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TL;DR. Now that Fuji’s new X-Pro3 is starting to ship, I’ve been thinking a lot about the old X-Pro2—my favorite ever digital camera. Does it have a place in 2020 and beyond? Is it really still the right camera for me? More importantly, is it worth it for you to buy a used one?
“Hell yes,” I say. Totally, absolutely, and unequivocally hell yes.
….With caveats of course.
Type: Mirrorless camera with an interchangeable lens mount and a hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder.
Dates: Officially announced January 2016. The camera began shipping in early March of that year. Mine arrived on March 20, 2016, a couple of months after David Bowie’s final album, Blackstar, unexpectedly dropped. Like Blackstar, the X-Pro2 is a pretty brilliant (though sometimes frustrating) fusion of old-school and modern sensibilities.
Current cost and availability: As of December 2019, the X-Pro2 is still available new and retails for $1699. At that price, there is no reason to buy a new one when the X-Pro3 can be acquired for only a hundred bucks more. Fuji does offer a lot of rebates throughout the year, so you might be able to find a new X-Pro2 for around $1200. That’s still too much though I think for older tech. Look instead for a used copy. B&H, Adorama, and KEH have them in good condition for $800ish. And as even more used bodies hit the market, that price will go down further (good news for buyers, a bummer for sellers).
Sensor size and type: Fuji’s proprietary X-Trans III. It’s APS-C sized (or a 1.5 crop of a full frame sensor).
Megapixels: 24.3 MP. An image at its largest size will be 6000 x 4000.
Lens mount: Fuji’s own X-mount. Any lens Fuji has made since 2011 will work on the camera; there are 28 native lenses available (from zooms to primes, wides to teles) and many more rumored in Fuji’s product pipeline. Other lens manufacturers—from spendy Zeiss to thrifty Samyang/Rokinon—also make glass for the X-mount. If that’s not enough for you, the mount takes adapters well for older, manual focusing glass. I regularly use Canon FD lenses without a problem.
Autofocus points: 325. Of those, 91 are phase detection points.
Card slots: Two glorious card slots. The first slot can take a UHS-II card. You can program them to shoot sequential, backup, or RAW/JPEG.
Weather sealing: Yes! There are 61 seals. Fuji claims that the camera is freeze resistant up to -10°C. I haven’t been shooting in weather nearly that cold, but I have used the camera on a ton of rainy days. If you pair the X-Pro2 with a weather-sealed lens, you can without a doubt shoot in miserable weather with confidence.
Weight: With a battery, the camera is 495 grams or 1.09 pounds or almost the weight of a Canon 17-40mm f/4 lens. The body is magnesium—quite solid and sturdy feeling but surprisingly light. It’s like having the strength of a large Canon 1D series camera in a tight, compact body.
ISO range: Native range is 200-12,800. Expandable range is 100-51,200. I regularly use 3,200 without a worry.
Video: After a firmware update in 2017, the X-Pro2 shoots UHD 4K video (3840 x 2160) at 100 Mb/s. The available frame rates are 23.98, 24, 25, and 29.97. No one, however, should be buying the camera exclusively for video work. If motion is your thing, check out Fuji’s X-T series or the X-H1 instead.
Viewfinder: The X-Pro2 has a hybrid electronic and optical viewfinder. You can switch between the two. Most mirrorless cameras have only an electronic viewfinder, like Fuji’s own X-E and X-T series. The optical option is …innovative and interesting and intriguing and somewhat controversial because it heavily contributes to the camera’s premium price without perhaps offering a crucial premium feature.
Manual: Like most modern digital cameras, the X-Pro2 has a lot under the hood. I’ll go through some of the main and most useful features in this review, but it’s always a good idea to scroll through the full manual. Fuji provides a handy online version.
To fully appreciate the X-Pro2’s miraculousness, we have to understand why it’s a miracle that Fujifilm—a company so deeply rooted in analog film photography—is still around to make a successful digital camera at all.
It’s hard to believe now, but the photo industry didn’t reach its worldwide peak in film sales until 2001—decades after the first digital camera was produced, and years after digital cameras actually started getting pretty good. For a moment there in 2001, it probably seemed like the demand for film would never die.
As early as 2003, however, it became clear that film photography as a profitable business model (at least within a large corporate structure) was in decline. What no one realized at the time (or what no one wanted to believe) was how quickly digital photography would finally take over: by 2010, film demand and sales had plummeted by 90 percent. No traditional photo company was too big or too iconic to fail if it failed to evolve. Even Kodak, the top earner worldwide for film products since its founding in 1888, eventually filed for bankruptcy in 2012.
Fujifilm, on the other hand, survived the digital transition by diversifying its non-photography portfolio, by scaling back its traditional 35mm and 120 film offerings, and by having the foresight (or the crazy-nuts courage) to continue investing in its Instax brand of instant-photo products. When Polaroid eventually folded in 2008, Fujifilm was positioned to ride the retro-craze of instant photography right to the bank with gobs of cash.
So in 2010, while Kodak was on life support and most of the analog industry was in the grave, Fuji emerged in fighting shape and threw a punch at the digital-compact market by introducing the X100—a premium-priced, fixed-lens camera with a big sensor, an innovative (albeit funky) viewfinder, and delicious retro-sexy looks.
It was a risky move to be sure, but at the time Fujifilm really had nothing to lose: its digital camera business was barely profitable; smartphones had eaten the lunch (and were getting ready to totally devour the dinner) of boring, bog-standard compact cameras; Canon and Nikon owned the DSLR market for enthusiasts and serious working photogs; Hasselblad and Phase One dominated the upscale studio market with medium format cameras. To compete again as a serious camera manufacturer, Fuji had to do something different and daring and amazing.
It worked. When the X100 became available for purchase in 2011, the camera didn’t simply generate sales for Fuji. The X100’s retro styling and contemporary functionality managed to excite, to entice, to titillate even the most jaded of us camera junkies. Here finally was a camera that managed to fuse some of the best parts of nostalgia and modernity. Here was a promise of greatness, of magic.
A year later, the X-Pro1 in many ways fulfilled that promise. The camera was essentially a beefier X100 that boasted Fuji’s new X-Trans sensor and a new interchangeable lens mount. Like a lot of enthusiasts, I became a bonafide Fuji fanatic with the X-Pro1. Sure, the camera’s autofocus wasn’t class leading by any measure, but its outstanding image quality and uniquely awesome shooting experience couldn’t be denied.
In 2016, the X-Pro2 was finally announced, and it offered massively improved autofocus, better battery life, two card slots, and weather sealing. At the time, it had everything I was looking for in a documentary camera. In a lot of ways, it still does.
One of the major benefits of shooting Fuji cameras in general is the company’s philosophy of “kaizen,” or “virtuous change.” In practice, kaizen means that Fuji is dedicated to regularly rolling out new features for older cameras through firmware upgrades. Since its launch in early 2016, the X-Pro2 has received four major firmware updates, three of which truly transformed the camera:
- Version 2 firmware (October 2016). Massively improved the camera’s autofocus algorithm. Increased the number of autofocus points from 273 to 325, and the number of phase detect points from 77 to 91.
- Version 3 firmware (March 2017). Again improved the X-Pro2’s autofocus system with better face detection.
- Version 4 firmware (December 2017). Added 4k video and again(!) enhanced autofocus by improving the tracking algorithm in AF-C mode.
That is undeniably a whole lot of gifted awesomeness; other manufacturers (I’m looking at you, Sony and Canon) would have just made you buy a whole new iterative camera.
I fear, though, that kaizen as a guiding and glorious Fuji principle might be slowing down, especially for discontinued or replaced cameras. Since the company has begun producing a lot of different camera models, it feels like updates are slower to come and the features that do come are less transformative. I do have all my digits crossed that there will be at least one more big firmware update before the X-Pro2 is officially EOL’ed. It would be nice, for example, to get any of the new film simulations or even more enhancements to the AF system, but it is crucial (crucial, damn it!) for Fuji to finally provide an acceptable alternative to the X-Pro2’s divisive ISO dial.
The X-Pro2 features a “rangefinder-style” body. That means the viewfinder is on the left side of the camera instead of in the middle like on a regular DSLR. It’s important to note, though, that the X-Pro2 doesn’t have the actual internal focusing mechanism of a real rangefinder, so Leica aficionados hoping to skip by on the cheap will have to keep saving their pennies for a proper digital rangefinder shooting experience.
The placement of the viewfinder, however, isn’t Fuji superficially harkening back to the good old days of camera construction. Rangefinder acolytes will insist that a free left eye allows the photographer to better see a scene as it develops, and that’s probably true. But the rangefinder body style provides something way more important to me: nose relief. Until I started regularly using my X-Pro2, I never realized how much I profoundly dislike having my nose mashed into the back of a regular DSLR-style body. It truly sucks. And my nose isn’t even particularly large. Every working shooter who spends a lot of time behind a camera should try out a rangefinder body at least once. Rent one for the weekend: your face shall thank you.
The tradeoff is that the rangefinder-style body isn’t well suited for using larger lenses. The balance is all off. Even Fuji’s 90mm f/2 feels awkward on the X-Pro2. Lenses like Fuji’s 50-140mm f/2.8 and 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 are not at home at all. If you are regularly shooting with telephotos, the X-T series will better serve your hands.
Although I did love the X-Pro2 right out of the box, I recommend you check out these two items that improve the feel and function of the camera. The X-Pro2 is just small enough to present possible problems for some shooters with average- to large-sized hands.
First up is Lensmate’s folding thumb rest, a useful sliver of metal that lets you get and keep a better grip on the camera. The design allows for good access to the exposure comp and rear command dials, and it also flips out of the way so that you can access them completely.
Lensmate has been making thumb rests for Fuji cameras since the X100, and for that camera and its newer iterations, it feels like an indispensable purchase, especially if you are a street shooter. You can ditch your strap and comfortably hold such a light and stealthy camera all day in one hand. Shooting from the hip is quick and easy because your hand is nearly in that position as you carry the camera around.
For the X-Pro2 though, I haven’t loved the thumb rest as much. It feels just a tad too short for my hand. Ideally, it would extend a bit over the exposure comp dial…but then of course you’d have trouble adjusting exposure comp—a deal-breaker for many shooters using any of the auto-modes.
What has worked better for me is Fuji’s own hand grip, the forgettably named MHG-XPRO2. It’s discontinued now unfortunately, but you can find them used on eBay or sometimes at KEH.
It’s made of a light-weight metal that makes the camera’s own grip chunkier. Like with my old X100 and the thumb rest, I can ditch the strap and walk around all day long with the camera in one hand. Also, the camera’s battery compartment remains accessible while the grip is attached, so no need to ever really remove it if you like using one.
The grip does cost a hefty $110, but it is also an Arca-type mounting plate for your tripod, so that is a pretty good deal in the long run.