Rangefinder Camera vs Fujifilm X-Pro Series

Came across this article the other day on the internet. It’s an article shared on Fuji Addict website which compares Leica M to Fujifilm X-Pro 2. The author talks about the similarities and the difference between the two cameras, the pros and cons for both, and ultimately what are the factors that made him decided to use or to keep his camera. At the same time, YouTuber Matt Day has shared his experience on why he sold his Fujifilm X-Pro 2 and bought a Leica M Typ 262 instead.

These two posts have actually garnered a whole lot of discussions, debates and even flamewars from the netizens. Well, this has always been the case since the introduction of X-Pro 1. People tends to compare the Fujifilm X-Pro series cameras (X-Pro in short) with a Leica M (rangefinder camera, in general) because it looks like one. However, X-Pro is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera that doesn’t rely on rangefinder mechanism to focus, instead it basically performs focusing through the lens and on sensor phase / contrast detection. Hence, it isn’t really a “rangefinder” camera, it just looks like one. And honestly, it isn’t really “fair” to compare these two different types of camera head on as they are pretty much a different camera on their own. However, I’ll share a bit of my view and experience in why I decided to make the switch.

I have owned the Fujifilm X-Pro 1 before and had used it a lot especially during my trips oversea. I have sold it and now I’m using the Leica M-P Typ 240. I didn’t purchase the X-Pro 2, but I get to play around with it on a few occasions. Both systems have enough lens selections to cover your shooting needs, and both cameras performed admirably to create great pictures. Of course you get to use auto focus with the X-Pro and electronic viewfinder was built in the hybrid viewfinder, but on the other hand the experience of using the optical viewfinder is much better on a rangefinder camera.

I sold off my Fujifilm system and went for a rangefinder camera instead. One of the reason was that I prefer to shoot with the optical viewfinder of a rangefinder camera as opposed to the hybrid viewfinder offered by X-Pro. I had never managed to master on how to make full use of the optical viewfinder of X-Pro, hence ended up using the electronic viewfinder all the time. To me, this is perhaps the biggest deal breaker which influenced me in getting a rangefinder camera over the X-Pro. The former gives a more engaging experience when using the optical viewfinder.

For rangefinder, you get to see the focus patch at the center of the optical viewfinder, hence you can focus and recompose your shot on the go and get your shot right easily. With the X-Pro, there are a few boxes showing you roughly where is the focus point, but they are often not accurate. To be fair, you will get used to it after sometime and you’ll be able to estimate roughly where the auto focus will hit, but still, the hit rate is not that encouraging, at least for me. With X-Pro 2, you get to trigger an additional electronic viewfinder window at the bottom of the finder (electronic rangefinder or ERF) in order to confirm where the focus point hits. This sort of mitigated the issue mentioned earlier, but it introduces another problem. My eyes will be wandering around the viewfinder to frame and to check the focus point. I was a little annoyed by the trouble and “disconnection” in the shooting process, hence degrading the overall shooting experience.

Everyone has their reasons in choosing and using one camera. We just need to learn to respect their decision and get over it. Something that suits you doesn’t mean will suit others as well. There is no need to start a flamewar over it. Stop being a fanboi and start shooting more pictures. Anyway, I really wished Fujifilm can continue to refine their hybrid viewfinder and improve on the experience of using the optical viewfinder. Who knows one day the hybrid viewfinder on the X-Pro might become so good that I am willing to go for it and make it my main camera system. Till then.

 

My Brief Hands-On Experience with Fujifilm X-Pro2 and X70

Disclaimer: I have tried both the X-Pro2 and the X70 unit which is on display at the Fujifilm showroom. Both of them are pre-production unit according to the Fujifilm staff, so the actual experience may varies compared to final production unit.

X70 (Credits: Picture from Official Fujifilm Website)

Okay, long story short, I have tried both X-Pro2 and X70 in the Fujifilm showroom and I have read a couple of “reviews” from the internet. So far all the “reviews” have been all good (well, of course they are), but here’s my take on these two new models after my hands-on with them.

For X70, I find the AF to be slightly slower than that of X-T1, perhaps a little closer to the X-E2 speed. And the X-Trans II issue on miss focusing is still there and easy to replicate. I can’t seems to find the “snap focus” feature on this camera, so I believe if you solely rely on the AF of this camera, you may end up in hit or miss most of the time. Well, it doesn’t came to my surprise actually as it uses the X-Trans II sensor. Of course there’s always a workaround to address this problem and to get your shot, it’s just that I would like to highlight based on my experience of using it, it is for sure not “the world fastest AF speed”.

BUT, a camera’s usability is not just dictate by the AF speed. I must say the built of the X70 is very nice. The overall compactness, the design, that tilting screen and all the dials. I find it to be more comfortable to use as compared to the Ricoh GR, but GR lover will beg to differ. Anyway, a 28mm f2.8 equivalent lens is pretty handy for daily shoot, and the fact that they retain the aperture ring on the lens is also a very welcomed design decision. Other than the left button is a bit too close to the screen and hard to press at times, I can’t seems to find anything to complain about the camera hardware itself. Oh, if you are using the optional Optical Viewfinder, you may want to disable the touch focus feature as you can’t turn the screen off when you are using the OVF, hence your nose might just trigger the shutter the moment you stick your face onto it. Yes, did I just mentioned that it comes with a touch screen? And I applaud this addition and the overall usability of the touch screen is pretty positive.

I did not saved any of the picture I shot from the camera so nothing much to show about the IQ of the lens. But in general, the only complaint that I would give for this camera is that it uses the X-Trans II sensor and processor. We all know that this sensor doesn’t perform extremely well under low light, hence with a slower f2.8 lens on board, you may often hitting ISO3200 or 6400, which may give you unwanted degradation of IQ. Nevertheless, the previous generation of sensor and processor is still capable to produce good result under reasonable condition. If the lens is usable starting at f2.8 (which seems to be the case based on my observation from the LCD screen alone), then I guess Fujifilm did produce a winner camera that will sell pretty well. I know GR does not appeal to a lot of people out there due to the rather… basic look of it. So the X70 will fill up the gap nicely and gave them a choice to choose from. So is X70 a GR killer? I don’t think so. The feedback I received from the community seems to prove that those who love GR doesn’t really care about this camera, and those who dislike GR are falling in love with this new gem.

Will I buy this camera and add into my arsenal? At this point, my answer is no. If it comes with X-Trans III I probably will get one to try. But with X-Trans II, the output and AF speed still leaves much to be desire, at least for me. So it’s a no for now while I continue to search for my daily compact camera…

X-Pro2 (Credits: Picture from Official Fujifilm Website)

As for the X-Pro2, I get a couple of questions from my friends on whether should he or she buy one. Well, the reasoning is pretty simple actually:

  • Do you use OVF? If yes, then consider to buy one. If no, wait for X-T2.
  • But you really like the design of the X-Pro2? Well, if that’s the case I can’t help much to give you further advise. Just go and buy it.

This is the new beast from Fujifilm, and this camera will set the new trend for the coming products. On paper, the specification is pretty amazing. Though, spec wise the AF department is still a little shabby as compared to say… the just launched Sony A6300. That’s just comparison on paper, so until I get to try the cameras I will reserve to comment further. But based on my experience of using the X-Pro2 for awhile… I must say the claim for “world fastest AF” (again…) is a bit overrated. I can surely say that I do feel a difference between the AF of X-Pro2 vs the X-T1. The X-Pro2 is just more confident in locking focus, and I find the hit rate to be much higher too. But I won’t say the AF is blazing fast as compared to X-T1, or it is comparable to the like of DSLR. DSLR still has an edge for now, while mirrorless is really catching up fast. Bear in mind I’m testing on pre-production unit, hence the performance of production set may differ.

I wasn’t really impressed when I first saw the leaked image of the X-Pro2. I still prefer the less-modern-look on the X-Pro1, with less additional dials which are closer to that of DSLR. Nevertheless, after trying out the camera itself, I must say one has to weight in style vs function, and I think Fujifilm has strike a balance here. The AF toggle switch is a nice addition, making it much easier to select the AF points on the go. The redesigned button layout (all buttons on the right) is screaming for a tilting screen to be added but unfortunately it isn’t there. The new ISO dial is a bit of a gimmick for me, though it does seems easier to operate than what I have imagined.

Again, I can’t comment much on the IQ of the new X-Trans III sensor. On the rear screen alone it does seems pretty good. Way better than what the X-Trans II can achieve. At least I don’t see the obvious waxy skin tone at the back of the LCD when I pushed the ISO up to 6400. All this can only be confirmed after trying on the production set though, so I’ll just leave it as it is for now.

Finally, here comes the part that will make or break this camera, the Hybrid Viewfinder. You see, the only reason why X-Pro series exist and well loved is because it is the only mirrorless system out there that still carries an Optical Viewfinder. This may not be a big deal for most, especially those who bought this camera just for the look itself and use EVF all the time. But for those who appreciate OVF, the original OVF on the X-Pro1 really leaves much to be desire. So how good is the OVF on X-Pro2? It’s similar to the one from X100T, where you will get a pop-up screen at the lower right corner to preview your exposure and focus point. But to be honest, I still find it hard to use the OVF properly with the X-Pro2.

There are obvious improvements from the previous OVF, where you get more information overlay, better accuracy in terms of the frame lines and etc. But to me, the selling point and the Achilles heel for X-Pro2 is still the usability of the OVF. A typical rangefinder OVF let’s you focus and frame at the same time, where the focus patch is located at the centre of your frame lines. But for X-Pro2, you will need to sort of “guess” where the centre point/AF point is as you frame your picture. And a lot of time I’m ending up focusing on the wrong subject. The same frustration as X-Pro1. Bringing up the pop-up screen remedied this matter a little. You get to see where the AF is locked onto, hence you can readjust or recomposed as necessary. But the whole process of looking at the pop-up screen and back to check your frame lines create a tiny bit of “disconnection” when using the OVF. I’m not saying that it doesn’t work, from my limited time of testing the camera I do found some workaround to it. But the overall experience is not that enjoyable as compared to using the real rangefinder’s OVF. That’s the reason why I would recommend people who don’t need or don’t use the OVF to wait for the X-T2 to release, as the EVF for X-T2 will for sure be much better than that on the X-Pro2. Not to mentioned the price might be cheaper as well.

All in all, I find it hard to recommend people to buy the X-Pro2. It isn’t a cheap camera, in fact it is one of the most expensive APS-C mirrorless out there. To me, the improvement on the IQ alone (if any) doesn’t justify enough for the upgrade. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying X-Pro2 is not worth it. But for rangefinder lover like me, though as much as I like about the design of the camera, the OVF usability alone is enough to put me off my purchase. But like what I mentioned in the beginning, if you don’t mind buying this camera for the look itself and using EVF all the time, by all means go ahead and get it. It does look extremely sexy. For me, I will choose to wait patiently to see what X-T2 will bring to the table later this year.

I will update again when I get to try out on a final production set. And I would like to really see how much improvement Fujifilm has brought to the X-Trans III sensor and the AF in real world usage too. Till then.