Recently, I was exploring the Blue Ridge Parkway near Linville, North Carolina. While hiking down to a waterfall, I pondered the significance of the Fujifilm X-Pro2's hybrid viewfinder. Inspiration struck and next thing I knew I was learning more about it and creating a short video on the subject. The video demonstrates this standout feature and shows why the X-Pro2 is Fujifilm's best X-Series, rangefinder style camera. I will attempt to explain it with words, but I highly recommend watching the video (below) to see the viewfinder in action. After all, photography is a visual experience!
What is a hybrid viewfinder anyway?
The Fujifilm X-Pro2 hybrid viewfinder is unique. I have not seen it anywhere else with the exception of Fujifilm's own X-100 series, which is the little brother to the X-Pro series. Both are rangefinder style cameras that are celebrated for their user experience and unique design. They have both an optical viewfinder (OVF) and electronic viewfinder (EVF) built-in. Hence, the hybrid name.
The hybrid functionality means you get the choice of viewing your scene through an old-school, analog, glass window, or through the lens. The latter being similar to an SLR camera. But because the X-Pro2 is mirrorless, there is obviously no mirror and therefore the EVF displays what the sensor sees.
Each mode has its own, distinct set of advantages and they work well independently. I almost exclusively use the EVF because I prefer to see how the image is being rendered by the sensor before I take the picture. However, it is always nice to have options. Some situations or shooting styles may call for a different approach. Good thing it's remarkably easy to switch between modes – on the fly. You simply toggle a lever on the front of the camera. The X-Pro2 with its tactile ergonomics means all of the buttons and controls are operable with just your right hand. The intuitively placed, hybrid viewfinder toggle switch is no exception.
Electronic Viewfinder Mode
The EVF is in large part why I switched to mirrorless cameras back in 2015. Now, mirrorless cameras are becoming the norm and I haven't looked back. In my opinion, the ability to see what the sensor sees in near-realtime has been a game changer. The exact image, film simulation, histogram and exposure is all previewed before even pressing the shutter. This enables the photographer to compose and shoot more efficiently with fewer test shots and less time wasted "chimping" and looking to see if you got the shot.
There is at least one disadvantage, however. It's the inherent time delay, albeit brief, in the capture process. As the light passes through the lens, we have to wait for the processor to convert the image into ones & zeros. Then pass that information digitally to the EVF or LCD where it's finally displayed for your eye to see. Processing speed and refresh rates are constantly improving, but sometimes it just not fast enough to catch that decisive moment. Particularly when action and speed is involved. Moreover, when the shutter is closed after taking a picture, you see only black for an instant. But in some cases that can be another barrier between you and freezing the right moment.
Optical Viewfinder Mode
The whole point of the OVF is to bypass the time lag. It enables you to react quicker by seeing action in realtime. It's only a piece of glass between you and your subject. No sensor or processor getting in the way. However, it is not strictly a glass window with a fixed frame like most other rangefinders. Fujifilm's X-Pro2 hybrid viewfinder has another trick up its sleeve. It overlays exposure settings, framing information and even a histogram on top of the glass window. This gives it some of the same advantages of the EVF.
In addition to viewing the live scene with no digital refresh latency, you can see outside around the edges of the frame. In other words, the boundary of the lens' focal length is superimposed on the optical view and gets bigger or smaller depending on the lens attached. It even scales dynamically when using a zoom lens, which is pretty impressive! I demonstrate this in the video which makes it easier to understand. This can be very helpful for anticipating action and seeing your subject as it enters the frame.
Either way, I think you'll find shooting with the X-Pro2 a uniquely satisfying experience. I know it has been for me. Let me know in the comments what your impressions are. Also, I'm happy to answer any questions down there if clarification is needed. Happy shooting!