Still a Brilliant Choice Seven Years Later: Fujifilm X-Pro2 Re-Review

Still a Brilliant Choice Seven Years Later: Fujifilm X-Pro2 Re-Review

Loved by many when it came out and adored by a solid user base today, the Fujifilm X-Pro2 was truly a hit camera made so well that it still has not truly been replaced even by the newer X-Pro3. And thanks to its age it is finally attainable even for the ones not willing to spend a ton on a quality camera.

The History

When the Fujifilm X-Pro2 came out seven years ago replacing the original Fujifilm X Series mirrorless camera, the X-Pro1, it pushed the system towards a whole new chapter with a ton of improvements and new features making it one of the most complete pieces of kit a photographer might want. Sure, I might be biased having used one for more than half a decade, but this way you can be sure I have tested it thoroughly and there is nothing I haven’t tried photographing with it. Nowadays, it simply cannot be missing from anyone’s list of candidates when shopping for a daily documentary/street photography camera especially considering buying a used one. Let’s have a look at what this “Poor Man’s Leica” is all about.

The Design

The X-Pro2 has built on the fan-favorite rangefinder-style design of the original X-Pro1 but it has improved it in pretty much every way and brought some more. The body is made of magnesium alloy, rugged and fully weather-sealed. The controls have been improved dramatically from the predecessor. For example, this is the first Fujifilm camera to feature a joystick for focus point selection. The dials are back and improved with the feature to be able to change your ISO value within the shutter speed dial. Many of the buttons are now reprogrammable including the front one on the viewfinder switch.

The memory card slot has not just been moved away from the battery to the side of the camera but it was also doubled to finally allow professionals to have a backup for the worst possible scenario of a card failure.

Fujifilm X-Pro2 Top plate

The whole body feels much more solid and better made compared to the X-Pro1. The weather sealing, as well as the durability, are a must-have for any professional camera. I’ve gotten so used to it that I can’t even consider the possibility of using a non-sealed single-card slot camera as my main body anymore. And I can personally vouch for the durability. My X-Pro2 has been through hell and back when I used it before I upgraded to the X-T5

I’ve never cared what weather it was when I took my X-Pro2 out. It could have been pouring rain in the north of Scotland, a hot dusty summer day by the sea, or a freezing snowstorm in the mountains. The camera never cared and just worked. I never really even cared for it nicely. Those who know me are well aware of how much abuse my X-Pro2 went through. It survived anything from a rigorous week in the Andalucian mountains training with experienced military advisers and conflict photographers to surviving in an active warzone to actually performing in one. I took it to the trenches on the Donbas frontlines with me in both a scorching hot summer of 2018 as well as a freezing cold winter of 2019. In both of those instances, it performed flawlessly even after being dropped multiple times as well as my body actually falling on top of it full force smashing onto concrete whilst getting squashed by my kevlar/ceramic vest from the top. Your life comes first, camera second. And I knew the camera would survive anything and still deliver beautiful images.

After all, I threw at it in terms of durability I would personally put it up with the greats like the legendary Nikon F3, Canon 1D X Mk III, or any film Leica. 

Fujifilm X-Pro2 Back

The Sensor

The Fujifilm X-Pro2 was the first camera to feature the then-brand-new X-Trans III sensor. It boasted 24 megapixels of resolution which is more than enough even by today’s standards. It does not rival the full-frame sensors of today in terms of low-light performance or the amount of captured detail. But regardless of that, the image files delivered by the sensor are beautiful. Especially if you plan on shooting monochrome.

The X-Trans RGB matrix as well as the processor running the show render high ISO images in a very interesting way. When you shoot in one of the eight monochrome modes the artifacts resemble film grain more than traditional digital noise. I have had the camera set to choose its own ISO value from the lowest 200 to the highest 12,800 and I did not care which value it picked whatsoever. I was more than happy with the results at any of these ISOs. True, everyone has a completely different bar set in their mind about how much grain is too much grain. My bar is very low. Or should I say high? I’d rather have a grainy image than not have the image at all. 

Leicester Square, London - Sunset rainfall

The dynamic range is decent. As long as you expose for the highlights you can always bring the shadows back up. From what I’ve seen the sensor is ISO invariant so you can always count on the image being there even when you underexpose. When it comes to printing I’ve printed images as large as standard A1 size with no issues. There is this one image of a Scottish panorama I’ve printed a little less than 3 meters long but that one was a stitch of six handheld vertical shots side-by-side. Unless it is not printed it’s not really a photograph and the prints coming from the X-Trans sensors just look beautiful. Paired with a decent baryta paper or a C-Type you’d mistake the prints for being shot on film.

The Speed

Fujifilm X-Pro2 is not fast by today’s standards. But it is not slow either. One of the card slots is UHS-II compatible, so it writes files reasonably fast. The menus can be navigated quickly and effortlessly. The frame rates vary up to 8 fps and the shutter speed can go up to 1/32000s in electronic shutter. The auto M+E shutter mode cleverly switches between mechanical and electronic shutters depending on whether you’re shooting below 1/8000s or above.

Southbank skatepark, London

The autofocus has been one of the major improvements from the previous models. The sensor now features 273 phase-detect autofocus points concentrated in the middle third of the frame whilst the rest of the frame is still contrast based. The speed is clearly better than the older Fujifilm bodies, but it is not super reliable when it comes to any kind of face detection or tracking. The most trustworthy AF mode is the one I’ve been using all the years I’ve had the camera, which is the good old center-point focus-recompose method. Combined with a fast-focusing lens like one of the f/2 “Fujicrons” I rarely ever missed a shot. I just knew I had to predict my subject a bit before shooting and not fully rely on the camera tracking any moving subject.

The Viewfinder

The famous hybrid viewfinder is what differentiates the X-Pro line-up from any other camera. You get the benefits of an optical viewfinder as well as a decent electronic one or even a combination of both. The optical one is your standard see-through viewfinder overlaid with all the necessary information of your choosing via an internal projection. This also perfectly shows the frame lines depending on the lens you’ve currently got mounted on the body as well as the parallax being accounted for depending on the focus distance. The viewfinder offers two individual magnifications adjustable with a flick of a switch letting you see more of what is going on around your frame. To make sure your focus is right on the money you can choose to display a tiny screen in the corner to confirm.

Donbass, Ukraine 2018 - Running back to safety during a strong rainstorm

The electronic viewfinder comes in in a split second should you choose to do so with a switch. The resolution and the size of it are not even close to the best ones today but it never personally bothered me. I’ve used the electronic viewfinder pretty much 99% of the time. Yes, the resolution is only 2.36 million pixels and the framerate sits around 80 fps, but it is very manageable and shows the image in a decent amount of detail. That being said, models like X-T2 and higher have viewfinders considerably larger, brighter, faster, and sharper.

What I Liked

The fact that image quality is beautiful unless you are a low-noise pixel-peeper who magnifies their images to 400 percent on a 4K screen. I’ve never had any issues with the files coming out of the camera. They were always beautiful, organic, and perfectly usable. Seeing them in print made the photographs even better. ISO was a non-issue to me as the grain is natural-looking and pleasing to the eye.

The autofocus was decent enough for me not to be too penalized by it. Sure, today’s subject detection algorithms and tracking modes are in a whole different universe when it comes to accuracy and speed, but the X-Pro2 is perfectly usable. Especially if you stick to using the phase-detection points in a single AF mode. It makes the camera snappy and easy to control.

Donbass, Ukraine, 2019 - Getting a stuck 4x4 out of the snow in sub-zero temperatures

The durability is just a brilliant cherry on top. The lack of a tilting screen made it so the body was built like a brick and could take a hit. Combined with a well-tested weather sealing I just knew I could count on the X-Pro2 to work whenever I needed it, wherever I needed it. The dual card slot took away the anxiety of losing your files to a faulty SD card which has happened to me a few times already.

The compact design of the camera is unobtrusive, quiet, non-threatening, and just simple. It is a much nicer experience to photograph people with such a body compared to a large and obvious DSLR or a large mirrorless. I rarely got any reaction from my subjects due to the camera looking analog and old. It’s a perfect street photographer’s companion to carry every day.

The Classic Chrome film simulation was perfect for shooting color but my favorite has always been Acros with a red filter. The skin tones just popped whilst keeping foliage and skies darker. Almost every single image in my portfolio has the Acros+R simulation applied to it ever since I bought the X-Pro2 back in 2016.

Andalucía, Spain, 2017 - My X-Pro2 reliably capturing the grand event of the Conflict Protography Workshop covered in dirt, sand, fake blood, and mud. 

What I Disliked

There isn’t a lot of what I disliked about the camera considering I’ve shot with it for so long. But yeah, some things needed improving. The brightness of the viewfinder is surpassed even by the cheaper X-E3. It is not dark, but it definitely is not bright either. The AF tracking mentioned above has left a lot to be desired. Once I started using other bodies like the X-T4 or the X-T5 next to the X-Pro2 I saw how far behind the X-Pro line-up is. But as I’ve said before, you just need to work around it and not use tracking.

Sitting here thinking about what else I disliked I’m seriously struggling. My two cameras currently are the X-T5 accompanied by the older X-T3 and I’m still considering buying a used X-Pro2 just for the pure enjoyment of photography with that camera. That is one of the reasons I wrote this review so late after the release. There are lots of photographers out there in the market for a great camera who do not want to spend a ton of money. This makes a used X-Pro2 more relevant than ever. Even after all those years. When you get the chance, try it out. You might like it, you might even love it. I know I did.

Crop of a low light image taken inside the Lviv train station few days after the invasion

Ondřej Vachek's picture

Ondřej Vachek is a Prague based independent documentary photographer and photojournalist with multiple journeys to war-torn Ukraine where he covered everything from the frontline in the Donbass to the civilian life adapting to the new normal. Avid street photographer with love for writing and storytelling.

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Excellent article. The X-Pro 2 was already on my shortlist, now it’s a step closer to the top.

Thank you! I'm glad it was helpful.