May 7th, 2012
I’m one month in with my Fujifilm X-Pro1 ownership. It’s been an interesting journey so far and here are my findings.
Being an early adopter of the Fuji XP1 camera system has had one advantage and many disadvantages. This is not just a new camera body but a completely new system designed from the ground up. A revolutionary 16mp sensor without an anti aliasing filter, a new lens mount with a tiny back focus, a new camera body borrowing heavily on the X100 but entirely new none the less and a range of three lenses with many more to follow in the months ahead.
My one advantage of ‘in from the start’ ownership of the XP1 has been shooting with this lightweight super sharp camera before the mainstream pros get hold of it. I’m becoming quite proficient with it now and it has all but replaced my Canon 5DMk2 with it’s 3 primes for my day to day work. I remember when I sold my 70-200 f/2.8L IS zoom and replaced it with the super light 100mm f/2.8L IS. My life was instantly better. No more lugging around the monster and as a bonus my pictures were much sharper too. I could use f/2.8 and get wonderful image quality even hand held at 1/30th. Well the same has happened again. My old Canon DSLR system seems cumbersome heavy and unwieldy in comparison to the Fuji XP1. Some testers have complained the Fuji is too light, I suppose they can always wear wrist weights (the type fitness people use) if they want that familiar knackered feeling at the end of the day. For me, the camera is a perfect weight.
The disadvantages of being an early adopter…
1. Adobe have yet to provide RAW processing capability for the XP1. This is in the pipeline and I for one hope they get it right before releasing it. The Jpegs produced in camera are fantastic (once a few settings have been tweaked).
2. The perfect lens combination doesn’t exist yet. I would like 14mm, 23mm, 35mm and 60mm macro. I have the last two but I’ll have to wait several months for the first two. In the mean time I’ll use my Fuji 18mm as a wide angle and my beloved Fuji X100 with it’s 23mm lens as a moderate wide. Both the XP1 and the X100 have APSC sized sensors with a 1.5 x factor. So my current Fuji lens line up in 35mm or full frame terms is 27mm f/2, 52mm f/1.4, & 90mm macro f/2.4
3. I believe Fuji are still two firmware upgrades away from reaching the camera’s full potential. Auto ISO settings need more options, autofocus speed needs the same boost they gave the X100 in a firmware upgrade, the jpeg image quality on default settings falls way short of what is achieved with some basic adjustments, and various other menu items need updating. The first firmware update a week or so ago silenced the chattering iris blade syndrome reported by some reviewers so Fuji are listening and better still they are taking action. I have total trust in their commitment to improvement by firmware. My X100 is a far better camera now than when I bought it and I was happy with it then.
I don’t own a Fuji Speedlight so I have not used TTL with it yet but I’ve used my Canon and Nikon Speedlights triggered with both Pocket Wizard and Ebay radio triggers. I’ve used my Elinchrom studio flash and the Quadra Ranger triggered with the Skyport system too. The Fuji XP1 has an advertised ‘X’ sync of 1/180th although I can only seem to set 1/160th. It’s one of many firmware tweaks still needed.
The lenses are light, well made, compact and sharp. They have come in for stick from some pixel peepers but I’ve yet to see any lens outperform the Fuji glass on this camera. I’ve seen many reviews and comparisons with Leica optics but the Fuji lens has always proved hard to beat. There are a few rogue copies around as I’ve seen examples of CA on some forum users shots taken with the 18mm. I’m happy to say I don’t have that problem. No doubt Adobe will map the lenses and provide correction profiles in Lightroom in due course. Once full lens and RAW file support is available from Adobe I’ll post 100% samples.
There are reports of the autofocus being slow but don’t let that put you off. I can take this camera from my bag and get a perfect shot way faster than I can with my Canon 5Dmk2. I’ve found both the Fuji X100 and the Fuji XP1 wonderfully responsive. By far the most time used in the taking of one of my portraits is by my visualisation and thought process. The time the camera takes to set accurate focus is just okay, it’s not really an issue for me. My Canon with it’s 50mm f/1.2 would confirm focus to me in about the same time as the Fuji does with the 35mm f/1.4 but the resulting Canon shot was as likely to be mis focussed as it was to be spot on. No such woes with the Fuji.
I’ve heard the Fuji XP1 is rubbish at tracking moving subjects and I expect that claim is true. Focus tracking moving subjects is something I never do. When I was at the BBC all our tv cameras were manual focus and we learned to fix focus and walk backwards at the same pace as the people we were filming were walking forward. We thereby maintained the focus distance. I’ve used the same technique for over 400 walks down the aisle at weddings keeping the distance between the couple and myself constant. I’m used to adapting my shooting style to meet the limitations of the kit I use and using the Fuji is no exception.
My digital camera journey since March 2001…
Fujifilm S1 pro – 2 years (1.5 crop and jpeg only)
Fujifilm S2 pro – 2 years (1.5 crop and jpeg only)
Hasselblad H1/ Phase1 P25 – 3 years (twice full frame and RAW only)
Canon 5D mk1 – 2 years
Canon 5D mk2 – 3 years
Fujifilm X-Pro1 – ?
Am I going to stick with the Fuji and shoot with it for the next three years? I’m going to wait for RAW file processing before making my final decision. I’m in the envious position of owning a Canon 5Dmk2, a Nikon D700, and a brace of Fujifilm X cameras at the moment. I might just keep them all. The Canon mk3 is not a worthwhile upgrade for me and neither is the D800.
My camera changes are a bit like my car changes. I’ve just swapped a Nissan 350Z roadster for a Fiat 500 Roadster. That’s 3.5L V6 for a 0.9L twin, a gas guzzler for an Eco warrior. Speed and power for nippy fun. What’s the best car? They are both great but very different. I’m happy to adapt my shooting style and learn new ways of picture making.
It’s a popular thing for Fujifilm X owners to pimp their cameras and bling them up a bit. Preferred accessories include leather half cases, soft release shutter buttons, custom lens hoods and thumb rests, etc. I have a Gariz leather half case on my X100, it was given to me by a good friend and fellow photographer and it makes the camera feel great in the hand. My X-Pro1 will have a Really Right Stuff L plate so I can use it on my monopod and I have modified the lens hood of the 60mm lens by adding a mask to minimise flare. I shoot into the light a lot and the difference in picture quality with my hood mask is remarkable.
The camera bag
I’ve been on the lookout for a smaller camera bag too. They say that photography is the endless quest to find the perfect bag. I think I agree with that statement to some extent. I used to use my Billingham 455 with my canon and its three f/2.8 zoom lenses. Then when I went to primes I didn’t need the bulk and space so I bought my wonderful Think Tank Retrospective 30 bag. Now that the Fuji kit is about half the size and weight of my Canon kit I’ve pre ordered the new Think Tank Retrospective 7 with iPad pouch. The great thing about the Think Tank Retrospective series in Pinestone is that they don’t scream camera bag and are far less nick-able than a Billingham Hadley.
What went wrong
My 60mm lens arrived with a contact fault and had to be swapped out for another one. The process took just a couple of days. I remember I had a similar fault with my Canon 100mm L lens and Warehouse Express (WEX) were equally efficient then. So far everything else has run smoothly.
I’m about to embark on a 3000 mile road trip across America with the X-Pro1 as I continue to explore the potential of this camera followed in June by a photography trip to Venice with my buddy Chris Hanley. Once I’ve got to grips with the RAW files from this camera I’ll be publishing my full 5,000? frame user review in What Digital Camera magazine. It’s pencilled in for the August edition. I’ll be using the Fuji X-Pro1 on my upcoming workshops too.
How good is the X-Pro1?
I expect the reports that the X-Pro1 is sharper and delivers more detail than a Canon 5D mk3 or a Canon 1DX are a bit far fetched but the X-Pro1 could easily be equal to either of those cameras from what I’ve seen from the jpegs. RAW processing of 16 bit files will tell the whole truth. I used the X-Pro1 for a corporate job at the BBC in my first week of ownership and I shot in the TV and Radio studios with just 300 lux of light using f/2.8 at ISO 1600 and the Fuji outperformed the Canon 5D MK2 at that ISO. So I ditched the Canon and shot with the Fuji for three days. The final pictures will be printed to A1 so it was important for me to capture the maximum detail. Would I shoot a wedding with it? Yes, once there is RAW file support.
Should you buy a Fujifilm X-Pro1?
Well, if you like your current DSLR then the answer is not yet. Wait for at least one more firmware update and Adobe to provide RAW file support. If you love the DSLR way of shooting then stick with it. The Fuji X-Pro1 needs an open mind and a bit of patience to develop a good shooting style. Comparing shooting a DSLR with the Fujifilm X-Pro1 is like comparing Alpine skiing with snowboarding. Both diciplines are spectacular when done well but being an expert of one does not make you an expert of the other. There’s lots for me still to learn about using the Fuji X-Pro1 before I can realise the true potential of this camera.
Please feel free to share your experiences with this camera if like me you are an early adopter.