This is gonna get long-winded, so apologies in advance. Here are a few of my own observations about my X-Pro 2 after an intensive week of shooting with it. I'm not sponsored by Fuji in any way, and have bought all my Fuji stuff with my own hard-earned cash. All views expressed here are my own. So anyway. Recently, one of my company's publications, Honolulu Magazine, put on it's annual Fashion Week
here in Honolulu. We staff shooters were tasked with shooting 13 full runway shows in three days, with the usual behind the scenes and general crowd/location shots thrown into the mix. It was a looong weekend, and a great chance to see how the X-Pro 2 stacked up as a stand-in for my company-issued kit.
Our work-issued cameras are those dependable workhorses, the 5D MKIII. Now they're great, well-rounded, and just never quit. But they're also heavy, and in anticipation of a long weekend of running and gunning, I decided to lighten my load a bit and carry my X-Pro 2, 55-200mm, 16mm, and 35mm 1.4, with my Fuji X100s for snapshots. All of the above kit weighs less than just one 5D3 with a battery grip and 70-200mm attached. Consider that if I were shooting all Canon it'd probably require two Canon bodies (one for long, one for wide), and the requisite on-camera strobe on the wide...thats gotta be nearly 20 lbs of kit I'd be schlepping around for 12 hours a day.
I've used the X-Pro 2 on various assignments, it excels at journalistic style reportage as it's unobtrusive, not intimidating, relatively quiet (or silent if you engage ES), and FAST. So I knew it would do just fine for the behind the scenes stuff:
And while we're on the subject of using this camera for general reportage: It's sooooo good. AF-S locks quickly and confidently, and the general speed of the camera lets you rattle off fast shots in rapid succession after locking focus quickly...a reassurance for me in these situations because it's hard to track everyone's expressions in a quickly-moving backstage environment. Having an optical VF lets me "see" beyond the framelines and compose my shots with better situational awareness than the tunnel vision of an SLR. I have my AE-L button setup to start/stop AF, and use it to lock focus then reframe. I did notice one quirk with this setup: When firing off shots one after the other in single shot mode with AF locked/stopped, there can be a longer than usual lag between frames from time to time - it feels like the AF in the lens is refocusing to the previously-saved point?
I had AF Prefocus on and this still happened randomly. Not sure why the camera would do this, but it seems like an easy firmware fix *ahem* Fuji.
In terms of IQ, the lighting backstage was dark (duh, it's backstage) but the X-Pro 2 was more than acceptable at ISO 1600. Honestly, the first day of fashion week, I took the 5D3 too just in case the X-Pro 2 didn't cut it. I used the Canon here and there, but it wasn't any faster to focus (actually it felt a hair slower) than the X-Pro 2. If you've never tried shooting backstage at a fashion show, it's a very challenging environment: people running around frantically, crappy dim light, and here you are trying to stay out of the way. The 16mm 1.4 and the 35mm 1.4 were my lenses of choice backstage, and both were very quick to focus despite the fast pace. The X-Pro 2's files were also significantly cleaner in post, with much more shadow detail available for recovery - the Canon showed much more "blotchiness" in it's shadow detail when pushed in post. And while we're on the topic of files, the X-Pro 2's compressed RAWs took up less space than the 5D3's...a definite advantage when you're shooting over 1500 frames a day. One drawback: the Fuji files take a LOT longer to import into LR if you leave Smart Previews on. It's even slower if the Fuji files are compressed. Like I have a loaded current-gen Macbook Pro and it still takes 4x-6x longer to import vs the same number of Canon files.
On day one, I mostly used the Canon to shoot my long shots on the runway...when I'm on the clock it's my instinct to go with the gear I know best to be sure I get results, and of course Canon's AF tracking with lenses like the 70-200L II IS is pretty much industry standard. So I used the Canon for my long shots. On day one I used the X-Pro 2 and 16mm lens to get close-up profile and 3/4 shots from my vantage point, which was about halfway down the runway facing the end of the walk. I had the X-Pro 2 in liveview, with Zone AF and AF-C engaged. And you know what? I was really impressed with how the Fuji tracked:
The 5D3's buffer (especially when shooting continuous and RAW) isn't the greatest, and it requires real discipline to rattle off a burst, then wait till the buffer clears before you shoot another one with the Canon. The Fuji's buffer literally did not fill EVER at 3FPS in RAW. I could track a model the whole length of the runway with the X-Pro shooting in RAW at 3FPS and not experience a buffer lockout. Even more impressive, during a rehearsal I stood at the head of an 80-ft runway with the 55-200mm attached, dialed in Continuous H (8FPS), Zone AF, Large JPG Fine, and AF-C, and shot a continuous 8FPS for the 40 seconds or so that the model took to complete her walk. No stutters, no buffer lockout, and about 95% of the frames were tack sharp. Crazy. The other photographers definitely took notice of this, and even the guy with the 1DX was impressed.
I'd never tried to shoot a runway show with the X-Pro 2, actually after buying it a few months ago I'd never gotten around to even trying it's AF-C mode at all. But after seeing what it did on day one, I was going to give it a try on the runway on day 2 for sure. On days 2 & 3 I broke out the 55-200mm and used it to shoot side & 3/4 view shots from the back of the seating areas around the runway, over and between guests' heads. It was a challenging environment, as people in the foreground and background can be very "distracting" for a tracking AF. The Wide AF option got distracted a little too easily for my taste, but the Zone AF let me put the area of focus just where I wanted it while I tracked the models.
And before I go any further, let me also mention one major thing that helped us do our job during fashion week: Our lighting guy, Bernhard Link. Bernhard designs lighting for the best of the best, and it shows. He's the kind of lighting guy who can just tell you "F/4, ISO 800, 1/500th" and the color temp and you just dial your camera in to his recommended settings and go knowing the whole runway is lit at that EV. The falloff from his setups is so good, the exposure differential helps darken the audience and minimizes their distraction in the images and to your AF. And finally...well holy crap just look at that light. Sculpted enough to show depth beautifully, but filled enough to not crush shadows.
Bottom line, with lighting this good I opted for the slower but lighter and slightly longer 55-200mm in lieu of my 50-140, and didn't regret it once. For a cheapo drainpipe lens, the 55-200mm really can get the job done IQ and even AF speed-wise, and as long as you don't need the fast aperture I see nothing wrong with this lens. I loved the results I got with this lens and the X-Pro 2:
In conclusion, after putting the Fuji through a pretty grueling weekend, it was able to deliver impressive results, and really, substitute in for a much larger DSLR. Image quality-wise it was great, I just love the additional shadow detail in Fuji files...yeah I know dark areas are just black, but Fuji's dark areas retain just a hair more detail and look, well, better.
I expect many of the performance issues to be improved upon by firmware updates, and hope that my experiences can help others out there decide if this camera is right for them.