Review – Fujifilm X-Pro2

The X-Pro2 is the first X series camera to feature Fujifilm’s new 24.3 megapixel X Trans sensor. That’s a decent jump from the 16.1 megapixels of previous X series bodies. Coming 4 years after the original and revolutionary X-Pro1, the X-Pro2 is every bit the flagship camera Fuji X shooters have been waiting for.

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Fujifilm let me borrow an X-Pro2 and the super telephoto XF100-400mm lens to review on a mid summer 3500km road trip through British Colombia and Alberta. I brought along a few other Fujifilm lenses as well as a Rokinon X mount 8mm fisheye to see what the X-Pro2 could do in various situations.

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X-Pro2 – XF100-400mm

This camera is gorgeous. It has a classic rangefinder look reminiscent of 1960’s Leica’s. As with all other X Series cameras that beauty is more than skin deep. The X Trans sensor is superb, offering outstanding detail and rich colours. The increased resolution gives you the ability to crop a bit more than you could with the old sensor.

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X-Pro2 – XF27mm f/2.8

Low light performance is good up to ISO 6400 and very usable up to ISO 12800. The mechanical shutter is good for 1/8000th of a second, up from 1/4000th on the X-T1/X-T10. The electronic shutter remains unchanged at a top speed of 1/32000th. It’s great for stealthy street shooting.

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X-Pro2 – XC 16-50mm

Auto focus points are WAY up, to 273, all of which are accessible. Wide tracking autofocus is significantly improved and the burst rate of 8 frames per second makes the X-Pro2 a real option for things like motorsports. My X-T10 handled a Formula 1 race with ease but the X-Pro2 would’ve been that much better. Time to plan for next year.

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X-Pro2 – XF100-400mm

The hybrid viewfinder is as cool as it gets. If you long for the days of film but need the information of a modern camera you will love the optical viewfinder (OVF). If you need to see exactly what you’re shooting you will love the electronic viewfinder (EVF). I shoot mostly with the EVF, its ultra fast refresh rate and high resolution work better for me but the OVF saw some duty with the XF27mm f/2.8 during some street shooting sessions. Of note for people who wear glasses while shooting, if they’re polarized sunglasses all you’ll see is a black EVF or rear screen when shooting landscape. I don’t get this with my X-T10 and it’s a bit frustrating.

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X-Pro2 – Rokinon 8mm f/2.8 Fisheye

The controls ore excellent and you have 6 programmable buttons to personalize. the shutter speed and ISO dials are stacked like on old 35mm film camera and I absolutely love it that way. So many reviewers/photographers have complained about this setup and some have questioned its longevity. My 1960’s era Pentax SP1000 35mm SLR has an almost identical setup and it works perfectly.

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X-Pro2 – XF 27mm f/2.8

There’s a new joystick for selecting autofocus points. It’s placed within reach of your right thumb and is a great addition that will hopefully make its way to other X Series cameras. My only beef, and it’s a very small one, is that when carrying the X-Pro2 with a shoulder strap and leaving the cameras powered on between shoots it can easily move you focus point by rubbing up against you while walking.

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X-Pro2 – XF 100-400mm

Shooting with the X-Pro2 is so rewarding. Every button, every click, every shutter actuation sounds beautiful. The images are sublime, as X shooters have come to expect, and Fujifilm’s legendary film simulations look better than ever and the new Acros simulation is downright mesmerizing.

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X-Pro2 – XF 35mm f/1.4 R – Acros film simulation 

 

The semi-matte finish and magnesium body ensure this thing will last and age nicely. With weather sealing to keep dust and water out you will be shooting with the X-Pro2 for years to come. The diopter is new and improved, with a bigger dial which is easier to handle and less likely to be adjusted in you camera bag.

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X-Pro2 – Rokinon 8mm f/2.8 Fisheye

 

There are dual card slots under a weather sealed door that has moved from the battery compartment to the side of the body. Shoot raw and JPEG simultaneously, use one for video and one for stills, whatever makes you happy. I’m not a video guy but the 1080 60p is better than previous Fujifilm efforts. If you want 4K you’ll want to wait for the X-T2.

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X-Pro2 – XC50-230mm

Overall the X-Pro2 is an outstanding camera. Good looking, solid performer, great images, extensive Fuji glass to suit every photographer. But that can be said about lots of cameras from every manufacturer. The difference with the Fujifilm X-Pro2 is something that isn’t technical, it’s a feeling. The X-Pro2 makes me want to use it. It makes me want to flex my creative muscles, it’s makes me feel like an artist as opposed to just some guy with a fancy camera.

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X-Pro2 – XF100-400mm

If you’re an X Series shooter, and want to upgrade your gear, the X-Pro2 will not disappoint.

Scott.

Review – Fujifilm XF100-400 F/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR

When I got my first Fujifilm X Series camera, an X-A1 I received as a birthday gift, a lot of my photography friends wondered why I wanted a Fujifilm camera. Why not a DSLR or a micro four thirds camera they asked. Surely the lens selection for those choices were far more extensive. At the time they were right, but there was something about the look of the all black X-A1 that made me ignore their advice and dive into a relatively new system. Looks are probably a shallow reason to buy a camera (hello Leica shooters!) but the X-A1 was more than just a retro toy, it produced stunning images.

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XF100-144mm and X-Pro2 at Two Jack Lake.

Fast forward a couple of years and the Fujifilm X Series has grown to be a formidable player in the world of photography. The lens lineup is outstanding and the recently released X-Pro 2 (review coming soon) and the upcoming X-T2 and X-A3 have pushed the apsc sensor mirrorless X Series to a whole new level. The biggest hole in the lens lineup was a super telephoto for sports and wildlife photography. The XF100-400mm F/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR (that’s a long name) has addressed this need and Fujifilm Canada was kind enough to lend me one to take on a recent Alberta road trip.

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Dinosaur Provincial Park.

I paired it up with the X-Pro 2, also loaned to me by Fujifilm, and my trusty X-T10. I took it to some great destinations including Mount Robson, Drumheller, Dinosaur Provincial Park, Banff National Park, and Lake Louise. The full frame equivalent focal length works out to 152-609mm on the apsc sensor. It’s the longest lens in Fuji’s arsenal, the next closest being the XC50-230mm F/4.5-6.7 OIS II. The optical image stabilization (OIS) is said to provide 5 stops of stabilization meaning you can shoot handheld at longer shutter speeds. It works great, even at 400mm.

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Tourist action shot. I emailed them this picture.

Paired with the X-Pro 2 it’s a bit of an awkward match up. The hybrid viewfinder is pointless past 50mm but the electronic viewfinder is fantastic. It’s ultra fast refresh rate and high resolution make shooting with this super zoom a breeze. The X-T10 is a better match for this lens with its SLR style centre EVF. The upcoming X-T2 with its battery grip will be the best thing to pair with this lens. The OIS tends to eat up batteries and the X-T2’s extended battery life would make a day out in the woods a little more bearable.

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Moose on the loose in Sherwood Park.

Speaking of bears, I only saw one on my trip and it was running away from me. I suppose that’s not a bad thing. I managed to find a moose, magpies, ravens, chipmunks, mountain sheep, and lots of mosquitoes. Shooting wildlife with this lens is a delight. Autofocus is quick and accurate, colour and sharpness are great, and mechanically everything feels solid and well built.

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Just outside of Drumheller.

You can set focus from 5 meters to infinity to help with auto focus speed for far away subjects or set it for the the full range if need be. There’s a manual aperture ring and a switch on the lens to switch to auto aperture. The focus and zoom rings offer nice resistance and are covered in ridged rubber for extra grip. There’s a removable tripod mount which can be positioned at any angle and locked into place with a set screw.

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George C. Reifel Bird Sanctuary.

 

The WR stands for Weather Resistant so you can shoot in the rain or snow as long as you’re paired up with a WR body (X-Pro2, X-T1, X-T2)

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Eagles above Two Jack Lake.

Tracking autofocus is decent when used with the X-Pro2 or the X-T10. I would’ve liked to try some sports photography with this lens but I simply ran out of time. I was able to get some action shots of a few Bald Eagles soaring above Two Jack Lake though.

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Fat Chipmunk in Banff.

There is one weird quirk I noticed during post processing. At 400mm the JPEG images come out a bit sharper/better than the raw files. Fujifilm is known for excellent JPEG files but I still would’ve expected the raw results to be the better of the 2, even if only marginally. In all honesty the majority of my workflow is still JPEG with Fujifilm, they’re that good.

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Nearly full moon over Vancouver.

Fujifilm has become a real option for professionals looking to move away from bulky DSLR gear and the ever growing lens lineup can only help that trend.

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Devonian Gardens in Edmonton.

This is a lens I will be adding to my camera bag in the very near future. It is a bit large and heavy for a mirrorless system but compared to an equivalent Canon or Nikon lens it’s quite compact.

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George C. Reifel Bird Sanctuary.

Watch for my upcoming review of the X-Pro2, possibly the sexiest camera I’ve ever used.

Scott.

Montreal – 2016 F1 Canadian Grand Prix

The Canadian Grand Prix is a bucket list item that I have now checked off. The 7th race of the 21 race 2016 Formula 1 calendar took place from June 10th to 13th on Isle Notre Dame at the Circuit Gilles Villineuve. My dad and I took in all three days of racing in varying amounts with Sunday being our longest day at the track. In our off track time we tried to explore as much of Montreal as possible on foot.

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Turn 8 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve

The race itself was as enjoyable as I’d hoped. Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes took the top spot after a race long battle with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. My favourite driver and team, Jenson Button and McLaren Honda, didn’t make it to the end suffering an engine failure bu the MP4-31 looks and sounds great.

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The Biosphere from Expo ’67

Getting to the track was a breeze on the Metro. We stayed a few blocks from Berri-UQAM, the central Metro station. From there it’s a short one stop trip under the river to Jean Drapeau Station and a short walk to the track. We bought 3 day Metro passes for $18 and had little trouble navigating the system.

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Mural Festival

There are free festivals that coincide with the GP weekend. Mural Festival, a massive street festival on Saint-Laurent Boulevard, and Francofolies, a 6 stage music festival centered around the Place Des Arts along Rue Sainte-Catherine. They’d be reason enough to visit Montreal on their own let alone the Grand Prix.

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Old Montreal

Old Montreal was my favourite part of town. The Saint-Sulpice Seminary being the oldest building dating back to 1687 and the Notre-Dame Basilica (1829)… I have no words to describe how beautiful and grand it is. Narrow cobblestone streets lined by old buildings give a European charm to the area. One could be forgiven for thinking they were in Prague or Paris. Restaurants, shops, bars, the area has a great vibe and was in full swing over the race weekend. Make sure to check out the Old Port of Montreal while you’re in the area.

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The Old Port of Montreal

There are 2 places you simply have to go if you want an authentic, old school Montreal meal. First is Schwartz’s Deli, the quintessential spot for Montreal Smoked Meat and Poutine. It’s been serving the hits at 3895 Saint-Laurent Boulevard since 1928. Be prepared to line up and wait, which is totally worth it.

The second place is Bar-B-Barn, a chicken and rib joint that has been frozen in time since 1967. Dark wood, dim lighting, amazing ribs and chicken, and all the nostalgia you can handle. Come hungry or be prepared to leave with a doggy bag.

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Bar B Barn

Street art, both visual and performance, are everywhere in Montreal. Epic murals, street performers, musicians. Buskers in Metro stations have dedicated spots and seemed to be doing quite well playing for the massive GP crowds that swept through the stations daily.

A few tips. Try to speak French, even if you’re terrible. Everyone we dealt with, minus our airport bus driver, spoke fluent English but we noticed a marked improvement in service if we attempted to speak French. A simple Bonjour or Merci will get you a long way. That being said, service in Montreal was disappointing on all fronts. It was a busy weekend but I was surprised that things took as long as they did in restaurants and bars, some not full at all.

Learn the Montreal Metro system before you go. It uses a tap system similar to a lot of major transit systems but only requires you to tap in, not out. Learn where the stations are, where you can get to, look up the 747 Airport Bus, a cheap and decent way to get from Trudeau Airport to Downtown Montreal.

Montreal is a wonderful place that I am anxious to return to. So much history, so much culture, so much potential. I’ve only scratched the surface and I can’t wait to return.

Thanks to my wife Lyndsey for arranging the Grand Prix tickets and my dad for arranging our flights. All photos in this post (minus the food photos) we taking using Fujifilm X series cameras and lenses. Thanks to Fujifilm for their continued support (they let me borrow stuff, it’s awesome).

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Scott.

 

Review – Fujifilm Instax Share SP-1 Photo Printer

Who doesn’t love instant photos? I have a Polaroid Supercolor 635 CL and it’s a lot of fun. The biggest problem with it and all instant cameras, aside from the ever increasing cost and availability of instant film, are the cameras themselves. Imagine being able to instantly print photos from your camera or smartphone in the same fashion. That’s exactly what the Fujifilm Instax Share SP-1 does.

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Not quite pocket sized but small enough for a camera bag or larger coat pocket, the SP-1 is wireless utilizing WiFi and CR2 lithium batteries to keep you printing wherever you are. The non-rechargeable batteries are good for 100 prints according to Fujifilm. In reality it’s closer to 75-80. I picked up an A/C cord on Amazon which uses any smartphone USB plug you already have laying around which cures my battery anxiety.

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The business card sized prints look great. Using the “Intelligence Filter” in the Instax App adds some color and contrast that help the instant prints pop more than unedited photos. The free app is available for iOS and Android and is easy enough for the most techno-phobic person to use.

The printer takes Instax Mini film which comes in 10 shot cartridges. The film is pricey on a per-shot basis, over $1 CAD per print and the printer is anywhere from $150-$220 CAD depending on sales or promotions. It probably isn’t an impulse buy but it’s not overpriced either.

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Who is the target buyer for this printer? I think that has changed since it was introduced. It has changed from a novelty item aimed at families, hipsters,  and teenagers and is now used by street photographers for making real connections with their subject matter. It’s also being used by professional photographers to show proofs to clients on the spot no matter where you’re shooting.

Fujifilm X Camera shooters can print right from their camera or use the app. Any WiFi enabled camera that can send photos to your smartphone can utilize the app along with any photos taken on said phone.  Gone are the days of instant photography guess work, you now know exactly what your print will look like before it’s done developing. The Instax Share SP-1 bridges old and new using modern image capturing technology to give you business card sized prints dripping with nostalgia. You can add text to them too, imagine being able to create a business card on the spot tailored to its recipient? So many possibilities, I’m just getting started with this thing!

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Scott.