What's new and how it compares

Key takeaways:

  • Hidden rear LCD only really usable for waist-level shooting, encouraging use of viewfinder
  • Rear status / film mode panel is interesting more than it is practical
  • Optical viewfinder has fixed magnification
  • Larger OLED panel boosts contrast in electronic viewfinder mode
  • New processing options including a new Film Simulation mode, 'clarity' adjustment and tinted mono images

That screen

Perhaps the defining feature of the X-Pro3 is a rear LCD that faces in towards the camera and needs to be flipped down if you wish to use it. This and a rear-facing status panel, showing camera settings or a simulated carton flap representing the camera's Film Simulation mode set the camera apart.

A lot of photographers are likely to be immediately put off by the occlusion of what's become a common (and completely legitimate) way of shooting a mirrorless camera. But there are two key groups who won't feel its loss in the slightest: street shooters who've been calling for an X-Pro that can be shot from waist level, and traditionalists who would rather use the viewfinder (and might even appreciate the encouragement to do so).

Want a camera that not only looks like a classic rangefinder but also demands that you use it more like one? The X-Pro3 is for you.

This is, to an extent, understandable. The X-Pro2's raison d'etre became rather less clear when the arguably more capable X-T2 was introduced. The X-T3, which excels at both stills and video, is an even more difficult act for a new X-Pro to follow, so Fujifilm has engineered a distinction. Want a camera that will do a bit of everything? Look at the X-T3. Want a camera that not only looks like a classic rangefinder but also demands that you use it more like one? Then the X-Pro3 is for you.

Four words on the base of the camera tell you a lot about Fujifilm's intent for the X-Pro3

The option to have the rear status panel act as a Film Simulation window doesn't exactly run counter to this push to deliver a 'traditional' experience. Add in the combined ISO/Shutter Speed dial from the previous model, and it becomes clear that being perceived as distinctive and impressive are key to the X-Pro3's standing. These efforts are likely to either lure you in or leave you completely cold, but that, it seems, is part of the point.

Rear status panel

The square panel on the back of the X-Pro3 is emblematic of the camera as a whole. It can show the camera's current settings (and the details of which settings are shown can be configured separately for stills and video mode), or it can show a graphic representation of the film carton flap that relates to the Film Simulation mode currently in use.

The rear screen shows a customizable status panel or a representation of the current Film Simulation. It's one or the other, though: ISO and white balance are the only settings shown in Film Simulation mode

It's an eight-color display with a fairly limited viewing angle, and is most clearly seen when tilted away from you at a 45 degree angle (i.e. when you're holding the camera away from your body and tilting it forward) and, at 176 x 176 pixels, it's fairly low resolution. Because it's a memory LCD, it can retain its last-shown image with very little battery drain.

Ti construction

Fujifilm's X-series has generally embraced a willfully 'classic' design language, with the X100 and X-Pro series in particular rather closely resembling some famous rangefinder designs. Part of that is very much an attempt to make its cameras, particularly the higher-end models, appear as desirable objects, in addition to being functional photographic tools.

To that end, Fujifilm has switched from the magnesium alloys commonly used in high-end cameras to titanium for the top and bottom plates of the X-Pro3. Three versions will be available: a painted black model and coated models called Dura Black and Dura Silver. The coated versions use the Duratect coating developed by the Citizen watch company, which is a multi-stage surface hardening process. Fujifilm's descriptions are consistent with the Duratect DLC (Diamond-like Carbon) process (previous offered on custom versions of the Pentax KP).

New viewfinder

Fujifilm has developed a new version of its optical/electronic hybrid viewfinder. It still offers a fully electronic mode, an optical mode with electronic overlays and a 'digital rangefinder' mode that projects a magnified view of the AF area onto a pop-up tab in the corner of the optical finder.

The new version, however, is larger than the version in the X-Pro1 and X-Pro2 and its electronic component is provided by an OLED display panel, rather than the LCD one in the old camera. This increases the contrast ratio from the 1:300 offered by the X-Pro2 to 1:5000, a difference that becomes really apparent if you choose to project the image from the AF area into the pop-up corner tab. The revised optics boost the EVF's magnification from 0.59x to 0.66x. It will refresh at up to 100 fps in Boost mode.

Through the optical finder this camera is happiest when using primes of around 23-50mm

Unfortunately, these improvements in the EVF appear to come at the expense of the slot-in magnifier that was used in the optical viewfinder of the older models. Instead of having 0.36x and 0.60x magnification modes, the X-Pro3 splits the difference with a fixed 0.52x magnification.

This means you can't really frame using a wide-angle lens: the 23mm F2 lens (35mm in full-frame terms) can't show framing brightlines if focused at infinity, but will for most practical working distances. And, at the other end of things, anything over about a 56mm (85 equiv) ends up using such a small area as to be almost unusable (experienced Leica M-series rangefinder users may, of course, disagree).

Video specifications

The X-Pro2, with its detailed 1080p video capture, represented a big step forward for Fujifilm video but was then humbled by the 4K-capable X-T2 (at least until some of the higher res features were added in post-launch firmware).

Again, despite sharing much of its hardware with the X-T3, the X-Pro3 has a more modest video spec than its SLR-shaped sibling. It can capture 4K in both UHD and DCI resolutions, right out of the box, and also shoots 1080 at up to 120p. It omits the 400 Mbps capture rates and 10-bit capabilities of the T3, though. Again, if you find yourself thinking 'I'd never accept such artificial limitations,' then it might be a sign that Fujifilm has done a good job of making a distinction between the two ranges.

New Image Processing options

The X-Pro3 brings a couple of additions to its processing arsenal and a couple of refinements to its existing functions and gains the ability to output TIFFs if you want a highly editable file with the camera's color already applied.

The most obvious addition is the 'Classic Color Neg' Film Simulation mode. This is a moderately high contrast, middling saturation mode with a little bit of a color shift. Fujifilm doesn't explicitly name a film stock it's trying to mimic. Like the other Film Simulations, it's worth trying (either directly or by re-processing some of your favorite shots, in-camera), to see whether/when you'd like to use it.

There's also a 'Color Chrome FX Blue' option, which appears to slightly darken near-clipped blue tones in the image, giving a richer, more saturated appearance. Like the standard Color Chrome Effect, it can be applied in real-time without slowing the camera down, or applied retrospectively.

There's also now a 'Clarity' adjustment option available in all film simulation modes. This has a +/- 5 scale and punches up the local contrast of the image in a manner similar to the slider in Adobe Camera Raw.

The 'Grain Effect' that can be applied to images gains a Large/Small grain size option, in addition to the Strong/Weak intensity control.

Acros Film Simulation (green filter) with weak, large Grain Effect and cool tint applied to the image. Tone curve adjusted to Shadows +4.
Fujinon 56mm F1.2 | ISO 320 | F2 | 1/60 sec
Photo: Richard Butler

The other change in terms of Film Simulation modes is the ability to choose the tint applied to monochrome images. The tint (though not its saturation level) can be adjusted using a Warm/Cool, Magenta/Green grid, much like the one used for white balance fine tuning. This tint is then applied to images shot in the Acros and Monochrome film modes.

On the subject of fine adjustment, the X-Pro3 now lets you specify a Kelvin color temperature in 10 Kelvin steps, rather than the preset values with 50-900 Kelvin jumps that the older cameras have.

Finally, the camera's Highlight and Shadow adjustments have been combined into a single 'Tone Curve' setting, which shows you the impact of your adjustments on a tone curve diagram, removing any uncertainty from whether a positive Shadows shift makes the shadows darker or brighter or darker.

Additional new functions

Focus Limiter

In the X-Pro3's AF/MF menus there's now the ability to set close and far distances for the AF system to operate within, speeding up focus and reducing the risk of the camera refocusing on something other than the intended target. This may be handy for street shooting and may make portrait focus slightly more snappy, but it's a feature we'd like to see appear in the X-T series, where it'll particularly help with sports shooting.

Focus Bracketing

Focus bracketing isn't new to the X-Pro3, but the ability to set the near and far points over which the camera ranges, is. You can specify how much of a delay occurs between shots, and then manual focus to define where the camera will start and finish the bracketing. The camera will calculate how many frames to take between those two extremes, based on the lens and your selected aperture value.

Compared with its peers

It's difficult to identify direct peers for the X-Pro3, in that no other camera offers anything like the hybrid viewfinder that defines the camera. Although they look similar, Leica's M series cameras end up being very different, in part because they're all now full frame, but also because they are actual rangefinder cameras, which means they give a very different experience again (not least in that they're inherently manual focus).

The camera it's probably easiest to compare against is the X-T3, not least because they share most of their internal hardware, as well as a lens mount. The differences are, it could be argued, somewhat artificial.

The Pro3 currently has a few extra processing features, but these may appear in X-T3 firmware in the future, so the main difference come down to viewfinders and screens. And yet this makes a tremendous difference to what the cameras are like to shoot with. The X-T3 can be shot in a number of ways: through the EVF, via the rear screen. The X-Pro3 is a different beast: you have to use the optical/electronic viewfinder or shoot at waist level with the rear screen.

These restrictions, that effectively demand that you treat the X-Pro3 more like a film camera are likely to seem pointless to some people but perhaps charming or invigorating to others. And that, more than any spec point we can list in a table, is the distinction.