7.01.2019

It's signage day at the blog. That, and a few observations about my first 48 hours with a Fuji X-Pro2.


I don't know why but I'm declaring it Sign Day here at the VSL blog. I just can't help it, when I see signs that are.... interesting I just feel compelled to pull the ole camera up by the strap and pop off a frame or two for posterity.  Some I record just for the messaging.

See the pretty pictures....

Now, on to the first blush with the X-Pro2. I will speak here as a former Leica rangefinder fan; back in the film days, before they messed everything up in their transition to digital. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure they are still capable of making good cameras and lenses but having been a quick, early adopter (and early rejector) of the highly plagued M8 I would only buy a new, digital Leica from a shop that offered at least a 30 day "no questions asked" return policy. I'd hate to drop the kind of cash they are currently asking for Leica M style bodies only to use it for a few weeks and then have it languish in their repair department somewhere waiting for parts that they seem to only ramp up and make once a year. 

While so many Leica lovers have gush-y stories to share about some old M3 that has blasted through several million frames without a burp I can regale you with true horror stories of three or four M6 bodies that came to me with completely misadjusted/misaligned rangefinders right out of the box, new. Or a brand new R8 that just happened to scratch the crap out of film. I've got a couple of fellow photographers who've had to send back S2s to have sensors replaced after issues with discoloration and/or separation arose. 

But I didn't start out to write this to slag Leica. I'm sure they are a tiny company when compared to their competitors and there are never enough people around to juggle all the balls a Six Sigma company would have to employ in order to create absolutely perfect cameras every time. I will say, though, that I've never had occasion to complain about any of the their lenses....

I guess I just wanted to make the point that, at one time in my career, I was neck deep in the Leica camp and have an enduring soft spot for rangefinder style cameras.

So I don't know why it took me so long to warm up to the very idea of acquiring Fuji's very obvious homage to the historic M series Leicas, in the form of the X-Pro2. I did try my best to like the previous model but it was one hill too far for someone who actually needed his cameras to actually perform. The model 2 kept sounding better and better and when Fuji hit firmware version 4.0 I started paying attention. When they hit 5.0 I thought it was safe to at least wade into the shallow end and give the camera a chance to win me over. That and the fact that Fuji has done such a nice job filling out the line of lenses. 

Getting right into my first walk with the camera ---- I love it. I thought I'd find the faux rangefinder/optical finder a silly nod to the past and end up just using the EVF but I love being able to see the bright frame line with all the information that lies outside the frame. In fact, I've used it in this configuration 90% of the time. The caveat is the same as it was with Leica rangefinder cameras: It's great with lenses from 28-50mm but progressively sucks as the lenses get longer. The reason is that the optical finder can only show what it shows and the images from longer lenses are constrained to smaller and smaller percentages of the optical finder. Stick with the Fujicrons and you'll love the finder. Need to use longer or wider lenses? That's when you switch to the EVF. 

The same applies to accurate framing and focusing when using lenses close to your subjects. There's a thing called "parallax" and it just means that the closer you get to the subject the more discrepancy there will be between what the optical viewfinder sees and what the lens "sees." If you are going in for close ups, with any lens, it's time to switch to the EVF. But that's hardly a burden as the EVF is really good (not quite as good as the one in the X-H1 but not at all bad...) and, with the EVF engaged you get to see the color and exposure previews. 

People have made a big deal out of the fact that the ISO control is nested into the shutter speed dial and one must pull up and turn the dial to change ISOs. I find this objection just laughable. It's a good, straight forward use of space and it's not as if photographers are churning ISOs while shooting the same way that they would shutter speeds and f-stops. If your ISO needs are so acute you might just be a candidate for one of my least favorite "features" on modern cameras = auto ISO. The rest of us usually just change ISO if we run out of light. In any event the way the ISO control is set up is the same as it was in many generations of older cameras and it always seemed pretty smart and handy. 

Some have complained about the size and placement of the exposure compensation dial and how easy it is to move off neutral. I like it. When I shoot in an automatic mode I tend to like aperture preferred and I find a convenient/accessible EV control makes that shooting mode so smooth and fluid. I think Fuji got the strength of the detents just right. But then I am more or less compulsive about double checking my settings so it's rare that a rogue dial confounds me or ruins any "once in a lifetime" shots. 

My only real handling complaint about the camera is the position of the right hand neck strap lug. I don't know where else they could have placed it but it seems to interfere with the way I usually grip a camera and access the shutter button. Having only had the camera for a couple of days this may just be a muscle memory differential with my other cameras. We'll see how it all works out. 

When this camera first entered the market it only offered 1080p video but it has now been upgraded (through firmware) to shoot in 4K. That's an impressive add on for a camera that's already been in the market for about three years. I can hardly wait to see if my X-H1s will be upgraded to 6K video in a couple of years. Not holding my breath. 

I bought this camera at the same time as my purchase of the 23mm f1.4 and I assumed I'd use them in tandem. Alas, I am not really in love with the 35mm equivalent focal length and even though the lens is sharp and virtuous it was immediately relegated to the gear box when I happened to put the 35mm f1.4 onto the X-Pro2. Match made in heaven. Perfect fit for the bright line frame in the viewfinder, the perfect focal length for......just about anything.....and wildly sharp. I've tried about three different versions of the Fuji X-100x and each time I return the camera and walk away thinking, "So close. If only they would have make it with a longer lens...."  So, the X-Pro2 + the 35mm f1.4 is my version of the "OMG,THIS IS SUCH A GREAT STREET SHOOTING CAMERA!!!!" 

There is more one thing I am finding that is interesting to me. It seems that the output of this camera, the files, are different than those from the X-H1 or the XT-3. They seem to have more "bite" and more contrast than the others. I'm liking what I'm seeing from this camera a bit more than from just about any other camera I'm using. Of course, the arrival of the camera coincided with the arrival ( more or less ) of the 35mm f1.4 and the 23mm f1.4 which are both widely praised optics. It could be that the differences I'm seeing are only different in that most of the comparisons I'm making are against other cameras on which I predominantly use zoom lenses. Good zoom lenses, but still zoom lenses. That primes can be so much better is something I seem ignore or forget from time to time. 

When I pick up this camera I daydream about finding an old, used car and traveling across the country like Robert Frank or Jack Kerouac, a small canvas bag on the front seat next to me with two of these cameras and a small assortment of lenses; the 23, 35, and 56mm. A clump of cash in the pockets of my old, worn work pants and a three day stubble of beard on my face. Starting a day sitting at the counter of a mom and pop diner in the middle of some small town, in the middle of nowhere, eating fried eggs, and toast made from white bread; drinking hot coffee from a weathered, white mug and staring out the big, front window to the quiet main street. I'd see a beautiful woman in a awkward print dress and grab my camera from the countertop just in time......

It's that kind of camera.  More to come as I use it up.