There is no question that the Fuji X-Pro 1 was an incredible camera, innovative in ways that both the market and consumers didn’t see coming. But it was also riddled with annoying quirks. The hybrid optical EVF was revolutionary and alone made it the most innovative system to hit the market in a long time, but the early firmware included with the camera was buggy and the camera had issues with the autofocus system. These issues and the choice by Fuji to use the APS-C sensor led to many professionals and enthusiasts simply not taking the new Fuji system seriously. But in time Fuji would prove they were very serious, releasing firmware updates addressing user reported issues and designing a full lineup of fast best in class prime lenses as well as improved telephotos demanded by a quickly growing market.
“The Fuji X-Pro 1 was the first serious digital alternative to the Leica M for a photographer who desired a rangefinder type system. Although it can be more directly compared to the Contax G system…”
In a few years, Fuji had a fully functioning X system with a fantastic lens lineup at competitive price points and multiple cameras to choose from. There would still be those who claimed no serious photographer used Fuji X systems, but Fuji had found a growing market share and was often being directly compared against the widely accepted leader in mirrorless, Sony. A more common comparison of an APS-C system would be another APS-C system or maybe the Olympus or Panasonic Micro 4/3rds systems, but Fuji was much more often being compared to the Sony Full Frame (FF) systems and FF bodies from Nikon and Canon. What’s more, people both in and out of the Fuji camp were saying that the Fuji system was incredible and compared very well to it’s FF competition. There were, of course, many who claimed they didn’t hold a candle or to the other extreme, the Fuji system was superior. The truth is somewhere in the middle.
This new serious professional level system from Fuji produced amazing images with incredible detail, but they still suffered from poor battery life and some glitchy AF issues. But these weren’t issues uncommon with any mirrorless system. So how good is the Fuji X System really?
Over the next few weeks I’m going to take a look at the Fuji X System bodies I’ve used over the past few years, today we’re looking at the leader of the pack, the Fuji X-Pro 2.
“The X-Pro 2 takes everything that I loved about the X-Pro 1 and does it better. “
The X-T2 is often thought to be the king of the Fuji lineup, but the T (2014) was a response to a growing market, the X100 (2011) and X-Pro 1 (2012) are clearly the ideas that launched the successful new platform. The Fuji X-Pro 1 was the first serious digital alternative to the Leica M for a photographer who desired a rangefinder type system. Although it can be more directly compared to the Contax G system, the X-Pro has an optical EVF hybrid finder that is quick, responsive and versatile. Allowing the photographer to quickly flip between the EVF and OEVF. An EVF allows for pre-capture viewing of not just the exposure, but depth of field, the OEVF (Optical EVF hybrid) allows for a clear view through an optical finder window of your subject, with a digital overlay including relevant camera settings and framing as well as corrected lines for more accurate framing.
The X-Pro 2 added a mini EVF that flips up into the OEVF window, this lets you see you’re image before you take it while still maintaining the optical finder option. This strange hybrid finder is to me, one of the main draws to the Fuji system. No other camera gives you an EVF and an optical finder both built-in and both of incredible quality. Having spent a lot of time with the Leica SL, which still has the highest resolution EVF on the market, in good light I couldn’t tell the difference between their EVFs. It’s that good.
“Everything comes together to create a unique and wonderful system that’s a joy to use…”
The handling is very nice as well, although there are quite a few DSLR style buttons that some folks complain about, these buttons can be turned off. This Gives the shooter complete control over the handling on their camera. For instance, I now shoot the X100f and have most the right side buttons turned off, so it handles much like my M or G2. This level of customization eliminates, in my opinion, any complaints I might have had about the handling of the camera in regards to buttons. The camera otherwise handles much like an older film camera. With an old-school ISO dial that’s a part of the shutter speed dial, manual focus and aperture controls on most of the lenses (even though it’s a by wire focus), and the classic feel of the camera all go towards giving the shooter a unique handling experience.
The true wonder of this system comes down to a few things. The OEVF, the Fuji lenses, and the special X-Trans sensor. When comparing lenses that are perhaps equally sharp and both feature good contrast, one starts taking into consideration things like the draw of the lenses, BOKEH, or other objectively subjective viewpoints. But no one can deny Fuji has made some amazing lenses. The 56/ƒ1.2 provided some of the most beautiful BOKEH I’ve ever seen from any lens, and it’s fair to say that Fuji has maybe produced the best APS-C lenses ever made. The X series lenses are designed to work in perfect harmony with the X-Trans sensor, which is in itself a marvel. The X-Trans sensor pixels are designed to emulate film, and they do just that. A more technical article (than I’m capable of writing) could be dedicated just to the technical aspects of the X-Trans sensors, but one doesn’t require this knowledge to see the difference. Everything from the way light falls on the pixels to the way the pixels themselves are laid out is different from any other sensor on the market today. Fuji has also taken the time to include a variety of film color profiles for JPEG use that look nearly identical to some of Fuji’s legendary films. This is the only system I’ve ever used professionally shooting in JPEG. The color and files are that good (more on this in a future article).
But well-designed lenses, a revolutionary finder idea, classic handling and a radically different sensor all have to produce results for any of it to matter… And while we could argue all day the faults and successes of the X System, the fantastic image results speak for themselves. Using the X-Pro 2 I felt in touch with my subjects, connected and in tune with the camera. I was able to focus on the image I was seeking to create, never fumbling with the camera. I credit the Fuji X-Pro 2 more than any other system in my recovering photography after my 2011 TBI. While the Leica M is my system of choice today, and the other major system that continues to help me challenge myself and grow as a photographer, I never would have been able to get the place where I could use the M system if it hadn’t been for the Fuji X-Pro 2.
“This new serious professional level system from Fuji produced amazing images with incredible detail, but they still suffered from poor battery life and some glitchy AF issues.”
The X-Pro 2 takes everything that I loved about the X-Pro 1 and does it better. Fuji has proven they take it seriously, releasing updates and improved upon the system making it a serious system in a market full of options.
Despite a few setbacks, everything the X-Pro 2 does well, it does very well. I will actually go so far as to say that the Fuji X system is the best APS-C format system ever made. Everything comes together to create a unique and wonderful system that’s a joy to use and produces wonderful images full of rich color and vivid detail. FP
Note : I’ll be talking in more technical detail about both the X-Pro 2 and X-T2 in more of a review than commentary in the next couple weeks on the X-T2. – Jef
Shopping for Fuji gear? Use our eBay link and help us grow!
Fuji X | eBay