shooting with the fujifilm x-pro2
I got a chance to test the X-Pro2 almost two months prior to its public announcement on Friday 15th of January 2016. I spent a lot of time with this camera, mostly in Tokyo where I was actually testing it for Fujifilm. My technical knowledge of cameras is relatively limited and there is plenty of articles floating around the internet that focus on reviewing the camera's specs. Instead, I'm going to focus on the pure experience of shooting with the X-Pro2 and why I like it's output.
Being handed an X-Pro2 was a significant change for me as I was in the middle of shooting for a photography book and traveling with the X-T1 that I used for hours on a daily basis. As much as I love the feeling of holding the X-T1, I was glad when I saw the X-Pro2's surface wasn't made from the same material because I've had issues with the X-T1's rubber peeling off. In my hand, the X-Pro2 felt like it could handle a lot more heavy use. It's the heaviest camera of the whole X-Series, but using it still feels a lot lighter and more compact than shooting with a regular DSLR, despite arguably providing comparable results.
I'm a street-photographer, and not a particularly confrontational one, so shooting with a DSLR is almost impossible for me as I get too self-conscious and afraid that I'm annoying everybody around me. Just like the X-T1, the X-Pro2 sports an electronic (and therefore silent) shutter and a wifi that allows for the camera to be paired up with my phone in case I need to be particularly discrete. Being used to the tilting screen of the X-T1, getting used to shooting either through a fixed screen or the hybrid viewfinder took some time getting used to. In fact, I found myself going for slightly different shots when I had the viewfinder to my eye. Especially when shooting with the XF 35mm/1.4, I could see very well what's going on outside of the frame when looking through the optical viewfinder. This gave me a lot of control over what's on the edges of the frame as I could predict who or what's going to enter the frame next.
Another benefit of looking through the viewfinder is that because it's so close to my eye, I am better able to perceive the amount of things going on in the frame at the same time. I normally shy away from shooting particularly busy and complex scenes exactly because I feel like I'm not fast enough to take everything in at the same time. The viewfinder allowed for exactly that. It was refreshing. I also noticed that I feel a lot less like I'm trying to “steal” a photograph of someone as it is rather obvious that I'm taking photos when the camera is all the way up to my eye. Yet, looking into the viewfinder provided a sense of secure detachment from the scene as if I was looking into another world. I found certain comfort in that.
I am not going to write much about the ergonomics of the camera, the amount of customizable buttons and how great the joystick is at selecting the right focus point. You can read that elsewhere. Don't get me wrong, the fact that I literally never have to go into the camera's menu while shooting plays a significant role in choosing Fujifilm's cameras, but what really got me with this camera is the further improvement of color reproduction along with the increased 24 megapixel resolution. Fujifilm prides itself in its 80 years of experience in making film and understanding the nuances of color, and it really shows in the output of the X-Pro2. Colors pop here and the increased sharpness of the images further underlines this feature.
Personally, I like to shoot relatively monochromatic images with just small amounts of color. It's exactly for that reason that I really need the few colors to stand out and capture the viewer's attention. The X-Pro2's colors do exactly that. The most effective way in getting the desired color right out of the camera is to expose so that the colors stand out, and make sure the white balance is right. I prefer shooting with a lot of automatic settings as it allows me to simply focus on what's happening in front of me, and luckily, the X-Pro2's automatic white balance seems to be a good judge of the lighting conditions. Due to the in-camera converter, even if I make a mistake or don't have time to make a good judgement because of things happening too fast on the street, I can always post-process in-camera, convert to JPEG, and send the image right into my phone. I like the amount of freedom the camera allows for. In a way, it helps me forget the camera and focus on what's happening around me.
Furthermore, I like to experiment with various exposures just to see if I can get something out of the camera that I simply can't visualize just using my eyes and imagination. This is particularly the case when I push exposure compensation to an extreme. Luckily, for the first time in an X-Series camera, it is possible to compensate for exposure at ± 5 stops. You can do this by setting the ±3 exposure dial button to C and then using the front dial button to change exposure compensation. This is a feature that you'll find in many professional DSLRs and that I've been missing from the X-Series so far.
Besides the better image quality and the increased freedom that the camera provides, there is a group of other features that I'm grateful for. Among those, I'd definitely count the basically ISOless images that have always been a great feature of the X-Trans sensors in Fujifilm cameras. The improved ISO performance of the X-Pro2 pushes the potential of the camera even further. At higher ISO settings, the images become soft almost in a painterly way. I prefer this over sharper images with color noise. However, I understand that this is a very personal preference and largely depends on the type of shooting a photographer is dedicated to. In addition, thanks to the dual SD card slot I can finally shoot photos in RAW on one card and small JPEGs on the other to use for immediate uploading to social media. I like to store my RAWs away on large hard-drives and only come to them for serious jobs.
If there was one thing that I missed in the X-T1, it was a slightly higher resolution that would allow for larger prints or harsher cropping. The X-Pro2 definitely delivers on that aspect and brings with it a set of other features that make it a professional tool. It is a camera I'm not afraid to shoot commissions with. Especially in my street-photography, I aim to be driven by instinct and use an engaging camera that allows me to forget the technical aspects. The X-Pro2 is exactly that. It's not by chance that many of the Magnum Photos' photojournalism-trained photographers use Fujifilm cameras for their projects. Especially in the case of the X-Pro2, it's possible to get fully immersed in the subject and capture what resonates closely with your heart while letting the camera do its job. Personally, I wouldn't change for now.