Now that Fuji’s new X-Pro3 is out and shipping, 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, might it be the right camera for you?
Hell yes, I say. Totally, absolutely, and unequivocally hell yes, especially if you shoot street or documentary, like a rangefinder-style body, and tend to use smaller lenses. If you can get a used body for, say, $800ish bucks in 2020, Fuji’s old X-Pro2 will be your new favorite camera.
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. The X-Pro2 has now officially been discontinued. Even if you could find new X-Pro2 stock for the original $1,699, the X-Pro3 can be purchased 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 $1,200. 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 (a crop factor of 1.5x).
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 now
28 31 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.
Battery: The camera takes Fuji’s own NP-W126 or NP-W126S. The “S” variant is higher capacity and is the only one sold new now. Third-party manufacturers also make an NP-W126 variant that will work in the X-Pro2 for a significantly lower price. Whether you opt for the OEM or third-party battery, be prepared to buy at least two. I always take three on a shoot.
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.
Shutter: Possibilities abound. You can choose the X-Pro2’s mechanical shutter, electronic shutter, or an option that uses both. The mechanical shutter maxes out at 1/8,000—comparable to pro-level DSLRs. The electronic shutter can reach a blistering 1/32,000.
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 and 6,400 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.
July 2020. It’s been over a year since the last firmware update for the X-Pro2. Now that the X-Pro3 has been available for over six months and the X-Pro2 has been officially discontinued, we can safely assume there won’t be any more kaizen goodness coming our way. The current firmware is version 5.01. Any future updates will most likely be very minor (e.g., compatibility tweaks for new Fuji lenses).
September 17, 2020. A small update was released, version 5.10. Doesn’t do anything about the ISO dial, but if you have Fuji’s newest bokeh monster, the 50mm F/1, the X-Pro2 will now function better with the lens. There are also enhancements for Fuji’s flash system and some minor bug fixes.
Image Quality and Fuji’s X-Trans Sensor
Much has been written about Fuji’s X-Trans since the first version appeared in 2012, but the sensor is still somewhat shrouded in myth and magic and mysticism. Card-carrying Fuji fans often feel that the X-Trans is the most amazingly sexy bit of super sharp silicon ever wrought from the sands of digital Valhalla. Other photographers insist that the sensor isn’t so much “special” as it is simply “different.” Let’s set aside all the X-Trans intangibles for a sec and go through what we do know for sure:
1. Fuji doesn’t actually make the sensor. It’s “designed and tested” by Fuji, but made by…whom? We know it definitely isn’t Samsung. The likely manufacturer is Sony, which isn’t at all surprising because pretty much every camera company other than Canon and Leica uses Sony sensors in stills and hybrid gear right now.
2. The X-Pro2 uses the X-Trans III, the third version of the sensor. Each successive version has in general boosted its camera’s autofocus capabilities, low light performance, and resolution. The X-Trans jumped from 16.3 to 24.3 megapixels with the third version in the X-Pro2.
3. It’s a crop-sized sensor (1.5x of a full-frame sensor). Since at least 2002, when mighty Canon finally stuffed a full-frame sensor into a 1D body, a crop factor has usually signaled just a consumer or at best a specialized prosumer stills camera. Full frame became the real-deal gold standard for pro photogs shooting anything other than sports or wildlife, but by 2012, even sports and wildlife shooters could get full-frame cameras with fast frame rates. After that, smaller sensors for the most part were (silently) dismissed, (softly) mocked, or (haughtily) maligned. This is where things start to get really interesting with Fuji’s X-Trans.
4. Most sensors, regardless of size, are made of three layers. The first layer captures light. The second layer captures color. The third layer is an anti-aliasing (AA) filter, also called an optical low-pass filter. The AA filter’s main purpose is to slightly blur the image being captured. That’s totally shocking, I know, given how much time, energy, and money we spend as photographers trying to get sharp images, but the AA filter is necessary to combat the potential moire and false color created by the pixel arrangement of the second layer, which in most cameras is a Bayer filter. It looks like this:
It’s made of alternating rows of green-blue and green-red pixels. The repetition of that tight 2-by-2 pattern is what causes the issue. In effect, it makes most every digital camera produce by necessity an image that is less sharp than it could be.
5. Fuji’s X-Trans sensor, however, removes the AA filter. The sensor beats the blur by having a unique pixel array that looks like this:
That more random 6-by-6 pattern isn’t nearly as susceptible to moire or false color. Fuji boasts that the “perceived sharpness” of the X-Trans is just as sharp as a full-frame sensor even at high ISOs. Fuji also claims the X-Trans offers better color fidelity because each row and column of its sensor has at least one green, blue, or red pixel. In theory, then, the Bayer filter just can’t compete.
So that’s it, a peek behind the X-Trans magical curtain.
But is the sensor really better, sharper, sexier, and altogether more amazing? Or is the hype all just smoke and mirrors?
Way smarter people than me have produced and posted tests that could go either way. Alik Griffin’s awesome pixel-to-pixel showdown shows the older X-Trans II mostly confirming Fuji’s claims. But in this blind test of a Bayer and X-Trans side by side, the resulting images aren’t so very different, at least not for the pic dimensions typically viewed on a digital screen.
I haven’t done any of my own tests because that kind of scientific/technical endeavor generally exhausts my attention span and makes me want to stab out of my eyes, but I am certain of this: I love the images Fuji X-Trans cameras produce. Low ISO, high ISO—it’s all good and groovy and about as perfect as I personally need as a photojournalist.
The only time the smaller sensor has been a bummer is when I am looking for super shallow depth of field. You can’t fake depth of field, or at least you can’t fake it very well yet (iPhone portrait-mode enthusiasts might disagree, but, man, seriously?). Fuji’s crop sensor just isn’t going to win the creamy bokeh battle against a full-frame camera sporting an 85mm f/1.2. Physics (of the Newtonian variety) shan’t be denied.
All in all, the X-Pro2’s image quality is outstanding. It def won’t be the thing crippling your photography.
Word of warning: not every Fuji camera boasts an X-Trans sensor. If the X-Pro2 is priced out of your budget and you are thinking of some of Fuji’s other options, double check the camera’s specs. The original X100 for example is much easier on the wallet, but it’s Bayer. Most of the entry-level cams like the X-A series are Bayer too.
Extra word of warning: Adobe’s Lightroom has historically not played super nice when converting X-Trans RAW files. The demosaicing issues have reportedly been remedied or at least decently mitigated in the latest releases of Lightroom, but I can’t verify that: I moved on to the very Fuji-friendly Capture One last year. (I’m not saying you should do so too…but it’s pretty damn great!)
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 isn’t simply 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.
If you do decide to invest in an X-Pro2, I recommend that you check out the following two items that improve the feel and function of the camera. Although I did love the X-Pro2 body style right out of the box, the camera 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 immemorably 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 new, but it is also an Arca-type mounting plate for your tripod, so that is a pretty good deal in the long run.
No-Fear Weather Sealing
When the X-Pro2 shipped in 2016, I was living and working in perpetually wet Seattle. Part of my daily gig was shooting outdoor events, so I not only needed a camera that could withstand the endless drizzle, I wanted something smaller and lighter than my usual Canon 5D and 6D kit. Because I was already a Fuji fan after using the X100 and X100S, the X-Pro2 on paper seemed like the perfect option for my shooting needs. The camera actually proved itself to be perfect as I walked and shot with it for literally hundreds and hundreds of miles on Seattle’s rain-soaked streets. Never once did I fear taking the X-Pro2 and a weather-resistant 35mm f/2 out of my bag. Never once did I have any water damage.
Fuji says that the X-Pro2 has 61 weather seals, which is quite good (Canon’s latest flagship and tank-like 1D has over 70), but there are of course real limits to what the camera can survive. I wouldn’t take my X-Pro2 into a swimming pool or the ocean, completely submerge it for many minutes, and expect it to emerge undamaged. Weather sealed does not mean waterproof. For that, you’ll need one of those underwater diving thingies.
Although I find the X-Pro2 to be pretty light and compact, the weather-sealed body does make for a more hefty camera. If you know that you shall be shooting mostly in dry environs, one of the X-E cameras—quite light and lovely and fun and way less expensive—might be a better fit for you.
Part of Fuji’s current appeal to photographers is the company’s ability to merge old-school shooting sensibilities with the best of modern technologies. Want some yesteryear awesome in your contemporary camera? Just check out this shutter speed dial and aperture ring.
I mean, holy yummy damn. Those could be close-ups of the very, very best SLR kit from the ‘70s. Legit beautiful, but also solid, sure, secure. Those rings and dials feel good. They click with unassailable certainty.
They mean goddamn business.
But are they actually faster for manual shooters?
The brutal truth, for me at least, is that I can get way faster manual exposures with a modern Canon DSLR, one that has a shutter dial in the grip and a quick control dial for aperture on the back of the camera. Perhaps my Canon muscle memory is just overdeveloped at this point, but I suspect it’s more likely that cameras with modern controls are just, well, faster and better laid out, especially for one-handed operation. Give me a 5D and a light prime, and I can dial in a good manual exposure with one hand while sword fighting with the other. As much as I use and love my X-Pro2, I just can’t get my ninja-fu on while using it. It’s built for a slower, more deliberate style of shooting.
“Slow and deliberate.” I kind of cringe saying old-dude pretentious stuff like that, even if the sentiments are in the main true. Such nostalgic puffery means nothing to highly pressured working photographers fighting for good shots in fractions of a second. Sometimes you simply need speed. Lots of it.
One option to bypass the physical shutter dial altogether is by programming either the front or back command dial to control shutter. Set the physical shutter dial to “T,” and you can then access the full range of shutter speeds with the dial of your choice. For my hand size, the back one is perfectly placed. The front one I find less comfortable to get to, so I rarely use it.
But, really, the whole contemporary Fuji ethos is about those physical controls. If you are not into them, then sticking with Canon or Nikon or the like as your primary camera is probably a better choice.
Does the ISO Dial Totally Blow?
For my everyday, personal-project shooting, the mechanical controls on the X-Pro2 are great. In fact, I flat out love them.
All except for one: the integrated ISO dial.
The ISO control is incorporated into the shutter dial. To change ISO, you have to lift up the dial’s edge and then turn it to the ISO you want. At first, it seems innocuous enough: just lift and twist. The damn thing even looks cool, and it’s an admittedly clever way to save space. It hearkens back (indeed, it positively yawps back) to film cameras like the Minolta XG1 and its integrated ISO dial. And the thing is, the X-Pro2 dial is totally fine as long as you aren’t changing ISO frequently. Back in the film days, we never did. Pop in a roll of film, and your ISO setting remains constant for that roll. No repeated fiddling, no constant twisting, no super annoying problem.
But we’re firmly in the digital age now, and we’ve gotten used to adjusting ISO as much as we need or want for each shot. It’s one of the many benefits of camera modernization, one that the X-Pro2 can’t take advantage of fully or easily. Lifting and twisting, lifting and twisting, lifting and twisting—it’s just not speedy or efficient or functional for modern shooting. If you are a photographer who likes to manually adjust ISO often and insist on doing so, the X-Pro2 will not be for you. Not even a little bit. It will drive you crazy and crush your soul and dash all of your dreams and poop all over the possibility of finally getting a perfect camera. It’s that brutal.
So what does this mean for us manual shooters who chose to persevere with the X-Pro2? There are a couple of options, but they all involve changing your shooting style or your expectations.
The first option is simply to pick an ISO—just like you would a film stock in days of photographic old—and stick with it throughout a shoot. You’ll be able to adjust exposure with shutter and aperture only. Although this would be a fun personal challenge, I doubt anyone wants to do a proper paying gig these days locked into an ISO setting.
The second option is to wait for some possible kaizen love. Through a firmware update in 2017, Fuji added the ability to move ISO to the front command dial on the X-T2. I’m not sure why it was left off the X-Pro2 firmware update released at the same time, but it’s annoying af. Must be some impossible-to-solve issue involving the camera’s hardware itself, for it seems on the surface to be a trivial thing to amend, especially since so many Fuji shooters have clamored for it. For that reason, X-Pro2 kaizen is likely done and you’ll be waiting in vain.
The third option is to embrace (or surrender) to Auto ISO. You’ll have full control over aperture and shutter, but the camera completes exposure by picking an ISO sensitivity. The rub here is that you have to trust the camera to actually get a good exposure, and in tricky lighting conditions, you’ll have to ride the exposure comp dial constantly. Happily, that one is a well placed and easy-to-use wheel.
Auto ISO is the solution that I and a good many X-Pro2 shooters go with. The camera lets you create and save three Auto ISO presets, each with a different minimum and maximum ISO sensitivity of your choice. For example, one of the presets could be from ISO 200 to 800, the next from ISO 800 to 3,200, and the last from ISO 3,200 to 12,800. Selecting among the three allows you to take back a measure of control from the camera. For my usual day gig, though, I just keep it to one setting: ISO 200 to 6,400. If I know I’m going into an area with really poor light, I’ll switch over to a setting that expands the range to 12,800.
One thing to note: Auto ISO sensitivity starts at 200 and caps out at 12,800. To use the extended ISO ranges, you’ll have to lift the dial and manually select the L (ISO 100, 125, 160) or H (25,600 and 51,200) option. Boo.
The X-Pro2’s metering with Auto ISO does a good job in most situations, and the reality of course is that most of us are also shooting RAW on one of the camera’s two cards: the RAW file has a decent amount of leeway if the camera just totally blows it.
…But being forced into an auto mode still rankles, especially when you are paying for pro-level or prosumer gear. The fact that I still count the X-Pro2 as my fav digital camera ever is a personal testament to how great the rest of the shooting experience is.
Shutter Options and Silent Shooting
Unlike a DSLR or a film SLR, the mirrorless X-Pro2 gives you the choice of using an electronic shutter (ES), a traditional mechanical shutter (MS), or an option that automatically switches between the two (MS+ES). With the ES enabled, you can shoot silently.
And I mean completely silent. Not just whisper-silent like an old rangefinder with a cloth shutter, but drop-dead, can-hear-a-pin-drop, did-you-even-really-take-a-picture silent. The only sound anyone might hear coming from your X-Pro2 is the focusing motor of a lens or your finger depressing a button or turning a dial. Zero shutter sound at all.
Silent shooting is incredible, a legit revolutionary moment in modern street and event photography. It changes everything about how and where you can work. Press conferences, weddings, receptions, speeches, live events, film/video sets—anywhere silence and stealth are desired or required, you’ll now be welcome to shoot away with impunity. I’ve even had to photograph during book readings and theatrical performances, and no one cared a bit.
Along with the X-Pro2’s great image quality and retro-sexy form factor, silent shooting completed the camera’s hat trick in 2016, and it sealed the deal for my buying one. In 2020, most mirrorless cameras now allow for silent shooting with an electronic shutter. The X-Pro2’s current competitors are not only Fuji’s own (very popular) X-T series but the really, really good mirrorless cameras from Canon/Nikon/Sony, which have going for them full-frame hotness and (particularly in Sony’s case) some seriously superb autofocus capabilities. So even if you decide the X-Pro2 is not for you but you still need to shoot in situations where silence is golden, you’ll want to check out a mirrorless camera.
An electronic shutter also has a couple of other benefits:
- ES completely eliminates vibration. Doing some long exposure or critical landscape photography? Give ES a try. It’s like mirror lock-up times 1000.
- The X-Pro2’s ES speed tops out at a blistering 1/32,000. Shooting at a very shallow aperture on a super bright day? No need for a neutral density filter; just crank up that shutter.
The ES isn’t a cure-all, however. There are a couple of potentially serious problems when using the X-Pro2’s electronic shutter:
- Under certain lighting conditions (artificial/indoor), the ES can produce banding. Be sure to take some test shots when you are shooting indoor events. If banding is present, you might be able to eliminate it by adjusting shutter speed.
- Even though you can set the ES to an incredibly fast 1/32,000, the shutter isn’t actually great at freezing all types of motion. Surprisingly, it is possible to get wavy, leaning, or similarly distorted lines on fast-moving objects. This problem occurs because the “electronic shutter” is really just the camera’s sensor being turned on and off. The pixels on CMOS sensors like the X-Trans fire up one row at a time, so a rolling shutter effect is created. Interestingly, I find that this effect happens most often when the camera and I are the ones in motion. For example, if I’m in a bus and shooting out the window, a car in the next lane might appear distorted in the pic. If, however, I am standing on the sidewalk and shooting a car that is in motion, the car often looks just fine in the image.
- ISO tops out at 12,800 when the electronic shutter is enabled. If you need the high ISO settings, you’ll have to switch to mechanical shutter.
- Finally, flashes won’t work at all. If you use any kind of strobes, you’ll need the mechanical shutter.
Depending on your needs and typical shooting locales/situations, those ES issues could be a deal breaker. For me and my work, the benefit of silent shooting far, far outweighs any hassles.
When the ES won’t work out for you, the mechanical shutter is available, and it’s no slouch, maxing out at 1/8,000—top of the line for current digital cameras. The sync speed for strobe users is a respectable 1/250. Although the mechanical shutter’s sound is certainly audible, it’s not at all loud compared to most of the film cameras we all like to shoot.
Buy More Batteries
I’ve mentioned batteries and battery life several times throughout this review, and for good reason: the X-Pro2’s battery hunger is real, especially if you have enabled High Performance mode (which you should) and use the back LCD for absolutely anything at all. The X-Pro2, however, isn’t more power hungry than every other mirrorless camera. If you shoot mirrorless, you’ll buy and carry more batteries: it’s just a fact of life.
You can save a good bit by purchasing third-party batteries. I’ve tried most of them, and they all can keep you shooting in a pinch. They do, however, seem to hold less charge, especially as they age. If you have the cash, pick up a couple of Fuji’s own S variants. I cycle between five batteries—two OEMs I try to use as much as possible, and then three third-party versions that are for emergencies or when the OEMs are charging. The X-Pro2’s batteries are pretty small and light, so just keep a few in your gig bag at all times and you’ll never have a problem.
More Good Stuff: Card Slots
The X-Pro2 has two card slots, which is pretty standard now but was far less so in 2016. There are three ways to set up the cards: Sequential, Back Up, or RAW/JPEG.
Sequential means that after one card is filled up with image files, the camera automatically begins writing to the second card. You can thus shoot a whole bloody shitload of pics without ever having to unload your files. Frankly, I’m not sure if anyone in this age of high-capacity memory cards ever really needs to select this option, but who knows? Maybe you are going on an amazing two-week trip and not taking a laptop and just want to shoot and shoot and shoot and shoot. And then shoot some more. And then not think or worry about files until you get home. A risky but possible scenario I suppose.
With the Back Up option selected, the camera writes the same image you shoot to each card. If one card happens to fail, you have the second card with back-up files ready to go. This is arguably the most popular way to set up the X-Pro2 or any camera with two card slots. Once you have experienced the security of having back-up files, it’s really disconcerting to shoot a camera without them, especially on paid gigs.
RAW/JPEG is the third option, and it’s the one I most often select. The RAW file is written to the first card, while a JPEG version of that file is written to the second card. This is a great option if, like me, you tend to use Fuji’s excellent JPEG film simulations and then do only minor post processing. The RAW file at that point is just a nice insurance policy: if I screw up an exposure super badly, the RAW file can hopefully come to the rescue; if a card fails, I still at least have some sort of backup version. It’s the best of both worlds.
Is the X-Pro2 Still Worth Buying?
I can’t imagine working now without some version of an X-Pro in my bag. The series has genuinely and profoundly affected my life as a photographer that much.
As for the X-Pro2 specifically, it is for me very nearly “perfect”—an easy-to-carry camera that provides a mostly joyful shooting experience and produces some great JPEG and RAW files. It tickles, stimulates, and satisfies all the most important of my aesthetic and shooting sensibilities.
And I can’t ask for much more than that from any camera.
But if you are reading this in 2020 or beyond, the X-Pro2 might not be for you. The camera is sometimes needlessly and frustratingly anachronistic with its OVF and ISO dial. Sports shooters will miss super high frame rates, state-of-the-art autofocus, and the ability to comfortably use long lenses. In some cases, its 24-megapixel and crop-sized sensor will be inadequate for your needs.
If, however, you are a street/documentary shooter and already a Fuji fan, you’ll probably adore having one in your hand. The real question for you is whether to skip the X-Pro2 altogether and go right for a shiny new X-Pro3.
Price is the first serious consideration of course. A new X-Pro3 will set you back $1,500 to $1,700, depending on any sales that are happening (thankfully, Fuji tends to offer a bunch of them throughout the year). The X-Pro2 will cost only 800ish bucks and probably less if you search around for a bit. That price difference is a whole lot of cash to put toward a new lens. Or, for the more practical among you, your cell phone bill for the entire year.
Besides costing more, the X-Pro3 is also something other than just a hot-rodded X-Pro2 with much better autofocus and a couple of extra megapixels. The X-Pro3’s flip out screen makes for an entirely different and unique shooting experience that may or may not be your thing. I’m definitely interested in it, but not enough to sell my own X-Pro2.
So for around $800 in 2020, the X-Pro2 is I think a total steal for an incredibly capable camera that is also just…fun.
Like really, really fun.
I try not to fall into the trap of turning cameras into fetish properties—machines to be ogled over and cooed at. Cameras in the end are just tools after all, but don’t underestimate the appeal of having a pleasurable piece of gear in your hand, a camera that makes you want to go out and shoot even when you don’t have to. Never discount the fun factor in photography.
That’s hopefully why we all started in the first place.
The X-Pro2 keeps a smile on my face. I bet it will do the same for you.