Why The Fuji XPro-2 Is Better Than My Leica

Fairly Safe For Work

I could probably have titled this something like "Why My X100 Cameras Are Better…", or "Fuji's OVF's Are The Killer Feature", maybe even Seriously Re-think Your XT-2 Upgrade". Hell, I could have definitely titled it "Even If You Get an XT-2 Keep Your XPro-2". Here's a few points to consider about the holistic nature of gear, the right tool for the job, and how one might interpret various opinions that on the surface don't appear to have relevance.

To serve as illustration here's a few frames just warming up and doing some exposure tests with Alicia made on the fly while she was deciding on the evening's out-and-about wardrobe. Let's talk composition for a minute. Interesting word and used a lot in the context of photography. I would venture that this sequence is pretty simple in terms of composition. Not a bunch of stuff to pay attention to or arrange (arguable when it comes to people considering the billion moving parts of humans and how attuned viewers are to micro-varitions).

The simplicity comes from the relatively few other objects or shapes that are not part of Alicia and how they interact with each other. The only obvious ones are the hard line created by the corner on camera left as well as the softer one next to it created by the wall edge where the window is out of frame. The rest of the shapes to consider are either all part of Alicia or soft-ish shadows projected by her on the background. You can see that even tiny movements away from the background manipulate those and their contrast considerably in terms of merging or separating.

See what I mean when I move Alicia's upper body away even a tiny bit more and let some more light through? Kaboom, way more contrast on that shape. Shit tons of compositional considerations even with not a lot of complex interactions. You could make it even simpler by backing up and shooting longer getting rid of the corner edge and that soft line next to it. Maybe move Alicia to camera right a bit. Fact is most "portrait" photographers do. It's a great way to not epic-fail.

My point? Well, as long as I can see the person in front of the camera clearly whatever viewfinder I choose will work great. Film SLR, DSLR, Leica M, XT-1, XT-2, XPro-2, whatever. What happens when you chuck in a bunch more elements that can interact together visually? Compositional challenges go through the roof. Do the combinatorial math and start with a low number of elements and watch what happens as you increment even a few more.

Still a simple shot right? Yep, well at least intellectually it is it still just Alicia against the wall right? Actually no, not at all from a photographic point of view. Normal non-photo people would probably list things like woman, wall, window if you ask them "what's in this picture". That's "stuff" that comes to mind. Photographers on the other hand know beyond stuff there's now 82,000 lines, shapes, gradations, edges, etc. Every one of how those edges interact with each other now count visually to various degrees.

Visual Interactions

Just for discussion let's list a few visual interactions going on above. I'm probably a bit more OCD on these than most or even need to be but hey, we all have our "thing". They'll serve as illustration even for people that are a bit more about macro elements that qualify more as "stuff" than shapes and contrasts though. Just think of these as "stuff".

  • The edge of the dress on camera left vs the window frame.
  • That line that Alicia's leg is hiding vs the edge of her hair.
  • The heel and shoe on camera right vs the baseboard.
  • The elbow on camera right vs that soft line.

(Maybe my statement about being a street-photographer, just not on the street makes more sense now??)

Wide & Close

Let's talk some basic perspective in terms of wide and close vs. tight and far. Theoretically you could get the same exact framing by moving 100 yards back and using a much longer lens. Of course you'd have to move all the shit that's now in your way out of the way. It would be a very different picture doing that due to perspective. Not crazy important for this discussion what is imporant is the rate of change in arrangement of those pieces in the frame vs camera movement or your own movement. Alicia in closer or back farther, not much. Lower camera position by two inches and a minor change in tilt to maintain framing, probably undetectable. Same goes for you moving to one side or the other and compensating. You get the idea.

Up close and wide all of that arrangement of elements changes in violent ways with the slightest change in point of view or subject. Bad if you're not paying attention, great if you want to manipulate all that stuff with minor movements of yourself, your camera, and your subjects. Everyone talks about rangefinder viewing outside the frame as if the only thing that moves is "stuff" in font of the camera. Sure, that counts and is all true and useful. What about you're movements and predicting what's coming as you're working the framing and composition and deciding to move a little this way or that way? Just as important for sure. Both consciously and subconsciously anticipating what's coming based on your movements and how your subject will visually interact with it is pretty important.

I made these with my XT-1. Now that I have my XPro-2 and have a few thousand pictures under the belt I can say that the rangefinder style OVF is great in knowing what's coming depending on which way I move when working with a subject. The more complicated the environment the more I appreciate the OVF. Something one doesn't think about a lot unless you use it for a bit. Sure a more of an SLR non-rangefinder viewfinder will show you all that stuff once you get there and you can re-arrange or even make a different set of movements or decisions but that can be a factor when working with dynamic subjects.

So Where Does The Better Come In?

Oh, you're looking for the answer to the link-bait-y post title. How about a list?

  • Having both styles of viewfinder in one camera, and one camera system. The right tool for the right job kind of thing. I used to maintain a Nikon system and a Leica system. I even used to carry a compromised version of both.
  • I find the OVF of the Fuji's more useful across a wider variety of subjects and they don't go out-of-whack in terms of focus calibration, ever ever ever.
  • My Leica's annoyed me as the close focus distances on every lens that was useful to me was not at all close enough. No, not for macro or anything crazy. That's a job for an SLR/EVF. My Leica's were just enough off in terms of close focus to be very restrictive. I ran into that in the very first iteration of the X100 and XPro-2 in that "macro mode" was a thing (but they were still better). Now that that's gone and I've never had the experience of moving just a bit closer and not being able to focus.
  • Better focus confidence in manual focus and duhhhh, AF too.
  • In manual focus I use that little electronic rangefinder to verify focus anywhere in the frame which makes those "decisive moments" far more decisive even when working at large apertures and very close.
  • I don't have to carry two different cameras to shoot with wides vs. normal/tele's with the rangefinder style OVF.

End Notes

Yes I used the XT-1 for the shots illustrating the post but that's just because I happened to have a bunch shot real close together demonstrating simple vs complicated in the right way for the first part of the discussion. It also reenforces my decision that I'll keep the XPro-2 and maybe even get a second one no matter what I decide to do about an XT-2. Which right now is not in the cards as it does nothing for me and what I shoot.

Processing via Lightroom CC and one of my own preset concoctions.