Sunday, May 8, 2016

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Fujifilm X-Pro2 Review

Gallery (110 images): Fujifilm X-Pro2 Review Gallery

May 8, 2016: This very long review is finally complete! Enjoy...

I have now had my own Fujifilm X-Pro2 for just over a month, and by and large, I absolutely love the camera. Above is a link to a random sampling of images I've shot since getting the X-Pro2. There is a lot that is new and improved in comparison to the older Fujifilm bodies like my X-E2 and I will attempt to cover the major improvements. While I have now shot quite a lot with the X-Pro2, what I still haven’t done is a full-blown comparison to my X-E2 with respect to image quality. Suffice to say for now that my impressions are that it is as good, or better, in essentially every way. The increased megapixels have had no negative impact, and only contribute to its overall image quality.

This is also very true of raw files processed through the latest versions of Adobe's Creative Cloud Lightroom and Photoshop. With Adobe's tweaks to X-Trans sensor raw file processing, and the X-Pro2's increased resolution, I am actually finding quite acceptable results and generally don't feel the need to process images through a third party raw converter any more, converters like PhotoNinja or Iridient Developer. For a working pro that is using Fujifilm gear, shoots raw, and uses Adobe software, this can pay big dividends in productivity! Rest assured that the camera's JPEGs are still as good as ever.

Scattered throughout this review are some shots of the X-Pro2, side by side with my X-E2, so you can see how the controls have changed, the size differences etc. Apologies, but I had a very poor quality screen protector on the X-Pro2's rear LCD for those shots, and I've since then replaced it with a much nicer one. The full-resolution images, taken with the X-Pro2 in this review, were all raw files that were just processed through Lightroom CC.

Image Quality - Lenses

Compared to the previous generation of 16 megapixel X-Trans equipped bodies, the resolution increase is noticeable and with a few exceptions in some situations, most of my Fujifilm lenses are more than up to the task of resolving sufficiently for the new 24 megapixel sensor, especially the primes. The Fujinon prime lenses that I've found to perform extremely well are: 14mm f/2.8, 16mm f/1.4, 23mm f/1.4, 35mm f/2, 56mm f/1.2, 60mm f/2.4 macro and 90mm f/2.

Fujinon XF 90mm f/2R - ISO 200 - f/2 - 1/1400 (click image for full-res)

Since getting the 10-24mm f/4 OIS, I hadn't been using the 14mm as much, since on my X-E2 bodies, the zoom at 14mm performed essentially as well as the prime. However, on the X-Pro2, the 14mm does prove itself to be superior to the zoom as far as corner-to-corner sharpness, so it is seeing more time in my camera bag again. The truly spectacular primes in my own kit are the 16mm, 23mm, 60mm and 90mm - those all absolutely make the most of the X-Pro2's increased resolution and look to be about as flawless as can be, with no optical aberrations that need software correction. I don't own the 56mm, but if I did, it would be on that list too.

Fujinon XF 14mm f/2.8R - ISO 200 - f/10 - 1/450 (click image for full-res)

Two primes I have not tested, but suspect will perform well, are the 35mm f/1.4 and most definitely, the 56mm f/1.2 APD. As before, I would suggest that the 18mm f/2 might not be the ideal lens if you are seeking edge-to-edge performance, but I expect it will be sharp in the centre and as a wider-aperture, slightly wider-than-usual street photography lens, it will likely be just fine. I have also not tested the 27mm f/2.8 pancake prime, but based on its performance on the X-E2, I think it will likely still perform very well too.

Fujinon XF 23mm f/1.4R - ISO 200 - f/8 - 1/320 (click image for full-res)

As far as zooms, so far the lenses I have tested are the 10-24mm f/4 OIS, the 18-55mm f/2.8-4 OIS, the 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 OIS, the 50-140mm f/2.8 OIS and the new 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 OIS.

As mentioned above, the 10-24mm is maybe starting to show its limits, and the extreme corners in the mid-range of the zoom, which were stellar on my X-E2, are looking ever so slightly soft now. Still very good, but I will stick to my primes for the highest image quality, if their fields of view are sufficient for the shot. Presuming I don't need OIS for a dimly lit, hand-held shot, where the 10-24's stabilizer is truly amazing. At either end of the zoom, it is a bit weaker in the corners, as it was before, so I tend to treat it like an 11.5 to 20mm zoom, whenever possible. There is no doubt now that the 14mm is better, and especially the 16mm and 23mm lenses; those really are exceptional in comparison to the zoom.

Fujinon XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4R OIS - ISO 3200 - f/4.5 - 1/50 (click image for full-res)

Somewhat unexpectedly, the humble 18-55mm OIS kit lens continues to impress me when considering its very compact and lightweight design. No, of course it performs nothing like the better primes, but if you stop it down, it actually does perform surprisingly well, even in the extreme corners. As a walk-around zoom lens, one that helps keep the size and weight of your kit down, I still can highly recommend it for the X-Pro2.

My 55-200mm is still a very solid zoom. Focusing is very swift on the X-Pro2 and throughout most of its range, apart from the 200mm end of its zoom, it is very sharp even wide open. Stop it down one or two f-stops, and it is sharp at 200mm as well. Again, considering its relatively compact size and modest weight, it performs very well indeed.

Fujinon XF 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8R OIS - ISO 200 - f/7.1 - 1/450 (click image for full-res)

If you want mind blowing sharpness in a tele-zoom though, sharpness that is essentially on par with the superb primes, you'll want the 50-140mm f/2.8. Yes it is fairly big, heavy and expensive, but the sharpness… and the microcontrast… wow. Definitely a must-have pro lens. I have yet to test it with the 1.4x teleconverter but I've heard from some that it holds up well. If I did much telephoto work, I would most definitely own that lens, but seeing as how I tend to live at the wide-angle end of things, I cannot justify it. That said… it is still very tempting.

Finally, the 100-400mm. Make no mistake, it is a big, heavy and rather expensive lens. It dwarfs the smaller Fuji bodies attached to it and in fact, it is even slightly larger than Canon's full-frame 100-400mm zoom. It is a difficult lens to judge since so often at the long end, you can get significant atmospheric distortion (heat shimmer) affecting the sharpness of the photos. I have had many very sharp shots from the 100-400mm and also quite a number of disappointing ones, and I believe most of those are soft either due to heat shimmer or inaccurate AF in challenging conditions. That's the other issue: as good as the X-Pro2's autofocus system is now (more on that later), it still can't touch a high-end pro DSLR for accurate focus tracking in really challenging situations. Many of the in-flight shots of birds I attempted were disappointing for example. That said, there is a special combination of AF settings that I did not try, since I wasn't initially aware of them, which may have yielded better results - more on that below as well. In any case, I would say the jury is still out on truly how well the 100-400mm performs on the X-Pro2. I feel as though I have not yet shot with it enough to give it a definitive thumbs up recommendation, but it most certainly is a solid performer. I'm just not quite sure if it is exceptional? Since I rarely feel the need to venture out to such long focal lengths, I may never personally get a really good handle on that lens' performance either so you'll need to search for reviews elsewhere...

Fujinon XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6R OIS - ISO 400 - f/5.6 - 1/1700 (click image for full-res)

So, now for some comments on zooms that I have not actually tested on the X-Pro2, but ones that I have tested extensively on the X-E2. A lens that I suspect will continue to be surprisingly sharp, is the inexpensive, plastic XC 50-230mm f/4.5-6.7 OIS. Yes, it feels cheap and has slow AF, but I was always very surprised and impressed with its sharpness.

A lens I was never particularly impressed with optically though, the 18-135mm OIS, is probably one to stay away from if you have an X-Pro2, unless you value a wide-ranging zoom and weather resistance more than absolute image quality. It is a lens that I really wanted to like, but its spotty performance at some focal lengths left me cold. To me, a far better lightweight travel combination would be the 18-55mm OIS combined with the 50-230mm OIS. Both are, generally speaking, better in the focal lengths where they overlap with the 18-135mm, although note that neither is weather-resistant. That could be the deciding factor to sway you towards the 18-135mm for travel after all…

One lens that I cannot comment on at all, since I've never used one, is the cheap, plastic 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS zoom. I somehow doubt it will perform very well on an X-Pro2, but I really cannot say one way or the other. There seem to be some reports that the 16-50mm is better than one might expect, so maybe it will be more like the 50-230mm, a cheap, plastic lens with good optics?

And lastly, a zoom lens I would suggest you test yourself (rent one from Beau Photo to try if you're a Vancouverite!) is the 16-55mm f/2.8. Despite being a relatively large and expensive pro-level zoom, it seemed to show some slight weaknesses as far as edge-to-edge sharpness, even on the previous generation bodies.  However if it's wide-open performance that you're after, it certainly trumps the 18-55mm, since the centre is sharp right from f/2.8 onward. The 16-55mm is also unbelievably flare-resistant for a zoom with so much glass. However if you are expecting it to still be better than the 18-55mm stopped down beyond f/8… well it honestly it didn't seem to be.

I believe that pretty much covers all the Fujinon lenses. Hopefully I haven't left out any important ones!

Image Quality - Noise & DR

When you initially view X-Pro2 raw images at 100%, pixel for pixel on a computer, I think you'll find it to look quite similar to the previous generation 16 megapixel cameras. Very smooth images at its base ISO of 200, but as the ISO rises, so does the noise, although it is generally monochromatic in nature, with virtually no colour blotchiness. You can now shoot raws from ISO 100 to a high of 51,200, and there is also a lossless compressed raw option. High ISO files may actually be slightly more grainy at 100% view than the older bodies, but at the same time, the increased resolution seems to mitigate the extra graininess for any given print size, while still allowing more fine detail retention as ISOs climb.

One thing I’ll note is that the X-Pro2 still has those “Fuji Colours” that I’ve grown to love on the Fujifilm bodies I’ve shot with over the years. Colour is beautiful, even under difficult lighting or at high ISOs, possibly even subtly nicer than on previous models. The JPEG engine is improved as well, with even more convincing film-simulation modes. The B&W ACROS film simulation is especially appealing, as is the ability to add various degrees of nice looking grain to JPEG files if so desired too. The main gallery has some raw images shot in ACROS mode too, then processed with Adobe's "Camera ACROS" profile, which seemed to give results that were very close to the out-of-camera JPEGs with respect to contrast and tone curve.

Initially, there was one disappointment: longer time exposures, for example 5 minutes at ISO 400, were horribly noisy. Turning on Long-Exposure NR did not help, in fact, it made the hot pixel noise worse! However, a scant few weeks after the X-Pro2 starting shipping, Fujifilm already supplied a firmware update (v1.01) which has more or less totally fixed the Long-Exposure NR issue. This firmware update also addressed the weird "reset bug" that many people experienced with their new X-Pro2, a bug that only happened once to the majority of users I believe. I had used my X-Pro2 for numerous weeks prior to the update, and the reset only happened to me once, within the first hour or so of using the camera.

As far as overall dynamic range, I would say the X-Pro2 is similar to the previous generation. Not a huge leap forward, but it might have just a little bit more recoverability in the highlights but pushing shadows at lower ISOs seems similar. Where it does get better is at high ISO settings, since to me it seems that a shadow push then yields cleaner results than with previous models, a bit less blotchy and with a smoother grain (noise). Below is the bottom part of image 98 in the main gallery...

Click for: a larger unadjusted version OR a larger adjusted version

The above image is animated to show both the original file as imported into Lightroom, and then a dramatically adjusted version, rather overdone in this case and brighter than the one in the gallery, in order to show how one can pull up tons of clean shadow detail. There are links below the image to view larger copies of both versions.

I still haven't done any actual side-by-side comparisons with my X-E2 since, in reality, I am enjoying shooting with the X-Pro2 far too much to spend time on that! And I have been rather busy too, thus this review is far more delayed than I had hoped as well. Had I started doing detailed comparisons with other cameras, well that would have delayed things even further. There are other sites that allow for some great side-by-sides, like, so I will leave that to them in this case. With respect to raw image high ISO noise, quoting dpreview from the page I linked to, they state "...the results are amongst the best we've seen from an APS-C camera" and I have to concur. In their studio test scene, choose raw with a high ISO setting and compare the X-Pro2 to other cameras, even recent full-frame models, and I think you will be very impressed with the relative lack of chroma noise and detail retention at high ISOs.

The important thing to remember here is that despite a 50% increase in megapixels, there is essentially no downside as far as noise and dynamic range and indeed, there is actually a slight overall improvement in image quality at all ISOs. Plus, you now get more resolution, larger image sizes that allow for bigger prints or more cropping.

Speaking of image size, the X-Pro2 will give you a 6000x4000 pixel image, allowing for a 33x50 inch print at 120ppi without resizing. The previous 16MP sensors gave 4896x3264 pixel images, which allowed for a 27x41 inch print at the same ppi. In terms of raw files sizes, the old 16MP cameras created 33.8 MB uncompressed raws and the X-Pro2 will create 50.4 MB uncompressed raws. However, the nice thing about the X-Pro2 is that it has a new lossless compressed raw option, and those come in at anywhere from about 22 to 29 MB, depending on ISO and image content. That is a huge plus in my view and as you'll see later, also helps dramatically with buffering and card write performance.

Handling and Viewfinder

So, how does the X-Pro2 handle and what’s it like to use? In short, it is an absolute joy! The camera is a bit bigger and heavier than my X-E2, but not by a huge amount, and the new grip elements work well, making the camera feel secure in the hand. There is a deep and tall rubberized ridge along the right edge of the body, and that works very effectively to hook the thumb behind. The front right hand grip could be a bit larger in my view, but it is big enough that I am not immediately wanting to buy the optional hand-grip, something I did right away when I got my X-E2 body. However, if you are planning on using larger lenses with the body, like the big f/2.8 pro zooms, or the huge 100-400mm, then the X-Pro2's optional grip will likely help.

The new viewfinder optics are razor sharp too. Although the apparent view is not as large as the ground-breaking EVF in the X-T1, the optics make for a very crisp and clear view, the best of any X-series bodies... at least when adjusted to my eyesight. I find it easy to read the smallest VF fonts with perfect clarity. Oh and yes, unlike the X-Pro1, the new X-Pro2 now has a nice firm diopter adjustment, one that won’t turn on you by accident either. I do really wish Fujifilm had designed the X-Pro2 to take an optional, deeper eyecup though, like the one available for the X-T1. My left hand will therefore continue to act as a sun-block in some difficult lighting situations, like it has on my X-E2 bodies as well. Thankfully, with most prime lenses, the X-Pro2 is definitely still light enough to ensure that one handed operation is not a hardship...

Almost all the buttons and dials feel absolutely perfect with great, positive tactile feedback. The only buttons that are a little hard to feel by touch are the two along the thumb-ridge. Personally I would have liked to see them protrude a bit, but… after letting a few people try out my own X-Pro2, and seeing them actually activate the Q-menu button by accident a few times with their palms, something that has never happened to me, I think the decision to make them flush was probably a good one in the end. Frankly, the Q-button would have been better positioned elsewhere and off that thumb ridge entirely, and while I’m complaining a bit, I would have liked to see the AE-L button moved a little further to the right too. However by and large, the button interface is very well done.

With the new Canon-esque direct focusing point selector joystick, a very welcome control addition, additional buttons on the 4-way controller have been freed up for customization. Below is a photo of how I have set my camera up, with respect to customized buttons, and I can honestly say that between that, the customizable Q menu and the new, customizable "My Menu”, virtually all of my frequently used features, settings and functions are all very quickly accessible. I have never quite been able to set up a camera in a manner as efficient for my style of shooting.

I made two key changes to the button layout: since I very rarely use movie recording, I moved that button function as far away from the shutter release as possible to avoid those accidental and annoying, short movie clips! I do tend to do a lot of twilight and night shots, and often use the 2 second self-timer to ensure that any tripod vibrations from pressing the shutter release have died down for this shot, so this is conveniently assigned to the Fn button right by the shutter release. I no longer need that button for ISO either, so I had three others on the 4-way controller available to assign to other frequent settings.

One minor complaint is that not all functions can be assigned to the "My Menu". Initially, I was annoyed that one couldn't assign the memory card format option to the My Menu either, since it is buried deeper than on previous models, but there is actually a handy shortcut. When the camera is on, and in regular shooting or playback mode (not in a menu or the Q screen), press the "trash" button for a few seconds, then click down on the rear thumb operated control-wheel and voila! Up pops the card format screen. Just be sure to press that trash button long enough (count three seconds) since if you click the wheel to quickly, it won't work. Another function I would really like quick access to is the electronic level but alas, it cannot be assigned to a function button or to the My Menu. Defining a custom button is as easy as ever though: just press it down for a few seconds and up pops the customization screen for that button.

Some reviewers seem to dislike the new ISO dial, an exceedingly retro design that you adjust by pulling up and turning the collar that surrounds the shutter speed dial. Personally, I find this new control quite charming and with my eye to the viewfinder, I prefer this to the -for me- more awkward and fiddly ISO dial on the X-T1. Note that as soon as you start turning the ISO collar, you can see the ISO settings change in the VF or on the back LCD, so even though the printed numbers are hard to read in low light levels, it is no big deal. That said, an option to repurpose the front control wheel for ISO, like can be done on the X-T10, would be a really nice option to have in some cases! If Fujifilm allowed either the rarely used 'L' or 'H' ISO dial setting to be redefined, so that when selected, the ISO adjustments could then be assigned to another button or control wheel, then things would be near perfect and a lot of X-Pro2 shooters would probably be a little happier.

Now let me explain the redesigned Hybrid-VF, which you see above on the top-right side of the X-Pro2, which is the X-Pro series claim to fame. The lever on the front of the camera, below the shutter speed dial, opens up a lot of cool viewing options. With your eye to the viewfinder, pull the lever away from the lens, and the VF toggles between EVF mode, with crisp optics and fast, almost lag-free 85fps refresh, and a rangefinder-esque true optical view (OVF), with parallax corrected framing lines as well as a full HUD for shooting data. Since you are seeing a direct image of your subject with no electronics getting in the way, there is absolutely zero lag between what is actually happening, and what you see through the VF. When in OVF mode, with your eye to the VF, pull and hold the lever for a few seconds and you'll toggle between the two available magnifications, one used for wider lenses from about 16mm up to 35mm and the other for longer focal length lenses, optimally from 35mm to about 90mm.

When focusing manually, there is a new colour digital split image focus assist, focus peaking and zoomed in focus assist views. Personally I prefer focus peaking and a magnified view for MF, since the digital split image assist only works well when when you are almost in focus already, and if you have strong, high-contrast vertical lines in the shot. When in OVF mode, pushing the lever towards the lens activates a small, zoomable EVF picture-in-picture at the lower-right, which can be used to help with MF or just for focus confirmation.

Also when in OVF mode, pushing the button which is the centre of the lever’s hinge-point, will activate a set of framing lines (Bright Frame Simulator - that button's default setting), showing the field-of-view of numerous standard prime-lenses. This can be a real time-saver when, for example, you are wondering if a longer prime will frame a shot optimally. I absolutely love that feature, especially since it was one that I had actually suggested Fujifilm add a long time ago! See an animation of this feature below, where I used the 35mm f/2. The default view for the 35mm lens is the more zoomed in "tele OVF view" that I've labeled. Note that my camera position changed between the two view magnifications, so you don't quite get a sense of the change in FOV of the finder. Sorry about that. However you can judge the FOV change by perhaps looking at how much the lens protrudes into the frame at the bottom right...

A clear benefit of the OVF is when shooting in really bright light, since the OVF view will also be bright, whereas the EVF brightness maxes out at a certain point. In addition, for street photography, it can be a real benefit to see more that just the actual FOV, so one can anticipate if suddenly a person, cyclist or car is about to enter the frame for example. This slight bit of "early warning" can make the difference between capturing a shot at a perfectly optimal time, or just being a fraction too late with the shutter release. The main disadvantage of the OVF is when dealing with very wide or long lenses, and dealing with up-close subjects, where the parallax issue can end up being distracting. With some practice, learning how to read the parallax corrected focus point and getting used to the shift of the framing lines will overcome that issue, but with larger, wide-angle lenses like the 23mm f/1.4, especially when used with the standard lens hood, the optical view can become quite blocked.

Personally, I do find myself using the EVF far more than the OVF, mainly for its accurate parallax-free framing as well as its time-saving exposure preview, and also because I do tend to use very wide lenses. However I really do enjoy the option of switching to the OVF in some cases, and also in taking advantage of the Bright Frame Simulator. So… the new Hybrid-VF is overall fantastic to work with, whether I am using it in EVF or OVF mode.

Autofocus and Shooting Performance

The X-Pro2 has a huge number of accessible focus points (273 in total) in a dense 21x13 grid that covers about three quarters of the entire sensor, allowing for very precise positioning of your point of focus. The central 169 points are phase-detect capable in a 13 x 13 grid. There are five different sizes of focus area in single point mode as well, from a very tight, precise point, to a larger one which can make it easer to track a moving subject or focus quickly in very low light levels. The is also a larger, multi-point tracking-AF focus mode and a huge wide-area mode as well. Focusing is usually exceedingly quick in all but the lowest light levels, even with notoriously slow lenses like the otherwise excellent XF 60mm f/2.4R macro. Focus accuracy is, like the previous generation of bodies, generally very good indeed and AF seems to work reliably at very low light levels too.

With respect to focus tracking, I'd say the X-Pro2 is still not as effective as mid-range or high-end DSLRs, mainly since you cannot fine-tune the tracking AF behaviour on the X-Pro2. With the higher end DSLRs, you can fine tune the time-delay before the camera will lock focus on something at a substantially different distance from the subject you are tracking, but with the X-Pro2, virtually as soon as your focus point wanders off your subject, it will lose focus on the subject. Then it becomes near impossible to acquire it again with any sort of ease if there is a complex background and the subject is smaller in the frame.

There is one mode that I only discovered after I had done my tracking tests, which at least allows one to choose a focus point to lock on a subject, then the camera will make an effort to keep its focus on the subject, automatically switching to other focus points to do so. This may end up working a bit better, but I still suspect I'll be underwhelmed in many situations. To enable this, you first set the camera to wide-area AF, then put in on continuous-focus, 'C' on the focus sector lever. When I had previously tried wide-area AF with single shot focus, it seemed to be a "dumbed down" focus mode, auto-selecting points where it thinks your subject is. I did not realize at first that in continuos focus 'C' mode, you can actually pick a starting focus point and then the camera will attempt to follow the subject throughout the frame. I really should make a point of testing that again...

One big AF improvement Fujifilm has finally made, is with the behaviour of the shutter release button. Now, like virtually every other AF camera ever made, you can half press to lock focus, then as long as you don’t lift from the half press, you can keep shooting multiple single frames and the AF stays locked. Finally! That, the addition of the perfectly positioned focus point selector joystick and the super snappy AF performance, really puts the X-Pro2 in a whole new league compared to the older bodies. Even the X-T1, as good as it is, feels a little dated and sedate by comparison. Going back to the original X-system bodies, the X-Pro1 and X-E1, which did not have on-chip phase-detect focus pixels, is rather painful once you've experienced the performance of the X-Pro2! 

Overall shooting speed is very snappy indeed too, with less EVF blackout than previous models. The shutter is well damped, has low vibration and is FAST, feeling more like a pro DSLR than any of the previous models. Mechanically, the new shutter sounds great too, somehow managing to inspire a lot of confidence in its durability. You also have an electronic shutter mode available, for totally silent shooting, or to utilize shutter speeds up to 1/32,000 of a second! A limitation with the electronic shutter though, is that you cannot use it for flash sync. That said, the mechanical shutter now has a top speed of 1/8000 and a flash sync of 1/250, both up from previous models which topped out at 1/4000 and 1/180 for flash sync.

With a top-end Lexar Pro 32GB 2000x SDHC memory card when shooting compressed RAW + fine-JPEG, the X-Pro2 manages a whopping 48 frames at its top 8 fps speed, before the buffer fills and the camera slows. That is a huge step up from the 8 or 9 frames that my X-E2 can manage, and still more than double the 23 or so that the X-T1 will take before slowing down. The X-Pro2 is fast in most ways and it never feels like you are having to wait for the camera.

The X-Pro2 is equipped with dual SD card slots, with one being an ultra high-speed UHS-II slot that can take full advantage of the fastest cards currently on the market. The slots are accessed from a side door and are not in with the battery. Since it only has a single high speed slot, setting the X-Pro2 to backup mode, where image gets written to both cards simultaneously, will significantly reduce the effective size of the buffer when shooting raw. Here are some card speed tests I performed...

Uncompressed RAW + Fine JPEG...

Lexar Pro 32GB 600x UHS-I (U1) card: 27 shots before buffer fills, then the camera slows down a lot and shoots very unevenly, stuttering. Once the buffer filled with 27 shots, it then takes 30 seconds to finish writing to card.

Lexar Pro 2000x UHS-II (U3) card: 30 shots before buffer fills, then the camera slows down and stutters, but keeps shooting a little quicker than the with the slower card. Once the buffer was filled with the initial 30 shots, it then takes 27 seconds to finish writing to card.

So, not really that big a difference between the slow and fast card! However the following is very surprising...

Compressed RAW + Fine JPEG...

Lexar Pro 32GB 600x UHS-I (U1) card: 30 shots before buffer fills, the camera slows down a lot and shoots very unevenly, stuttering. Once the buffer filled with 30 shots, it then takes only 7 seconds to finish writing to card.

Lexar Pro 2000x UHS-II (U3) card: 48 shots before buffer fills, the camera slows down to maybe 6 fps and keeps shooting and shooting, with quite a smooth frame rate. Once the buffer was filled with the initial 48 shots, it then takes a mere 5.3 seconds to finish writing to card!

So the performance with the fast card and the compressed raws was quite impressive! Lastly...

Uncompressed RAW + Fine JPEG - Camera set to dual-slot BACKUP...

Lexar 2000x in fast slot (1) and Lexar 600x in slow slot (2): 26 shots before buffer fills, the camera slows down a lot and shoots very unevenly, stuttering. Once the buffer filled with 26 shots, it then takes 34 seconds to finish writing to both cards.

If the camera is set to sequential, where it fills one card first, then switches to the second card, there is no speed penalty until the fast card is full. I did not test just raw-only speeds since raw files by themselves only have smaller, embedded JPEGs and cannot be previewed at full resolution. More on this below...

Quirks and Annoyances

In this section, I will detail a few additional quirks that the X-Pro2 exhibits, things that might seem a bit strange or behaviour that is not immediately obvious...

With respect to shooting RAW only, the camera embeds just a low-resolution JPEG into the raw file. Most modern cameras embed full-res JPEG files into their raws, allowing one to zoom in to 100% on just a raw image, in order to easily judge sharpness in-camera. However on all Fujifilm X-bodies, the embedded JPEG preview is small, nowhere near full size. This is why I always shoot RAW+JPEG, so that I can indeed judge if a shot is critically sharp. However there is also a very good reason to shoot RAW+Fine JPEG on a Fujifilm body, and that is the quality of Fujifilm's JPEG files, which are amongst the best in the business. In fact, you may at some point struggle with a raw file, then look at the JPEG that the camera rendered and decide to use it instead! Fujifilm JPEGs have lots of detail retention, look good at high ISO and have absolutely fantastic colour, especially when taking advantage of their unique and very well implemented film situation modes.

Next, let's talk about how limited the X-Pro2’s battery life is! On the Easter weekend, I was out shooting for about 2 hours, and after only 235 shots, the battery was down to about 14%. For a long day of shooting, I will likely be needing at least four batteries, especially if I want to do some light-painting or time-exposures at night. I've decided the battery life isn't quite as bad as I had initially thought, but if you do choose to buy your own X-Pro2, also be prepared to spend a little more for a few extra batteries!

Want a wintertime hand-warmer? Then get an X-Pro2 and leave it switched on! Okay, that's an exaggeration, but if you leave an X-Pro2 powered up for a while, say when playing with the menus and exploring the camera for the first time, you might be surprised to suddenly notice the bottom-plate of the camera getting warm! I don't know if this is due to the significantly enhanced X-Processor Pro CPU in the camera, some power consumption quirk of the new 24MP sensor, or some sort of a bug in the firmware which uses too many CPU cycles, but the camera will definitely get warm to the touch after a while and that cannot be good for battery life! What I am not sure about yet, is if this heating issue will negatively impact high ISO or longer time exposures in hot climates? Hopefully the new, firmware 1.01 improved, long-exposure NR will take care of any potential heat-related noise issues...

When in Continuous drive mode, be it 8 fps or 3fps, it is impossible to take a single frame, no matter how quickly you stab the shutter release! Even with the the quickest trigger finger, you'll always get two frames, not just one. This is something I really hope gets fixed in a future firmware update.

There are also a variety of somewhat surprising limitations, depending on which mode you might be in. For example, take the Face-Detect / Eye-Detect feature, where you can have it focus on a face, or even select the left eye, or the right eye, or have it auto-select the eye for focusing on tighter portraits. However, depending on your drive and AF modes, you will see restrictions as follows...
  • In single-shot drive mode, all face-detect and eye-detect modes work, regardless of whether or not you are in single AF or continuous AF mode.
  • In low speed continuous shooting mode (3fps), all face/eye-detect modes work in single AF, but in continuous AF, you can only choose face-detect, not eye-detect.
  • In high speed continuous shooting mode (8 fps), all face/eye-detect modes work in single AF, but in continuous AF, you cannot choose face-detect at all; it’s completely disabled.
Also, when you are in single-shot focus mode, you always get the entire 21x13 grid of AF points to choose from, no matter what drive mode you are in. When you are in continuous-focus mode, you only get the 21x13 grid in single shot or 3 fps continuous mode. If you are in 8 fps mode, the grid shrinks down to the 13x13 phase-detect grid only. This does make some sense, since the conventional contrast-detect AF points that are excluded in 8 fps mode would likely not be very accurate at those speeds.

There are also limitations with the electronic shutter mode. You can use the silent, full-electronic shutter when shooting in single-shot AF but as soon as you switch to continuous focus, you are back in fully mechanical shutter mode! At least you are able to shoot in continuous drive mode, up to 8fps, in electronic-shutter mode, which is something you cannot do on some of the newer Sony mirrorless bodies for example, one of their operational quirks. In any case, this limitation is something that film-set photographers need to be aware of when considering the X-Pro2, although I am wondering if this might be possible to address in a future firmware update?

There is a new auto-brightness mode for the EVF, which attempts to adjust its brightness based on ambient brightness. This is a great idea, but when you're in this mode in bright conditions, the EVF display becomes very contrasty, with blocked up shadows, and is not at all representative of what the final shot will look like. One of the benefits of a mirrorless camera is the ability to see the effects of your exposure adjustments live, while shooting, and using this auto-brightness mode effectively kills that ability. I am back to using manual brightness control and shading the camera with my left hand, if the sun is shining at an inopportune angle and making it hard to see the EVF.

One thing that takes a bit of getting used to while using the viewfinder's EVF mode, is when the OVF blind snaps shut upon eye-detection. You put the camera up to your eye and you momentarily see the optical VF view, then the blind snaps shut and the EVF switches on. This does happen very quickly, but it is still a little bit disconcerting at first. Now, I hardly notice it anymore. Personally I wish that Fujifilm would leave the blind shut when the camera is switched on and set to EVF mode. Maybe something a firmware update could address? Photographers shooting stills on very quiet film sets would also prefer not to have the little blind click back and forth, since it does make an audible sound.

Speaking of sounds, Fujifilm should implement an optional "quiet aperture" mode for their electronic shutter equipped cameras too. When you take a shot, the aperture blades stop down rapidly, and on some lenses, this makes audible clicking noises. A "quiet aperture" mode would drive the lens apertures a little more slowly, thereby softening the sound, although one would likely be prevented from using 8 fps in such a mode. I am not sure if the speed of the aperture blades is strictly controlled  by the firmware in the lenses, or if the body could have influence over this? Some lenses are extremely quiet already, like the new 35mm f/2, but some of the older lenses have a fairly "clicky" aperture, something that once again is undesirable on a quiet film set, when used with the otherwise dead-silent electronic shutter.

Lastly, I wish one had full control over whether or not the back LCD or the EVF gets used in all three camera modes: shooting, playback and menus. In other words, an ideal setup might be to leave eye-detect off, have the EVF used for shooting and the back LCD used for both image playback and for menu operation. Right now, menu operation is tied to shooting mode, so while you can set the back LCD to always switch on for image playback and the EVF for shooting display, the menus always then appear in the EVF as well.

Closing Thoughts

So... that about covers it I think. This was a long review, and it was also a long time coming too! There were many aspects of the camera that I really wanted some solid experience with before commenting on them and I also wanted to uncover as many quirks as possible too. If I come across any more really important things I feel should be in this review, I will update in the future.

The X-Pro2 is a solid feeling, nicely handling, rangefinder-style mirrorless camera with generally very well thought out ergonomics, a great Hybrid-VF, an excellent rear LCD, superb shooting performance and fantastic image quality. One thing I haven't mentioned is its video capabilities, which I frankly haven't much explored, other than to notice that captured 1080p video is hugely improved over previous models and seems pretty much on par with all but the very latest 4K capable DSLR and mirrorless cameras.

Overall, Fujifilm's prime lenses continue to perform exceptionally well at 24MP and so do most of their zoom lenses. I am extremely pleased with the image quality from the X-Pro2 and shooting with it is a very fluid and enjoyable experience, so much so, that I really hesitate to use any other camera. Now that I have been shooting exclusively with my Fujifilm X-sytem gear for a year or so, I am also appalled at how big and heavy a pro DSLR is when I am forced to shoot with one, especially when paired with big, full-frame pro-series lenses.

Static subject AF is swift, decisive and accurate with most lenses and in most scenarios, and is better in low light conditions now than previous models. Tracking AF performance is also improved, but it still falls short of mid-range to high-end DSLRs from Nikon or Canon. In all fairness, those companies have had decades of experience with AF tracking algorithms though. With Fujifilm's track record of providing performance enhancing firmware updates, I feel there is still potential room for improvement there.

While the list of quirks and annoyances might seem long, many of them really are quite minor... and needed more than their fair share of space to detail properly. I really wanted to cover everything that I could think of that might bother a potential user, but for me, the pluses far, far outweigh the negatives, with major emphasis on the word far. Overall I absolutely love shooting with the X-Pro2!


Jerry Van - Photographer said...

WOW that was some review, thanks. I will have to get my hands on one. I'm curios to see how it compares to my XT-1.

nycity paul said...

the best review ive learned from as i switch from my xe2 to xpro2

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