My big, fat X-Pro2 "heat issue" real life report

My big, fat X-Pro2 "heat issue" real life report

Fujifilm's new flagship camera is already in the hands of thousands of photographers by now. As is usual for such a highly anticipated piece of gear, there were many early adopters, who didn't mind the higher initial release price, and actually preordered the X-Pro2, in order to have it in their hands the soonest possible.

There is also, usually, another risk involved with being an early adopter, and it simply is, possible early bugs. Cameras nowadays are extremely complicated electronic devices, incorporating sophisticated software as well as hardware; consequently, issues with early examples are not unusual. The X-Pro2 suffered from such a (most probably software based) issue, where the camera would lost its settings without obvious reason. Fuji responded quickly by issuing a firmware update to fix this.

Discussion in several Fuji-related fora led to the conclusion that there are possibly other issues too, at least for a number of cameras, as well as behavior that some would consider questionable. At this point, let me make a disclaimer:

It's not my job, or intention, to either defend or prosecute Fuji, or any other company. I'm a customer, and, in this case, a "fan" of the company, which means it's in my interest for them to have the most problem-free products possible. This is why, since the early release days, I started a thread in one of the most popular Fuji fora. My point of view is that, it is extremely helpful for photographic equipment companies to have real-life feedback, and we know Fuji keeps an eye on online communities for that matter.

That said, the following is, as always,  my personal, real world review and opinion. At the time of writing this, I have my own X-Pro2 for about three weeks.

First off, I didn't even shot one single frame using the version 1.0 firmware (originally included). I immediately installed ver. 1.01 as well as any appropriate firmware updates needed for my lenses. Second, as frequent readers know, for better or worse, I tend to shoot in various diverse photographic situations and styles, and, in these few weeks, I had a lot of opportunities to use the camera in such a fashion. Finally, I habitually try to make as methodologically scientific an assessment as humanly possible, so I kept a log and wrote down anything noteworthy.  

Having got rid of the "settings reset" bug, my main concern was with the "warming" issue, which, according to a number of users, possibly caused systematic failures, most prominently the "turn camera off, then on again" message. Others reported different freezing behavior, black frames or even stuck shutter blades.

To cut a long story short, I didn't get any error messages or errant behavior, during these 3+ weeks and several thousand clicks. This is not to say I doubt potential problems with other users; there are several reported cases. My concern was (and still is, since I still keep an eye for anything strange), to find what may cause any bizarre behavior. To keep things as close to a stretch-test as possible, I kept the camera out of sleep mode at all times; it was turned off only to change lenses, batteries or cards. The camera was always used in High Performance mode. I never abuse my gear, but don't pamper it either: it has a job to do.

Speaking of jobs, here is a log of the various real-life shooting situations I used the X-Pro2. I haven't included casual, everyday shooting, of course:

  • First shooting was photographing a couple of motorcycles, with a friend, as material for a magazine. This was only the second day I got the camera and the 50-140mm f/2.8 was used. I shot in burst mode, with continuous AF and tracking (to capture bikes on the move) as well as in regular, single point AF, for static shots. The weather was already starting to get somewhat warm in Greece, but not overly so; I suppose a bit less than 30° C.I noticed that the base of the camera became somewhat warmer than the rest of the body, but it was barely noticeable. In total, I shot perhaps 450-500 photos.
  • Next up: a somewhat short indoors shooting, again with the 50-140mm lens, in a martial arts school. Minimal to no warming, at about 150-200 total shots. In this case, I happened to use an older SD card, which made saving files (RAW + JPEG) quite slow, and possibly contributed to warming. More on this when we reach conclusions.
  • Various instances of shooting in an urban environment (throughout the test period) . These were, either for one-of small projects (such as the unexpectedly popular ACROS simulation experiment), or as part of long-term projects I have . Weather was warm and sunny, with temperatures usually close or over 35° C. As always, I kept the camera always on, and used a variety of lenses. Again, the base of the camera became warm after an hour of use or so.
  • Outdoors, on a tripod, for long exposures. Literally the same warming performance as in previous examples.
  • Indoors editorial shooting, using radio triggers. The ambient temperature was rather elevated (more than 30° C). The camera was used non-stop, for more than 4 hours total, with a lot of LCD photo reviews and 2-3 different lenses, in single shot mode. Here, for the first time, warming reached rather alarming levels at some point. In fact, I was half expecting to face some dreaded error message or freezing. Which, fortunately didn't come. Another thing I noticed was  the camera ate up through batteries faster than usual. I used two original and two aftermarket batteries, and, mid-time during the third (aftermarket) battery, temperature was highest. Still no other issues, and I used up a fourth battery after that, for a short, late night shooting of a live band.
  • Outdoors, motorsport shooting: Here, high temperature and, in most cases, direct sunlight, caused an increase in operational temperature, but not at an alarming level this time. I noticed that the connection point between the 1.4X TC converter and the 50-140mm lens was getting hot too, which may serve as a hint in our conclusion section.
  • Indoors shooting, featuring pole dancing performance: again, used with radio triggers/strobes and shooting/checking photos almost non-stop for close to 3 hours.  Much less heating up than in the previous indoor shooting, but not that fast-paced a shooting either.

Trying to reach some educated conclusion:  I don't doubt there is definitely something happens to some cameras.  We can conclude that the X-Pro2 getting warm is a standard behavior. The thing I can't vouch for is, if warming leads to other errors. My opinion at this point is that it doesn't, and, other errors, are a combination of hardware and software issues, in a limited number of cameras. In other words, from the data so far, there seems to be a correlation, but not causation, between elevated operational temperature and freezing/other errors.

Fuji has a long tradition of addressing issues with their cameras, the fastest possible (examples such as early X-T1s and X-100 come to mind). There are other instances of companies having to deal with serious problems which were alleviated with either replacing/repairing the camera (e.g. Nikon with the D600 and, in several cases, including lately, the D750) or fixing it through firmware updates (e.g. Olympus and Panasonic, with shutter shock issues at certain shutter speeds). Sometimes a combination of "silent" hardware fixes and software updates is needed.

Being in the IT industry for close to 2 decades in the past, I know full well how much software may play a role in -seemingly- errant hardware behavior. Speaking of the warming issue, which may be a long term concern for some, Fuji themselves have semi-officially declared that, the new processor being much more powerful, combined with all-metal construction for the X-Pro2, leads to increased temperature, compared to older X-cameras.

I believe I have to offer a couple of hints here. The new processor is much more powerful than the previous ones, true, but it does have to face heavier loads too. Uncompressed RAW files are quite large and even film simulations such as ACROS are rather demanding on processing power. It also seems that Fuji uses a time-slicing methodology to keep performance high. This is apparent when saving a large number of files to the card (e.g. burst shooting). The processor constantly passes data to the buffer so that you can continue shooting while other operations (such as storage) are carried out in the background.

This places a heavy load on batteries, and this is one of the first things you notice with the X-Pro2; how power hungry it usually is. Unfortunately, third-party batteries are, in most cases, seriously underpowered, in relation to originals. It seems like the camera demands more power at a given time from a power source that can't provide it. In my tests, third party batteries contributed to warming much more than the originals. Also keep in mind that batteries are chipped, so that they can report exact data to the camera; this is another indication that the X-Pro2 can't cooperate fully with non-original batteries, since it also can't report remaining power accurately.

Another culprit for warming, is older/slower cards. The camera takes a lot more time saving files, which may easily contribute to increased temperatures. Concerning the time-slicing "multitasking" nature of the processor, you can see it in action when previewing pictures from a slow card; the photo is showing in "steps" (initially displaying in lower resolution). Takeaway lesson: using original batteries, and faster SD cards, will help, probably a lot.

A third contributing parameter, is use of flash triggers. In fact, all initial reports of warming were from people using flash triggers. Being all third party designs, there is no easy way to pin-point specific incompatibilities.  In general, it seems like the camera tries to draw more current, or, possibly, internally checking connection with the trigger (via the hot-shoe) more frequently. There is no way saying, without specific laboratory testing. But this assumption is reinforced by the lens warming behavior I noticed with the 50-140mm lens, where connection points were getting warmer.  

All these lead me to the (preliminary and reluctant) conclusion that most of the warming issues could possibly be eradicated with a bold firmware update. I say "bold" because it may be necessary to rewrite good portions of the code, responsible for power management and communication with several camera connections. But, as I said, this is just an assumption, based on current data and personal experience.

As to the warming contributing to the "on/off issue" or other freezing behavior, it may be relevant, but, at this point, it is not conclusive and may well be just a correlating parameter. Needless to say, I can understand the frustration of the minority of users facing real issues and I firmly believe Fuji could do their best to solve them promptly and decisively. I hope this report will be of help to the thousands of X-Pro2 shooters out there, using the camera day-in/day-out, and I'd be very happy to read your own experiences, ideas and speculation, in the Comments section below.

 


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