Fuji X-Pro2 Review Part Two: Low light autofocus and high ISO performance

DSCF0526(Fuji X-Pro2, 90mm, Acros film simulation, f/2.2 at 1/200th at ISO 2500)

Note:  This is part two of a five part review series on the soon to be released Fuji X-Pro2:

The day after I received my review copy of the Fuji X-Pro2 I was off to photograph one of Vancouver’s best local bands at a country cabaret.  The combination of low light, changing light, and moving subjects always presents a great challenge to photographers, and I knew this would be a perfect opportunity to test the  autofocus and high ISO performance of this new camera.

It should be noted that Fuji has made significant strides in their autofocus system over the last few years.  For comparison purposes, here is a really bad photo of the 49 contrast detection autofocus points in the original X-Pro1, released 4 years ago:

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Now, here is a quick iPhone shot of the autofocus points on the new Fuji X-Pro2:

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273 autofocus points in total, with 77 being phase detect.  A huge improvement.  I hesitate to type this because it sounds too Pollyanna, but while I was shooting this gig I did not miss focus once due to the autofocus system… despite the low light of the cabaret.   I was impressed with this, as I had not been so successful with previous cameras.

In regard to the ISO performance…

Fuji cameras have been known for their high ISO performance.  When the new 24.3mp X-Trans CMOS III sensor was announced there were some discussions about the increased megapixel count, and whether it would negatively impact the high ISO performance.   This is subjective of course, but I find the image quality very good, even at ISO 6400.

Enough talk, let’s look at some images.  When I am shooting in a venue like this I will often bring a flash with me, but I purposely didn’t for this gig to test the new X-Pro2.  I decided to shoot in Aperture Priority Mode, and used Auto ISO with a minimum shutter speed of 1/200th and an ISO ceiling of 6400.   The images were saved as compressed RAW, and were written to both card slots at the same time.  I brought 4 lenses with me:  The 16mm, the 35mm f/1.4, the 56mm, and the 90mm.

Let’s start by taking another look at the image from the top of this post:

DSCF0526(Fuji X-Pro2, 90mm, Acros film simulation, f/2.2 at 1/200th at ISO 2500)

That is the new Acros film simulation.  I love it.  To my eyes ISO 2500 looks very clean too.

Here are some more, with most shot at ISO 6400:

DSCF0447(Fuji X-Pro2, 35mm, f/2.8 at 1/200th at ISO 6400)

DSCF0543(Fuji X-Pro2, 16mm, f/2.2 at 1/200th at ISO 5000)

DSCF0486(Fuji X-Pro2, 16mm, Acros film simulation, f/2 at 1/140th at ISO 6400)

DSCF0579(Fuji X-Pro2, 16mm, f/2.8 at 1/80th at ISO 6400)

DSCF0641(Fuji X-Pro2, 16mm, f/2.5 at 1/40th at ISO 6400)

DSCF0678(Fuji X-Pro2, 16mm, Acros film simulation, f/2 at 1/200th at ISO 1250)

DSCF0631(Fuji X-Pro2, 56mm, f/2 at 1/110th at ISO 6400)

DSCF0461(Fuji X-Pro2, 35mm, Acros film simulation, f/2.8 at 1/40th at ISO 6400)

I am very pleased with these images, and with the performance of the X-Pro2 in a difficult lighting situation.  I’ve known some of the members of this band for a long time, so I had carte blanche to shoot from anywhere:  The dance floor, behind the stage, above the stage, on the stage, etc.   The camera performed beautifully throughout the night, and I was free to focus on creating images without worrying about the technical side of photography.  It felt great.

For part three of this review series we’ll be changing gears and hitting the streets of Vancouver for some cityscapes, long exposures, and of course some street photography!

Cheers,

Ian

Fuji X-Pro2 Review Part One: Unboxing and First Impressions

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5 days ago I received an email from my friends at Fuji Canada letting me know a review copy of the Fuji X-Pro2 was on its way to me.  3 days ago it arrived.  2 days ago I used it to photograph a concert at a local cabaret.  Today I am writing the first part of my review.

…as you can imagine, it’s been a great few days.

Readers of this blog will know how much I love my Fuji X100 series cameras, and how I use my X-T1 and various lenses for my “work” photography.  The truth is I love and prefer the feel and styling of rangefinder cameras, and I have been looking forward to the X-Pro2 for a long time.

Over the next few weeks I will be writing a five part review of Fuji’s new flagship camera:

So, let’s get right to it.  At the end of this blog post I’m going to focus on what I love the most about the X-Pro2 from my first few days of using it, but I know many people love unboxing photos so let’s start right at the beginning:

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There it is, almost out of the box!

So much has been said online already about the X-Pro2.  Mirrorless technology is evolving quickly, and people have been very excited to see what Fuji’s new camera would bring.  Not to disappoint, the launch of the X-Pro2 brings us the following (not a complete list):

  • Fuji’s new 24.3mp sensor, the X-Trans CMOS III
  • An expanded ISO sensitivity from ISO 100 to 51,200
  • Centre weighted photometry option
  • Expanded exposure compensation (-5 EV to +5 EV)
  • Mechanical shutter speeds up to 1/8,000
  • A flash sync of 1/250th
  • 273 focus points (!) with 77 being phase detection focus points
  • A new film simulation called Acros, based on Neoprene Acros 100 film
  • A new grain simulation
  • The option of full or lossless compressed RAW
  • Pixel mapping

On first glance this new camera appears to be a game changer for Fuji.

Let’s take a look at the front of the camera:

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First off, I have to comment on how solid the X-Pro2 is.  Perhaps a little larger than the X-T1, and a little bit heavier.  The grip on the right hand side of the body is very good, and of course the whole camera is now weather sealed.  Everything about this body feels “pro” to me, and it feels great in the hand.

On the front you can see a scroll wheel, the optical / electronic viewfinder switch lever, and the focus mode  selection switch.

The OVF/EVF switch lever also has a function button cleverly built into it, which provides an overlay in the optical viewfinder that shows framing lines for many of the lenses Fuji offers.  When in use it it will show either:

  • Normal magnification:  35mm, 56mm, 60mm, 90mm
  • Wide angle magnification:  18mm, 23mm, 27mm, 32mm

When in use this mode automatically adjusts based on the lens attached at the time.  Nice!  Here is a really bad photo of my floor, shot with my phone held up against the viewfinder, to give you an idea of what these framing lines look like:

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That’s pretty cool… an optical viewfinder, but with framing lines still present for your various lenses.  Not to be outdone, the electronic viewfinder has also been significantly enhanced and now refreshes at 85fps.  It is fast and seamless.

Looking at the back we see bigger, and even better, changes:

DSCF6256-Edit

All buttons are now on the right side.  I shot for four hours at a gig on Saturday night and was amazed at how handy this was.  The handling and ergonomics were superb, with the following jumping out at me:

  • A dedicated photometry button on the top
  • An autofocus point selecting “joystick”.  More on this in a minute
  • A drive button centrally located
  • For the back button focusers out there, the AF-L button is well placed on the grip

Each of these is a small thing, but when you add them all up together it makes for effortless use of the camera once your muscle memory gets going.

On the side we see another game changer for Fuji:

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Dual card slots!  I am fairly obsessive about data backup, so for me this is huge peace of mind when I am shooting weddings or other “no going back” assignments.

On the X-Pro2 slot 1 is UHS-II Compliant, and slot 2 is UHS-I Compliant.  You can configure the camera to use the dual card slots as follows:

  • Sequential, where the camera fills one card then moves on to the second
  • Mirrored backup
  • To write RAW to one card, and jpg to the second

The door that covers the card slots now feels solid and tight.

Here is a look from the top:

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See that little window in the shutter speed dial?  Built in ISO selection!  When you depress the little button on the top of the wheel you unlock the shutter speed dial, and when you lift the outer ring you can rotate to adjust the ISO.

Another thing of note is that “C” on the exposure compensation dial.  The Fuji X-Pro2 now allows for 5 stops of exposure compensation by selecting the “C” and then adjusting via the thumb wheel.

Let’s go back to something I mentioned a minute ago:

DSCF6267-Edit

The autofocus point selecting joystick, or whatever its official name is.  Truth be told I didn’t look up the official name in the manual because it doesn’t matter… the thing is pure awesome regardless of what Fuji calls it.  I can’t describe how much I used this on last Saturday’s gig.  On my X-T1 I had to choose between using function buttons to change my AF point, or using them for other functions.  The addition of this joystick frees up those buttons, but more importantly it allowed me to effortlessly navigate through the autofocus points while shooting in a fast moving concert environment.

Something small, something simple, but a great addition.

This view of the camera really sums up the ergonomics and handling for me though:

DSCF6266

Right there, all within easy reach of my right hand thumb, I have:

  • Shutter speed control
  • ISO control
  • Exposure compensation control
  • The autofocus selecting joystick
  • The shutter (of course!)

Add in the aperture ring on the lens controlled with my left hand, and I have virtually everything I need immediately accessible without diving into menus.   I cannot say enough about the brilliance of this design.

What’s next?

I am currently editing the photographs from the cabaret shoot, which will provide a foundation for discussing the X-Pro2’s low light autofocus and high ISO performance.  That part of this review series will be up within the week.

If you have any questions or comments please leave them below.

Cheers,

Ian