Rangefinder cameras. The name itself sounds amazingly daunting for budding photographers looking to make the move into the professional realm.
But Fujifilm’s new X-Pro2 is anything but complicated. The new mirrorless camera, being the successor to the earlier X-Pro1, is expectedly updated with a load of new features.
Features that make a lot of sense to not just the veteran shutterbugs but also those (us included) who are starting to see the wonders of the rangefinder series that Fujifilm has to offer.
The X-Pro2 is as retro as it can get. A design DNA that has not changed since the Japanese company introduced the X-series five years ago. You get that black, mysterious chassis, complete with the old-school textured grip at the sides.
There are some major changes to the design, mostly in the placement of the rear buttons. Rather than placing them on both sides, the conscious effort is to turn the user experience into a one-handed operation. That definitely frees your left hand to maintain and perhaps even have a better balance of the camera while you leave your right thumb and index finger to tweak most of the settings.
The optical viewfinder, placed at the top left corner of the camera, now makes more sense, given that your twiddling thumbs won’t interfere with your eye as you place it on the optical viewfinder.
New to the X-Pro2 is the integration of its ISO and shutter dials. While it’s not immediately obvious that you had to yank the dial upwards to adjust the ISO, it’s surprisingly easy to run through the ISO range up to 12,800 with a quick downward push to start adjusting the shutter speed to as fast as 1/8000 sec.
On the topic of ISO and shutter speed, this is the part where we’re duly impressed with the X-Pro2. While there wasn’t much to shoot during the hands-on, we took a few quick shots to test drive its speed.
There are a few factors to consider, first of which is the ISO range. In low light environments, we noticed much reduced noise levels even at the high ISO range. This, however, is mostly not an issue as the automatic ISO setting would be sufficient, leaving you to focus on the right shutter speed to get all the light in.
In the shutter speed section, the X-Pro2 performs really well, mainly because it’s that simple to tweak across the shutter speed. Plus, you get to pre-determine the minimum shutter speed related to the ISO value, so it’s really mostly no concern when you’re taking this out for a night shoot.
One standout feature of the X-Pro2 is the hybrid viewfinder, marrying the best of the optical and electronic viewfinders in one easy to view screen.
No more switching between both modes to scan through the settings or constantly leaving the optical viewfinder to check the ISO, shutter and exposure. Instead, you get to scan through all the settings, laid out on the electronic part of the viewfinder, while you continue framing the shot via the optical component.
This is a seemingly normal feature to some but photographers will understand the importance of keeping the frame and changing the settings to get that perfect shot. Pushing the small lever at the front of the X-Pro2 brings up a small preview box that pops up on the bottom right corner of the viewfinder.
This magnified live view acts as a focusing aid, working concurrently with the optical view finder as you frame the shot. It’s especially useful when you realise the focus is a little off, something that you can’t really spot no matter how hard you squint at the optical part.
Speaking of focus, the X-Pro2 stretches this particular feature to a whole new level. With up to 273 points of autofocus, we were going trigger happy and not worried about loss of focus across the frame.
But a vast improvement is the 77 points of phase detection which goes beyond the usual central third of the frame. To put it simply. phase detection improves autofocus speeds and with a wider coverage area in the frame, this means you can snap a shot much faster than previous Fujifilm cameras. A point that we definitely agree on when we went nuts with the camera during the hands-on.
The new design of the X-Pro2 is felt significantly when you’re running through the AF points with the joystick at the rear right of the camera. Similarly, while our eye was fixated on the optical viewfinder, a quick fiddle of the joystick with our thumb gave us the freedom to move across the different AF points. All that, done without removing our eye from the viewfinder.
The X-Pro2 has a few more tricks up its sleeve. Some, like the weather sealing of its body, makes absolute sense especially when you’re doing an outdoor shoot. On that point, you’ll also find that the usual USB micro HDMI ports are protected by the same weather resistant body on the left.
To the right, two SD card slots give you more storage options, a point that’s well-received by trigger happy photographers who take multiple shots to ensure that the right shots are captured.
Full HD videos are possible on the X-Pro2, though the topic of 4K video was approached, Fujifilm made mention that it’s something they’re considering, just not at this point in time.
But the real attraction here is the film simulation mode introduced only on the X-Pro2, Acros. This harkens back to the days when grain effects are all the rage, and while the X-Pro2 already features a very fine grain look in its images, the Acros simulation takes it a step further
Large prints provided by Fujifilm during the hands-on session shows the true prowess of the Acros mode, especially in portrait shots which has a strong, rough look to the photos.
Fujifilm’s mirrorless lens range has since extended to 21 different units, but till now, the most impressive (and somewhat situational) lens is the XF100-400mm lens. This is a truly astounding lens which boasts impressive capture speeds and length.
Weight-wise, the combined handling of both the X-Pro2 and the XF100-400 lens is much, much easier than the traditional telephoto setup. But that said, it’s really situational and most likely a purchase meant for wildlife or sports photographers.
The lens comes with an optical image stabiliser and is honestly a much needed feature when you push the XF100-400 to the maximum 400mm length. Autofocus is so fast, and bokeh so good, we think the US$1899 price tag for this is justified.
Again, this is a telephoto lens is a niche product, so you might want to leave this alone till you’re truly familiar with the X-Pro2
The upgraded X-Pro2, by all accounts, is an impressive update. We could spend more time harping on the 24.3MP Trans-X CMOS III sensor, go crazy over the 273 AF points, high 12,800 ISO and fast 1/8000 sec shutter speed.
But nothing prepares you for the true beauty of the X-Pro2 like the shots we’ve seen from the gallery at the Fujifilm headquarters. With the right tools, a little experiment and a lot of hard work, the X-Pro2 could churn out amazing photos that you could blow up and frame with pride in your living room.
Coming soon in February, the X-Pro2 isn’t a cheap camera, starting at US$1699 just for the body only. If you’re already invested in Fujifilm’s mirrorless range, this is one upgrade that’s worth looking at. For newcomers to the rangefinder camp, your journey will most likely begin here too.