Digital Cameras

Fujifilm X-Pro3 Part Three: Four Days with Four cameras – By David Hume

July 8, 2020

Having used the Fuji X-Pro3 now for six months, it’s time for the final of this three-part series. To call this a review would be a bit strong. It began last year with Hamish suggesting that I put a few thoughts together after I’d mentioned this new camera to him in passing. So this is more like a series of observations and user experiences than a straight review (of which there are a million out there already.) But while my views are highly subjective and my use of the camera is narrow in its scope, Hamish and I both figured that this might be of interest to the 35mmc clan, starting with initial thoughts and then followed by a couple of updates about how the camera was working out for me.

A snap with the XP3 and 7 Artisans 35 f1.2 when the light went all nice.

First light on the beach, stopping down for some blur.  I made some pics on the Fuji and also used it to get an exposure for my FM.

Looking back over parts one and two I still agree pretty much with those first impressions. After six months I’ve now settled in to using the camera and it’s getting to the point where I’m forgetting how to set things up in the menus because I so rarely change them.

If you want to go back to the older articles you’re welcome to do so, (Part one, part two) but it’s not really needed. Basically I said that I love the build quality, form factor and the EVF/OVF, but that was pretty meaningless without nice files. It took me a while but I then got it set up to make jpegs that I’m really happy with. I like flat jpegs that I can then tweak in LR to bring them up, but I don’t want to do do too much work. Like everyone else I love the new Classic Neg simulation. I like to throw that on top of the DR-Priority setting so my jpegs come out with no blacks and no whites and I set that myself. It’s probably worth mentioning that I leave the camera on ISO 400 and daylight white balance unless there’s some special reason to change. I write in a bit more detail about the sensor later on.

An idea for a “through the window” portrait series because of you-know-what. I didn’t take it anywhere but now have this shot I rather like of my elder daughter.

Four Days with Four Cameras

So why “Four Days with Four Cameras?” I thought that I really should get on and write this article, and found the the camera was still in my bag from a few days down on the coast. I’d spent four days away shooting and had taken four cameras with me. I shot a roll in each of the three film cameras and 36 frames on the X-Pro3. It struck me that this camera has now become a working part of my kit, so I guess the trigger for this piece was being able to to say how it fits in to help me make what I want. The part it plays in my photography is far more relevant to me than any list of specs.

I thought it would be interesting to put this camera in the context of what I’ve been doing over the past six months that I’ve had it, and how the X-Pro3 works in concert with the other cameras I’m using.

This is one of my coastal series – in-camera multiple exposures on Portra 400 shot on the Agfa Isolette III

Of course there are a few things on the go, but to narrow it down, one is a project called “On the Beach” and is based on the coast near where I live. If things stay on track (and what could possibly go wrong?) I will be having a couple of exhibitions later in the year, one as core to a photographic festival we have here.

And here’s an exhibition print. 120cm x 90cm.

Last week I spent four days on the coast, and the X-Pro3 was one of the four cameras that came with me.

I had two mornings with good light; the other two it rained. This day I got some shots on the Fuji

And having used the Fuji to get an exposure I made some frames on the FM with very expired Portra 160.

I’ve been using the same cameras for the past couple of years now: an Agfa Isolette III 6×6 folder

The light was not quite as good the second time, but I got this  on the Agfa.  This time on very expired Agfachrome 100 and then digitised on a lightbox using the X-Pro3

And the other camera I use is my little Olympus Trip35.

Dawn multiple on the Oly Trip 35. Very expired Portra 400 NC scanned at home. I used the Fuji as a light meter this morning to get an idea of how underexposed I’d be, but of course with 20 y.o. film stored God-knows-how it’s a lottery anyway.

And then later I had the shot from the Fuji printed on canvas and overpainted it in oil paint.

Before the X-Pro3, my travel-digital was the X-E2 with the 27mm f2.8, which is a bit smaller than the new one. My three cameras will sit neatly in a Billingham Hadley Small, and if the Oly Trip 35 can displace one of them or go out by itself in a pocket when I’m not carrying the bag.

Form Factor

This could be why I keep a filter on the Nikkor. Pulled out of the bag after shooting in dawn spray at the beach, but really showing that all these cameras are about the same size.

With the 7 Artisans 35mm f1.2 that lives on it most of the time, the X-Pro3 is about the size and weight of a Nikon FM with the 50mm f1.8 pancake. At 700g the Fuji is 100g less, but it feels heavier in the hand – I guess it’s a bit more dense. For me this is important. It’s a size I’m comfortable with. A Nikon F4 with a 50 on the other hand is just too big. A 120 6×6 folder is nice too, and that Agfa is about as good as it gets for my purpose.

I was out bike riding in the rain and the autumn leaves caught my eye. I had the Fuji with me so I shot it  and stitched in PS to see if I should go back with a film camera.

The result was this. Multiple in-camera exposures on Portra 400 120 in the Agfa.

So what this means, I guess, is that I’m happy with APSC digital. I’m of the camp that thinks hankering for “full frame”  over APSC digital is a bit arbitrary unless you have specific needs for glass.  I don’t own any M mount glass and I am not really thinking of going there.

Two 35mm (50mm equiv.) lenses for the Fuji (I also have the lovely 35mm f2 WR) is all I really need. I used to use zooms for commercial work, but now I’ve left that behind me I’m finding that the range from 35-50 equiv. is all I want to shoot, and a nice small prime is what I want.

Of course I’m tempted by an M, but so far I’ve resisted. I also like that all the film cameras used in this story add up to less than $500. Let’s just forget the $3K in film/processing/scanning in the past 12 months shall we?

The OVF/EVF

Love it. No – that’s not quite true, I REALLY love it. I guess if the Fuji X-Pro3 did not exist I would never know, and I’d happily use an X-E 3, But now that I’ve owned an X-Pro model I don’t think there’s any going back. It has a lovely blend of versatility and fun in use.

I find I’m using it in both EVF and OVF mode roughly equally. The EVF is such a leap ahead of that on the X-E2 that it makes manual focus a viable option. If I’m shooting landscapes I usually use the OVF so I can use the area outside the frame lines to help composition, and if I’m shooting a portrait with the 7A 35 I use the EVF to get manual focus. If I’m using the fuji XF 35 it’s the OVF because it’s so much fun.

Also, with landscapes on the 7A I just leave it on infinity and use aperture to get sharpness (or lack of it).

Family snap at the beach. X-Pro3 with the 7A 35 of my very young niece.

The sensor

I really like this sensor. I like the way it renders and I like the colours. This may sound odd, but I have a fondness for it as well as a mere appreciation of it. Back in the early days of digital I used a Nikon D70 (6MP) to shoot magazine covers but it never felt that comfortable. It was pushing the limits a bit. So in 2008 the 12MP sensor in the Nikon D700 was a revelation to me. Then I got a Nikon Coolpix A (16MP APSC sensor) for travel and I thought 16MP was perfect.

The main reason was I could stop shooting portrait and landscape shots of the same scene. I had an editor who would say “I want some tall shots as well as wide,” and I could then just say to him, “crop it how you like – there’s enough resolution for you to use it full page, tall or wide.”
When I got a Sony a6000 with 24MP for travel I didn’t like it, even though it had a good rep. I much preferred the 16MP XTrans in the Fuji X-E 2.

But the new 26MP sensor in the X-Pro3 is better. I like the files, simple as that. BUT I only like it up to ISO 400. I find it gritty at 1600 and I just don’t like it. I’ll use it if I need to, but I prefer not. Now – you can tell me I’m nuts, or wrong, or ignorant, or all three, but for my personal stuff I like to keep it low. (The XE-2 I would happily shoot to 1600 by the way, and I’d shoot the X-Pro3 up there for commercial work if I ever did it, but not for personal unless there’s no choice.)

Not a sunset – it’s a moonset. If I ever get the chance of seeing a full moon set I’m there. Making a lie of my statement in the text because I shot it at ISO 1600. No tripod, but I steadied the camera on a post.

More high ISO. This time 10000 – doing a favour for an old friend and shooting her birthday party.

Resolution. I enjoy having 4000px on the short edge. The main reason I like it is for digitising film. I sometimes put 120 tranny on a lightbox and shoot it. Even cropped to 3500px I would have this printed up to 1 metre on the short edge. You can crunch the numbers on that and tell me in theory it’s not enough, but for my work it it’s fine. However, under 3000px gets dicey, so the X-Pro3 has replaced my D700 for copy work.

I was shooting this apple with 20 year old Agfa Precisa 100 (E6)  and I had no idea what would come out so I shot it on the Fuji as well. 7A wide open and close so it was nice and soft.

The Agfa stuff came out fine. It had a horrendous cast but I corrected that. This was shot on an F4 and 50 1.8 wide open. Then I digitised it with the XP3 and my Micro Nikkor on a lightbox.

This is my set-up. The screen gets used here, and so does the threaded shutter release. Who’d a thunk it? That’s a Nikkor micro 60mm f 2.8 AFD with adapter. I usually only do tranny this way.

The screen

I love that the screen is hidden. All the online furore about it seems so silly now. A bunch of keyboard heroes shouting over nothing. I use the screen for the menus and for when I’m shooting it on a copy stand. It’s a nice screen. I’ve never got my head around it being a touch screen though. In fact I think I had forgotten that (yet again) until I just typed this.

Other quirks and foibles

The ISO dial. People say it’s a gimmick but I actually like it. I didn’t like it at the start but now I do. Because I tend not to use auto ISO on this camera it’s nice having a real dial. I can’t read the little numbers, but if I’m holding the camera up to my eye I can see ISO in the viewfinder. I’ve also got it set up to show on the rear display.

Yep – the EC dial got bumped again which is maybe why I was shooting manual. 400 is my preferred ISO because DR-Priority doesn’t work under 320 or something like that.

The Exposure comp dial. Damn – it’s about the only annoying thing on the camera. Still gets knocked off setting way too easily. They really should have done better on that. It actually discourages me from using aperture priority it gets knocked so much. You should not have to check the dial every time you pull the camera out of the bag, but you do.

A kind person gave me all this very expired film she had lying around and I’m having great fun with it.

Two card slots. Again, I didn’t know I’d like this until I got it. I use raw for copy work and jpeg for everything else. But I have the second card set up to record raw. My plan is that every year, or when I fill a raw card, I’ll dump it on to my hard drive so I have the raws in case I want to use them in the future. (Imagine if in 10 years someone actually makes a realistic colour film grain simulation) I’ve got negs in sleeves from the 90s that I’m using now – who knows what the future will bring.

Speaking of film simulations – this was originally shot on the Fuji. If I told you how I made it look like this I’d have to kill you.

They also serve who only stand and wait

The obligatory bored and stuck at home shot for Insta. Micro Nikkor on the Fuji

Yep – things were desperate when the coffee machine broke. Luckily Gordon took Thunderbird 4 inside the water tank and fixed it before we went spare. This is the 7A wide open again. It’s a fun setup just to grab for a snap.

Fortunately, these days we’re back out for beach walks so I’m taking less shots of my Thunderbird toys. X-Pro3 and 7A

Is that enough? Looking at the shots on the Fuji they are not the ones I regard as work. They are not the ones I’m planning to exhibit. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a serious camera or not important to me. This camera is a big part of my photography and integral to it. It’s a camera I like, and I think it is a major step up from the X-E2. Now I’ve used it I would not want to go back.  I don’t regard it as an experiment or stopgap, but rather as a tool that I appreciate and will enjoy using for quite some time.

Support & Subscribe

35mmc is free to read. It is funded by adverts. If you don't like the adverts you can subscibe here and they will disapear.

For as little as $1 a month, you can help support the upkeep of 35mmc and get access to exclusive content over on Patreon. Alternatively, please feel free to chuck a few pennies in the tip jar via Ko-fi:

Become a Patron!

Learn about where your money goes here.
Would like to write for 35mmc? Find out how here.

17 Comments

  • Reply
    thorsten wulff
    July 8, 2020 at 10:21 am

    Very good David, I love the TDF camera car, and Thunderbird 2 on your Espresso machine. What I like about the ISO control in the time wheel is how much it reminds me of the FM, I usually adjust it only between 400 and 3200, and use my finger memory for it. What I should consider after reading your report is getting a Nikon adaptor, it seems.

    • Reply
      David Hume
      July 8, 2020 at 7:09 pm

      Thanks Thorsten – and I agree. Regarding the adaptor, I have a cheap K&F, and while I do use it a lot for the Micro Nikkor and copy work, I’m not using my Nikkors on the X-Pro3 as much as I thought as I would. I think it’s the ergonomics. I still have the D700 and I must say that for portraits it’s probably still my go-to, more for reasons of familiarity (with both the camera and lenses) than IQ.

  • Reply
    John Nguyen
    July 8, 2020 at 1:51 pm

    Great read until the dismissive insult regarding other photographers’ needs and wants about cameras.

    “I love that the screen is hidden. All the online furore about it seems so silly now. A bunch of keyboard heroes shouting over nothing.”

    • Reply
      David Hume
      July 8, 2020 at 6:59 pm

      Ouch! I’ll need to get some ice for that burn. This is not an insult to anyone. I’m thinking back to the time when people on forums were outraged about this camera – and none of them had even touched it. My point was that if you wanted a camera that DID have a screen that was not hidden you should just buy one of those, because there are lots of options. Why bag out a camera just because it’s not the camera you’d choose? I don’t mean to sound mean, and thanks for reading the rest of the piece, but I am not out to insult people, I’m just relaying my thoughts.

    • Reply
      Kodachromeguy
      July 9, 2020 at 12:46 am

      I agree with David. When the X-Pro3 came out, the trolls and photo-frauds on the infamous D reviewing site trashed it in an orgasmic fury of righteousness. If they did not like the design, none of them needed to buy it; plenty of alternate digital cameras exist.

      • Reply
        David Hume
        July 9, 2020 at 9:13 am

        Exactly – It was as if the design of this camera was a crime against humanity!

  • Reply
    eric
    July 8, 2020 at 9:38 pm

    Wonderful, great. Fuji provides great cameras and great lens. I miss mine. I have changed for Sony A7 RII which is a great camera, but I really prefer the Fuji. Now it is bought, so …no way ! Your pictures are wonderful, marvelous. Your cameras choices is wise, very wise, the Agfa Isolette is a winner, the Nikon is a Nikon, and the Fuji X-Pro 3, I have tested is the best alternative to Leica, maybe better… By the way, I do not use any material, application, lens and so one which come from one area, I only buy/use now materials, applications from Europe, North America, Japan, Korea, Australia, India, the only exception it is when the Brand is from these countries and made in this one I do not want to buy from, until the brands I hope will produces to other place. For me photography is an art, also one way to see the world, and sometimes we have to take decisions for the safety of our area and the majority of the rest of the world. I am a Leica, Nikon, Sony, Rollei, Minolta, Voigtlander, Contax user.
    What I like in your pictures, this is the magic touch and colors : this is dreamy !
    Thank you so much.
    BRAVO.

    • Reply
      David Hume
      July 9, 2020 at 1:00 am

      What a lovely comment – Thanks Eric!

  • Reply
    Huey
    July 8, 2020 at 9:40 pm

    love this, thanks! i have also been scratching my head wondering what’s the best setup for scanning negs with the APS-C Fuji (i have an xt20) and I will be looking into that Nikkor micro 60mm or similar!

    • Reply
      David Hume
      July 9, 2020 at 1:06 am

      Hi Huey. I have been very happy with the Micro Nikkor 60mm f 2..8 AFD (I wrote that out in case you want to search it) At the time I bought it (nearly 10 years ago I think) I was only looking for Nikkors and they had to be 1-1. This one is sharp and nice to use. I bought mine new, but they seem to be good value used on ebay ATM.

      • Reply
        huey
        July 10, 2020 at 9:09 am

        thanks! Now I think of it what confused me in particular was the 1:1 requirement – if using a normal adaptor rather than a focal reducer with an APS-C camera, you’re cropping out most of the image circle…it seemed like that might be an issue but i suppose if anything you will get a higher magnification, just need to move the camera a little further back.

        anyway if it works for you that’s good enough for me! now i just need that pixlatr…

        • Reply
          David Hume
          July 10, 2020 at 10:35 pm

          Yes – with that lens on APSC you’re only using the middle part of the image circle, but that’s the sharpest bit, which is good, and you’re a bit further away, which is also good! But if you want to use it ti digitise 35mm film on to a full frame sensor (I bought it for the D700) then it needs to be 1:1. The Digitaliza from lomography is good, but I shot heaps of rollfilm and slides before I had it and didn’t have any problems. One thing the Fuji seems not to like is stray light getting in, so I use masks cut from black art mat board to cut out stray light from the lightbox. That Kaiser slimline plano was expensive but it’s great.

  • Reply
    Huss
    July 8, 2020 at 9:53 pm

    Very nice. And I agree, I cannot understand why Fuji did not make the detent for the exp comp dial much stiffer at 0 than the other settings.
    There is no reason for it to turn so easily.
    I thought I loved the Neg Chrome setting, but have soured on it as it does not actually behave like neg film. It blows out highlights, whereas neg film captures details in highlights.
    Switched to Astia Soft with a little boost in contrast..

    • Reply
      David Hume
      July 9, 2020 at 1:33 am

      Hi Huss – In part II of this series I go on a bit of a rant about film simulations. I must say I have not noticed a problem with highlights, but maybe it’s because I’m using DR-Priority setting as well. I also tend to meter with an eye on the histogram.

  • Reply
    eric
    July 9, 2020 at 7:43 am

    My pleasure David. 😉

  • Reply
    Micah
    July 9, 2020 at 11:42 pm

    This was an interesting read from the perspective of a newcomer to the Fuji X system (I just got an X-T3). I had seen the hand-wringing on DPReview (is it actually customary here to not use its full name?!), but the increased price of the X-Pro3 was what ultimately steered me to the X-T3. A few thoughts and questions for you, David:

    -I have shot RAW as a matter of course ever since I owned a camera for which it was reasonable to do so. I never considered the type of workflow you describe, where you shoot RAW+JPEG but you’re primarily only working with the latter. I shall have to ponder that now that I have a camera that puts so much emphasis on good JPEG results.

    -You have mentioned how well the OVF works for your shooting style, and also made a passing reference to the X-T3 not being your cup of tea. Compared to your X-E2, does that statement still hold?

    -One criticism the DPReview crew leveled against the X-Pro3 was its screen only offering tilt-down viewing, and not being reversible. I’d say I agree with that, as even for 100% OVF/EVF users, it would be nice to have a better info panel on the back than the one on the X-Pro3. A reversible screen would have solved that perfectly.

    -I love that you use this sophisticated digital picture-taker to preview framing and exposure for your analog cameras. In fact, I appreciate that you defy all conventional wisdom about the proper workflow for a (semi-)professional photographer in 2020. I just got a couple of Olympus OM lenses to use as cheap primes on my X-T3, and while I was at it I also picked up an OM-4 to do a bit of film shooting. It has a sophisticated metering system in its own right, so I’m not exactly using the digital camera as a light meter, but nonetheless I’m finding it very satisfying to shoot certain scenes in both film and digital.

    • Reply
      David Hume
      July 10, 2020 at 12:43 am

      Hi Micah – thanks for reading. To your questions:

      Re Jpegs: I used to shoot E6 back in the day, and so jpegs were already much easier than I was used to, with more DR etc, and in the days before LR you had to work with Adobe Camera Raw which was a pain, so I never bothered with raw. This changed a bit with the D700 where the raws are only 10MB, and I did shoot raw with that once I started with LR, but stopped once I got my Fujis, as I could’t make jpegs that were any better than OOC. And really, on the XP3 I’m only shooting raws because I can and it’s so easy… I have no idea if I’ll use them but I have not even filled the first 32GB card after 6 months so I’m not shooting a lot of stuff (well, I figure it’s roughly the equivalent of 2 rolls a week which is a fair bit really)

      X-T3: I’d probably have bought that if I were shooting commercially in favour of the X-Pro3 as it’s more versatile and I don’t really like using a zoom on the X-Pro3. In fact the X-H1 was on heavy discount and I did consider it, but I’m glad I didn’t go that way. The XP3 is my fun “me” camera. The X-E2 is easily good enough for the travel/lifestyle stuff I shot (I just used the kit zoom) I used the D700 over that for portrait or food work. I still like the files out of that – and using raws in LR is easy.

      Hidden Screen: Very personal, but I love it. The info screen I find pretty useless because I can’t see it very well, and it would be nice if it were better but it does not bother me. Having used the XP3 I actually would avoid a camera that has a rear-facing screen if possible, which somewhat limits the choices!

      The film/digital thing is interesting… You might like a piece I wrote over on Emulsive called “Why shoot film?” I find I’m probably shooting less digital these days and worrying less about whether I’ll miss something. Glad you’re enjoying your OM-4!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.