My First Impressions of the Fujifilm X-Pro 1

f/1.6, 1/110 sec, at 35mm, 400 ISO, on a X-Pro1

 

I want to make it very clear that this is not a technical review. This is, just as the title suggests, my first impressions of the Fujifilm X–Pro 1. I debated whether to post unprocessed JPEGs or images after I ran them through my work flow in Lightroom. I opted to go for the untouched JPEGs as they give you more of a since of what the camera can do. I will also post a couple of 100% enlargements of images that will illustrate how this camera handles high ISO.

The X-Pro 1 is a move by Fujifilm to bring the smaller APS-C size sensor mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras into the high-end market. You might have read by now that the Fujifilm X-Pro 1 is a significant improvement on it’s slightly older brother, the X100. It’s a bit larger and heavier and of course the big difference is it comes with a lens system. Out of the three lenses that are available: the 18mm f/2.0, 35mm f/1.4 and the 60mm f/2.4 macro I only own the 35mm f/1.4 at this time. Fujifilm is no slouch at making lenses. In 2002 they started producing lenses for Hasselblad. This 35mm f/1.4 could very well be the sharpest lens I’ve ever shot. I have never seen images this sharp come out of any camera. As I stated above, I am shooting in jpeg not RAW for this post, but just to clarify, I turned off all options for in-camera processing. (Even if I wanted to shoot RAW it would be pointless – Lightroom doesn’t read the X-Pro 1 RAW files yet.) The bokeh of this lens is lushes and creamy. Even stopped down to f/1.4 this lens is tack sharp.

100% at f/1.6 and tack sharp!

Just like its older brother, the X100, the X–Pro 1 has a retro feel with an analog aperture ring, shutter speed and exposure compensation dials. The shutter speed and exposure compensation dials on the X-Pro 1 are improved upon. The shutter speed dial now has a lock to keep it from being moved by accented and the exposure compensation dial is now recessed for the same reason. Another improvement on the X–Pro 1 is the Q button on the back that allows users to access a Quick Menu screen. I find this to be extremely handy but I have to retrain myself to use the Q button as I’m used to always accessing options though menu button on the X100.  Overall, the button layout on the back of the camera is much more intuitive than on the X100. The buttons are larger and spread out thus making it easier to access. You still have the hybrid viewfinder that is a combination of an optical viewfinder with digital information overlaid on top of it. One change here is that the viewfinder changes magnification as you add different lenses. I am not going to go into great depths on the features of this camera as other people have done it and, frankly they’re not all that different than the X100.

Love Hate Relationship

Hate is a strong word. It really is more like irritations. Since we are talking about first impressions let me say the first time I picked this camera up was in the camera store and it felt wonderful. Just heavy and solid enough to feel like real quality and not a toy or a cheap point-n-shoot. The X-Pro 1 is being touted as a “professional” camera, not sure what a means. It certainly can be used in most professional environments. There is not a flash on this camera, but there is a hot shoe and a PC sync port.

This camera’s big advantage is it’s ability to handle low light. This is what everyone is talking about and it is worth all the chatter. It is amazing. Below you will see several images shot a various ISO from  ISO 400 to 25600.

B&W in camera film simulation f/1.4, 1/2900 sec, at 35mm, 400 ISO, on a X-Pro1

f/1.4, 1/450 sec, at 35mm, 640 ISO, on a X-Pro1

 

f/16, 1/40 sec, at 35mm, 1600 ISO, on a X-Pro1

 

f/4, 1/40 sec, at 35mm, 1600 ISO, on a X-Pro1

 

100% at 1600 ISO

 

f/2, 1/40 sec, at 35mm, 25600 ISO, on a X-Pro1 The AWB struggles here with the street lamps.

 

100% at 25600 ISO

 

The above images have not been processed in any way. You can see that the X-Pro 1 can handle low light in an amazing way. Sure, ISO 25,600 shows grain at 100%. But remember this is ISO 25,600 not 1,600 or even 2,000! Personally I think is this amazing. The camera also showed issues with it’s automatic white balance when shooting under sodium-vapor streetlights. Otherwise the AWB has been spot on. The way this camera handles low light, factored with the sharp fast lenses available for this camera give the X-Pro 1 a huge leap on other cameras of the same size. The image quality is freaking amazing. It rivals most DSLR, certainly the 5D.

This is not a camera made with sports shooters in mind. It can shoot 6 frames a second, but there is no AI Servo that will track focus on a moving object.  Some folks have complained that the focusing is slow. I would actually say the auto focus is quick and actuate. I can not see this camera as a replacement for a pro level DSLR. At least in many of the roles that the DSLR is being used today. The X-Pro 1 fills a different niche. One that historically has been filled by the rangefinder. One blogger wrote that the X-Pro 1 is made for “deliberate shooting.” I like that description. I think this camera will work well for travel, street and even most documentary work.

I use the hybrid viewfinder for most shooting. It seems brighter than in the X100. Plus, I am not sure if it is just my imagination or not, but it seems to focus faster when using the hybrid viewfinder. The hybrid viewfinder gives you a white box that shows you the frame. This helps compensate for parallax. I switch to the electronic viewfinder when shooting very close to an object or say in macro. This rids you of any issue of parallax completely.

Overall, there is very little I don’t like about this camera. But there are some irritations.

Irritations

Another thing that was found on the X100 and  hasn’t changed with this camera is the manual focus.  Fujifilm uses a system called a focus by wire this means there is no mechanical coupling between the focusing ring and the lens elements, focus is electrically driven by turning the ring. As far as I am concerned it is all but worthless. You spin and spin the focus ring and it never seems to come into focus. Remember, the X-Pro 1 is not a true rangefinder so unlike a real rangefinder there is no focus screen, no split image that shows when you are in focus, thus adding to the frustration of manual focusing. But the good news is, you don’t really need the manual focus as the auto focus is quite accurate.

Speaking of focus, as much as I love this camera, the first time I held it up and  used the auto focus I was frustrated immediately.  I couldn’t tell if the camera was in focus are not. It wasn’t that the camera had any issues focusing. It was the fact that I needed a diopter adjustment for the viewfinder. All of my other cameras (even the X100) have built in diopters. On the X-Pro 1 I searched for a diopter adjustment all around the viewfinder only to find there was none. After searching the manual I found out that diopters have to be bought separately by a third-party called Cosina. This irks me because the X100 has a diopter built into the viewfinder and I can’t imagine it would’ve been that difficult to do the same with the X-Pro 1. So, now those of us that need a diopter have to hunt it down and then buy this $50 addition to be able to see sharp. To me this was a oversight when designing this camera.

The X-Pro 1 has an irritating phenomenon people are calling “aperture chatter”. The aperture is constantly adjusting to the outside light and making a noticeable clicking noise while doing it. Why does it do this? I have no idea. No other camera I own, including my X100 seem to do this. It is quite noticeable and irritating in a quiet room. Here is a video of this issue by . In researching this odd behavior I see that other cameras have had the same issue and were later fixed in firmware updates. I can only hope Fujifilm will do the same with the X-Pro 1. Editors note[1. Fujifilm has release their first firmware updated and it resolves the aperture 'chattering' among other things. You can find links to the update HERE.]

The battery life on this camera is not great. As with the X100 is short lived if you use the electronic viewfinder a lot. When using the EVF I only get five or six hours of serious shooting. When using the hybrid viewfinder and not chipping, I get much longer. Fortunately the X-Pro 1′s battery (NP-W126 ) must have been on the market for sometime because there are plenty of cheap third party battery options out there. So you can afford to buy two or three of these batteries and keep them with you ready to use.

This week I loaded a few images up in Lightroom off the camera’s SD card to process and pass on to a friend. For whatever reason I did not reformat the card after inserting it back into the camera. When I went to shoot again I found a long delay in the camera’s start up. So much so, I thought something had gone wrong with the camera and I might have to send this unit back. It literally took five to ten seconds to wake up from sleeping. After looking around on the net I found I was not the only one experiencing this. Apparently once you insert a SD card into a Mac, the OS writes it’s own file structure to the card. This then messes up the camera’s own file structure causing the camera to take lot longer to boot. It is an easy fix, just reformat the SD card and all is fine once again. But it can throw you for a loop if you don’t know this is happening.

Conclusion

I am in love with this camera. I have no regrets selling my 5D MKII to be able to pay for this camera. The X-Pro 1 is not for everyone, but if you travel and shoot the type of imagery I do, this might be the camera for you. It is a discreet, yet powerful camera that can deliver crisp, sharp images time after time. It’s white balance is generally accurate and it focus spot on. The lenses (at least the 35mm) are top of the line. The quality of images produced rivals almost anything out there – razor sharp images with amazing color right out of the camera. I can’t wait to see what the extra latitude of shooting in RAW will give me (hurry up Adobe!). The camera has its irritants and foibles, it is not a perfect. But, so far, I have no regrets.

For now I am off to the Philippines this week. I will be swimming with the Whale Sharks with my family for Spring Break. I look forward to posting when I can.

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12 thoughts on “My First Impressions of the Fujifilm X-Pro 1

  1. I’ve had my X-Pro1 for two days. Having a torrid, but deeply satisfying affair with it. There are certainly things I don’t like about the camera and the design. But, it’s a lovely machine to create images with and I’ve had some great results.

    One thing that did remind me of you & Gavin was seeing the image I had just taken appear *inside* the viewfinder. I was not expecting that and it is so, so cool.

      • I’ve put a first impressions up on my blog. I totally love the hybrid viewfinder. In fact, I’m sure when I get the D800, I’ll criticise Nikon for not having one!

  2. Thanks for this review, Matt. It is really helpful to have an unbiased report of what you like and dislike about the camera. It is really sad that the manual focus ring doesn’t work very well and that the viewfinder doesn’t come with diopter (I’m middle aged and my eyesight is rapidly changing after a life of 20/20 vision, so I think this would be an important point for me.) Still, you have me drooling for one of these babies (*looks around the house to see what can be sold off to buy one….*). I look forward to seeing the quality of RAW files once adobe catches up to this camera. In the meantime I will save my money and hope that Fuji fixes those little nagging excusions.
    ~Brian

  3. Great writeup Matt, I’m looking to grab one for myself in the near future. BTW, is there a 5DMk3 in your future?

    • OK thanks for clarifying. So you feel the AF is more than adequate for most of what you photograph? If that’s the case it would robably work fine for me as well. Ho hum another option to include in the reconfiguration debate.

  4. Editors note Fuji has release their first firmware updated and it resolves the aperture ‘chattering’ among other things. You can find links to the update HERE.

  5. Pingback: A Podcast: A conversation on the Fujifilm X System with Piet Van den Eynde | The Digital Trekker Blog & Photography

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