I had the big privilege to have been chosen by Fujifilm Switzerland to test their brand new camera, the amazing X-Pro2. I had the camera for a week only and I chose to test it in Tuscany. To do that I took with me some selected lenses: the 16mm f1.4, the 23mm f1.4, the brand new 35mm f2 and last but not least, the mighty 56mm f1.2. I took also some classic stuff to place on the Fuji M adapter… The Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 Asph, in other words, the Legend.
Francine from Fujifilm Switzerland brought me the « black machine » the Tuesday before Easter. I had just a couple of hours to make my first test and to set the camera according to my uses. One of the good things when you come from the X-Pro1, is that you are walking in a known country. The set ups are easy, even with the new menu layout. It’s a little bit different, but not disappointing. I have seen that it was set to JPG and with a high level of sharpness to me. I went pretty rapidly to my old habits to work in RAW.
I started my test with the 16mm in the streets of Lausanne, my home town. Not for a long time. I have to pack my stuff.
I have appreciated that the whole field of view of the 16mm is visible in the optical viewfinder. This is really cool. In this case the depth of field and the wide angle made it really easy to use for street photography. The camera is responsive and efficient. It catches really quickly what I want to have in my frame.
The camera was not equipped with a soft release, so sometimes I shock the body instead of the shutter. It happens sometimes but an image doesn’t need to be always sharp or in focus. I used also during the first hours the new film simulation Acres. This is really nice and the results are very good straight out of the camera, but I prefer to have the ability to play with my « digital negative » afterwards. I like to be able to set other presets for processing particularly the VSCO ones in Lightroom.
Ok, the first surprise with the camera is the shutter; it’s really responsive in comparison with the X-Pro1. When you press, you take your photo without any lag. This is something I’m really appreciating in this camera. It changes a lot. How to say that? I had the feeling to have an Olympus OMD in my hand for the autofocus and the Leica M240 for the shutter. The blend is pretty cool.
Always in the first feelings chapter, I also tried the new 35mm f2. The lens is really tiny, well made and fit well the X-Pro2. The lens is fast, much faster than the old 35mm f1.4 of the origins. The lens is sharp as usual, maybe too much. This is one of the reasons I tried also a real Leica lens on it. The 50mm f1.4 Summilux; one of the dream lens of many photographers, a legend for decades.
I started with this lens to see the behavior of the camera and the quality of the electronic viewfinder. With the Leica, it was possible to make the focus directly on the screen without magnifying. The resolution is good; the feature of having the EVF in the corner helps a lot to be in focus. This is another cool feature.
After an amazing trip over the Alps we arrived in the « Castle » of my step-mother in Tuscany. The Castle is an old house build in the 19th century by a rich olive oil producer family. The weather was sunny and typically of Tuscany in this season, the sky was somehow white; nothing terrible for landscape, but that was not the purpose of my trip.
I started with the 56mm on the X-Pro2 and the 35mm f2 on an X-Pro1. It’s good to be able to compare things. The new 35mm make the X-Pro1 a decent performer, not as fast as the new beast, but much better than the old 35mm.
I also sat the X-Pro2 to Classic Chrome even if used in RAW. This was a good way to see the results on the old fashion way, back to the Kodachrome 64 years. I was really delighted. Walking in the streets f Lucca to do street photography was pretty difficult, that’s why I chose the 56mm. It’s a good way to isolate a subject with intrusion. And just before Easter it was pretty full of tourist there.
On the second day in Tuscany, I went to Firenze. A good photographic spot… to catch tourists. I did remember the crowd there, how it was difficult to walk in some streets and how expensive were the coffees and the ice creams. It was really challenging to find a good subject.
Hopefully the 56mm allows to isolate the subject and to blur what’s behind. Maybe not really academic for street photography, but this is my way. With some dark areas and some others really bright, the shooting experience was improved with the electronic shutter. Personally I like this feature I’m already using on my Sony A7s. This is terrible. I like it very much. You can shot wide open at incredible shutter speed. This is just perfect.
Another new feature on the X-Pro2 is the ISO dial integrated in the speed barrel. I like it, because you can set the camera before you use it. This is finally the main purpose of this feature. It make old fashion, it looks like on the Zeiss Ikon rangefinder. Now is that the perfect way to set ISO, we can discuss. Sometimes it could be good to use it the same way it was done in the X-Pro1. I was surprised to start several times a movie when willing to change the ISO.
From my personal stand point, I don’t care about movie with the X-Pro2, I never used that on my X-Pro1, and I really don’t understand this on the Leica type 240. It’s a still camera. If I need to shoot movie, I’ll go for a Go Pro. This is only my opinion and I share it… : )
So the camera is pretty amazing, the results are really good and you can create some stunning images with it. On the low side, the increases in the megapixels count. From 16MPx to 24MPx, Fuji has chosen to follow the trend. The quality of the Fujinon lenses allows that, with having severe aftermaths with the Nyquist law.
One of the first things I saw when I processed the images was that tiny noise even at 200 ISO. I applied my usual presets and I saw that. It was a little bit annoying at the beginning and I did not understand why I had that. In Lightroom I started to play with the sharpness settings and also with noise reduction. This is really unusual at 200 ISO. My images were too sharp. When you looked at it on a Retina display, it was obvious.
I have to change my workflow settings for this camera. Amazing! I like the sharpness, but somehow this is too much and somehow unaesthetic. I went to Flickr, on theX-Pro2 group and I saw some balanced results. This is coming from my settings and I have to adapt them to the new camera.
Back to the 24MPx, I definitively think that this is too much and an increase to 18 or 20 would have been good enough. The marketing and commercial choices are sometimes opposite to the photographers requirements. When you look at the Nikon and Canon flagships, they have only 20 MPx for a full frame. 24MPx, is like having 48MPx density and pixel size on a full frame. We are close to some physical limits (Nyquist). Remember that the best lens for the Nikon D810/800E, the Zeiss Otus has a resolution of 29MPx on a camera that has 36 MPX on its sensor. That means that the smallest light spot is illuminating several pixels.
On the processing side I have also noted that LR is not really optimized for the new sensor. It takes time to read the files and time to process them. Is it really necessary to have this pseudo random matrix on the Fuji sensor, I’m not sure anymore. This remains a good marketing feature, but Leica shows that this is not necessary. The JPGs of the camera are very good, but the RAW processing has always been painful on Lightroom. Adobe maybe doesn’t know how to process them properly. Others do better, but I won’t change my whole workflow for that.
The camera is new, the processor is new, the hardware is apparently new to. The processing capabilities are also new. That means that we have room for improvement on the software side. I have no doubt that Fuji will release something interesting with its Kai Zen philosophy on the firmware side. They have already shown this with several others cameras that they have a good evolution potential across the years. The last in date is the X-E2, that becomes by the way really amazing.
My final thoughts about this camera are that this is a really good choice, an amazing instrument with some very good features. I really enjoyed using it and I’m really thinking to take one for myself. I should probably test it once again I will be very interested to compare it with something faster than the X-Pro1. I like the image quality, but it’s really sensible on the processing. There’s a good dynamics and a pretty good way to get very good files from it. The black and whites are really awesome. The film simulations are also one of the main points of interest with this camera, Classic Chrome and Acros are just delightful.
The autofocus is still not perfect, but reaches the levels of the Olympus OMD. It’s fast, most of the time reliable, but sometimes you miss the frame, because of the back and force in the autofocus. It happens also with the standard DSLRs. I have more out of focus images with the Nikon D800 than with the X-Pro2 (I sold my D800).
On the image quality, sharpness, this is typically where Fuji is making the difference. It’s good. Period! Take care to not over process the files they are sensitive to that. Maybe with other « deRAWtizer » it’s different, but with Lightroom, this is not the best you can have.
My last point is concerning the price of the X-Pro2. This is an amazing camera. The actual Price tag is at the same level as it was for the X-Pro1. But my concern is when you see the price evolution, you see that it worth to wait a little. I’ll not be surprised if we can find this camera 15 to 20% cheaper after the summer, just before the Fotokina. An X-T2 is also on every rumor mouths. But this camera is definitively a good modern dark room. Paired with some of the very good Fujinon lenses, it performs very well in most of the current rangefinder situations. This is probably not a sport camera, but this is also not its purpose.
To Summarize: A very good camera, impressive image quality, sensitive in some cases, with some settings in Lightroom, good dynamics, good high ISO capabilities, very good improvement in the autofocus speed and accuracy, a beautiful object. On the bad sides, the files are sometimes too sharp, not enough organic in some ways, even with old lenses. Somehow too far from the original Fuji files quality. I have the same feeling as on the Nikon D7100/7200 series, somehow the pixels are too visible. But I have no doubt that this is something I can live with and with some exercise, I’ll find the right way to process these files. I think also Adobe can do definitively something to improve the Fuji files processing in Lightroom.
I would like to thanks’ once again Francine Gambarini and Fujifilm Switzerland for the loan of the X-Pro2. This was a very interesting test to me. This is maybe not a game changer, but a really good evolution of an already mythical camera.