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(Pocket-lint) - The Fujifilm X-Pro 3 comes from a line of rangefinder-style digital cameras that was already on the niche side, but then takes things up a notch.

How so? The rear LCD screen is hidden. It's not absent entirely though - like in the Leica M-10D, which was a boldest design statement - more a strong suggestion to dissuade use of the LCD screen and emphasising its unique and comprehensively improved hybrid viewfinder. (Ironically, however, the hidden LCD screen is an improvement from its predecessor, being the first in the series to be touch-sensitive).

With the viewfinder and LCD as clear talking points, you'd be forgiven for missing that the X-Pro 3 has improved across the board and finds much in common with the X-T3, which was one of our favourite cameras from 2018. The Pro features the same processor, sensor and burst rates to name some.

Depending on who you are, there are plenty of reasons to get excited and intrigued about the X-Pro 3. It's niche, but it's not 'alf lovely too.

LCD & Viewfinder

  • Optical viewfinder with 95% capture area, 17mm eyepoint and 27° angle of view
  • Electronic OLED finder, 3.69-million-dot resolution, 1:5000 contrast, 100fps
  • Hidden Touch LCD with 1.62-million-dot resolution and sub-LCD back panel

High on the agenda in the new X-Pro 3 is the viewing experience. It had to be. No other interchangeable lens camera has a viewfinder like the one in the X-Pro line-up; a hybrid type that's both optical and electronic.

Pocket-lintFujifilm X-Pro3 review image 16

The improvements in the X-Pro 3's viewfinder are comprehensive. The optical viewfinder now has a 17mm eyepoint, 95 per cent capture area, 27-degree angle of view, 0.52x magnification, and less distortion. As for the electronic finder (EVF), it's the same OLED unit as found in the X-T3, with a whopping 3.69-million-dot resolution and 1:5000 contrast. 

But what about this LCD then? Fujifim says feedback from many existing X-Pro users shed light on them rarely using the LCD screen - not only that, but the very sight of it detracted from the experience of using the viewfinder. Instead, then, this hidden screen has a small 'sub' colour LCD on display, like a digital version of the analogue film pack window, which displays the film simulation mode in use. How very retro.

Pocket-lintFujifilm X-Pro3 review image 15

That same LCD can also show the basic exposure settings, much like you would find on the top-panel of a camera, like the Fujifilm X-H1. Of course, it's down to taste, but we love the look of the X-Pro cameras and things just got even better here - Fujifilm has given us an appealing aesthetic reason to keep the main LCD screen hidden.

The 3-inch LCD panel is hidden on the reverse, only viewable once the back panel is flipped down. It pivots down to 180-degrees and is now touch-sensitive for the usual functions such as image capture and focusing. In our brief hands-on with the camera, we found the screen useful for waist-level shooting, especially with touch focus. 

Pocket-lintFujifilm X-Pro3 review image 4

Yet you really don't want to be walking around with the screen flipped down, as it doesn't feel right. Of course, it adds more to the camera than no screen at all, but you can't help comparing it to other LCD screens that are easier to use. Should Fujifilm have eliminated the hidden LCD screen altogether? We're on the fence over this one.

Design & Performance

  • Titanium top and bottom plates, 70 weather seals
  • 0.045 sec mechanical shutter lag
  • AF sensitivity to -6EV
  • 370-shot battery life
  • Weight: 445g

The next talking point is the new top and bottom plates, made using titanium. The material is tougher than magnesium alloy and for a premium (around £180) there are two Duratech versions of the camera. Duratech is an additional coating applied to the plates that is stronger and more resilient against scratches and the like.

Pocket-lintFujifilm X-Pro3 review image 2

Otherwise, the dimensions and weight of this wonderful looking camera are nigh-on identical to the X-Pro 2, as is its 70 weather seals. The X-Pro 3 also uses the same battery type as its predecessors, but offers a solid and welcome improvement in longevity, Fuji claims, at 370-shots. You'll only get 300-shots from the X-Pro 2 and even less from the original X-Pro 1

Shutter lag in the Pro 3 has been reduced to 0.02 seconds in the electronic shutter mode, and 0.045 seconds in the mechanical shutter mode. There's also a (very welcome) custom AF range limiter, where users can set precise focus parameters. That same phase-detection AF system is claimed to be sensitive in light was low as -6 EV, so the camera will perform better than its predecessors in low contrast light.

Picture & Video Quality

  • 26.1-million-pixel (APS-C) X-Trans CMOS IV sensor
  • ISO 160-12,800 (ISO 100-51,200 extended)
  • Classic Neg Film Simulation
  • 4K video to 30fps
  • Focus Bracketing
  • In-Camera HDR

We've had a brief time with the pre-production version of the X-Pro 3 without final firmware, so cannot judge image quality at this stage. However, there's the same processor and sensor as found in the X-T3, so we can expect image quality to be identical, which is a great thing. Use the best lenses and you can expect some superb results.

Video shooting for a camera at this price by today's standards is a bit on the modest side. But then if it's designed for purists who won't use the screen, then we doubt that's going to be a bother. There is 4K shooting, but it's restricted to 30fps and a recording time up to 15 minutes. The limit on recording time may be a blessing because titanium is not best known for heat dissipation and things could get hot inside.

A few new shooting modes include focus bracketing (up to 999 shots), improved multiple exposure mode (up to 9 shots) and in-camera HDR, which Fuji claims is much more realistic than most competitors. And, but of course, there are a variety of Film Simulation modes, which are obviously important - especially with a whole sub-LCD that's more or less dedicated to that display on the rear.

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First Impressions

Of all the X-Series cameras, it's the niche Pro line-up that absolutely makes the most sense for taking a design risk: to hide the LCD screen, giving the Pro 3 an even more film-like retro appeal in a digital form. How about that for standing out from the crowd?

Fujifilm has boldly attempted to create a more 'authentic' shooting experience in the X-Pro 3 - and that's not going to be for everyone. It's a camera that demands attention in use, so it's not going to fit the bill for casual shooters by any means. But it's not so complex that it's alien to use, with all the basic exposure dials on-hand.

The real sell is the hybrid viewfinder. Which is now better than ever, with greater resolution and clarity than its predecessor. That combination of traditional optical and more modern electronic is representative of the X-Pro 3's mantra; it straddles the line between retro, while keeping a foot firmly in the here and now.

The design alone might ruffle some feathers, but we think it'll be enthusiastically greeted by the existing fan base, while distancing the more casual user. It's more specialist and niche than it's ever been, which is this camera's exact appeal. A bit like Leica, the third-gen X-Pro is Fujifilm carving its own path, doing its own thing, and delivering the goods to a very particular audience.

The Fujifilm X-Pro 3 will be priced at £1,699 body-only or £1,879 for the Duratech Black or Duratech Silver versions.

Writing by Timothy Coleman. Originally published on 16 October 2019.