It was exquisite.
I spent a whole day in late October last year, doing nothing but hitting “refresh” on DHL’s tracking site, willing the courier to make it to my door in under 12 parsecs.
So lifting the pre-production model of the new X-Pro 2 out of its packing was a hotly anticipated moment.
Picking up the X-Pro 2 for the first time felt like returning to some kind of photographic home. I got its predecessor – the X-Pro 1 – in 2012. It was my first X-series camera, and with the old XF 35mm f1.4, the only thing I had to make photos with for 2 years.
It had been a while since I’ve held an X-Pro body. The first time this one sank into my palm, I had that feeling. The one that translates roughly to “ahhhh, this is the way it should be”?
The X-Pro 2 hits all the right notes with its amazing new sensor and shutter, both which improve on already sensational low light handing and responsiveness. Its shape is still delightfully discreet, with the classic styling that the X-series is known for. I’ll admit I was surprised at how little Fuji had changed its flagship cosmetically, beyond the addition of a joystick at the rear, the integration of an ISO dial into the shutter speed one, and the strangely recessed AF-L button we have in the pre-production version. Certainly, with its boxy no-frills glory, the X-Pro 2 isn’t the most eye catching camera on earth. But if you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll know that this very plainness warms the cockles of my heart.
That being said, it does comes with plenty of flash, hidden under that unassuming hood.
This review will not address them all, only the facets that I found applicable to street shooting, my style.
The X-pro 2 comes with a new 24.3MP X-Trans CMOS III sensor. Its low light handling is magnificent – native ISO of 12,800, people. Ok, the files are huge – 40 to 50 Mb per RAW file – but it comes with an option to save compressed RAW, which will presumably reduce file size. This option wasn’t available to test in the pre-production firmware at the time I had the camera, so I have no idea if there’s any loss of quality or other issues. In a cursory 5 second video test, it appears that video quality has improved as well, with noticeably less moire.
The brand new shutter in the X-Pro2 is extremely responsive and just about eliminates lag, giving us more speed – 1/8000 sec – along with a rather pleasant sounding schnick as it releases.
Dual card slots, Joystick, AFL button
I find dual card slots an extremely useful feature. The second card can be configured to save overflow or mirror the files from the first, or you can configure Slot 1 to save RAW and Slot 2 to save JPEGs.
The new joystick makes moving the gazillian focus points (also a new feature) a breeze. I however, shoot with a single focus point in the middle of the screen and never move it, so I can’t tell you how effective it is.
What I will say though, is that it’s placed so there’s little chance of accidental engagement while shooting. Thumbs up.
The new AF-L button on the pre-production copy is completely recessed. Impossible to find without having to stop what you’re doing to look for it. I shoot on manual focusing mode only, using the AF-L button as a focus trigger, and found this incredibly disruptive to use.
Thankfully, the back button focusing function can be switched to the AE-L button, which saved the day. The AE-L button isn’t in an ideal spot to trigger focus if you have hands the size of mine or smaller, but it is a very practical, usable workaround.
C-mode on the EV dial & new ISO dial
The C mode gives you the option of adjusting the EV using the front command dial, and also providing an additional couple of stops of compensation: up to +/-5 EV. I’m not entirely sure what to think of this particular addition. While it’s nice to have the additional stops of compensation, having to “switch gears” to utilize anything beyond +/- 3 makes little sense user-experience wise. Why not rejig the EV dial to allow for +/- 5 instead of making you change to a different mode of operation for the same function?
This becomes especially material when you realize that the EV dial is as loose and travel-happy as that of the good old X-Pro 1. You can’t lock the dial at C if you wanted to use that mode exclusively. The addition of the C option squarely between +3 and -3 means that there’s no stopping this merry-go-round. It just keeps going around that mulberry bush.
Changing ISO can be achieved by lifting the outer ring on the shutter speed dial, which is integrated into the same wheel. It took a bit of getting used to at first. The pre-production unit I used came with no instructions, so I was scratching my head for a while, staring at the little numbers under the transparent plate in the shutter dial, first asking no one in particular “what the is that?” then after realization dawned, “how the hell do I move it?”
I finally figured it out by accident – catching a fingernail on the underside of the dial while poking and prodding the thing to make it go. When the outer ring of the shutter dial lifted I almost dropped the camera in alarm, thinking I’d broken it. Happily, the bit of my brain that registers New Gear That Doesn’t Belong To Me kicked in just in time.
(Said part of brain continued to get many kicks out of ISO 12,800.)
I got used to it quickly though, and found it easy enough to change my ISO on the fly.
Aside from the format option (addressed below), I don’t have much objection to the menu itself.
I do idly question the need for a rearranged menu. It seems counter intuitive, especially for existing X-series users, having to switch between different menu systems in different bodies to achieve the same desired result. But I guess, as it is with most new things, we’ll get used to this in time.
New Menu: Format option
I have major beef with this. WAY too many clicks. UGH. You have to click your way into 4 levels of menu to format one card, then it automatically returns you to the viewfinder so you can click back into those levels to format the second card. It is a ridiculously cumbersome way of accessing a very commonly used function.
However, there is a quicker option (thank the gods!): Long press the delete button (trash can icon) for about 2 seconds, then press the rear command wheel. This brings up the format option immediately.
I would have never guessed this one without being told (thanks Karl!), so remember kids, you heard it here first!
A very advanced hybrid viewfinder
The X-Pro 2 sports the same hybrid viewfinder that the X-Pro 1 had, with the addition of a schmancy electronic magnification window in optical mode, to help you nail that focus. I used the EVF exclusively (didn’t know about this feature until a few days ago either), so I have no idea how practical a thing this is, but it is certainly intriguing! And no, the X-Pro 2 doesn’t have that beautiful big EVF that X-T1 users know and love.
LCD screen – It doesn’t have a flip screen like the X-T1. I’m not sure how I feel about this one. Having gotten used to the flip screen, I’ve come to appreciate its usefulness in a range of situations. I can live without it for stills, but it would be hard to shoot video without it (not that I’ve shot more than 5 seconds of video with it).
Tripod mount still covers the battery hatch – not a problem for me normally, as I never use a tripod for stills. If you do use a tripod though, or a video rig, you’d need to remove the camera from its mount to change the battery, (something I have to do with the X-T1).
I was pleasantly surprised to find a usable strap in the box. That was a nice touch. I have had no love for the standard Fuji straps that come with all my cameras to date, cardboard-like as they are. The new strap however, was a pleasure to use – grippy without being sticky, supple enough to conform to my shoulder with ease, and aside from “Fujifilm” embossed into it at center, nice and plain.
What does it all mean?
So after some gushing and griping, what do I really think about the X-Pro 2?
Despite the niggles I’ve mentioned above, the X-Pro 2 is a camera that makes shooting in a variety of conditions, across a variety of applications and styles, easier. I’m a street shooter in mindset and method, and it felt absolutely right in my hands.
I used it during the month I was in Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, along with the X-T1 and X-T10. The X-Pro 2 has the same dimensions as the X-Pro 1, so it’s a sizeable camera, when compared to the more compact models Fuji has released since.
The reactions I got with the same lenses on those 3 bodies were subtle, but different, with the most marked difference between the X-T1 and the X-Pro 2. The X-T1, with its many dials and markings and distinct SLR shape, looks like a camera you would do something serious with. The unmarked X-Pro 2, especially with a 27 mm on it, simply doesn’t call attention to itself, and didn’t engender much interest. Most people were unfazed by it, reacting to me more than they did the black box in my hands.
That was delightful.
It was good to have an X-series flagship back in my bag in its newly incarnated form – it brought back the pleasure and intuitiveness of a camera that was an old friend.
From Kage: An X-Pro 2 collective review
Patrick LaRoque: From Leo to Revelation | Journey With the X-Pro 2
Flemming Bo Jensen: Fujifilm X-Pro 2 – Return of A Legend
Kevin Mullins: Fujifilm X-Pro 2 Review – Initial Thoughts
Jonas Rask: The Fujifilm X-Pro 2 Review