Fuji X-Pro2 Preview: Race to the finish for new kid on the block
For a dedicated X-phile like me the announcement last week of the long-awaited successor to the X-Pro1 was like Christmas all over again. The news that the 100-400mm will also ship shortly was equally welcome. I'll draw a kindly veil over the X70; I have already made it clear that it will not be gracing a camera bag of mine anytime soon.
But oh, the X-Pro2... It looks like our patience has been rewarded in the best possible way. It is, if the specs and the beta tester reports are to be believed, a significant step up from my much-loved X-Pro1 and an evolutionary leap for the range as a whole, incorporating the lessons learned and the best bits from more recent models like the X100T and bringing in new advances such as dual SD cards and of course that new sensor.
Wads of cash
Now, let me be clear. I, in common with most of the population, have yet to get my hands on one. So this is not a review; that will come in due course. I am well and truly first in the queue at my local branch of London Camera Exchange in Guildford. I was feverishly waving wads of cash at them even before they started taking orders but, being the good chaps they are, they didn't actually take any of my money until the list was formally open.
Delivery date? Well, it seems that it has now moved back to nearer the end of February. Yet I’m fine with that—I’d rather have it right than fast. Expectations are huge for this camera—it's the best selling mirrorless on Amazon already and it hasn't even been released yet, so Fuji are absolutely right to want to get it right.
So while we wait I thought it would be interesting to review the ten predictions I made on the subject well over a year ago now, back in December 2014.
No full-frame: Right. I think APS-C has earned it's place in the "Goldilocks Zone”—good enough for most uses, in the same way as full-frame itself is. Each has advantages beyond the number of pixels and I think both the technology and the market is mature enough now for it not to matter to most sensible people. I would rather see Fuji put their research yen into a medium format offering—watch this space.
24mp sensor: Right. Bit of a no-brainer really. 24mp will become the new norm across the X range. Expect to see new versions of the X-T, X100 and X-E in due course. I suspect the 16mp sensor will continue to be sold for a bit in the X70 and entry-level X/M to keep down system entry costs and to use up stocks.
Improved OVF/EVF: Right. Again, it was vanishingly unlikely that there would not be significant upgrades in this area. I'm delighted to see that the optical viewfinder has not only been retained but is now the most advanced hybrid viewfinder on the market. In recent months I have been getting used to the "picture-in-viewfinder" facilities in the X100T optical viewfinder. The X-Pro2 continues that, and improves upon it still further, adding in big improvements to the EVF too, including a welcome raising of the pedestrian refresh rate and the vertical view that debuted in the X-T1 and can also be found in the EVF of the X100T. OVF coverage is up slightly from 90% to 92% and we see built-in diopter adjustment. At last! The new viewfinder is one of the things that I am most looking to getting to grips with when mine arrives (drums fingers...)
Weather and dust sealing: Right. It would have been hard for Fuji to release a new flagship without it, given their leaning in that direction with both lenses and bodies since the X-T1 saw the light of day.
Wi-fi: Right. Now, to be fair, the current implementation on the X100T is cludgy to say the least, and I don't expect it to be a feature I use much, if at all. But I know it is important to other people and I'm looking forward to see a better implementation from Fuji that addresses some of the current shortcomings.
Improved flash capabilities: Right. The X-Pro2 introduces a higher flash sync speed which is welcome. This is still a weak area for the X System and the fact that a new gun is on the way is both welcome and sensible. I'd still like to see a ringflash and some cables though.
Improved video: Right(-ish) —though not by much. There's an interesting interview in the current British Journal of Photography by Damien Demolder of Takashi Ueno. He is the senior product manager for the X-Series and I would recommend anyone interested in where the brand is going to give it a good read. As I said before, nobody buys Fuji X for their scintillating video performance and he seems to agree: ”We don't think video is important to the sort of photographer this camera is aimed at.”—all too true, Ueno-San. The new sensor gives the opportunity to do more in this area—it is 4k-ready, for example— but I suspect we will see that in other models more suited to video, the X-T2, perhaps?
Improved battery life: Right (-maybe) This is an interesting one, Fuji have stuck with the NP-126 battery which means that I don't have to go out and invest in a new charger and set of spare batteries—hooray! On paper, at least, it looks like the X-Pro2 is more power-efficient, but this is a notoriously inexact science, since it depends so much on your own personal usage habits and profile. I'll wait until I see for myself and report back then. I am disappointed that there is no vertical grip/additional battery option though, even though it would have added to the bulk of the camera. I used a Leica M7 with a motorwind and it could not be more bulky than that, Power users—wedding photographers, sports photographers or anyone wanting a bit of extra grunt—may well agree,
Second SD card slot: Right. This sounds like a really sensible implementation by Fuji, with the ability to vary how data is written between the two cards. Expect to see the same on the X-T2. If you look at the X-T1 you'll even see that the space is already there.
Tilty rear screen: Wrong! Words cannot express how glad I am to see that I was off the mark about this one. No tilt— yay! No touch, either. Ueno-San again: "It is more suited to consumer products…. We don't think that touch screen focusing and controls will be important for these users." I love this man. I may have these words printed on a T-shirt. The X70 has both "features" and there they can stay.
So I make that a "hit rate" of 8-and-a-bit right out of ten— not bad, though I say so myself. I don't, by the way, have any truck with rumours (however you choose to spell the word). My opinions were based upon logical extrapolation and commonsense and I am pleased to see that the X-Pro2, now it has (nearly) arrived, is all that I had hoped for—and more.
In December 2014 my advice was to buy an X-Pro1 and enjoy it, then buy the X-Pro2 when it came out and enjoy that even more. Anyone who didn't take that advice at the time missed out on nearly 15 months of Fuji X-Pro, optical viewfinder-y goodness. I'm waiting now for that call from LCE, at which point I will be over to Guildford faster than you can say "Fuji".
As a postscript, I'm now looking at the X-Series kit I have and considering my next rationalisation. As things stand, the X-Pro1 will definitely stay, but will be relegated to backup/occasional use. It is still a superb camera, but the massive upgrades in the X-Pro2 put it—rightly—in the shade. The X-T1? Hmmm… its primary use for me is with zoom and longer lenses, to shoot cricket, rugby, air-shows, motorsport and the occasional bit of wildlife. It otherwise sits unused for weeks on end. IF the X-Pro2 is as good as they say, and "plays nicely" with zooms and the longer lenses (especially the new 100-400mm) AND has a decent battery life I may seriously consider an X-Pro-only view of the world in future.