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Hands On: Fujifilm XPro 3

The new mirrorless rangefinder from Fujifilm

The FUJIFILM XPro3 is a unique mirrorless camera characterized by its distinct viewfinder design, a hidden LCD screen, and its stylish, rangefinder-inspired design. Fujifilm lent one to me for a few weeks, and having just purchased an XT3 myself was interested to see what the differences were, especially having just come off of a Nikon D90. It took me a long time to upgrade my digital camera on account of I shoot a lot of film, but it was well worth the wait. This article will focus on the XPro but will touch on both.



The XPro3 is a 26MPl APS-C mirrorless camera, the highlight feature of which is the hybrid rangefinder. A rangefinder camera is basically just a camera where you’re looking through a different lens than the taking lens. A disposable camera is a rangefinder, but so is the Leica M series. Primarily it allows the camera to be thinner, as you don’t need a mirror. It’s basically the original mirrorless camera, but for film. The other main feature of the XPro3 is the back, where the LCD screen is hidden and you’re instead shown the film emulation you’re on, mimicking the practice putting a box top in a holder on the back of the camera so you remember what film you’re using. Aside from that it’s basically a regular mirrorless camera.

As I mentioned, I recently bought the XT-3 to replace my D90. I chose it because I liked the film simulations and customization options, plus the promise of frequent firmware updates was nice. It also does a surprisingly good job with video, so that was a bonus. Oddly enough, one of the main reasons I purchased the XT-3 was the flash sync terminal for my studio strobe. Wireless makes me nervous, as I usually use the strobe with my RZ67, so I just figured keeping it simple was the way to go. Why spend the extra money for triggers if I didn’t have to? It also gave me a chance to go off the beaten path. As much as I love Nikon’s cameras, I wanted to see what else was available and Fujifilm seemed to have just the right amount of “funk” for me.

I kind of saw the XT-3 as a great “all around” camera, with its main focus being photography. The excellent low-light made it great for shooting events, the video was good enough for my b-cam, and when properly exposed the images that came out, even in the jpegs (specifically in the jpegs), were outstanding. I feel like you don’t buy a Fujifilm camera if you’re not primarily shooting jpeg, but luckily the 14-bit RAW files are great as well and you can apply the simulations in Capture One if you want. Fujifilm is the only film company making a digital camera, and even without that pedigree I feel like people expect things to be dissimilar from CaNikon, and that it’s a good thing.

The Fujifilm menu system is incredibly simple and easy to use, and the customizable Q button gives you a quick menu that you can program to display your most-used functions, something that I love about my Canon C100mkII (and now C500mkII) and the plethora of buttons on the side. Also, if you hit the menu button itself, it defaults to your “My Menu” tab, meaning you can basically run the camera entirely from two menu tabs and all the physical controls (if you’re not super fidgety I suppose). I love that. I want the camera to “get out of my way”.

One reason I got my Pixel 3 was due to the camera, as I wasn’t going to carry my RZ67 or D90 around on the off-chance I might see something, but once I got the XT-3 I immediately bought the 27mm Pancake and started bringing it with me places as it was really unobtrusive. It’s a camera that makes you want to take it out, as is often said. The XPro3 takes this ideology to the next level. For street photography, I am perfectly fine setting my shutter and ISO on Automatic, dialing in my exposure compensation, and shooting indiscriminately. I don’t need the distraction of seeing the image preview, I’m already used to not seeing it shooting film. This goes for the screen on the back and the viewfinder. The nice thing about the hybrid viewfinder on the XPro3 is that, with whatever lens you put on, you get a little white bounding box showing you where your frame is, and then the rest of your view is lookaround room. It’s so refreshing to see all that space! If you’re literally shooting out in the street, it’s nice to know if there’s a car or a person about to come in to frame. Where the LCD screen lets you easily design your image before you take the picture, the rangefinder lets you easily design your composition. In short, lookaround room is tight, and focusing on composition over exposure is a blessing.

The other nice thing about the XPro is the look. With it’s metal construction, glass rangefinder, and lack of screen people everywhere thought it was a film camera, which is good because it’s my experience that people relax around film cameras. You’re more likely to get natural shots when people aren’t posed or as “aware” as if you were using a DSLR or even your phone. People with authority also don’t have as much of a problem letting you in to places they might otherwise stop you with film cameras, so that carries over to the XPro as well.

While the XT3 and XPro3 have the same sensor, the XPro3 has a newer firmware that includes some features I really like (and hope will be pushed to my camera soon).

To start, the addition of a new film simulation called Classic Neg, which is intended to replicate Fuji Superia 100, but since I never shot that film I can just say that it looks cool and I dig it. Coupled with the Color Chrome Blue FX maxed out (another new feature in the XPro3) I was getting really interesting, pretty looks straight out of camera. I found that it worked best outdoors (night or day, interestingly), but was sometimes muddy looking indoors. Classic Neg wants light and contrast, just like its namesake. The Blue FX parameter darkens blue tones, which I liked having on max overall, as it seemed to make those tones look more true to life. I kind of wish we could individually control all of the color channels luminance like that. Throw in per-channel saturation controls and you’d be able to grade your image before it hits either of the 2 SD cards in the camera.

I also found that shadows were kind of blue/teal and highlights took on a sort of magenta tone which I enjoyed. Sometimes I would tweak the WB to lean a little more green but that’s my preference. The pictures also seemed to “pop” quite a bit, which I’ll say is due to added saturation, contrast, and maybe even a kind of vignette built in to the profile. In any case, Classic Neg is my favorite “fun” simulation, with Eterna being my “serious” one. If that makes any sense. Eterna gives the least amount of contrast, as it replicates movie film, and in my opinion offers more “magazine-like” photos, especially when you’ve got a great light source.

They’ve also made it so the highlight/shadow adjustments now show a curve at the same time as your image preview so you can visualize the changes the numbers represent (they are kind of confusing, honestly. +1 Highlight is more bright but -1 Shadow is less dark). I pray for the future where we can do full curves adjustments on the back of the camera ala Resolve. That would be magical.

Focusing with the XPro is obviously tough, but setting focus points for AF is simple enough and even when using the “whole image” focus mode the XPro3 hit its target 8/10 times. It’s not hard to just move the focus box to where you want it before pulling the trigger, and if it’s really important you can use the touchscreen to “poke” where you want the box to be, instead of the joystick.

While the XPro can take any of the Fujifilm X mount lenses, I think it really wants to have the 27mm on it. The pancake lens makes it incredibly light and easy to carry around, plus I feel like while a wider lens is better for street photography, I’d almost rather take a “pancake 32mm” than a 23mm. Luckily, the 23mm lens isn’t too big, and the 56mm is almost the same size if you wanted to get crazy. With the 56mm the bounding box in the viewfinder is pretty small but it’s still fun to shoot with.

In regards to the flip down screen, I really did prefer it that way. The way I’ll shoot is, every new location/lighting setup/whatever I’ll take a few test shots to make sure I’m getting what I want and then I basically stop looking entirely, maybe peeping a couple if it’s important. One reason I bought the XT3 was due to the analog control knobs, so the lack of a screen “feels” more natural. I also found the flip down mechanism itself to be incredibly sturdy but also kind of smooth. The XT3 has really firm hinges whereas the XPro’s is a lot easier to manipulate. Flipping it down with your thumb feels good, and even if you’re quick to close it back up the mechanism feels like it keeps things gentle.

If I had a lot of money, I would easily have an XT3 for my job and an XPro3 for the road, but since I don’t and you may not either, I’d simply say that if you’re a film photographer, street photographer, or have been looking for a really high end daily snapper that isn’t your phone (my sister, for instance, loves disposables) the XPro3 is a fantastic option. The X100 series might also be an option for you in that case, but it has a fixed 23mm pancake lens (why can’t we get that separate?) and last generation’s sensor.



Essentially, the XPro series is the middle of the Venn Diagram comprised of the X100 series and T series. If you need video, you’re going XT3. But if you like video, maybe the XPro would do fine. You get the same image, it’s just the rest of the camera isn’t built with that in mind and you’re missing a few of the video-centric features and settings.

In regards to the image, my comments apply to both the XT3 and XPro3. Coming from a D90, almost anything was going to be an upgrade. Even a $400 Dxx00 would have been great, but as I usually shoot Medium Format or 35mm film, I wanted to make sure that my digital images reflected that quality (at least to some degree) so I wasn’t going to cheap out. If I need ultimate control, I can shoot RAW and that’s that. For gigs where editing the images wouldn’t necessarily add anything (event coverage, concerts, documentary, street, etc) the film simulations are really great and let you sort of half-way edit your images in camera. My biggest piece of advice would be to really explore the WB adjustments! You’d be surprised how deeply that little matrix of color affects your image.

Another nice thing is the wireless function/app. It’s nice to be able to take a photo and transfer it to your phone for editing or posting without needing to bring a computer into the mix, and I also enjoy the remote shooting option too. The app is really simple to use, can store multiple cameras, and connects pretty quickly (usually) to whichever one you’re currently using. I’d put it on par with the Sony app (at least the old PlayMemories one I used with my X3000), and much better than, say, the GoPro app. I’ve only used those two, so that’s where I can draw my comparison. On my C100mkII, you can connect to the camera via WiFi but it’s more of a preview monitor with a low refresh rate than anything.

In regards to the act of photography itself, I’ve noticed that seeing a screen makes you think too much. When you’re out shooting for fun, you just want to take the photo and move on. The rangefinder allows you to do that, and the really cool HUD built-in gives you added assurance that your settings and frame are correct. You move a lot quicker, especially once you realize you can trust your AF. When framing up your image you should be focusing on, duh, the frame! Composition, lighting, and subject. When you’re looking at a screen, you immediately get distracted (in my opinion) by the color and exposure and things that you should have dialed before it’s time to shoot. I like having those two “brains” be separate, and not having a viewfinder like my Nikon F2 or even the XPro is my only real gripe with my XT3. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but even talking to other photographers who have made a similar switch from film to mirrorless have echoed the sentiment.

While the Fujifilm cameras are not nearly as ubiquitous as Nikon or Canon, I will say that I saw a surprising number at Adobe MAX this year. Obviously there’s some bias, and I’m sure I wasn’t paying as much attention before I owned one, but they really are getting popular. The nice thing about using a less-prevalent system is when you do see them out in the wild like that, you kind of do that thing where you make eye contact and go “eehhh?!” and start to chat about it. On top of that, photographers who haven’t been introduced to the Fujifilm line would come up to me and ask what film I was shooting, only to spark a conversation about digital. Using the XT3 on a recent snowboarding trip where I was with some photographers, I almost immediately had them converted just by putting it in their hands and saying “have fun”. My point is that Fujifilm seems to make “Photographers Cameras” and I like that.

Check out the video below for an in-depth discussion and close ups of the features therein.

 

 

XPRO 3 SPECS

Camera Format: APS-C (1.5x Crop Factor)

Pixels Effective: 26.1 Megapixel

Maximum Resolution: 6240 x 4160

Aspect Ratios: 1:1, 3:2, 16:9

Sensor Size: 23.5 x 15.6 mm

Bit Depth 14-Bit

Image Stabilization None

ISO Sensitivity Auto, 160 to 12800

Shutter Speed 1/8000 to 1 Second

Exposure Modes Aperture Priority, Manual, Program, Shutter Priority

Exposure Compensation -3 to +3 EV (1/3 EV Steps)

Video

Recording Modes
DCI 4K (4096 x 2160) at 23.976p/24.00p/25p/29.97p [100 to 200 Mb/s]

UHD 4K (3840 x 2160) at 23.976p/24.00p/25p/29.97p [100 to 200 Mb/s]

DCI 2K (2048 x 1080) at 23.976p/24.00p/25p/29.97p/50p/59.94p

Full HD (1920 x 1080) at 23.976p/24.00p/25p/29.97p/50p/59.94p

Focus Modes Continuous-Servo AF (C), Manual Focus (M), Single-Servo AF (S)

Autofocus Points Phase Detection: 425

Viewfinder Resolution 3,690,000 Dot

Viewfinder Magnification Approx. 0.5x

Monitor Size 3″

Monitor Resolution 1,620,000 Dot

Monitor Type 180° Tilting Touchscreen LCD

Built-In Flash No

Dedicated Flash System TTL

External Flash Connection Hot Shoe

Memory Cards Dual Slot: SD/SDHC/SDXC

Connectivity USB Type-C (USB 3.0), 2.5mm Sub-Mini

Wireless, Bluetooth


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Kenny McMillan is the founder and director of OWL BOT Digital Cinema located in West LA. His work spans the Internet from Vimeo to YouTube netting dozens of views. He previously worked as an events…
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