exposures. I didn’t use the bracketing before, but it didn’t take more than a few seconds to find out where it is (those who tried handling through Sony’s menu structure will understand). Bracketing works really well on the X-Pro2. You only have to press the shutter once and the Fuji takes a couple of really fast exposures. In most cases, it eliminates the need for gradated ND filters.
Fuji X-Pro2, Fujifilm XF 90mm f/2 R LM WR, @f/2, 1/750s, ISO200
I had a freedom with this camera that I hadn’t experienced before. It doesn’t matter if I shot macro, low light, fast moving subjects or at very long shutter speeds, Fuji produces beautiful and sharp files. Every single time. If I can think of it, I can probably shoot it with the Fuji in a matter of a minute.
Fuji X-Pro2, Fujifilm XF 90mm f/2 R LM WR, @f/2, 1.70s, ISO200
One of my favorite portraits came from the Fuji cameras that I used for testing. It seems that my subjects were not intimidated by the Fuji and were easily relaxed. The Fuji 56mm f1/2 and the Fuji 90mm f/2 really shine on the X-Pro2. Focusing is quick and precise and they make a wonderful trio. It’s worth mentioning that I didn’t get a single out of focus shot, even with children and pets running erratically. During my stay on the Krk Island, we were filming a documentary about how hard and beautiful life was on an island in the post-WWII era. While we were filming an interview with an old shepherd, I used silent shutter on the X-Pro2. I was able to shoot stills all the way through the session without even making a sound.
The differences between Fuji and other brands
Ok, here’s something you won’t find by comparing pixels and specs of different cameras. Fuji allows you to change the way you usually work a scene. What do I mean by that? A couple of things. First of all, Fuji’s lenses are simply fantastic. They are beautifully made, light and extremely sharp. Initially,I wasn’t a fan of a feature that lens flaws are corrected within the camera, but it works so well that now I don’t think I want to live without it. The ability to shoot wide open and have everything sharp in the frame is fascinating. Add to that the ability to shoot handheld at slow shutter speeds and you’ve got a perfect camera. The image below is a good example. It was a handheld shot taken with Fuji 90mm f/2, wide open, 1.55s and ISO200. Remember, this was just before dawn, (EXIF says 5:54) and it was still dark. While my Sony was on a tripod most of the time, I was constantly working with the Fuji in my hand. This allowed me to move more freely and to react faster. I couldn’t take the image below if I didn’t have the X-Pro2 with me. It would take too long to set up the tripod and compose and I would lose the light for the shot I was going for. But without a tripod, I could afford to lose one minute to do a quick snapshot. I think you will agree that it was worth it.
Fuji X-Pro2, Fujifilm XF 90mm f/2 R LM WR, @f/2, 1.55s, ISO200
There is one thing that camera manufacturers still need to improve on, and the Fuji is no different. I am talking about WiFi transfer. The camera remote works fast and it is reliable, but I couldn’t transfer pictures whenever I tried. I couldn’t even see more than two images on the screen (even though I took hundreds) and the camera would disconnect every time I would select one of them. Fuji, if you are reading this, please rectify that issue.
Fuji X-Pro2, Fujifilm XF 90mm f/2 R LM WR, @f/2, 1.55s, ISO200, JPEG straight out of camera
If this review sounds like it’s biased, that’s because I haven’t been so excited about a camera for a long time (yes, I do have a life, but thanks for asking!). I am absolutely brand agnostic. I don’t own a Fuji camera (although I probably will in the future) and I don’t care what name is written on the camera. I care about the images they produce and how much time I have to spend thinking about the camera. Fuji made a step in the right direction. Now, I can’t wait for the X-T2.
May all who come as guests… leave as friends®