The Fujifilm XPro2 has big shoes to fill. We started our journey partnered with Fujifilm behind the wheel of the XPro1 and have some very strong feelings associated with its unique character. When you commit to the Fujifilm XPro series you get more than just a camera, you get a partner and form a bond. It was a privilege to have had a sample copy so early.
There is always a lot of self imposed pressure when handling a camera with this much hype surrounding its release. Your aim is not only to create something unique, but to also push the boundaries and test the limits of the camera. For this particular review we wanted to include a touch of New Zealand's great outdoors and create portraits of those who pursue a unique form of self expression.
The primary reason we got into bed with Fujifilm was to get away from lugging big kit on our backs when wandering off the beaten track. We never intended to make a complete switch to the Fujifilm X series camera system for all our work, but we had so much fun with the original XPro1 that the decision came easy in the end (three years ago we made the transition). The XPro1 had the unique ability to be part of the solution instead of the problem and not get in the way when working a scene. It was always there when you needed it and it is so simple and enjoyable to use (we gave it hell and it just kept on going day in day out). No other X series camera has given us the same joy the original XPro1 did, and to see if the XPro2 could do the same we set off for a weekend-long road trip down country to see how it felt.
A camera you do not enjoy using, and one which gets in the way, is always left at home gathering dust. The XPro2 is not one of those cameras. By the end of the first day it already felt right at home, and we were ready to trash the XT1 kit in favor of these for weddings, personal work and anything else we needed a camera for. Just like the original XPro1, we get great colour, highlight and shadow recovery and now the ability to print even bigger with the increase in sensor mega pixel density all while having a tonne of fun. We completely forgot we actually set out to review the camera, and just had a blast searching for the next shot, instead of focusing on which technical feature might be noteworthy for a quick mention in the review.
When a unique camera like the XPro2 comes along, we could go on for ever commenting on every aspect. After all, the devil is in the details and the XPro2 has a few. The rest of the writeup will consist of some of the items on that list, and how they influence our workflow.
The overall form factor of the camera has not changed much since the XPro1, the buttons still have that beautiful 'click' to them but more importantly, the grip is completely redesigned and we are not left lusting after the additional accessories to make the camera sit securely in the hand (especially a problem for the large and heavy lenses coming out). Having become so accustomed to changing the focus points on the D-Pad, we have found the transition to the joy-stick a little bewildering. At first it just did not feel natural, but with the increase in focus points (273 to be precise), it will have a large role to play when making changes on the fly.
We almost exclusively use the camera in aperture priority (unless we are in the studio), hence we are always spinning the exposure compensation dial. We currently have two XT1 bodies and find it ergonomically difficult to reach the exposure compensation dial (if you skipped the XT1 and are still working with the XPro1 you won't notice a difference). The shutter speed / ISO dial combination works a real treat and gives the camera a cleaner aesthetic. The combination of the two dials into one just works really well (the XT1 has two separate dials, one for ISO and one for shutter speed).
It is great to see that the camera has been treated to weather seals, hopefully this will help keep the fluff, dirt and grime out of the optical view finder (a reoccurring issue we had with the XPro1, requiring regular maintenance cleaning). During the first weekend of owning the XPro1 we also managed to lose the screw on diopter for the camera's view finder, so thankfully this has also been addressed on the XPro2. It feels very similar (but more robust) than what has been featured on the X100 series cameras.
Just as side note, the geo-thermal pools in Rotorua (New Zealand) really do have such vibrant and funky colours (these RAW files have been adjusted to reflect reality).
While changing lenses and standing in the sulfur steams, the weather seals kept the condensation out of the cracks and let us keep shooting. A dependable tool we would not hesitate to get wet or baby when the going gets tough and you have to get the shot (when out on a wedding shoot, if the weather packs in you have got to keep going despite the risks).
All the Fujifilm cameras work the same and once you have setup one, the rest can be configured to align to your personal preferences. The days of working through tedious camera menus are gone. After configuring the camera to our working standard we had all the dials and key functions on the camera body to make a shot. From there on in its a seamless experience for existing X series photographers. There is nothing more frustrating than getting held back and falling behind the action because the camera is difficult to reconfigure for a changing lighting situation.
It does have to be said, the XPro1 was not the quickest camera. It took a little patience and understanding to get the most out of it. This is no longer the case with the XPro2, it starts quick and the new super precise focus system is sublime. There are so many focus points, we actually opted for the reduced count. It just took too long to scroll from the left to the right when 273 focus points are enabled and for most situations is complete overkill.
Auto ISO is your friend when you are forced to work quickly, and thankfully despite an increase of 8 mega pixels over the previous generation of camera sensors there has been no major degradation in the image quality department. You are welcome to review the files yourself, the ISO setting for each image has been included. Because of the 90mm lens we had in the bag, we had the minimum shutter speed set to 1/125s to ensure no hand shake showed up in the final work. The AUTO ISO function did the rest and set the right exposure based on the aperture and compensation dial configuration.
Luckily Lightroom already had RAW support for the XPro2 (normally we use CaptureOne Pro9 for all our work, but they are a little slow to release new camera support), which meant we did not have to rely on the out of camera jpeg files. A luxury we were not accustomed to when doing a hot-off-the-press product review. The colours we managed to get out of the camera are true to the Fujifilm style: vivid, clear and brutally honest.
If you are a natural light photographer like us, then you will appreciate shadow and highlight recovery (camera sensor dynamic range). We have always praised the Fujifilm sensors in this department and to be honest were expecting the XTrans III sensor to be worse. Although it is hard to say for sure (since we are using a editing application we are not intimately familiar with), there is nothing which stood out. The files have plenty of headroom for manipulation if required.
And finally the verdict and the question many will be asking themselves: is it worth the upgrade and should I make room for it in my bag? It is easy to get distracted by the many features and innovations adopted by the XPro2 since the XPro1 stood up against the DLSR. At the end of the day there are only two things which we look for in a camera body, how much fun is it to use and how well do the files print. The new camera ticks both boxes and a whole lot of others! We will add one to our kit, and are already planning on the second.
Floating past below are some behind the scenes images captured by our good friend Nick.D (www.ndepree.com). Thanks a bunch for the pics and make sure to stop by Nick's space to check out the images he made with his XT1.