Fujifilm X-Pro3 Camera Review

posted in: Gear, Photography

Modern Nostalgia

In a Fujifilm X-Pro3 camera review, one must first contemplate the concept of rangefinder cameras. Simply because the X-Pro design is based on the core tenants of these classic cameras. Old school rangefinders 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. They had both style and served a purpose. There is a stealth and grace to using a simple, optical viewfinder. You can frame your subject in realtime, with no digital lag or delay. No tunnel vision and most certainly no 3-inch, glowing LCD screen.

A New Era

The Fujifilm X-Pro3 doubles down on this purist approach to bring a unique and controversial camera to the masses. With one foot in the past and one foot in the present – no other modern camera offers an electronic and optical viewfinder (except for Fujifilm's X100 models). 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. Awareness heightens. As a result, you see more and one could even argue that you capture better images.

While it definitely harkens back to the old days, there is 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 hybrid 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 while traveling through rural Colorado. On initial impression, the X-Pro3 is an exquisite piece of hardware. In my opinion, the X-Pro models have one of the best ergonomic designs of any camera out there. All buttons are easily accessed with the right hand. The viewfinder at the far left means that my nose does not have to smash up against the camera back.

This third generation has only improved on the premium feel. Now with a titanium build that's even stronger. Also, thanks to a cold plasma, there is an anti-scratch coating (Dura-Black and Dura-Silver) courtesy of Citizen watches, that'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. It all adds up to a build quality that you immediately appreciate in your hands. Moreover, the weather sealing is legit. 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. 

On the first go with the X-Pro3, old habits interfere with the process. There is an adjustment period one must contend with. If you're like me, fiddling with a hidden LCD screen to review images and menu settings is highly irritating. It makes apparent how painfully dependent I am on that instant LCD feedback. No doubt from the past fifteen years of ‘chimping’ with SLR cameras. Therefore, I am now forced to use the viewfinder much more frequently. Initially, I resented that the camera forces me to adapt my shooting style. But over time, it broke me. In a good way! Because my hardwired tendencies finally gave way to the minimalist spirit of the camera. That’s when a new world opened up and taking pictures became fun again.

As a result, my senses heightened. 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 noticed more nuanced fore-mid-background relationships to create depth. I was not tempted to look at the LCD screen and overall my attention was less diffused. I became one with the force and was tuned into a finer degree of photo ops.

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. Power tip - you can use my 15% discount code 'SKH15' at LensRentals.com.

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

Complaints

My main gripe, if I must, is with the viewfinder size. Sadly, the round eye-hole did not expand with this version. It's a minor quibble but for me it's quite noticeable when switching between other cameras. I was actually on a corporate call with Fujifilm where they were taking feedback on design developments for the X-Pro3. The option of increasing the VF size was discussed. The consensus is that unfortunately a larger VF will have to break the clean line of the signature, flat top plate. The finger print issue on the dura coatings can also be a nuisance, if you're not careful. Alas, compromises must be made!

Conclusion

In conclusion, I can honestly say that it is equal parts form and function.

I’ll be the first to say that the Fujifilm X-Pro3 did not magically turn me into Henri Cartier-Bresson or Vivian Maier. However, it did challenge me to go beyond 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 silent drive speeds and a fancy hybrid viewfinder with realtime histogram and parallax lens correction overlaid on the optical view.

I encourage even the skeptics to try it before dismissing its unorthodox feature set. Open your mind and close your LCD screen. It could be the best thing you do for your craft. If you want to take the experience further - I suggest experimenting with your workflow. Take a few days or weeks to shoot jpgs (or at least Raw + Jpg) to see how exquisite Fujifilm’s simulations are – straight out of camera. With no additional post-processing. Just like back in the film days. You may find that excessive computer time is more hassle than it's worth. 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. I’m willing to bet the resulting images will surprise you.

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

(X-Pro3 / X-Pro2 respectively)

  • Weight:
    447g / 445g
  • LCD:
    3”, 1.62M-dot / 3”, 1.62M-dot
  • EVF:
    3.69M / 2.36M.5”
    OLED / TFT
    1:5000 / 1:300 contrast
    97% / 92% color space
    200fps / 85fps refresh rate
  • Phase Detect Autofocus Points:
    425 / 77
    100% / 40% coverage
  • Battery life:
    370 / 280 shots
Comparing the Fujifilm X-Pro3 and X-Pro2

 

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Sample Gallery

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Disclaimer: As an official Fujifilm X-Photographer, 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!
Some links are affiliate partnerships which means clicking through to make any purchases will help support this blog at no additional cost to you. Thanks for your support!
All photographs were created by me and are copyright protected. They are not to be used without my explicit permission.

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!

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