The X-Pro Range – What Next?

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An exciting week just went by in Fujifilm camera land.

As you’re no doubt aware, Fujifilm just announced the X-H1.

I’ll spare you a copy/paste of the spec, and I personally haven’t had my hands on one to test.

However, here’s the link to Fujifilm’s website that lists all the features.

Fujifilm’s X series isn’t quite a spring chicken any more… My daughter will be six this year (and the cat will be eight, which some how makes me feel even older) and the X-Pro1 predates her (but not the cat!).

That said, what a huge amount of progress Fujifilm has made in that time, from a single body with three primes, to – well I’ve actually lost count of the number of lenses and bodies etc! We now have a camera who’s headline grabbing colossally desirable feature is IBIS, (not to be confused with the undesirable colonial condition IBS), IBIS which stands for In Body Image Stabilisation is a feature that allows you to shoot at lower shutter speeds, by allowing the sensor to effectively float about a bit so that the minute vibrations of the human body don’t cause a blurry image when using a slow speed shutter handheld.

The X-H1 also features various other upgrades, such as an increased resolution EVF with less black out time and superior AF speed to incumbent Fujifilm bodies.

There’s also a new film simulation, called Eterna

The build quality has been improved by using a “25% thicker alloy” for the body and a 8H scratch resistant paint (8H is, give or take, about as hard as quartz).

I’ve given you a very superficial list folks, there’s a lot of refinement going on, but I’m not here today to talk about the X-H1.

Nope! I’m here today to speculate, with ZERO insider info about what all this might mean for the X-Pro3. Assuming such a creature comes to exist.

I wonder what Fujifilm might have in store for the X-Pro3….

If you take away any single thing from this missive to Fujifilm, please let it be this: For me… The X-Pro range has always been about the hybrid VF.

You see for me… (SO SERIOUSLY, YMMV) I’m starting to feel that Fujifilm have ever so slightly lost their way with the X-Pro range…

I think my love of the X-Pro cameras needs no reiteration.

And I realise I speak only for me, not for you.

But it seems (to me) that the original end user compliment that was aimed at the X-Pro range has become diluted.

That original compliment could perhaps be summed up as Fujifilm put the fun back into photography

Now of course what people do for fun, varies, from a wild night out to a quiet night in (or even a quiet night out and a wild one in)

But when it comes to using a Fujifilm camera, I personally think the fun lies in the external controls, the ease of use, and the desirability to go out and shoot – I think these feelings are further underpinned on the X-Pro range by knowing we’re using something a bit special and unique, that no one else really offers.

That’s not to say that umpteen dozen modes and features smeared across several menu pages isn’t without use, isn’t without necessity and certainly isn’t without function.

It’s just not fun.

This is NOT going to be an article about, we should all have simple cameras if we all wanted simple cameras, then we could all go out and… I dunno… buy a Leica or a ten year old Nikon or something.

Equally this ISN’T going to be a piece denouncing complexity and features, they’re important

It just seems to me that Fujifilm are closing a niche. Every FW update we’ve had for the X-Pro2 has taken it closer to the spec of the X-T2.

If we wanted (say) all of the X-T2 features, would we X-Pro2 owners not have bought one?

Personally I quite fancy an X-Pro3 with a 25% tougher body and the EVF component of the viewfinder to be a 3.69m dot OLED unit.

I’m not so convinced I want lots of different AF tracking modes on my documentary and street orientated camera.

If I wanted both types of camera, I’d actually entertain the idea of owning both, rather than a single unit that’s neither one thing or the other. The idea of owning both has more appeal to me when I consider I’d only need one set of lenses.

The USP of the X-Pro range has always been the hybrid VF.

First found in the X100, it truly came into it’s own on the X-Pro1, with bold and visible framelines and the ability to switch magnifications based on focal length.

The hybrid VF of the X-Pro2 owed much to the X100T and haemorrhaged a lot of the legibility of the X-Pro1.

The electronic range finder (ERF) of the X-Pro2 is only occasionally useful (YMMV) and introduces an annoying amount of shutter lag and an inaccurate histogram.

Perhaps it’s time for Fujifilm to really innovate the VF for an X-Pro3?

Perhaps the ERF part could be everything within the framelines, yet the part outside of the framelines remains optical?

Perhaps there’s a way to make a semi-transparent Heads Up Display (HUD) that allows you to overlay focus peaking on to the optical view of the world. (Savouring that thought at all legacy lens users?)

Don’t misunderstand me… the X-Pro2 is a great camera, the size, the feel, the heft, the amount of buttons, external dials and customisability are all about right. (A little more heft and better paint wouldn’t hurt though)

But let’s not get away from the original concept.

I PERSONALLY don’t want to see the guts of the X-H1 (or X-T3) shoe horned into an X-Pro3.

I don’t want my X-Pro3 to be trickle fed features that are already found on different Fujifilm cameras.

I don’t want my innovative hybrid VF to be a parts bin carry over from last years’ camera

No.

I want the original concept adhered too, I want a class leading VF solution, that blends optical and electronic tech together as seamlessly as Fujifilm did with their shutter dials and aperture rings.

I want to feel that it’s still the 1990s, like I’m listening to smells like teen spirit and I’m shooting with a camera that works like a film one, whilst simultaneously using a decidedly modern 21st century capable product.

I’d like to see Fujifilm ignoring those that complain that the X-Pro doesn’t do what an X-T does because those people bought the wrong camera, you can’t (nor shouldn’t) feel you have to resolve that.

The release cycle of the X-Pro range seems to run at a slower pace than that of the X-T line.

That’s ideal.

That means us X-Pro folk want to buy a “pride and joy of ownership” type of camera.

We don’t want to bounce around the merry-go-round of the X-T / The Sony / The Olympus (or whoever else DPR gave a gold star for ‘most tech crammed into a camera’ to this month)

I think the X-Pro range is designed for a smaller number of people than the X-T range, and I sincerely believe that those people would rather have their narrower operational range of digital rangefinder mirrorless camera desires completely quenched than they would having a watered down X-T or X-H type camera.

I know I would.

DON’T GET ME WRONG keep the tech coming, make a camera with 10 stops of IBIS and 46 AF modes. But please understand that some of us either don’t really desire all of that, or are quite happy to own a super-duper high tech Fujifilm and a more traditionally featured camera.

If it’s so important for Fujifilm’s marketing strategy and product placement to have all their cameras as fully loaded as possible.. then perhaps there should be way to disable and hide from the menu all the features of our choosing.

I appreciate the ‘my menu’ is a sort of inverse of this, except that we can’t put every single thing we want in the ‘my menu’

Fujifilm – you have the power, the resources and the know-how to cover this with separate products or with a clever operating system.

As I said some where near the start, if you dear reader take away any single thing from this missive to Fujifilm, please let it be this: The X-Pro range has always been about the hybrid VF. It’s time to drag this concept further into the 21st century. To make it the indispensable USP that it was when it first appeared.

What about you?

How would you like any X-Pro3 to be?

Just like an X-H or X-T in all but shape?

Or something that’s really a bit special and nothing like anything that’s already in existence?

Comment below, drop me a line, tap me up on social media.

I want to hear your thoughts

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The X-Pro Series Content: Referenced and All In One Place

The X-Pro Series Content: A Contents Page with Page Numbers and a Brief Description

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6 Replies to “The X-Pro Range – What Next?”

  1. For me perhaps its become too complicated with control wheels and dials. I think the Leica M10 has really stripped down and refined what is necessary for pure photography. Leave all the bells and whistles to the XT & XH line etc. Just give us the best build and feel in the hand, button quality, photo quality and autofocus and perhaps try and improve on the viewfinder experience.

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    1. Yes that sounds spot on, and unlike most camera makers Fuji have enough models in thier range to be able to make a bare bones photography tool and cover off complicated features in their other bodies

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  2. I am not so sure… actually your suggestions, at least some of them, seem to make the whole thing even more complex (like an overlay‘d focus peeking, I mean get real – you need a parallax correction for that besides all the other issues I am sure we are not even aware of), other ideas seem to be „under cutting“ the OVF concept (efv in the middle and just ofv around it…)
    For sure the hybrid finder is the one and only thing that sets the Pro series apart and it needs to be taken to the next level, I agree on that one.
    So let‘s think about it…hm… I am one of the (handful?) guys that is using the optical part quite a lot. But it got a lot less since I have (and LOVE) the 14mm lens, simply because the finder does not work with that very well. Same is true for telephoto, the 56/60mm is already a quite long stretch, isn‘t it? Right, I am lucky here, because I rarely use telephoto lenses, but that does not take away the point.
    So hwo about one or maybe two more magnifications for that one? I am sure this is by no means cost – cutting, but that is not the point about the Pro series anyway, right?

    I have to agree that I don‘t want the bells and whistles of the T and H, however a better AFis always welcome…but please, I really don‘t need video features on a Pro body. If DPR will not give the gold medal, beacause of missing video features – well, then I think it speaks more against their tests than the camera.

    I wonder why and if(!) we will see a next gen x-Pro anyway, the money for Fujifilm is clearly in the T series and maybe in the H.

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    1. A digital hybrid EVF/OVF might work, the existing one adjusts for parallax, perfectly with the EVF ;-), so maybe that could work. As you say we don’t know what hardware fuji have available…

      My idea wouldn’t be in place of the 100% OVF, more to replace the (IMO) largely inadequate ERF part

      An extra level (or two) of magnification is a great idea.

      I also own a Leica M9, which has no video or live view so personally I could cope with an X-Pro with far less functionality!

      There was speculation that the X-Pro line was through when there was no x-trans ii variant and it took them 4 years to make the X-Pro2, so although it’s possible there’s no X-Pro3, equally it might easily be another 18 months away, so I’m not giving up on it just yet!

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  3. I am not at all saying it does not come. I am just realizing that Fujifilm steps out of he niche more and more and thus decisions might be more focussed towards profit than “nice products”. As long as the current management still has the power I don’t see it as a big risk though, these people love photography 🙂

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    1. Yeah for sure Fuji started off like they wanted to be Lotus then later decided to be BMW. 🙂

      The trouble is that most of the sales are the higher tech T and H line bodies and most of the user complaints are about people wanting more features

      Still the 33mm f1.0 is good, it implies that Fuji are still considering niche needs and not just releasing relatively mediocre primes that just have fast AF and WR as USPs

      Like

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