Friday Night @18:05
Message from Fujifilm SA: "Be there in 5 min." I wander off to my gate and get handed the X-Pro2, with the 35mm f/2.0 on it.
"We need it back Monday." Really? Ok, then. I say my goodbyes, and start walking back to my flat, looking down at the front of this camera I've been waiting for for so long. And it’s basically my X-Pro1. A little bit of sadness that it's not smashingly different, kinda looks the same.
I wonder if there is some battery left, flip the on-switch and put the viewfinder (OVF) to my eye...NICE!!! Now this is where the difference starts coming in already! The text is crisp and clean and small, the frame line is a lot smaller, not as magnified. No, wait. It is a higher res, more space in the viewfinder. Move over to EVF. Oh, does it rotate like the X-T? Yes! I smile...
10 minutes later...
Hit the Menu button. Oh, nice! The menu is neat and better laid out, the icons on the left make sense and are broken down into categories, not just numbers in red and blue. I put the two SD cards in, now to format it. Oh, dear...where is it now? Menu —> Spanner icon —> User (Ah, there it is!) —> Format — > Slot 1 (Damn, back to LCD view) —> Menu —> Spanner icon —> User —> Format — > Slot2
I run though some of my usual settings I have on my Fuji cameras:
Performance = Normal or high —> High
All Sound = Off
AF+MF = On
Set my C1 = Provia, C2 = BW+R, C3 = Classic Crome & now C4 = Acros with film noise off, weak or strong = Weak.
Noise reduction. Oh, look! It can go +4 or -4, that's cool! Oh, but there is no OFF...sigh!
Preview pic in viewfinder is set for 0.5 seconds. Thank goodness! The lowest setting the Xpro1 had, was a very long 1.5 seconds. I use this a lot on the X-Pro1, so that I can see that the shot has hit focus when I shoot with the OVF. And yes, I know this has its drawbacks, it's just a personal preference.
Remove the silly strap they provide and add my leather strap to it. There we go...much better!
Right, let's start with that and shoot a bit. It's night time and we are home for the night...what to shoot? So I do what I do every time I get a new camera or lens to try out, I walk out to my balcony and around the flat a bit, picking some random stuff around the house. I aim, shoot. Aim, shoot. Aim, shoot...holy smokes, it’s fast!
Hmm, let me take the preview pic off. Aim, shoot, shoot, shoot. Review image on LCD. I really can’t quite explain in text how much faster it is compared to the X-Pro1. It’s not just the AF that's fast, it's the whole process. From taking the shot, to the camera processing it and moving to take the next shot or reviewing the image on the LCD, this all in OVF mode.
Added a few thing to My Menu, but could not add Format or Preview pic in viewfinder to it, a real pity.
Let's see what I get out of it tomorrow. We have planned an early morning hike, and then there is a Chinese New Year celebration in the streets of Jo'burg (Johannesburg) from about 18:00.
Saturday Morning @8:25
Hiking along, I have the camera in my hand, leather strap wrapped around my wrist, with the 23mm f/1.4 on it as there will be a mix of people and landscape photography. The light is harsh and not the best. With the solid 23mm on, it's heavy gear. But we are outside, breathing fresh air and happiness will ensue.
Not too many pictures came out of the hike, which was a personal social event and was never intended to be part of the review anyway, but it will hopefully give a bit of an idea of the 1/8000 shutter. The camera wasn't as practical, it's a heavy camera which I would not normally take on a hike, but rather my light weight X100T.
So, after a well-deserved cold beer, a refreshing dip in the pool and lunch, we headed home to freshen up and hit the streets of Jo'burg and experience the Chinese New Year for the first time, where I will really put this camera to the test.
Armed with a 23mm and a 35mm f/2.0 we arrive, park and quickly get badgered by the car guards. Just another day in Jo'burg. We walk a block or so to the street where the celebration is to take place. Stalls are already selling food that smells amazing and people are milling about where usually cars will be speeding past. The atmosphere is quietly working its way up to excitement. And the pièce de résistance...big reddish-orange drums set up in the middle of the road, awaiting their players. The sun is just starting to create nice, long shadows.
I hit the Q button...argh, this View Mode! I have to cycle through again. Why can’t it allow me to make it Viewfinder only and then when I hit the Q or MENU button, it opens it on the LCD?
But let the shooting begin! I make sure I got it on C4 to try the new Acros film simulator.
With the XF35mm f/2.0 as my weapon of choice, I put the camera to my eye (OVF) and start shooting a few shots of the people around me.
Post Editing: In Lightroom, I did very little to the jpeg. I mostly just added a little contrast. I was not 100% sold on ACROS. But I might change my mind once I get to spend a little more time with it.
Then this happened: (OVF) I had the focus on the head of this gentleman, and then saw in the preview that the focus did not quite hit the spot. The second shot worked, but I missed the moment. The camera didn't struggle to get the focus, it just hit the wrong spot. I had it happen to me once or twice more, which could just as easily have been either me or the camera. I'm sure as with any new camera, more time spent with it will make you get to know each other better. Either way, it was nowhere close to how often this happens on the X-Pro1.
Switching to the 23mm and moving to the drums, I see the nice shadows, put the camera to my eye and change it to EVF. I can see it is in Acros black and white, and see how the shadows fall. It looks really good, Acros is starting to growing on me.
Post Editing : In Lightroom, I really liked the results I was seeing. As you can see below, the small amounts of editing I did to get the image to my liking.
They announce for us to make space and we gather around the drums. While waiting I notice the amount of photographers, in fact one to my left and one to my right. As I start talking with the one on my right, I find out he is from one of the local newspapers and is covering the event. He does of course notice the camera in my hand and comments on how nice it is. He says Fuji needs to work on their AF. I can just smile, and tell him that this might just be the one.
To my left is another photographer, who actually calls me by my name. We have met before at a Fuji event. He looks down at my camera and asks if it is, in fact, the X-Pro2. "No, it's not.", I say with a sly smile and hand it over to him to have a look. He grumpily complains that he really should have come with his Fuji camera, rather than the big SLR weighing him down.
I'm impressed when the drummers come out. An awesome group of ladies that showed us how it is done. The 23mm is a little slower than the 35mm f/2.0, but did in no way affect my shots.
Click thumbnails to see the images.
The sun is moving lower and more directly into my lens. I must have shot around 60-70 shots just here, really enjoying the camera. I was in EVF mode with the Acros simulation ( jpeg/RAW).
Post Editing : I could not decide if I preferred the black and white or the colour. They are both nice, but in the end I feel it fair that you get to see a bit of colour with the Astia film simulation (camera profile applied in Lightroom). I liked what the sun did in the rest of the photos.
At this point I move, and as the crowd is really packed, there is very little chance of moving again. I am also very limited by the focal length of the 35mm, and wish I had brought the 56mm, which in the end was not really needed after all. I turn my focus on the crowd around me, and they don't even notice me taking photos of them, my camera is so quiet. I play around a lot with the AF and try to see if it will get the shots I am aiming for. 99% of the time it hits the spot.
It is around this time that I get a message that slot 2 is full, and panic mode kicks in. It must have still had some shots on it from my test session the night before. I think quickly, pull the card out of slot 1 and put it in my bag. I take the card in slot 2 and put it in slot 1 and format the card.
That was ± 250 images on a 16GB and I only brought the 2 cards...now is the perfect time for an outburst of profanity.
I take two more shots, when I recall seeing a comment online about uncompressed RAW files. I quickly scan thought the menus, find the setting and switch that off. That's better - about 470 images to go on this SD card.
Later, when I was looking at the files I had a quick look and noticed the uncompressed RAW file is 50MB. That's just crazy! Scrolled down to the compressed ones and those are about 25mb, a bit better. When I was editing these RAW files, the I5" Macbook Pro Retina was really struggling.
Time to try out the film grain and I set it on STRONG. In a not-so-bright moment, I somehow forget to switch it off for the rest of the night. Luckily, it only effects the jpegs, not the RAW files.
I have a bit of a confusion, still getting used to the joystick. My muscle memory hits the D-PAD Up button (Drive) and somehow switches it to the setting 'Toy Camera'. When I look though the viewfinder it is in colour, with a very over-saturated EVF. I am perplexed at first and after 5 min or so of looking at the camera's settings, I figure it out and switch it off.
It's beyond me why a camera with the word PRO on it even has this as an option! I have no idea if the Up D-Pad button can be configured, as it is labeled DRIVE.
I find that you can't change the AF block size when you use the joystick to move the AF points, but you can when using the Down D-Pad Button. I also discover that if I hold the joystick down, you have the option to lock the focus point, until pressing it once to move it again. That can be handy.
It should be noted at this point that my auto ISO minimum shutter is still on default at 1/60. I should have pushed it up to take advantage of the higher ISO capabilities of this camera, which affected me later.
It is now getting very crowded and getting harder and harder to be on the front line. When trying to shoot over the heads of the people in front on me, and holding the camera above my head, the low shutter in auto ISO really affects me. I also realise here how much I miss the tilt-LCD from the X-T1. I had to reject a lot of images that were just too blurry at 1/60 held above my head, while being bumped by people passing by.
Post Editing: When editing the above image, I found the STRONG grain setting not so visible, but you can really see it on the zoomed image on the right. The strong grain grew on me and did add a nice feeling to it.
We find dragon dancers on the other end of the block, as well as the lion that first dances through the street, then goes from one store to the next as every store sets off its own string of firecrackers.
Late Evening @20:30
I am switching between shooting above me, over people's heads and through the viewfinder. While it's hard to judge when shooting above my head, when shooting through the viewfinder, the focus does not give me any trouble. It doesn't once refuse to focus, and doesn't even hunt, even in the low light. I can truly say this is outperforming the X-Pro1 on every level.
I am very fascinated with all the mobile phones people are using. It is nothing new to see, but I enjoy using it as the subject of my shots.
The night ends with a spectacular display of fireworks. The whole evening was such a great experience. The camera really performed, the whole event rushed past in a bit of a blur, and things usually happened too fast to think about changing settings, like trying out an ISO higher than 6400. There was no time to use it or even think about it.
Sunday Afternoon @4:30
Nice and tired after the long Saturday, my wife and I choose to spend a quiet morning at home. Then go for a drive just before sunset. We head to a hilly field we go to sometimes to shoot for ourselves, enjoy the nature and get some quiet time outside of the city. But instead of driving around, we pick one spot to chill. We find the little road we are looking for, park the car and with no plan in mind start to play a bit with the camera. While waiting for the nice afternoon light, I am really enjoying the OVF viewfinder. Oh! One more thing which is not a major thing but quite important for me. If you're using glasses, the viewfinder is a lot better. It's not as big as the X-T1 and you can still have info cut off at the top or bottom, but was a far more pleasant experience shooting with my glasses.
This is when I get it into my brain, to try make a video of the viewfinder. With only 2 hands, a camera, no tripod, a lot of wind and an iPhone, several tries later this is about the best I could put together, but you get the idea :-)
I am playing with the ISO dial and have my shutter in manual. In pulling up and turning the ISO dial, I realise my shutter setting is changing as well, which is not really what I want it to do. I test it while looking through the viewfinder and get a similar experience. Let's try the shutter in A - much better!
I switch back to manual shutter and play a bit with the ISO dial, first looking at the camera, then looking through the view finder. I finally find the sweet spot. It isn't really an issue, you just need to get used to the dial and pull it up quite high.
Late Afternoon ± @18:40
The light we've been waiting for, has arrived! And it is beautiful! Armed with the 56mm, and my wife playing model for me as always. I get a bit lost in the photography here and am just shooting without trying out too many new features of the camera. At some point I switch to OVF mode and I am really impressed using it with the 56mm. There is the small block that show the lens coverage, and then all the space around it. That may not be so practical for portraits in general, but what occurs to me, is that you can see what is in the frame, but also what is just outside of the frame. This allows me to recompose or ask Yvonne to move to a better spot or background. And that is what this rangefinder is all about.
All in all, it really is a wonderful camera.
For me, if I could have the processor, viewfinder and auto-focus and put it in my X-pro1, I would be so happy. The button placement is great and the joystick is really nice to have, and I would love to spend a bit more than 2 days with it. I guess the debate you have to have with yourself, is if the price tag is worth it.
We can talk about the new sensor, which is nice. But then again, the quality of the images has never been an issue for me on any of my Fuji cameras.
I was lucky enough that the LR update had just come out and was able to read my RAW files, and I'll get more chance to study them over time.
If you are shooting with the X-T1/10, you might not feel the need to want to upgrade to this camera. I personally would trade in my X-Pro1 and X-T1 for this camera, though. Just remember that it's heavy and a good chunk bigger than the X-T1. Also, the rangefinder design does not suit everyone. I really enjoyed this camera, I have a huge soft spot for the X-Pro1 and now for this model, I believe the changes are significant, especially if you waited the 4 years since the X-Pro1.