Fuji XPro-2 Field Report No. 1

NSFW

I took a break from client work for five days starting last Thursday. One week ago today. I've had the XPro-2 for a couple of weeks but this was my first time out in the world with it as my primary camera. I don't even know where to start but I can say I am in love. There's no way for me to describe why I am so enamored in just one post so I'll do a few that attempt to somehow sort a few crucial aspects into various departments for anyone that may be torn between the XT-1/XT-2 vs. the X100 vs. the XPro-2.

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Context

I know this project is not everyone's cup of tea. If it's not sorry but what I'm about to say about the camera in the field might be relevant no matter what genre you happen to gravitate towards. It might be worthwhile to summarize the context and logistics of my five-day solid life with the XPro-2 glued to me.

  • New camera, new location, new geography.
  • Five or six collaborators that I pointed the camera at. A few I know very well and a few I've never met.
  • All day every day 24x7 picture making to one degree or another. In other words no particular segregation on time to make pictures vs not making pictures.
  • A huge degree of contexts in which we were obviously setting things up to make pictures vs journalistic on-the-fly documentary/street making of pictures.

The above is important in that how a camera works and feels from one context to another is important to many aspects of making a choice of the right tool. I would say that during my five day break from client work hanging around with a diverse set of people the circumstances ranged from what might be considered more formal portraiture, to environmental portraiture, to life-style, to short and long-term documentary work.

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Glitches

Let's talk about the glitches first. Hey, brand-new Fuji, brand-new firmware, that means sure. There are some bug-a-boos to workout. Thank goodness we've got a bit of track record that gives me faith the few minor things I encountered will be fixed most likely with the next firmware release rumored to be September. There's not a lot of them but there are a couple I experienced multiple times so they are definitely for real.

First up is a lock-up problem that I would say is a 50/50 based on my experience. I blew thru nearly six packs of Fuji Instax film while away — hey who doesn't like itty-bitty instant prints. They're super fun when you can print them on the fly do the little Fuji Instax printer directly from the camera. Not so much when you have to go thru 82 steps to get them to your phone then to the printer. Too bad the XPro-2 seems to lock-up hard when trying to connect to the SP-1 printer about half the time you try. Solution isn't a big deal turn the camera off and on but certainly not acceptable.

The second glitch that I encountered is absolutely regular but only if you are a heavy optical viewfinder user like me. The way the camera works is that it automatically selects the correct viewfinder magnification depending on the lens you mount. Here's the rub; If you manually change the magnification for whatever reason by using the front lever it will stop selecting it automatically if you turn the camera off.

Example: You mount an 18mm lens and the OVF is on wide. Then you manually switch the OVF to it's tele position for say a 35 or 56 view. Then you switch it back to wide and turn the camera off. Fast forward you mount a 56 and turn the camera back on it will stay at wide and you have to switch it to tele manually. Then turn the camera off again, mount an 18, turn it back on, it's still on tele.

The fix is to leave the camera on while switching lenses and that will reset it, nothing else seems to change that behavior when the expected behavior would be to check and change it when you turn the camera on if the lens is different than the OVF should be. I really do not believe this is a "feature" and if it is it should only stay "wrong" if the same lens is mounted as was when it was off. In any case not a big deal but confusing.

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The Good Parts

As predicted the new focus point control joystick is killer. A game changer in many ways, surprisingly just as much so for the OVF as I expected it to be for the EVF. The only thing to say about it that's not complete gushing is that beware of your first time out in the real-world with it. It's crazy easy to change all over the place until you get really familiar with handling the XPro-2 vs cameras that don't have it. Sort of in the same category of having to get some mileage on handling a new camera but the ease and how rapidly the focus point can change with a tiny little knock on the joystick can put you in a no-go situation real quick.

No formal testing but the dynamic range on the XPro-2 sensor seems a lot better in the highlights than the previous generation. I may actually test it but it's fantastic. Maybe not state of the art but I am missing my Nikon Df less and less at high-ISO where it's DR was amazing. To me more important than noise by far.

The size and the sound and the feel of the XPro-2 are just sublime even if you don't really need to be quiet and discrete. Shooting with the XPro-2 is absolutely the best experience I've had taking all of the above into consideration. Maybe not as silent as the X100 cameras but so smooth sounding it's almost soothing. In terms of size, look, and feel the new XPro is so well suited to up-close work with people it's hard to explain. More X100 like than XT-1 like and I have no big complaints about the XT. The XPro just more so.

As for the feel, this is the best feeling camera in terms of weight, solidity, density balance I think Fuji has made to date. You just want to hold it and make pictures with it. Even the paint finish feels and looks great. I know, not a huge deal when all other things are considered but hell who doesn't want a camera that's a great sensual experience too. I like the paint a lot better than I do the "coating" or finish or whatever on the XT camera.

The fiddly ISO thing is no big deal. Truth be told I can change the ISO more quickly and reliably on the XPro-2 than I can with the XT-1 and the lock button and stacked drive mode. As usual you it's a must to swap the AF-lock/on and the AE-lock buttons if you use back-button manual focus. Same goes for every Fuji camera that has had both buttons I've used.

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The Big Story — The OVF

Way to many words already for my initial feelings on the XPro-2 and there's way more to say about the OVF and it's use than I'll attempt in No.1 of the field report but I have to say that the reason to get the XPro-2 is absolutely the OVF and how wonderful a tool it is for so many picture making scenarios. I experimented with so many variations on use along with the rest of what the XPro-2 does it would take a book to explain all of them. Here's a couple of very general statements to hold you over until I collect and organize my thoughts and findings a bit more.

First off without a doubt it's far more enjoyable and maybe flat-out better in most very bright and very dark situations. No matter how good the XT-1's EVF and no-doubt the XT-2's will be OVF's rule in the bright and the dark even if the EVF is "good enough" not to stop you from making pictures. Please don't let the pursuit of absolute precision of anything or a one-size-fits and is good enough delude you into thinking better EVF = rangefinder/OVF is just a toy. It's not for many reasons I'll go into next time. The only reason the XT-1 or XT-2 is or will be better in terms of viewfinder is magnification/size. That's it which is not the only answer to every situation.

Fuji has taken everything it's learned from all of the X100 cameras, the XPro-1, and all the firmware updates and has made arguably the best rangefinder OVF experience to date of anyone. Die-hard thru-the-lens person? Sure if everything you do must, must, must, must be in pursuit of that precision but trust me it's not. More later.

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I really do think the Fuji only OVF/EVF hybrid is an amazing tool for a giant segment of picture making endeavors involving people as subjects I really hope the fact that only a niche segment that realizes and uses what they've done and the consumate lower sales numbers don't kill this for the XPro-whatvers down the road. The XPro-2 at this point may be the ultimate tool for certain kinds of work that really are not unique but quite ubiquitous.

That brings us to a couple of specific points regarding lens selection and obliquely the XPro-2 vs the X100t or X100-whatever that comes next. I don't have an X100 camera right now but I've had three of them. The XPro-2 regardless of sensor and megapixels is a better manifestation of the hybrid viewfiner and even the OVF itself X100 cameras in almost every way except one. The X100 is far superior a tool if you happen to use a 23mm or 35mm equiv. Maybe it always will be and I've not used the 23/1.4 enough to come down on the size of great but not as good as an X100 or hmmmm, not that great yet.

I predicted this but the 18mm f/2 and the 35mm/f2 Fujinon lenses mated with the XPro-2 are a match made in heaven. Maybe the same will be true of the upcoming 23mm f/2. We'll see. Having said that along with the above, if you like wides, you have or definitely are going to get an XPro-2 and love the OVF then run, don't walk and grab the 18/2. I am telling you this is a must have lens for the XPro-2 and you won't need any excuses for IQ etc. Put all that nonsense out of your head. Any fuzzy logic that sounds like "Well, everyone says the IQ was iffy on the 16mpix sensor, so… it really won't hold up on the 24mpix sensor" blah, blah, blah. We'll do some pixel peeping later but trust me. 18mm f/2 = must have for this camera.

Much much more later so stay tuned if you can stand it.

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End Notes

A tiny random sample of a few pictures Jessica and I made in a more documentary context near the end of the day. All pictures obviously with the Fuji XPro-2 and 18mm f/2 R. ISO 3200 f/4 and f/2.8. Processing via Lightroom CC with VSCO FILM05 BW400CN applied on import.