And then there were three

Started 3 weeks ago | User reviews thread
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And then there were three
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There will be some members of this forum who click on this review with a hearty sigh, having seen who’s written it. They’ll be well aware that I’ve had lots to say about this camera on the fuji boards before now, and have criticised it many times since its launch a year ago, slamming the controversial design choices that are its hallmark. Why on earth has this idiot waited until now to post a “review” of this camera he hates and has never used, they’ll be wondering. It’s a fair question, and only partially explained by the fact that I bought the X-Pro3 a month ago and have been using it ever since.

Look, in many ways, this plot twist was inevitable. I would never have gotten so angry about the X-Pro3 in the past, if it wasn’t for the fact that I love these cameras and have an emotional investment in the X-Pro series. I’ve used the X-Pro1 and then X-Pro2 continually for more than five years now - they’re my niche. That thing that drew me to them, the core appeal of mirrorless technology married with a hybrid optical finder and old school analogue controls, is still there in the X-Pro3 - and crucially can only be found there. It continues to be like nothing else on the market. If I wanted a “better”, faster X-Pro2 (and the fact is, I did) the X-Pro3 was the only place I could go. So finally, grudgingly, that’s where I went.

Prior to buying the camera, and still now, I find myself annoyed at the contradictions it embodies. I’ve moaned on about most of this before, but they still annoy me now -

All the contradictory stuff that bothers me:

  • The hidden screen hides away the menus, but the removal of the D-pad (and four custom buttons) inevitably means you need to dive into those menus more often - particularly since the touch gestures meant to replace the custom buttons on other cameras are also hidden on that screen.
  • Removing the D-Pad can be excused for aesthetic and space reasons, but the removal of the button built into the front command dial neither saves any space or has any cosmetic impact. By default, Fuji actually expect you to waste one of your few remaining Fn buttons to change between the two functions of this dial, rather than simply clicking the dial itself as on every other recent Fuji (including the X-Pro2). It’s a minor inconvenience in the scheme of things, but smacks of miserly penny pinching on the bill of parts, and just compounds the shortage of buttons even further.
  • Hiding the screen inside the flip should make the camera more robust and less prone to screen damage - except that on the back of the flip is another vulnerable, glass-covered display. Screen protectors for the X-Pro3 include films for two screens rather than one!
  • With no separate power brick you’re expected to use the camera itself as a charger over USB-C - annoying, but worse is that despite all the titanium flying around, the port cover for the USB-C connection is the flimsiest piece of plastic ever. Gone is the proper metal hinge of the X-Pro2’s door, in favour of a loose bit of plastic which looks ready to drop off at any minute. Fortunately I don’t do video and I own a separate Fuji charger, so I have no intention of ever opening that flap again.
  • Chimping - Fuji put so much effort into the anti-chimping marketing around this camera and managed to annoy so many people, and yet it’s still trivially easy to chimp in the viewfinder and that’s pretty much the only way I chimped on my X-Pro2 anyway.

Things I like/love largely in spite of myself:

  • The solidity of the screen and its hinge. If we have to have a flip screen, it should feel like this. I remember being a bit shocked by how plastic the screen surround on the XT3 felt, and neither my XT1 or XT3 screen ever sat properly flush when closed as there was always a little give in the hinge assembly on those cameras. This is history with the X-Pro3 - the screen swings down with a very positive feel and closes again with a satisfying thunk exactly as it should. I’m one of those who doesn’t use bags or cases and just carries my camera out in the open on a strap, where it’s likely to bump along by my side - and the XP3’s screen is built for that.
  • PDAF across the frame. With the X-Pro2 I got into the bad habit of always favouring the central portion of the frame for focussing because it was so much faster than the outer contrast-detect-only area, and this sometimes had a negative affect on my framing and composition. I really enjoy having the freedom now to place my focus point anywhere, in the knowledge that it makes no difference to the speed of acquisition - something that hasn’t been the case since the X-Pro1, where everything was CDAF!
  • The film box tab - this very nearly made it into the negative list, because its very dim and not a lot of use most of the time, and I don’t see any value to it as a “submonitor” info screen when it’s just repeating info you can see on the physical dials or in the viewfinder. But in truth seeing the little film sim illustrations make me smile, I like the whimsy behind it and the fact that somebody at Fuji spent time designing labels for these sims, some of which never really existed in the real world.
  • The titanium. I never felt the previous X-Pro’s weren’t durable and I still suspect the use of titanium is something of a marketing gimmick, but in the flesh it does inspire confidence. Due to the nature of the material the top plate of the XP3 has a more rounded, organic look to it than the carved and sharp-edged XP2, as if it’s in a slightly more casual suit - and I like that. I went for the black rather than dura, it’ll get scratched and worn because that’s what happens to cameras that get used - it’s natural.
  • Bluetooth. Not a new thing in the world of Fuji I know, and not without its bugs, but coming from the XP2 I like the Bluetooth connectivity to my phone and particularly the easy geotagging on the fly.
  • The hidden screen - there, I’ve admitted it. It’d be churlish not to admit the flip down screen is useful for low down shots, or that switching between viewfinder and screen isn’t made simpler (if not necessarily faster) by the change. It’s easier to shoot from the hip with this camera than the X-Pro2, or even something like the XT3 with its fiddlier setup.
  • The new film sims and jpeg options - classic neg on its own is great, and the addition of the chrome effects, clarity, and the fact that white balance adjustments can now be saved as part of Custom settings makes the camera perfect for more advanced simulation “recipes”. For the first time I have convincing Kodachrome and Ektar sims available on mine.

Out and out disappointments:

Given how much this camera has been debated and how much I knew about it going in, using it has really resulted in only one disappointment for me, and that’s the viewfinder.

Now of course I knew about the loss of dual magnification (and the fact that my 18mm now lacks frame lines) - but what I expected to find was an improved, bigger and brighter OVF in other ways, and that I’m just not seeing. I’m sure it’s bigger and brighter on paper but I don’t find it particularly noticeable over the XP2 I’ve been using for the past three years, and at times I’ve found the frame lines to be little dim and harder to see. It’s not a dealbreaker but it is disappointing for such an obviously viewfinder-centric camera.

As for the EVF - again this gets a bit of a shrug from me. It may be my eyes but I never found the X-Pro2’s EVF to be a problem, and nor do I find the X-Pro3’s to be much of an improvement. I’m sure side by side there’s a difference but for me, it’s subtle and not worth the apparent cost to the OVF.

Am I a convert?

In a word, yes, I’ve gone from being one of the X-Pro3’s biggest critics on this forum, to being - if not a complete fan - a contented user. At its heart it’s very much still an X-Pro, the screen change doubles down on that while making for some more fun at different shooting angles. While I’ll slightly miss the freedom to easily shoot at arms length, it’s not such a hindrance that it outweighs the other advantages. Is the screen exactly how I would have designed it, probably not, but would I have been happier with any of the other flippy screen designs on the back of my X-Pro - no, I don’t think I would.

I still wish they would have kept the older hybrid finder design though, and that - rather than the rear screen - is ultimately the biggest compromise for me on this camera. It’s a shame, but not so much that it keeps this from being the best X-Pro body to date.

 Threaded's gear list:Threaded's gear list
Fujifilm X-E1 Fujifilm X-Pro3 Fujifilm XF 18mm F2 R Fujifilm XF 35mm F1.4 R Fujifilm XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS
Fujifilm X-Pro3
26 megapixels • 3 screen • APS-C sensor
Announced: Oct 23, 2019
Threaded's score
4.5
Average community score
4.2
bad for good for
Kids / pets
good
Action / sports
good
Landscapes / scenery
great
Portraits
great
Low light (without flash)
great
Flash photography (social)
okay
Studio / still life
good
= community average
Fujifilm X-Pro1 Fujifilm X-Pro2 Fujifilm X-Pro3 Fujifilm X-T1 Fujifilm X-T3
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