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My Experiences with the Fujifilm X-Pro2 in Shooting Weddings

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fujixpro2weddingsmain

This is long. Sorry. If you want to read something shorter I hear War and Peace is a ripping yarn.

I’m not a reviewer. I don’t have the time, skill or patience to do that. I just pick up cameras and point them at stuff. So let’s call this an opinion piece at best because it’s highly likely I have no idea what I’m talking about or that the only functional part of my pea sized brain that still functions normally is affected by caffeine.

But at the same time I’ve got a pair of X-Pro2s, a bunch of lenses and I’ve shot some weddings with them already. I have access to the Internet, which allows me a platform to anonymously sprout as much crap as I want with no fear of retribution or a visit from the authorities. I also like cameras. A lot. I’ve got a whole bunch of them so I can compare my experience with the X-Pro2 to other mirrorless cameras I own. So here goes.

X-Pro2. Rokinon 8mm fisheye @ f/4
X-Pro2. Rokinon 8mm fisheye @ f/4

Last weekend I shot two weddings with a pair of X-Pro2s and the following lenses: 10-24 f/4, 16-55 f/2.8, 50-140 f/2.8, 23mm f/1.4, 35mm f/1.4, 56mm f/1.2APD, 60mm macro, 90mm f/2 and a Rokinon fisheye. All lenses got used. The least used were the macro, 90mm and fisheye. I had two i40 flashes and a Godox360 and IceLight. I didn’t use the Godox or the IceLight at these weddings. Everything fit inside a modified TT Airport Navigator.

The X-Pro2 is the shazizzle. Now as a camera slut, I’ll probably change that opinion by next Tuesday if Sony release yet another frigging A7 camera. But for the next 4 hours at least, the X-Pro2 is my new love. I really enjoyed shooting weddings with it and there’s very little that got in the way.

50-140 @f2.8 ISO 2000
50-140 @f2.8 ISO 2000

Let’s start with the camera itself. It looks cool. Hipsters will love this thing. It’s so cool than non hipsters will consider growing a perfectly manicured beard just to fit in with the X-Pro2. It’s all cool and retro and still manages to have heaps of little buttons to push and dials to twiddle. I reckon this thing will attract hot chicks at a reception faster than if I turned up with a puppy. I mean it looks like a Leica!

Well, it aint a Leica. It doesn’t feel like a Leica. And it doesn’t shoot like a Leica, even a modern digital one. If you want a Leica you’ll need to save a bit longer or steal your sisters piggy bank. But as a Fujifilm, it actually mostly works well.

Fuji make cameras that are nice to use. It seems like someone at Fuji might actually take photographs with an actual camera and move that experience into designing one. Like all Fujis, the “mechanical” shutter and aperture dials translate to digital really well. They’re fast and easy to use, even with the camera turned off.

The buttons have moved, from the X-Pro1, to the right side of the camera and generally things are much easier to operate. I love aperture dials on lenses, even if they turn the wrong way like Fuji’s do. Aperture dials belong on lenses and I defy anyone to use a lens with an aperture ring for a few days and tell me they don’t miss it when it’s not there. It’s the main reason I prefer the handling of the X-Pro over something from Sony.

The X-Pro feels so natural and intuitive to use. Sure it’s got 12 million features deeply buried in menus but the basics are there, right in front of you. Ya know how some modern cameras feel like a computer with a lens attached. Well the X-Pro2 really feels like a camera. This is good. Mostly because it is a camera.

X-Pro2 23mm @ f/1.4
X-Pro2 23mm @ f/1.4

Unfortunately, no one even noticed my cameras at either wedding, so I got no hipster cred. Maybe because both my cameras are black and not fully retro chrome. I have black cameras because I’m a ninja. A fat, middle-aged, white, hipster ninja. Just without the beard and the martial arts training.

Ultimately if you’re worried that you’ll be treated differently because the X-Pro2 is small it won’t make any difference. As usual, people don’t care. You’ll still be treated like the professional we all know you are. My shooting partner still uses Canon 1 series gear and we get treated the same. Ignored mostly. Next time I’ll bring the puppy.

The focus selector is fantastic. It’s not the first time this has been in a mirrorless camera. The Leica SL also has a focus joystick. It works so well and moving points is so simple and quick. I set my camera to the lesser 77 focus points for speed and never wished for the finer setting. The PDAF points are clearly marked in the EVF and LCD so you can easily stick with the newer faster focusing system. Close to the best, if not the best focus selector I’ve ever used.

I know Canon has it but in portrait mode I could never reach the bleedin’ thing. The Sony a99 had two, one on the grip. I liked that camera. I already wish every camera I own had a focus joystick.

X-Pro2, 56mm @1.4
X-Pro2, 56mm @1.4

The Q (quick) menu is great. Customisable too. I wish there were more functions available to it like format which is well and truly buried in the menus. You’ll need a bit shovel to dig that one out. The tripod mount no longer means you can’t access the battery compartment. Nice, but it should have been like that one the X-Pro1 to start with.

Fuji’s menus are better than Sony’s but if you saved up and got a real Leica you’ll understand that all camera menus suck tennis balls except ze Germans. It does have a myMenu which is the default when hitting the menu button. Very smart Mr Fuji, unless you stole the idea in which case very smart to the other guy/gal.

With primes the camera balances beautifully, although my grip comments are valid after 12 hours shooting. The camera feels agile unlike a cumbersome bulk of a DSLR. The DSLR guys don’t get this. Try an X-Pro for a few days and you’ll understand.

No flippy screen. Devastated. Well not really. I did look at a picture on the Internet before buying it sight unseen. (Actually no. The guys at Fuji Australia gave me a play with one a month before and some of their time and it is appreciated). But it would have been so great. I love flippy screens and use them all the time if I can.

On the plus side, Fuji have done this for a really good reason. They want you to buy an XT-2 in July. And they managed to make the two control wheels so small and recessed they’re nearly impossible to find, let alone operate. This isn’t a real issue, unless you need them, which you will. So I suppose it is. It will annoy you, just a bit.

X-Pro2, 35mm f/1.4 ISO800
X-Pro2, 35mm f/1.4 ISO800

In a moment of design genius Fuji have also re-introduced the lift and twist ISO dial. It’s looks beautiful and it’s easy to find. Too bad it doesn’t work very well. It’s one of those things that works for film but doesn’t translate to digital. But it’s a nice follow on from the ISO dial on the XT-1 that required a button press and hold to change values because having ISO easily available on a modern digital camera couldn’t possibly be useful, functional or simple to access, could it? Yes you can see the changes to ISO in the viewfinder but it’s a retro touch that shouldn’t be on a digital camera.

Mostly though, everything works well. Sure I moan like a response to a bad joke but in reality most of the X-Pro2 works really well in the hand. I have ordered the grip because I do need to use a tripod and also after 12 hours the little sucker got slippery. The grip will really help, especially with the long zooms. It’ll be more… grippy.

The thumb grip is good and the exposure comp dial is in the right place and nicely weighted. It feels very well put together. No creaks. Not to heavy and much lighter than a real Leica. One little thing. The strap lugs are in the perfect spot. On some small cameras they often dig into your hand but on this one the fit right between my fingers. Nice, especially after 12 hours holding the damn thing.

X-Pro2, 16-55 @ f/2.8
X-Pro2, 16-55 @ f/2.8

Of course the main differentiator of the X-Pro2 is the hybrid viewfinder. I think I own every mirrorless camera with a bigger EVF than the X-Pro2 and yes, they are all bigger than the X-Pro2. Whodathunkit? The EVF is a bit small. But it’s fine in normal use. I do think it fell apart a bit in low light (I only used normal mode for batteries sake) compared to the best available. But the camera remained very responsive anyway.

I used the EVF about 80% of the time. I like framed viewfinders so I do tend to use it. Many wont. Maybe they’ll be waiting patiently for the XT2 but I think they’re missing out. Seeing outside the frame can be really handy and having both optical and EVF viewing in one camera makes it very flexible.

I used the OVF a lot in reception. The switch on the front is easy to operate so it’s easy peesy to switch back and forward. When using the OVF you can have a digital overlay of the screen center for manual focusing. Cool or what? Manual focus with the OVF and rangefinder lenses is not only possible. It’s easy. Works in EVF mode as well.

X-Pro2, 50-140 @ 50mm f/2.8
X-Pro2, 50-140 @ 50mm f/2.8

The X-Pro2 sure is a responsive little sucker. I really wanted to compare it to a 5D Mark III and asked Canon for a free one. The response from them mentioned sex and travel so I’m not going to be able to compare the Fuji to any of the top DSLRs.1 It was fast enough for me and the way I shoot.

I didn’t wait for the buffer or playback or powering on or waking from sleep. If you own a Sony A7 you’ll understand that the cameras operate great but sometimes Sony will just lock you out of the house until it’s finished rearranging the furniture. The Fuji didn’t do this. Every time I wanted to take a shot it was ready like a well-trained Collie.

The X-Pro2 has dual card slots. I was hoping to have a card fail but like the last 500 weddings nothing happened to any of the cards. Very disappointing if I have 2 slots and can’t get one to fail, what’s the point. I had better luck with the silent shutter. It was more silenter than I had expected. Like really silent and without noise. Seriously. It worked great during the ceremony and it’s easy to use except for the tiny recessed control wheel. No flash with the silent shutter though. You can add a sound to the silent shutter, bizarrely. Doesn’t that kinda defeat the purpose?

The regular shutter is nearly as nice. It’s quiet and definite. A lovely little “snick” without the recoil of a 50 gauge. It’s magnitudes quieter than the Sony A72 although the A7R2 also has a silent shutter. The Fuji may actually be quieter than a real Leica. It is, compared to my M240 but I don’t know about the M262. In a wedding situation it’s a very nice thing to have and you’ll never need to worry about being a distraction. If you want to be the centre of attention, you’ll need something else for that. A puppy perhaps?

X-Pro2 10-24mm, ISO1250 f/4.5
X-Pro2 10-24mm, ISO1250 f/4.5

Autofocus has been Fuji’s low point, especially in low light (see what I did there?). Sucked in low light would be generous. Not anymore. The X-Pro2 has fully sick low light focus. Down to -3EV according to the impossible to read Japanese to English translation called a manual.

And it does what it says. The X-Pro2 focused where I couldn’t see real good, but I’m old so that’s not surprising. With the 10-24mm f/4 zoom at ISO 2000 and 1/8th of a second, focus was just on all the time. I had 11 shots in two days that were out of focus from a total of just under 3000 images.

I switched to the OVF and kept shooting with the 23mm. No probs Bob. I can’t tell you if the X-Pro2 is as fast in low light as the Nikon D5 or 1D X Mark II. Personally I don’t give a s**t because I’m never going to buy either of those cameras so comparisons are pointless to me. All I can say is that it was much faster than the XT-1 in low light. That’s not hard because the XT1 in low light focus is sooo s**t compared to Sony, Panasonic, Olympus, Leica. Well, everybody actually.

I also feel it was as quick or quicker than the Sony a7r II or A7S in the same circumstances. That is saying something. So if you’re going mirrorless the low light focus doesn’t exclude Fuji anymore. In decent light it does feel snappier than the XT1 but they’re both fast enough as are most mirrorless cameras. It positively zips into focus. The only mirrorless I’m having autofocus problems with is my real Leica M. The AF doesn’t work at all on that one. I need to send it in.2

“No, the X-Pro2 is not ‘full frame’. Yes, I understand I am not a real photographer because I use an APSC camera. Yes, I read you 12 page post demonstrating how only a ‘full frame’ sensor can give me the infinitely shallow depth of field I require to fulfil my ambitions as a professional photographer. Yes, I will bow to you infinite wisdom regarding high ISO noise and dynamic range that only a ‘full frame’ sensor can offer me. Yes. I am ashamed of my little sensor.”

X-Pro2, 90mm @ f/2
X-Pro2, 90mm @ f/2

Ok. Now we’ve got the full frame guys satisfied here’s the deal. The X-Pro2 files are f***ing great. Canon shooters would kill for this amount of dynamic range. The Nikon guys know what I’m talkin’ about, don’t ya? I shot up to 3200 and they’re all perfectly usable at any size I want to print an album to. And they hold their color at high ISO’s. Grain and noise control are excellent. Personally I don’t mind grain as long as it’s not color noise. The Fuji was a very pleasant surprise. 3200 was no issue. I might even give 6400 a crack next week.

Plus, the sensors backed by a bunch of simply stellar lenses. I haven’t found a bad one, except the 55-200mm I had a while back but that could have been a bad copy. You could require stitches from most Fuji lenses, they’re that sharp and they’re almost all usable wide open. Sure you’ll gain a stop of DOF but that’s an advantage at reception shooting at f/2 and getting a bit more DOF. And the 56mm f/1.2 is plenty shallow.

Anyhow, when someone goes on about how I’m suffering with DOF issues compared to their 50mm f/1.2L I can just pull out my Noctilux. Bam! Take that sucker! I have a crystal ball and he told me there’s a 33mm (50mm equiv) f/1.0 coming. Be still my beating heart.

The zooms are the best I’ve used, especially the 50-140mm f/2.8. I was worried it would be a pain on the little X-Pro. It was fine. The grip will help. The 16-55mm and 40-150mm are noticeably better than the Sony f/4 FE zooms. The wide zoom, Sony has the edge but only slightly. And they have the f/2.8 G-Master lenses coming. Is it just me or is that a stupid name for anything?

Where Sony can’t compete is the primes. Sony only has a few and they’re larger or slower. Fuji has a swag of sexy glass to choose from and it’s all so good, and small and relatively cheap. Lovely. Sony need to make more lenses like the very good alpha primes available for FE mount. There’s an 85mm and a 35mm. That leaves a lot of gaps. Fuji has very few gaps in its prime line up and it’s now filling out faster and more compact primes to fill the range.

I love a good 50mm and the 35mm f/1.4 is plenty good. But the 56mm f/1.2 APD is special. I love that lens. I also really like the f/2.8 zooms and I normally hate f/2.8 zooms. What gives with no IS on the 16-55 though? Cheapskates should have made them all stabilised.

X-Pro2, 23mm @ f/1.4
X-Pro2, 23mm @ f/1.4

Other little things. The flash system. Until recently Fuji’s TTL flash system has been no more useful than a festering turd in a gutter of slime. The EF42 may be the worst TTL flash ever made. If not a winner it was certainly a nominee. I use a couple of i40 Nissin’s and they’re great except for no HSS which the X-Pro2 now supports. There’s a new Fuji flash coming and maybe even the new i60 will support HSS. For off camera flash, it’s all manual baby. There’s no TTL support for OCF. But my Godox 360 work just fine thanks very much.

Batteries. You’ll need ‘em. Sorry the X-Pro2 doesn’t run on reclaimed vegetable fat. And you’ll need lots. I used 12 for the weekend. That was for 23 hours of shooting time. Sleep works well on the X-Pro2 and it’s the first time I’ve used it and been happy to use it again. The camera wakes up nice and fast.

X-Pro2, 56mm APD @ f/1.2
X-Pro2, 56mm APD @ f/1.2

While I was waiting for the files to import into Lightroom I took a two week holiday to Canada. When I got back they weren’t quite finished. The camera is snappy. Lightroom isn’t. It seriously takes longer than uncompressed raw files from the A7R2 to import. You’ll be importing while going off and doing other chores.

Waiting is not an option. You’ll actually be waiting long enough to grow that hipster beard you’ve been thinking about since the camera purchase. But in the end Lightroom does OK with Fuji files unless you do a lot of fine detail foliage. Files are already sharp out of camera but the X-trans files do prefer a smaller radius for sharpening. Mine are imported at 0.5 radius and 30 amount and I rarely change from that.

Skin tones are beautiful and colors are really really good. The files are actually easy and quick to process after the lifelong wait for importing. Once in Lightroom they’re as quick to scoot through as any other camera in the 24 megapickle range. Out of the systems I own the Fuji’s need the least work, especially for color images. Lightroom also tries to recreate the new Archos film simulation for raw files. I have no idea if it works but the end result is pretty swish.

X-Pro2, 35mm @ f/1.4
X-Pro2, 35mm @ f/1.4

So should you but an X-Pro2 as a wedding photographer? No idea. I’ve always believed when you need advice on the big questions you should talk to your parents. And unless they were on holiday in Fuji in 1982 it’s highly unlikely I’m one of them. Best you actually go and pick one up, for real, in the flesh, so to speak.

Look, if you’re considering mirrorless as an option to DSLR’s for shooting weddings the X-Pro2 is a real contender. Fuji no longer lags behind in low light AF and flash options for on shoe TTL. The lenses are fab. The system is small, light and reasonably cheap. My Leica SL and one lens cost more than my entire Fujifilm system. It’s responsive and mostly intuitive to use. If you’re not getting good images it won’t be because of the camera.

If you think a wedding is directly related to international sports and live with your 1Dsomethingorother at 20fps and CAF directly tied to your rear button AF lock then I don’t think this camera is for you. I’ll be happily selling my XT-1 and moving to only X-Pro2’s for wedding shooting for a while. YMMV.

But. The X-Pro2 really does handle differently to almost every other camera, including a real Leica. The X-Pro2 is the digital version of the Contax G series, which was a great system but never got past the second season. You’ll get it or you won’t. If you don’t you’ve probably only got 4-6 month till the XT2 anyway.

Thanks for reading. And if you got this far and you’re still awake thanks for that. Any questions, let me know.


Footnotes

1: This really didn’t happen.
2: This is a joke. Really.


About the author: Gordon Cahill is an Australian photographer who serves the Central Coast of New South Wales, Sydney, Newcastle and The Hunter Valley. His services are offered through Flash Gordon Photography. This article was also published here.


Image credits: Photographs by Gordon Cahill and used with permission

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