Walking the X-Pro 2 Pt II- it’s getting under my skin
Ute, Rawene, early am
Fujifilm X-Pro 2, 16-55/2.8 LM WR
ISO 400, 1/850s @ f8
It has been a while since I had a camera that got under my skin in the way that this one has.
I have, over the years, handled more than my fair share. Some I hated from Minute One. Others I put up with, because they did what they were required to do. You couldn’t fault the Mamiya RZ 67. It was brilliant at what it did (studio photography), but it wasn’t lovable. It was too clunky for that. It was a grudging friendship perhaps. But very, very few ticked all the boxes, with regards to EQ and IQ. I know that a weekend with a Leica M6 left me hungry for one in my camera bag. I know that I wept when my Sony Alpha 900 finally succumbed to overuse. And I really loved my Canon 1DS Mk III, even though it was a brick, could never focus consistently, and chewed shutters on a regular basis. Sometimes the love affair is such that you hung on in there for the kids’ sake, even when you knew it was time to move on. These days I step right back from the argument about what is the best camera. When a passionate photographer tells me that life begins and ends with an Oly, or a Panasonic or a Pentax and then proceeds to attempt to convert me, in the same way I am occasionally spiritually assaulted by a Jehovah’s Witness or a passing Mormon, I listen politely and allow them to foam. This is because I am privy to a dirty little secret: there are no bad cameras, only inept owners. Which one should I buy, Tony? The one that feels right in your hand, I reply.
Listen to your heart, not the chattering of your mind. It’s as good an answer as any.
Over the last week, I have found myself wandering around the tiny village where I work, with the X-Pro 2 slung over my shoulder. Just in case. It sits beside me on the passenger’s seat. Just in case. And it lies on my desk. Just in case. When I get to the office in the morning, I boot up my desktops, and, while they are coughing into life, I go for a walk with the Pro-2. Just in case. Instead of sitting in my truck on the ferry, I get out and study the skies and light. Just in case.
Of course there is a reason. I don’t tend to do this with the D810. I get that one out when it is needed and when there is a reason. Or a commission calls. However, it isn’t really a companion, rather more of a (demanding) servant. Anyway, it is so heavy that I tend to leave it for moments that suddenly demand its ferocious IQ and EQ. Don’t get me wrong. It is a camera that just feels right. However, it has a certain…aloofness… which insists on being taken seriously. The X-Pro 2 isn’t like that at all.
Now I find myself looking at the ordinary world and being drawn back to the medium in its pure form. Suddenly I am fascinated by light and form and life, the fundamentals of photography as document.
So what have I learned in a week?
I really like the joystick for selecting focus area when shooting this type of work. I loved this feature on the Canons and Sonys I have used. Tabbing for maximum depth-of-field is quick and intuitive. You don’t have to take the camera away from your eye.
I love the shutter. Finally, the shutter is a match for the intuitiveness of my DSLRs. It’s quick and responsive. I shouldn’t be enamoured of the sound a shutter makes, but I am. That gentle snick is somehow supremely satisfying. They probably had 10 engineers working on just that. The sound brings the words “jewel” and “Swiss watch” to mind. A silly reason to like a camera perhaps, but somehow it matters. Somehow it is a bonus.
The metering is very accurate. Rarely have I had to apply any compensation to speak of. The same can’t be said of my D810, whose exposure can be unpredictable at times. And the compensation dial seems to sit happily on 0, occasionally drifting one way or the other. Even nasty, up-into-the-light shots tend to be accessible without much compensation. And the histogram, while only luminance, tends to be very accurate, and not prone to surprising. What I have noticed however, in post, is that headroom is rather limited, and that it is critical to avoid clipping the highlights. That little spike on the right can trip you up later. Avoid it.
I have been downloading and reviewing, and exploring how the various RAW converters respond to the files. And here I had another surprise. If a file from any digital I use passes muster at 100%, then I am happy. However, I was circling around inside files the other day and realised that I was routinely examining them at 200% and even 400%, with one still holding together at 800%! WTF? Using the 16-55 LM WR, the corners are perfect at f8, with no mushiness or loss of detail. Fuji glass? There’s that jewel word again.
The battery life is as sucky as ever. A reason to buy your batteries in outers. However, it is no worse than any other X. About 300 files the way I work and then it is time to change. I have 5 of them, and I will pick up couple more on my way south next week. Hint: Mr Fuji, why not make a multiple charger so we can do 2 a time, and preferably a rapid charger if possible?
My large male hands really would like a grip a la X-T1 or the M-series. That said, these are mere gripes, and to be honest, an attempt to de-gush this review.
And one last thing, Mr Fuji. Why did you have to put the format memory card item where you did? It makes no sense. Why not make it a top-level item at the beginning of the red camera menu? Hey, even call it ” format”. A little bit of coding should do it…
I have found myself in Acros mode. I have read a lot written by other X photographers, who talk about the fact that the grain pattern and contrast will adjust in an analogue way to match the ISO, but these are early days. I have the camera set to Acros mode and am working my eye back into thinking tonally.
To begin with the files looked like crap, until the penny dropped this morning (sometimes I can be really slow…). I have been shooting RAW since forever, and naturally tend to think in ETTR. Acros mode is for jpegs. It records them as JPEGS. Doh. I need to expose them as jpegs. This requires a different histogram, with the peaks evenly spread between the outer edges. I adjusted my thinking and tried again. I found the EVF gave me excellent previsualisation. However, I discovered something interesting when I downloaded them into Lightroom 6.5.1. I had purposely shot Raw + Fine Jpeg.
What I found was a variance in exposure. I deliberately set the import to None when I import using LR. What I found, once the previews were rendered, was that the RAW fie appeared about 1EV underexposed compared to the jpeg, which was pretty much exactly as I had seen it in the viewfinder. At this point I have no answers to that.
Just to check it wasn’t Lightroom, I took the RAW file to my converter of choice for X-Trans files, Photo Ninja 1.3.3c, and made an absolutely zeroed exposure apart from correcting CA and lens distortion, then exported it as a tiff. I took that file to Alien Skin Exposure X and did a conversion using their Acros profile. I found that I needed to apply about +0.4 EV exposure compensation to come close to the jpeg OOC (out of camera). The various versions are at right.
Why is there such a discrepancy between Raw and jpeg files from this camera? Is it a Lightroom issue or some setting I have yet to find? Memo to self: RTFM. Read the fine manual. If you have any ideas, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section. Put me on the straight and narrow, folks.
Actually, it doesn’t matter.
It doesn’t matter at all.
This issue will sort itself out.
All I know is that there is a camera beside me that is itching to get out there and travel with me.
Just in case.
Yep, definitely under my skin.