Earlier this year Castel Film Studio in Bucharest, Romania, underwent a dramatic makeover. The studio’s backlot streets, previously the location of a Gothic horror movie, were re-modelled into 1900 Milwaukee, the setting of a new movie set in the American Midwest at the turn of the century. A cast of American and British actors filmed over 3 months, helped on a daily basis by up to 500 Romanian extras and backgrounds actors.
As the stills photographer on the film, I took the opportunity to use the X-Pro2 on set for the first time. Stills cameras on movie sets – usually SLR’s – have to be silent to prevent any shutter sound being picked up by microphones or disturbing the actors during a take. To silence the shutter the camera and lens is housed inside a blimp – a soundproof housing that lets you shoot during the filming of a scene. Heavy and slightly awkward to use, the blimps have only limited camera controls on the outside; changing camera settings necessitates opening the housing. The silent shutter mode of the X-Pro2 was immediately attractive; and shooting without a blimp meant saving 1.4 kg of weight around my neck.
Child extra resting between takes
Stand-in actress on interior set during lighting set up
Background actor on lunch break
I used the X-Pro2 extensively to photograph the extras and a lot of the set decoration, often switching the format on the X-Pro2 to a 1:1 ratio. This allowed the pictures to be quickly uploaded in square format on to social media to market and publicise the movie. Light levels on set, especially the interiors, were often very low, and the X-Pro2 at ISO 4000 with the XF35mm f1.4 lens worked amazingly well, even when shooting at maximum aperture.
Background actor on interior set
Camera crew on ladders
Actors on interior set
There are a number of great features on the X-Pro2; the format change option, live view when changing colour temperature selection, and the silent electronic shutter are among many outstanding choices. One irritation I have with the camera is the battery life – it’s not the best so I always carry spares.
Animal wrangler resting between takes with his horses
Castel studios backlot and re-created Milwaukee street
Movie extra resting between takes
I am currently working on a film in Germany, and am now using two X-Pro2’s with 23, 35 and 56mm lenses. So have I given up on the heavy blimp and SLR combination and switched over entirely to X-Pro2’s? No not yet; there are still some on-set circumstances where the SLR & blimp combination works better for me; but the size, weight, electronic viewfinder and options such as format change of the X-Pro2’s is pushing me ever closer to the edge of change.
My aim for a recent trip to Barcelona was to travel light. Last year I was in New York shooting jazz musicians for a book I’m working on and I had to carry a lot of kit. The Fuji gear was light, but I also had a laptop, flashes, light stands and a background too. But traveling light was a high priority for this trip to Barcelona.
I packed the X100T with the WCL-X100 (giving me the full-frame equivalent of 28mm & 35mm), plus the X-Pro2 with the 35mm f2 and the 18-55mm f2.8-f4 zoom. The zoom was the tough choice as I prefer primes, but I wanted to take something longer than the 35mm. The 56mm f1.2 was an option and I also considered the 16mm f1.4 because Barcelona has so much great architecture and I knew a really wide angle would be useful. But I had to be strict about travelling light and so opted for the 18-55mm. In the end, I probably shot 95% of the X-Pro2 pictures with the 35mm f2 and 95% of the X100T pictures with the WCL (so 50mm and 28mm in FF).
“I fell in love with the optical viewfinder all over again”
I have to say upfront that the X100T is probably my all time favourite camera, even though at this point it has been overtaken in performance by newer models. But it’s still a design masterpiece in my opinion that just begs to be held and used.
That said, I’m in love with the X-Pro2. The camera feels great in my hands, especially with the Gariz half case (Fuji half case also available). The performance is amazing and I’m still being surprised on a daily basis by how great the focus is (especially with moving subjects). Autofocus has reached new heights on mirrorless cameras and I can think of two major DSLR brands that could be an endangered species if they don’t wake up, see what’s going on and adapt quickly.
“The X-Pro2 takes things to another level”
Shooting on the streets of Barcelona was a blast! The X100T is my favourite street camera, but I have to say that the X-Pro2 did out-perform it and produced far more keepers. I’ve always been happy with the image quality on the X Series cameras, more than happy in fact. But the X-Pro2 takes things to another level wth the 24 megapixel X-Trans III sensor giving a welcome increase in resolution. But I’m glad to say it is without doubt the same Fuji look and feel, which is more important than megapixels!
Film Simulations have always been a big part of the X Series cameras. A while back Fuji gave us Classic Chrome, which was unexpected, free, and became an overnight success. I use it most of the time and love it. These are my settings for Classic Chrome.
-1 Highlight tone
+2 Shadow Tone
-3 Noise Reduction
But when light gets low I find this can be a little harsh and the shadows can get blocked up, so I reduce the Shadow Tone setting to -1 or even 0. Sometime I’ll switch over to Provia as it’s a good general all rounder and much more forgiving.
I don’t often use Velvia (too saturated for me), but I found myself quickly switching to it when photographing rooftops against an orange Barcelona sunset.
Another film simulation fanfare came along with the X-Pro2 in the shape of Acros. The original black and white film simulations were pretty good, but I didn’t shoot a lot with them unless I was in RAW+JPEG to have the option of the colour version later.
I just preferred to do my B&W conversions in Lightroom or Silver Efex Pro. But with Acros I find myself wanting to shoot in-camera B&W a lot. In fact I have to force myself to switch out of it again.
X Series cameras have always had the option of bracketing three film simulations at a time, but I wish we could shoot two at a time with our own recipe of Highlights, Shadows, NR, Colour and Sharpness baked in, but without the delay of bracketing (where you can see the processing in the viewfinder). Classic Chrome and Acros…ahh. But I digress.
Acros is beautiful, especially with a bit of highlight & shadow tweaking. There’s a grain in Acros files that just gives the pictures a timeless documentary look, and that’s without using the grain feature of the X-Pro2. On the subject of the in-camera grain feature. The two settings of light and heavy are great, but the same again with larger grain would be nice too!
I like high contrast black and whites, so my settings for Acros are:
-1 Highlight tone
+3 Shadow Tone
-3 Noise Reduction
Don’t worry if you like to see tons of detail in the shadows, because Acros can do low contrast B&W too, plus you still have the option of adding a red, green, or yellow filter as well (I mostly use Red).
The Hybrid viewfinder is now an Advanced Multi-Hybrid Viewfinder, similar to the X100T’s where you can have a tiny screen in the bottom right corner (as an option) that shows a zoomed area of the focus point to assist with manual focus. I use this now and again and it works really well.
I fell in love with the optical viewfinder all over again on this trip. I wear glasses, but peer over the top of them when looking through the viewfinder (I’m so happy to see a built in diopter on the X-Pro2), so I can’t get my eye right up close. With the OVF I can see the frame lines and some space around them which allows me to see what’s about to enter my picture.
With the EVF I need to move my eye around, looking at the corners of the frame individually, but there isn’t always time to do that. Plus the Harsh sunshine of Barcelona can make it hard to see the EVF because your eyes are adjusted for the brightness, which makes it hard to see if your exposure is ok. That’s when I like to dial in my exposure 100% manually and switch to the optical viewfinder. It’s not as big as the X100T’s OVF, but it’s still big and bright and the frame lines are easy to see. Using the OVF just feels more old school and I like that!
‘My Menu’ is another great feature that allows you to store frequently used menu items on a single page. The best part of this is that it pops up as soon as you press the Menu/OK button. Sometimes it’s the simplest things that make all the difference!
Fuji have took a great camera like the X-Pro1 and improved everything that needed improving. Then they added all the best bits from the other X-Series cameras and threw in a few features that we didn’t even know we needed. The fairies then sprinkled just the right amount of magic dust and hey presto – The X-Pro2. It’s an absolute joy to use!
I now have a dilemma. Do I upgrade my two X-T1’s for two X-T2’s or sell them both and buy another X-Pro2? But while I’m thinking about that one, Fuji – how about a 24mp X100 with identical features and an identical button layout as the X-Pro2.
Rachel Megawhat is a British photographer based in London. Having trained as a photo-assistant Rachel has worked both as a Fine art Photographer, and commercially focusing on Fashion, News and Portraits. Her work has been published in countless newspapers, magazines and books, both in the UK and Worldwide, including The Sunday Times, Financial Times, Guardian and The Sun
I’ve had the FUJIFILM X-Pro2 on loan for 2 weeks, along with the FUJIFILM XF50-140mmF2.8 and it’s been a real pleasure (and no, I don’t actually want to return it!). Normally I work with an X-T1 as my main camera and I still have my X-E1 as a back up so that’s what I am comparing with.
“I have to say I was very pleasantly surprised.”
One of the main differences is the dual function viewfinder, at first, I found it a little confusing and found myself automatically using the digital finder, but I realise it has its uses, especially with the longer 400mm lens. The ability to switch between the two is extremely helpful.
Without a doubt my favourite feature is the focus stick / lever. I quickly became so used to it that I was searching for it on my X-T1. This is such a user friendly design, perfect for fast shooting conditions.
The design aesthetic of this camera also really attracts the attention of photographers, I’ve had more people come over and ask what I’m shooting with than a year of using the X-T1!
The 2 card slots is also a major plus. I often shoot jpeg only as much of my work is online and the speed of the edit and distribution is vital, but the option to have separate cards with raw and jpeg makes it a brilliant piece of logic that works well for me. I can still have the speed of a card with only jpegs to upload, but backed up with raw.
The only thing that I did find a little fiddly was the ISO & shutter speed being on a combined dial, as there were times when I wanted to change the ISO but I accidentally moved the shutter speed instead. In most shooting conditions this isn’t an issue but when you need to change quickly back and forth it can be trickier.
I was worried with August being a slow news month that I might not have much interesting content for this review but I have used the X-Pro2 to photograph our two most marmite politicians (people either love them or hate them), a trip to the zoo and a studio shoot with a couple of fashion models.
I covered one of the many rallies that Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour party has been attending up and down the country. This one was in Kilburn and this shows the range of the 50-140mm lens, obviously 50mm on the left and a slight crop of a 140mm image on the right. As you can see I couldn’t resist experimenting with the distortion through the perspex podium.
The next morning I met with Nigel Farage. Some people will be aware that he recently grew a moustache so I had planned a very simple black and white shot hoping to feature that but unfortunately for me he had shaved. I used the Acros settings for this shoot. Here is a screen shot from Breitbart London.
As I would have gone for something more creative had I not been hoping the moustache would be the main feature, here is an image from the shoot that I played around with just because.
I also managed to do a small studio shoot with a couple of young fashion models, Hazel Fuller and Nathan Taylor.
My absolute favourite way to shoot is very low-light studio work and the Fuji cameras are a joy to work with in these conditions. In fact, it was shooting this that I decided that I have to own the 50-140mm lens asap.
I have also done a few daylight shoots, covered a few protests including two burkini protests in as many days. This man decided he needed a selfie of his ‘beach ready body’ in front of the burkini protest. I’m not sure what it all means.
As well as looking and feeling very stylish the X-Pro2 proved to be a good workhorse of a camera, I think with longer to play with it I would get more out of its settings. I had assumed I would move from the X-T1 straight to the X-T2 but now I need to think seriously about whether or not the X-Pro2 is a better option for me. I guess I need to get my hands on the X-T2 to decide. Fun decisions to be making either way.
I am a documentary photographer who works with animals in the natural world, and my environments are often extreme. If not remote Arctic regions, I’m in expeditions in tropical jungles or high elevations. Being able to pack light is crucial. When working on a mountain top, skiing alongside dogsleds, or walking for days, my tent and everything else I need for living in the field goes into the big pack on my back. So my camera equipment, by necessity, is in a small bag around my neck. You simply don’t get good shots from your backpack!
Equipment size and weight are critical considerations for my work – when I first packed the X-Pro2 for a three week field trip to Svalbard in March 2016, it was true love.
X-Pro2 and X-T2 in the Arctic
These are both highly anticipated sequels of already very popular cameras.
The X-Pro2 was made for street photography and similar, the X-T2 as a good all rounder. I have used the former since March 2016, and participated in the testing of the latter when Fujifilm released the pre-production models to some photographers in April 2016.
Much has been said about these cameras, through lab tests and personal tests, but most users are photographers who shoot in urban environments. I use these cameras in somewhat different surroundings: in northern Norway, with its peculiar, capricious climate, and spectacular light. Polar night and midnight sun. Here, weathersealing is tested to the max!
I am particularly impressed with the X-T2 and X-Pro2 in several dog sledding and snowmobile expeditions in the high Arctic: Spitsbergen, Svalbard, 78 degrees north. The reference temperatures from Fujifilm’s test lab don’t exactly apply here!
Here is what I’ve experienced with Fujifilm cameras in the deep freeze.
Both these cameras are impeccable in all types of weather. Last week I worked with the Nordic Lynx (mountain cats) in heavy rain, without any plastic covers. All I needed handy was a dry microfiber cloth for the lens front: Wipe and shoot, wipe and shoot!
I LOVE that all the cameras’ basic adjustments are easily accessible on the top plate and with the aperture ring on the lens. No small nonsense buttons or menus to mess around with – this is crucial when working in the Arctic with thick gloves or mittens. Everything I need for the immediacy of making images is on the body: aperture, shutter, ISO and exposure compensation.
However, I did find that with the X-Pro2 turned on, I would occasionally bump the buttons on the back, especially in the cold where I wear a lot of clothing. I have unwittingly changed settings while moving around with the camera over my shoulder, which can be rather confusing when taking it up to use afterwards!
On the X-Pro2, there’s a simple solution to this: Hold the menu button down for three seconds, and you lock both the menu and buttons. Hold for three seconds to unlock. Ingenious!
On the X-T2, Fujifilm has added lockable dials which keeps my settings securely in place.
I find the top dials a bit low on the X-Pro2. Fujifilm fixed this with the X-T2 though – its dials are higher and easier to grip. This is particularly important to Arctic freaks like me who shoot with thick gloves on. Fujifilm has also put the movie, metering and other functions into a lower ring under one of the top dials.
On both cameras the focus and metering are absolutely insane! I have never experienced anything like it before. It focuses even in heavy blizzards, and works the same way when using the 1.4x converter.
Some camera systems “shut down” in extreme cold, or are reduced functionally.
This has not happened with the X-series cameras.
The challenge however, is battery capacity. Driving at a good speed on snowmobile increases chill factor, turning minus 20 degrees C to minus 60 degrees C – THAT eats batteries!
In fully electronic cameras like these two, batteries are a challenge. Sometimes, solar charging stations are an option, but I often have to work for several days without being able to charge my batteries.
So I have batteries, many batteries. And I use them with care. Batteries to be used must be kept warm. The batteries I think I’m going to use during the day, I keep in the pockets close to my body. My winter pants are high with braces and additional pockets on the stomach, which is kept warm close to my stomach, well hidden and isolated by the sweater and jacket. This is where the rest of the expected day’s consumption of batteries are kept warm.
The batteries that I don’t intend to use that day, I keep frozen in my big backpack.
When batteries are not in use, they keep their charge when frozen. If a battery is empty in the cold, I replace it with a new one. But the used one I put in my left pocket to ‘reheat’ it. When it is heated, I can put it in the camera again, and get decent amount of power out of it. This may well be repeated two to three times before it is completely empty.
Moisture challenges in cold climates
Cold traps moisture in camera bodies and lenses. Once I leave civilization on a winter expedition, the camera bag NEVER comes into my tent or cabin. Bringing cold camera gear into warmth means that condensation will immediately cover surfaces and particularly, lens elements. Moisture that builds up inside lenses does not evaporate easily. Once the camera is back out in the cold, this moisture freezes and optics turn into ice blocks, and are unusable for the rest of the trip.
The cold is dry, and both cameras tolerate it exceptionally well. So I often put my camera bag in a waterproof sack outside the tent – securing it to something solid so it won’t blow away if there is a storm during the night – in the cold outer corridor of the cabin, cargo crates on the snowmobile or dog sled. But NEVER into the warm room.
You can´t get away from this topic with a mirrorless system. And it is a challenge in the field. I’ve learned to shelter the camera from the wind when I change lenses, so it doesn’t blow straight in. I keep the housing close to my body, back against the wind with the lens down, and change fast to limit any dust entering. The best is of course to have two bodies.
Threeway tilt screen on the X-T2
Love it! Absolutely invaluable for landscape and documentary. Never has it been easier to go so low with super wide angles in the terrain!
JPEG files that come straight out of the camera are of very high quality. Of course I shoot in RAW, but it’s okay to save JPEG simultaneously for quick use on social media when there is internet connection. The Fujifilm Camera Remote app for smartphones and the cameras’ built-in wifi is brilliantly simple to use, allowing me to post photos instantly, rather than wait weeks to get home and edit the raw files.
When it comes to lenses, I mostly use these:
XF 10-24mm F4 (hoping for an F:2.8 option),
XF 16-55mm F2.8,
XF 50-140mm F2.8, and
XF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6.
In addition, I sometimes use a 1.4x converter.
Thoughts on the XF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6
Polar bears and landscapes are at the top my of list, so I had high expectations for the XF100-400mm. With the 1.4x converter, it gives me 600-800mm full frame equivalent focal length, something I never had previously. It was so small and light that it went in standard bag.
But what a fulfillment of expectations! The autofocus surpassed them all. I have never experienced such accurate AF before. The rapid location of the focal point with the rear thumb joystick was a pleasure, and especially important when working with animals that move and change direction quickly. The long focal length allowed me to be far enough away from the animals that they were aware of me without being disturbed.
This was especially important in the period where ring seals were born on the ice. The newborn seals can´t swim, so they are very vulnerable if the mother is scared away. I came across several that could only have been a few hours old. They were aware of my presence, but I was far enough away to not be considered a threat. A few minutes after I arrived, the seal pup lay down to drink the milk of the mother. They had accepted me, and I got close-up images from a good distance away.
Final result, print
I print a lot of my work, so I was excited to see how it the crop factor files from the X-series would compare with my older full frame files in print. I typically make prints around 50x60cm to 60x90cm, and could not see any difference between the old and new.
Both cameras are sturdy, good looking workhorses which can withstand rough treatment in the field. One of the more serious incidents I experienced was a solid dogsled turnover going downhill on glacial moraine, where I was dragged several meters after the sled, with cameras underneath me. I thought there would be some serious damage to the cameras, but they were fine! I have slipped on ice and fallen with the cameras several times, but they tolerate A LOT of beating.
I bought my first SLR system back in 1991, and have used it continually since. But a change has come. At this point, I have had X-series equipment for a while, and have been able to test the gear under different conditions and all types of shooting.
Am I going to go back to the heavy and old-fashioned system?
Not a chance!
I know what I will bring with me on the many exciting adventures to come: Of course Fujifilm will continue with me on these journeys! ☺