Fujifilm X-Pro2... Back to the Future

Categoria: English Pubblicato: Domenica, 05 Giugno 2016 Scritto da Max Angeloni


Fujifilm X-Pro2 - Fujinon XF23mm F1.4 R (1/4400, f/2, Iso 200)

Translate by Pietro Todaro

After thunder comes rain...
I remember that questions regarding the release of the X-Pro 2 started just a couple of months after the X-Pro1 hit the market.
Being this one of the Fujifilm models that I had christened, I have always been aware of when this succession would have taken place. I must have repeated, “end of 2015” hundreds of times. And so it was.
The announcement of the X-Pro2 was a relief… at least for several months I would not heard this question over and over again.
But why was there so much expectation around this camera model?
The reasons are several.


Some are justified… others dictated only by the convulsive desire that the digital market nourishes and fuels towards new models.
Another procedural question was if the Pro2 would have had a Full Frame sensor.
Even here, the reply was predictable, but few people seemed to believe me.
Finally, the die is cast, and from the shop shelves the X-Pro2s are ready to fill up the bags of photographers.

We are writing this review with a bit of delay, but we certainly could not have gotten away with writing a hasty review for a camera that represents a generational leap.
So, as per our tradition, we have taken all the necessary time to fully understand this photographic instrument. We, at Riflessifotographici, have this bad habit, and we surely will not give it up in the name of wanting to arrive first in the race of who will write the first review.
Many things have already been written about the X-Pro2 on the web. Some articles are rather complete. Others are botched, and many give the impression to be a hurried copy and paste exercise.
Personally I feel that the review of this specific model cannot be exempted from an introduction that is capable explaining how this model positions itself in the general picture of the photographic market.
For this reason we will start from the… origins.



Fujifilm X-Pro2 - Fujinon XF23mm F1.4 R (1/160, f/1.4, Iso 1000)

The XPro1 is the camera with which Fujifilm reentered the segment of digital cameras with interchangeable lenses.
Many were waiting for a Reflex system derived from the Finepix S Series and from the success that this photographic instrument had obtained. The Finepix S5, for example, was the model that convinced me to definitely pass to digital photography. A reflex that was based on the Nikon system. In brief… a Nikon with the electronics that were dedicated to the Fujifilm’s images.
With the X-Pro1, on the contrary, Fujifilm decided to completely build its own system.
But why continue on the path of Reflexes?
The reason are several. But all of them boil down to one common denominator: innovation.
Now… its without doubt that in the world of reflex cameras, Nikon and Canon are the undisputed dominators. Getting inserted in this market segment had two big obstacles to face and to overcome. The first is obvious. Nikon and Canon are the leaders in the reflex world because they are the best. They have complete systems that have been consolidated in time and the solutions that these two brands offer are not replicable by those who want to tackle this market out of the blue.
The second obstacle is strictly technical. As I have written on many occasions, reflex systems have reached a bottleneck that seems to get narrower with each passing year. If on one hand, mirror and optical view finder were the fortune of these systems, today if one wants to integrate innovations on new photographic equipment these could represent an obstacle
By consequence, if one wanted to opt for innovation, the path of reflex cameras would not have been the right one.


Fujifilm X-Pro2 - Fujinon XF23mm F1.4 R (1/200, f/1.8, Iso 2000)


Lets keep in mind that in 2012 the Mirrorless segment was indeed in expansion but still did not represent a true alternative to high end or professional reflex cameras. Obviously they did not represent an alternative to high end or professional reflex cameras if one took into consideration only certain technical characteristics.
But as we all well know…. Photography today, just as back then, is not only made of bursts of ten shots per second or from reportages made in the most remote parts of the world.
A more meditative photography exists, a photography in which the technical instrument does not require refined engineering solutions, but rather, needs simplicity of use.
I repeat… we are in 2012.
Hence, not being able to compete uniquely with technology, Fujifilm has rightfully thought of redirecting its objective towards tradition and simplicity.
The incarnation of tradition and simplicity, in the collective imagination of photographers, has always been oriented towards rangefinder systems. However, the paradox of rangefinder systems is that they have structural limits that have decreed their almost total disappearance in favor of the more versatile reflex.
But what happens if one unites the practicality of the rangefinder system with the technology of digital systems? The answer is simple… this will give birth to a new segment of photographic cameras. This was Fujifilm's idea. Thus, at the time of its presentation the X-Pro1 was not the direct competitor of any other camera on the market.

Fujifilm X-Pro2 - Fujinon XF23mm F1.4 R (1/1250, f/3.6, Iso 200)



Fujifilm X-Pro2 - Fujinon XF23mm F1.4 R (1/7500, f/1.4, Iso 200)



Fujifilm X-Pro2 - Fujinon XF23mm F1.4 R (1/2400, f/2, Iso 200)


From 1… to 2

A hybrid viewfinder that enclosed an optical viewfinder and a digital one. The shutter speed dial that has once again conquered the position of the upper part of the camera and the diaphragm aperture on the barrel of the lens. All of this made it hard, at first glance, to understand if the X-Pro1 was an “old” analog camera or a brand new digital one.
Only the presence of the rear monitor gives away the answer to such a doubt.
Once powered up, it immediately appeared clear that, regardless of the system that we were accustomed to using, the X-Pro1 was a camera that needed a certain adaptation period in order to interpret it.
At that time, the market was pushing, as never before, towards extreme performances. The Pro instead, broke this rule and winked an eye to those who interpreted photography in a less convulsive and more aware manner instead.
The philosophy on which the origins of the X-Pro1 are based on are, in broad terms this: why is it that to have a high quality photographic instrument one must absolutely buy a model that is extremely complex and fitted out with countless functions that one will never use? In Italy we have a saying that there is an ocean between what is said and what is done, and as we all know in this ocean there are ... countless of functions. In any case, the X-Pro1 has entered digital photography history thanks to its digital... simplicity.

With the X-Pro 2, contrary to what can be read here and there, the philosophy has remained unchanged. The confusion that has been created, and that has brought many to think that the new model is an “all around” photographic instrument, has been dictated more by the curiosity to discover the innovations that Fujifilm has implemented on its new generation cameras rather than to the real change regarding the use that the X-Pro2 is destined for.

Don't get me wrong. The X-Pro2 is truly capable to take on almost the totality of photographic situations.
But one thing is to tackle photographic situations that may arise and another is to degenerate the intrinsic philosophy of a photographic instrument.
To try to remedy to this contradiction, this article will be divided between an analysis of the X-Pro2 and an in depth study of the innovations that we will find implemented in future Fujifilm models.


Fujifilm X-Pro2 - Fujinon XF23mm F1.4 R (1/1000, f/5, Iso 200)

The X-Pro2
The Fujifilm X-Pro2 is the heir to the X-Pro1. Therefore, the evolution of a photographic instrument that takes its inspiration from rangefinder models.
As a consequence the optical viewfinder is the first distinctive element.
Why first?
Leaving behind, for a second, the hybrid viewfinder on a whole, the optical viewfinder is the element that most of all brings this camera back to the tradition. In reality, as we have highlighted time and time again, the view finder of the X-Pro1 was not a real rangefinder. There was only the Galilean viewfinder while the optical prism of a telemeter and the mechanics that characterized this system were missing. On top of this the X-Pro had auto-focus. One could say that its was more similar to a Contax G1 (or G2) rather than to a Leica.
Conceptually maybe yes... but as soon as the eye is brought to the viewfinder one notices that the organization of the visual space brings back to mind that of the traditional M series of Leica and of Voigtländer's Bessa.
And so?
And so nothing... the X-Pro is a segment all in itself.
And the X-Pro2 continues in this tradition. With the evolution of the hybrid viewfinder, the photographic possibilities that are at our disposal are increased.


 Fujifilm X-Pro2 - Fujinon XF 56mm F1.2 R (1/5000, f/1.2, Iso 200)

In sintesi.
With the same camera we can use:
a new generation electronic viewfinder;
a Galilean viewfinder with superimposed digital information;
a modern interpretation of the rangefinder that unites a Galilean viewfinder and the area that we are focusing on in a digital version;
Indeed, a modern interpretation of the rangefinder. As far as I am concerned this the real revolution. The same that I always use with my beloved X100T.
Why so much enthusiasm for such solution?
The great advantage of the rangefinders is that they offer a wider vision of the scene compared to that which is actually framed. Basically, on the basis of the focal length used, the lines that delimit the framing occupy a greater or smaller area within the viewfinder. In any case this area will always be smaller compared to the global vision that one has when looking through this type of viewfinder. All of this translates in the capability of being able to simultaneously observe elements that we are framing with elements that are out of the picture. Its not necessary to highlight the advantages of this is especially in terms of the composition of the picture.
“But how... you speak a lot about “old style” viewfinders and yet you still haven't said anything about the phantasmagorical sensor, the stratospheric image processor, and the super fast auto-focus?”
I can already here this question :)


Fujifilm X-Pro2 - Fujinon XF 56mm F1.2 R (1/125, f/1.2, Iso 5000)

But I repeat... in the collective imagination, the concept is that this model represents the link between tradition and technology is by now consolidated. Certainly, the element that majorly distinguishes this Fujifilm model is the hybrid viewfinder.
But in practice does this translate in flexibility of use? We must start from the premise that the X-Pro is a model that is principally thought for those who have a pondered approach to photography. A user who is aware of his photography, who carefully chooses his photographic equipment and is not inclined to running after the latest innovations that hit the market. This does not mean that it cant be used with utmost satisfaction even by those who approach photography in a diametrically opposite way. But the philosophy that is at the base of the X-Pro2 is that of tradition, in which, reality is captured with fixed lenses and in analogical “vision”, that represent not only a necessity but also a true pleasure.
Personally, when photographic conditions allow it, I very much find myself in the identikit of a typical X-Pro2 user. A fixed lens, a camera and nothing else.
Nothing, obviously impedes me, with the same camera to mount a super-telephoto and to activate the digital viewfinder to face difficult photographic situations like that of sport or naturalistic photography.
But here we are starting to talk about issues pertaining to the field test.


Fujifilm X-Pro2 - Fujinon XF100-400mm F4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR + 1.4x (1/1250, f/8, Iso 500)

Field test
My X-Pro2 is set up as follows:
For reportage or street photography the optical viewfinder allows me to have a wide view of the scene. In difficult lighting situations, I instead, gladly give up the optical viewfinder (with or without the electronic superimposition) in favor of the electronic viewfinder. An electronic viewfinder means being able to see the correct exposure before shooting. A typical situation where this may be necessary is when taking back lit portrait shots. At times one has only a bare instant to capture an expression and having this advantage could be reveal itself to be decisive.
Why do I start the field test with such a premise?
Because, as I have always highlighted, we at Riflessifotografici must fully analyze each photographic element under various aspects including the “feel” and to the possibilities that it can give to the photographer.
The rest comes later.
And the rest means describing the anomalous situations in which I have used this instrument that is thought for “pondered” photography.
Indeed... anomalous situations.
The point is that the X-Pro2 incarnates in itself the “rumors” of what the next innovations of Fujifilm models will be.
It was therefore inevitable to use this camera in the most various situations. For example the X-Pro2 allowed me to shoot a photo story for the first time with an instrument that was not a reflex.
Now, the reason was certainly not tied to quality of the previous models. The point is that I need to have two memory cards set up with the back up function, when I take these type of shots.
The X-Pro2 has such option.
So, from today we know, or can foresee, that Fujifilm's new high end models will have two memory card slots.


Fujifilm X-Pro2 - Fujinon XF 56mm F1.2 R (1/60, f/1.2, Iso 320)


Fujifilm X-Pro2 - Fujinon XF 56mm F1.2 R (1/1500, f/2, Iso 200)


Obviously this does not mean that the X-Pro2 is the incarnation of all the future rumors or that its an instrument dedicated exclusively for a more meditative photography that uses exclusively fixed lenses.
As usual, I kindly ask you not to misunderstand me.
The point is that if every time that a new camera comes out, we don't dedicate a bit of time in narrating the instrument, we run the risk of making the usual list of technological innovations with which engineers have filled up the photographic camera.

There... “narrating” is the exact term for me. If one is not able to narrate, then one runs the risk of doing as the laundry soap commercial says “washes whiter than white” We dont quite understand why, but every time that a product comes out it seems to achieve the impossible task of washing even “more whiter” than the previous white of the older product. There... same goes for photographic cameras.
What is the X-Pro2 capable of doing? Everything and better than any other camera!!!
Which are the photographic situations that can be successfully tackled by this camera? All, and better than any other camera.
What do we do with previous models? We'll throw them in the bin!!!
Then the X-T2 will come out and....
What is the X-T2 capable of doing? Everything and better than any other camera!!!
Which are the photographic situations that can be successfully tackled by this camera? All ,and better than any other camera.
What do we do with the X-Pro2? We'll throw it in the bin!!!

Do you understand the paradox?


Fujifilm X-Pro2 - Fujinon XF100-400mm F4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR + 1.4x (1/1000, f/8, Iso 640)

Thus, lets start narrating....
The story starts from when I first clutched an X-Pro1. In reality it was not a complete Pro1. It was a “pre-series” model and I had to prepare photographic material for the imminent launch of the X system with interchangeable lenses.
The things that worked were actually less than the ones that didn't, and yet taking pictures seemed very natural for me... spontaneous I must say.
These sensations must be the same ones that drove many photographers to buy the X-Pro1 in spite of the fact that this model had numerous weak points in terms of operative speed, even in its final version.
There... the Pro1 was certainly not the best camera of the moment and yet it was so successful that in time it became a photographic icon.
Now... try to imagine all that you liked of the Pro1... remove the weak points, add the technology and functions that are finally at par with the competition and... there you have the X-Pro2.



Fujifilm X-Pro2 - Fujinon XF100-400mm F4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR + 1.4x (1/3200, f/7.5, Iso 2500)


Fujifilm X-Pro2 - Fujinon XF100-400mm F4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR + 1.4x (1/1000, f/8, Iso 200)

We have already spoken about the hybrid viewfinder and the double memory card as well... other general improvements and operative speed?
No... we have not mentioned anything yet.
Lets start with the two major innovations regarding the accessibility of some of the operative functions: the joystick and the ISO dial.
I find the joystick simply brilliant. A tiny accessory mounted on the back of the camera that solves, in a simple and intuitive way, the intricate problem of selecting the focal point. It can be pressed with ones right thumb and the functions are immediately accessible, moving the joystick around, one moves the focal point or focal area. Wonderful and functional.
What is harder to understand is the ISO selector dial. Objectively the only term that I can find is that its a proof of concept.
Practically speaking, its a dial that surrounds the shutter speed dial. It seems like a sort of play of words. To use it, one must act as if one was opening a medicine bottle... but the other way around. Generally with medicine bottles one must push and turn, here one must lift and turn. For both medicine bottles and the Pro2 the same thing is valid... while it is impossible to activate it by mistake, it is on the other hand, extremely difficult to activate it when rushing.
If one is wearing gloves then it becomes practically impossible. Now, while I can clearly understand that its generally not common to take prescription medicine in particularly harsh climatic conditions, using gloves however is very possible when taking pictures.
Moreover, if the lifting of the dial is not done correctly, the only effect that one will obtain is that to change the shutter speed.
In conclusion... a very refined solution, but surely very uncomfortable and difficult to use. I don't like it.
I was almost about to forget... on the top of the camera one can notice that on the exposure compensation dial other than the usual -3 to +3 there is a letter “C”. By selecting this letter we are able to extend the this function by -5 to +5.


Fujifilm X-Pro2 - Fujinon XF100-400mm F4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR + 1.4x (1/2000, f/6.4, Iso 1000)

Lets move on to the operative speed.
We turn the dial to On... we bring our eye to the viewfinder... press halfway... focus... shoot.
Very well... without boring you with numbers and data I can assure you that the Pro2 is fast. Or better... extremely fast, both as far as the auto-focus goes and in terms of general operative speed.
Is it the quickest in the world? Does it have an auto-focus so fast that it makes the competition seem like theirs is medieval? NO... absolutely not. Those who have written or affirmed this, have only done so because they have never tried other cameras before.
What we can say is that the X-Pro2 is fast in all its functions just as the best cameras of other brands that are on its same level are.
Finally, no hesitation, no sinister sound coming from the lens (remember the Fujinon 60 macro?). The auto-focus now appears mature and reliable.
The revisiting of the auto-focus has interested the single shot function but has mainly improved the continuous focusing (that in the past was the real weak point of Fujifilm cameras).
We obviously must study the ideal set up based on the type of pictures that we will be taking. Generally speaking, one must select the number of focal points needed and that's about it. Naturally this is valid when the right lenses are mounted on the camera.


Fujifilm X-Pro2 - Fujinon XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR (1/60, f/2.8, Iso 6400)

Now, even with an instrument that is thought for “meditative” photography, tackling naturalistic or sports photography does not appear to be a mirage anymore.
Personally I feel that the ergonomics of the X-Pro2 suffers a bit when using large zooms. But from a technological view point I don't see any counter-indications.... on the contrary.
And now we must go back to narrating this photographic equipment.
The Galilean rangefinder, aside from the characteristics that have been previously described, presents another particularity. If one observes closely, one can notice that the viewfinder is very off-centered towards the left side. The reason for this is simple. In some photographic genres, in which this type of viewfinder was preferred over others, this position has been historically preferred to allow the photographer to shoot with both eyes open.
With the use of heavier lenses, with long focal ranges and in situations in which the subject must be pursued the off-centered viewfinder, as far as my photographic style is concerned, is rather uncomfortable. Just like the ergonomics of shooting in the situations mentioned above is uncomfortable.


Fujifilm X-Pro2 - Fujinon XF100-400mm F4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR + 1.4x (1/2000, f/6.9, Iso 2000)

Obviously, it goes without saying that one can successfully take sports and naturalistic pictures as I have documented in the pictures. 
Fujifilms are now finally equipped with a continuous AF system that is truly effective, and would I loose the chance to burst shoot at every possible subject? Obviously not. 
Another obvious aspect is that the X-Pro2 is and remains for me a formidable tool for reportage photography. Its vocation is highlighted by the new characteristics (implementation of two memory slots, a noteworthy video function, solid and reliable construction). There are no more counter-indications to choose a Pro2 even for photography taken in the most adverse climatic conditions.
The X-Pro2 is this.
Its that of always, on that now it has more certainties than weak points.

Image quality
As far as the image quality goes, Fujifilm users can rest assured. The continuity of Fujifilm's rendering (especially from a chromatic point of view) has remained unaltered compared to past models. The changes principally regard the resolution and the quality increase in high sensitivity. Therefore if you, like I, love perfect chromatic equilibrium of Fujifilm, especially concerning skin tones and soft tonal passages then this new generation series X will not let you down. On the contrary...
What more is there to say. I dont know...
The nice thing about Fujifilm is that from one model to the other, from one generational leap to the other, the basic characteristics of the image never gets turned upside down.
Hence, there are global and substantial improvements but the basic qualities of Fujifilm remain untouched.


Fujifilm X-Pro2 - Fujinon XF 56mm F1.2 R (1/125, f/1.2, Iso 200)

Slap on the wrist
In my article regarding the Fujinon XF 90 F/2 R LM WR, I compared the lens hood of this lens and of other Fujifilm lenses to drain pipes.
I cannot hide the fact that I have received some criticism for this affirmation. Surely... seeing that the X-Pro fell in the oblivion, I can comprehend that only a few people understood the sense of this affirmation.
Now that with the X-Pro2, the Galilean viewfinder is back in vogue, all of a sudden we have noticed just how true my affirmation was.
The lens hoods are extremely bulky and cover a rather large area of the Galilean viewfinder. All of this translates into wanting to leave this uncomfortable accessory at home.
Apparently, Fuji noticed this constructive contradiction to the point that the new Fujinon 35 f/2 and the Fujinon 16 f/1.4 (magnificent, truly magnificent) are equipped with a lens hood that is designed accordingly.
So, to the slap on the wrist I add a plaudit for the speed with which a remedy was found. We hope that this solution can be proposed for the 23mm and for the 56mm that along with the 16mm compose the perfect triad for the X-Pro2.

Fujifilm X-Pro2 - Fujinon XF23mm F1.4 R (1/420, f/6.4, Iso 200)

There is not much to add. I have already previously written the conclusions.
The X-Pro2 represents for Fujifim much more than just a new camera to be placed in the market.
Its a new era in which Fujifilm confirms its strong will to continue to evolve with such system.

We already know, from now, that the evolution does not stop here and that we could very well find new surprises, perhaps even in the short run.
Its really difficult to ask for more from the X-Pro2. Personally I feel that it offers much more compared to the real needs of that of most users of this inimitable model. That's how it is.
Once in a while we are able to bask in such abundance.
At least until the presentation of the next model that will will surely wash whiter than white.
(note for our readers: In the original Italian version of this article, our funny Max Angeloni made a reference to an Italian laundry detergent commercial that was so famous that it became a way of saying here in Italy. In the Italian version of this article he mentions that he is curious to know how I would have translated this phrase. My dear Max, I am quite sure that I was able to find an analogous product whose pay off is rather similar. :D)