For me, shooting at night is one of my absolute favourite things to do. I do it seldom, for various reasons (normally involving tiredness and a crappy train service 🙂 ) but as a Fujifilm X-shooter, low light captures on the streets is a great test for both me as a photographer, and my latest camera.
In the seven months or so since I’ve had the X-Pro 2, I have yet to really give it a decent low light test. I’ve been satisfied in pretty much every other area when it comes to the X-Pro 2 – especially in AF improvements and overall speed of use. Having said that, my original X-Pro 1 and (especially) my XE-2 were absolute demons when it came to shooting in the evening around London in terms of image quality. In terms of their AF capabilities? Sadly lacking, as we are all aware, but as both cameras have focus peaking (fair in the X-Pro, good in the XE2) it was overcome-able.
These three shots below were taken on the XE-2 + 56mm APD (I was testing it also) at 3200ISO.
Composition-ally speaking, not the greatest – the 56 is not a street lens – but regarding resolution, clarity, sharpness and fine detail? Excellent for 3200. If you don’t plan on upgrading your 1st or 2nd generation X-trans bodies, you’re not in a bad place. Quite the opposite – the larger pixel sites are definitely working for you in terms of IQ at high ISO’s. In auto focus? Well, you still may want to stay where you are…especially if you can manually focus.
So, in comparison, how does the X-Pro 2 perform? First off, lets talk about AF performance – as that was the area I most wanted to see improvement. I was in Trafalgar Square last night, celebrating Malaysia Day 2016 and enjoying some wonderful food – lighting was poor, as is often the case at Trafalgar, sourced mainly from two large LED screens and a stage from one end on the square. Beyond halfway back, there was no lighting benefit at all – it was fairly awful.
Was auto focus better? Well….kind of. My guess is even at the improved -3EV levels of the X-Pro 2, this was still too dark in terms of shooting conditions. It was certainly faster, but still missed target a LOT, so the extra speed was of no use to me. Hit rate? 20%. Maybe 30%. Sounds pretty grim, but I’m not so sure it would’ve been all that much better on many other APS-C camera systems either…maybe the Nikon D500 could do better, but there is a limit to where any camera can lock on to contrast. There was little of this contrast unless the light fell just right, at the right time, on the subject.
Where I DID find success was switching to ‘AF+MF’ – now, this worked just fine. The 23mm F1.4 (the only lens I used in the end) works great in manual focus, and peaking is highly effective too, and this a clear advantage over the older bodies. This image was taken using this formula:
(this was shot at ISO6400, and is cropped by maybe 20%)
And what of high ISO performance? – honestly, I think its as good as the older models, maybe a tiny bit better (and this improvement only noticable at really high ISO’s). That actually means its a marked improvement, as we’re now dealing with 24mp rather than 16mp. A huge jump in resolution terms, and a triumph when you consider corresponding pixel sites (more of, and smaller).
For example, for 10’000 ISO, I think this shot below is excellent. And again, with a 20% crop (and first time AF lock, incredibly):
And these below, I don’t think, would look that much better if taken on my X-Pro 1 or XE-2. These were shot at 6400ISO, still very fast, and with minimal post and cropping:
(again, please allow for WordPress’s less than stellar compression – its better than Facebook’s, but not by much…)
The ‘eyeballing’ shot took four attempts before AF locked. Thankfully they were so in love that they didn’t even care (or notice) that there was a photographer cursing rather loudly about 2 foot away from them…
So, there you have it. Was I disappointed? Yeah, a bit…not in IQ, but a little surprised the AF hadn’t improved as much as I’d hoped for. But, to caveat again, light was pretty appalling, I ALWAYS switch off the AF illumination light (which doubtless would’ve helped, but its a dreadful giveaway for a deceitful bastard like me) so maybe I was just asking for too much. On the upside, we are just weeks away from a terrific new AF firmware update which could well improve things even more, so I wont cast final judgement just yet. Be prepared for Part 2.
Once again, feel free to stop over to my Instagram to stay updated on most of my work:
https://www.instagram.com/capitalfaces/ – would be GREAT to see you there.
or of course, there is always my flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mattjerrams/
Any questions, I’ll absolutely answer them as best I can. As a side note, London’s Zombie Walk is October 8th. Not long now. If any of you UK based Fuji shooters fancy a really fun shooting experience, the zombie walk is AMAZING fun, one of my favourite shooting days of the entire year. Maybe I’ll see you there…
Stay well all, and keep shooting.