A few weeks ago I had the chance for a quick break and headed off to London to see the sights and sounds of the big city. Usually for a holiday i'd take my trusty X100s but having just finished my wedding season, I was keen to take the Xpro2 for a spin in a non work related environment. I travelled light and brought only the XF35mm f1.4 and XF18mm.
A real world review of the Xpro2
So where do we begin? The Fuji XPro 1 was the camera that started it all for the Fuji X system. Granted the original X100 was the first in line, but it was the XPro 1 that was first to feature the exceptional X-Trans sensor along with the first batch of Fujinon lenses we've come to love. It was launched in early 2012 along with a trio of primes and then at a staggering rate Fuji introduced new X series cameras and lenses. Any replacement for the XPro1 will have huge shoes to fill, it's not all about specs, speed and wifi (although very nice) it's about how the camera makes you feel. That's what the Fuji X Series is really about. Until the XPro2 arrived my main body has been the XT1. It was a great camera (and still is). But it wasn't my favourite. That place was reserved for the XPro1 with all it's faults, funny noises and quirks. I just enjoyed the form factor and the smug satisfaction that it was a bit niche and not for everyone. What I really wanted was an XT1 inside a XPro body. Thats what Fujifilm have just given us....and a whole lot more.
I've been using the Fujifilm XPro2 since it's release, shooting weddings, headshots, street photography and some portraiture. This 'review' is not based on technical charts or in depth analysis, simply how well it's performs compared to the previous generation of X Series cameras at the three main genres I shoot. All my opinions are my own.
I don't shoot in Jpeg so all images are based on the Raw files and edits of them in Lightroom CC.
The XPro2 retains the same retro range finder looks of the original. At first glance it both models look very similar and from a distance its difficult to tell the two apart. A closer look reveals subtitle changes that reveal some key differences but Fuji have still managed to keep the design true to the Xpro name.
The Xpro2 features a new 24mp Xtrans 3 sensor which should hopefully be rolled out to future models. I say hopefully because it's good, very good. The jump in megapixels is nice. The previous generation of 16MP Xtrans sensor was always enough for me but I can understand why the jump has been made. There is no loss of IQ at high ISO, infact we now have an extra stop to play with. Provided the image is exposed correctly raw files are usable at ISO 12800. Image resolution now sits at 6000 x 4000px which provides a nice bit of head room when cropping. Higher res images translate into better detail in the files and there is a genuine noticeable difference in XT1 and Xpro2 files. This may not be so obvious in web viewed images, but at full resolution on a 27" screen it's there. In the main though, IQ is faithful to the X series. If you crop Xpro 2 files down to 4896 x 3264px the image with be practically identical to X trans 2 files from what I can tell.
The first thing you notice when shooting a wedding with this camera is it's speed. There is practically no delay or lag when pressing the shutter and i've noticed a big increase in the the number of keepers during post processing as a result. It is particularly evident when shooting candids of guests when the decisive moment can be easily missed. The electronic shutter is more useful now when trying to keep quiet with a big reduction in the banding from certain artificial lighting. This was a bit of a pain with the Xtrans 2 bodies as this electronic shutter mode caused severe banding and therefore useless in a lot of typical english churches. The auto focus is a big step us from previous generation. It's accurate and faster than the previous X series cameras. The most important improvement for me is the continuous AF performance which has greatly improved. The wedding processional can be shot with confidence and the increase in buffer size is most welcome. The OVF is a significantly better experience this time around and the auto focus confirmation can be trusted to a much higher degree than Fuji's older OVF's. This makes the camera a pleasure to use in this mode for candids of wedding guests throughout the day. The hybrid viewfinder mode is great for giving you the confidence that AF has acquired correctly. The EVF is very nice indeed. 85fps (in high performance mode) makes this as smooth as gets EVF wise in a Fuji camera until the XT2 arrives. If you're coming from an XT1 though, the EVF is notably smaller which might take a while to get used to. Its clarity and sharpness more than make up for it for me but something to consider if the EVF is at the top of your features list. I've picked up a couple of extra batteries for weddings anticipating the reported battery drain issues. the camera is hungry for juice (especially the high performance mode) but it's by no means massive problem. I think i'm getting about 2/3rds the shots from the genuine batteries than I would get with XT1. A full 12 hour wedding i'm taking 9 batteries for the Xpro2 and XT1 2nd body.
I've shot some weddings this summer in very bright light and this can be a little problematic using the viewfinder in direct sunlight. There's no option at the moment to add an extended eyecup which I found to be a godsend on the XT1. I've also noticed something else..... the XPro2 can get quite warm with prolonged use. It's not a big deal but it is noticeable compared to the previous generations and it might come in handy for anyone shooting in the winter....ahem. Apart from those couple of minor gripes the camera is very nice indeed and well suited to wedding photography.
The Xpro2 is a pleasure to use on the street. Its nothing revolutionary in this respect as street is part of the Fuji X DNA. I shoot street using both AF and MF zone focusing. Again the faster AF and lack of lag is great. If shooting manual focus you have the option of full EVF with a much more detailed peaking or split screen. Another option is the hybrid viewfinder with the tiny screen in the bottom right showing focus peaking and exposure. This mode is great...well kind of. Its described as an electronic rangefinder which I suppose it is but it doesn't feel like an real rangefinder. I haven't used it with legacy glass so can't comment. The brilliant quality of a MF rangefinder is the speed. Fuji's fly by wire XF lenses combined with electronic rangefinder offset to the bottom right just isn't quick enough for a lot of situations. Just like the Xpro1, the Xpro2 s a great street companion just better in every way.
The XT1 is a superb headshot camera. You don't see many pro's using fuji's for headshots but trust me, they're missing out. The Xpro2 is just as good...sometimes better...and sometimes worse, Let me explain. The Large EVF on the XT1 make composition very easy. It's a little more challenging on the XPro2 due to it's EVF size. Added to that the XT1's grip is designed to be used comfortably in the portrait orientation and you don't have that luxury with the Xpro2. I use the Classic Chrome profile in lightroom for headshots as I find it to be perfect for obtaining nice skin tones and consistency throughout the shoot. Thankfully this profile is just as good with the new camera as with the old. The higher resolution of the files though is a big step up with headshots. The detail in the eyes, skin pores, hair and eyelashes are so much sharper. The extra cropping room is very handy.
a few extras
The Xpro2 is a fantastic camera and i'm enjoying it immensely, but it;s not for everyone. Some will really need the ergonomics of the XT lines as well the EVF. Some will want the Xpro line form factor and OVF. For some it will come down to the appearance of the cameras alone. The good news is Fuji will be offering both in the form of the Xpro2 and XT2. I really loved my Xpro1, it was a good friend to me but not one I could necessary trust with important paying tasks but it was great fun to hang out with. The XT1 was never my best friend, it was more of a highly reliable colleuge that worked hard and got the job done, but i wouldn't go for a pint with it after work. The Xpro2 succeeds in being both and with a few compromises it fits into both camps.
So when the dust settles and all the launch hype disappears, is the XPro2 the best thing since sliced bread? Answer: It is for me.
The Fujinon XF35mm F2 has been in my camera bag since its release. I purchased it for just one simple reason, that it was weather sealed. Being very happy with the lens line up I had, I planned to keep the little lens tucked away and bring it out only when needed. The predictably wet British weather is not always ideal when shooting weddings and street and I liked the idea of have a little backup lens to chuck on the XT1 so I could keep on shooting (none of my other lenses are weather sealed) For quite a while it sat in my bag doing its job but never needed. A couple of months ago a paired it with my trusty but battered Xpro1 and headed out for a cold early morning walk on Dartmoor. I must admit I was impressed. This tiny 35mm F2 certainly punches above its wait. Its sharp wide open with the character you'd expect from any fujinon prime. Its pretty solid too. When mounted on the Xpro1 it feels like the camera has had a firmware update. It really is a noticeably better shooting experience than shooting with the XF35 f1.4. Its well worthy of being part of the Fujinon XF line up and i'm now shooting with it every day.
Fuji users have been spoilt of the past few years with release after release of high quality glass. The lens line up is pretty much complete now covering all the classic short, normal and mid tele focal lengths a photographer could need. The lens choice is pretty straight forward for most users, need a 85mm equivalent ?....get the 56mm 1.2, need a macro..... get the 60mm 2.4, need a 70 -200 equivalent? get the 50 -140 2.8...and so on. One decision is not quite so simple though. If you need a 35mm equivalent, do you get the Fujinon 23mm 1.4 or an X100S/T?
The decision is not a easy one. You can purchase the prime lens with its nice a bright f1.4 aperture or go for the X100S/T with its fixed, not so bright and not so sharp f2 lens. If you shop around carefully you can pick either up for a very similar price and I went through the very same dilemma. I wanted a 35mm for street and weddings. I weighed up the pro's and cons and chose the X100s. I had some great use out of that camera and still use it a lot. After a year of shooting with the X100s I did find I was needing a bit more from that focal length. Winter weddings in the UK can be quite demanding of the low light performance from a camera system and that extra stop of light from the prime would be most welcome. I bit the bullet and picked up the 23mm 1.4 for the 2015 wedding season and matched it with an XE2 body. The difference in the image quality was very obvious. The 23mm F1.4 is much sharper than the F2 on the X100s. Wide open its performance is stellar and out of focus areas are rendered beautifully. It has one disadvantage though, its size.
Another criticism of the 23mm F1.4 was its lens hood. It comes boxed with a plastic petal that wouldn't look out of place on a Canon 18-55 kit lens. It almost doubles the length of the lens again and just doesn't look right. However if you search ebay or amazon you can pick up a metal screw in hood that perfectly fits the 62mm filter thread.
The lens is simply stunning. It's solidly built although not weather sealed. Focus speed is very quick especially if mounted on the XT1 or XE2. When mounted on the Xpro1 it's speed pretty much matches the X100S in good light. If you're in the same situation and trying to decide between the Prime or the X100S/T then I haven't really got an answer for you. If you're looking for a small package then you can't go wrong with the X100 series, but if your wondering if the IQ of the prime is better, take it from me .....it is
A selection of stills taken with the Fujinon 23mm 1.4 wide open.
Several weeks ago I was interviewed by one of the Uk's top Photography Magazines Digital Photographer and I'm pleased to say it was published this month. Here's a copy of the interview:
What’s exciting about shooting portraits? What are the challenges
None of my portraits are the same or I at least try to keep them different. It's exciting to plan, prepare and put together a vision for a shoot. When you see the results and they match or exceed your expectations it can be very rewarding. It can be a lot of effort to pull off a good portrait and quite time consuming.
What makes a great portrait?
A combination of the subject, the location and the light are all big factors for me when shooting portraits. All have to be right to make the portrait work.
How important is to build rapport with your model? What do you do to put them at ease?
It's probably the most important aspect of a shoot. If the photographer and model don't gel you won't get the best out of the subject. Just be yourself and be honest about your limitations. Don't hide the images either, I show the subject every picture as we shoot and if the don't like any I delete it.
Tell us about your kit. What’s your preferred lens/focal length for portraits?
For the last few years I've been shooting exclusively with the Fuji x mirrorless Cameras. My portrait kit is a Fuji XT1 and the XF56mm 1.2 which is an 85mm equivalent in full frame. It's a stunning lens and XT1 (as well as any Fuji x camera) has beautiful skin tones. I don't use flash/strobes, just natural light.
How important is depth of field to your work. Do you prefer to work with more or less?
prefer a shallow as possible depth of field and shoot wide open at all times if I can.
What are the challenges/advantages you find with your aperture choices? How does it impact your work?
By shooting wide open you can lose a little sharpness then when stopped down but the Fuji lenses are so good that is not really an issue for me now. Focus becomes less forgiving so it's important to check your images on the LCD for sharpness to the eyes. If shooting in bright daylight your camera may not have a fast enough shutter speed to balance the exposure. This forces you to reduce your aperture and the shallow depth of field with it. The XT1 has an electronic shutter with shutter speeds up to 1/32,000s which solves that problem. When using DLSR's I used ND filters.
Do you prefer to work in the studio or on location? Why - what are the challenges/advantages?
I always shoot on location. I prefer the look of natural light and studio shooting has never really appealed to me. I know some great photographers who shoot pretty much all their work in the studio and they're work is brilliant, just not what I want to do at the moment. A location usually free to shoot at and you can make use environment around you. The possibilities are endless at a great location, but you are restricted by the weather and the time of day to get the correct lighting.
How do you ensure the poses are interesting and confident, rather than awkward and unflattering? What’s the difference?
If you are working with experienced models this is not usually an issue. It's a matter of going through a series of poses looking for the right ones. A good model should have everything you need in their toolbox of poses. Working with someone who is less experienced is different. You have to prompt them more often and explain in greater detail what you are trying to achieve. I will normally have a 'mood board' on standby with a series of photos on my iPad that the model can take examples from. A good image will stand out straight away as to whether it's a keeper or not. If and image looks even slightly uncomfortable or awkward then best delete it and move on.
Lighting is very important to your work. How would you describe your style?
I would call myself an "Available light" photographer.
If you could only use one modifier for your light, what would it be? Why?
The only modifier i use is a 5 in 1 reflector. I use the White side to fill in shadows on the face. I occasionally use the translucent middle to diffuse the sunlight.
Is there a secret to creating more interesting light? What’s the first step to making it more 3D/eye catching?
Two things to instantly make a natural portrait sing is catchlights in the eyes and side light on the face. Place a subject in a doorway, tunnel or similar to get rid of the top light from above. You can then use the sidelight to shape the face. You'll also get stronger catchlights from the light source
How important is post-processing to your work? What software do you use and what essential editing does every image undergo?
I used to spend hours on each image trying to make it perfect but I now keep things as simple as possible. I try to get as much right in camera as I can such as the crop and exposure. I use Lightroom for 90% of what I do and have a few presets I like to stick to. Sometimes I'll import the images with a ready made preset and do nothing to the else to the image.
Tell us what you’re working on at the moment?
I recently started shooting film again and hope to incorporate it into my portraits and street photography. I'm shooting actors and actresses Headshots and really enjoy doing that. I'm also a reportage wedding photographer which is the opposite of portrait photography as I no control of the subjects.
A few images from a recent fashion shoot with model Kayleigh Gray taken with the fuji XPro1 and XT1.
I have been using the Fuji X system for a couple of years now. I started off with the XE1 as a personal camera and I ended up bringing it along to weddings to see what it could do. That camera combined with the 35mm 1.4 is personally responsible for me ditching my Canon DLSR’s and making the the full switch to Fuji. That little camera blew me away, its colours, sharpness, lightness, and image quality and the best auto white balance I had seen.
This blog post was originally written for the online photography magazine FUJI LOVE published on 8th Sept 2015. Click here for a link to the article
As soon as the XT1 arrived I picked one up, making the full switch……well almost. There was one problem in my mind that I was battling with, I couldn’t part with my Canon 85mm 1.8. It was my favourite focal length and extremely good for a non L glass lens and it was my go to portrait lens. Some of my favourite images I had taken up to that point were with that lens so I was reluctant to see it go. I hung on to it for while with a 6D for company. I know now that I was completely wrong to worry, the 56mm 1.2 has replaced my 85mm and then some.
The lens is perfect for documentary wedding photography and I use it in combination the 23mm 1.4. Where I find the lens really shines is in portraiture. Its very sharp wide open and out of focus areas are rendered beautifully. The 1.2 aperture gives you the approximate depth of field as the 85 at f1.8 on a full frame so it’s very nice for isolating your subject. Using the lens on any X series
camera with give you very pleasing accurate skin tones, very important for me when shooting colour headshots.
A few weeks ago I arranged a location fashion photoshoot with a local model and put the XT1 and the 56mm 1.2 through its paces. I used only the XT1 and the 56mm, no strobes or reflectors. For me there are four elements that need to be in place for a natural light portrait to work. Location, light, subject and of course the lens. The camera body, the megapixels, the memory cards are all
secondary. The lens with define the image that you capture on that sensor. The better the lens, the better the image. For portraiture you’ll hear many things such as 85mm or above for the perfect
focal length but that is subjective. A general rule is the longer the focal length the more flattering for the subject especially the face. The 85mm field of view the XF56mm gives you the perfect balance for a flattering portrait as well as being useful more reportage moments. A lens ideally needs to be sharp to render all that detail in a face and eyes.
A wide aperture is desirable as it allows you to throw that background and foreground out focus, isolating the subject. The XF56mm 1.2 ticks all those boxes. For me the XF56mm 1.2 is the perfect portrait lens, but then I haven’t tried the 90mm yet….maybe later.
For this shoot the 56mm was shot wide open throughout.
I normally leave personal work for Facebook or Instagram, but though i'd share a few pics from my recent family break to sunny Cornwall as I was so impressed the the Fuji X100s as a travel camera. The camera is easy to carry and the fixed lens save you having to worry about swapping glass. We had great weather for the few days which made the built in 3 stop ND filter pretty useful. I normally use the X100s for my Wedding Photography but for the past few weddings i've been using my Xpro 1 with the the 23mm 1.4. This had left my X100s a little redundant and I was a bit worried I have no use for it. Turns out I will....can't wait for the next holiday!
A couple of weeks ago I had a short break from weddings and took the time to polish up my portrait skills having not photographed someone outside a wedding environment for a while. Gemma from Devon Photography Training was running a street fashion workshop in Plymouth City Centre so I joined her and a few fellow photographers for a wander. I dusted off my XPro1 and used it with the 35mm 1.4 and kept my 56mm on my XT1 for the whole shoot. I found myself sticking to the Xpro 1 for most of the images. Model for the day was Kirsty Morris
The Fujifilm XT1 has been main my main body for wedding photography for the past 12 months or more. From the very beginning it has impressed. I've seen no difference in the quality of images provided to my clients since switching from a full frame DLSR and in many cases I think I get superior results. Fujifilm have released several firmware updates since its release, the last major update was version 3.1. this added several new features such as a electronic shutter. This is perfect for documentary wedding photography as it allows the camera to operate completely silently and with shutter speeds up to 1/32000s.
Fujifilm have now released the next firmware update for the XT1, Version 4.0. It again adds many new features but the most important to me (and probably every other user) is the completely re-vamped and improved auto focus system. I was able to test this firmware in the real world last week during a wedding, specifically the confetti throw. This can be one of the most demanding events to capture as a documentary wedding photographer because the moment is un staged and if you miss it...it's gone.
Here is a series of images from the complete confetti throw.
56mm 1.2 wide open at 1.2
AF Zone Focusing "C"
The result was pretty impressive and to be honest, effortless with the new firmware. The focusing followed the bride and groom with no problem at all, only missing them once when a handful of confetti jumped in to focus zone.