Visiting Louwman Museum in The Hague, with the Fujifilm X70 and Fujifilm X-Pro2

This is a first in the history of the SmartCam Club as far as I can remember: in this post I will be sharing what I recently captured with the brand new Fujifilm X70 and the Fujifilm X-Pro2. I was able to use these devices during a Fujifilm event at the Louwman Museum in The Hague, where I was overwhelmed by an absolutely breath-taking collection of old and new cars. 

There is probably no country you know as bad as your own. I wasn't aware of the Louwman Museum since that event. Now, I can only advise you to go there whenever you are in The Netherlands. Not sure if it's the largest, but it's the oldest private car collection, which is astonishing in itself. You'll find more information on Wiki as well. From the over 230 cars, I captured well over 30 models.

I had one hour with both Fujifilm cameras and could spend the afternoon at the museum which I used to test the Lumia 950 against the Galaxy S6 edge +, so these won't be the last cars you'll see at the club. These Fujifilm devices are the ones most awaited for by photographers, so I'll start this series of posts about those. Why am I so interested in them?

Changing my perspective
After the Nokia 808 PureView, I've been looking for the best smartphone camera for over three years - and not very succesful against the 808 I'm afraid. Still, I tested many new devices on different platforms, all with better software, lenses and the inevitable staggering amount of Megapixels. We saw the introduction of RAW which was very big for some (but not so for me). We've seen way better user interfaces introduced as well.

About three years later, I had to conclude that there are hardly any better smartphone cameras than the 808 PureView, although quite a few companies have come closer and closer. And there's the one you hardly ever see, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 - quite expensive, but on the other hand it doesn't cost more than what people eagerly pay for a new iPhone or Galaxy flagship these days. In all honesty, it's a compact camera on Android, offering a staggering amount of settings - you can even change aperture (but you can't change the battery).

After my "quest" I became interested in working with system cameras and the possibitliy to work with bigger glass, be able to exchange lenses... Not just bigger sensors, but better optics in general. I had one important condition: they would need to be "smart", to be able to write about them here at the club. I simply wanted the possibility to share the shots from where I am, by mail or on social media.

The Samsung NX300 was one of my fist attempts at this kind of "smartcam", and I geared up pretty fast to the NX500. And after I bought a fantastic 85mm lens for that, the road was open for the Samsung NX1 (which by the way has been discontinued - I'll never understand why Samsung is leaving the business). My shots improved with no less than a quantum leap working with these system cameras, but with every new step pocketability simply vanished. So that's how my interest for compact cameras grew. Looks like my curiosity is never satisfied.

So receiving the invite to attend the Fujifilm event was more than welcome - with the introduction of both a compact and a system camera, it was really something to look forward to. Since I'm sort of new to this industry, it has take me a while first to understand how important Fujifilm has become over the past five years. We all know the big contendors - Sony, Panasonic have more business than just camera, Leica, Canon or Nikon are brand names dedicated to photography. But so is Fujifilm, and it seemed like somewhat of a "well kept secret" to me: guess it has simply always escaped my attention - until recently.

Fujifilm - a short introduction
The Fujifilm brand is well-known since it's even over 80 years ago they started producing photographic film. You'll find it's interesting history here and at their own site. The company was smart enough to foresee that digital photography was the future: (quote from Wikipedia) - "as early as the 1980s, it developed a three-pronged strategy: to squeeze as much money out of the film business as possible, to prepare for the switch to digital and to develop new business lines."

Five years ago Fujifilm came with their X-series, starting with the X100, with a hybrid EVF. The company's aim was "to make you fall in love with photography all over again". A year later the first system camera would follow, the X-Pro1, hinting a second version was already in the making. You'll find the complete and very impressive line-up they built in five years here on Wiki. 

What Fujifilm stands out for is that the company really listens to its customers and uses as much as possible from the suggestions they receive to improve their products. Patience of buyers is rewarded also in the sense that it will offer improvements in newer models als software upgrades for previous ones. For instance, if you own the X-E2 now, you'll be getting just about everything the new X-E2s offers (softwarewise that is, of course).

Fujifilm X Trans sensor 
Most important for photographers though, is that Fujifilm strives to get the "analogue feel" back into digital photography - compare it with the current love of many for vinyl to really enjoy music again instead from cd (let alone Spotify). They do this with the so-called X Trans Sensor, "diverging from the traditional way CMOS sensors are designed by using an irregular pattern of red, green, and blue pixels. This allows the sensors to eschew the standard anti-aliasing filter, eliminating moiré patterns without putting an extra component in front of the sensor" (quote from PetaPixel). You'll find an article about it in the New York Times that explains how it works in a way everyone will understand - it's short and very interesting.

The Fujifilm X70
We're all "smartcam photographers" here and the most important reason for us to buy a next smartphone often is the better camera. Now I think Fujifilm X70 comes in as an alternative. Sure, it will cost you €699 (which might be cheaper than what you'd be paying for the next flagship). And it will be "the extra device" to carry. But its optics are so much better than anything your next iPhone, Samsung or Lumia could possibly offer, simply because optics and sensor are so much bigger - you can't fool physics. The X70 is very pocketable as well, and you won't waste any of its energy making phone calls, browse the web or social media.

Call me naive, but I wouldn't be surprised to see the compact camera market slowly grow, simply because lots of people are getting better at photography thanks to their smartphone. So after learning to care about the quality of their shots, inevitably some of them will desire to capture in even better quality. Which is where a real camera comes in, as long as its compact, pocketable and affordable. So the Fujifilm X70 could be an interesting choice. Let's start with that.

Fujifilm X70 specs
First of all, this pocket camera is seriously small - sure, it's bigger than any smartphone, but still: 64.4 x 112.5 x 44.4mm is somewhat like a box of cigarettes and will most likely fit in your pocket. Yet, it offers a huge sensor: APS-C size, which is the exact same size I have in my Samsung NX1. There's only one brand I know offering that kind of sensor in a pocket camera, the Ricoh GR (I and II).

The Fujifilm X70 has a 3 inch touch display that's tiltable up to 180 degrees, pleasing the selfie rage. You might miss the EVF, but you can attach an external one (which will cost yet another €199). I never worked with EVF since you won't find any on a smartphone (not even on the CM1), but I got addicted to it after using it on the Samsung NX1. The X70 weighs 340 grams - including battery and SD-card (which the company specifies just to make sure). It has a fixed lens of 28mm with a maximum aperture of f/2.8. The  X-Trans CMOS II APS-C sensor offers a resolution of 16.3MP.

At the Louwman Museum, the invited journalists had a "hands-on session" with the devices - I asked both the X70 and the X-Pro2 (which just about everybody else wanted). Now you can't really test devices like that - you'll need weeks if not months - but it did make for a great first impression.

First I will share a few results I got from the X70 - this is where the cars come in. I'm very sorry I didn't have time to write down all model numbers, if you happen to know which car is which you're welcome to react. The first cars I'll show you were in a dark hall, and working with f/2.8 aperture, I left everything else on auto. The first shot is at 1/60 and ISO 2500!

But the EXIF files also tell me the X70 was on -0.3 exposure correction... - that might happen when you inadvertedly touch the scrollwheel on the right hand top corner (it has no lock).

Guess I made the mistake myself or it was already on this setting, either way, it appears everything I captured with the X70 was on -0.3, it's no disaster and we'll just have to live with it for this time. Nevertheless, on ISO 2500 it's quite surprising the noise level is very low (except maybe for the darkest areas).

Next a more or less similar shot where the X70 even chose higher ISO value: ISO 3200 at 1/60 sec.

I notice the shot isn't completely horizontal but I'm sharing the shots here directly from the camera so to say - I could have made the results much brighter as well. Again, even at ISO 3200, it's a very clean shot, even in the darkest areas.

One more? Let's try a close-up.

1/60, ISO 320 (-0.3). Love the sharpness, colours, bokeh - everything. In fact it's so sharp I find myself in copper, twice even :-)

Just a different kind of "selfie" ;-) I've got dozens of more shots of gorgeous cars to share so I could go on forever, but let me introduce the camera most journalists came for in the first place - (the one that might even replace my Samsung NX1 set to be honest).

Fujifilm X-Pro2
The X-Pro2 is not a pocket camera, it's a system camera. It's definitely not pocketable and the body alone will cost you €1799. Still, it's a connected camera and I would be silly not to let you know what it's about. This is the set I used, with a 23mm F1.4 prime lens.

Now this is something else. First of all, the Fujifilm X-Pro2 boasts a 24MP X-Trans™* CMOS III sensor and a new processor, called X Processor Pro, which is four times faster as the previous processor. The sensor is twice as fast, now using copper wiring instead of aluminium, something we recently heard from both Samsung (NX1) and Sony (A6300). Using this technique, according to Fujifilm it's possible to raise the resolution to 24MP with less noise than with the previous sensor.

Also, it has an "advanced hybrid multi viewfinder" that will allow you to switch between optical and electronic options with a single lever. Something I found very clever: a "Dual-Function ISO Dial", combining both shutter speed as ISO under one button.

On the back you'll find a new joystick to exactly choose where you want to focus. Of course, it's a lot heavier than the X70, even just the body weighs 495 grams including battery and SD-cards (you can insert two), but without the lens. I'm quite sure some of you might want to read a lot more about it so here's a link where you'll find just about all the technical specs you need to know about the Fujifilm X-Pro2

Let's continue with a few shots I captured with it - again, I used it with the 23mm F/1.4 prime lens, which naturally is a great advantage inside a sometimes pretty dark museum. Maybe you're curious to see how the Fujifilm X-Pro2 captured the exact same scenes I've shared above? Here you are: thanks to the twice as large aperture, the results are much brighter even at much lower ISO speeds.

F1.4, 1/75 secs, ISO 800 (!), 0 exposure compensation

F1.4, 1/42 secs, ISO 800 (+0.3 exposure)

F1.4, 1/110 secs, ISO 200 (+0.3 exposure)

As you can see, thanks to the F1.4 aperture, all the shots are much brighter even on much slower ISO speed. Part of the brightness comes from the +0.3 exposure correction, which is no doubt my own doing, inadvertedly scrolling the wheel on the very same top left of the X-Pro2 - again, it has no lock so changing its settings is maybe a bit too easy. 

I'll show you some similar crops as from the X70 as well - keep in mind though you're looking at the results from a much bigger sensor, so the crops will be "closer". 

I must admit the last crop isn't completely similar (but I love the way you can almost touch the copper), since it appeared I focused just a bit different, namely on the car's headlight

Don't forget though, with the X70 accidently on -0.3 and the X-Pro2 on +0.3, there is already quite a big difference between the two in two examples I shared above, and I can only blame myself for that. Comparing them has become somewhat useless because of this, but also maybe it's a bit too ambitious to try if you only have one hour - and we're talking two complete different kinds of camera anyway.

More from Louwman Museum with the Fujifilm X70 and X-Pro2 
The last shots I'll share from my time with Fujifilm at the Louwman Museum - if only to give you an impression of the incredible collection of cars only on the ground floor - are a few ones from the X70 (you'l have to forgive me the -0.3 exposure compensation) and some (with no exposure compensation) coming from the X-Pro2. You'll see the results from the X70 first. All shots are handheld and no flash was used.

With all settings on auto, the X-Pro2 usually chose  ISO 800 (400 in a few cases). Shutter speed ranges from 1/18 to 1/75 secs. Again, all handheld and no flash.

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen the last shot before - indeed, it's one I captured with both the Lumia 950 and Galaxy S6 edge + as well, just like dozens of other maybe even more amazing cars. That's for my next post here at the club.

First impressions so far
Both the X70 and the X-Pro2 feel incredibly solid. The amount of settings you'll have at your disposal are almost infinite, and the most important ones are extremely easy to change - one of them even a bit too easy to my taste: exposure correction could need a lock to prevent accidental changes. But that might simply be something to get used to. I've been working with two different lenses on the X-Pro2, the 23mm F1.4 and the 16-55 F2.8 zoomlens, which quality blew me away as well. 

I'm very attracted by the Fujifilm philosophy of bringing the "analogue feel" back to digital photography. I understand one of the drawbacks is it's not as easy to work on your results in Photoshop etc, since that's all based on the Bayern pattern, not the X-Trans pattern Fujifilm developed (I read that in the New York Post article I linked to above). For me, that would be more like an advantage however, since I'm simply not very fond of all the magic you can do using photo editing software - I've always liked it to be as good as possible straight from the camera. That's what photography is all about, to me at least.

I shouldn't forget to mention Fujifilm also offers a large range of options for black and white photography, adding the Acros film simulation on the X-Pro2. As I shouldn't forget Fujifilm has a wide range of lenses. It's impossible to really test let alone compare these two new cameras within one hour. I was extremely happy to have been able to work with both anyway, and you can already tell I'm really enthusiastic about them. To get to know Fujifilm better, I even bought a second hand (as good as new) X30. That will keep me busy until the review samples of both the X70 as the X-Pro2 arrive.

Final words
This has been a first for me here at the SmartCam Club - and I didn't even test their connectivity yet! :-) Hope you appreciate I'm choosing for a wider angle on smartcam/connected photography and will try to write about more devices than just smartphones. Like I said, for more aspiring photographers the most expensive flagship can only come close to what you can capture with a good compact camera, let alone system camera.

And it's not just about detailed crops, it's about much more settings like extended shutter speed, choosing the best aperture for your shot, much better dynamic range, an electronic view finder I'd never thought I'd miss - etc. etc. If you come from smartphone photography like me, there's still a world to gain out there, as I've noticed since I'm leaning to work with a compact and system camera myself. With its large APS-C sensor and Fujifilms special sensor technology, I think the X70 might be a very tempting alternative for the smartphone camera.

Don't worry though, I won't neglect the smartphone market and try new devices when I get the chance. Like I wrote, my next post will be again from the Louwman Museum, this time with the Lumia 950 and Galaxy S6 edge +. The final shot I'm sharing now is from the Lumia 950.

You'll find ALL shots I selected from Fujifilm X70 and X-Pro2 in a dedicated album on Flickr, you'll find it  here! And in all honesty, when I look each couple of shots there, screen by screen, they may be a bit darker every time (and of course the focal length is different) - but I tend to prefer the shots coming from the small X70. Wonder why that is?

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