Fuji X-Pro 1 becomes 2: Upgrading the successful X-Series flagship
Okay, I admit it. I was a latecomer to the X-Pro1. I acquired one only earlier this year, in fact. It was not my first X-Series of course. My "gateway drug" was the X-10, followed swiftly by the X-E1. The X-Pro1 actually replaced the X-E1 long after I had become comfortable with the system. I don't know why I waited, to be honest. It is everything that a modern rangefinder-style pro-spec. camera should be and the firmware upgrades, recent price-drops, and frequent offers have made it the bargain of the century. Note by the way that I say "rangefinder-style". More of that later.
The drum-beat of the rumour-mill has quickened lately with speculations on when we might see an X-Pro2 and what it might contain. The smart money is on an appearance next year (2015) and probably in the second half. That will be more than three years since the X-Pro1 first saw the light of day in March 2012. Fuji has a self-inflicted problem, of course, which can basically be summed up by the phrase "follow that". In the X-Pro1 they have given themselves a tough act to beat, with no real competition (are you listening, Leica?)
If you look at the line-up of current X-Series interchangeable lens bodies it is clear to see where they are going. The X-T1 and X-E2 are "one and a half-generation" bodies with improvements to processing, handling, button placement; but it has been evolution not revolution. The X-Pro2, when it comes, is likely to be more of a step forward and will set the tone for the second generation and beyond. I think we will see two distinct genres, the X-Pro/X-E "rangefinder" form factor and the X-T "SLR" shape; both are interpretations of course. The rangefinder is electronic, and the SLR mirrorless - but the familiar shapes and handling appeal to different photographers in different ways so Fuji would do well to capitalise upon that.
Rumour and speculation
So turning again to the X-Pro2, what are we likely to see? Good question - don't ask me, I haven't a scooby - but I can speculate, pull together some of what I am hearing, and put my own very personal wishes into an open "letter to Fuji". Let's look at some of the likely, and less likely, improvements and upgrades. I'll predict what I see as their likelihood of being included, and my own very personal view of their usefulness. Feel free to bookmark this article and come back to it when the X-Pro2 becomes reality. You can either laugh or nod sagely at that point.
This, in no particular order, is my top ten for the X-Pro2
I doubt it. I like many others have a heavy investment in the current lineup of APS-C lenses. Between the performance of that glass and the X-Trans sensor, full-frame is looking increasingly like an unnecessary luxury for most uses, applications and photographers. I can't see Fuji launching a whole new line at this stage. More likely would be a "medium format" digital Fujinon body with or without interchangeable lenses. "Texas X-Pro", anyone?
I could definitely see this. The 16mp X-Trans sensor has performed extremely well but it is now five-plus-year-old technology and the world has moved on. Prepare to upgrade your PCs and Macs though - larger files mean a need for more processing power.
Highly likely. There is definite room for improvement on both sides of the house. The EVF of the X-T1 is considerably more sophisticated and we can expect to see those improvements and more in the X-Pro2 viewfinder. Will we see an X-Pro2 with EVF only? Possibly, but I doubt it; the "rangefinder styling" is one of the X-Pro line's strongest selling points and a magnet for the increasingly dissatisfied Leica M customer base; all the benefits, no "white spots". No, as the faithful will point out - and I absolutely agree - it doesn't focus like a true Messsucher, but it feels like one and provides focussing and handling aids that, let's face it, will increasingly appeal to the aging demographic that are finding themselves struggling more and more to focus accurately with the viewfinder of an M.
That, combined with Leica's continuing issues with sensor quality and a pricing strategy targeted at neuveux Croesus means that Fuji would be foolhardy to burn that bridge. It even looks more like a Leica than a Leica. As I sit here with the X-Pro1 and a Leica M2 on my desk, I can see more of a family resemblance than between the M2 and the bloated "M-typ240" that currently carries Leica's flag.
Weather and dust sealing
Again, highly likely. The X-T1 showed the way in that regard and lessons have been learned. It fits the "Pro" image too. I'd wager that we will also see another weather-sealed lens or two to go with a tougher X-Pro2; the Fujinon 35mm is looking a little long in the tooth in handling terms compared to its younger siblings, the stellar 23mm in particular, so it would not surprise me to see some homogenisation of handling (the push-pull focussing ring in particular) and a second-generation, sealed, 35mm. And, while we're at it, possibly even a new 18mm.
Increasingly becoming the norm, so to be expected.
Improved flash capabilities
It is pretty well beyond doubt that we will see a new flash from Fuji in the New Year, with wireless capability and other refinements, not least more power. Flash has long been something of a gap in the capability-set of the X-System and again it makes sense if the X-Pro re-vamp is tied in with improvements in this area. What I do not expect to see is a built-in flash like the X-E2; but perhaps the box will include a tiny auxiliary unit like the EF-X8 that comes with the X-T1 (wherever I left it...). At minimum I would like to see a Fuji own-brand off-camera flash cable (although Canon speedlite cables do work) and a ringflash for macro use. The recent unexpected introduction of the MCEX-11 and -16 gives me hope that there are some serious macro fans on Mt. Fuji so this isn't necessarily a pipe-dream.
An interesting one, this. One might argue that nobody buys a Fuji X-Series for its superb video capabilities; and yet Fuji are no slouches in this regard with their equipment and lenses being used widely in the movie industry. Perhaps it is more true to say that the photographer who buys a Fuji is more interested in stills than video; I certainly am, and the ability to shoot video is one of the "benefits" that make me go "meh". That said, it is again becoming the norm, so I think we can expect to see Fuji raising their video game in the X-Pro2.
Improved battery life
I suspect this will come, but how is the question. All the interchangable-lens X-Series Fujis currently use the same battery, the NP-W126. That's a big advantage, of course, when you have multiple bodies; only one charger to carry, and full interchangeability. The NP-W126 is however cursed on a daily basis by Fuji photographers for two reasons - firstly and particularly in the more power-hungry cameras such as the X-T1 it has a limited life and secondly it can be inserted into the camera in at least four different orientations, of which only one is right. This might not sound like a big deal, but when two Lancasters are flying overhead for one of the few times this Millennium and you are trying to change batteries faster than a Formula One tyre crew - well, let's just say that grown men have been known to cry. What I would like to see would actually be a vertical grip along the lines of the VG-XT1 which could house both an additional battery and a...
Second SD card slot
Now, for me this would be a nice to have, coming in handy only once in a very blue moon, but I can understand that others may have more of a use for it. There are two advantages to dual SD slots; firstly you can, if the firmware allows, write to the two cards simultaneously, thus creating an instant backup. Secondly, in fast moving or messy conditions the ability to go on shooting when your first card is full can be the difference between getting the shot and going home empty handed. Is it a handy feature? On balance, yes, but as I said, I would be happy to see it as an add-on for the power user and not built into the base body.
Last, but not least, a tilty rear screen. Confession time: I have taped down the tilty rear screen on my X-T1. I find it generally less useful than a third nipple. I know there are many others who swear by it, but to me it is an unnecessary complexity and a potential weak point in a camera that otherwise feels like it is carved from a solid block of ebony Fujininium. That said, enough people like them that I can't really see the X-Pro2 debuting without one. Dammit.
So, those are my predictions. It may still be a month or five until we see the X-Pro2, but it is fun to speculate. In the meantime, as I said at the outset, the X-Pro1 is an amazing bargain at the moment. It is significantly better than when it was released, and still available new at prices previously unheard of. Best of all, when 1 becomes 2, it will continue to be an exceptional camera capable of exceptional results. My advice? Buy an X-Pro1 now and enjoy it now, then buy the X-Pro2 when it comes out and enjoy that even more!