XPro-2 Field Report No. 2

Sorry for the delay with the next installment of the XPro-2 field reports. Last time I was gushing about all of the feel of the camera and the smoooooth sounds it makes when you fire the shutter, and all sorts of unspecific things. You know that happens when you get a new bit of kit that you bond with instantly. This time around it will be a little bit of the same with hopefully a few specifics mixed in for those about to flip the coin and decide on an XT-2 or maybe possibly the old hat XPro-2.

If you didn't get the impression that a large part of the reason I am so enamored with the second generation of XPro was the OVF I'll put it this way; The optical viewfinder and specifically it's hybridization with EVF is not only unique to Fuji but also a tool that has so many upsides for so many circumstances most photographers encounter it's a pity that all of the emphasis and air play is so focused on speed, megapixels, film simulations, etc. Even Fuji's own marketing brochure/site has very little to do with the OVF as compared to the original X100 or XPro-1. Compare the old X100/XPro-1 marketing stuff to the new yourself and you'll see what I mean.

The new hybrid finder in the XPro-2 is in my opinion possibly the best rangefinder experience presented by any manufacturer. Most, if not all of the quirks of the XPro-1 and X100/X100S that stopped my from going that far or tainted the benefits and possibilities are gone. I'll hit some of the ways I'm using it in a minute but first consider the difference between that rangefinder, direct view vs thru-the-lens viewing overall.

  • For right-eyed photographers not having to jamb your face into the back of the camera is amazingly more comfortable and in someways actually makes the controls now on all on the right side even quicker and easier to use.
  • Seeing outside the frame is so different technically and more importantly emotionally it makes you see things differently. Sure that TTL viewing is useful in some circumstances but it does give one a bit of tunnel vision in more ways than one.
  • Worth mentioning again an OVF in general is sooooo much better in very dark and in very bright conditions you may have actually forgotten if you've been EVF-ing it for a bit.
  • Using the OVF tends to shift you to using smaller primes vs the laziness of a zoom. Just because they work better. Yes, yes you could choose this yourself but hey we all get lazy. Just take a look at how much I used the 18-55 on this site and you'll see. Since I fired up the XPro-2? I've maybe decided on that lens three times and it was more for testing StupidCrap™.
  • No viewfinder blackout or recovery time between shots.

I've included some random frames here where I used the OVF and Fuji 18mm f/2 R quickly and discretely while Melanie was getting ready to make some other pictures. I used a combination of OVF and hybrid features on these frames as I was still in experimental mode my first time out. Truth is I still am experimenting with how best to use all of the features of Fuji's wonderful take on combining all of the wonders of an EVF and rangefinder direct-view.

Here I used a combination of manual/back-button focus as well as auto-focus linked to the shutter button. Both are extremely useful now and can be as fast and accurate as one wants to be. At least in terms of focus confirmation from a technical perspective. In many ways I can and do shoot faster with manual focus and the OVF. Part of it is technical but in many ways it's psychological as well with the direct-view.

That little magnified view you can no pop-up in the lower right of the OVF. I was on the fence of it being a toy vs useful when it first appeared on the X100T. I was still on the fence prior to using it on my first real-world set of circumstances. Now it's become one of the more useful features that I wouldn't have guessed without spending a lot of time behind the XPro-2.

I won't go into every single way I've used the hybrid OVF features so far, at least not today. Instead I'll focus on just two. First off is autofocus, specifically single point with the little pop-up EVF. Having that little tiny bit of focus confirmation is fantastic when using the OVF, it removes one of the biggest thru-the lens rationales and benefits there is. It takes a bit of mileage to put into your subconscious, secondary concerns but it happens and when it does it's amazing in the confidence inspiration department. Combine that with the new half-press shutter behavior and you have a complete win.

What new behavior one might ask? Well one of the niggles with all Fuji X cameras until this one (and possibly the X100T but I forget, definitely all the ILC cameras) has been the annoying half-press behavior between shots. On your typical DSLR you could use shutter-linked AF and if you did not fully release the shutter between shots it would hold focus and you get instant next shot behavior. With the Fuji's that's not the way it worked.

No matter what in single frame advance mode the camera would go thru all of it's shit between every single shot. Everything as in reacquire focus, lens driven back to home position, motor on and lens back to focus point, move frame lines back to home, move them back to corrected view, etc. Not only slow but also distracting. All that's fixed with between-shots half-press behavior.

Moving on to the other way, manual focus with magnified focus point view in the mini-evf. Doesn't matter if you turn the lens ring or use back-button af-on to do your manual focus there's nothing quicker than not having to focus. Obviously having the benefit of that perfect focus confirmation wherever the focus point is set is just as good, even better in manual focus as it is in AF. Wait there's more, that frame line behavior I just discussed and it's annoying, and distracting behavior on all but the X100T (don't think Fuji ever back-ported it to the other X100's did they??? Anyone know?). Well, it's gone. the OVF frame lines stay put in their corrected position until you re-focus.

The new frame line behavior combined with the no black-out behavior leaves you feeling so much more connected with what's going on in front of the camera it's hard to put a value on. If you work with people, especially people actually doing anything it's a night and day difference. These are things that just cannot be put onto a spec sheet. There things that cannot be meausured in how the influence fast but I assure you for many situations it's not only the fastest way you can work but also that speed helps far more than any technical focus-speed or frame rate in nailing what you want.

Shifting gears back into the tangible, measurable world Fuji has made other improvements and added a few features that are worth noting.

  • First off is what I see is a much improved accuracy in the frame lines field of view as well as close-focus accuracy. Are they as accurate as TTL viewing. Of course not but in a lot of cases it's not required and can actually be counter productive (more later).
  • I started off assuming the frame lines showed a lot looser view than was captured, especially close up. Not the case. It's better to assume they show the edges fairly closely until you get it ingrained. Honestly that not-so perfect framing can be an incentive to worry about more important things like just take the damn shot.
  • That new button press on the focus lever that brings up alternative frame lines may not seem all that useful but it is. I honestly forgot how much I used it on my Leica M cameras. Hell, that's the only thing the lever on the front of M cameras did and it's been there for decades.
  • Did I mention the frame lines stay put in manual and AF if you want them to now? Again, a major win for the upgrade.
  • The frigging joystick focus point control when using the OVF in manual also moves the little EVF view before during and after focus. OMG, this is amazing. Try it in your own particular OVF use so so so useful in developing your own best-case use for your own work. Talk about fast.

I probably forgot a few improvements related to the OVF but let's talk about some not so measurable things before I wrap up this installment.

Notice anything in the couple of random frames of Melanie getting ready in the mirror I've included? Probably not but I certainly do. I shoot looser than I do with TTL viewing of any kind. I'm not talking about looser in terms of farther away in various cases. I mean overall. This is way different than I do things with TTL viewing and perfect 100% framing real-time.

I knew I did this for a very long time. It's probably the primary reasons I maintained a Leica M kit along with my Nikons for so so long. I also noticed this was the case with my X100 and X100S. Again the reasons I loved those cameras in spite of the shortcomings. I'll try to illustrate a tiny example of what I mean. Take a look again at the third shot up. the one that frames the mirror on the left hand side of the edge with an OOF view of M.'s leg. See how I cropped into her thigh and cut off her shoe at the bottom. I know I would have taken a moment to consider backing off and probably would have to more precisely include the whole shoe in the bottom left.

Sure if I did that I could probably reproduce the same crop after the fact. Consider this; I most likely wouldn't wouldn't have cropped it as I never would have remembered seeing it this way. Second is that even considering it I wouldn't have grabbed that particular moment which is way more important. Third and most of all that would have changed my point of view which means I would not have M.'s hand in view. That last point is worth considering in shooting looser as that view is far more important than most other things in that picture. It's definitely one of the reason I've put a select label on that one and truthfully I like that her shoe is cut off in overall composition. That's what I mean by looser.

More later.

End Notes

All pictures made with the Fuji XPro-2 and 18mm f/2 R. Processing via Lightroom CC with a few different VSCO FILM presets applied. I won't check each one but I think FILM01 TMAX3200, FILM02 DELTA3200, FILM05 BW400CN.