With Fujifilm on the road…
Note: This is again a very long post! It’s by no means a review in the classical sense, but rather a report on some aspects regarding my practical and very intensive daily use of that gear on a longer journey. So again, you might want (a lot of) coffee… 😉
That is almost one year to the day now since I have decided to make the complete switch to Fujifilm (German only). Even though I have not regretted this step ab initio I must confess that there were no ‘real’ challenges for my gear within the first eight months or so. This has definitely changed since the date on which I have started my four-month photographic journey through Europe at the end of April.
Following a longer period for reflection I have finally chosen the X-Pro2 with two lenses – the XF16 and the XF35F2 – and the new X100F as my companions for that long trip. After eight weeks of traveling then I bought a third lens – the fantastic little XF18. I wrote two posts about my love-hate relationship with this lens (German only) as well as about my complete rethinking and newly found love for it – a love that still persists! Although I will never jilt my XF16, it would not be my first choice in the future for the kind of traveling that I did over the last months.
Weight and inconspicuousness are key here and the Xf18 is a dream in this respect. The Lightroom statistics is clear proof here by the way: Since I have bought this lens around 90% of my images have been made with the 18mm attached to my X-Pro2. Period.
After around 17.000 kilometres of traveling and 16 countries I can honestly say that I was really happy with that change and with my gear in general. I have used public transport – especially trains and busses – for most parts of my journey and that alone leads to a situation where you are glad about every gram and every piece of equipment you do NOT have to carry with you. The same applies to hours-long photographic tours on foot through the cities or the countryside. I simply cannot even imagine any more to travel with a FF DSLR and FF lenses, not to speak of a medium format camera – even if the new Fujifilm GFX 50s sometimes arouses a desire for the bigger format in me.
But this is in sharp contrast to one thing that I have appreciated very much on my trip: I was able to keep one camera almost every time handy – either in my hand or over my shoulder – while being on the road and even when carrying both backpacks.
The compactness of both cameras resulted in the fact that I rarely had to use my smartphone for quick snapshots on the road – an invaluable advantage I would now regret to miss.
At the beginning I have already indicated some ‘real challenges’ for the cameras but actually I didn’t mean that in a material or physical sense. Finally, I was neither out in the desert nor in the Arctic or the tropical rainforest – although I would not hesitate at all to take both cameras with me to those places. At least to the desert and to the rainforest I already have done so a number of times. Nevertheless, even during my tour through ‘civilized’ and climatic moderate Europe my gear had to be resilient in several aspects. I witnessed some of the heaviest rainfalls I have ever seen that turned roads literally into torrential streams – me and the X-Pro2 midst therein. I really like my gear and I try to handle it to the best of my ability with care, but at the end of the day a camera is a commodity that has to stand some harsher conditions – heat and dust are also included for sure. I am no way one of the guys who are afraid of changing a lens in the desert.
Particularly the X-Pro2 had to stand even some more extreme situations. On Lesbos I had a – fortunately minor – motorbike accident while carrying the camera with a mounted XF35F2 around my right shoulder. Apart from several scratches that accident lead to an unsightly blue spot on my breast: I have fallen ON the camera and buried it under my body on the asphalt. Are there still any doubts concerning the durability of the X-Pro2? All images of the camera you can see above – apart from the overview image of the gear for sure – were made after the accident by the way…
Image quality, usability and operability
Needless to say that ruggedness is only one side of the coin. A far more important question is how the cameras did perform in daily use with regard to image quality and particularly to usability and operability. Therefore one should know that my main focus was on a quite broad spectrum of documentary photography – everything from portraiture to narrative and editorial should be possible and convenient to shoot. And I needed the possibility to have a fast and easy access to usable JPGs without an elaborate and time-consuming processing for Instagram, my blogging and for the printing of instant images for my ‘analogue logbook’.
This was the first time ever I really appreciated the outstanding Fujifilm JPG engine and especially the wonderful film simulations – first and foremost Classic Chrome and Acros. In the past I hardly paid attention to this point, but during the last four months I was always shooting in RAW+JPG mode and used the JPGs pretty often. This even went so far that I have started to use all seven available custom functions and have set up three different Classic Chrome and four different Acros profiles. To be honest I would be pleased to have even more than seven positions though…
Both the Instax app and the Fujifilm app on my smartphone worked stable and fine for me so that I very often just imported the JPGs into Lightroom mobile (in two steps via the Fujifilm app) and then exported the files after a very slight processing into the web. These features are not new for sure but I have never used this option so intensively and with so much fun.
I think that there’s not much more to say when it comes to the image quality that the X-Trans III sensor is able to provide. I still don’t understand any complaining about that point and will understand this in future just as little. I am really happy with its performance up to ISO 6400 and I have never looked back since my switch to Fujifilm. I don’t have a clue if resolution or sharpness are better or worse than the competition and, to be honest, I couldn’t care less about it. Resolution and sharpness are more than sufficient nowadays on almost all modern system cameras. I must admit, however, that I definitely do like the rendering and the colour rendition of that sensor and image processor very much. And I really love the Classic Chrome and the Acros film simulations as basic points to start my further adjustments in the raw images. In my opinion that’s a huge advantage of the Fujifilm cameras in real life use – at least it is for me.
But after all I have to say that usability and operability in the field were the two things of my highest interest. Ergonomics and the feel for a camera are very important for me and I was not disappointed in this respect. With regard to ergonomics I have tuned and optimized both cameras with some accessories like the very good Thumbrest from Lensmate as well as with a soft release button – the former is important in my opinion, the latter is more a question of your personal preference. With the X-Pro2 I also used the original Hand Grip MHG-XPRO2. Opposite to my earlier view I found it very helpful to improve the grip of the camera and I would not want to miss it anymore.
One thing I was surprised about a little bit is my constant increasing preference to use the EVF. If I look at my ‘history’ of using Fujifilm X-cameras with a hybrid viewfinder (which is meanwhile six years old) I have to admit that the percentage of using the OVF definitely decreased year after year. It now got to the point where I have used the EVF approximately 90% of the time. This is largely due to the fact that I almost never crop my pictures. This implies that I have to be careful with the image composition during the capture – something that is difficult to do with the OVF. I now truly wonder if I only have used the OVF more often with the predecessors because of the weak EVF quality in the past. However, it’s all the better that the EVFs are great in both the X100F and the X-Pro2.
Likes and dislikes
This will be a very short chapter since I did not experience much new. Most of my impressions about the cameras during the intensive use correspond very well to what I have written before in various reviews.
There is just one point with both cameras I have to differ from the previously said: the battery performance. Due to my worries about that issue I took not less than seven batteries with me. After some time it turned out that I rarely needed more than two batteries a day. Of course, it depends on the circumstances and the job you have to do, but for my needs battery power was surprisingly sufficient.
As you will see further in the text I could not yet take a final view on the X100F under field conditions. Therefore, I simply haven’t used it intensely and long enough. From what I can say based on the use in the first weeks of my journey is that it’s a damn good camera. I’ve written extensively about the outstanding qualities of the X100F here and I still stand by my opinion – both positively and negatively. In most situations I would call it a smaller alternative to the X-Pro2 – but not in all. 😉
One minor quirk that I didn’t notice earlier struck me though. I’ve got the impression that the metering system of the X100F makes some quite large jumps when you move the camera for composing the image. It’s not like a smooth adjustment in the metering but more of a jump in steps of 1 EV or so. I can’t see this behaviour on the X-Pro2 or the X-T2, at least not to that extent. I have to take a closer look on this when the X100F is back from the service.
It’s like an extension of my eye and my hand and it’s the best camera I have ever owned! Period.
(Please Fujifilm, do me finally a favour and give me the possibility to decide whether I want to have AE-L or not while pressing half the release button!!! With all cameras for sure.)
Quality wise I have nothing to add to my former reviews of the XF16 (German only), the XF18 and the XF35F2 (German only). All three are very good to exceptional lenses and I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to recommend each of them to anybody. I can personally say that during my journey it became once again and even more clear to me that the technical quality of a lens is only one (relatively minor) argument for the decision whether to love and use a lens or not. I have fallen in love with one of the most imperfect lenses the Fujifilm X-lens range has to offer – the XF18 – and kept one of the best lenses they have – the XF16 – most of the time in my bag. Simply because the 18mm perfectly matched my needs on that special journey…
What about problems?
However, not all is rosy for sure. Even if the list of the problems I had with the cameras is very, very short…
It’s difficult to evaluate the performance of the X100F finally because I had bad luck with my copy that has shown a defect ironically only some weeks after my departure. The mechanism of the hybrid viewfinder stuck regularly (daily) halfway and only reset after switching the camera off and on again. It still was usable to the end and I did not sent it back home, but this was definitely somewhat annoying and that’s why I only used it occasionally at the end of my journey. It became more and more a backup camera instead of a second camera which it definitely was in the first weeks where I used it even more than the X-Pro2. That’s a pity since I honestly wanted to check to what extent the X100F could be an alternative to my X-Pro2 in certain situations. Errors can occur, so I have to wait and find an answer to that question on other occasions.
I have not experienced any other technical problems during the four month of use. Despite the observed defect I remain convinced that the X100F is exactly the fantastic camera that I have thought of previously.
Considering the intensive daily use under sometimes quite harsh conditions I honestly can say I am very happy with the performance of the X-Pro2. I have never experienced a technical problem, no freezing or crashing of the software and the body itself is build like a brick. Especially after my motorbike accident I was really surprised how durable the camera and the little XF35F2 are. Chapeau!
Unfortunately, there is one reason to complain after all: the eyepiece rubber. This is exasperating given the fact that it’s definitely an unnecessary problem. After two or three weeks of traveling I have lost this rubber piece – most likely because my camera often hung around my shoulder when I was wandering around which made it scrub all the time on my right side. This problem is generally not unknown with other manufactures al well. I don’t know how many of those things I have lost for the Nikon D700 (screw-in) or the Olympus OM-D E-M5 (plug-in). Although the rubber on the X-Pro2 should not drop off that easy because it is firmly attached to the body, it’s all the more annoying if it happens. Then the only sustainable solution is to send in the camera to the Fujifilm service where – as far as I know at the moment – the whole eyepiece unit will be replaced. My workaround on the road was to buy on Amazon a third party rubber fitting the X-Pro2 and to stuck it onto the camera. Apart from the aesthetic point of view it simply didn’t last as long as I hoped. The rubber began to dissolve after just some weeks of use. Not really a recommended approach…
Since I definitely know not to be alone with this minor problem I would like to see Fujifilm to solve it even during the ongoing production of the X-Pro2 and not just with a successor. But I have little hope that it happens… 😉
Other than that, the X-Pro2 performed flawlessly and extremely well.
No problems at all.
If you have read the text before carefully it will be very clear that my conclusion will be both, very short and very positive. It’s not that I was in any doubt before but after my journey I finally know that I am ‘at home’ with my gear. Quality wise the Fujifilm X-system is definitely very good and for my kind of photography there are plenty of choices as well as a great selection of outstanding lenses. But the decisive point is another one: The system simply suits me and I really find the cameras and the lenses very inspiring. That’s so much more worth than megapixels and resolution…
Wishes for the future
I don’t want to repeat mantra-like all my wishes for IBIS and for some minor firmware updates that I have stated several times elsewhere. They will come or maybe they don’t… we will see.
Since I am very happy with most of the cameras’ general features and their performance my only wishes are some new lenses. I would like to see Fujifilm to produce even more smaller lenses of the fabulous F2-series (XF16F2, maybe XF18F2 MKII) and I fervently hope to see a XF12F2.8 one day. Yes, I know that there is a new 8-16 F2.8 zoom on the official Fujifilm lens roadmap, but I already own the XF10-24 and both are too large and too heavy for my taste – at least to take them on the road. A small and light 12mm would be a dream, and it doesn’t hurt to dream! 🙂
Keep on shooting! There is always light somewhere…