Archive of ‘Techniques’ category

My Fujifilm X-Pro2 experience so far

Initially, I wasn’t as impressed with my Fujifilm X-Pro2
I got in August 2016. I have several native lenses for it as well as too many to count vintage lenses in different mounts. However, this article about X-Pro2 is with its native lenses, not with old lenses in any other mount. I’m primarily a Leica shooter, but since my Leica M TYP 240 and Leica 50 mm Noctilux-M F0.95 ASPH. have been in Solms, Germany for calibration since the beginning of December, I’ve been photographing mostly with the X-Pro2 due to claimed weather resistance my only Leica at home currently, the M9, does not have.

I started using the X-Pro2 in September when it was already autumn, leaves started falling, and the temperature was steadily going towards freezing point. The weather during autumn was many times not survivable by a camera that does not have any weather resistance and of those that do, like my Sony a7R, I think I’d have totalled it again. I’m so glad it has a 5-year warranty as it does need it (it claims to have weather resistance when in reality it has none, although they fix it under warranty). The Fujifilm X-Pro2 is even better in weather resistance department compared to Fujifilm X-T1 before it. It was supposed to be okay, but after some time the door hiding HDMI and Micro-USB connectors started protruding from the body and it was impossible to seal it properly. It’s a known manufacturing flaw in X-T1, and I haven’t contacted Fujifilm about it, because I fixed it by taping over the connectors behind the door, making it making as weather resistant as it was. Optical viewfinder sometimes comes handy when you simply don’t see anything in the dark with the EVF, unless of course you disable the preview picture functionality and have good EVF again. I needed to read a book to learn that. The optical viewfinder also hides the fact that since it’s been raining horizontally, none of your pictures shows anything but blur or flare. So when raining, I always change to EVF to see the result better.

Fujifilm X-Pro2 has been splendid in winter also. One thing my Sony a7R does not handle at all is low temperature. It can deplete two full batteries in a battery grip in 12 minutes (recording 1080p video). I haven’t seen any measurable drop in battery performance when using the camera in freezing temperatures, and that’s way below the Fujifilm’s promised -10 celsius. I have used mostly WR lenses, but since there isn’t a WR lens for every purpose, I’ve used the 18-55 mm kit lens, etc. as well. I don’t know what paradise island Fujifilm engineers spend their days on, but I’m living in a place that gets less sunlight than 99,7% of the world’s population (not a joke!). I’d be euphoric to see WR versions of the 18-55 mm F2.8-4.0 and the 35 mm F1.4 (maybe the t23 mm F1.4 also). Of all the zooms available for Fujifilm, only the 18-55 mm is of some use during winter. Others run out of light so quickly. The 16-55 mm F2.8 is large, and while weather resistant, it lacks the image stabilisation, so it’s unusable during winter (F2.8 means at least ISO 6400) An F1.4 lens is usually ISO 1600, depending on focal length and therefore shutter speed of course). In the city centre there is enough light to survive with “lesser” lenses, but anywhere else you’re out of luck with an F2.0 and APS-C.

Lenses are where my biggest problem lies with the Fujifilm system. I’m mainly a Leica shooter and have several lenses between F0.95 and F1.4. The full frame Leica is also very easy to use handheld, and it does not shake, producing pin-sharp photos almost always. When I was using the 16-megapixel versions of the Fujifilm cameras, I did not notice the problem of blurred photos, although different season helped there a bit also. I have noticed that the 1/f rule for selecting your minimum shutter speed is not even nearly enough to make sharp 24-megapixel photographs with the Fujifilm X-Pro2. And since the weather resistant lenses are F2.0, my photos are often at very high ISO and look awful when compared to even the old Leica M9, which somehow manages to take ISO 160 photographs in the dark. From my experience the real minimum shutter speed using Fujifilm X-Pro2 is 1/2f, and even then the focal length must be converted to full frame first. For 35 mm lens, the minimum is 1/100, any less than that and not one of your photos will be sharp. For Leica M9, the similar minimum is 1/30, or 1/45 if you have light to spare (or use M240 with the 24-megapixel sensor instead of “just” 18). Now you probably catch my point about the one stop difference in lens speed, which isn’t as irrelevant as YouTube reviews usually say. The sun rises after 10 and sets 4 hours later, and all that time it stays behind mountains and clouds, so even the brightest moment of the day isn’t that bright. Not to mention that it’s time of day when I usually have other things to do such as work.

Maybe I’m spoiled with my Leica lenses, but I’ve also noticed that the new WR F2.0 lenses (35 mm and especially the 23 mm) are softer than they should be. Even the 18-55 mm kit lens seems to get sharper results, although there’s the issue with shutter speed and lack of image stabilisation again. The kit lens is also an unfound gem since I just compared it to what Sony has to offer and it’s mindblowing how much better Fujifilm is. It’s the zoom lenses, in fact, that surprise me with their image quality more than the prime lenses. When photographing city streets, I’m using my camera always handheld, so monopods or similar are of no help. What helps is either a fast lens or image stabilisation, preferably former. I have to use the lenses wide open most of the time since there isn’t enough light. When using the prime lenses for Fujifilm, I have to crank up the shutter speed, and since it’s always dark, the ISO values go to smartphone quality territory. I’m sorry to say that I don’t see a point in increasing high-ISO values if the highest good values still hover around the same level, slightly depending on the camera. For most modern cameras it’s ISO 800-1600. Fujifilm is one of the best in this department because the image noise is monochromatic in nature, but it still does not look like the “film grain” on my M9, which should be abysmal camera by technical specifications in 2017. When photographing in low light, Fujifilm seems to miss a lot of detail in the shadows for some reason. It’s mainly the colour detail that is wrong or missing, but that may be just my RAW converter’s fault (Adobe Lightroom).

At daylight Fujifilm is excellent, and none of the native lenses for the X-mount is bad or even below overall average among manufacturers. I don’t know where you’re own quality level lies, but with Fujifilm, I have to take into account the fact that all lenses are available 2nd hand for only a few hundred euros. I know a 2500 € zoom lens for Sony full frame might be better (apart from the gigantic size) or know for a fact that the Leica 50 mm Summilux-M F1.4 ASPH. or the Leica 35 mm Summilux-M F1.4 ASPH. is a lens none of the Fujifilm lenses can hold a candle to, not to mention the Leica 50 mm Noctilux-M F0.95 ASPH. which is mindblowing at night.

Why this article if I did not have any photos to show you nor tell you anything useful? Well, I did. If you are not blessed with the sunshine like most of the planet and struggle with image sharpness on an APS-C sensor sized camera, please try using 1/2f as your minimum shutter speed. For a 23 mm lens on 1,5 crop sensor that turns out to be 1/23*1,5*2, which means on Fujifilm X-Pro2 you’ll use either 1/60 or 1/80 at the minimum. When I was using my X-Pro2 like my Leica, saying 1/40 or so as minimum shutter speed for a 23 mm lens, none of my photos was sharp, not even when standing still when taking the picture.

It takes about one year to master a new camera or a unique lens to a degree, so I’d say I’m still in the learning phase with the X-Pro2. I can’t do the same things with it I’m used to with my Leica cameras, but the same can be said about Leicas that do not have zoom lenses, for instance. Walking around with my Leica and the same lens day in day out makes photographing with it very natural, and the same cannot be yet said about the X-Pro2 just because I’m not entirely satisfied with the quality I get. It’s not the camera’s fault, it’s mine, just to clear things up. I like manual focusing a lot more than automatic since only then I have full control of what should be in focus. Photographing with wide open aperture in dark using automatic focusing makes things difficult because often you’d like the camera to focus to infinity or use hyperfocal focusing, but that’s not easy with digital lenses that have a fly-by-wire focus ring. With a manual Leica lens all that is walk in a park.

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