How Fujifilm’s X-Pro3 Shoots Like a Film Camera

Turn on, dial in, and chill out

Key Takeaways

  • The X-Pro3 feels like using a film camera.
  • Fujifilm’s incredible film simulations mean you almost never need to edit your photos.
  • A hybrid viewfinder and hidden read screen make for a unique shooting experience.
The Fujifil X-Pro3 camera.
Charlie Sorrel / Lifewire

Fujifilm’s X-Pro3 is the best digital camera I’ve ever used—because it’s almost like a film camera.

The X-Pro3 is a "mirrorless" camera with a unique hybrid electronic/optical viewfinder (EVF/OVF), retro film-camera look, and an LCD screen that remains hidden until you fold it out. It is also the perfect antidote to digital bloat.

What Is the X-Pro3?

The X-Pro3 is a digital camera with a few standout features:

  • The viewfinder.
  • The hidden LCD screen.
  • Fujifilm’s amazing film simulations.
  • Real knobs and dials. 

It’s this combination of features, along with a design that is both great to look at and easy to use with the camera up to the eye, that make the X-Pro3 great. The viewfinder is especially special.

You look through a block of glass, just like in an old-school point-and-shoot, but at the flick of a lever, it becomes an electronic viewfinder, with an OLED screen. One extra bonus is that the camera can even project information into the optical viewfinder. 

But first, a little about film. 

Film, Only Digital

Recently, I’ve been using film again. Black and white film in an old Nikon FE2, developed in the kitchen, and scanned at my desk. The results are amazing, but the experience is even better. When I grew up, there was no such thing as a "film camera" or "analog" photography. It was just cameras and photos. There’s something about shooting film that makes the images a lot more precious than digital.

There are many theories about this. Is it because you only get 36 shots per roll (with 35mm film)? Is it because the old manual film cameras slow you down? Is it because you’re forced to wait for the result, instead of seeing it on a screen?

The Fujifilm X-Pro3 camera with an extended lens.
Charlie Sorrel / Lifewire

A lot of talk about film photography is romantic nonsense, but there’s an undeniable difference to the experience. I think it has something to do with capture being separated from everything else. When you’re shooting, you become absorbed by the process, not the result, and you have to make damn sure you get those exposure settings right, because there’s no way to check until you get the film developed. 

With its optical viewfinder and its hidden screen, the X-Pro3 manages to put you into a similar state of mind. You could tape over the screen of any other digital camera, but the X-Pro lineup is designed to be used up to your eye, with knobs and dials instead of menus.

And yet, you get all the modern comforts of digital: super-fast autofocus, face-detection, and a live exposure preview, and you even can use your old DSLR and film SLR lenses on the X-Pro3 with a cheap adapter.

JPGs aka Films

The other part of this amazing package is Fujifilm’s film simulations. Fuji has put the know-how from decades of making film into these simulations. Some are based on actual film stocks, others are more evocative. Acros, for example, mimics Fujifilm’s B&W Acros film. It responds to color and light in a similar way, and it even has grain.

Yes, grain. It sounds gimmicky, but Fujifilm takes digital noise, and instead of trying to remove it, it processes it to look like lovely film grain. It looks fantastic. In fact, it makes the best B&W photos I’ve seen on digital. The grain varies based on the ISO you set. You can easily flip between film simulations with a dedicated button, and you can deeply customize how they look. Film simulations work on JPGs only, although the camera also can shoot RAW, and you can apply the simulations later. 

I like to choose a film sim and use that for a while, just like loading up a real film. That way, you can get into exploring the film’s own look, instead of paralyzing yourself with choices.

Pink flowers in a green vase, taken with the Fujifilm X-Pro3, using a film simulation.
Charlie Sorrel / Lifewire

The JPGs from the camera are so good that I seldom edit them, and I only save RAW files to the second SD card, as a backup. The photo of the flowers you see here is taken with the Classic Chrome simulation, straight out of the camera.

Speaking Of Choices

There are seemingly endless ways to customize the X-Pro3, including changing the settings for all the buttons. It’s a daunting task, even for a nerd who loves to read manuals and customize things.

The good news is, the default settings are excellent. You can start shooting, and then customize things as you go. If you do opt for the deep dive, once you get set up, you can pretty much do everything with dials, or with quick menus triggered by buttons.

That Screen, Though

When the X-Pro3 launched at the end of 2019, camera forums went nuts about the screen. People hated it. According to them, every camera ever should have a screen that faces out. Never mind the fact that they don’t have to buy this particular model, nor that some photographers might prefer it. I love this weird design decision.

I rarely use the screen while shooting, and on the X-Pro3 it remains closed, and protected. There’s even a little square non-backlit LCD panel on the back, which shows you your current setting, even when the camera is off. I find this way more useful. 

Rear view of the Fujifilm X-Pro3 digital camera.
Charlie Sorrel / Lifewire

When you do need the screen, it’s fantastic. Bright, high-res, and it even does touch. You can tap-to-focus, just like a phone, if you'd like. 

Which brings me to a final point. For years, I was a holdout for DSLR cameras, the ones with a direct view through the lens via a mirror. I still love them, but these mirrorless cameras have one huge advantage.

Just like your phone camera, they show you the exact picture you’re going to capture, before you take it. On a DSLR, you can make a good estimate of the exposure you need, but to check it, you need to look at the screen.

This is a subtle but huge difference. With the X-Pro3’s hybrid finder, you can use the EVF to set the exposure and see how the picture will look with your chosen film sim, and switch instantly to the OVF to take the photo.

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