Fuji X-Pro1 Review: Intro and disclaimer
During my staying in Sanary-Sur-Mer, a nice town of the Provence cost in France, as one of the authors exhibiting at the second edition Photomed festival, I had the possibility to enjoy one full day the Fujifilm X-pro1 and the xf18mm f2 lens. I am now quite used to the Fuji X cameras, being one of first time buyers od the X100. So the first contact with the camera gave me a sense of familiarity. Same commands, look&feel, peculiarities (the latter being sometime positive, sometimes not). Moreover it was not my first time with the X-PRO1. I had it in my ends some months ago with the 35mm lens. This time I decided to test it only with the 18mm lens (28mm equivalent), a nice focal length for street work and for some night photographs I had in mind. As usual these notes cannot be taken as a scientific review of the camera as the one by DPreview, but as a scrapbook of impressions by a long-time photographer. I had not the same time of Zack Arias in testing it, but somehow I’m also a different type of photographer so my viewpoint is a bit different. And I’m not linked to Fujifilm in any way.X1 Pro @ Night, after some post processing. It’s amazing the amount of color information the sensor provides at no visible noise.
Handling and build quality
I would like to skip all the considerations about ergonomics. No mistery, I like the camera handling and the overall perceived quality. The sensations are better then the ones of the X100, it feels more a professional object than the x100. What was not providing the same feelings was the lens. The aperture ring was, on this particular sample, a bit hard to turn and, in any case, small for my hands. It felt a bit as plastic, a clear difference from the body. I’m maybe too used to larger format cameras Zeiss lenses that transmit a completely different feeling. But even the Fuji 35mm I had months ago seamed to have a better build quality. Overall my impressions with this lens were not positive: too much plastic feeling but is it producing good images? Well, when it focuses….! I’m pretty sure I had an updated camera directly from Fuji France hands but the issues that the X100 has in focusing here are… worse! Let’s put it in the right light. The X100 is not a beast in focusing. Sometimes you miss some shot because the camera has “decided” to focus behind the subject. I would rate these misses around 10% of the total. So, not a real tragedy, especially if you take the good mood of using Hyper focal distances scales (of course without considering the FUJI focusing scale that is simply WRONG). And the XPro-1 with the 18 mm?? Incredible, I would rate the missed focus shots up to 25% of the total, nearly unacceptable. Of course 75% in auto-focus is MORE then having a manual focus Leica M9. And, again, considering the wider focal length of the 18mm staying in Hyperfocal is even easier. But this was a really strange behavior in any case, something that put me in a strange physiological mood towards the camera+lens: no trust. I hope this was a behavior of my particular lens and I hope to work more in the future with the XPro-1 to see that it was a contained issue.
Ok. Let’s move on. No good auto-focus. Manual focus? Here there is an improvement over the X100. With the XPro-1 you don’t take a lot of time to go from infinite to 1 meter using the focusing ring. Much less. So manual focus is more usable then the X100, it’s faster to select where to focus.
Pretty bad, so far… But the Photographs?
The quality of files out of the camera is VERY GOOD, in JPG and in RAW. Processing images with LR to get the same amount of sharpening of a JPG you should set Amount to 80, Radius 0,6, Detail 8 and apply some deal of Color noise reduction, btw 28 and 30.
The lens, nonwistanding with plastic feel and focusing issues, provides a nice bokeh and a natural 3D look. Let me explain here what I mean with natural 3D. No fancy modern glasses or movies technologies. Just the fact that our eyes normally see things in many layers, with a sweet degradation of quality and details the more the objects are in the distance. Conversely, the recent trend with digital photography shows that a lot of todays lenses offer razor sharp focus plane images and a just a 2nd plane of out-of-focus elements. This is excellent for sports or nature photographers wishing to capture the details against a blurry background. Less then ideal for most of us. In my range of equipments the master of this 3d natural look is my old fashioned 80mm Zeiss on my Rolleiflex 6003. Each photographs has many many different layers of depth, and follows sweetly the human eye experience.
The Fuji lens, even if still not comparable with a medium format champion, has “more then 2″ layers that result in a “deep” image and thus in what I call a natural look.
This is something that put the Fuji lenses in a very distinct league. Something that is a bit missing by most of my Canon L series, razor sharp on the focus and then blurred and with just 2 planes of depth clearly visible. And this is an excellent feature for the camera that, together with a first class sensor is able to produce natural looking 3d images.
Final Remarks and considerations
So can this Fuji replace a DSLR? Well, it depends on the type of photographer you are. If you’re a working professional forced to work “under stress” I think you still need your trusty DSLR. Framing and image with the Fuji is less then ideal. Speed of operation is ok but not that fast. But… If you’re somebody not forced by the pressure of an assignment, well then I think you can seriously consider to switch to this camera. Quality wise, despite the 16 vs 21 Mpixel, the images are comparable to my Canon 5d MKII+L lenses. Still I find my 21mm ZE Zeiss better in terms of output, but I don’t have a comparable focal length on the X1Pro to check against.
Plans for the future
I expect to be able to use the camera for a complete project in the upcoming months, so I’ll update this review as knowledge with the camera increases. In the meantime feel free to comment and ask: I’ll to my best to discuss the topics in more detail.