With an XE-1 well past its prime and showing it, I pre-ordered Fujifilm’s newest flagship, and it was in my hands on March 8.
I had very little time to get aquatinted with the new box before heading to Italy to work on a few photography projects. During the trip, the XPro-2 and I became inseparable friends. (More on Italy in a later post!) The camera is quick and responsive, relatively intuitive to use, and the low-light performance is great. It initially felt much larger and heaver than the XE-1, but use eliminated that felling of difference.
Back stateside, it was straight to work shooting street fashion with Nicole Boychuck for Aoki Boutique. Shooting outside on another‘s schedule means working with the weather of the day. And the day we had brought super bright, super contrasty sunshine. I like contrast that I can control, but cloudless, sunny afternoons are always a challenge.
At least, it used to be.
Singin’ in the Range
There are many praises to sing about the X-Pro2 (and quite a few niggles), but one of the most important improvements is in dynamic range. It is, simply, remarkable. Even in bright sun that hurt the eyes, the new Fuji sensor captured a range of usable detail in both the highlights and the shadows. I was able to get excellent images in light that would have destroyed the X-Trans CMOS in the XE-1. (These images are all developed from RAW—which is the only way to maximize the camera’s files.)
The improved dynamic range isn’t just handy for recovering shadow and highlight detail. Instead, at least for me, it’s an invitation to find the limits. Because I know the camera is going to handle a wide gamut of light, I’m free to seek out even contrastier scenes that I previously would have avoided. This provides the opportunity to engage in new creative approaches, and not simply to improve on what I already do.
Bokeh by the Dozens
Shooting street fashion is always a challenge because I like clothes to have motion. Fashion isn’t static, and—for the kind of shooting I do—showing the construction and movement of the clothes is important. This means low shutter speeds and the lowest ISO. So long as I’m able to move with the model, I can overcome the additional depth of field that results from using smaller apertures.
It’s when the model is still that I need separation from the background, which means a wide aperture to get optical bokeh.
The problem with shooting in bright afternoon light is that the lowest ISO and the fastest shutter won’t be enough to get a very wide aperture. There are ways around this, like using ND filters, but I work fast and need spontaneous moments, so those “solutions” just present new problems. I need the answers all in the camera, and the answer has been to chase areas with less light.
At least, it used to be!
The X-Pro2 has a mechanical shutter that goes to 1/8000, and an electronic shutter that reaches all the way down to 1/32000 of a second. I have mine set to M+E so that the camera automatically uses the electronic shutter if needed, but otherwise sticks to the mechanical. Compared to the X-E1’s fastest speed of 1/4000, that‘s three more stops of light reducing power at my disposal. And that translates to getting wide-aperture bokeh even in bright light.
The most fashion-able of them all
I doubt Fuji set out to make a great camera for street fashion. But with its expanded dynamic range and high shutter speeds, the X-Pro2 is currently the most fashion-able camera of them all.