1.15.2016

While I love the idea of the Fuji X-Pro2 I am not considering buying one at this time.


Timing is everything. While I loved the idea of the first model (the X-Pro-1) and saved up all my change for months and months in a glass jar on my bedroom nightstand I was brought up short when I actually handled the first model in person. On hearing it had arrived in store at Precision Camera I grabbed my change jar, some credit cards, a check book and some money I had made returning deposit bottles and rushed out there with the hope that I'd be driving home with a body, three lenses and a couple of extra batteries. Oh, I was so excited.....

But then I brought the demo camera up to my eye and tried to focus it. I had two realizations all at once. The first was that the focusing was as slow as molasses, and much less sure. The second (deal killing) realization was that there no diopter adjustment. I looked everywhere for one. I asked the clerks, I read the manual. Nope. Didn't exist. You could order a screw in diopter lens through the store but on a brand new camera who had any idea how long that inventory exercise would take? And once you got the diopter on the body what you would end up with is a sharp representation of a slow and edgy focusing operation....

As a long time rangefinder user the package was so close. But, in the end, it was the handling that killed it for me. I soldiered on with whatever systems I had in stock at the time and blew my Fuji savings on some lens or another.

I borrowed and used an X-Pro-1 several times and had a few issues with menus and what not but everything I saw from the native lenses was really, really good. More recently a friend bought the X-100-T (current generation) and had high hopes to use it as a street camera but quickly became disenchanted about everything from handling to auto-focusing; from the menus to the contextual nature of the menus. I played with it for a few days and came to hate the toy-like, snick-y sound of the shutter as it fired. I also disliked the viewfinder set up. All of these things, as well as my so-so experiences when reviewing the very first X100, led me not to raise the gear lust antennae and start salivating when rumors of the new Pro-2 started swirling.

I'll readily admit that now, nearly four years onward, the just announced X-Pro-2 looks pretty damn alluring.

Here's what I think I'll like if I ever get around to using one:

1. Solid, hefty, all metal body.
2. Classic rangefinder design with....wait for it.....an actual, working rangefinder!
3. Weather sealing, in case I spill coffee on it.
4. The new sensor technology  (the S3 and S5 Fujifilm cameras made beautiful portraits - nice color and just the right kind of sharpness).

5. A more complete inventory of fast, sharp, interesting lenses for the classic shooter.

But here's where I hesitate: 

Almost all of these design touches (outside of the technical improvements; like sensor) are aimed at the same market of rapidly aging, older photographers as all the other retro cameras on the market. The design harkens back to the Leica rangefinders, and the personality of the camera and system was designed to reference the M Leicas with extreme prejudice. I am almost certain that the current iteration is a well tuned street shooter's tool that probably checks every box and makes everyone who buys and use it feel as though they are sharing the Leica M experience at a small fraction of the price. That may even be the case. A camera that basically does what the M3 did back in 1954. (The Leica did boast a longer rangefinder base for greater accuracy ---- just to be clear).

But if the selling point is the rangefinder (and if you don't like rangefinders you might be smart to wait for the XT2 to come along with the new sensor) you should make sure that you are absolutely clear about the value and the limitations of using a rangefinder camera. If you've enjoyed using zooms you might find the static rangefinder limiting and the framing accuracy becoming less and less accurate as the camera focuses closer. Very wide angle lenses use up a lot of that optical space by showing up (parts of the lens barrel) in the framing window, while lenses longer than 90mm become harder to compose with because the view becomes "cropped" in the optical window, which will drive most of you back to using the EVF, at the least.

This is a camera that should be bought with a 23mm, a 35mm and a 58mm lens as part of a dedicated art shooting camera system,  but not as an all around production camera. If those focal lengths worked for me, and I had no clients demands to consider, I'd probably drop everything and rush to try out the new system as soon as it hits the display counters in February ---  but I am stopped in mid-track by the realities of the business side. I want to be able to use wide ranging zooms on commercial jobs. I want to see a large image when using the 80-200mm lenses. I want to see all four corners of the viewfinder unblocked by images of a lens barrel when I need to use wide angle lenses. If the argument is that I should be using the EVF for all of these applications then I have to start wondering why I ended up paying for a limited usability rangefinder with all its attendant costs.

If I followed my nostalgic dreams of walking forward in the deep ruts of photography made by Henri Cartier-Bresson, William Klein and Robert Frank, I would buy this camera and the whatever the absolute best 50mm equivalent lens offered in the system is, set the profile control to "monochrome" (or Neopan) and head out the door on my next great adventure. I have no doubt that this camera and I would bond within a couple of "rolls."

But being a day-in, day-out working stiff I know all too well that the same set up would last less than a day in my real (non-famous photographer) occupation. One client would want a very wide shot of their new headquarters lobby and I'd be running out to by a wide lens. Another client would want me to shoot that swimming meet and I'd be running out to get a long zoom which I would then shoot using the EVF. And then a third client would ask me to shoot some nice video of their chairperson, with a nice microphone and some great lighting. If the video of Fuji's past cameras is any indication of the current model's quality I'd be out scrounging around for at least a Nikon D750, but more probably a GH4 and then we'd be right back down into yet another system rabbit hole.

To photographers who grew up surrounded by the Leica legend and the rangefinder mystique, and who don't want to shoot very short. or very long, or very zoom-y, or much video I would honestly suggest (in a light hearted way) that you go ahead and dump what you've got and give the X-Pro-2 and three lenses a shot. What do you really have to lose?  Of course, this presupposes that you don't need to earn a commercial living with the system.

It might be the most fun camera system around. And now that the body has a diopter adjustment built in the fun might never slow down.

I think the camera fits into a traditional niche. Most photojournalists and magazine photographers had big Nikons or Canons for the long and short zooms but a huge number also carried a single Leica rangefinder ,with one or two lenses, as a "personal" camera. That's where I see the value of something like the X-Pro-2. Taking the place of my old Leica M4 with a crusty old 50mm Summilux. Ready for a big dose of that classic "personal vision." But riding in the old, weathered Domke bag next to more flexible tools...

Will I try one out? Of course! Will I buy one? Not in the near future. I'm getting along so well with the Nikon stuff these days it would be too much of a shame to break up the partnership....

There's nothing objective about buying cameras. Really! Nothing objective at all. I guess the question is: Will you be buying one?

I'm not linking this to any site for affiliate sales but if you want to support a good blogger who is a great Fuji camera fan you might want to head over to Michael Johnston's site, see what he has to say about the camera and pre-order there. Mike writes smart stuff and deserves our support for doing so. His blog is called, "TheOnlinePhotographer."

That's all I have on Fuji for the moment. Love the company, just don't currently have any of their product. Be aware: everything can change direction on a dime....


11 comments:

Mike Rosiak said...

"returning deposit bottles"
I didn't think you were that old, Kirk.

hbernstein said...

Just got a great deal on a used Xpro1 w/ accessories.

My experience so far: no way that the camera feels or handles like even an inexpensive (but great fun)film rangefinder from the sixties. Nevertheless, it has its charms. Machine-gunning for a usable image is inconceivable, image quality is great. If it forces me to slow down and think as I capture each individual image, much like past experiences using film, so be it.

Not giving up my dslrs, just occasionally looking for a different kind of satisfaction.

I bet that you'll love the Xpro2, but your right, it makes no business sense. It sure would be a hoot to play with on a weekend walk, though.

Anonymous said...

Fuji cameras remind me of French cars. Their owners love them for their character and quirks and will spend hours lovingly telling you about all the times they've gone wrong or let them down.
Mark

Anthony Bridges said...

The Online Photographer is one of my favorite sites. I bought a TV and a photo book of Dave Heath's work through his affiliates recently.

I am a dedicated Fuji shooter for my walkabouts. The X100s has a sorta of rangefinder setup. I can choose the optical view and worry about misalignment for really close focusing. Or, I can choose the EVF view for accuracy. I use the EVF most times.

The Fuji XF 35mm f/1.4 is a great normal lens. It stays mounted on my X-E2. However, I can't imagine (for myself) shooting wide open with it using the XPRO2. I've been spoiled on how accurate the focusing is with the EVF.

The Fuji camera bodies are a good entry for their great lenses. It's the only reason I bought a Fuji XE2 so that I can use their lenses. I'm not excited about more focus points, more pixels and the rangefinder on the XPRO2. I could use that money to buy a XF 10-24mm f/4 or EF 56mm f/1.2 instead.

Walkabout photos of Paris all shot with the X100s. No regrets leaving the Canon stuff at home:

https//anthonybridges.zenfolio.com/paris_0314-2

Ed Waring said...

I'm essentially a street shooter and I've been using X-E2's with the excellent primes for paid and personal work for the last year and for me it's actually the current real winner from the Fuji line in terms of day to day use. Small, unobtrusive, absolutely fantastic image quality to my eyes, cheap (in the UK you can get refurb bodies from Fuji with 12 month guarantee for about £280) but with no performance hit compared to the other cameras in the range. Now the X-E2 is getting firmware 4 there is very practically no performance difference between it and the "top of the range" X-T1. Re OVF vs EVF on paper the differences are small but I found I dramatically preferred the X-E2 to X100T in terms of handling. I also found the OVF to be a bit of a gimmick tbh for all the reasons you mention although obviously others disagree... The EVF on the X-E2 is super good though.

It took me a while to get the cameras set up so it all the tech was invisible! I did find Kevin Mullins setup guide very useful as starting point - http://www.kevinmullinsphotography.co.uk/fuji/shooting-weddings-with-a-fuji.html

So if you did want to try your hand in the Fuji water I'd *heavily* suggest trying a second hand X-E2 body, setting the JPEG's to replicate your favourite film and pairing with the new 35mm F2 or the 27mm f2.8 pancake (super cheap second hand) to fulfil the exact need you described - the affordable fun, small, rangefinder-esque camera that you throw in your bag for street and candid. I find it a total joy for how I shoot and the jobs I do and it fits my hand EXACTLY like the Pentax MX which was my first ever "proper" camera so my nostalgia buttons are being firmly pressed in the very best way and also I guess I'm totally conforming to your very accurate stereotype [grin]. YMMV of course!

PS my move from DSLR to mirrorless was in no small part inspired by your posts over the years about your experiences and I can only say thank you! I owe you a coffee for sure...

PPS all a bit fanboy this comment... apologies.

Peter Wright said...

Kirk. I understand all your entirely rational objections, but in a few days the Olympus Pen digital is expected to be announced. It will probably be very similar to the Xpro2 (barring the optical/electronic viewfinder), and something tells me that you will own one of those before the sun sets on the first day of sales!

Speaking for myself, I use Leicas quite happily down to 15mm wide (with add-on view finders), and up to 90mm. When I need to go more main-stream, I have the Olympus M4/3 system. I don't care for the faux hump on the OMD, so I may be just behind you in the que for the Pen.

(Different topic: There has been a lot of coverage in the news recently about a person born here in Canada who moved to Texas and now wants to be US President. Some in New York have even suggested he come back to Canada. Please talk to your friends in NY, and calm them down. Everyone I know here would really really like you to keep him where he is. Thank you.)

Mark Davidson said...

I too love the siren song of angry cameras.
Committed primes unwilling to compromise on IQ. Simple functional bodies that do a few things superbly.
But in the real world of my work environment, solid zooms are a must. My Canons are paid for and they get the job done.

I am also getting a little burned out by work and need to get some time away from cameras altogether before I can enjoy a new body and lens. I don't know when that might be but when it gets here I know there will be choices for me.

Anthony Bridges said...

Typo on link from previous post concerning walkabout shots with X100s in Paris:

http://anthonybridges.zenfolio.com/paris_0314-2

The only real complaint I have with the Fuji system is the Fuji flash. It is not very intuitive with either of my Fuji cameras. I don't shoot sports or many flash portraits with the Fuji cameras so no big deal for me. I found it better to place the Fuji flash in manual mode and guess flash exposure instead of using TTL.

Anonymous said...

My issue with the Fuji system is that it's failed to deliver on what it initially seemed to promise: An alternative to paying for a damned Leica. If one thing can be said for a rangefinder it's that even with all their limitations and quirks the cameras are simple, intuitive and get out of your way. The original xp1 was horrible in this regard. I suspect they've refined the camera considerably this time out, but in the past four years they've developed the system into a bunch of oversized ultra fast primes and zooms that partially defeat the purpose to begin with, manual focusing is still a joke with the optical finder despite the development of the annoying pop-up focusing screen that projects the center of the image in the corner of your frame (!) and they've failed to develop the optical finder into a tool that allows for the proper use of, for instance, their 14 or 56mm lenses (unless you want to compose on an absolutely minuscule 'canvas', as is the case with the giant 56mm).

Fuji has made some wonderful optics, I really like the performance of their sensors, but they've had real trouble producing a system that's not annoying to use. As specs such as megapixels and sharpness pass the point of sufficiency all that's left to sell is refinement and performance of a cohesive system, and unfortunately Fuji isn't bringing it to the table.

Dave said...

I love my x100T. I dropped my 26 pound backpack full of Canon gear for the x100t. You can change the shutter sound pretty easily. I changed it from silent to some other mode when one of my models said she couldn't tell when I took the shot. I've never used the OVF, I prefer the EVF, so the lens interference isn't an issue for me. Really though... whatever works for you is fine to me.

REP96st said...

Kirk, you need to watch the Bokeh YouTube video on the XPRO-2 And how it works with zooms with the VF.