Since my heavy full frame DSLR kit was more and more staying home, the search for a new light weight camera system to take on my airline pilot travels, started just after 7 years ago. After attending an inspiring X100 and X-Pro1 talk by Zack Arias in Dubai, I rented an X-Pro1 with the XF35 f/1.4 lens and still very much remember how it felt making those first few frames. While I could hardly put the camera down over these 3 days, I didn’t realize what this rental would cause, just a few years later.
CAMERAS I NEVER OWNED
Even though I was really impressed with the image quality and shooting experience, ironically, I would never own the X-Pro1. As I returned the rental camera, the even more compact X-E1 had just come to market and quickly became my go to travel camera. Eighteen months later I got rid of my last piece of Nikon glass and haven’t looked back since.
Early 2016 was my first official visit to Tokyo as an X-Photographer for the launch of the X-Pro2. As I was involved in the early testing and development of the X-T2 which started shortly after our visit to Japan, I would again never own an X-Pro2. Somehow, I was hiding behind the fact that I’m left eye dominant and can’t fully benefit from using a “rangefinder” like camera. On top of that, the OVF (Optical Viewfinder) was cool, but didn’t get much use and I really wanted a tilt screen. Was it time to pull back on some of these arguments?
Third time’s a charm? When Fujifilm Middle East lend me a pre-production copy of their X-Pro3, it was the perfect opportunity to take a deeper look into how this camera could eventually work for me. Pairing the X-Pro3 with the original 7-year-old XF35 F1.4 lens seemed like a perfect combo to go back where it all started!
THE LAND OF THE RISING SUN
Although I travel a lot as an airline pilot, end of November I decided to spend some of my days off in Osaka and Kyoto. It is hard to put your finger to it but after having travelled to 90 countries, Japan has always kept a special place in my heart. Is it the way everything is so well organized? The amazing food? The politeness of its people? The punctuality of public transport? The extremely clean streets, even though there are no waste bins? Maybe it is because we as photographers, often use “Japan” and “camera” in a single sentence! For me, it is the place where some technologically crazy ideas are born. I will never forget seeing “smartphones” all over Japan well before the name even existed in the rest of the world.
Never have I seen so much controversy after the launch of a new Fujifilm camera as with the X-Pro3. The vast majority has been about the so called “hidden LCD”, but there was also no shortage of the lack of D-pad and the new OVF complainers. Reading recent articles by other X-Photographers who were directly involved in the X-Pro3 development, it seems that the hidden screen idea was likely born “in-house”. Wondering if there was any Sake involved?
Thinking about the LCD design, ex-Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ quote, “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them” comes to mind. Is this hidden LCD saga also a case of “we know better than our customers”? On my little Japan adventure, I was keen to find out. Using the X-Pro3 as it was designed to be with minimal “chimping” would be a good start. Did I really check that LCD that often while shooting? Guess the answer was, yes. Initially it turned out to be hard and confrontational but very rewarding in the end.
As there are less buttons on the camera, it is even more important to take your time to properly set up the camera. On the flight over to Japan, I played several hours, setting up things like the Q menu, My Menu, Function buttons and was happy to find out that the Custom Settings now allow virtually all camera settings to be saved in one of the 7 individual Custom menus. Having given the camera a thoughtful set-up, I never really missed the D-pad or some of the missing dials. If anything, it felt liberating.
THAT FILM LOOK
There is something special about using the XF35F1.4; some talk about its great colour rendering and so called “film look”. Hard to describe, but it definitively feels more like using a vintage lens rather than the latest “digital” glass. What better way to go back to “pure photography” than with this lens!
Whenever a new Film Simulation comes out, it almost always becomes my new favorite! Such was the case for Classic Chrome and Acros several years back and it is once more the case with the new Classic Negative which is based on Superia film stock. I feel even stronger about it this time around! One of the things that always attracts me to shooting in Japan is the different colour palette on the street. Some of these colours almost seem unique to the country and work great with the Classic Neg film simulation; almost like it is made for it! No surprise that it was the only Film Simulation I used.
After having shot almost exclusively with the X-T3 for well over a year now, I must say that I was a bit skeptical at the start of the X-Pro3 trip to Japan. Would I miss the X-T3 LCD, slightly higher magnification EVF and significantly more buttons and dials? I’ve always been a proponent for flip or tilt screens and was happy to see one on the X-Pro series; although being a special one! For “landscape” waist level (and lower) shooting, I actually preferred it to the X-T3. Using it in Portrait mode, felt a bit more awkward.
The X-Pro3 is clearly not a “camera for everyone”, nor was it intended to be. Yes, you can mount an XF100-400 on it but it just looks and feels ridiculous. It is Street/Documentary/Travel photography where the camera feels right in its element, preferably with prime lenses.
The three things that I love most on the X-Pro3 after my Japan trip were; Classic Negative film simulation, the fact that Custom Settings are now much more useful and last but not least, its great looks and the wonderful shooting experience! One and two will more than likely eventually find their way to newer cameras like the X-T3. Number three, not! And that is exactly why I’ve proposed to get married to the X-Pro line. Does a great looking camera take better images? Of course not! But it might stimulate you to go out and shoot more. It surely did so for me in Japan. Pure Photography or not, making meaningful images is what really counts!
The X-Pro3 is all about compromises and possibly some simplification. So is life. After dating for 7 years, I’m now ready to get married!