The Fujifilm X-Pro2: The Optical ViewFinder Documentary Hybrid Camera For the Rest of Us
While researching this article, I encountered X-Pro2 users producing not just one blog post about the camera but often a whole series of them. Why? The X-Pro2 appears simple enough on the surface but there is so much more than meets the eye, so much buried in the menu system and in the camera’s many features and capabilities. So many, I discovered, that it took several days to work my way through them, all the better to understand how to get the best out of this unique and very promising camera, one of the few digital rangefinder cameras available now.
I had more questions about the X-Pro2 than those other writers were answering, solo or collectively. Too many questions still unanswered in a very different way to my first big non-DSLR camera purchase, the Panasonic Lumix GH4. So, what to do? Where to turn for answers in the absence of in-depth websites and ebooks. Then, I was lucky enough to be loaned an X-Pro2 along with Fujinon XF35mmF2 R WR standard prime lens. Now I could discover my own answers.
My aim in this article is to answer some of those questions that have gone unanswered until now, if I can, and provide some personal insights into the X-Pro2 based on many years relying on OVF – optical viewfinder aka rangefinder – cameras in all formats from 35mm through 120 to 4”x5” sheet film for my professional work during the analog film era.
The most sophisticated optical viewfinder camera so far?
Ever since Canon’s EOS 5D Mark II reopened the doors to photography and moviemaking to me after too many years sidelined due to severe photochemical allergies, I have been waiting for a worthy and affordable digital successor to the Leica M analog rangefinder cameras that gave birth to my way of seeing and creating images, whether still and moving.
I had tried the X-Pro1 but found it disappointing – its lack of built-in diopter correction, fairly average ergonomics and glacial autofocus speed being its top three disappointments amongst several. Would its successor, the X-Pro2, rectify those faults and be what I had been waiting for all this time? Would it be the poor person’s Leica surpassing Leica’s own efforts at creating a rangefinder camera truly fit for the digital age?
OVF or EVF? Or both?
One thing puzzled me about the existing articles and videos about the X-Pro2 – most X-Pro2 users seemed to prefer using the camera’s electronic viewfinder (EVF) to its optical viewfinder (OVF). In some cases, they testified that they had never used their X-Pro2’s OVF at all. Odd, and rather cavalier I thought, considering that the X-Pro2’s EVF is good but not a patch on the X-T1‘s groundbreaking high magnification EVF.
I am not a massive fan of the centralised viewfinder DSLR style of most current hybrid cameras, except for zoom lens-equipped documentary 4K video where I rely on my Panasonic Lumix GH4, with my Panasonic Lumix GX8 serving as video B-camera and stills A-camera due to its rangefinder-style form factor and 20MP sensor.
Not to forget the fully articulated LCD monitor on both, which I especially rely on for stills when I want to concentrate wholly on the subject, forgoing the distraction of chimping as you go. It also provides effective protection for the LCD itself and is a boon when shooting video. Tilted LCDs are, for me, half-baked substitutes at best.
The X-Pro2’s state-of-the-art OVF, that Fujifilm refers to as its Advanced Hybrid Multi Viewfinder (HMVF), is more advanced than any digital Leica optical viewfinder and is responsible for eating up a large chunk of the X-Pro2’s research and development budget. The HMVF surely has to account for a big slice of the camera’s purchase price too, well above that of Fujifilm’s other pro-quality camera, the X-T1. And, no doubt, the X-T1’s successor when it appears sometime this year or next.
X-Pro2’s number one attraction – its OVF.
Yet, for me, given my long history of rangefinder cameras in a range of film formats, the X-Pro2’s HMVF is the prime reason for placing this camera at the very top of my hardware wishlist. The X-Pro’s local purchase price is enough to make one wince, given the exchange rate, but I am willing to bite the bullet for the sake of that very special OVF as soon as I have the funds.
I am, however, grateful for the existence of the EVF in the X-Pro2 for one very big reason – what it brings to the X-Pro2’s optical viewfinder on steroids, the HMVF aka Hybrid Multi Viewfinder.
The HMVF can be used in either of two ways, both accessible via the X-Pro’s front lever. Flip the lever to the left – camera left that is – to switch between an OVF enhanced with a small EVF image lower right, and an OVF without it. Fujifilm refers to that small, in-HMVF EVF image as the ERF – the electronic rangefinder. Flip the lever to camera right and on comes the EVF itself.
Ah! Acronyms, acronyms – the digital world is replete with them. Apologies.
Read Karin's full article “The Fujifilm X-Pro2: The Optical ViewFinder Documentary Hybrid Camera For the Rest of Us”
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(cover photo credit: snap from Karin Gottschalk)