My impression of the Fuji X-Pro1

I seldom blog about my opinion on any cameras. However I must share with you my impression of the Fuji X-Pro1 simply because my search for a lighter, more compact camera has finally ended. Will this replace my ever-trustworthy Nikon D3? Unlikely. Will I use it for some serious work? You bet! It is indeed a worthy backup camera. Read on if you like to find out why.

 

35mm @ f/1.4 ISO 200 1/2000s

 

Please note that I am not sponsored by Fuji and I paid for this camera and the lenses with my own money. I have nothing to gain whatsoever by writing my impression on this new camera.

 

Having cleared that up, let me tell you how I have been using my Nikon D3 to give you a better idea what I need from the X-Pro1. The D3 was, up to now, my only camera (unless you want to consider the iPhone 4S a camera) together with a good collection of lenses – Nikon 24mm/1.4, 85mm/1.4, 17-35mm/2.8, 24-70mm/2.8 and 70-200mm/2.8. I shoot exclusively in available light of which the brilliant (pun intended) high ISO performance of the D3 comes in really handy. I use the D3 whenever I run workshops and photo-safaris. After a while it became increasing obvious that carrying the weight of the gears became a chore – I noticed I was bringing along less and less lenses. This triggered my search for a more compact and lighter camera. Also notice that I have not upgraded to the D3s (and now the D4) for the same reason as well as the fact that their improvements are surplus to my requirement. And I don’t shoot video! Of course I won't know what will happen when Gear Acquisition Syndrome kicks in.

 

My search for a lighter camera system started a while back. Besides the weight issue I also need a camera that I can carry with me everywhere I go. And be able to use it for every occasion. I found that my D3 did not see much action even during important family events - I seem to reach for the iPhone 4S during such times (see the potential of the iPhone 4S camera here).

 

My other important requirements for the new camera are that the IQ must be near what I am getting from the D3, preferably allow interchangeable lenses and must be user-friendly. I have tried the Canon G9 and played with many lighter cameras including the X100 and none has attracted my attention until now. The rest is history.

 

For the record I bought the X-Pro1 together with the 18mm/2, 35mm/1.4, a spare battery and recently ordered the Kipon Nikon F mount adapter.

 

So what is my impression? I am not a very technical person and I don’t even need many functions that the D3 has to offer. All those technical mumbo-jumbo do not bother me a wee bit. What I am more interested in is how the X-Pro1 performs in real life situations especially vis-a-vis the D3. If it fits my way of usage, it is a good (enough) camera. If it has the IQ to go with it, it will be a great camera. Anything more will be a bonus. Simple as that.

 

To those of you who want to pixel-peep there are plenty of sites that will give you all the pixel-peeping images your heart desires. It is not my aim here. By the time you finish reading my post more of this images would have been added around the web. What you’re going to get from me is my personal impressions of this little marvel and how I’m using it. I will also show you what I can achieve with it in the days to come especially after my one-on-one workshop next week.

 

Not many people nowadays will get excited when we talk about high ISO performance. This is an expected spec of all new cameras, a given. More so from a high-end camera. No photographer should accept anything less. Given the lighting conditions that I like to shoot in where shooting beyond ISO 6400 is the exception rather than the rule, I must say that I am more than happy with the performance of the X-Pro1. The Auto ISO 3200 option is cool. I would have no qualms using this. The following images are some high ISO shots to support my view.

 

Colours 18mm @ f/2 ISO 640 1/210s

 

Fish 18mm @ f/2 ISO 640 1/210s

 

Patterns 18mm @ f/2.8 ISO 1600 1/50s

 

Reluctant son 35mm @ f/1.4 ISO 3200 1/30s

 

Bar 18mm @ f/2 ISO 6400 1/60s

 

Some people lament the fact that the X-Pro1 does not come with a built-in flash. Photographers like me who shoot exclusively in available light welcome this omission with open arms – we do not want to pay for something that we will never need.

 

Now let’s get to the point as to why I love the X-Pro1.

 

Firstly, it’s weight or the lack of it. Relative to the D3 this camera seems like defying gravity…it is so light that I almost do not notice it is there when I am carrying it. Even with the 35/1.4 attached. Must be the muscles I have developed carrying the D3. This doesn’t mean that it is poorly built. On the contrary. I would have liked it to be weather-shielded though. Perhaps that is a consideration for X-Pro2. The same goes for the lenses.

 

What about user-friendliness? For the D3 I will normally check and adjust if necessary the White Balance, the Aperture (mainly shoot in Aperture Priority), the ISO and the Exposure Compensation. I shoot with Matrix (Multi in the case of the X-Pro1) metering all the time hence that would be a one time setting for both the D3 and the Fuji. Adjusting these parameters is easy though slightly different in the case of the Fuji. No big deal.

 

To get Aperture Priority all I need to do is set the Shutter speed dial to A and then adjust the Aperture ring on the lens to the appropriate size. Convenient and quick.

 

Setting the White Balance and ISO can be done either via the Shooting Menu or the quick access via the Q (Quick menu) button. Again convenient and a non-issue. From what I have tested so far, I find the Auto White Balance very accurate, more so than that from the D3. And I would have no hesitation in setting the ISO sensitivity to Auto ISO 3200.

 

Finally the sixty four million dollar question – how good is the Auto Focus? I have read the various reviews in the net with so many differing views. It is nothing like trying it out firsthand. Remember I am coming from an experience of great focusing with the D3 and some quick focusing lenses. To me the X-Pro1 is fast enough for the work I do i.e. portraiture in available light and travel photography. The focusing mechanism has its quirks but I think it is not something that cannot be overcome with practice.  I must admit that it is sometimes not very accurate but it never fails to amaze me how at other times it manages to achieve focus so well even at f/1.4. Luck of the draw or user error to be blamed?

 

I do not have any experience using an EVF until now. As such I would say too much other than the fact that I love it. Anything new especially when it helps is always a welcome addition. I especially like how I can zoom in to check on focusing accuracy during Manual focus mode.

 

Do I have any dislikes of this camera? There are some but those are outside my requirements e.g faster focusing and wider lenses, more accurate focusing, better access to changing the focusing frame etc. It would have been nice if they were there which would be a bonus. Since it does what I need it to do as is, I am willing to overlook them.

 

Oh yes, the RAW converter. I shoot 100% in RAW. I hope Adobe will come out with a RAW converter soon. Meanwhile I shall shoot in RAW + jpeg.

 

The above then is my first impression. I will be putting it through its more serious paces mid next week when I will be using it exclusively during a one-on-one workshop with a serious hobbyist from Australia doing (and processing) available light portraiture. If it performs as expected, it will be THE camera system I will bring with me on my photo-safari to Hanoi-Bac Ha-Sapa in early April. Finally a dream come true? Only time will tell.

 

 

Dusk 18mm @ f/2 ISO 400 1/300s

 

Reflection 18mm @ f/2 ISO 400 1/80s

 

Lines 18mm @ f/2.8 ISO 400 1/70s

 

Artist 18mm @ f/2 ISO 640 1/240

 

His pride 18mm @ f/2 ISO 640 1/250s

 

Bokeh 35mm @ f/1.8 ISO 200 1/680s

 

 

Coming next week – Fuji X-Pro1 at an available light portraiture workshop.

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