January 15, 2020

The Fujifilm X-Pro3

Let me start by saying I am a longtime Fujifilm camera fanatic. From the days of the original X-T1, when mirrorless cameras were relatively immature and untested, I was hooked immediately. Sure, the Fujifilm cameras of that era were clunky and didn’t really excel in most any department. They also featured a smaller and lower resolution APS-C sensor than the 35mm full-frame sensors I had grown accustomed to. Yet there was something unmistakably alluring about the way the X-T1 felt in my hands that inspired me to shoot in a completely new way.

Select images from the days of shooting with my first Fujifilm camera, the X-T1

The evolution of my visual style was unquestionably shaped by the Fujifilm photographic aesthetic, going all the way back to the colors and tonality of their original film stocks. After years of shooting with the X-T1 as a secondary camera, the Fujifilm X-Pro2 digital rangefinder was released which I had bought immediately. Although I had been a long-time Nikon shooter, it was this second generation Fujiflim X-series camera that quickly became my favorite camera of all time. Despite having two high-end Nikon camera bodies and a full complement of Nikkor lenses, I consistently found myself reaching for the X-Pro2 every time I left the house. The camera was smaller, lighter, more discreet, and seemingly purpose-made for documenting life. In essence, because it was always with me, it gave me the opportunity to practice “seeing” the world around me, helping shape the way I capture images to this day.

From several years later, a collection of images shot with my Fujifilm X-Pro2

Somewhere around the middle of 2019, rumors of an X-Pro3 started to become a frequent topic of internet speculation amongst the most fervent of Fuji fans. Would it have a new sensor? Would it have internal image stabilization? Perhaps it would finally incorporate an articulating rear display? So many concepts and wishlist specs flooded the digital forums until the day it was finally announced... and when it was, it was as though the entirety of the Fujifilm fan base was collectively shocked into a state of pin-drop silence.

The rear of the Fujifilm X-Pro3, featuring its unique status window and hidden LCD display

While this third generation of the X-Pro camera did indeed receive an updated 26MP APS-C sensor, it dramatically broke from its lineage in a way that was completely unpredicted. The new design practically eliminated the rear display entirely. Where one would expect a backside LCD preview screen, the X-Pro3 instead debuted with a low-resolution status window that (quite intentionally) resembles an old-school, film box-end holder. Of all the rumors swirling around the internet as to what the new X-Pro3 would look like, this concept was certainly not one of them. Of all the features X-Pro2 fans lobbied for in the X-Pro3, none that I knew asked for the elimination of the rear display as a modern day homage to our original film cameras. Sure, the new status window was designed with the option of displaying the camera’s current settings, reassuring the user they’re actually shooting with a digital camera, but it was much more clearly intended to display a digital representation of the Fujifilm film simulation mode the camera is set to. In essence, Fujifilm wanted to go full-on retro with the X-Pro3, even at the expense of practical functionality (some would say).

The Fujifilm X-Pro3 with its rear panel flipped down revealing the otherwise hidden LCD display

But was the new design of the X-Pro3 just a stylistic gimmick or was it something more? Perhaps not wanting to go all the way to the lengths of the Leica M-D, which completely lacks any form of a rear display, the Fujifilm X-Pro3 does hide a bit of a surprise. The rear pane actually folds down to reveal a hidden 1.62m-dot touchscreen panel. Not only does this help satiate the need of the more digitally inclined shooters for things like previewing images and navigating the system menus, but it is also perfect for waist-level shooting. Furthermore, what’s great is the rear panel, when the display is folded, emits no light - the status window is not backlit - ensuring no undue attention is drawn to the camera when in a crowd. The combination of these new ergonomics with a more discrete form factor solidify the X-Pro3 as the ultimate companion camera for reportage and street-style shooting, which is precisely how I intend to use it.

There are, of course, many other changes to the X-Pro3, like the titanium construction of the body itself and the improved optical/electronic hybrid viewfinder, which has always been my preferred way of shooting the X-Pro2 regardless of it having a rear LCD display. Thus, it goes without saying that amidst the controversy of the design changes, I was immediately drawn to this third generation of my all-time favorite camera, and it is one I cannot wait to create with in the coming years.

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