Cameras

Fujifilm X-Pro3 Review

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You have to admire Fujifilm’s daring and willingness to try something new. When reports of the Fujifilm X-Pro3’s then-unnamed “hidden LCD” first hit the rumour sites, it seemed so bizarre that many people dismissed it out of hand as too outlandish to be true. However, it is true – and it’s borderline brilliant in its thinking.

The Fujifilm X-Professional 3 has its LCD on ‘backwards’ so that the screen faces inwards instead of out. The result is that there is no temptation to compose on the back screen, and the hassle of flipping the LCD down between each shot makes you far less inclined to stop and examine every picture you take – the ‘ooh’ chimpanzee sound!

Whether or not you think it’s one of the best Fujifilm cameras depends on your thinking – whether you value design, or whether you worth, well, value. It does, of course, take all the X-mount Fujifilm lenses, so you could easily use it alongside a more conventional camera like the Fujifilm X-T3.

Fujifilm’s new digital camera has succeeded in its aim of encouraging photographers to shoot pictures rather than look at them. It embodies a purity of shooting that truly puts you – and keeps you – at the moment, with a mindset fully focused on capturing what’s in front of you rather than constantly checking what you just did. By making it harder for you to check your photos, it makes it easier to concentrate on the act of ‘seeing’ them in the first place.

The design and handling are based on old ‘rangefinder’ cameras with rectangular bodies and optical direct vision viewfinders in the corner – that are aligned with the lens but don’t show the view through it.

However, this consequently presents a steep learning curve for anyone who isn’t familiar with using a rangefinder-style camera. Although Fujifilm’s hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder does enable you to switch to a digital display too (and check your photos, if you must).

You can view photos you’ve taken on the rear screen but only if you open it out and fold it down. The thing is, by inherently challenging you to shoot in more ‘pure’ way, the camera can impede your inclination to use the tilting display in situations that actually benefit from it…

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Specifications

Sensor: 26.1MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS 4
Image processor: X-Processor 4
AF points: 91 Intelligent Hybrid (contrast and phase detection)
ISO range: 80-51,200 (extended)
Max image size: 6,240  x 4,160
Metering modes: Multi, Spot, average, centre-weighted
Video: 4K up to 30fps (15 mins), 1080p up to 60fps (59 mins) / 120fps (6 mins)
Viewfinder: Hybrid OVF (95% cov, x0.52 mag) and OLED EVF (100% cov, x0.66 mag, 3.69m dots)
Memory card: 2x SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS-II)
Max burst: 11fps mechanical shutter, 20fps electronic (30fps with the crop)
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB-C
Size: 140.5 x 82.8 x 46.1mm
Weight: 497g (including battery and memory card)

Key Features

As noted, the key feature of the Fujifilm X-Pro3 is its “hidden LCD”, envisioned to encourage shooters to return to a philosophy of “pure photography”. In many ways this is the obvious extension of the hybrid viewfinder – the main element feature introduced by the Fujifilm X100 and carried over to the X-Pro line.

It’s Fujifilm’s way of intentionally obfuscating the act of shooting digitally, first by making the default option an optical viewfinder (which you can switch to an electronic one) and now by building the default experience a screenless one. In effect, if you pick up and use this camera as intended, you get an analogue encounter – except that your files are captured on a memory card instead of film.

Interestingly the fold-down screen is great for composing street photography inconspicuously – giving you an effective waist-level viewfinder, like those found on old film cameras.

This is carried through in Fujifilm’s unique control layout, with the aperture being a manual ring consigned to the lens and a dedicated ISO dial on the top mount. It’s grudgingly digital, and the company would clearly rather you shot “properly” the way photographers did on old film cameras.

Inside, the camera uses the familiar 26.1MP X-Trans 4 / X-Processor 4 combo that debuted in the Fujifilm X-T3, but on the outside is something very much new. The body itself remains magnesium, but the top and bottom plates are titanium – and DR Black and DR Silver models also feature Duratect coating, which is ten times as scratch-resistant as titanium.

The X-Pro3 now focuses down to an impressive -6EV and features in-camera HDR as well as Focus Bracketing (with a clever auto-calculation feature, to determine how many shots are required) – both at the behest of user feedback.

And no new Fujifilm flagship would be complete without a new film simulation – here we get Classic Negative, which gives the feel of the everyday movie such as Superia 100, with hard tonality and low saturation.

Build and Handling

If you’ve used a Fujifilm X-Pro camera before, you’ll know exactly what to expect and you’ll feel right at home. The X-Professional3 looks great and feels even better in the hand, giving you sure and precise control with pleasingly tactile dials that just beg to be fiddled with.

Even the regular non-DR body is supremely solidly constructed, feeling like you could hurl it down a bowling alley and knock straight down ten pins before happily resuming shooting, but the extra Duratect coating takes the build quality to another level. Fujifilm showed us footage of a tester attacking the camera with a Stanley knife and it came away without a scratch, although we didn’t dare try that with our sample.

The one downside with the DR coatings, however, is that they are very prone to fingerprints. In much the same way as old brass cameras would pick up smears, so do the Duractect-protected X-Pro3s – while some will see it as a small price to pay for the extra durability, we can’t imagine that anyone who buys a Fujifilm digital camera will be happy at seeing its glorious exterior besmirched by smudges.

We only gave it a test run in a mild spot of rain, but we’re assured that the reliable 70-point weather sealing will keep you shooting rainfall or shine down to -10°C / 14°F (when paired with weather-sealed optics, obviously).

Performance

As noted in the previous section, “If you’ve used a Fujifilm X-Pro camera before, you’ll know exactly what to expect and you’ll feel right at home…” However, if you’ve never used the Fujifilm camera – let alone an X-Pro – then it will all feel very, very alien!

By now most photographers are aware at just how unique these cameras are, but we’ve had interactions with a couple of shooters lately who made the switch from other camera systems and felt unprepared for just how big a change it is to shoot on Fujifilm systems.

It’s nothing that a few hours of shooting won’t sort out, but you certainly shouldn’t expect to pick one of these up for the first time and shoot a wedding (which you could conceivably do on most other camera techniques).

The performance of the X-Pro3 can’t be faulted; it produces beautiful images with a rich, wonderful colour rendition that looks beautiful straight out of the camera but have plenty of wiggle room for post-processing work. Though we do find that Fujifilm files are quite dense on the blacks, which we actually live, it’s an exposure consideration of you like to pull a lot of detail out of the shadows as the handling is a little different to usual Nikon images.

The 4K footage is crisp and clean, although it’s a shame that recordings are limited to 15 minutes – and the lack of in-body image stabilization means that a tripod or gimbal is pretty much a must, making this less appropriate as a run-and-gun video or vlogging device (though that’s really not what this camera is intended for).

No, the performance of the X-Pro3 will come as little surprise; the practice, however, is another matter. Used as intended, this camera is as close as you can get to shooting analogue without feeding a roll of Portra in the back of a body. And that is indeed a beautiful experience; to be free of the urge to constantly check the back screen after every shot, and to feel the thrill of capturing on a rangefinder using an optical finder, is genuinely liberating.

Yes, the digital assists are there, but Fujifilm has done everything in its power to hide them from you. Using the EVF requires flicking a switch, looking at the LCD screen needs flipping it down – and there is almost a feeling of defeat, that you’ve somehow failed, if you choose to do so when shooting.

Clearly this isn’t a camera designed for newcomers, but it does engage a certain feeling of elitism – that the only ‘proper’ way to use it is with the assists disabled. On the one hand, this does encourage you to get truly lost in the moment of shooting; on the other, though, it also discourages you from doing things like flipping down the display to shoot at a low angle, where such facility is genuinely useful.

The result is often wonderful; that you go out capturing for the purity of shooting, and you enjoy the process and come home with great photographs. However, in addition, it has the potential for pain; there’s a risk that it will make you miss potentially magic moments because you were trying to shoot ‘properly’, instead of using 21st Century tools that are designed to make photography more practical and productive.

Check Out: Best Lenses For Fujifilm X-Pro3

Verdict

If you’re prepared to embrace its quirks, the X-Pro3 is shaping up to be one of the best street photography cameras you can buy. It’s a strong stills performer, and features like the hybrid viewfinder and ‘hidden LCD’ give it a unique (if polarizing) mirrorless shooting experience. Those who don’t have a soft spot for rangefinder or film cameras, though, will be better off with more conventional equivalents just like the Fujifilm X-T3 or Sony A6400.

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