The Fujifilm X-Pro2 review

Never in my time as a photographer have I encountered the amount of anticipation and general hype surrounding a camera release as is the case with the Fujifilm X-Pro2. We, the Fujifilm users, have been waiting, and waiting, and waiting. But as of today. No more. It’s finally here.

So almost 4 years on from the original 2012 release of the X-Pro1, what has changed? Well pretty much everything. Many people might argue that in the 4 year wait this camera represents nothing but a minor evolutionary step. This holds somewhat true if you place it in line with the X-E2, XT1, XT10 and so on.
But if you view it as a direct update from the X-Pro1, the minor evolution becomes nothing less than a complete overhaul.

Whichever way you view it, one thing is for certain. With the X-Pro2, the Fujifilm recipe is in full effect – Create a true-to-legacy camera for the photographer!

This “review” will definitely not be complete for me when it’s done. The amount of new things for me to write about is simply too vast. I will try to address what most of you will probably be interested in before considering if this camera is for you, which is probably image quality and functionality.

I’m not a studio photographer so my review is not based on that kind of experience. There are plenty of other reviews out there that cover that aspect much better than this one. So if thats your fancy I can’t really help you out. I tried it, it works, I have some studio samples in this review. But thats as far as I will go on that subject.

Now lets get this mother rolling. So grab a cup of coffee or whatever you fancy, cause this might get a little long.

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Something old, something new

DISCLAIMER: The camera I used during the test period is a pre-production unit. Image quality and camerafeatures might not be final. (but it probably is)

Build Quality

Size and Design

FUJIFILM really stayed true to concept with the X-Pro2. They made small but significant alterations to the exterior of the camera. In comparison to the X-Pro1 it has been made slightly larger and a bit heavier. If you, like me, were a happy user of the add-on grip, but felt that it was making the camera just a tad too tall, the X-Pro2 size is just right in that sense. It really has a great size.

One of the things that probably has made the body bigger is the addition of the much awaited weathersealing. This puppy will now take sub zero temperatures and torrential downpour like a boss! This shows and feels in every aspect of the camera, where especially the hinges and flaps have been made much sturdier. I can’t tell you at present time if the bending-latch problem from the XT1 has been addressed, but it seems much improved build-wise.

On the front the most significant update to the design is a MUCH improved grip. This thing feels just right! Combined with the larger exposure control dial and the “column” beneath it on the back, this new design gives you a very good hold on the camera. I for one will not be adding an add-on grip.

Of the smaller design changes I will note are

  • New designline on the front of the top plate above the lens
  • Square focus assist led, and mic holes moved to the top plate
  • Center placement of the tripod mount at the bottom plate.
  • Removal of the Fujinon logo on the top
  • Removal of the “slope” on the far left side of the top.

What was really striking to me, was how right it felt when I got it in my hands for the first time. It’s one of the things that I like most about these Fujifilm X cameras. That feeling of getting a really nice piece of gear in your hands that is not just a digital camera, but a photographers tool. It’s really striking. And the X-Pro2 takes this even further. It really looks and feels absolutely stellar.

Button Layout

There are a lot of new features in the button layout department. Let me start by addressing the most prominent one; The combo Shutter Speed-ISO dial.
The way this works is if you press the middle button it unlocks the Shutter speed dial if it’s in “A” position. If it is not in this position it isn’t locked. (Same as always) – In addition to this you have an oldschool ISO dial “inside” the shutter speed dial. You adjust the ISO by “lifting up” the “collar” of the dial, and turn. It works very well, and it’s a joy to use.

A joystick-type control! – This little “knob” mainly serves as an AF point selector, but also functions as a menu navigator. If you don’t use it it doesn’t get in the way, if you use it it’s perfectly placed.

Exposure compensation dial is now larger and as previously mentioned forms part of the rear grip. It dials from -3/+3 and it has a C mode where if you place it there, you can adjust it further from -/+5 by turning the front function dial.

A little touch of genius is the little Fn button they put on the front. The “hinge” of the EVF/OVF lever switch is actually a button. In OVF mode I assigned this button to a new function where you get preview framelines of 35, 56,60 and 90mm when in the normal magnification and 18, 23, 27 and 32 (?) when in the wideangle magnification mode. I LOVE this little touch!

Fujifilm also added a function wheel to the front which (just like on the back) can be pressed to act like a button as well. Just like is known from e.g. the XT10.

All the buttons on the back have been laid out for easy one-handed usage. The screen has been moved to the far left, and the buttons that was on the far left of the X-Pro1 now align the right hand side. It’s a great layout, and it didn’t take me more than a few hours for it to feel completely natural. It’s great.

The buttons all have amazing tactile feedback, and only the “Q” and “AF-L” on the “column” below the exposure wheel are recessed so you won’t accidentally press them. The X-Pro2 buttons are by far the best on any X-series camera (even the X-E1)! They FINALLY got it right!

New Features

Fujifilm put a lot of new nifty things inside the X-Pro2, but not just superfluous things. They really seem to have listened to the feedback they have been given from various sources.
One of those things is undeniably the Dual SD card slot. Just like on the XT1 they put the SD card slot on the right hand side of the camera away from the battery compartment. It has been implemented well. Slot 1 is an UHS-II compliant slot, where as slot 2 is UHS-I compliant. You can choose to write sequential, mirrored backup or write jpegs to one card and RAW to the other. All options work incredibly well, and especially for documentary or wedding work I can see this as being a welcome data-safety feature.


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X-Pro2 – XF90mm – f/2 – 1/170s – ISO200

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X-Pro2 – XF56mm – f/1.2 – 1/200s – ISO2000

 

They finally fit the Tripod mount in the center position, and when used on my tripod it doesn’t block the battery compartment. FINALLY!

Now…. something that took me by complete surprise, and something which has given me a complete addiction is….. the shutter!
Fujifilm has put a newly designed shutter in the X-Pro2 and it sounds indescribably amazing!!
The best way for me to describe the sound is if you imagine a Ninja sword slicing through a ripe watermelon! It’s truly an addictive sound. Plus it’s very muted. It’s very very silent.
The mechanical shutter speed maximum has been liftet to 1/8000sec, and the Electronic shutter takes care of the rest up to 1/32000sec.

Another great thing they put in the X-Pro2 is a diopter adjustment system. Yes, thats right. No more screw-in diopters. It’s all good for those of us who are optically disabled! 😉

Of course the X-Pro2 retains its trademark, the OVF/EVF Hybrid Viewfinder. It’s now an 2,36mill dot display just like in the XT1, but with an amazing refresh rate of 85 fps, instead of the 54fps seen in the XT1 (The 85fps is only activated when you put the camera in high performance mode). This of course means an AMAZINGLY fluid electronic viewfinder experience. It’s just a fantastic piece of tech!
 Like the X100T it has been equipped with the small “center focus patch” EVF overlay when in OVF mode. To those of you familiar with the X100T you will know that it works really well when trying to do precise manual focusing! The OVF still feature the Multi-Magnification function from the X-Pro1, but the new one automatically switches viewfinder magnification according to the lens in use. Pretty damn neat!
In addition to this, the split screen focus assist is now available in color, something that isn’t possible with the X100T

In regards to power management, you now have 3 modes. “High Performance”, “Standard” and “Economy”. They’re pretty self explanatory.

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X-Pro2 – XF23mm – f/16 – 20sec – ISO200 – ND1000 – Velvia jpeg

Of course we now have the wifi system built in. In the current version of the Fujifilm Remote app I could not remotecontrol the camera, but I could transfer images. An update for the smartphone app is imminent. The X-Pro2 will also connect to your instax printer, if you have such a thing.

Menu system

Fujifilm decided to do a makeover on the menu system. Not that their menus wasn’t great before, but over time, the addition of many more features than originally entailed in the X-Series cameras they needed a new way to catalogue the different features.

They cleaned up the lefthand side of the menu with larger iconography and given it colorschemes according to function. Sub menus are easily selected, and you always have a page indicator in the top right hand side when you go into the deeper levels. It is fast and functional.

They’ve put in a new menu item called “My Menu” where you can assign different menu items that you use the most, into one single page “supermenu” – Very great addition!

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X-Pro2 – XF35mm f/2 – f/2 – ISO3200 – 1/500s – Acros + contrast

Focus & Imaging System

A lot of people using mirrorless cameras have been accustomed to Fujifilm having a slower autofocus performance than the competition. Even though a lot of things changed with the XT1/XT10 FW 4.0 it still wasn’t as fast as its competitors’ AF.
Now, just to express my blunt and honest opinion about this: I don’t require speed, I require precision in my autofocusing! – Who cares how fast it locks on if it locks on to the wrong thing.
This is one area where Fujifilm has really been getting things right since summer of 2015. And now with the X-Pro2 they’re taking it a step further.

Autofocusing is fast! – just around 30% faster than the FW 4.0 equipped XT1. In addition to the speed it’s bloody precise. In normal light it nails my focus every time! In subpar lighting conditions e.g. complete darkness, of course it will have a tougher time. Thats just the way it works. Fujifilm did also take extra measures to ensure good lowlight AF performance by further increasing the lowest focusable EV threshold from -1EV to -3EV. Let me just tell you this: It shows!
Hence forth I won’t really talk about Autofocus performance anymore. In the X-Pro2 it’s simply so good that it’s not the AF thats hindering me from getting my shot.

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X-Pro2 – XF35mm f/2 – f/2 – ISO800 – 1/500s

Fujifilm decided to up the ante on the focus points. They went from 77 AF points to an amazing 273 points. This is of course the reason for the added precision and speed. The phase detection (PDAF) area of the sensor now covers 75% of the height and 50% of the width of the sensor area.

There is a new metering mode called “center-weighted metering” – It’s a really nice compromise between the harsh “spot metering” and the “multi metering” modes. It really serves its purpose in sunlit situations. I almost predominantly spot-meter, but I have found myself using the centerweighted option quite alot.

As I said in the beginning I don’t really do much studio work, so the flash sync speeds aren’t really that important to me. However flash sync is now up to 1/250s from 1/180s. A welcome change, which puts Fujifilm X-Pro2 up to date with the competition.

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XF56mm – f/1.2 – Single strobe -Acros

The 3 shots above were all shot using a standard one strobe approach. Shot using a Hoya ND8 filter.

The X-Pro2 also does video. But Fujifilm (wisely I think) toned this feature WAY down. No dedicated record button is the clearest sign of that. I think it’s great that they make a camera that DOESN’T focus on video, but focuses on being a great still camera. If you ask me they can always put video functions in other type cameras….and honestly who uses a rangefinder type camera for video?
I didn’t really test the video function since it has no interest to me. In terms of specs, it will do up to 1080p at 60 fps.

Image Quality

For the first time in four years we get a higher megapixel count than 16, in the Fujifilm X series cameras. I’m pretty sure Fujifilm waited until time was right. Great ISO performance has always been a trademark of the Fujifilm X system, and I’m pretty confident that Fujifilm did not want to compromise themselves in this regard. My best guess as to the long wait is that Fujifilm wanted all the technology perfectly ready for prime time. Did they deliver? You bet!

The new sensor, dubbed the X-trans III, is a 24.3 megapixel APS-C sized sensor. It has incredible dynamic range. The ISO performance has been bumped one whole stop. ISO 12,800 is now equal to the old 6400. What Fujifilm has managed to do is getting even more resolution and even better signal-to-noise ratio.
There has been a lot of speculation as to whom has been manufacturing this sensor, and if it’s old tech. I don’t know, and I really don’t care. All I know is that it’s an amazing performer!

One of the most notable things with the X-Trans III is the incredible Dynamic Range. When using the in camera RAW converter you can now push highlights and shadows to an extreme +/-4 whereas the X-Trans II only lets you push +/-2.
This dynamic range boost really shows when doing landscape photography. I like my shadows dark and without much detail, but I love the fact that I have all the information present in the shadows of the RAW file and I can easily push them if I want to.

The gallery below are all full sized jpegs at 6000×4000.

One of the things that had me thinking when learning about the new sensor was if Fujifilm was able to hold on to their colours. I just love the jpeg simulations and the skin tone renderings of the old X-Trans sensors. So I was worried they might not deliver with the new sensor tech. But for no reason apparently. It is all still there! The Fujifilm colours are there. Film simulations are as colourful and perfect as ever and skintones as great as ever.

The reason why I sometimes still pull out my X-Pro1 (besides from the OVF experience) is the ability of the X-Trans I sensor to render high ISO jpegs without the excessive noise reduction that the X-Trans II cameras apply at these high ISO values. The result of this noise reduction is the dreaded “waxy skintones” problem! – Fujifilm solved this issue as far as I can tell in my testing. I have had zero “waxy skintones” even at ISO 10000! – You can actually also set the noise reduction to -4 now instead of -2. THANK YOU Fujifilm!

When shooting RAW you now have an option to chose either “Lossless Compressed” or “Uncompressed”. Uncompressed is the same as always, whereas the compressed option will result in RAF files only half the size of the uncompressed ones!!! I wasn’t able to tell the difference between the two. I know that nothing is free, so compressing away 30MB of data could potentially result in a degradation. The difference should theoretically be possible to see in colorgradients, but I haven’t done thorough testing. I just like that it saves me loads of HD space while still retaining the development flexibility.

EDIT: I’ve been made aware that compressing doesn’t degrade image quality if bit levels stay the same. It’s merely up to the RAW file handler to decompress the information when reading the files. Fact remains. No visible difference between compressed and uncompressed and you get files only half the size.

Fujifilm put pixel mapping in the firmware! – You can now remap the pixels if you start to encounter dead or stuck pixels after extended use. A very welcome addition.

Of course all of this info requires a new processor. The new X-processor Pro makes everything very very snappy, and the camera feels very fluid and responsive even though the file sizes have grown considerably. You can shoot 8fps in continuous mode, with the buffer filling up at around 50 images.

High ISO on the X-Pro2 is just amazing. I’ve already talked about the refined skin rendering at high ISO, but other than that it retains the familiar organic looking grain. Just as I’ve come to know and love. Base ISO is still 200, and in RAW it now goes up to 51.200 in High ISO mode. So you’re no longer limited to using Jpeg only at the high ISO settings.

The noise levels at 12.800 is equal to, or better than, the noise level at 6400 on the old X-Trans II sensor. So a 30 percent resolution boost in addition to  an ISO improvement of a full stop.

It is very dark during winter here in Denmark, light is quite sparse. So I really got a chance to test the ISO on the X-Pro2. And it really is phenomenal. Most of my sample shots are ISO 800 and above. It’s so nice that we in this day and age have no limitations in regards to low noise ISO performance.

For this review my usual RAW developer of choice, Lightroom, did not support the files, so I have used a beta version of Silkypix for all my RAW conversion needs. I’ve never come to terms with that converter so most of the pictures in this review are jpegs from camera that I have slightly tweaked to my liking in Lightroom 6.

That new film simulation and grain control!!

This is something I want to dedicate a little writing space to, since this has me in complete awe! Fujifilm decided to develop and include an entirely new film simulation in the X-Pro2. And it’s a Black and White film!!!!
They decided to use the Neopan Acros 100 film as a base. I have shot it with my Leica M6 a couple of times and it’s a fantastic film. It has broad tonality and incredibly fine grain as well as great sharpness! – It’s PERFECT for digital conversion!
And let me tell you… all the characteristics are there. Its so good! – The highlights are almost impossible to blow out and the shadows keep that extra detail. Put the X-Pro2 into this simulation mode and you will get scarily close to the Leica Monochrom! It’s THAT good!

The unaltered Acros simulation is rather flat because of the shadow detail and highlight control, but in camera settings lets you boost either highlights or shadows from -2 to +4 . My prefered settings, and settings used in the mini gallery above, is +2 highlights, and +3 shadows. Those will give a little extra contrast.

In addition to the Acros film simulation Fujifilm put an entirely newly designed grain control in the X-Pro2. You can now choose to add grain to your images after the fact. Options are “Strong”, “Weak” or “Off”. If you so wish you can also add it in the built-in raw converter after the image has been taken. This doesn’t only work with the Acros filmsimulation, but in all of the other simulation as well. It’s very cool, and it gives your jpeg images from the camera even more of an already brilliant film’ish feeling. – I havn’t printed any of my grainy images yet, but according to Fujifilm this is where the effect really shines.

The above image shows my (very patient) daughter photographed using the XF56mm at f/1.2 wide open, ISO250, 1/125s. from left to right: no grain, weak grain, strong grain. Click them for large and chose the link in the lightbox for full resolution. (she swayed a bit the little thing, so it’s actually the zipper thats in focus! sorry!)

My thoughts

This “review” certainly is different from the ones I usually do. I always try to keep things in balance in regards to the technical aspects and the usability aspects of the cameras/lenses. But the new X-Pro2 is so filled with new tech that I simply cannot write my initial thoughts about it without touching down on tech. (The 3000 words above shows that clearly!)

But when all is said and done it isn’t, and never has been, about the tech for me with the X series. Sure this is stretching it somewhat, but in essence it doesn’t really matter much. All of the above features are nice to have, and they aid in achieving images that was once much harder to come by, but it doesn’t help you one bit if you don’t connect with your camera and use it as an artistic extension of your own vision. YOU are the creator, and the camera is your tool.
THIS is what I think Fujifilm does so amazingly well. They create cameras that demand your attention, but in return gives you a feeling of attachment that rewards your imagery. The X-Pro2 is NOT an exception from this, rather it feels to me like it’s the epitome of it.

Conclusion

The X-Pro1 had that “special something”. It had (and still has) that ability to get you to see. To REALLY see what you want to capture, and through that express your distinct vision. So in all this X-Pro2 spec-craziness could Fujifilm keep the “X-Pro1 mojo”? Short and honest answer is YES!

From the last two months with the camera I can easily state that the X-Pro2 is nothing less than a stellar camera. It packs technology and emotional attachment both wrapped up delicately in that little black metal enclosure. I cannot wait to explore this camera further, and push my imagery even further.

Samples

Most of the samples are jpegs that I tweaked to my liking in Lightroom 6 as I always do. For a camera review this is far from ideal, but I’m not a proper reviewer now am I? It’s how I’ve always done it at this blog, and it is how I will continue to do it. If you want straight out of camera image samples there are a lot of other places to see those in the coming days.

Some of the samples are converted from raw to tiff using a beta version of SilkyPix. This was mostly for me to test out the dynamics of the files. I will note in the captions which ones are from RAW.

The X-Pro2 is a great camera, but eventually we will all capture completely different images, since the camera is merely a tool with which we channel our individual creativity. So in the sample gallery I will show you my visions. Take from that what you wish. 🙂 
I have, of course, tried testing it with a lot of different lenses from both Fujifilm as well lenses from other brands.


100 X-Pro2 samples – exif data in all files