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Fujifilm's new X-Pro3 brings analog ideas to a digital camera

Fujifilm has officially announced the latest generation of its flagship X-series camera, the X-Pro3. The new X-Pro3 is at first glance similar to the X-Pro2 of 2016, because it shares the same basic dimensions and retro-inspired, range finder-like design. But look closer or just turn the camera around and you'll see where Fujifilm has gone even further to replicate a cinematic experience on a digital camera.

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The X-Pro cameras & # 39; s are always referred to as "photographer cameras & # 39; s" because they offer many manual controls and knobs and simulate how the film range meters worked. They are popular with street photographers, but also with wedding and event photographers. The $ 1,699.99 and higher X-Pro3 leans in even more than the previous two models with a new display and tweaked features everywhere. At the same time it brings with it a number of new functions that no film camera or even digital camera has achieved before. This is a retro-looking camera that can take HDR photos without the need for post-processing.


Most of the changes with the X-Pro3 are on the back of the camera, but there are a few notable things elsewhere. To begin with, Fujifilm has switched from stamped magnesium to milled titanium for the upper and lower plates for better durability. (The center chassis of the camera remains magnesium.) In addition, there are two color options with a special coating called DuraTect for even better durability. Fujifilm says that this cold plasma process, which is carried out by passing a stream of hydrogen and carbon gas to coat the titanium, makes finishing much more difficult than bare titanium or even stainless steel. It should make the camera more resistant to damage and scratches, although I could not test those claims firsthand.

The most important thing that the coating does is that the DuraTect models black and DuraTect silver have a matte finish in dark or light gray. It feels robust, but at the same time it exhibits much more fingerprints and grease than the standard semi-glossy finish on the non-DuraTect black model. And yes, despite the name, the black DuraTect camera has a gray finish that looks closest to natural titanium and the DuraTect silver has an almost golden hue. It's confusing. You also have to pay a premium of $ 200 for the beautiful finishes above the standard black model.

At the back of the camera, Fujifilm has removed the four-way controller and has given the X-Pro3 a similar control layout as the X-T3 and X-T30. The top plate is still the home of the combination ISO and shutter speed button and the exposure compensation button is considerably sharpened through the separate dial of the X-Pro2. There are two UHS-II SD card slots on the right side of the camera, a USB-C port and a 2.5 mm jack for a microphone or wired remote control on the left. You can charge the battery of the X-Pro3 (which is the same as that of the X-Pro2 and suitable for up to 400 shots between charges) via the USB-C port, and connect it to a computer for tethering photography.

The viewfinder of the X-Pro3 is still a hybrid optical and electronic viewfinder, which you can switch on during the flight with the switch on the front of the camera. Fujifilm says that the OVF has a better point of view, a wider field of vision and less distortion compared to the X-Pro2. The EVF has been upgraded to a new OLED panel with 3.69 million dots that works at 100 frames per second for smooth image quality.


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The back controls of the X-Pro3 have been simplified and there is a new screen the size of a stamp with image quality settings.


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The rear panel folds down to reveal a conventional three-inch touchscreen.

The screen is by far the biggest change that Fujifilm has made to the X-Pro3. There are actually two screens now, each on the other side of a 180-degree hinge. The first is a 1.28-inch color E-ink screen that can display film simulation and ISO settings, just like how movie shooters placed a piece of the box of film they had loaded on the back of their camera & # 39; s quick reference. You can also configure the screen to display your exposure settings, just like the screen on top of the Fujifilms GFX cameras & # 39; s. In both modes, the screen "remembers" its settings and is displayed when you turn the camera off. However, this does not allow you to compile or view images or navigate the camera's menu system.

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Flip the panel down and a three-inch, 1.62 million dots touchscreen appears, similar to the screen on the X-T3. You can use this screen to navigate menus, view photos, or take photos, but there is no way to fully turn it around and bump into the camera. You have it open and tilted down 90 or 180 degrees, or you have closed it – there is no in between. Nor is it all the way forward for composing selfies or vlogging, although it is unlikely that this camera will be used much for any of those things.

This design change may seem small at first, but it dramatically changes the way you photograph with the camera. Instead of being able to take photos on the rear screen and quickly assess them, as many modern photographers are used to, you should actually stop what you are doing, open the screen and view the photo. Before you continue shooting, you must close the screen, otherwise you will have it dangling under the camera and you will be asked to be interrupted. It also makes changing settings much more of a chore because you have to keep an eye on the camera while adjusting things such as white balance or film simulations, or you have to do the whole process of opening and closing to make an adjustment.


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The X-Pro3 is really designed to be shot by the viewfinder, as opposed to composing images on the screen.

Fujifilm says the idea behind these changes was to make the X-Pro3 behave more like a movie camera – slower and more purposeful. With film cameras & # 39; s, you nothing but had a viewfinder to shoot through, and it was not possible to view your photos until after the movie was processed. You could not immediately change things like ISO and white balance settings, and the movie that you placed in the camera was what you were up with for the next tens of frames. The X-Pro3 encourages you to compose and take photos through the viewfinder and then wait until you get home to view them. Even the design of the new E Ink screen on the back harks back to what the film cameras looked like. Most people who pick up the X-Pro3 for the first time do not even realize that it is a completely modern digital camera under the retro skin.

I had the chance to photograph a final production version of the X-Pro3 for a few hours in the streets of NYC before today's announcement, and while the experience was mostly similar to the X-Pro2 that I have used as my primary camera in the last two and a half years, the new screen design ensured that I was consistently delayed and delayed. The X-Pro3 is happily littered with physical buttons and knobs, which helps reduce this problem, but there is only so much you can do without entering the camera's menus, and this design makes it much more difficult to get things done quickly.

I also notice that I often use the screen on my X-Pro2 to take photos that I would otherwise not be able to take if I only used the viewfinder, and the clumsiness and limited flexibility of the X's hinged screen -Pro3 make this kind of free-hand-made pictures much harder to draw. The X-Pro3 is not as stubborn as Leica's M-D, which completely omits the LCD screen, but it is not far away. It is clear that Fujifilm focuses on one whole specific type of photographer with this camera, one that remembers what it was like to shoot with a film camera and longs for that experience. But it feels out of step with the way that most photographers currently work.


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The X-Pro3 maintains the abundant dials and buttons for quick manual adjustments. The DuraTect finishes also collect fingerprints very easily.

Under that retro design, the X-Pro3 shares the same processor and image sensor as the X-T3 from earlier this year, a 26.1-megapixel X-Trans IV CMOS APS-C chip coupled to Fujifilm's X-processor 4. It has an improved phase detection autofocus system that can operate in light levels as low as -6 EV and comes with an internal autofocus range limitation to accelerate focus in street environments.

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One image on the left, maximum HDR settings on the right.

Fujifilm has also added a large number of new adjustments and adjustments, but the most important are the brightness adjustment, which adjusts micro contrast levels, as does the brightness slider in Lightroom; a new film simulation called Classic Negative that emulates Fujifilm's Superia 400 film; a way to color black and white images with a color cast; and, strange for a camera that looks like it was taken five decades ago, the ability to take HDR photos in the camera.

In-camera HDR is Fujifilm's first step in computational photography and offers four different levels of effect, selectable via the camera's drive menu. In HDR mode, the X-Pro3 makes a burst of three shots, then aligns and stacks them, and finally applies a tone curve based on the exposure and your selected settings. There is a slight delay because the camera processes the image and the final output is available in RAW or JPEG and is slightly trimmed from the full-resolution image.

The HDR of the X-Pro3 is not as aggressive or as fast as you would get from a modern smartphone, and it uses only three frames to complete its image as opposed to the dozens that a phone could use. In my limited tests, it usually lifted the shadows and finished the image compared to a single frame, as opposed to restoring the bright highlights. Yet it is interesting to be able to do in the camera, without having to deal with Lightroom or the HDR fusion of Photoshop afterwards.

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Finally the X-Pro3 is capable of recording video, with a resolution of up to 4K and 30 frames per second, but it is certainly not the most important use for this camera and is not as good as the video that you get from an X-T3.

Fujifilm representatives could not confirm whether these new film simulations and HDR functions would come to the X-T3 and X-T30 in the camera, which share the same platform as the X-Pro3, but it would not surprise me if they finally did .

All images come directly from the camera. Color photo & # 39; s taken with Classic Negative film simulation. Black and white photo & # 39; s taken with Acros film simulation.

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The X-Pro3 is Fujifilm that leans on the tendencies of the camera, while reducing much of its flexibility and wider appeal. It is, more than ever, a camera for a specific photographer, a camera that does not need the fastest performance or high-quality video capabilities, but wants something that feels like using a camera from decades ago. It is no different from Leica's approach to the M-line, although the X-Pro3 retains functions such as autofocus and automatic exposure that the Leica cameras & # 39; s lack.

But by concentrating the X-Pro3 so closely, Fujifilm may postpone fans of its earlier models who gave you retro control and design, but without sacrificing so many digital conveniences of modern photography. Yes, the X-Pro3 is just as capable as any other modern digital camera in terms of resolution, image quality, auto focus and even wireless connectivity. But you have to dig much deeper to reach those features in the X-Pro3 than almost any other camera you could buy today.

At the same time, the X-Pro3 pushes ahead what traditional cameras can do with their built-in processors, and all new software and settings functions are designed to get more out of camera images without leaning back – so much processing.

The X-Pro3 is available in black for the first time on November 28, with the DuraTect black and DuraTect silver colors on December 12. We look forward to spending more time with a production model when we have a review unit in hand.

Photography by Dan Seifert / The Verge

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