Interviews, Technology

Fuji’s second coming

Fuji's Takashi Ueno with the X-Pro2 he designed

Fuji X-series senior product manager Takashi Ueno talks to Damien Demolder about the X-Pro2, why it took so long, and the possibility of the company going back into the medium format market

Fuji X-Pro1 owners who’ve been waiting for the next generation of their neat little digital rangefinder may well be feeling a good deal older than when they first started waiting. And those who didn’t buy, deciding to wait it out for the follow up instead, might have had the feeling that it was never going to arrive. They’ve kept their hopes alive largely because the original is so nice, but it has a few things that really need fixing.

It is exactly four years since Fuji launched its first interchangeable lens compact system camera, and while it has introduced a number of very attractive alternatives since then, they have been just that – alternatives. The X-Pro1 is a very distinctive camera with its rangefinder styling and its unique viewfinder, and if that is the kind of camera you like to use the X-T1 isn’t going to fill its shoes. In a market in which we might expect updates for this sort of model every couple of years, the X-Pro2 seems pretty overdue.

I suspect though that many of those waiting for this camera will quickly forget the pain of the delay when they see the specification and the improvements that the company has included to make the X-Pro really stand out once again as the flagship of the X-series range of cameras. It’s easy to forget that it’s the X-Pro class that is supposed to lead the Fuji X pack, as it had fallen so far behind the X-T cameras, particularly the X-T1.

Fuji X-Pro2

Takashi Ueno, senior product manager for the X series at Fuji’s Tokyo HQ, says the X-Pro2 – announced today – was planned for last year, but the project was delayed as the company made improvements to the imaging sensor. The improvements required a better processor. And once the better processor was secured they realised that it could drive additional improvements to image quality and functionality, so the launch was put on hold until these were implemented. The camera’s processor is indeed very powerful, and although it is capable of working with 4K video, Fuji decided not to add the function to the new camera. “We wanted to keep the X-Pro2 as a pure photographer’s camera,” explains Ueno. “We don’t think video is important to the sort of photographer this camera is aimed at.’

Fuji X-Pro2

Fuji has also chosen not to change the design of the X-Pro series, so the new model looks very much like the first. Essentially there is hardly any change to the appearance of the body. “The X-Pro cameras are the flagship of the Fuji X range,” says Ueno, “and they should have a clear and definite style. We spoke to many photographers about the X-Pro1 while we were designing the X-Pro2, and they agreed that there wasn’t very much that needed to change. The X-Pro cameras look very different to the X-T cameras, but very similar to each other. From a short distance it isn’t possible for most people to tell them apart.” Indeed, the differences are slight. For example, the X-Pro2 has a new setting on its exposure compensation dial that allows +/-5EV shifts to be applied – a facility missing from all other X-Series models.

Fuji X-Pro2

Although the company has now released a compact camera with a touch screen – the X-70 – the design team determined that this wasn’t an appropriate facility for its top-end camera. “It is more suited to consumer products,” says Ueno. “In the X-Pro2 we have a very advanced viewfinder, with both optical and digital displays, and this is a strong reason that professional photographers are attracted to the camera. We don’t think that touch screen focusing and controls will be important for these users.” The X-Pro2 viewfinder remains unique in its proposition of blending optical and digital views of what is to be captured, and in this new model the company has improved the range of options to allow a digital display to appear as a small window in the corner of the optical finder. This enables the photographer to preview white balance, exposure and to see a magnified view that assists manual focusing. And the camera is still the only AF digital rangefinder on the market.

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