From Leo to Revelation | Not an X-Pro2 Review
As I write this post—on January 7 2016—I still have the X-Pro2 prototype on my table, right beside me. It's been two months since the day I picked it up and I've never stopped shooting with it. Needless to say I'm smitten. In a few days I leave for Tokyo and intend on documenting my trip with this camera, along with the XF 35 f/2 that's been its almost constant companion since day one and feels like a natural extension. Nothing else.
So what is it about the X-Pro2 that makes it so compelling? It feels right. For me this means it feels like a documentary camera, something made to disappear and embrace its surroundings—just like the X100 series. The immediate reflex will be to compare the X-Pro2 to its older sibling the X-T1. We ARE talking flagships here after all. And it's obvious to everyone that this crown will probably be passing from one line to the other for the foreseeable future; but these are two very different cameras, philosophically speaking. I know it's a strange thing to say about gear where spec sheets are pondered over and the minutiae of technology tends to supersede everything else. But there's no other way to express it: the X-Pro line differs from the XT line in its aura. And in turn this changes our relationship with it and with the world we intend to capture.
Obviously, the X-Pro2 is now the king of the X hill in terms of performance. That's a given. This is a beast of a machine that, despite its deceivingly similar looks, has seen a complete overhaul of technology under the hood: new 24.3 MP sensor, new X Processor Pro image processor, new 1/8000 sec focal plane shutter (on top of an electronic shutter option)...the full laundry list is here. What this all amounts to is incredible image quality that builds on the organic nature of the X-Series line. Just in terms of low-light performance, the company has managed to considerably lower the signal to noise ratio while raising the megapixel count—which isn't usually how things go. There are laws of physics at play that tend to push the other way.
Beyond the big tech highlights however, there are small features that, in my mind, add quite a bit to the more refined experience:
- No refocussing. In AF-S mode the camera maintains focus between shots if the shutter is kept half-pressed. Yay You say? You bet your sweet whatever. Hell yeah. I wan't this on all my other cameras. Now.
- 1/250 sec flash syncing. 'Nuff said.
- -+5 EV compensation. As an AV mode shooter this comes in very handy.
- Expanded in-camera settings. You can dial down sharpness to -4 or push shadows to +4...New possibilities.
- Button layout. Metering is a little far for my not-very-big hands (and easy to confuse with AE-L without looking) but other than that, it feels perfect and very natural. I took to the new layout immediately. On our prototype units the AF-L is a bit too recessed but this will apparently be fixed on production models (I've also suggested something for back focussing...we'll see if that pans out in a future update).
- My Menu. Yes, it's been available for eons on other systems but we now have this as well. Good thing.
- The Focus Lever. Otherwise known as that-joystick-thingy. LOVE this. Plus it frees up the other buttons to be used for FN.
- No more fumbling. Battery goes in ONE WAY. Yay!
- Diopter adjustment. Finally. This seems like an easy and obvious feature but remember we've got a hybrid VF here, with built-in lenses for different focal lengths. I'm guessing the engineers had to think about this one.
- Power management. This came in late so I haven't tested it yet, but there are now three levels: Economy, Standard and High Performance.
And of course: dual-card slots—sequential, split or backup mode. And lossless compressed raw...but that's a big feature. I could go on.
"Fantastic!" I hear you say, "I'm selling my X-T1!"
Well, perhaps but: it doesn't have the huge XT-1 EVF, or its tilt-screen; it doesn't offer a vertical battery grip, doesn't have a dedicated metering dial. In essence, it's simply not the same machine—and in my opinion that's ok. What probably began as an experiment with the X100 has evolved into a system that's now much more clearly defined, at least at the top end of the spectrum:
- X100 line: fixed-lens rangefinder style. Perfect documentary and travel camera.
- XE line: same form factor as X100 but with interchangeable lenses.
- XT line: DSLR-style. High performance, weather resistant. Huge EVF.
- X-Pro line: rangefinder-style. High performance, weather resistant. Hybrid viewfinder.
I'm comfortable with this. I've been using every camera on that list (except for the XE line) either alone or concurrently, in a two or three body setup (rarely three but it's happened once or twice. Yes, I look...err...weird) and they all make sense. I could live with any one of these.
Bottom line: the X-Pro2 is the proud and worthy successor to the X-Pro1, the camera that first signalled the birth of the system, and it's incredibly fitting that its launch coincides with Fujifilm's 5 year X-Series anniversary celebrations. If you've been waiting for it go ahead, there's nothing here that will disappoint.
This is a classic, reborn.