Fujifilm X-Pro3 Camera Review: Substance or Style?

posted in: Gear, Photography

In a Fujifilm X-Pro3 camera review, one must contemplate the concept of rangefinder cameras. These cameras bring a simplistic joy to photography that’s rare to experience in modern day. Half a century ago, photographers used rangefinders with manual precision to compose scenes, anticipate action, and capture the decisive moment. There was an advantage back then to using a simple optical viewfinder to see in realtime with no delay, tunnel vision or anything remotely close to a glowing LCD screen.

The Fujifilm X-Pro3 doubles down on this purist approach to bring a unique and controversial camera to the masses. No other modern camera offers an electronic and optical viewfinder, and because the LCD screen is hidden, the camera forces you be fully present and tuned to the environment. You connect with your subject more deeply and observe the finer nuances of your scene. Your awareness heightens, you see more and one could argue that you produce better images as the result. It is just about as pure and simple as photography gets.

It definitely harkens back to the old days, however, there’s more to this experience than simple nostalgia and the novelty of analog. It’s about environmental awareness and reduction of the creative process. Make no mistake, the X-Pro3 is not intended for everyone. It is not meant for video shooters (see the X-H models) or general photographers (X-T models). This camera is designed by, and for photography purists. In this review I’ve boiled down the primary feature set to the following:

Main Fujifilm X-Pro3 Camera Design Features:

  1. Titanium, weather sealed body = high end, professional build quality
  2. Hidden LCD = less distraction, heightened awareness
  3. Advanced hybrid viewfinder = realtime optical and faster/clearer electronic viewing

1. Titanium Build

As a Fujifilm X-Photographer I had access to a pre-production model for a couple weeks while traveling through rural Colorado. On initial impression, there is a lot to love about the X-Pro3 design. I’ve always thought the X-Pro models had the best ergonomic design of any camera I’ve used. All buttons are easily accessed with the right hand. With this 3rd generation the premium feel has only gotten better. Now with a titanium build it’s stronger and thanks to a cold plasma, anti-scratch coating from Citizen watches (aka Dura-Black and Dura-Silver) it’s even more sleek and durable. The Dura-Black has a charcoal appearance and is prone to smudges from oily fingers so I would recommend the Dura-Silver if you need your camera looking pristine at all times. Overall it’s truly a professional quality build that you immediately appreciate when you pick it up. And the weather sealing is legit – as I’ve tested it first hand on my X-Pro2  in some of the nastiest, wettest weather.

2. Hidden LCD

We can't do a Fujifilm X-Pro3 camera review without addressing the controversial hidden LCD screen. No doubt that it is a bold design choice and it will likely make or break your decision to use such a camera. However, it's not an entirely new concept as the Leica M10-D is a very similar design. If it doesn't appeal to you, simply move on because this is not the droid you’re looking for. Photographers who are intrigued by the idea of less distraction, more constraint and a departure from the norm should keep reading. 

When I began shooting with the X-Pro3, having to pull down the hidden LCD screen to review images and menu settings was highly irritating. It was painfully obvious how dependent I’d become on that instant LCD feedback from the past fifteen years of shooting and ‘chimping’ with digital cameras. I was forced to use the viewfinder much more frequently and I initially resented that a camera was forcing me to adapt my shooting style. Over time, it broke me. In a good way! Because my hardwired tendencies relented and I embraced the minimalist purpose of the camera. That’s when a whole new world opened up and shooting became fun. Really fun.

For example, I found myself looking around more, finding compositions and subjects I likely wouldn’t have seen otherwise. My senses were tuned. I heard a raven's wings flutter as it perched on the power line overhead. Mountain light filtered through the trees and reflected in cabin windows. I was noticing fore-mid-background relationships to create depth. Overall my attention was less diffused which opened up new opportunities.

The Nature of the Flip

The mechanics of the screen are executed well. It does flip down swiftly with one fluid motion versus the other X-Series cameras which require a bit more jiggering. It's well suited for stealthy waist level shooting and because it does articulate down 180 degrees it is still usable as a traditional LCD when shooting, albeit cumbersome. Some have noted that top - down shooting is nearly impossible to frame, however, I found a simple hack for that. Turn the camera upside down when you hold it up high. That way the flip screen will face downward and you can look up into it.

3. Hybrid View Finder (HVF)

And just like that, with the push of a lever the hybrid viewfinder switches from the electronic viewfinder (EVF) to the optical viewfinder (OVF). The optical mode enables realtime viewing of your scene (zero time lag or blackout when shooting) and you can see what’s outside of the frame which helps immensely when anticipating action. The frame lines change dynamically with a zoom lens or stay static with a prime. Parallax correction compensates for up close wide angle shots. It's such a unique feature and style of shooting that I recommend renting one for a day or two to really get a feel for it.

The EVF is vastly improved over its predecessor. It is now a brighter, clearer and larger OLED screen. It boasts perfect blacks, a wider color gamut, higher resolution and faster refresh (see spec comparisons below).

Other Notable Features

  • Sub-panel LCD displays film simulation and basic settings.
  • Quiet “feather touch" mechanical shutter.
  • 1/8000 max shutter, 11 fps drive speed.
  • Fast autofocus, -6ev lowlight focusing, AF focus range limiter.
  • New Classic Neg. and Monochromatic Color film simulations.
  • Enhanced multi-exposure control.
  • Not intended for video but you can shoot up to DCI 4k (30p).
  • See more info at fujifilm-x.com

Final Thoughts

I’ll be the first to say that the Fujifilm X-Pro3 did not magically turn me into Henri Cartier-Bresson or Vivian Maier but it certainly challenged me to go beyond my old habits and be more deliberate with my craft. And unlike the rangefinder photographers of the 1900s, I had the advantage of eye detection autofocus, 11 fps drive speed and a fancy hybrid viewfinder with realtime histogram and parallax lens correction overlaid on the optical view.

After my short time with the Fujifilm X-Pro3 camera, I can honestly say that it is equal parts style and substance. I encourage even the skeptics to try it before dismissing its unique feature set and premium handling. Closing your LCD screen and opening your mind could be the best thing you do for your craft. If you want to take the experience further - I suggest simplifying your workflow by shooting jpgs to see how exquisite Fujifilm’s simulations are straight out of camera. Just like back in the film days, you may find that Photoshop and lengthy post-processing is not always necessary. That is the beauty of this setup. You can take advantage of cutting edge technology while also reducing the art of photography to its purist form. It's a lot of fun to shoot with and I’m willing to bet the resulting images will surprise you.

Fujifilm X-Pro3 v. X-Pro2 Comparison Specs:

  • Weight:
    447g v. 445g
  • LCD:
    3” 1.62M-dot v. 3” 1.62M-dot
  • EVF:
    3.69M v. 2.36M.5” OLED v. .48” TFT
    1:5000 v. 1:300 contrast
    97% v. 92% color space
    200fps v. 85fps
  • Phase Detect Autofocus Points:
    425 v. 77
    100% coverage v. 40% coverage
  • Battery life:
    370 v. 280 shots
Comparing the Fujifilm X-Pro3

 

SaveSave

Sample Gallery

Loading Images
Disclaimer: As an official Fujifilm X-Photographer, some bias is inevitable. However, I do not get paid to publish this content and these opinions are my own. My goal is to educate and share candid, insightful information based on my personal experiences. I hope it provides value and entertainment for my audience. Some product links are affiliate links which means clicking through to make any purchases will help support this blog at no additional cost to you. Thanks for your support!

 

2 Responses

  1. Soren
    | Reply

    Great review! Wonderful to read a “different” kind of review, not focused on tech and specs.
    I am very close to ordering an X-Pro3 myself, I just have to decide on the color! 😜

    • Seth K. Hughes
      | Reply

      Thank you for your comment Soren. That is a difficult choice, I agree. Either way, happy shooting!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *