As many of you know, I wrote a “working” review on the Fujifilm X100 a few weeks ago and it is no secret that I really
like love this little imaging machine, despite a few small quirks. When I first received my X100 and used it for a while, I spoke to my camera dealer as he wanted some feedback. I told him how much I was enjoying the camera and if Fujifilm ever came out with an interchangeable lens version of it, I would seriously consider buying it.
I am also incredibly fortunate that I have been able to use some of the finest photographic gear ever made – all from different manufacturers. I currently use cameras from three different companies, so I guess one could say that I have no brand loyalty.
That is a very impressive list. Could this be the (compact) camera system that I have been waiting for?
I was really excited about this announcement. As a working photographer, I need to use tools that allow me to produce images that will satisfy and exceed my clients needs. And – image quality is of the utmost concern when using a camera – provided there are no major operational flaws getting in the way of producing images.
I travel a lot for work and at times, I want to hire a sherpa to schlep a DSLR (or two) along with my fast, large and heavy lenses. I am always happy when I get home and review my images, however, it comes at a cost – namely my aching back and shoulders. Also, airlines are getting pretty militant these days about how much gear you can take as carry on luggage (I will never check in my cameras and lenses) so I am always looking for ways to lighten the load in my camera bag. Hence my interest in compact camera systems.
Last week, I spent a very pleasant afternoon with Greg of the Fuji Guys. He is a senior manager at Fujifilm Canada and upon the conclusion of our meeting, he handed me a case with a complete X-Pro1 system to use for a couple of weeks. Needless to say, I was excited to have the opportunity to test drive this new camera.
So… having used the camera for about a week now, I have decided to provide some feedback on it. The underlying question as I used (and continue to use) the X-Pro1, “Is this a camera system that I would be happy to have in my camera bag – be it for commercial work or for personal projects?”
Read on and find out.
Disclosure and preamble
I have been hired by Fujifilm Canada to evaluate the camera and lenses for feedback – plus shoot some images to be presented at their upcoming Canadian launch. I have (on loan) a pre-production camera and lenses with recent firmware, but this is not the final system that will be shipping to customers. Fujifilm have asked me not to publish any photographs that I have taken (at least for now) as they wish to show these images at the formal launch of the X-Pro1. I believe that they will be available at that time for public release for all who wish to view them. Fujifilm have given me permission to discuss the camera’s useability, operation and image quality – with no strings attached.
This is not a detailed technical review – that is best left to the camera reviewers at websites like dpreview.com. I will share my initial thoughts about this camera from the perspective of a working photographer who needs a dependable, functional camera system with excellent image quality.
As the X-Pro1 inherited alot of its DNA from the X100, I will make reference to it often in this article.
First of all, the build quality is excellent, just like the X100.
The X-Pro1 body is 451 grams while the X100 (with its lens) is 405 grams – that means that the X-Pro1 is a little heavier (46 grams) than its little brother. As my main camera (a DSLR) is 1.24 kg, the X-Pro1 it is almost a third of its weight. This is something to consider when carrying/traveling with a multi-body, multi-lens camera kit.
As to physical size, the X-Pro1 body is slightly larger than the X100 – roughly 1 cm (or thereabouts) in each linear dimension. To show you the difference, I went to the site, camerasize.com, which is quite useful when comparing the physical size of cameras.
Here is the X-Pro1 compared to the X100:
Just for fun, I decided to compare X-Pro1’s size to my main workhorse:
As you can see, the X-Pro1 has a discreet, all black finish. I still prefer the X100’s original silver/black retro styling and having said that, the X-Pro1 is an extremely good looking camera.
It felt very comfortable in my hand and I could easily carry for long periods of time without discomfort due its size and weight.
I’ll discuss controls, buttons, etc., in a while – but if you are familiar with the X100 (or any camera capable of full manual control plus automatic modes), then you will feel right at home with the X-Pro1.
When I was presented with the camera kit, I was pleasantly surprised by how compact the new “X” mount lenses were. They aren’t tiny, however, given that this camera has an APS-C size sensor (24mm x 16mm), I was concerned that that lenses would be large, especially given their large apertures. It is nice to see that Fujifilm struck a good balance in this regard.
I was given all three lenses to use (from left to right) – the 18mm f/2.0 (27mm field of view with the APS-C crop), the 35mm f/1.4 (53mm field of view) and the 60mm f/2.4 Macro (91mm field of view).
The lenses also have an excellent build quality – it looks like the lens body is made from some sort of polycarbonate material which will make them durable yet lightweight. This is especially important to me as I am always trying to keep the weight of my camera kit to a minimum, no matter what I am photographing. Even with my other (main) camera kit, the fast primes that I use are also constructed from a polycarbonate material.
The focus rings are nicely dampened. The aperture ring moves in 1/3 stop increments and there are discreet settings which “click” into place when rotating this ring.
The lenses come with metal hoods and a pinch style lens cap. On the 18mm f/2 and the 35mm f/1.4, they sport a very cool looking lens hood (see above image). Fujifilm supplies an additional rubber cap as you will not be able to remove/replace the pinch style caps with the hood in place. The 60mm f/2.4 Macro comes with a larger hood and I must admit I was taken aback by its size relative to the lens – but it can be reversed for storage. All of the hoods protected each lens well from ghosting and flare as I never encountered them when shooting.
All of the lenses have a “close focus” capability which is enabled via the top button on the rear 4-way controller (it is labeled, “MACRO”). Of course, this makes sense for the 60mm Macro lens, but I really like the ability to do this with the 18mm and 35mm lenses.
I buy fast primes lenses primarily for their light gathering capability and the ability to use a shallow depth of field. Hence, I want to use them wide open when needed without worrying about sharpness. These lenses are sharp – even wide open. They are excellent optical instruments and I look forward to seeing other lenses that will be produced for this system.
All three lenses weigh 518 grams in total and with the X-Pro1 body, it is 969 grams for the whole kit. Yes, the whole system (without the camera bag or additional accessories like spare cards, batteries, etc) weighs less than 1 kg.
The orientation of the OVF/EVF switch has changed on the front of the camera – it is upside down relative to the X100’s. By changing the orientation, you no longer have to take your finger off of the shutter release to change the OVF to the EVF (or vice versa). If you hold down this switch for a second (or so), it will change the magnification of the OVF to better suit the lens you are using. More on that a bit later.
The focus mode switch (AF-S, AF-C, M) has been moved to the front of the camera and has changed. I found the focus mode switch a bit wonky on the X100 as I could easily bump it out of position. The new switch has solid, discreet positions and with its new location, it is difficult to accidentally change it.
All of the usual controls (EV compensation, shutter speed dial, etc) are in their familiar places. The shutter speed dial has a button to “lock” it in aperture priority mode and the positions on the dial itself click securely into place when in manual or shutter priority modes.
The EV compensation dial has been recessed into the body and the positions on the dial click securely into place, helping to prevent accidental movement. This was a pet peeve of mine with my X100 (I constantly bump this dial and have to remember to check it) so this is a most welcome change.
The buttons on the back have been reorganised and IMHO, it is a cleaner, more logical layout. The “Fn” button on the top of the camera is physically bigger than the X100’s and still performs the same function (you can customize it to one of several items).
The 4-way controller and menu button (in the centre) have changed from the X100 – for the better. The rotating wheel is gone and has been replaced by four buttons while the centre button is still used to access the main menu. They feel solid, have nice tactile feedback and protrude out far enough from the body so that they are easy to press. On the X100, I found it really difficult to use this controller, especially the “menu” button as it was recessed too far into the camera body.
The familiar DRIVE, AE and AF buttons are in their usual place. I do find the name “DRIVE” a bit odd as it used for determining how you are using the camera (single frame, multiple frames, panorama mode, video mode and bracketing mode). I know this is a minor quibble and would have like to see it named to something else more meaningful.
Fujifilm has completely reorganised the menu structure, so items are easy to find. Items are logically grouped and there are “tabs” (on the left hand side of the rear LCD) of items, so you no longer have to endlessly scroll to find what you need. Once I configured the camera to my liking, I rarely had to use the menu. As you know from my X100 review, I felt its menu could be better organised so this change is appreciated.
Auto ISO has also been moved to the ISO menu – thank you. Although it wasn’t difficult to find Auto ISO on the X100 menu, moving it to the ISO menu is also welcome. Unfortunately, the ability to set the minimum shutter speed yourself is gone. I hope this this something that can be changed in firmware. In Auto ISO, I believe the X-Pro1 now uses the formula (1.5 x focal_length) to calculate the minimum shutter speed.
The RAW button from the X100 is now gone and has been replaced by the “Q” button (“quick menu”). When you press it, you get a menu of commonly used items like ISO, JPEG/RAW, file compression, film simulation, white balance, etc, (see above image). When using the X-Pro1, I rarely used the regular menu and most of my changes were made using this “quick menu”.
Autofocus (AF) has improved over the X100’s and greatly so. I do not have any specific numbers, but it was quick to lock onto my subject with all three lenses that I used – usually in less than a second. I found that the 60mm Macro lens hunted in low light situations (in Macro mode) and having said that, my other cameras (with their respective macro lenses) struggled in the same conditions.
On the X100, it took quite a few turns of the focus ring which was tedious at times. On the X-Pro1, it requires fewer turns (about half?) to use manual focus. I rarely use this on all of my cameras as my 40-something-year-old eyes really appreciates the AF capability.
This camera is definitely faster when writing to an SD card compared to the X100. Using fast SD UHS-I cards (as you see here), writing a FINE (lowest compression) JPEG to the card takes about a second and RAW files take about 3 seconds. What I really appreciate – when the buffer is being flushed to the card, I can continue to shoot and even change menu settings, unlike the X100. This is one of the most positive changes in this camera that I have seen.
There is still no support (from what I can see) for compressed RAW files – and having said that, the write speed is decent, so this mitigates the issue.
I immediately loved the OVF/EVF in the X100 and the X-Pro1 did not disappoint me. X100 users will feel instantly at home with it. I wondered how the OVF would work with different focal lengths and Fujifilm came up with a very clever solution. As you increase the focal length of the attached lens, the framing box in the OVF (from the digital overlay) will reduce in size to more accurately reflect what the camera/sensor will capture.
There is also something else – if you feel the framing box is too small for your liking (relative to what you can see in entire OVF), you can hold down the OVF/EVF switch for a second (or so) and a magnifying lens will slide into place enlarging the image (and framing box) in the OVF. This is a really great solution and required some thinking “out of the box”. The above image captures this nicely.
Of course, if you would like to see the exact framing in the viewfinder, you can always switch to the EVF which works the same way as the X100.
I was concerned about the lack of an adjustable eyepiece with the X-Pro1. I believe Fujifilm did not include one as it would have increased the camera’s bulk. Fortunately for me, I wear bi-focal contact lenses and the included eyepiece worked perfectly (i.e. the viewfinder was clear and crisp). However, if you require near vision correction, you *might* need to purchase an eyepiece with the correct diopter adjustment.
The X-Pro1 can shoot up to 6 frames per second. I decided to give this a shot (pardon the pun) as I occasionally need a high frame rate when shooting. When using the JPEG FINE setting, I could shoot about 25 continuous frames before the camera slowed down. This is due to a bigger buffer and the faster write times – and quite frankly, I did not expect the camera to perform so well in this area.
The X100 uses a leaf shutter which is ultra quiet and almost silent. The X-Pro1 uses a focal plane shutter and while it is not silent, it is a far cry from being loud (listen to a DSLR shutter go off sometime and you will know what I mean). One thing though is that you lose the very high flash sync speeds from the X100 as the X-Pro1 has a maximum sync speed of 1/180 sec.
The battery and its life
The X-Pro1 uses a new battery, the NP-W126 (8.6Wh) which is larger in size and capacity than the X100’s NP-95 (6.2Wh). On the X100, you could insert the battery backwards or upside down and unfortunately, the same is true for the X-Pro1. You won’t damage the camera by doing this, but of course the camera won’t power on until remedied.
On a single battery charge, I was able to get about 320 shots and the battery meter went down 1 bar (out of three). That was with moderate menu access and chimping. Fujifilm told me that they expected upwards of 450 to 500 shots on a single charge if you did not use the rear LCD much and I believe that claim.
The battery compartment houses both the battery and SD card, just like the X100. The location of the hinge that attaches the door to the camera body has changed so it is next (and parallel) to the SD card. This can make it a little tricky at times to change SD cards compared to the X100.
The tripod mount on the bottom of the camera is off centre and located next to the battery compartment. You will not be able change your battery or SD card when shooting with a tripod unless you remove the camera from it.
Auto White Balance (AWB)
This is not something I normally write about when discussing a camera. In previous Fujifilm cameras that I have owned, AWB was always very good but I must say that it is excellent on the X-Pro1. I tried to fool it many times and could not do so. On my other cameras, I usually set the colour temperature (in degrees Kelvin) or even use custom white balance – but with the X-Pro1, I did not have to do this. This is the first time (in a long time) where I shot for several days leaving the camera in AWB.
Two additional film stocks and film bracketing
The X100 incorporated three film stocks (Provia, Astia and Velvia) and monochrome (B&W and sepia) settings into its JPEG engine. The X-Pro1’s engine has two additional film settings, namely Pro-Neg High (for higher contrast and saturation) and Pro-Neg Standard (lower contrast and really nice skin tones). I used these films a long time ago, so it is great to have my old friends back again.
Fujifilm has also changed the film bracketing function on the X-Pro1. You can select up to 3 film types from the JPEG engine (I use Astia, Pro-Neg High and Pro-Neg Standard) and when you shoot with film bracketing, you can create 3 different JPEGs (with their respective film characteristics) from just one exposure. This is great for when I am not sure as to what film setting will work best for a given shot.
Fujifilm’s new sensor
I was happy that the X-Pro1’s usability was greatly improved over the X100. Now for the most critical test, image quality and how the new sensor performs.
Fujifilm in their previous professional digital imaging products often differentiated themselves (from the competition) using their sensor technology – and the X-Pro1 is no different. They put a 16 megapixel “X-Trans” APS-C (24mm x 26mm) CMOS sensor in the camera. What is so special about it?
Most digital camera sensors have an Anti-Aliasing (AA) filter on them to prevent moiré from showing up in their images. It does a good job of that, but typically at the expense of sharpness and resolution. Landscape photographers will often remove the AA from their cameras which will help them achieve the maximum resolution from their sensor, however, they must anticipate (and often, change how they will shoot) when moiré will occur as it is extremely difficult to remove in post processing.
Fujifilm has removed the AA filter from the sensor for maximum sharpness and resolution. But what about moiré? They have come with a solution and from what I can see using the X-Pro1, it works and it works well.
Normally, a sensor has a “Bayer” Colour Filter Array (CFA) over the sensor which is named after a Kodak engineer who developed it. You can see what it looks like here:
You can easily see the alternating patterns of green-blue-green-blue and red-green-red-green in the normal Bayer CFA. Fujifilm decided to use their knowledge of film in their new sensor. Film had a random grain structure, so moiré was not an issue. So instead of having a repeating pattern in the CFA, they decided to randomise it, just like film grain.
The CFA on the X-Pro1 sensor looks something like this:
Notice the fairly random colour patterns in the array. This new CFA should prevent moiré from occuring in images and the lack of an AA filter should result in maximum resolution and sharpness.
Image Quality (IQ)
Digital cameras are basically boxes with some glass elements in front and some fancy schmancy electronics inside that allows you to record light. Having said that, some cameras are better than others in this regard.
When I shot with film, I was always tickled pink that I could a shoot nice image at ISO 800. Now, we have cameras capable of uber-high ISO and I believe we have reached a place with digital technology where only our imagination is the limit.
Since my preferred file management/RAW processor of choice (Lightroom) does not currently support X-Pro1 RAW files (yet), I spent most of my time shooting in JPEG. One of the things I have appreciated about Fujifilm cameras in the past is their excellent JPEG IQ, and the X-Pro1 continues this tradition.
Fujifilm’s claims to having increased sharpness, resolution and IQ because of their new sensor and I believe this to be true. I have used (in the past) two other 16 megapixel cameras (with APS-C sensors) and I believe the X-Trans sensor out-resolves them and produces a beautiful, “film like” image. I have no empirical evidence but I can tell you this – when I view my files, even at 100%, I still rub my eyes as I cannot believe what I am seeing.
Between Fujifilm’s near perfect Auto White Balance (AWB), superb JPEG engine, the sharp lenses and their new sensor, this camera produces fantastic files right out of camera which require little or no post processing. I am sure that the RAW files will also be great as the X100’s are excellent, so I do not expect the X-Pro1 to be any different.
As I stated before, the images I shot with my pre-production X-Pro1 are to be used in Fujifilm Canada’s product launch – so I will not show them (yet) until Fujifilm has started distribution to the press and make them available on their website. But I am going to make a bold statement:
You will be hard pressed to find better image quality from any other APS-C sensor camera.
Going one step further – the X-Pro1’s image quality also rivals many full frame (36mm x 24mm sensor size) DSLRs.
Fujifilm claimed that they would get full frame sensor quality out of a compact camera when they announced the X-Pro1. I believe that they have largely achieved that goal.
“X” marks the spot
Fujifilm appears to have incorporated a lot of the X100 feedback in the X-Pro1’s design and it is great that they did this. There are numerous improvements the bottom line is that you are getting DSLR image quality in a compact, functional body with high quality optics. Current X100 owners will feel right at home and it should not take too much time for a new user to become familiar with the X-Pro1.
But don’t take my word for it though – when the X-Pro1 hits the shelves at your favourite camera retailer, I encourage you get out and try one for yourself. The intent of this post was to present my thoughts on this new camera as I hope someone out there will find some of this information useful.
I like the X-Pro1 so much that I have just pre-ordered the body and all 3 lenses. I am confident enough in the camera to use it for paid client work.
I also have an upcoming assignment to Asia and the X100 plus my future X-Pro1 system (and a Macbook Air) will be the only equipment that I bring with me (yes, I will be writing about that experience when I return). Talk about a compact kit. The best thing – for the first time in my career, I do not believe I am sacrificing IQ by using a compact camera system. In fact, I may have just increased my IQ (my school teachers would be proud of me.
Fujifilm have taken what made the X100 a success, improved upon it in numerous ways which includes using interchangeable lenses and have provided photographers with superb image quality.
I started off this article by stating that I have used some of the best camera gear on the planet – all from different manufacturers. Most of the cameras that I own (or have owned) are capable of producing very nice images. My choice of camera (I hope) does not define me as a photographer, but rather, the way I can operate a camera to capture what I see, ultimately determines my success in my chosen profession.
If a camera has great image quality but its useability hinders me from capturing the images I want, then that camera will never find a home in my bag. Having said that, the X-Pro1 (B&H – Amazon – Adorama) and its “X” mount lenses [18mm f/2 (B&H – Amazon – Adorama), 35mm f/1.4 (B&H – Amazon – Adorama) and a 60mm f/2.4 Macro (B&H – Amazon – Adorama)] will be a welcome addition to my working kit.
After I return the pre-production camera system to Fujifilm, I shall provide further commentary. BTW, you can always access this blog from my main website, www.roel.me
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