The X-Pro 2 Pt III-a jolly good slapping
Fujifilm X-Pro 2, 16-55/2.8 LM WR
ISO 200, 1/60s @f8
I have a confession.
I hate tripods.
I have 2 of them and I don’t particularly like either. One is a lovely little foldaway and the other is a big Induro with a 229 head. Both of them are great tripods, but I just hate them. Actually I hate using them. I much prefer to wander and respond intuitively rather than go through the motions of the rigging up my tripod and moving at its pace (slow). While I preach the virtues of using a tripod at my workshops, the X-cameras I use have normally allowed me to get away with handholding. That is the joy of this type of camera. It frees you from the drudgery of buttons and controls. Its in-viewfinder histogram encourages you to work in that space, rather than stand back and make deliberate decisions. It frees you to listen to your heart and search for the moment. No more.
The Pro-2 reminded me that the new 24 MP sensor won’t tolerate any of the sort of sloppiness. I need to remember not to attempt handholding with the 16-55 LM WR at any shutter speed under 1/250s. it simply won’t allow you to get away with it if you want all that fine detail on offer. There is so much resolution on tap, that you can reach for big images and huge enlargements. If you pay attention to technique.
In the first review I promised to talk using the Pro-2 for landscape photography. and I wanted to put something up before I go on the road next week for the next month-and-a-half. I will be away teaching and shooting commercial work in the South Island. I will allow things to settle in and then write a conclusion sometime in late July. However, conclusions are already forming.
Unless the light is bright enough, or you are using an OIS lens (or preferably both), a tripod is an essential for photographing the land. I had the same experience when I moved from the Canon1Ds Mk II (16 MP) to the Mk III (21.1MP). Suddenly my files weren’t as sharp anymore. I needed to upgrade my shooting technique. When I put more effort into how I shot, the results came. The 36MP Nikon D810 I use necessitated a further upgrade in capture technique. Mirror lockup, delay shutter, monster tripod. The full noise. The advantage of the D810 with battery grip is that their heavy weight generates a certain inertial mass that dampens vibrations and feverish shutter presses. The Pro-2 however, being so light-weight, doesn’t have that advantage. It is important to take great care in how you trip the shutter and avoid stabbing at the shutter in your excitement. Otherwise it will bite you, as it did me. Consider myself slapped.
One of the major differences for me between the D810 with its 36MP and the X-T1 was not a matter of sharpness or resolution, for that is a matter of the quality of the glass as it is of the sensor. In some ways the X cameras deliver better resolution than the big Nikon, where the major issue is finding optics which have the resolution to match the astounding potential of the sensor. The Fuji glass is flawless. No, the difference is subtle. It lies in the ability of the larger sensor to capture and open up subtleties in the mid-tones. These can be worked a long way in post-production to reveal the essence of a scene, where the limited file size and relatively fewer megapixels of the X-Trans II tend to artefact earlier. However, the new sensor in the Pro-2, with its 24MP allows me go further in post than I could before, and to render a rounder, richer result. At this point there is not a lot between them, to the point where I would cheerfully use the Pro-2 to shoot the fine art works I make.
Where the D810 scores, however is in dynamic range. These are early days and I am probably missing something important, but the class-leading 14+EV of the big Nikon is well ahead at the moment in terms of ability to capture both highlights and shadows. I am still noticing in tricky lighting that the Fuji tends to clip a little early. Not really a problem, however, since the way the Fuji does HDR bracketing is superb. Simply dial it in, set the expansion range and push the shutter once. It does it so quickly that I suspect it is a single capture, split into 23 with different exposures, and not the multiple-shutter captures of my DSLR.
The viewfinder is superb. Even wearing spectacles, I am finding it very rare, as a right-eye shooter, that stray light slips in the side. In that sense it is superior to the X-T1, which led me to the optional EC-XT L Long Eyecup quite quickly.
In the last two reviews I have talked a lot about the EQ and IQ of the camera. That EQ extends to the colour and tonal rendition of the files as well. Here there is no point in comparing the D810 and the Pro-2. They come from completely different places and form quite different philosophies. The aesthetics baked into a Nikon are different to those baked into a Fuji (sensor and lens). While you can the one to look like the other, there is really no point. They are the same, only different. Fuji files look like Fuji files, as Canon files have their own unique look.
Over the weekend, between the fronts lashing the Far north, I managed to get out and turn my attention to shooting the land. The first image was made on a photo walk at Arai Te Uru, one of the two heads at the mouth of the Hokianga harbour. The weather peeled back long enough for us to get some sunshine and go exploring. The South Head, also known as Signal Hill, gets a major battering from the weather, and all the foliage has bent over and knitted hands to survive it. The plants have learned to grow along the ground, rather than stand up against the wind. This one shrub didn’t seem to have heard that advice, and was attempting to grow upright. Clearly the wind was punishing it for its temerity. Editing in post (Photo Ninja and Exposure X) showed me an enormous amount of detail. What is more the ability to resolve very fine details is stellar.
Verdict: top of the class for this kind of image.
As I do, I usually leave for the office around 0700 and catch the 0715 ferry. At the moment, it is just on dawn. This morning a weather front was approaching, bringing yet another band of rain. It was moody and mysterious.
I moved around on the ferry, shooting the rapidly-changing light and weather. In my defence, your Honour, had I gone for my tripod, I would have missed it all. What I should have done was up my ISO to keep the shutter speed sufficiently fast. Guilty on that charge.
However, it was in post that I found just how much flexibility the files have. I was able to convert in Photo Ninja and then apply Nik HDR and Efex Pro, along with a little masking to render what my heart had seen.
So what have I learned so far?
This is an extraordinary camera that (so far) seems to be good for just about anything I shoot, from weddings to fine art.
- It has Goldilocks controls-just right.
- It has fantastic IQ
- It has fantastic EQ
- The battery life is as abysmal as ever, but not a biggie.
And I need to get some discipline back into my shooting technique.