I am one of the lucky few to have grown up with Leica. It is weird to critically think about the irrational purchase of such an expensive camera as new digital models are released, but if you grew up with a Leica in your life it is very hard to let go of the brand.
For some, Leica is a status symbol like a Ferrari or Rolex, only to be admired from afar, but it is my belief that this is the result of very misguided marketing. The only way a Leica is like a Ferrari is that most owners won’t learn to fully utilize them and the only Leicas that can claim to be Rolex-like are older Leicas like the M3 because, beyond the rangefinder and dials, modern Ms are not very mechanical.
So, how does the Fujifilm X-Pro2 fit? If you saw the pictures I published, you can clearly see how similar, almost identical, the cameras are in design. The Fujifilm has a lot more bells and whistles for a fraction of the price, and a photographer can choose to limit their use if they like to have a very Leica M-like shooting experience. They only feel ever so slightly different due to the materials used to build them.
Beyond 35mm Fujifilm film I never paid much attention to Fujifilm as a company, until the original Fujifilm X-Pro1; which I quickly preordered along with the launch line-up of lenses, because it reminded me of my Leica M. It was an excellent, but flawed, camera at the time and it made me yearn for a better digital M.
Today the M is somewhat unique. Leica never had any competition that succeeded, until the X-Pro1 came along. It was the first great rangefinder-style camera with great glass and a good modern sensor that provided a unique look, which is something people love about Leica.
Many loved the X-Pro1, but abandoned it for Fujifilm’s rapidly developing X camera line-up, which included a lot of great rangefinder-like cameras before the X-Pro2’s release. Yet, along the way, Fujifilm continued to support all of their cameras with firmware updates that drastically improved performance in some cases; even though many X-Pro1 owners never got to see the improvements, which Fujifilm is now notorious for. The X-Pro1 certainly attracted a lot of Leica fans like me, and built a loyal following for Fujifilm, but many lapsed fans wonder how the X-Pro2 compares to the M.
Introducing the Fujifilm X-Pro2
The Fujifilm X-Pro2 launch went much smoother than the X-Pro1 launch. The camera was fast and RAW support was very good on day one, but some experienced a minor reset bug that Fujifilm addressed relatively quickly via a firmware update. The X-Pro2 was many orders of magnitude better than the X-Pro1 it replaced, and additional manual controls were added like the ISO dial that completed the retro Leica-like feel of the camera. Yet, unlike retro cameras, the X-Pro2 does not have any functional limitations. The still unique hybrid viewfinder makes the X-Pro2 a jack of all trades and puts it in a class of its own.
The Leica rangefinder window is widely regarded for its clarity and brightness compared to other optical finders, but the new X-Pro2 viewfinder is equally as good, and even surpasses it, because it allows the photographer to adjust the finder’s magnification. The X-Pro2 can switch between 0.36x/0.6x OVF magnification by holding the viewfinder lever on the front of the camera and Fujifilm can even improve the accuracy of their frame lines with firmware updates, which they have done in the past. When switching to EVF the magnification is fixed at 0.59x with a frame rate of 85fps that does not drop in low light with only 0.012 seconds of lag and 2.36 million dots, but the focal point can be magnified by 6x.
On the other hand, the Leica M240 is limited to 0.68x, which can be improved with a screw on magnifier. I currently use a Leica 1.25x magnifier on mine that improves my magnification to 0.85x. For reference, the gold standard is often considered the Leica M3 which had 0.91x magnification. There are also 0.7x, 1.4x, and 1.5x magnifiers widely available along with some off brand adjustable ones. On the M240 these magnifiers give photographers 0.48x, 0.95x, and 1.02x. I did not purchase the 1.4x or 1.5x magnifiers because I felt they limited the lenses I could attach to my M240 too much. I generally shoot 50mm, but I like shooting 35mm and 28mm, which cannot be done well with strong magnifiers because the frame lines become obscured.
When manually focusing a lens with a focal length of 10-75mm, the Leica viewfinder probably has an edge over other methods, but beyond 75mm, the Fujifilm EVF gains the advantage over the Leica because the EVF can be zoomed 6x. Leica also has an optional EVF that can be purchased and zoomed like live view on the back screen, but most users will never opt for it because of its low resolution and price, but it zooms to 10x.
Thanks to the ability to autofocus, photographer have the ability to have an expanded rangefinder-type experience when setting the X-Pro2’s magnification to 0.36x. This allows them too see more of the world around them, or they can choose to use a more traditional 0.60x magnification with tighter frame lines. It is a very unique rangefinder-style experience that allows photographers to be uniquely creative. Some have even used the OVF with the 100-400mm, even though it is way beyond the limitations of the frame lines that the OVF can produce. They simply point the lens and get center point focus confirmation to shoot.
X-Mount vs M-Mount
X-mount will be 5 years old soon, and Fujifilm has had some luck getting other manufactures to produce lenses for them but, beyond a few Zeiss AF lenses, most are manual focus. There are also a lot of adapters on the market that let photographers use glass from almost any manufacturer, but AF adapters for X-mount have not really materialized yet.
M-mount became a pretty standard mount after screw mount, so a lot of quality glass is available with rangefinder coupling; but prices can be very high. There are even adapters for old screw mount lenses to use on a modern rangefinder cameras, so there is a ton of quality glass for M-mount. Plus, 3rd party lenses can now be adapted for M-mount just like on X-mount, but you have to use the rear screen in live view mode or the optional low resolution EVF to focus and frame.
There is a lot of quality glass for everyone at every price point but, if you can afford a Leica, chances are that money does not matter very much. M glass is highly adaptable so it is a great investment if you are not sure which mirrorless system you are going to stick with going forward.
Leica glass is widely regarded as second to none. It is the kind of statement that no one ever challenges because it is just about always true and, even when it is not, the glass is good enough and no one would question the remark without having two completely identical shots with different lenses to compare.
Leica has a few lenses that I consider to be less desirable, but they are still better than 95% of the lenses available, even though they are less desirable to me. They do manage to offer other benefits, like being significantly smaller in design than similar glass, but I generally do not care about lens size unless it is obnoxiously big. So, the 5% of glass that photographers could make a solid argument for being better will almost always weigh significantly more and be significantly bigger. I am not going to name lens names because it will detract from the larger point, but note that I have only kept Leica glass that I consider to be second to none, because photography equipment selling at Leica prices should be second to none.
Leica’s 50mm Summilux f1.4 ASPH is an all-around amazing lens and it has been since its introduction. Basically, if it is 50mm and it is a Leica, photographers are probably not going to be disappointed unless someone sold them a knock off or damaged lens. In my opinion, the Leica Look has always been best represented by the 50mm Summilux, and it is why I spent over a year trying to get a new one when they were hard to find after the M9‘s introduction. It is simply sublime. I also really loved the Leica Elmarit-M 28mm f/2.8 ASPH for a while, along with the Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f/1.2 (V1/2) (I owned both) and Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon T* ZM. There is a lot of superb glass for the M, but I highly recommend that photographers new to Leica limit their selection so they can develop their ability to frame a picture in their head before putting camera to eye. Getting quick with the M is generally closely tied to seeing the world through a fixed focal length.
You can buy a professional Fujifilm setup for the price of one high-end Leica lens. Let that sink in… At this time, I own almost all of Fujifilm’s glass. Even their Japanese toy lenses are a joy to shoot with. I regularly shoot with most of my lenses, but carrying around the big zooms like the Fujinon XF 50-140mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR can be a bit difficult when most of your camera bags are meant for M cameras. Fujifilm has great glass that has lots of character. They are also introducing a lot of weather resistant lenses and more small primes that are easy to carry around. Many of their lenses are the best or very close to the best at their focal length, and they are cheaper than the competition. Lenses like the Fujinon XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR, XF 90mm f/2 R LM WR, XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS, XF 50-140mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR are all phenomenal. Even the Fujinon 35mm f/1.4 XF R from the launch of the X system has great character, but it really needs to be updated to focus more like the XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR.
Fujifilm has a lot of great glass and all they really need now is long telephoto glass to round out their system, which is not really what the X-Pro2 is for, but it can do it because it is a Jack of all trades. Some of their older glass could also use revision, because AF speed is very much limited by the lens attached to your Fujifilm body and it will only get worse as newer glass is released. Fujifilm aggressively releases firmware updates for their cameras and lenses for speed and accuracy, but now it is time to start updating lenses.
Considering the quality of Leica glass, most would think they should win this section, but since everything that works on an M can be adapted to an X-Pro2, and the X-Pro2 has a lot of its own great glass that cannot be adapted to the M, the X-Pro2 is the better system for glass. There is just so much to choose from at every price point and beyond the few stinkers like the Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 R, which some people still like, Fujifilm has a very solid line-up.
This is not a fair comparison because the M240 was introduced at the end of 2012, while the X-Pro2 came out at the beginning of 2016. They both have a base ISO of 200, but the Fujifilm is very usable up to 12,800, while the M240 falls apart around 3200 ISO.
The M240 does MJPEG for video at 1080p24, which is decent quality, and has the Leica look, but the Fujifilm X-Pro2 uses mp4 to capture up to 1080p60 with film simulation applied. The ability to apply film simulation really propels the X-Pro2 out in front because it gives the video a very unique look that would be hard for most users to match in post.
The Leica M240 does retain the Leica look at times, but not as often as the M9 did, which made the M240 a controversial camera. The transition to a CMOS sensor in the M disappointed a lot of M fans, but there is no going back because CCD development has stalled outside of medium format cameras. Many photographers believe they can look at a photo and tell if it was taken with a Leica, or even an M9/M240, but they generally fail when tested. There is a quality to a Leica photo that is hard to describe beyond it being something about the micro contrast that pops out, but images on the M240 are just not like they used to be on film Leicas or M9s, and when images do pop on the M240 it is not as often as it used to be on an M9.
Similarly, the Fujifilm X-Pro2 has Fuji colors through and through, which people seem to love or hate. I like them quite a bit and the x-trans color profile is pleasant to me, especially with the ability to emulate Fujifilm films color profile in Lightroom with RAW files. So, Fujifilm wins the sensor battle easily because it produces a consistent image quality that the photographer is looking for.
File quality is not important to everyone, but it is something Leica has always gotten right. DNG is the way to go for RAW files. It ensures that files can be opened easily, and that there is no wait for RAW support. I cannot remember the last time Leica launched a camera without full RAW support from the major editors, which probably is in part because, unlike Fujifilm, they use an easy to work with RAW format.
Fujifilm’s RAF format has never been well supported and it is only recently that they have managed to gain day one support from major RAW editing companies like Adobe. Their format has matured quite a bit, but the algorithm that companies like Adobe use to interpret the X-trans files can be flaky at times, which is why many photographers pick RAW developers like Iridient Developer, which will soon release an app that turns RAF files into more compatible/higher quality DNG files for Lightroom.
Both create compressed RAW files about the same size, 23-30MB, but the M240 can only recover around 2-3 stops at best, while the X-Pro2 can recover 4-5 stops. The amazing ability to push and pull XPro2 files that far comes from the sensor being ISO invariant. There is a lot of discussion about ISO invariant sensors you can read and debate about, but the XPro2 files are a lot more flexible than the M240 files, especially as the ISO goes up and the M240 starts to show banding.
The Leica M is famous for being made from brass (weighing 680g), but now there are some aluminum variants being released that are trying to reduce its weight a little. Generally speaking, I like that they are putting the M on a diet, but I think they could have picked a better metal for the price, like titanium. Aluminum is cheaper, but stronger than brass, and the Ms made with aluminum are not cheaper.
Starting with the M240, Leica began advertising weather sealing, but it was vague at best, and Leica has not released any weather sealed glass for the M or confirmed that any of their current glass is sealed. The M has never had dual card slots, which is an issue for many. The SD card/battery is not very easy to get to because the bottom needs to be unscrewed to access them, which can be difficult to grasp; but this is not a problem if you trust a large SD card with the battery, which can last all day. This is just part of the Leica charm and your trust that your camera will work, but SD cards can and do fail.
If you have seen pictures of my camera before, I have a lot of accessories on it. I like having a thumbs up on my M to help with stability at low shutter speeds, and I only use the handgrip for GPS because I like geotagging my photos. I really do not like the plastic grip, but the finger loop is nice. I also use a magnifier to get critical focus faster and more accurately at f1.4, f1.2 and f0.95. I like the feel of the M240, but the M9 was superior, and now older film M cameras feel a little too small for me. I have been shooting digital Ms back to back since the M8, so I am done with film. There is no simpler camera and, even though the M240 has added video and more over the M9, it still comes down to aperture/ISO/shutter speed.
The Fujifilm X-Pro2 is a classic looking camera with a modern build. It is made of four pieces of magnesium alloy (weighing 495g) that are sealed at 61 points on each section. This makes it “dust-proof, splash-proof and capable of operating in temperatures as low as -10°C.” Outside of the original marketing materials, they call it weather resistant, not weather proof, so photographers just have to trust Fujifilm about how reliable their seals are; but I have read stories of people having problems with rain and Fujifilm covering the damage under warranty, so if you purchase an X-Pro2 make sure to purchase a camera with a warranty and test the seals at some point. The X-Pro2 even has dual card slots, but the battery will not last all day. Photographers will get between 200-400 shots per charge depending on the quality of their battery and shooting style. I generally recommend carrying 2-3 batteries.
The X-Pro2 does not need any accessories, but on camera GPS would be nice even as an add-on device, because the phone app does not work very well for geotagging. The camera feels great out of the box, and the only thing I used on mine for a little while was a soft release button. Once the X-Pro2 is setup how a photographer likes to shoot, it can be operated entirely without going into menus, which is impressive for such a capable camera.
The Leica M feels luxurious and unnecessarily heavy, while the Fujifilm X-Pro2 feels light and solid, yet both are well-balanced. Strangely enough, when removing everything from the body of each but the battery, the bodies feel very similar in weight and size. Part of the Leica bulk definitely comes from the mounted lens. Honestly, I feel like this is a tie because I like both bodies quite a bit; and the X-Pro2 body is more high-tech, while the M240 body seems to be going in the wrong direction.
Video is one of those things that I greatly enjoy doing from time to time, but if I take on a project I almost always regret it because I do not have a good work flow. Fujifilm has eased this burden a little with their film simulation modes that let me get usable raw footage right out of the camera, while Leica files take some work. Their motion JPEG format saves them licensing fees, but costs photographers/cinematographers a lot of space and time to work with the files involved. I have seen great footage out of the M240, but I’ve never managed to capture any video worth sharing with mine.
The Winner is…
Before the Fujifilm X-Pro2 I’d never recommend a camera over the Leica M for the pure joy of shooting. The M is love when in use by a photographer… if you want the bliss of shooting get an M… If you want to know what it’s like to miss shooting like you miss the love of your life, get an M… Fujifilm was so close with the X-Pro1 but, when I would look at the photos after a day of shooting, I had focus issues on award-winning shots that made me want to throw my monitor at my X-Pro1… That changed with the X-Pro2, now I get all the shots and the feelings…
The Fujifilm X-Pro2 is an amazing camera. The hybrid-viewfinder created a completely new category of camera that, very unfortunately, no one else has joined yet. The X-Trans sensor is brilliant, and the glass you can put in front of it is world-class and not over-priced, which allows you to capture some truly amazing photographs. Fujifilm even fixed their video issues and made one hell of a video camera. I love my Fujifilm X-Pro2…
Yet… here’s where you throw your hands up in the air… I find myself selling my X-Pro2… it’s love and it’s not rational, and this is mine and Leica’s problem in our dysfunctional relationship. I shouldn’t love my Leica M. The Fujifilm X-Pro 2 is the better camera for me and everyone else. Even now I’m trying to rationalize it as all the time/money/energy I have put into the Leica M, but… I just can’t. It’s a feeling. At least I’ll still have my Fujifilm X-T2 around to comfort me when I am missing my Fujifilm X-Pro2.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.
About the author: Louis Ferriera is a second-generation Leica photographer that learned analog photography on a first production year Leica M3 that he inherited from his uncle. Photography has been an avocation of his for 25 years and he became involved in professional photography when the transition to digital photography began in the 90s. You can find more by Louis on Fuji Addict, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, 500px, and Twitter. This article was also published here.