Fujifilm X Summit and the X-Pro3

Last Friday, Fujifilm Japan held a “Fujifilm X Summit” in Shibuya to talk about a few upcoming developments. Toshi Iida, General Manager hosted alongside Shin Udono, Senior Manager, and Takashi Ueno, Senior Manager from Fujifilm as well as X-Photographers Bert Stephani and Tomasz Lazer.

XF 33mm 50mm F1 WR

The XF 33mm F1 WR was due to be officially announced anytime now, but it seems Fuji were a little too quick to add the lens to the roadmap. Back in July I wondered if it was premature to proclaim the lens as “world’s first mirrorless lens with an F/1 maximum aperture.” They are indeed sticking to F/1, but the focal length has been extended from 33mm to 50mm.

There are exactly two reasons for this; size, and weight.

When Fuji announced the XF 33mm F1 WR, I envisioned a lens about the size and weight of the XF 56mm F1.2. Early mockups of the XF 33mm F1 WR were already much larger, in around XF 90mm F2 WR territory, and since then—despite Toshi’s insistence the team make it smaller—it has actually become larger. In order to achieve excellent image quality from the centre of the frame through to the edges, and eliminate all the resulting aberrations, we were looking at a lens with 15 elements (the XF 35mm F1.4 has only 8), and over 1.3 kilograms in weight. The lens was so large, it was going to include a tripod mount, like the ones found in telephoto lenses. For a 50mm equivalent, that’s more than a little nuts.

The new XF 50mm F1 WR promises to be 35% smaller, with a target weight of under 900g (still pretty damn heavy), and we are to expect “50% richer bokeh.” I have no idea how one measures bokeh in terms of percent—there could be something lost in translation here—but at least some of this will come down to the change in focal length.

On the subject, I’m a little disappointed by the focal length change—50mm in 35mm equivalence is my jam—but it is absolutely the right call to keep X Series kit small and light. Bert wryly stated he was fine with the change, provided Fuji update the XF 35mm F1.4. Hear hear to that. I’ve moved back the original 35 myself, weather permitting.

Firmware Functions

Fujifilm Japan have a long list of customer-requested functions, which is to be expected. There are 20 or so commonly requested items, of which they shared what are apparently the top 9. Of those 9, they shared 3 functions are currently in development. Not the top 3, rather the top 3-5 requested features. Although I must call into question a couple of these requested functions.

On order of preference, those functions are:

Multiple shot for HDR

Cool, but if this is just for JPEG, I’m not super interested. If Fuji were able to somehow stack the dynamic range of multiple exposures into an HDR RAF, I’d be psyched. This feature strikes me as a response to things like “Smart HDR” and “computational photography.” Hopefully Fuji crushes it on their first attempt, otherwise they are going to be awfully far behind.

Focus Bracketing

Fuji’s demonstration shows 109 AF point calculations that can be combined ”on the PC in software” to create a sharp image. Also cool, but we'll need more concrete info. I definitely don’t want 109 frames to import and merge in post.

Multiple Exposure increased from 2 to 9 images

My first thought was “Who the hell is asking for this?” Honestly, I wish I could remove the Multiple Exposure functionality from my camera altogether to avoid the odd occasion is gets triggered accidentally. Doing this stuff in camera is about as useful as the Toy Camera effect is to me, but apparently people want more of it.

Gimbal and Drone Compatibility

A bonus function that wasn’t on the list. Buttons on gimbals will soon actually work, and key functions like shutter speed, exposure settings, and focus will be adjustable from both gimbal and drone controls. Big step up from just Start and Stop (recording).

Which Cameras?

One item of note is we don’t have any idea which cameras these features are in development for. Given Fuji has called these features “firmware functions” certainly suggests they will be coming to cameras that are already available. My guess is at least X-Trans IV, but it would strange to exclude the X-H1, so perhaps X-Trans III cameras will also be included.

X-Pro3

Now we get to the main event. A teaser for the development of the X-Pro3. Toshi set the whole thing up talking about “Pure Photography,” and asks “Why don’t we go back to basics?” Both of which sound familiar, but as I’ve quipped a number of times in the past, Fuji has delivered on what Nikon promised with the DF, seemingly without even trying.

Pure Photography

“Pure Photography” is described as having 3 parts:

  1. Carry & Access
  2. Find & Frame
  3. Shoot to Express (pressing shutter most important)

This in turn was broken out into 4 categories: Size, Weight, Discreet, and Durable. The rest of the presentation only loosely tied back to these items, but it’s worth understanding the thinking behind the X-Pro3’s direction.

Titanium

Toshi started with Durability. The X-Pro3 will be machined from titanium, a material largely abandoned for being too difficult to work with due to manufacturing challenges, and heat dissipation. But, as Toshi put it, Fuji “found a way.”

DuraBlack and DuraSilver

An added coating will (optionally?) be added to make the camera even tougher. Fuji calls these “DuraBlack” and “DuraSilver.” Standard black will seemingly also be available, but it is unclear whether this added finish will come at a premium. I suspect it will be treated the same as “Graphite Silver” was, and at least this finish adds function in addition to form, in that it will be 10 times more resistant to scratches than steel. My days of sweating over my camera getting scratched are behind me, but I totally understand this is important to people.

It will be interesting to see how the combination of Titanium and Dura finish stacks up against, say, the thicker magnesium and “hammer tone finish” of the X-H1. There was casual mention of the X-Pro3 feeling light, but no official claims of it being lighter than the X-Pro2. That suggests it is tougher without increase in weight.

This is good stuff, provided the X-Pro3 doesn’t run into any thermal issues. Given the combination of build materials, and pure photographic vision, it’s possible we could be looking at relatively limited video functionality in the X-Pro3. Personally, I’d be A-OK with it not even shooting video. Can’t get much more pure than that.

Also, “DuraBlack” looks hot. That’s definitely my choice of finish.

Hybrid Viewfinder

Both the OVF and EVF have been upgraded.

OVF

  • Clearer
  • Less distortion
  • Wider angle of view

The first two points are great. On the last, it sounds like there is more room for the viewfinder frame when using wider lenses like either of the 23mm, but I hope the viewfinder is also larger.

EVF via brand new panel

  • Higher resolution
  • Higher contrast
  • Wider colour space
  • Brighter
  • Higher frame rate

The one thing missing from that list that I really wanted to see was magnification. Once you get used to the EVF on an X-T or X-H, going back to the X-Pro takes a little getting used to.

The UI of both EVFs looks updated well. The text on the OVF has more white backing, and Fuji has introduced blue into the UI. It looks really nice.

Hidden LCD

Undoubtedly the most controversial portion of the announcement, the X-Pro3 will sport what we know as the “Sub Monitor” from the GFX 50s, 100, and X-H1 on the back. The LCD flips down for when it does come time to review your images. The Sub Monitor can also display your Film Simulation Mode in a nice graphic representation of the film packaging. It looks great, and feels very Hipstamatic.

My initial reaction is that it feels a bit gimmicky, and at the very least, extremely niche. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing. I love Fuji’s commitment to Pure Photography, but no one should expect big sales figures out of this thing. At least left-eye shooters won’t have to worry about nose smudges on their LCD anymore.

New Film Simulation, Classic Negative

It looks nice, and I’m sure like ACROS and CLASSIC CHROME before it, it will be the new Film Simulation hotness for a while. Which current cameras will be bestowed this new Film Simulation Mode, I wonder. I hope at the very least it trickles down to any X-Trans IV cameras (X-T3/X-T30).

Official Announcement

The X-Pro3 will be officially announced October 23, 2019, preceding “FujiFest” which is set to hit cities around the world, but hugely disappointingly, none in Canada.

Thoughts

You’ll notice I haven’t complained about the lack of a D-pad yet. I had intended to, but after some thought, I’m not sure a camera of this kind really needs one as much. I do think we are going to want, if not need more access to Function buttons. Press and hold a button, turn a command dial, and watch the setting change on the Sub Monitor. One of the key features of the D-pad is being able to use the directional buttons as Function buttons when I’m not navigating menus. The way the mockup looks now, owners will either have to flip the screen open to make adjustments, or peer through the viewfinder, which can be a really clunky experience. Unless Fuji comes up with a way of using the Sub Monitor fr that, but I won’t hold my breath on that.

Early Reactions

Based on replies on Twitter, and what I’ve seen online, reactions to the X-Pro3’s new design are mixed to say the least. There’s certainly some love for the idea, and Fuji’s willingness to put all their wood behind this arrow, but there are about as many people wondering if Fuji have their collective heads screwed on tight.

My Reaction

The X-Pro3 is decidedly old school, and borderline hipster, but I can definitely get behind thinking if the user experience lives up to the Pure Photography mantra. I think I’ll have a really hard time recommending a camera that is so purpose-built to anyone who might dabble in many different genres. But then, that’s entirely the point of “purity,” isn’t it?