Spending Some Time With The Fujifilm X-Pro2

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Museum of Pop Culture and Space Needle. X-Pro2 + 16-55/2.8.

I’ve been obsessed with the Fujifilm X-Pro2 since it was announced in early 2016. On paper, it looked like the perfect camera for me. I had already been shooting with the Fujifilm X100T (one of my all-time favorite cameras) for about a year at that point, and I loved that the X-Pro2 would basically be the bigger and more powerful sibling. It appeared to have the same design sensibilities and shooting experience of the X100T with important usability features that I’m used to having on my much bigger and heavier DSLR kit.

After over a year of avoiding even handling the camera (the last time I tried out a camera I was interested in, I bought it on the spot — that was the X100T), I finally broke down and rented the X-Pro2. I needed to rent additional gear for a wedding and figured this would be a good time to try out the X-Pro2 and a few lenses. I wanted to see if the X-Pro2 was all it was hyped up to be and if it could potentially replace one of my DSLRs.

I rented the X-Pro2 and the 16-55/2.8 from Lensrentals, one of my favorite camera rental houses. (Seriously, rent from them if you can. They’re awesome.) I also borrowed the 23/2 and 56/1.2 from my friend Roland, who is a fellow Seattle-area roller derby photographer.

In the week that I had the X-Pro2, I used it for nearly all of my normal photographic endeavors. I used it on my daily walks around the city and photographed street scenes, architecture, still life, and landscapes. I photographed Margaret and our cats. I even used it as one of my primary cameras at a wedding. I did not photograph any roller derby, because there weren’t any games that I could attend during the rental week. Perhaps another time.

For context, I shoot with a pair of Nikon D600 full-frame DSLRs for most of my professional work (events, portraits, sports). I have the Nikkor 24-70/2.8 and Nikkor 70-200/2.8 VRII pro lenses that pretty much live on the cameras.

The X100T is my everyday-carry camera and is what I use for all of my street photos. I’ve also been taking it to photo gigs for the past year and have, on a few occasions, used it as my primary camera.

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A woman blows bubbles at the grand opening ceremony for the Pike Place Market expansion. X-Pro2 + 16-55/2.8.

Initial Thoughts

Simply put, the X-Pro2 is an amazing camera. I didn’t do a full scientific analysis of performance and image quality, but the X-Pro2 is fast and responsive and the images I got out of it are incredibly nice.

Thanks to all of the time I spent shooting with the X100T, it took essentially no time for me to become familiarized and comfortable with the X-Pro2. The only thing that threw me for a loop was the lens mounting direction. Fujifilm lenses twist in the opposite direction of Nikon’s.

The X-Pro2 fits my hands incredibly well. With the 23/2 mounted, the X-Pro2 is probably the most comfortable camera I have ever used. It handles like my old film cameras (that is a good thing) yet has all of the benefits of a modern digital camera.

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The owner of Leroy Menswear judges a passer-by. X-Pro2 + 23/2.

Pros

There is a lot to love about the X-Pro2. Here are some of my main highlights:

I’m a huge fan of the rangefinder format, so naturally, I love using the X-Pro2. The camera doesn’t cover my entire face, and that allows me to more easily keep one eye open to see elements outside of the viewfinder. It also helps me maintain better engagement with my subjects. They can see at least half my face and whether or not I’m smiling. People appear to be more comfortable having their photo taken by me, because I’m not hiding behind a big camera with a big lens.

The hybrid viewfinder (still) makes me happy. The X-Pro2’s EVF is smooth and bright. Display information doesn’t get in the way. The OVF is slightly wider than the X100T’s OVF (to support 16mm frame lines), so I feel like I have better wide-view of the scene when using the OVF.

Autofocus is fast and accurate with all three lenses I borrowed. The 56/1.2 hunted more and was the slowest focusing lens of the three, but, even then, it was no slouch. Focusing with the 16-55/2.8 and 23/2 felt as fast as the stellar Nikkor 70-200/2.8 VRII on my Nikon D600, which is damn near instantaneous.

High-ISO performance is incredible. My work requires that I shoot across the entire ISO range, often pushing cameras to their limits in low-light conditions. I have no problems leaving my Nikon D600s at ISO 6400, because noise is very clean at that setting. On the X-Pro2, ISO 6400 is solid for my needs, and I would be comfortable leaving auto-ISO maxed out at 6400 at all times. Even images at ISO 12,800 looked good assuming I got proper exposure.

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Walking around downtown Seattle. X-Pro2 + 16-55/2.8.

Auto-ISO options are not tied to custom settings like they are with the X100T. I really hate that the auto-ISO settings on the X100T can change depending on which custom preset you’ve selected. You could easily have one set of auto-ISO options for one custom preset and a completely different set for another preset, and then you could lose track when switching presets. The X-Pro2 makes auto-ISO completely separate, so I can keep my settings consistent no matter what custom setting I’m using.

Auto-ISO can support minimum shutter speeds of 1/500th second. This a HUGE improvement over the 1/125th second on the X100T. I like using auto-ISO when I’m walking around the city, but 1/125 is too slow for most street photography. Being able to bump the minimum shutter speed to 1/250 or higher helps me get sharper images. If I shot derby during my rental week, I’m pretty certain I would’ve set the minimum shutter speed at 1/500 and left auto-ISO on (I’m usually on full manual for derby, because lighting is controlled).

The button layout makes one-handed usage easy and comfortable. Everything is within easy reach of my thumb or finger. The focus point joystick is awesome. I especially like the addition of a front control dial and a function button on the OVF/EVF lever.

I’m very happy that the rear control dial is recessed slightly and relatively stiff to prevent accidental movement. The rear dial on my X100T sticks out a bit for easy access, but it’s also very easily bumped while walking around. I often find that my shutter speed has changed when bringing the camera up to my face. My Nikon D600s suffer the same problem. Both front and back dials get accidentally bumped all too often.

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Hanging out at Pike Place Market. X-Pro2 + 23/2.

Cons

Naturally, not everything with the X-Pro2 is perfect. Here are the things that bothered me the most:

The ISO dial is a bit finicky. It looks great from a design standpoint, but it’s actually a bit difficult to use out in the field. Even though I primarily use auto-ISO, there are times when I do want to manually set the ISO (off-camera flash and panoramas with mixed lighting are two that come to mind). Changing ISO settings takes several turns to move through the ISO range. It’s also difficult to see the tiny numbers under the ISO window. I would much rather have a separate ISO dial or, at least, be able to make ISO adjustments via a function button like on the X100T.

The AF-L button is in a bad location for how I hold the camera. It’s small, flush with the grip, and really tough to press while trying to shoot. To get around this, I reprogrammed the AE-L button to trigger AF. The AE-L button is still a shade too far to the left, but it works much better for me.

The Q button suffers a similar problem as the AF-L button. It’s hard to reach with the camera up against my face, and I can accidentally bump it when rotating the camera to shoot vertically with the grip facing down. Fortunately, I don’t access the Q menu very often, so this is something I could deal with.

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Attendees at the grand opening for the Pike Place Market expansion. X-Pro2 + 16-55/2.8.

The focus mode selector is really small and difficult to adjust quickly. I much prefer the big slider on the left side of the X100T. That said, I’d probably get used to it if I spent more than a week with the camera.

Battery life is decent, but I’m spoiled by the bigger batteries for my DSLRs. During the 8-hour wedding I shot, I burned through 6 batteries for the X-Pro2. My DSLRs would only go through 3 batteries under the same conditions. This is only a con, because shooting with the X-Pro2 means I would need to buy/carry at least twice the number of batteries compared to my DSLRs.

I love having dual memory card slots, but why make only one of them UHS-II and the other UHS-I? Seems like it would make sense to have both be UHS-II to get the best performance.

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John Flemming’s “Glass Blades” by the Museum of Pop Culture. X-Pro2 + 16-55/2.8.

More about the lenses

The three lenses I used with the X-Pro2 are the 16-55mm f/2.8, 56mm f/1.2 and 23mm f/2. The 16-55/2.8 and the 23/2 cover about 85% of my normal working focal lengths, so I figured it would be good for me to test them out. The 56/1.2 was a bonus, because my friend Roland offered to loan it to me while he was on vacation.

16-55mm f/2.8

The 16-55/2.8 is equivalent to my Nikkor 24-70/2.8, which is my go-to workhorse lens. I shoot portraits, events, sports, product shots, and landscapes with the 24-70. If I had to keep only one lens for my DSLR, the 24-70/2.8 would be it.

The 16-55/2.8 is awesome. Focusing is fast and accurate. The lens is very silent. And it is really sharp. The focal range is perfect for all-around coverage in most lighting conditions. It is a solid work lens.

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Adham and Katelyn. X-Pro2 + 16-55/2.8.

I shot a wedding with the X-Pro2 and the 16-55/2.8 alongside my Nikon D600 and 70-200/2.8. Not once did I miss having the Nikkor 24-70/2.8. The combination of the X-Pro2 and 16-55/2.8 allowed me to capture all of the wide to normal views at the wedding. Facial recognition worked well, even in crowds. Solid AF-C performance allowed me to capture sequences of kids playing and people dancing. The overall lack of weight (compared to my DSLR setup) helped reduce any stresses that my hands may have felt with my DSLRs.

With that said, the 16-55/2.8 is my least favorite lens of the three. It’s a relatively heavy lens and feels unbalanced on the X-Pro2. The X-Pro2’s grip is small and doesn’t provide much support for one-handed use with the 16-55. By comparison, I can easily shoot one-handed with my Nikon D600 and the Nikkor 24-70/2.8. Even though the Nikon setup is bigger and heavier (and will cause my hands soreness at the end of a full day of shooting), the D600’s grip is very substantial and balances nicely with the 24-70.

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Enjoying a beer at Chuck’s Hop Shop in the Central District. X-Pro2 + 56/1.2.

56mm f/1.2

Everyone I know who shoots Fujifilm cameras absolutely loves the 56/1.2. It’s very close to 85mm on full-frame, which is my favorite head shot focal length. I’m not a fan of long focal lengths for portraits (a lot of people I know love 135mm on full frame). The compression is too much for my tastes. I tend to shoot a little wider, even for head shots.

I didn’t use the 56/1.2 in a work setting (I honestly forgot it was in my bag at the wedding), but what I did shoot looked very good. Sharp images. Nice bokeh. Focusing is noticeably slower than the other two lenses I borrowed, but it’s still perfectly acceptable for most shooting situations.

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Lost Lake Cafe and Lounge. X-Pro2 + 23/2.

23mm f/2

The 23/2 is my favorite of the three lenses that I borrowed. It’s the equivalent of 35mm on full-frame, and perfectly suits how I visualize scenes. It also happens to be the same focal length as my X100T, so I felt right at home using it.

The 23/2 focuses very fast. I don’t think it’s as fast as the 16-55, but I also don’t remember it hunting for focus in most situations. During my street photo walks, I rarely had out-of-focus shots or missed shots when reacting quickly to scenes. Mis-focused shots were usually my fault.

The lens is a little soft at f/2, especially as close distances, but that softness is gone at f/2.8 and lower. Not a big deal for me, since I’m already used to that on the X100T. Based on the images I shot, the 23/2 is a plenty sharp lens.

I especially love how small and light the 23/2 is. It is clearly designed for rangefinder cameras like the X-Pro2. It’s well-balanced, and it only extends into the OVF just a tiny bit even with the lens hood attached.

I do wish the 23/2 had a focus distance scale, so I can zone focus without looking in the viewfinder. Maybe that’s just the old-school photographer in me talking.

If I could only have one lens with the X-Pro2, it would be the 23/2. That basically makes it a bigger version of the X100T, and I’m ok with that.

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Sunset on my birthday. X-Pro2 + 16-55/2.8.

Final Thoughts

In the week that I rented the X-Pro2, I used it for nearly 40 hours total and shot over 3000 images. That’s not enough time to truly get comfortable and settled in with the camera, but yet I feel like I’ve been shooting with the X-Pro2 all my life. It fit into my daily setup without much change to my shooting habits.

The thing I love most about the X-Pro2 is how it feels. It fits comfortably in my hands. It is like handling my old film cameras, and I can operate nearly everything by feel. The X-Pro2 is an advanced piece of technology that retains the look and feel of a retro camera that really appeals to me. The camera gets out of the way, so I can concentrate on taking pictures.

I’m sad that I had to return the camera and lenses, but it was a good to get some hands-on experience with a camera that so many people love. I keep telling myself that I don’t need to buy the X-Pro2, because all of my current gear works perfectly fine. However, I’m pretty sure Margaret knows that I’m likely going to buy an X-Pro2 for myself sometime in the near future.

Here are some additional photos that I took with the X-Pro2.

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Melodica Men perform at Pike Place Market. X-Pro2 + 16-55/2.8.
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Melodica Men entertain visitors at Pike Place Market. X-Pro2 + 16-55/2.8.
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I’m being watched. X-Pro2 + 16-55/2.8.
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Morning rainbow at the International Fountain at Seattle Center. X-Pro2 + 23/2.
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Space Needle and sun flare. X-Pro2 + 23/2.
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Lunchtime legs at Pike Place Market. X-Pro2 + 16-55/2.8.
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Vacation fashion shoot at the Olympic Sculpture Park. X-Pro2 + 23/2.
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Dapper man at Pike Place Market. X-Pro2 + 23/2.
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The bride adjusts her dress at Pike Place Market. X-Pro2 + 23/2.
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Pike Place Market. X-Pro2 + 23/2.
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Happy afternoon at Chuck’s Hop Shop in the Central District. X-Pro2 + 23/2.
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Last light on July 4th in Seattle. X-Pro2 + 16-55/2.8.

Be sure to follow me on Instagram to see my latest work.

panasonic lx3

i have a new toy

A little over a week ago, Margaret got me a Panasonic LX3 for my birthday, and I have yet to put it down. It is one sweet little camera. I basically have all the good things about my Nikon D300 in a tiny package. Sure, it’s got a much smaller sensor, it’s not nearly as fast to operate, and I can’t change lenses, but for the vast majority of my day-to-day shots, it’s the perfect camera.

Why do I like it so much? Let’s see…

– 24-60 mm f/2.0-2.8 Leica lens: That’s my normal shooting range, and the fast aperture allows me to get shallow depth of field and shoot in lower light.

– RAW files: Post-processing joy!

– Manual exposure, manual focus, custom white balance: It’s all about control.

– Hotshoe: I can use my wireless flash triggers for off-camera lighting.

– Small: It’s not jean-pocket tiny, but it also doesn’t put any strain on my back/neck/shoulders like a full DSLR kit with 5 lenses.

– Quiet: No mirror slap, pretty much silent.

– Great image quality: I’m not a pixel-peeper, but I have been extremely happy with all of the images I’ve been getting from this camera. Shooting in RAW probably helps a lot.

– It was a birthday present from Margaret. 🙂

Here are a few shots I’ve taken with the LX3 from the past few days. Yes, there’s some degree of post-processing in everything, but, really, when is there not any PP? 😉

Macro food shot (my birthday breakfast):

birthday breakfast

Wide-angle, bright sunlight (that’s a kite surfer in the background on the left):

driftwood

Backlit with a bit of post for color (from the Fremont Zombie Walk):

zombie walk or brains

Off-camera lighting with an Orbis Ring Flash, Cactus V4 triggers, and high-speed sync (Margaret being cute):

margaret

Studio-style shot with a softbox umbrella and Pocket Wizards (another selfie):

Day 6: I Am Not Amused

Despite the fact that I have a smaller, more “limited” camera compared to my D300, I haven’t really changed how I take photos. I’m just using a smaller camera that’s easier to carry around. It is a bit odd composing on an LCD screen instead of using a viewfinder though. I’m still getting used to that. 😉

new family member

new family member

Say hello to the newest member of our family: the Yashica Mat 124 G. This is my present to Mia for her Found Day. Originally, I tried to get one for her “regular” birthday back in January, but I was a victim of an eBay scam. It worked out well this time around. I have a feeling that stash of 120 film in my fridge isn’t going to last long.