Gear

The Fuji X-Pro 2 Feels Like Home

As days, months, and years go by and the colossal giants of the camera world release model after model, it seems that so many photographers get caught up with the same repetitive concerns.

Canon has just forced the 80D upon the market when the 70D barely warranted an upgrade, while as we all know, Sony churn out another camera every season.

With each new body everything gets a small tweak: there are usually 6-8 megapixels added on, a next generation image processor gets introduced, high ISO performance is enhanced by a stop, and the amount of AF-points doubles or even triples.

Unconsciously, this starts to bother photographers with older gear, even though the difference between their model and the newer one may be negligible. They’ll start to itch and contemplate the “upgrade”. Sites like eBay will be assessed. Friends will be queried on whether or not they are in the market for a mint condition DSLR that they’ll use three times a year on vacation. Eventually, the bullet will be bitten, only for the vicious cycle to repeat itself after the next release.

Consumer concerns are never completely unwarranted, and it makes sense that anyone would want the best products that their hard-earned money can buy.

But best is subjective, and rather than always having technical specifications at the forefront of every gear debate, ergonomics and the “emotion” of a camera should be an equally driving force behind every consumer decision.

Fujinon XF 23mm f/1.4 F @ f/1.4, 1/80, ISO 800

This isn’t something neccesarily applicable to every camera—after all, there’s essentially no physical difference between a Nikon or a Canon, although there is a clear contrast between DSLRs and mirrorless cameras.

In terms of the Fuji X-Pro 2 however, we have to remember that like the Leica M-system, it’s a rangefinder—or at least a hybrid one—and we should absolutely factor that into our considerations of it since it’s certainly a hell of a lot cheaper than any digital Leica M.

Hybrid rangefinder

From the Fuji X100 website, we can understand more about hybrid viewfinders and how much effort Fuji has put into making the X-Pro 2 feel natural to rangefinder shooters:

“Optical viewfinder options can be broadly divided into two types. One is the ‘Real-Image’ viewfinder which was equipped in many conventional compacts and offered the advantages of compatibility with zoom shooting and the ease of making it compact. The other is the ‘Reverse Galilean’ type, which requires a certain degree of size, but affords superior clarity and has been the choice of medium-format cameras like FUJIFILM’s GA645 and GF670.

After considering both options for the X100, it was decided, that more than the ‘Real-Image’ type, which required many optical elements such as prisms with sacrificed viewing quality, that the simple structure and excellent clarity of the ‘Reverse Galilean’ type would better satisfy the demands of photographers who know and enjoy the experience of shooting with a viewfinder.”

Rangefinders were never really great with telephoto lenses.

On film cameras, rangefinder split screens enabled quick and effective focusing that many photographers preferred. But this is something rarely needed in the digital age with autofocus and focus confirmation, even though Fujifilm have created a brilliantly authentic digital version of this.

So why is the rangefinder screen still relevant?

A rangefinder isn’t the most accurate way to see through your camera—a contemporary DSLR with 100% magnification and viewfinder coverage will always be better.

But what makes photography more than just the interaction between a camera and a sensor is the mind behind the machine.

Rangefinders are bright windows that offer a wider perspective on the scene, allowing photographers to see beyond just the narrow confines of their lens.

While logically it makes sense to be able to see only through your lens, for certain subjects such as portraiture, a rangefinder can help with framing immensely.

“It’s hard to explain, but using a optical rangefinder makes me feel closer to the subject.” – Lok

Personally, I hope that all camera manufacturers will use hybrid viewfinders in their mirrorless cameras, even though I know this will never be the case. No matter how good EVFs get, I still feel very removed from reality when using them.

Fujinon XF 23mm f/1.4 F @ f/1.4, 1/280, ISO 400

Nonetheless, they certainly have their positive points (such as being able to have their brightness increased), which is why Fuji again should be congratulated for integrating an optical and electronic viewfinder so flawlessly.

Fujifilm’s dedication to optical rangefinders probably comes from their own extensive history of making excellent medium format rangefinders such as the GA645, GF670, and GW690 cameras.

It’s often forgotten that they made such diverse cameras over the years, and all their latest releases have shown that the suits at the top of this historical company have their feet in the right place: one in the future, and one in the past.

Specifics about the X-Pro 2’s hybrid viewfinder are available here by the way.

Dial-a-Design

Fuji X-T1 (top), Fuji X-T10 (bottom) / Image by Ivan Joshua Loh

The Fuji X-Pro 2 has two dials on top; one for changing the shutter speed, and the other for exposure compensation. This differs from both the X-T1 and the smaller X-T10, as in the X-Pro 2 they’ve integrated the ISO controls into the shutter speed dial.

The X-T10 has a dial on the left for changing focusing modes, while the X-T1 has an independent ISO dial.

The Fuji X-Pro 2 lacks both of these, and while I feel it doesn’t need a dial for changing focus modes quickly like the X-T10, the new built-in ISO control is a nice compromise (some would say upgrade) on the X-T1’s dial.

Almost too easy

Fujifilm will never really be able to compete with the Canon and Nikon flagships, and wisely they choose not to.

Instead, they are unashamedly aiming to be “second camera brand” for protogs, or the main mount for stills-enthusiasts.

#givelokanoscar

Their in-body processing is so distinctive and excellent that in many ways, it almost completely removes the need for post-processing in Lightroom or Photoshop.

Everyone in the office took turns shooting with the camera and we almost all noted how images from the X-Pro 2 make objects look better than they are in reality.

Fuji colours are the best in the game, straight out of camera.

The new film simulations are fun and relatively accurate, even though tones from their “ACROS” mode aren’t anywhere near as beautiful as those of the original film.

Our general impression regarding the image quality is that honestly, this camera makes photography feel almost too easy. With a beautiful lens like the Fujinon XF 23mm f/1.4 F (which gives an equivalent of 35mm), we just set the camera on auto, put the aperture to f/1.4, and shot away.

With a camera sensor and processor this good, photographers can set their minds at ease and simply enjoy the ride. And with a camera body this well-designed and intuitive, photography feels visceral and intimate again. It’s a victory of emotion over logic.

Sure, the new Sony A6300 will probably focus faster, fire quicker, and have better video—but will it feel as good in your hands?

Maybe, maybe not. Regardless, let’s just be thankful that as consumers we have access to both models; ideally the X-Pro 2 for stills, and the A6300 for video.