Fuji X-Pro2 Field Test Part I

Street shooting with Fujifilm’s new flagship

By Eamon Hickey | Posted:

When it came out in 2012, I was intrigued by the Fujifilm X-Pro1 and its hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder. It seemed like it might be great for the kind of street photography I like to do around New York City, but I never got a chance to use one. I did have the opportunity to use a similar hybrid viewfinder when I reviewed Fujfilm’s X100T a year ago, and I gave it fairly high praise. So, when I was offered the chance to field test the X-Pro2, the answer was easy: 'Yes, indeed." Would I like to also try out the lovely new XF 35mm F2 R WR lens as well? "Well, sure!"

1/80s / f/2 / ISO 1250 / 53mm eq. / XF 35mm f/2 lens

[A note on sample images in this report: Some of these example JPEG images were created from original RAW files using the Fujifilm X-Pro2’s in-camera RAW development feature, which lets you apply film simulations and other camera settings to a RAW image on your SD card, then save a JPEG of the result.]

Fuji X-Pro2: not exactly small but quite portable

When I received my Fujifilm X-Pro2 sample, I unpacked it, slapped the XF 35mm F2 lens on it, and checked out the weight and feel. It’s not a small camera, especially compared to other mirrorless models. That said, its rangefinder shape and relatively modest weight mean it’s not much of a burden to handle and carry — at least with the also relatively compact 35mm lens mounted. I immediately spent some time working the dials and buttons and handling the body, and found that the X-Pro2 feels sturdy and very well-made. Heavier pro-level DSLR cameras may feel more robust than the Fuji X-Pro2 to some people, but I suspect that’s partly an illusion provided by the greater weight alone.

I’ve now carried the Fuji X-Pro2 on seven or eight long walks around the city, and I’ve never felt weighed down or encumbered, especially with the 35mm lens mounted. The camera does not have a deep or prominent grip, but the thumb and forefinger ridges give me a very secure grasp on the body. One upside to the Fuji X-Pro2’s large-ish size (for a mirrorless rangefinder-style camera) is that the controls are not at all cramped or prone to being hit accidentally. I’ve had the X-Pro2 with me on several rainy or drizzly days, and it was nice to be able to rely on its weather-resistant construction. I just let it get wet, without worrying, and experienced no problems.

An advanced, time-tested control system from Fuji's X-line

As we noted, the Fujifilm X-Pro2 uses essentially the same advanced control design as most of the X-series lineup. It’s a well worked-out system that lets you quickly and surely change a wide range of key settings, once you’re familiar with it. As an example, many times I was walking along with my standard setup — aperture-priority mode with single AF (S-AF) — when a fast-moving subject came along. It would generally take me about a second to use the X-Pro2’s shutter speed dial and focus mode switch to set a discrete fast shutter speed and continuous AF (C-AF) mode that are more appropriate for action. I haven’t used any cameras where I could do a setting change like that much faster, but I’ve used plenty that were slower.

The same efficiency extends to nearly all important setting changes that I needed to make in my shooting with the camera — except ISO. The new pull-up and twist ISO ring on the X-Pro2’s shutter speed dial is a bad idea, plain and simple. That said, it can easily be adjusted with your eye to the viewfinder or while composing with the LCD, so it’s only about half as inconvenient as it might first appear. (And if you like to shoot using Auto ISO — and the XPro2’s implementation of this feature is excellent — then it’s not much of a problem at all.) Leaving ISO aside, I quickly became confident that I could change settings on the X-Pro2 essentially as fast as I can on any other advanced camera I’ve used.

Playing around with the new front control wheel on the Fujifilm X-Pro2, I found it handy for setting intermediate shutter speeds. In theory, with certain Fuji lenses, you can duplicate the twin-dial control setup common on modern DSLR cameras, but both of the lenses I used have their own aperture ring, so they don’t support that function. Both the front and rear wheels can also be pushed in to activate secondary features. The most important of these is the manual focus assist function, which is very easy to activate quickly with your thumb. I also used it to access a very useful shortcut for formatting my memory cards. One minor quibble: to me, neither wheel feels as crisp and well-engineered as the control wheels on professional DSLR bodies.

Fuji X-Pro2 controls:The new joystick is, well, a joy

The other major new control on the Fuji X-Pro2 is the joystick for selecting the active autofocus point. It’s well-positioned, at least for my thumb, and works quite well — it’s a big plus for the X-Pro2. I used it very successfully while shooting remote-control model sailboats in the Conservatory Water in Central Park, easily moving the active focus point around to match rapidly changing compositions on moving subjects. In fact, I relied on it heavily for nearly all my shooting.

I did have one small problem with the joystick: when I was walking around with the Fujifilm X-Pro2 on a strap around my neck, the camera’s slight bouncing against my body would constantly activate the joystick and change the AF point position, meaning I always had to reset it when I raised the camera to my eye to take a picture. I cured this by setting the joystick so that I had to push it inwards to activate it, adding one more small step to the process. This is a minor issue, and I needed to use the lock function only in situations where I was walking around with the camera for extended periods between shots.

1/420s / f/5.6 / ISO 200 / 83mm eq. / XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 lens
The AF point selector/joystick made it easy to move my selected AF point as I shot multiple rapid-fire off-center compositions of sailing vessels on the wind.

A different control has been really disappointing to me: the button required for using back-button autofocus, a crucial function for me. I’ll say more about that in part 2 of this field test.

As I shot with the Fujifilm X-Pro2, I found the menu system to be reasonably good. There are a few inscrutable features, and the menus are dense enough to make it hard to remember where to find certain feature settings, but the arrangement is reasonably logical. For me, the new My Menu feature, which allows you to customize your own menu bank with the features you care about most, was only modestly useful. But that’s mainly because the Fuji X-Pro2 has such a well-designed set of external controls that I didn’t need to dive into the menus very often.

Versatile viewing and composing with the X-Pro2's smart control system

The hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder system of the Fujifilm X-Pro2 is certainly its most distinguishing feature. In my shoots with the X-Pro2, the optical viewfinder (OVF) mode has helped me shoot in sunny situations where the EVF and LCD were hard to use, and I also like it for quick framing of subjects on the street. The new automatic bright-frame syncing feature should make the X-Pro2 easier to use when you’re changing lenses a lot (I didn’t really need this in my testing). As you’d probably guess, I liked using the OVF much more with the 35mm prime lens than with zoom lenses, many of which are large enough that they protrude significantly into the OVF’s field of view.

1/200s / f/3.6 / ISO 6400 / 54mm eq. / XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 lens
I used the optical viewfinder for this quick grab portrait. Developed from RAW in-camera using the Acros film simulation.

When I reviewed Fujifilm’s X100T, I could not make myself fall in love with the electronic rangefinder feature of the OVF, now also available in the X-Pro2, and time has not really changed my mind. Yes, it’s technologically cool, and it’s easy to determine sharp focus using it. But it blocks about 15% of the viewfinder, and its location in the lower right corner of the frame just doesn’t work as well for me as a rangefinder patch in the center of the frame. In my manual focus shooting with the X-Pro2, I’ve just been happier with other methods of ensuring good focus, of which the camera provides plenty.

You really appreciate the versatility of the hybrid system in the Fujifilm X-Pro2 when you go from quick street shots to something that requires precise framing, as I did when I found myself perched above a family having lunch outdoors in lower Manhattan. A quick flip of the viewfinder selector lever activated the electronic viewfinder (EVF) for a 100% accurate view of the scene. It’s fast and easy to switch between the two modes, adjust the OVF magnification, or invoke the electronic rangefinder. Fuji has done a great job of designing the control system for this complicated viewfinder setup. The EVF itself is very good — sharp and smooth with decent finder magnification. I have seen a couple that are bigger and better, but I was perfectly happy with the X-Pro2’s EVF in use.

1/250s / f/4 / ISO 200 / 53mm eq. / XF 35mm f/2 lens
The EVF came in handy for precisely framing this composition of a tourist family's lunch near Battery Park.

The Fujifilm X-Pro2 also sports an upgraded LCD. It’s an excellent unit, but top-notch LCD displays are pretty much a given in advanced cameras today. Although I had no problem with the quality of the LCD in my shooting, I was always a bit frustrated that it does not tilt. That’s just a personal preference — many photographers don’t care about tilting LCDs — but I really like shooting waist-level style, so it’s a big drawback for me. I’ve found that a fixed LCD is less of a handicap for “hail-mary” overhead shots, however, and I made several shots I liked using the X-Pro2 that way in a Chinatown park on one of my walks.

1/125s / f/5.6 / ISO 500 / 29mm eq. / XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 lens
The LCD helped me frame a "hail mary" of the action in Columbus Park. Developed from RAW in-camera using the Classic Chrome film simulation.

A stroll through part of the Fuji X-Pro2's ISO spectrum

1/420s / f/2.8 / ISO 200 / 53mm eq. / XF 35mm f/2 lens

1/750s / f/4 / ISO 200 / 53mm eq. / XF 35mm f/2 lens
The X-Pro2 was no problem to carry on a long, drizzly walk around Manhattan's waterfront, photographing landings and departures. Developed from RAW in-camera using the Acros film simulation.

1/340s / f/4 / ISO 400 / 53mm eq. / XF 35mm f/2 lens

1/500s / f/2 / ISO 1600 / 53mm eq. / XF 35mm f/2 lens
Focus-tracking action. Developed from RAW in-camera using the Classic Chrome film simulation.

1/100s / f/2 / ISO 10,000 / 53mm eq. / XF 35mm f/2 lens

In part 2 of this report, I’ll explore the Fujifilm X-Pro2’s performance and focusing, the wonderful 35mm lens, Wi-Fi connectivity, video recording, and fun stuff like film simulations. In the meantime, check out more images and full EXIF data in our Fuji X-Pro2 Gallery.

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