9.22.2019

Fuji announced the new X-Pro3. The fans go wild. The haters go insane.

I really like cameras set up in a rangefinder style. Keeps my nose off the LCD...

It looks like the X-Pro3 from Fujifilm will be arriving just in time for my birthday. As the very happy owner of several of it's predecessor model (the Fuji X-Pro2) I can only say, "lucky me." I will order one of the new cameras right off the bat because of all the tweaks the new camera is said to have included. To wit: A much better optical finder (more room and less distortion). A much improved EVF (with more space, much higher resolution than the finder in the current, X-Pro2, and better, more accurate color). And a new body structure that is made of titanium (boy metal) and will be stronger and lighter than the structure of the camera it replaces. In addition to all this wonderful stuff there will also be several different coatings, or final finishes, to the "sheet metal." You'll be able to order the basic black or you'll have the option of two different colors of a "Dura" coating (silver and black) which is reported by Fuji to be more scratch resistant than stainless steel and almost as hard as sapphire. Come on! That's just so cool.

To my way of looking at cameras this will continue on the tradition of being a special use camera coveted by fine artists and street shooters. The rangefinder-styling and construction includes everything that's nice about a rangefinder camera (direct viewing, seeing beyond the edges of the frame, no shot black out) but adds the option to switch into EVF mode to pre-chimp or review images already taken. The one thing it removes, when compared to a "real" rangefinder like a Leica M6 is the actual coincident rangefinder mechanism. Some might miss that but a real rangefinder depends on careful, manual calibration to work well. It is also costlier to build than what Fuji has designed for us here, and, in all honesty, works less and less well with longer and longer lenses because the actual image size in the viewfinder gets smaller and smaller the longer the focal length of the lens. In my experience with actual rangefinder Leicas it's already a big bit of a compromise at 90mm and by the time you hit 135mm with an actual, optical rangefinder you'll be begging to use an SLR instead. Heading north from a 135mm? That becomes very, very challenging in actual use. 

I think it's very important to understand that this is a specialist's camera body and not at all intended to compete as a jack of all trades. Fuji says that it is designed for users who want a "pure" photographic experience and in making it for a smaller market one of their design goals was to reduce the intrusion of the camera in the picture taking process. To this end they've designed a rear LCD panel that is so strikingly against the popular notions of what a camera LCD is "supposed" to be used for that one suspects it was designed this way by Fuji just to enrage the general community at amateur photography sites such as DP Review (where a battle is currently raging between Fuji purists and the great unwashed audience, for which every camera MUST check every box).

The new screen is a flip-DOWN screen which is intended to have its active, screen side folded in toward the camera body when the camera is in use, taking photographs. There is no position in which the screen is flat against the camera's back and facing the user. None. The design goal was to reduce the temptation to mindlessly chimp when one should be taking photographs. I, for one, feel vindicated as this screen design strikes at the heart of the "Dirty Baby Diaper Hold" wherein a photograph holds the camera out at arm's length and does all of his photo business with the camera swaying and bouncing in front of him/her in the least stable hold possible (well, I guess they could do the D.B.D.H. with one hand, just to make it even less stable).  The screen, when in use,  is available in only two configurations: setting one is to fold the screen out away from the camera body and use it as a waist level finder. It faces up and is at 90 degrees from the camera body (it is hinged at the bottom to the camera). You can continue to fold the screen past 90 degrees to 180 degrees at which point it will be below the camera (top of the screen at the bottom of the camera) and the screen will be facing the user.

There is no provision to use the screen in any "selfie" mode and it won't twist out to the side or face toward the front of the camera in any way. Your choices are: waist level viewing, parallel to but below camera viewing, and having the screen tucked against the back of the camera in the off position. 

I love it. I love it because it will save battery power, not distract me, and it's a complete repudiation of composing and shooting on what should (on all cameras) be just a screen for menu setting and leisurely image review. I love it when a major camera maker's design initiatives coincide with my use profile prejudices. It shows me that there are still sane and logical camera users out in the world.

But this same screen configuration means that this camera will be very unpopular with casual video makers who need the back screen to be active and viewable during the video taking process. If you buy this camera with the primary objective of making video content I am sure it will have the electronic bells and whistles you'll probably want but I'd advise you to get an external monitor/digital recorder, like an Atomos, for convenient monitoring! I couldn't really use this camera for video without that addition. And that's okay because not every camera is made to be a complete "Swiss Army Knife Tool" ready to do anything and everything photographic and video-wise. 

Finally, the photographic "unwashed" are on fire with rancor and disgust over something that's merely a whimsical and fun design element; something that has no real effect, positive or negative, over the use of the X-Pro3. Here is the thing that has so many people twisted up and screaming, "deal killer! DEAL KILLER!!!" Fuji has added a small, square frame in the middle of the backside of the main LCD screen. When the main screen is folded in this little screen faces out from the back of the camera. It looks very much like the sub-monitor screen on the right hand of a Fuji X-H1 and it shows various bits of useful information such as the shutter speed, f-stop and ISO settings of the camera. All the information is even visible when the camera is turned off. A clever step is that the window can be set to mimic the look of the end label of a film box. Remember how film cameras had a little frame on the back and you could rip the end off a box of Tri-X and stick it into the frame to remind you about which kind of film you currently had in the camera? It's just like that but it's an electronic display, and the film box emulations are (of course) of Fuji films. It's clever and fun and the kinder-digi over at DP Review loathe the very idea of it. This means that it must be both good and useful to real photographers. 

In summary, sight unseen, I like the newest addition to the Fuji X-Pro collection and plan to buy one. Your ideas about cameras may be different from mine and perhaps you'll have reasons not to buy one. That's okay too.