Fuji cameras have always intrigued me. A long time ago, one of my first students had a Fuji Finepix S3, which was housed in a Nikon body. There was always something a little different about her pictures, and I continue to see that from all the Fuji shooters I know.
Fujifilm lent me the new X-Pro3 for a couple of weeks, and I had a good time using it. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough time. This camera can do so much that I didn’t even get to try. So rather than a review, this is a too-short look at the Fuji X-Pro3. Let me sum up this post: I would happily buy this camera. Stick around and I’ll tell you some of the reasons why.
The X-Pro3 has a 26.1MP X-Trans CMOS 4 sensor. That’s an APS-C-sized sensor (also called a “cropped sensor”). It also has the X-Processor4 to handle the pictures and 4K videos. Its ISO range is from 160 to 12,800. It’ll take any of Fuji’s lenses and has a 3″ LCD screen.
It’s a mirrorless camera built in the rangefinder style. For those of us born after the 70s, a rangefinder doesn’t let you look through the lens like an SLR does. Instead, there’s a viewfinder mounted on the corner of the body that has a square inside that represents the view offered through the lens. This style of film camera was always more compact than an SLR and often favored by street shooters.
The X-Pro3 has all the dials and knobs you’d expect from a Fuji camera, including a functioning aperture ring on the lenses.
Really cool features
The first thing you’ll notice is the viewfinder. It’s both an optical viewfinder and a digital viewfinder, which is weird and awesome. You can look through it with the camera powered off, which is nice. When the camera is powered on, it projects a square that shows what the field of view is with the lens you’ve chosen — you see a bigger square with a wide-angle lens and a smaller square with a longer lens.
But then you flip a switch and a cover closes the viewfinder and you see a high-resolution digital image instead. That view is coming through the lens and onto the sensor, just like any mirrorless camera. The view is very sharp. Playback in the viewfinder is especially nice to use. Fuji calls it a Hybrid Multi Viewfinder.
One of my favorite things about the viewfinder is that it is mounted on the corner. If you’re right-eyed, it means your nose isn’t mashed against the camera body to look in the viewfinder. If you’re left-eyed, it doesn’t make a significant difference.
The rear LCD is large and high resolution. But it doesn’t work as you might expect. It only flips downward, and there’s no option to have it viewable while flat against the camera’s body. This is intentional. You’re supposed to use the viewfinder to make pictures. It’s handy that it flips down for working on a tripod, but it would be nice if it swiveled for working on a tripod in portrait orientation.
When closed, the LCD displays the picture style you’ve chosen, as if you’d tucked the label from your film box into the slot on the back to remember what film you have loaded. That display is an LCD, and it is always powered on, but it’s not backlit and uses very little power. This is a nostalgic feature that is fun. I shoot in RAW, so I can choose the picture style later.
If you’re reading this in 2020, and not in 1974, then the control dials are significantly different than you’re accustomed to on a camera made by almost anyone other company. Again, it’s a nostalgic layout that is fun to learn to use. There are some small advantages for candid shooters to setting the exposure dials while the camera is off. You may even realize the relationship between aperture, ISO and shutter speed a little better as you make adjustments.
Certainly, if you’ve just picked this camera up, you’ll feel making adjustments is slower. In fact, it’s slow whenever you change camera brands, but it’s not so weird on the X-Pro3 that you wouldn’t master in a short time.
Plus, there are dials and buttons that can be programmed to work just like your Canon. But you should give it a chance with the provided layout. Who knows? Maybe forcing you do things a little differently will enable you to see things a little differently, too.
I found the menus logically designed. There sure are a lot of options, though. Like I said, I didn’t have enough time with this camera. When I opened the video menu I got very excited by all the options. I know a guy who shoots all kinds of commercial videos using Fuji cameras, and the options I saw there made it clear that it’s a very capable camera.
I think you won’t have trouble navigating the menus. There are a few things named slightly differently than some other cameras, but the names make sense.
The pictures are terrific. The lenses I got were the 50mm and the 23mm and they are sharp and the colors are true. The 26 megapixels are pushing the limit for me. I prefer fewer pixels with more quality, but this sensor and processor make good images.
The sensor is totally different from sensors in Nikon, Canon, Sony, Olympus, Pentax and Lumix cameras. Those cameras all use a Bayer sensor, whereas the Fuji uses the X-Trans sensor. The X-Trans sensor has a fundamentally-different layout of the color-receptors that can help eliminate any kind of moire and should help record more true colors. This is the thing that immediately appears different about Fuji pictures. Coupled with their latest processor, it records terrific images even at high ISOs.
High ISO performance
I think the high ISO performance is very good. I shot in the dark at the highest setting, 12,800, and the noise is not chunky and the colors appear very good, too.
Below is a picture of thousands of crows in the parking lot at Walmart. Even from afar you can see their beaks glistening in the light. You can read the signs and see the varying colors of blue. In the background, you can see the reds and yellows in signs look normal, too. I think the color range at high ISO is remarkable, as is the detail. (The tree is out of focus, so ignore that.)
Sometimes image quality breaks down during long exposures, but the X-Pro3 does a good job. This is a 28-second exposure at Hoover Dam. Check out the details in the processed version. The ISO was 400. Even after brightening a whole lot, the noise is very manageable. Look at the bottom of the frame where the road curves: It was totally black to my eyes, but the sensor captured details that brightened up remarkably well. I used Lightroom for global adjustments to tone and white balance.
Here’s another. The dark pictures look comfortable being black, and I like that about this camera.
HDR and dynamic range
The camera offers several bracketing modes for making HDR images. However, the native RAW files have a good range on their own. Here’s a before and after using Lightroom on a single image.
Here’s a before and after using Aurora HDR on a five-frame bracket.
Film Simulation modes
Fuji shooters love their film simulation modes. The film simulation modes offer several different styles that are supposed to simulate FUJIFILM styles. Lightroom and Luminar both support these styles in RAW files so you can choose them after the fact. Here’s what the options look like in Lightroom.
The black and white options are very good. There’s ACROS with green, red, or yellow filters as well as regular monochrome with the same filter options.
The color options are interesting. They look so much like shooting with FUJIFILM and I think they set the standard for many of the presets and filters out there that mimic film looks. As a result, I personally have a hard time loving them. They remind me of Instagram filters, which just aren’t my style. But using them as a launching point for finishing portraits offers a lot of options.
These two snapshots are straight out of the camera.
More camera stuff
The Fuji X-Pro3 has two SD card slots and it’s compatible with the fastest UHS-II SDXC cards. These cards take data from the camera faster so that you can keep shooting continuously. They’re especially important for 4K video shat faster speeds. Fuji even offers their own branded SD cards.
The camera has a 2.5mm microphone input and a USB-C port. You can plug headphones into the USB-C port to monitor video sound. You can also use that port to charge the battery while in the camera.
It’s got a hotshoe and supports TTL flash as well as flash remotes. There is enough room around the tripod mount to leave a plate and still access the battery door.
Would I buy this camera?
Every review comes down to, “Would I buy this camera?” Of course, that’s an easy thing to speculate about when I already have a camera right here and I’m not really in the market for anything new. The fact is, this camera makes me want to upset that situation and buy it anyway.
I like using the camera, and I like the pictures it makes. The lenses I used are terrific and I know the whole lineup is very good. It would take some practice and reprogramming buttons to get things set the way I like so the features I need most are right on-hand, but it’s doable. The most basic fact is that I like the picture results a whole lot.
But is it enough to make me sell my lighter, smaller Lumix camera system and replace it all with this? Not yet. Not quite. Maybe.
If you’re looking for a new camera, this is a good one to consider. Now, It says “Pro” in the name, and it is aimed at that level of feature set as well as that price. It’s about $1,800, and that’s not cheap. But I do think the value you get from this camera for that price is a little better than what you will get from many other similarly priced cameras.
It’s a fancy looking camera with a trendy style, and you can get it black or silver. If you want a camera that pretends to shoot film, you could just get a camera that actually shoots film for less than $100. You’d be surprised how at much film you can shoot and develop for $2,000. But, this offers video and the convenience of digital photography as well.
My recommendation would be to rent the Fuji X-Pro3 for a week and see if you can make the pictures you need to. If you’re a hobbyist, it’s a marvelous camera. If you’re a pro shooter, you need to evaluate its features against your needs. But I suspect it’ll do what you need it to. Check out the Fuji X-Pro3 for yourself.