The Fuji X-Pro1 and 35mm f/1.4 XF lens.

**First edit of this review, I still need to provide links to many things… and take some images of the camera itself**

inside joke

Since this is my first camera review, let me give you a bit of my background.

I started getting interested in photography after I took a trip to Moma, NY in 2007. Since then I’ve owned a number of cameras, including the… Nikon D40, Canon 30D, 5D, Leica M6, Panasonic GF1, and Olympus EPL2. I’ve also worked for my college newspaper where I’ve used other various models. I enjoy taking photos of everything, which includes dogs, people, street photos, food and portraits. Am I too inexperienced? Take a look at my pictures (flickr link) it’s your call to make.

This review will be highly real world practice. No pixel peeping. Yes, ALL the images that you will see are photoshopped and post processed from a Raw file.

**(Image of camera)

The Fuji x-pro1 has been out since April 2012, and with the price point of $1700 for the body and $600 per lens, I feel that Fuji is targeting enthusiast photographers, who know the ins and outs of their DSLR’s and want to buy a smaller camera body with a huge sensor, but can’t afford the massive cost of a camera like the M9(which is $8000 alone for the body, and $2000 for a basic lens, $12000 for the big honcho lens.).

On paper, the camera just looks amazing:

  • -16 megapixel sensor designed in house
  • -No bayer filter, which most DSLR’s use in order to battle “moire” (example) but detracts from the overall image quality.
  • -Dual optical and Electronic Viewfinders (OVF and EVF for short)
  • -3 very well thought out launch lenses: a 18mm f/2, 35mm f/1.4, and 60 f/2.4 Macro
  • -Old school ergonomics, where you can physically change the shutter and aperture
  • -3″ 1.23M dot LCD Display

To be completely honest. After the first day I told all my friends that I was going to 100% return this camera. Now that opinion has changed, but let’s go through why I thought that.

When you look at it, it looks like a Leica (like a Leica, get it?) Which are known for their incredible manufacturing, build quality, and even heft, they are solid machines. When I first picked up this camera at my local shop I thought, “Wow this camera is unexpectedly light.” I fiddled with the controls, and dials… and just thought that there was something incredibly off.

But let me say this, The Fuji Xpro1 is not similar to a Leica at all, except for looks. There may be slight similarities in how you change settings, but in shooting, it is an entirely different animal.

-OVF/EVF System

One of my major complaints of this camera is about the OVF/EVF system that they implemented. EVFs are becoming very popular these days with mirrorless or ILC cameras (link to explaination of ILC cameras), since they actually show the user how the image will look like even before they press the shutter speed.

The EVF on the Fuji is very bright, but suffers from massive lag. Almost to a point where it is a pain to use. If you compare this EVF to that of Olympus’OMD EM5 or Sony’s NEX 7… you’ll see just how primitive Fuji’s is.

The OVF, which is also bright, has many cool and nifty overlays such as a leveler and distance checker, that you can put on top of it. Since this camera is technically a rangefinder (link to rangefinder definition… or article), what you see through viewfinder, isn’t exactly what you’re going to get in the picture. The OVF provides a white box, which gives you a good guideline to frame with, but in general it’s not going to be exactly the same image like on a DSLR.

The largest drawback of this whole system  is that you can’t confirm exactly what the camera focused on while in the ovf…

-Gripes on focusing

I saw a nice green rectangle pop up confirming focus when I aimed at the glass… so I pressed the shutter!!

With Leica cameras, you can actually confirm that you’re in focus due to their split prism mechanism. The Fuji however does not inspire confidence at all while in the OVF.

The thing is, the autofocus is very slow… on par with the original 5D and my EPL2, which aren’t well regarded for the autofocus either.

So if the autofocus sucks, what about manual focus? Complete horrorcrap with Fuji’s lens set. Fuji’s XF lenses are all focus by wire, which means that when you move the focusing ring on the camera you are not physically changing the focus in the lens. You’re actually telling a mechanism in the camera to focus… which then goes, “Oh, the user is turning the focus dial to the right! Hurry and change the focus!” Along with no focus indication via the AF points like you see on DSLR’s while you manual focus results in very unresponsive and inaccurate focusing.

The camera also seems to have a very large shutter lag or delay. It seems that I will press the shutter, and the camera will take an additional moment to think about the image… **According to another user of the X-Pro1, this can be solved by pressing the shutter the entire way from the beginning instead of a half press, which is different from other cameras. 

The thing is, If you can nail the focus. The results are frigging mind blowing.

nghiem

For this review I am using the 35mm f/1.4 lens, which turns into an effective 52.5mm normal lens due to the 1.5 crop (link to explanation of crop factor). In my opinion this is the best all around lens for this system so far, and it has gotten rave reviews (link to reviews).

-”Macro” Capabilities

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The Xpro-1 has a “Macro” mode which is turned on by a button that looks a lot like the macro mode found on most point and shoot digitals or old film cameras. The thing is, there are no flipping of elements inside the lens, all you’re doing is telling the lens to try and focus on objects closer to you. As you can see, the 35mm actually does a fairly good job at food photography, but some may find that the 35mm lens (52mm) effective) will be too close for most food shots, In which case you can switch lenses to the 18mm, which will be a lot wider and give you more space to work with.

-Depth of field (DOF) and Bokeh

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Depth of field and bokeh(out of focus backgrounds) are excellent with this combination. It would be very hard for a micro 4/3′ds camera to reproduce such shallow depth of field. (explanation of why…)

-Portraits

A lot of cameras now days come with a facial recognition feature that makes the camera focus on the eyes of a person. This feature is absent on the Fuji… but I feel like it’s something they can add easily via a firmware update.

I find that I absolutely have to shoot portraits using either the EVF or the back LCD inorder to confirm focus.

Due to the impressive dynamic range, quality of the sensor, and sharpness of the 35mm, you will have a great file to work with if you nail the focus.

-High ISO performance

The Reynalds Number.

The xpro1 has amazing high ISO quality up to 6400, which allows you to freeze action well even under dim lighting situations. This is where this camera truly shines over it’s intended counterpart, the Leica M9, which is known to only be usable up to ISO 800.

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An example of ISO 4000.

-Street Shooting

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Due to the camera’s all black exterior, the camera is actually kind of discrete. The problem is that the shutter noise has a high pitch which can alert your subject, also the autofocus is so dang slow… you’ll probably be noticed when you’re fiddling with the focus.

The real gold though is that the sensor in the camera has acceptable results all the way to 6400, which means you can put on a wide angle lens and use hyperfocal focusing very effectively. (link to hyperfocal focusing).Lenses that you might find better for street photography include the Fuji 18mm f/2 or the Voigtlander 21mm f/4. The voigtlander is made for a Leica Mount, which means you’ll have to buy the “M-Mount” adapter which is sold by Fuji.

Pros:

  • Amazing image quality for the size and weight of the camera
  • Well thought out range of lenses, while Fuji only offered 3 at launch, their future release plans cover all the bases.
  • Can shoot 6 frames per second on burst
  • Changing settings is very quick due to the awesome “Q” menu
  • Discrete and retro styling
  • Fuji is a company that listens to it’s customers, and comes out with many firmware updates and fixes to problems.
  • Ability to use M-Mount or other legacy lenses via an adapter

Cons:

  • -Slow autofocus coupled with horrible manual focus.
  • -Long shutter lag/delay
  • -No image stabilization
  • -Lack of a swivel or contorting screen, which seems like a staple in all recent digital cameras.
  • -Unable to confirm focus in OVF
  • -Laggy EVF
  • -No focus peeking mode for manual focusing
  • -No facial detection mode for portraits
  • -Large sized body in comparison to micro 4/3ds, sony Nex cameras.
  • -Annoying/non discrete shutter sound (My opinion)
  • -Very slow write times and small buffer, even with a 30mb/s card.
  • -Poor battery life: 350~ shots per battery.

-Conclusion

The Fuji X-Pro1 puts me in a very weird position. The image quality it can produce is absolutely astounding. In use I believe this combo is almost like a 5d mk2 with a sigma 50mm f/1.4 lens, but at 1/3 of the weight and 2/3rds of the size in comparison.

With usable files up to ISO 6400, this camera has the ability to shoot under almost any lighting conditions when paired with a fast lens. The achilles heel however is the out-of-date autofocus and manual focus features, in which many of the Fuji’s competitors have figured out.

Fuji remains to be the most responsive and user oriented company when it comes to firmware updates, hopefully we’ll see some hot fixes to some of the issues that I’ve mentioned.

Side notes:

-You will need a very fast memory card to go with this camera. I have a 30mb/sec Extreme 3 card, and it could not keep up with the write times.

**All photographs in this review, unless denoted otherwise, were taken by me. They were processed with ACR 7.1, and photoshop CS6 using basic level manipulation, dodge/burn, and simple sharpening techniques.

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