Okay, I just got off a 16-hour direct flight from Dubai to San Francisco. Yeah, I am pretty jetlagged (slept last night at 7:30pm, woke up today at 1:30am). Anyways, I am starting to power up with a coffee at Philz in Berkeley, and wanted to share some (very brief) thoughts on the new Fujifilm X-Pro 2 ($1,699.00) for street photography.
To be frank, I wasn’t all that excited to test out the Fujifilm X-Pro 2. I’ve never shot or owned an X-Pro 1, so I don’t really have a reference point. But for all my friends who have owned an X-Pro 1 — the consensus was that the camera was solid, but the autofocus sucked.
Well I am very happy to announce that the new X-Pro 2 has a ridiculously-fast autofocus (I’d probably rate it a 9/10). Not only that, it is extremely accurate too. I will also say this upfront: the new Fujifilm 35mm f/2 (50mm full-frame equivalent) is blazingly fast in terms of the autofocus as well— and pretty much kicks the ass out of any other Fujifilm lens.
I tried out two lenses with the X-Pro 2; the new Fujifilm 35mm f/2 and the Fujifilm 18mm f/2. Long story short; the 18mm f/2 sucks, the 35mm f/2 rocks.
1. The new Fujifilm 35mm f/2 ($399)
When I had a Fujifilm XT-1, my go-to lens was the Fujifilm 27mmm f/2.8 package lens (roughly a 40mm full-frame equivalent). Small, sharp, and relatively fast-focusing.
I have never been a fan of 50mm “full-frame” equivalent lenses, but I heard a lot of good things about the new 35mm f/2. So I decided I would give it a go.
I didn’t shoot with it for very long, but damn— it is probably hands-down the best new Fujifilm lens. It is super-accurate in terms of autofocus and speed, the price is very reasonable, and also it is small, light, and compact.
2. Fujifilm 18mm f/2 Lens ($599)
For the majority of my testing for the Fujifilm X-Pro 2, I hit the streets of Dubai for a day with the 18mm f/2 (28mm full-frame equivalent lens).
I’ve never shot with the lens before, but figuring that I have been shooting more 28mm full-frame equivalent lenses lately (on the Ricoh GR II, and also when I tested the Fujifilm X70) so I decided to try it out on the X-Pro 2.
But damn, the lens was incredibly slow in terms of the autofocus, and not fast at all. Would definitely not recommend this lens to anybody– but it still gets the job done.
What’s new with the X-Pro 2?
One of the new things on the X-Pro 2 is the “hybrid viewfinder” — when you are shooting with the optical viewfinder, there is a little tiny EVF in the bottom-right of the viewfinder which confirms whether your photos are sharp or not. Honestly I think the feature is a bit gimmicky, and not really practical when you’re shooting in the streets.
Another new feature is dual SD-card slots; which I figure is good for professional photographers or photojournalists. I don’t think that most street photographers really “need” 2 SD card slots, but I have heard interesting stories of when photojournalists get their SD cards confiscated, they will switch out one of the SD cards (and give a dummy SD card). I also figure if you are shooting street photography, if anyone ever wants you to delete their photo, you could pretend that you did (but you actually have a spare copy on the other SD card). Part of me feels that this is a bit unethical (to lie)— but it is definitely something you could do.
Probably the most useful new change in the X-Pro 2 is the autofocus dial in the back. It makes it very easy to change your autofocus point, and this is actually a feature I find incredibly useful.
The coolest new design change on the X-Pro 2 is the integrated ISO dial inside the shutter dial. It mimics a lot of retro film cameras– looks great, works great, and is pretty sexy.
Furthermore, the menus have a pretty new refresh. Things look a lot more streamlined, with a new user-interface, and options in the menu are a lot easier to find in general. I still found it a bit bloated for my tastes (I still had to hunt around to find some things I wanted to change a bit longer than I wanted), but overall the menu experience is much cleaned-up.
I’m sure there are also a bunch of other new features in the X-Pro 2 I didn’t mention– but these are the main ones that I noticed without getting too nerdy about things.
The size and build
The X-Pro 2 is built solidly. I was first a bit surprised to see how much bigger it was in real life than I expected. It is significantly bigger than the X100, a film Leica. But it feels sturdy, and fits well in the hand.
The grip in front of the camera is very comfortable, so is the thumb grip in the back.
The camera also isn’t very heavy. It is heavier than the X100T, but I find this extra weight nice— it feels more “quality” and I can imagine it surviving some storms.
Speaking of storms— the new body of the X-Pro 2 is a lot more weather-resistant. The new 35mm f/2 lens is also weather-resistant, so if you shoot a lot in the rain or the snow, these can be fantastic features for you.
Like I mentioned, the autofocus of the X-Pro 2 is incredibly fast. It feels a lot more “snappy” and accurate than the X100T, and the buffer is extremely fast as well. I didn’t really miss any photos when I was shooting with it in the streets.
I think for a long time, no Fujifilm camera had the “responsiveness” of a DSLR. With the X-Pro 2; I think I can firmly say that the X-Pro 2 will probably hold up in terms of performance compared with any prosumer DSLR.
The new Fujifilm X-Pro 2 also has a new image sensor (X-Trans 3, whereas the X100T and the new X70 have the X-Trans 2 sensor). The newer X-Pro 2 sensor has more megapixels, and Fujifilm claims it has better high-ISO performance as well as image quality.
Honestly, I couldn’t really tell much a difference between the files from an X100T (or the X70) as well as the new X-Pro 2. I am sure it is, but honestly I couldn’t tell just by looking at the files in Lightroom.
The coolest new thing in the X-Pro 2 is the new black-and-white film simulation “Acros.” I learned that the film engineer who helped produce Acros and all the old Fujifilm films was the same guy who produced the “Classic Chrome” JPEG simulation.
I would say, the new “Acros” JPEG mode looks pretty solid. There is also a new menu setting for “film grain” which you can set to “off/weak/strong.” I shot all the photos with the X-Pro 2 on Acros, with strong grain simulation, and quite like the look straight-out of camera.
Still— the look of the JPEG’s don’t rival the look of “real” black and white film (especially Tri-X when pushed to 1600). The simulation still looks quite nice, but you can’t beat the real thing. The analogy I would use is like looking at fake “turf” grass versus real grass. If you look at the fake grass from a distance, it certainly looks a lot better than having no grass. But when you look closely, the real grass just has a much more beautiful aesthetic and “look” than the fake grass.
Furthermore, if you shoot RAW and use either the VSCO black-and-white film simulation presets, Silver Efex Pro 2, or my free Lightroom film simulation presets, you can get a similar look. So don’t go out buying a X-Pro 2 just for the “Acros” film simulation “look.” But for those of you who are lazy and don’t like dealing with RAW conversion, shooting “Acros” on the X-Pro 2 creates a lovely black-and-white aesthetic (the nicest film simulation preset I have ever seen built in-camera).
Should I buy it?
If you are a street photographer, I would recommend instead the X100T.
Why? The X100T is much smaller, lighter, more affordable, and more attuned for street photography. The integrated 35mm f/2 “full-frame” equivalent lens is ideal for street photography, and by not having an interchangeable lens forces you to be more creative.
I think the X-Pro 2 would be ideal for photographers who travel a lot, who use zoom lenses, who shoot commercial work, travel in extremely humid or rainy environments, or photographers who do serious photojournalism.
Better yet; I think for 90% of street photographers who want a new compact camera, I would rather recommend the new Fujifilm X70 (a point-and-shoot camera with the same sensor as the X100T, a 28mm f/2.8 lens, and costs only about $700).
Probably the best Fujifilm camera ever made (obviously)
In terms of the features, functionality, and all the bells-and-whistles; the X-Pro 2 is definitely the best new camera out of Fujifilm. It has all the features that most professional photographers desire, while also making it tougher, with an easier interface, faster autofocus, and still with that “retro” rangefinder look.
Honestly, I don’t really think there is anything that “needs” to be improved in the X-Pro 2. Fujifilm did a fantastic job collaborating with all these photographers from all around the world to make a superb “all-around” camera which will really suit any photographer.
And also we are at the point where all digital cameras are pretty damn good now. Honestly, I don’t think there is any new $1000+ digital camera which isn’t solid and good.
Should I upgrade?
If you an X-Pro 1 and you love everything about it but the autofocus, I’d recommend selling it and getting the new X-Pro 2.
If you have a DSLR and want something lighter, I would recommend sticking with your DSLR (use it to shoot kids parties or something) and pick up a Fujifilm X70.
If you have a Fujifilm X100T or an X100S— no you don’t need this camera.
If you have a Ricoh GR II camera; you own my personal favorite digital camera for street photography— so no, you don’t need the X-Pro 2.
If you have a Leica, common— you have a Leica. You don’t need this camera.
Recommended lenses for the X-Pro 2
Like I mentioned earlier, the new Fujifilm 35mm f/2 lens is superb. It has an extremely fast autofocus, is extremely accurate, is small, compact, and light.
If you prefer the 50mm full-frame focal length, this is the lens to get.
If you prefer the 35mm equivalent focal length, I recommend the 27mm f/2.8 lens (my personal favorite Fujifilm lens).
X-Pro 2 vs X70
I am personally not going to buy the X-Pro 2. I am very content with my Ricoh GR II and my film Leica.
And if you can tell from my writing in this review; I am far less enthusiastic about the new X-Pro 2 than the new Fujifilm X70. While I am not buying the new Fujifilm X70 either— I feel that the new X70 is far more innovative, affordable, and fun to shoot with the X-Pro 2.
Having tested the X70 and the X-Pro 2; the X70 is a lot more fun to shoot with. It is a lot lighter, still has really fast autofocus (a bit slower than the X-Pro 2), and definitely a lot cheaper.
But if you are really intrigued by the X-Pro 2; borrow it from a store and give it a go. Not every shoe fits every foot— the only way to find out if you would like the X-Pro 2 for street photography is try it out for yourself— not to trust my word or anyone else’s word on the internet.
Street photography camera reviews
Below are probably the 3 best “bang for the buck” cameras for street photography; read my reviews below: