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Equipment

First Impressions with the Fuji X-Pro3

Published January 22, 2020

Fujis have always been the dark horse of the mirrorless camera realm, and it all began with the Fuji X100. A small, APS-C, non-interchangeable lens mirrorless camera that arguably took the digital camera world by storm. This camera got the ball rolling for Fuji. It had unique (for the time) retro styling, an excellent sensor, decent autofocus, and compact yet ergonomic form factor. This spawned an entire line of successful mirrorless cameras from consumer cameras up to professional digital medium format cameras. The latter is a new development, but today I want to focus on what has been their bread and butter, the APS-C area. As some of you know, Fuji has quite a long list of prosumer level crop sensor cameras. There’s the Fuji X-E3, Fuji X-T3, Fuji X-Pro2, Fuji X100F, Fuji X-H1, Fuji X-T30, etc. with quite a bit of overlap with their older models. One of my biggest gripes with Fuji is the amount of overlap in features of all of these cameras. Now, before you get on to me and say well, the X-Pro2 has an OVF and the X-T3 has a better EVF, and the X-E3 doesn’t have weather sealing blah blah blah I just want to say that I meant that they all have incredibly similar outputs with generally the same features. Until the Fuji X-Pro3, that is. 

Features

The Fuji X-Pro3 borrows many elements from the Fuji X-T3, with the main one being the sensor. They both share a 26.1mp BSI sensor, 3.69m dot OLED EVF, dual UHS-II card slots, weather sealing, and 4K video recording, among many other features and settings. You get the idea. The thing with the X-TX and X-ProX line is that they have always come one after the other with remarkably similar features deciding on which one to buy or rent as simple as which form factor do you like the most? At the end of the day, these two cameras will take the same photo. All that was thrown out the window with the X-Pro-3. I know, I know, you’re waiting on me to talk about the big elephant in the room: the lack of a rear screen. First, though, I want to talk to you about what I thought of the performance of the Fuji X-Pro3 before we talk about the actual ethos of the camera.

I’m no stranger to Fuji cameras, and I’ve always owned the X-Pro line because I like using the OVF in specific situations. The one thing I hate most about mirrorless cameras is that when I’m shooting a dark reception, it’s more difficult for me to see what’s going on through the viewfinder. Having that OVF and zone focusing makes for an effortless shooting experience. Otherwise, I generally stick to the EVF. For starters on differences, the X-Pro2 EVF is notoriously small, and the X-Pro3 fixed that. It now utilizes the same 3.69m dot OLED EVF that Fuji’s other top-of-the-line cameras offer. Having to go back to the 2’s tiny EVF has not been fun. Other improvements I like to refer to as “generational upgrades,” meaning everything about this camera is slightly better than the previous model. The updated 26.1mp BSI sensor is much better in low light than the older 24mp variant found in the X-Pro2, focusing is quicker and more accurate, and battery life seemed slightly better in my usage probably due to the lack of a rear screen. I’m sure the newer X Processor 4 helps with the latter two as well. Compared to the X-Pro2, everything on the X-Pro3 just seemed “snappier.” I’m relatively new to using UHS-II cards, so being able to shoot through a scene and not hit a buffer is really, really nice.

Shot with the X-Pro3
f/2, ISO 400, 1/550th a sec, 23mm

But let’s tackle the rear screen (or lack of). It’s a polarizing design choice. You either love it or hate it; get it, or you don’t. Fuji isn’t the first digital camera manufacturer to do this, though. When the Leica M-D hit store shelves, people had dug in beliefs one way or the other. “It’s the closest feeling to shooting film you can get with a digital camera,” or “just turn off the rear screen, and you have the same camera.” The reason I bring this up is that in the Fuji world, many people wished that Fuji would take risks like this. They’re a small, niche manufacturer catering to a mostly enthusiast crowd. I’m going to go ahead and say that I love it. 

Fuji X-Pro3 Review

Shot with the X-Pro3
f/2, ISO 400, 1/125th a sec, 23mm

Shot with the X-Pro3
f/2, ISO 400, 1/4400th a sec, 23mm

Fuji created a niche for the X-Pro line to thrive. They made it substantially different from everything else they currently produce. I think they really created a perfect personal work camera. In most professional settings, it’s nice to have a rear screen easily visible. You might not look at it all the time, but when you need it, you need it. I attempted to use this camera in scenarios I would typically shoot it. I shot a wedding with it as well as just a weekend around with my wife and new baby. More often than not, when I’m checking the rear screen, I’m glancing at settings and quick compositions periodically. The small, rear LCD that emulates an old film box top gives me all the relevant information I need quickly, such as the exposure settings, white balance, and, of course, the film simulation modes. Image review you can do rapidly through the viewfinder if you need to, but I felt like a weirdo just looking through my camera clicking through images. In handling, the lack of a rear screen doesn’t bug me since all of the functions you need to shoot are adjusted via external dials and buttons. This is not a camera for everyone, though. If you’re a person that needs/wants to chimp, then folding the screen down to review images is a pain. It’s really meant to be used without thinking about studying images till later when you’re just sitting around. With that being said, I think this camera slots in really well as a fun, personal work camera. I would use this camera for the work that I do, but I also think I’m in the minority. Your thought process does change when you’re not cheating and looking at the screen, and it’s refreshing. I’m aware of all of the arguments for just getting a camera with a screen and turning it off, but the fact that it’s still there and easily accessible doesn’t give me the same feeling. If that’s your preference, then that’s fine. That means this camera isn’t for you. All this being said, who do I think this camera is for? I think it’s for film shooters who need a digital workflow and want something as close to that experience as they can get. I think it’s for professional shooters who want to use something very different from their “work” camera and want to take a step back in their personal work. I could go on and on. Honestly, you owe it to yourself to give the Fuji X-Pro3 a shot no matter what kind of work you shoot. It is a vastly different experience.

Shot with the X-Pro3
f/1, ISO 160, 1/80th a sec, 50mm

The last thing I want to touch on briefly is some ergonomic and material changes. Since Fuji all but eliminated the rear screen, they also eliminated the D-Pad, which gave me a little trouble at first when I was going through my set up process, but after a while, it became a non-issue. They also added touch screen functionality, which I like. Generally, I think touch screens are annoying because I always seem to bump them with my nose (left eye shooters know the struggle), but since there is no screen, it’s implemented well. Otherwise, all the functions of the X-Pro2 are in the same general places. The Fuji X-Pro3 gets rid of the magnesium chassis of the X-Pro2 in favor of lighter and stronger titanium top and bottom plates. It also comes in 3 colorways. The standard black finish has a different finish that doesn’t show fingerprints as much. Then there are two “dura” colors: Dura Black and Dura Silver. These are finished with a new process that makes them scratch resistant. Before you ask, no, we only rent the regular black finish. Although, if we got some Dura Silver models in, I wouldn’t be mad about it. They look similar to the Contax G1 and G2 of old.

Conclusion

In closing, I think Fuji knows that sometimes it’s the experience of shooting a camera that often can be more important than the images you make. That’s what Fuji is selling with this camera: an experience that is different than almost any other camera on the market. Whether or not that experience translates to different and/or better images are going to depend entirely on you. In that sense, I don’t view this camera as an upgrade from a Fuji X-Pro2 but a new camera entirely. Some people are going to hate and not understand the design choice, but I must say that you owe it to yourself to at least give it a shot. You might enjoy it.

 

Author: Brennan McKissick

I’m Brennan and I’m a photo expert in the Nashville office for Lensrentals.com. I have a background in street and documentary photography and also work as a wedding photographer part-time throughout the Southeast.

Posted in Equipment
  • PC1512

    The Fuji X-Pro3 gets rid of the magnesium chassis of the X-Pro2 in favor of lighter and stronger titanium top and bottom plates

    No, it doesn’t, this just isn’t true. The chassis of the XP3 is actually still mag-alloy just like the XP2. The “stronger” titanium consists of a very thin outer skin over the top and bottom plates only. It sounds good in the marketing and that’s about it. As for being “lighter”, the XP3 is actually slightly heavier than the 2.

  • obican

    16mm is covered by the entire finder area but you’ll get no indication for your actual framing. I’ve used the 16/1.4 like this and it’s quite enjoyable and predictable but there’s significant blockage by the giant lens in the bottom right corner. I just pop up the corner EVF section there and toggle between focus point magnification and overall image display. In general, 16mm is quite usable with the OVF.

    56mm and 90mm are still usable but it’s not that fun. I believe the frame lines track until either 90mm or the 135mm (forgot whichever it was) and after that you’ll have to switch to EVF for sure.

    You don’t even get frame lines for the 23mm lens at longer focus distances than 5 meters. Not that I really minded during my one month of use, you learn to remember where the frame will fall quite quickly.

  • Stanislaw Zolczynski

    Talking about ergonomics which are important to me, I`m missing positioning of joystick and AF/AL button. The joystic should be placed where AF/AL button is next to thumb. Right now you loose the grip operating it. And AF/AF button should be in front so you could operate it with midlle finger while index on the shutter release. Te same thing goes with XT2-3 cameras and it looks they will repeat this mistake on X-T4 alas. Hope X-H2 will fix it. As you wrote you can`t have it all in one package. Not talking about IBIS.

  • Brennan McKissick

    That’s probably all it is. Different strokes for different folks.

  • We agree that there is a lot of similarity in terms of function and IQ. The differentiation comes with style/ergos and price. What you still haven’t explained is why that is a bad thing. If all you had said is that the changes to the X-Pro3 further differentiate it from the X-T line, I wouldn’t have even given it a thought. Maybe it just comes down to the fact that you consider the previous X-Pro models much more interchangeable with the X-T line than I do. 🙂

  • Brennan McKissick

    Hey thanks! He definitely keeps me on my toes.

  • Brennan McKissick

    So, the OVF is just more magnified. It’s not necessarily “better” or “worse,” it’s just different. You gain better magnification for the longer lenses but you give up the frame lines for the wider lenses which is a bummer but I’m sure Fuji went through their user base to find what people valued most and this is what they came up with. Personally, I would have liked to see the 16mm lines retained at least because I love that focal length for wedding receptions but even still, I’m not trying to perfectly frame a couple drunk wedding guests. YMMV, I’m sure other people have need of accurate 16mm or wider frame lines in the OVF who are more bummed than myself.

  • Brennan McKissick

    They make a whole lot of bodies that do the same thing. The only differences being some slightly different video outputs, EVF quality, weather sealing, etc. Which is fine if you just want a cheaper body with good IQ but in terms of their higher end APS-C cameras, they’re extremely similar and the X-Pro and X-T lines effectively served the same purpose with the X-T3 having better video functions. The X-Pro didn’t bring anything (aside from ergonomics) to the table to differentiate it from the X-T cameras. Now, it has that differentiation.

  • Congrats on the new baby, Brennan!

  • “One of my biggest gripes with Fuji is the amount of overlap in featuresof all of these cameras…they all have incredibly similar outputs with generally the same features.”

    I don’t understand this sentiment at all. There is feature differentiation; and the entry-level bodies have different processors and sensors. Is it bad that Fuji doesn’t take the Canon approach and cripple cheaper bodies unnecessarily? And is it bad that Fuji has democratized image quality—that customers buying less expensive bodies don’t get penalized with decreased image quality? If I’m understanding the point you’re trying to make, I can only disagree.

  • J.L. Williams

    Okay, Brennan, since you say you use the OVF a lot, maybe you can give me a straight answer on this. From the specs, vs. the X-Pro 2, it looks as if the X-Pro 3’s EVF is better, but the OVF is worse. They’ve ditched the dual magnification feature, meaning that someone using the 56 or 90 lens on the 3 will be seeing a smaller OVF image, and the 16 won’t be covered at all. Correct, or not?

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