Fujifilm X-Pro3 Review: a nod to the era of film cameras

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In a market where it is difficult to distinguish the cameras without looking at the logo, the design of the X-Pro3 makes it really outstanding. The main LCD screen on the back is hidden. Instead, there is a small LCD screen that mimics the small window of analog cameras that shows what type of film is loaded inside. This is not a camera that is proudly digital.

After using the X-Pro3 for a few weeks, it became clear to me that this is a specialized camera that best suits a very specific type of photographer. He has strong opinions about how it should be used. It is not for everyone, but if you share Fujifilm's vision of what a digital rangefinder camera can and should be, then it could be for you. Everyone else, move on. There is nothing to see here.

Less is more

The X-Pro 3 is the successor to the three-and-a-half X-Pro 2 (8/10 WIRED Recommends), which remains one of my favorite cameras. As I said in that review, from the design of the rangefinder body to the hybrid viewfinder, this is a camera design born of bold options. That is still true with this update.

Photography: Fujifilm

What has not changed in the third iteration of the X-Pro line is that je ne sais qua Quality of previous models. I don't know what this camera is about, but it makes you want to pick it up and go out the door to take pictures. It demands to be used in a way that other cameras simply do not. While the intangibles remain the same, Fujifilm has changed many things in the X-Pro3. For example, the first thing you can ask: what happened to the rear LCD screen?

Yes, the X-Pro3 has deepened its connection to the old movie cameras by hiding the main LCD screen from view. Instead, the back of the camera now has a small LCD screen that mimics the upper case of the film box in its old analog SLR camera. The digital version not only tells you the movie emulation mode (imitating the appearance of several old Fujifilm film boxes), but also the current ISO and white balance settings.

To get to the main LCD screen where you can navigate the settings and review the images, turn the back panel down, revealing the screen. In addition to being the only way to "increase" your photos, (perhaps without realizing it) allows you to shoot at waist level, something that was not possible in previous versions and that will probably attract street photographers, one of the groups that Fujifilm is clearly courting with the X-Pro3.

I confess that I am almost always in favor of using the electronic viewfinder on a rear LCD screen on my cameras, so saving the screen did not bother me. Of course, an important part of the Internet does not like this movement. However, I don't agree with those who hate me, I like to see Fujifilm drawing a line in the sand: if you want to see the LCD screen all the time, this is not the camera for you.

I discovered that reviewing images in the hybrid viewfinder was good enough to confirm that I had the shot I wanted. And thanks to the large number of customizable buttons, after spending about an hour setting up the controls as I like, I rarely had a reason to flip the screen and dive into the settings.

Photography: Scott Gilbertson

Photography: Scott Gilbertson

The drop-down LCD has a major drawback: some tripods may not fold too much. This will depend on the design of your tripod, but the two I had the opportunity to try with both interfered with the ability of the screen to extend beyond about 100 degrees. I don't think this is important for potential X-Pro3 users, since this compact camera to carry is not the kind of thing you usually want to put on a tripod. But it is disappointing that you cannot leave it there and still see the LCD screen.

Another thing you won't find in the X-Pro3 is the traditional four-button circle to navigate menus and activate functions. There are enough other buttons that I did not miss the D-pad, and with the LCD touch screen, there is no need to use the buttons to navigate the menus. I missed this function, I didn't even notice that the buttons were not there until I looked for my X-Pro2 review and noticed that the camera had a D-pad.

What's new

The X-Pro3 has a new X-Trans 4 APS-C sensor with a slight increase in resolution at 26 megapixels (instead of 24), but the real news is that the autofocus system with phase detection now works on everything the frame. Fujifilm says that autofocus is accurate at levels as low as -6EV if it has a fast lens (f / 1.4). This was largely confirmed in my tests. Suffice it to say that this autofocus system works better in low light than my eyes in low light.

Fujifilm's already very good build quality has been improved for the X-Pro3, which now has top and bottom titanium panels. The construction of the eyepiece has also greatly improved; The rubber is heavier and no longer seems to break with the first thing that hooks it. Fujifilm has also made the diopter adjustment wheel more recessed and less prone to accidentally turning.

The main reason to upgrade to the X-Pro3, in my opinion, is for the viewer. The new version is a little bigger than the previous one, but it still presents three ways of seeing the scene: direct optics, direct EVF and the very intelligent hybrid that manages to give you the best of both options in most cases. The three modes alternate by quickly moving a lever on the front of the camera.

Photography: Fujifilm

What disappeared are the double magnification options in the optical viewfinder. The X-Pro2 could alternate between 0.35 and 0.60 increases, the X-Pro3 only has a set magnification level of 0.52. The electronic viewfinder has improved a lot, but I missed the double OVF.

Fujifilm is well known for its JPG movie emulation modes, and the new X-Pro3 adds a new one called Classic Negative Simulation. This impressed me less than the monochrome mode of Acros and some of the other movie emulations. What did seem surprising to me is that Fujifilm has included a curves tool in the camera and a clarity setting. Between these two tools and the existing JPG configuration tools, you can really mark on specific images for your photos right there on the camera. X-Pro cameras remain the only cameras I use where I rarely use RAW images. The customization options and the quality of the JPG output give me what I want so consistently, that I rarely bother with the post processing.

The X-Pro line has a smaller audience than the other Fujifilm cameras, but it is an audience that Fujifilm clearly remains dedicated to. The changes in this update are well worth it. The X-Pro3, like its predecessors, is a camera that makes you want to go out and shoot. It will help you forget about playing with the settings, forget about editing files and concentrate on capturing your worldview.

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