As with other pseudo reviews in this site I won’t delve in all the technicalities of this camera. My aim here is to share my shooting experience and hopefully to give you a better idea of what you can expect if you are planning to buy this quite expensive piece of gear. As it stands and for the time being, this is still the pricier camera you can get in all the X line camera series. It’s a niche camera that will appeal to a reduced set of photographers that are seeking for a different photographic experience, in theory, one that might resemble what shooting with film was like, although with the benefits (and limitations) of a “modern” digital camera.
Is this camera for you ?
Let’s see what its main differentiating characteristics are
Ever since the original X-Pro1 (which has become lately quite the subject of a sort of cult in Youtube) Fujifilm has been addressing a very particular niche and specific need in the pro and amateur alike community. It is a Rangefinder style camera that usually gets the interest of street photographers, for its reduced and contained size and for the viewing system that it features, one that has been made very popular by countless famous street and documentary photographers that used the – ever-growing famous and expensive –Leica M mount system. The Fuji X-Pro camera has been sometimes called the poor’s man Leica which is, of course, quite a bit of a short-cut to say the less. This camera is not cheap as I already mentioned, and a very different thing compared to its German counterpart. The differences al multiple, starting with the sensor (APS-C vs Full Frame), following with a state of the art and innovative hybrid view finder and ending with a whole different approach to the final shooting experience with the remarkable Fuji film simulations .
WIth the X-Pro3 you get a beautifully crafted camera, designed to be a real work horse, to resist the beatings of use, climate and conditions, with a focus to resistance and durability. In Fuji’s own wording ” ..The frame of the camera body is made from magnesium, while the top cover and the base plate, which are the parts exposed to the elements are made from corrosion resistant titanium.” I got myself the Duratect version of it which is “.. A special coating that has been applied to the camera to protect the camera from scratches while keeping the beautiful and unique texture of the titanium casing. This means your beloved camera will never lose its prestigious look and feel. ” in its DR Black version . “.. The DR Black colour is a combination of the bare titanium texture coupled with a dark finish that creates a unique look with a commanding aura. This gives the camera an elegance never before seen on a camera.”
The DR coating is, no doubt, a beautiful finish. One that varies with the available lighting, it has something elegant to it, but you have to know that It also is a fingerprints magnet, (I understand that the silver duratect finish doesn’t get so prone to collect your fingerprints though) although it doesn’t quite bother me as I found that it somehow gets better with time.
The camera itself is weather sealed, as you’d expect for a “Pro” camera of this kind of price range. Combined with some Weather Resistance lens, you get good peace of mind for using it in adverse conditions.
The camera is made in Japan and engineered to last a very long time. That’s not to say that problems can’t arise.. my own copy had a problem with the sub-monitor after a few months and I had to send it back for repair as you can read here .
When the X-Pro3 came out it did so altogether with quite a lot of controversy. Although these things are quite certainly a typical case of a first world problem, it spurred a fair amount of heated debates on internet. In a bold move, Fujifilm engineers set the LCD screen to be in an off position by default. They called it the “hidden LCD”. This infamous or brilliant move (depending on your liking) surely had the benefit of attracting a lots of publicity to this new camera.
Fujifilm explained that they did this to favour the “film like” photographic experience so to not distract the photographer in his process and drive him to the moment. Many users or potential buyers complained that rather than that, Fuji forced the design choice onto their users.
Does it bother me personally ? . Well it is not a straight answer. While I might enjoy to shoot and not being distracted by my own urgent need to be “chimping” all the time when taking photographs, I definitely enjoy making the effort to get into the “moment” which, no doubt, makes for a better photographic experience. Of course you can rightly argue that you can achieve the same by voluntarily set your LCD off or put some black duc tape on it 😉
On the other hand I find it a little pain in the butt to have to open the screen every-time I need to access the menus to change some settings (I tend to tweak a lot my film simulations). Of course you also can change settings just looking into the viewfinder, but I personally find it way less convenient or practical, mostly because when looking through the viewfinder I still have difficulties to press the correct button without looking at it. In that same vain, because Fuji decided to get rid of the D-Pad you have noticeable less options to configure direct access function buttons than before, which results, again, in an increased need to access the menus of the camera.
As with almost all X cameras you get wheel styled knobs that allow you to control your ISO setting, speed adjustments and exposure compensation. All this in conjunction with the aperture ring of fuji’s lenses allow you to have complete control of your shooting settings without fiddling with the camera’s menus.
So with this kind of physical setup on your body comes simplicity. You can just manually select your settings beforehand or set with aperture priority or even go full AUTO mode, you look through the beautifully clear OVF, compose, shoot and repeat over and over again.
In case you are not familiar with the hybrid viewfinder concept I’ve put two images below so you can have an idea of what you see in the viewfinder when you look through it.
(Skip to next paragraph if you are familiar with rangefinder cameras)
So when you use the Optical View Finder (OVF) your view is similar of that of an old camera. It’s just a glass where you see what you see in the real world. The white rectangular frame lines are there to indicate what is the actual frame of your shot, in other words, the “dimensions” of the final shot you take (think of the old paper photography you had in your hands). As you can see the final photography (the one that’s inside the white frame lines) depends of course of the kind of focal lens you attached to your camera. In my example you can see the different field of view between a 35mm and a 23mm lens.
The beauty of the hybrid finder developed by Fuji is that you can have all sorts of informations in the viewfinder and also get a live view in a small corner, the same view you’d get if you where in the EVF mode so you can see what your final image will be (with your actual film simulation applied to it), so it gets really easy to nail your focus AND correct exposure
From simplicity comes fun. Maybe this is not very “scientific” but one of the main features of this camera is that is fun to shoot. And cool. Many times people have approached me even in the street just to ask what kind of camera it is, many believing it was an old school film one. The camera being not so bulky, specially when paired with a small lens like the 23mm f/2 makes for a very light package which encourages you to carry around everywhere, anytime. Once again, the whole Fujifilm film simulations system helps you spark that creativity in you, and pushes you to go out, try and experiment.
I hope this little tour of the X-Pro3 main features will help you decide if this camera might suits you. It is not for everyone. : I previously owned an X-Pro2 and I enjoyed every minute I was shooting with it. i decided to upgrade to the X-Pro3 because of the new film simulation, better and extended adjustments, better auto-focus speed and better LCD and viewfinder. The “beauty factor” was also very important, it may sound a little vain, but every time I look at mine I really enjoy how a beautiful piece of gear it really is .
I’ll leave you with some random shots so you can get an idea of the outputs of this camera.