Fuji X-Pro2: Lensmate thumb rest and soft release transform handling
I have been a fan of an accessory thumb rest for digital cameras ever since Tim Isaac of Matchtechnical produced his first model for the digital Leica bodies back in 2007. My preference is born of long use of film cameras, with my thumb hooked around the wind-on lever to aid stability and handling. The first digital cameras lacked that protrusion, of course, and their handling suffered as a result, reaching a nadir in the defiantly unergonomic Leica M8.
Today, eBay and Amazon are flooded with the things but, as I have said on many an occasion in the past, buy cheap, buy twice. I have tried a couple of the cheapies over the years and just like lens adaptors, the bottom end of the market is full of ill-fitting, badly made cheap copies of the better products.
I chanced upon Lensmate a couple of years ago. This Seattle-based company was first formed in 1998. They started out small, producing adaptor tubes to allow filters to be fitted to cameras with no filter thread. Today they fabricate and market a range of accessories, predominantly for Fuji, Sony, Panasonic and Canon mirrorless cameras.
They aim to be a one-stop shop for things that improve handling and performance, like thumb rests, soft releases and quick-change filter adaptor kits. The goal is to deliver accessories to camera users that complement the design of the camera as well as enhancing its functionality. I find their designs thoughtful and quite innovative; the "up and over" fitting for the X-T1, for example (there's something similar for the X-T10), and the folding thumb-rest first seen for Sony and now introduced for the X-Pro2.
Lensmate have some well-thought out design features too, such as silicone inserts that both protect the camera body and add to the tactility of the thumb-pad. The insert also serves to spread the load, thus taking stress away from the accessory shoe itself—something you just don't get with the cheaper copies.
When my X-Pro2 arrived, one of the first things I did was to whip the LM-XP1 thumb-rest off my X-Pro1 and fit it to the new arrival. It quickly became apparent that the design changes that Fuji had made to the real estate on the back, to improve one-handed control, had resulted in a bit of an issue: Take a look at the images of the LM-XP1 mounted first to the X-Pro1 for which it was designed, and the X-Pro2 for which it wasn't. The re-positioning of the control dial, although subtle, meant that it was difficult to rotate it with the old thumb-rest in place. The ISO control now around the shutter speed dial also suffered in accessibility terms—unless one had tweezer fingers it was going to be a squeeze. What to do?
I dropped a line to the nice people at Lensmate followed by some photos. They responded promptly, saw the problem immediately and the lights burned late into the night in Seattle as they set to work. The LM-XP2 is the result.
Machined from 6061 aluminium rod, bead blasted and anodised, this is a well-made bit of kit. From the confidence-inspiring snug fit into the X-Pro2 accessory shoe aided by the textured silicone pad to the folding mechanism itself, the LM-XP2 gives the impression of something well made that will last for a good while, a bit like the X-Pro2 itself. It arrived in the customary tasteful Lensmate box and took no more than a moment to fit. The silicone thumb-pad and buffer—it's all the same bit of rubber—act exactly as I described above, avoiding metal-on-metal scuff marks on your pristine X-Pro2 whilst simultaneously giving a bit more grip for a sweaty thumb.
The really clever bit is the folding mechanism. It is nicely damped, not floppy, with a stand-off detent at the 40 degree position as well as the ability to open to a full 90 degrees for easy access. There's a ball-bearing in there somewhere, I'm sure, judging by the slight "snick" as you move it out of the way.
But, I hear you cry, this is a review. Does it work?
Of course it does. If you fit into the demographic of having opposable thumbs and a natural aversion to dropping your camera you are the target market for one of these. What makes this one special is that, again, a bit like the X-Pro2 for which it is tailor made, it is created by a company that clearly takes a pride in its product and listens and is responsive to, its customer base.
I've only had the chance to use my X-Pro2 with the LM-XP2 fitted a couple of times so far but I can say that it is as secure as its predecessor on the X-Pro1 ever was, with the added bonus of politely getting out of the way when asked. My only concern with the design was that it might be more prone to catching upon clothing or when getting the camera in and out of a bag, but so far that hasn't been an issue at all.
One last thing; the eagle-eyed among you will have spotted a little lizard that has taken up residence upon my shutter release. This is a softrelease, also from Lensmate. I personally tend to go for the domed/convex variety since I find them easier to use with my preferred release method, that of straightening my index finger and allowing the resultant gentle pressure to do the job of tripping the shutter. This is far preferable to the "stab and hope" method favoured by less experienced photographers and incompetent assassins alike. Again, the attention to detail in the design is commendable; the tapered screw thread is secured to the shutter release by a tiny o-ring that ensures the softrelease doesn't unscrew in use. Clever stuff from the Seattle chaps.
So there you have it. Two reviews for the price of one. Stabilise your camera and reduce camera shake in two small, well-made accessories.
Nice one, Lensmate.