Hands-on with the Fujifilm X-Pro3
Fujifilm has just announced the X-Pro3 – an X-mount mirrorless camera which is styled to look like a classic rangefinder camera, but is built around a modern 26MP APS-C sensor. From a purely specs-based point of view, there’s not a whole lot separating the X-Pro3 from Fujifilm’s other high-end APS-C camera, the X-T3, so the company has doubled down on design philosophy and ergonomics as the main differentiators between the two.
We were certainly curious not only about how the camera would handle, but how some of its out-of-the-ordinary features would impact how we used it. Click through for a closer look at our pre-production X-Pro3.
The rear screen(s)
The X-Pro3 features a unique dual-screen system, which is intended to both encourage use of the hybrid optical / electronic viewfinder (more on that later) and inspire a bit of nostalgia.
The rear status panel, pictured here, defaults to showing you which film simulation you’ve chosen, as well as your white balance and ISO setting. The nostalgia sets in when you notice that the on-screen display changes depending on which film simulation you use, with looks that are inspired by the packaging of Fujifilm’s classic film stocks. It’s the digital equivalent of ripping a portion of the film packaging off the box and tucking it into a slot on the back of your camera – ah, the good ‘ole days.
Though the legibility of the screen is reasonably good (despite fairly low resolution), it lacks a backlight, so you’ll need to rely on ambient lighting to be able to make out what it’s showing. Also, if you’ve programmed any custom buttons to change any of the options shown, be aware that the option you’re changing doesn’t become highlighted. So if you’re still learning the camera, you may hit a custom button intending to change the ISO value, but end up changing the white balance instead.
The rear screen(s)
When the camera is powered down, this is the view that you’ll see – it shows the remaining number of shots on the memory card, your exposure compensation setting (though if you move the exposure compensation dial when the camera is off, the screen will not update until you power it back on) as well as remaining battery life.
Oh, and if film-box nostalgia isn’t your thing, you can configure the panel to show a screen similar to this when the camera is on and in use, and you can customize which options you want to be shown. In this regard, the monitor is akin to a rear-mounted version of the top-plate display on the Fujifilm X-H1.
Now, the bottom-hinged design is where we expect a bit of controversy. It’s a touch-enabled screen, so you can place your desired autofocus point by touching anywhere, and it’s very sharp with a resolution of 1.62 million dots. But the bottom hinge makes it inconvenient and unwieldy for general use. Fujifilm really seems to want you to use the viewfinder.
In our time with the camera, the screen design did indeed encourage us to rely on the viewfinder more than we generally would while still allowing us to get ground-level shots without laying on our stomachs. But of course, some photographers just won’t be able to stomach this design choice, and that’s fine – within Fujifilm’s own lineup there’s always the X-T3’s more conventional screen if you need it.
The hybrid viewfinder has always been a big element of what set the X-Pro series apart, and with the X-Pro3, Fujifilm has completely redesigned it. Let’s start with the viewfinder in its optical mode.
The optics in the finder are a reverse Galilean implementation with an electronic overlay, but the optical formula is all new and offers 0.52x magnification. Unfortunately, gone is the option to change the magnification if you want to use more telephoto lenses. Basically, shooting with anything over 75mm-equivalent will be difficult, as the actual image area corresponds to a pretty small portion of the viewfinder frame. But for Fujifilm’s 23mm, 35mm and 50mm F2 primes, it’s a good fit (the 16mm F2.8 prime actually captures a wider area than the optical viewfinder can show you).
Lastly, you also have to bear in mind the parallax effect when using the optical viewfinder, particularly when changing from nearby to faraway subjects and vice versa – this is because you’re getting a different view than what the sensor is getting through the lens. Unfortunately, Fujifilm has done away with the ability to see where your focus point would show up at infinity as well as where it would show up at minimum focus distance; it only shows your current focus distance, and the minimum. This can make it hard to estimate framing with changing subject distances.
A lever on the front of the camera allows you to switch from the optical viewfinder to a fully-electronic display, similar to what you’d see on other mirrorless cameras. It offers great quality, having 3.69M dots of resolution on a 0.5-inch OLED panel. With a 50mm-equivalent lens, you’re getting 0.66x magnification.
But if you’re not sure whether to choose EVF or OVF, Fujifilm goes one step further by letting you use both, in a way. The viewfinder lever also allows you to enable a pop-up display tab in the corner, showing a live digital view of the portion of your frame that’s directly under your focus area. It’s a handy way to check your critical focus without losing the immediacy the optical finder provides.
Rear panel controls
The rear panel of the X-Pro3 has seen some further changes; the four-way controller is gone, and the ‘View Mode’ button from its predecessor has departed as well. The 8-way AF joystick works well for navigating the menus, and that rear control dial can be pushed inwards, as well as scrolled.
Typically for Fujifilm, the X-Pro 3 features a lot of customization options as well. You can adjust the functionality of the AE-L/AF-L button, the rear dial click-in action, and customize the blank button above the Q button. The Q button gives you access to a Q menu, which can be customized with your choice of 4, 8 12 or 16 commonly used settings.
Top plate controls
The X-Pro3’s top plate controls will be familiar to Fujifilm users, with a dedicated exposure compensation dial and a dual-function shutter speed and ISO dial (you lift this dial to change the ISO value). There’s one custom function button near the shutter and the on/off switch as well.
It’s also worth pointing out that the top and bottom plates of the X-Pro3 are both now made of titanium. This is the base black model, but ‘Duratect’ coated ‘Dura Black’ and ‘Dura Silver’ versions feature increased scratch resistance for a $200 price premium.
Updated sensor and front controls
Here you can see the new 26MP APS-C X-Trans sensor that we first saw in Fujifilm’s X-T3. Given equivalent lenses, this sensor should offer identical image quality and autofocus performance (at least when using the screen or electronic viewfinder) as the X-T3 offers – and we’ve been pretty impressed with what the X-T3 is capable of.
You can also clearly see the EVF / OVF lever here to the upper right of the lens mount, and this has a customizable button within it. There is also a customizable front control dial and the single-continuous-manual focus switch on the bottom right.
The X-Pro3 comes with dual card slots, which is a nice touch. One could argue, of course, that for the way this camera is meant to be used, it’s unlikely that this is a deal-breaking feature for potential buyers. But then again, given the premium pricing, we’re still glad to see them. They can be set up so that Raw and JPEG files are split between them, so that still and movie files are split between them, and also so that one is a redundant backup of the other.
No surprise, the X-Pro3 uses the same NP-W126S battery that is ubiquitous among Fujifilm’s current APS-C mirrorless lineup. The camera is CIPA rated to 440 shots per charge if you use the optical viewfinder, and 370 if you use the EVF – not amazing numbers, but certainly not bad. In our experience, a rating of around 400 shots per charge is likely to last you a day of heavy shooting, or several days of more lighter use.
And of course, you can top the camera battery up over USB-C, which brings us to…
The X-Pro3 has a USB type C port as well as a 2.5mm remote / headphone jack. As mentioned, the USB port supports in-camera battery charging, though with the proper adapter, it can be used as a headphone port for monitoring audio while shooting video. And not that we think this is really a camera for video shooters, but the quality and feature set its capable of are honestly quite impressive. You can read more about its video feature set in our initial review.
Fujifilm X-Pro3 hands-on
And that about does it. There’s no doubt that the X-Pro3 is a strikingly handsome camera. It feels great in the hand, and the controls are excellent and highly customizable. With the right lenses, it’s a fun camera to carry around and shoot. But the screen mechanism and likewise the optical viewfinder, with the limitations that both create, are going to limit the broader appeal of the X-Pro3. But that’s the point – if you want something that has more of a personality to it, get the X-Pro3. You want a generalist camera? The X-T3 might be a better option.
But we’re curious – let us know what you think in the comments. Are you drawn in by the X-Pro 3’s redesigned optical viewfinder and unconventional rear screen? Or, would you rather just have the X-T3? Let us know.