After months of deciding and going back and forward in my head as to whether to get the Fuji X-Pro 1 or the Sony Nex 7 I finally came to a decision. I’m now the proud owner of a shiny new Fuji X-Pro1. While the Nex7 is a more than capable camera, in the end just couldn’t get excited about the prospect of shooting with the Sony. but I really wanted to see why everyone was raving about the Fuji. I’ve only had it for a few days now, but I’m beginning to understand. And yes, I know that the photographer takes the picture and not the camera (apparently some people believe that to such a degree that they seem to suggest that no one should ever buy a new camera, ever, because that’s a crime against the art) so let me explain my reasons for wanting it.
I like taking street pictures and cityscapes. They’re probably my main subject at this stage, but I’ve found that lugging around a full DSLR with a decent lens gathers unwanted attention (and thanks to the wonders of tabloid journalism, increasingly so.) The other issue is one of weight. A full DSLR kit is heavy, especially when traveling. With a small camera, you’re far more likely to always have it with you. I’ve always loved small cameras, and I currently own a GF1, which is great but it wasn’t cutting it in the image quality department. Sure you can take great shots with it, but it has its limits.
When the Fuji was announced I was intrigued. I’ve always loved the rangefinder style of camera and it was clear that Fuji has done something very interesting with the X-Pro 1. I’ve followed the roll out of the camera with eager eyes, and when it started getting into the hands of some talented photographers the results were remarkable. Anyway, all that aside, if you’re reading this, you’re probably more interested in my thoughts on using it rather than my thought on what other people have thought!
I’ve only had it a few days, so these are just my first impressions. I’ll post a detailed review once I spend more time with it.
First off, let me say that build wise the X-Pro1 is a beautiful camera. Its retro styling is absolutely stunning and it’s really solid to hold. Unlike a lot of modern DSLRs it feels like a solid chunk of metal. The lenses are very well built too, although I do have one minor issue which I’ll get to in a second. I also got the optional case too and this gives you a nice leather surround on the camera even when the cover is off, much like what you used to get years ago.
One of the things I really like about the lenses is that they have manual aperture rings. The only down side is that they’re a bit loose and easy to tun. The camera has a really clever way of setting modes too. If you set the aperture ring to “A” and the shutter speed dial to “A” the camera is in program mode. Set the Shutter Speed to “A” and turn the aperture ring and you’re in aperture priority mode. Do the opposite and you’re in shutter priority. It’s so simple it’s brilliant. The shutter speed dial is really solid too, and you have to press down on the little button to release it before you can turn it, so you’re not likely to turn it by accident.
The viewfinder is interesting to say the least. After using the X10 for a little bit recently, I was expecting to hate the optical viewfinder, but I didn’t. In fact I really liked it after a while. It makes all the difference in the world having visible feedback, particularly the focus confirmation light (focus point turns green when focus is locked). One thing I found really frustrating though, it is that it can be quite difficult to get your image level at times. What appears level in the viewfinder is frequently quite a bit off. I suspect this is due to the positioning of the finder and the distortion compared to what the sensor sees. You can turn on the artificial horizon which gets overlaid in the OVF and this is a great aid, but I frequently found myself having to turn the camera more than felt right or comfortable to get the final image straight. Its a bit odd but I suspect I’ll get used to it. The other big issue with the OVF is parallax errors. The camera shows you frame lines so you’ll know where to frame your image, but the accuracy is not great, especially as your subject gets close. I’m not talking, macro close either, but even 2 meters away the frame lines are off. Again, it’s something that takes a bit of getting used to, and I’m already getting better at judging it.
Switching the viewfinder into EVF mode you can get perfect framing and accurate feedback as to what’s in focus. The problem I found with the EVF is that sometimes, for no particular reason it seems very dark. I suspect it’s an ambient light thing but I’m not sure if I’m missing something or it’s just a bug.
I have to say, I really enjoyed the experience of shooting with the X-Pro1. It has it’s quirks for sure, but it’s a very enjoyable camera to use. You also feel substantially less conspicuous than you do wielding a big DSLR and lens. Of course at the end of the day it’s all about the image quality, and my initial reaction on seeing the results was “wow”. My second ration was “Holy Crap”. My third reaction was….well, you get the idea.
There’s something about the images that it’s hard to put your finger on. There is an almost three diminutional feel to them that you often hear Leica owners talking about. When its sharp it’s really sharp, and the out of focus areas are milky smooth. I know this is a good deal to do with the superb lenses too, but the lack of anti-aliasing filter on the sensor definitely makes a difference. The biggest problem is lack of raw support in any of the major raw conversion programs. Initially I was just working with the Jpegs but I had shot Raw+Jpeg just so I had the files. The JPEGS straight out of the camera are pretty good. Here’s a few untouched jpegs so you can see for yourself (as best you can in a small web view). These really don’t do the camera justice though.
While I wasn’t unhappy with the JPEGS, there are still some failings in the format and I knew that they would be better if I converted them from RAW, so I tried the supplied RAW software, sillypix. I was expecting to hate it but it’s actually quite useable. I went through everything and recovered any stray highlights, and fixed any over exposures, then bath converted everything to TIFF for importing into Lightroom for some further manipulation. While it adds a good bit of work to the process, it’s worth it because the raw files are stunning.
Oh, one more thing before I leave you with some pictures to peruse… Much has been said online about the focus speed on the X-Pro1 or rather the lack of it. I haven’t found this at all. Compared to my GF1 it is way faster. It does occasionally fail to lock on, but most of the time it’s fast and accurate. If you are expecting it to be DSLR fast then you might be disappointed, but compared to other mirror less cameras, it’s pretty fast.
Anyway, I’ll have lots more detail in a full review in a little while, but for now here’s some more images. Just one last thing, we’ve had really terrible weather here, so the light was very dull and flat. I’ve processed the images to make them look good, so I’m trying to show what you can do with this camera, rather than what the camera can do on its own. They’re not the greatest shots in the world, but you get the idea. More to come!
This is the RAW version of the shot above. Do you see the difference?