This camera has been one of the most long-awaited camera of 2016.
Finally I have been able to spend some time with it.
I planned a Fujifilm X-Pro2 test case scenario. A series of photography in low light condition, using an high ISO value.
I actually already had the Fujifilm X-Pro2 in my hands few months ago, but only for a hour or so. Just for a first impression.
I loved instantly the design of this camera. Unfortunately I could not test much of it.
Low light and High ISO photography
I usually run Night Photography Workshops on a regular basis.
My first sms to the attendants is a reminder to take the tripod with them.
I start the workshop just after sunset time and we go through the first 30-45 minutes familiarising with the tripod and night setting, shooting some light trails ans starting with the first long exposure photography.
After that I ask to pack the tripod.
We have a walk through a few lanes and we start shooting without tripod, with an high value of ISO and a shutter speed in the range of 1/20sec to 1/60sec.
I explain the best body position and another couple of tricks to have a stable camera.
What is the reaction? In most of the cases is a “wow, I did not know I could shoot with this high ISO and still have these nice images!”
The ISO value goes up to 800, or 1600 and in some cases to 3200.
How noisy are the photos?
I have been doing these courses for one year now and I could definitely see different levels of noise, based on the camera used during the workshop.
As a rule of thumb, the level of noise is inversely proportional to the dimension of the sensor in the camera. I usually shoot with a Nikon D600/D610 camera (full sensor) and I noticed that my photos are less noisy than the most of the APS-C cameras and even less when compared with the MFT based cameras.
If you are not familiar with your camera sensor size have a check to this Wiki page on Image Sensor Format. It includes also a discussion on how noise and DoF are affected.
Night photography can lead to some interesting compositions
The APS-C choice
Few months ago I read an interview with Takashi Ueno, product planner for the X Series of digital cameras.
The main subject was about the Fujifilm choice to have APS-C sensor in the own camera, instead of full sensor.
What did he say?
“We gave a lot of thought to this, and reached our conclusion that APS-C is the best format for the optimum balance of body size and image quality”
MEL365 is a blog about travel photography. I talk about using my camera on a trip or on a weekend away or just for an family or friendly event. I try to give suggestions based on my experience.
I own a full sensor camera, the Nikon D600/D610, because of other work I do where a big sensor and more professional specs help (sport photography). In saying that I feel quite uncomfortable with this camera when travelling.
Two main reasons:
- weight, a pain to carry around
- size, too big, it draws attention, and sometime a dangerous one
I thought about ditching my Nikon and moving to the Sony Alpha a7R (similar, if not higher specs). Than I checked more carefully and discovered that, yes, the camera is smaller but the lenses (trying to compare similar one, with the same specs) are actually bigger.
As a full package, camera + lens, I would have basically the same size as with the Nikon.
Reading here and there, I guess there are few reasons why the Sony lenses have this volume. But this is not the subject of this post.
I came myself to the conclusion that the APS-C sensor size is probably the right one, right in the middle.
In the last Photokina 2016 (the world’s largest trade fair held in Europe for the photographic and imaging industries) Toshihisa Iida, Fujifilm’s General Manager of the Sales and Marketing Group, gave another interesting interview to DPReview when introducing the medium-format GFX 50S
“The difference between APS-C and full-frame is too marginal, so there was no point. So we decided to go for a bigger sensor format, to show a clear differentiation from APS-C”
Fujifilm X-Pro2 in low light and high ISO
Let’s be honest, in perfect light condition you can do amazing photos also with a mobile. The camera functionality in a phone is nowadays one of the most important characteristic. The one that makes, or breaks, the deal.
There are pictures on huge boards made with mobiles and used to advertise phones. The manufactures may not talk about the team behind the scene organising the perfect light that the mobile phone can handle. Something you will not have in your trip LOL
Where most of the cameras start showing the limits is in the low-light environments. This could be even a dark cloudy day.
Fujifilm claims that the X-Pro2, in low light. is one of the best performing APS-C camera.
Well I had to check it with my eyes.
I took the camera out and I visited the Melbourne city lanes and graffiti in the night, definitely low-light.
I did not take my tripod.
I wanted to test the X-Pro2 with high ISO and I did not want to have a heavy and bulky tripod with me as I planned to do more shooting about the nightlife.
Don’t keep me wrong. It’s not like I say that you should never use the tripod. I am just saying that there are many cases where we can use an high ISO and have some amazing photos.
I familiarised with a photo just after sunset, in the blue hour. I found a nice spot, at the Melbourne Exhibition Center, a great location for some photography with lots of secret corners.
Testing the X-Pro2 in the blue hour, just after sunset (ISO400, f/2.0, 1/60sec)
As expected, at ISO 400 I did not experience any particular noise. I decided to go b&w to concentrate on forms and lines with my composition.
It was getting darker and It was time to push up the ISO.
I jumped in the middle of Flinders Street to make a photo of the station facade. I had to be quick as trams were coming and going, not an option for a tripod.
A quick photo between trams, the tripod would not be an option (ISO1000, f/2.0, 1/40sec)
At ISO1,000 I could see some noise but not concerning one. In the photo above you can see in the corner a 2:1 close-up of the station main entrance.
I walked down to one of the main graffiti lane, called Hosier Lane. Here I went up to ISO 2,000 and again I was very happy with the result.
Hosier Lane, famous for its graffiti (ISO2000, f/2.0, 1/40sec)
And here is another photo that with a tripod would have not be possible. I walked down the lane and the window to the kitchen of a famous restaurant was open.
View to the kitchen (ISO 2500, f/2.0, 1/40sec)
Call it street photography, call it night photography, call it travel photography…..I just like what I was able to capture.
Travel and street photography have lots of overlapping. I have discussed more on this post.
Zoom in 1:1 of previous photo
Here above is a 1:1 zoom of the kitchen photo at ISO 2,500. Just outstanding the low level of noise.
I love my nigh walks in Melbourne, actually in any city. There is only a small drawback. It could become dangerous if you don’t know where are you going. Especially with a big camera.
For this reason I always advise to visit the area during the day, for an inspection, and ask around if it is safe to visit the place during the night.
This is another hidden corner of Melbourne. A lane that very few are aware of, a small alley that is a fantastic spot for night photography.
An amazing hidden alley of Melbourne (ISO5000, f/2.0, 1/40sec)
The light was very poor and I decided to move one stop up at ISO 5,000 and see the result.
Here above a 1:1 zoom on a photo detail. At ISO 5,000 I am really open mouth for the quality. And I have still not done any noise reduction or post processing to this photo.
And here below the last test at ISO 25,600. This is really pushing the limits
Graffiti from the top. An unusual view of Melbourne (ISO25600, f/1.4, 1/1500sec)
Again the 1:1 zoom has an acceptable quality. Surely I would not print this photo in A3, however I would definitely use it for my website or any social environment. And I reckon I could print it in small format without any trouble too.
APS-C X-Pro2 vs. D600/D610 full frame sensor
Why do I call my camera D600/D610?
It’s a long story. To make it short I can say that the first D600 models had a big problem. Annoying dust on the sensor “autogenerating” in the camera (you can google for more details).
After almost 2 years of my complains to Nikon and several sensor clean-up they finally agreed to change my sensor with the one of the new D610. No problems since. Now my camera is more of a D610 than a D600.
So what did I want to do here?
Well, with few nights out I found out that the Fujifilm X-Pro2 delivers well in the low light.
I have also discovered that the Fujifilm X-Pro2 can produce some amazing photos even at high ISO
But how does it compare to my full frame sensor D600/D610 (from now on just D610)?
Was Toshihisa Iida right in saying that the difference between APS-C and full-frame is marginal?
In good light condition Toshihisa is probably right. But what about in low light?
Back to the city for some more photos (I am based in St.Kilda, about 7km from the city CBD, an easy ride)
This time I had a bigger bag with :
They are both prime lenses with the same equivalent focal length, however the Fujinon is a quicker lens, and more expensive as well.
It’s always very very difficult to compare apples with apples when you take cameras and lenses from different brands.
The Nikkor 50mm f1.4 is probably more similar, however I did not have it with me. But do not underestimate the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8, one of the best lenses made by Nikon and, at around US$200, a real bargain.
I decided to shoot with both at the same aperture, f/2.0
Fujifilm X-Pro2 (ISO3200 f/2.0 1/40sec)
Nikon D610 (ISO2800 f/2.0 1/40sec)
My first test was from the top of a multi-level garage with a spectacular view of the city and Chinatown.
When I zoom in at 1:1 they both look similar, although I tend to prefer the Fujifilm photo
These are two photos of Chinatown main lane. The fujifilm here outperformed with lots of details that I was not able to capture with the Nikon (and I tried multiple shots)
Fujifilm X-Pro2 (ISO2000 f/2.0 1/60sec)
Nikon D610 (ISO2000 f/2.0 1/40sec)
Also in this small alley of Chinatown the X-Pro2 delivered cleaner photos
Nikon D610 (ISO1250 f/2.0 1/40sec)
Fujifilm X-Pro2 (ISO2000 f/2.0 1/60sec)
This is another small graffiti lane, in this case similar quality for both cameras (ISO4000 f/2.0 1/60sec)
And the 1:1 view
And lastly these 2 photos, different view of this amazing lane. I shot both at ISO 6,400. Both cameras delivered outstanding results.
Comparing 2 cameras from 2 manufactures with 2 different lenses is really hard, I would say impossible.
Unless you do it in a test environment with controlled light etc etc.
However this is not what I was looking for.
I was more into a real life feeling.
Could I see much of a difference between the D610 and the X-Pro2?
I do not get paid to say that one camera is better than the other. In all honesty I do agree with Toshihisa Iida, the photos made by the two cameras are quite similar, although they do use different sensor size.
For travel and city photography my preference would go for the Fujifilm X-Pro2 because it’s smaller and lighter, beside having a beautiful design.
If you are after sport or studio photography or any other field, you may want to check other important characteristics as auto-focus speed, how many frames per second can the camera shoot, etc etc In this case the D610 or the Nikon D810 may win.
My final thoughts
I was really impressed by the X-Pro2.
It can deliver big time in low-light conditions.
If you are after some street photography I would have no doubts. I would definitely place an order for this camera.
Small and unpretentious, still delivering great photos in low light at high ISO
The 3 ranges of auto ISO settings are just the icing on the cake. You can access it easily from the front button. It’s really fun to make photos with the Fujifilm X-Pro2
There are though few things that could be improved in the X-Pro3 🙂 . These may be personal choices and can be different for other people:
- the manual ISO setting with the pull-up dial did not impress me. it’s a bit intricate, especially in the night
- AE-L and AF-L buttons are difficult to find and not where my thumb usually is (I have a small hand). In the night it is a challenge to play with.
- the plastic lens cap provided for the lens hood does not work. It comes off very very easily and it’s only a matter of time before it gets lost. Lucky it’s still with me LOL
Overall this is a camera I would not hesitate to suggest. It’s also in my list of the best travel cameras. I have used it for 3 weeks during the day and it was amazing, however it’s during the night where it is outstanding.
This is a beautiful camera too. I really love the design. The best price in Amazon, with the Fujinon XF35mm F2, is a real bargain I believe.
If you are in Australia you can have a look to this offer from Camera House. With a $300 cash back and a $200 in free prints it’s a fantastic deal.
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