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Fuji X-Pro 1 Review

September 06, 2013  •  5 Comments

A little bit of Fuji X-Pro 1 love...despite some of its shortcomings...

Fuji X-Pro 1

This post is a long time coming! I've been promising to write down my thoughts on this camera, and had initially planned to provide critique during my 6 week trip to Vietnam, but I was having a hard enough time keeping up-to-date with my travel posts, so opted to leave my overall camera comments to the end. So...here it is :)

There are plenty of technical posts on the web if you're interested in the specifics, and I've added some links at the end for you. I'm going to be giving you my thoughts based on how this camera actually performed for me, and what I do and don't like about it.

I bought the body and the 35mm 1.4 lens, and at this time this is the only lens I own. I don't have a flash. You get one battery as standard, and I highly recommend buying a second battery straight away as the live displays chew through the power pretty quickly. The lens come with a lens hood, which I actually haven't used to date. I also purchased the leather case as I knew I needed extra weather protection for the camera in Vietnam (rain!). 

Aesthetics & Ergonomics

Fuji put their heads together and developed some very nice black box packaging that made me smile from the start. I couldn't wait to see what was inside...and I wasn't disappointed. I love the retro rangefinder look and feel of the X-Pro 1...at a much lower price than the Leica. The entire X Series from Fuji has this retro style by the way. The metal body feels sturdy and provides enough (yet not too much) weight to the camera to feel balanced. The rubber coating provides extra grip and texture to the body. The size is larger than the X100 and feels right to me. It's not too big, and not too small...although I'm not sure how men would find this if they have large hands. {I have quite large hands for a girl BTW!}

The leather case (optional extra) completes the retro look and feel for me, and the lens cover unclips for when you don't need it, leaving you with a neat leather body case that provides a little bit of protection - and still looks good. The only criticism I have here is that you need to take this case off to gain access to the battery and memory card slot located at the bottom of the camera. There is a hole to gain access to the focus switch at the front and they could easily add another hole at the bottom for the battery and card slot.

Fuji X-Pro 1

The camera fits comfortably in my left hand with my fingers wrapped around the lens and my right hand on the grip. I can reach and adjust all of the controls quite easily. The strap that comes with the camera is ok...but if you like to wear your camera strap around your neck then you may consider buying a softer strap. I wear it loose enough to be across my body and still raise it to my face to shoot, so it's fine for me. The strap guides don't grip the straps that well and I often had to retighten the straps...but this is a really really minor point :)

Functionality

This camera can be operated on full Auto, Aperture Priority, Time Priority or Manual. It also has an interchangeable lens system.

The Aperture control is on the lens and this operates on Auto when it's set to the big red A. Changing aperture is easy once you remember which way to rotate for opening and closing the lens {you can set this in the Menu}.

The Shutter (Time) priority dial is located on the top of the camera (again...Auto is the big red A). It's locked on Auto until you press the button in and spin the dial - and I'm not sure if locking it is really necessary, but if you like to shoot in Aperture Priority then locking the Shutter dial to Auto adds protection that it won't get bumped.

Fuji X-Pro 1

ISO sits in the menu and it would be far more practical to have another dial option to change this rather than scroll through a menu. I set the Function (Fn) button as the menu short cut that helped make it faster, and often set the ISO to an AUTO option, such as AUTO 400 or AUTO 1600 which allows the camera to choose an ISO up to that limit. You can also change ISO via the Q button (Quick Menu) on the back, but you have to arrow across and then use the small control wheel, which is a little slow. I also find the arrows on the Q menu are confusing as they suggest you use the four arrows on the back rather than the small control wheel - Fuji should do away with the arrows as I think most people would find it intuitive how to move around this menu.

One complaint is that Time defaults to 1/52 when shooting in Aperture priority and on AUTO 1600, which easily results in blurry images. I think this could be fixed with a firmware update.

Changing the Shutter wheel when the camera is up to your face is a little difficult as you need to use your thumb and finger to turn it. It would be nice if it sat where the Exposure wheel is so you can turn it with your thumb.

The exposure adjustment wheel at the top is handy if you're shooting in AV or TV, but if you're purely a Manual shooter then you may prefer Fuji to swap this wheel for the ISO control or Shutter wheel.

Changing from Manual, Continuous and Single focus at the front of the camera is easy to use, although I often bumped this off its setting due to my natural hand placement so I had to double check this regularly.

There's one more switch on the front to the left of the lens (when looking at the camera from front on) that changes the viewfinder from Optical View Finder (OVF) {normal old-fashioned standard view} to Electronic View Finder (EVF) {effectively Live View through the viewfinder - same as looking at the back of the screen...but you look a little more pro with the camera up to your face}, which is a very handy function, although I'm not in love with OVF view. The white box that indicates the image frame jumps around when you're trying to focus on a close subject, which doesn't happen in EVF. [Make sure you change Menu 3 AF Corrected AF Frame to ON so you see the new focus point that the frame will move around].

Changing the AF point from the back is fine. In Single focus mode you can adjust the size of the focal area with the control wheel...but can't do this in Manual focus for some reason. Using the arrow to move the focal points is easy enough, but not very fast at times, however I liked that it wraps around from left to right, and top to bottom, which means you can move from the top point to the bottom point by going up one, rather than having to arrow all the way down to the bottom of the frame. When you're in OVF view you don't have as many focal points as in EVF, which is odd.

[One quick side point about the Live View screen...very very handy when travelling in hot and humid climates. I used the back screen a lot in Vietnam as I was simply too hot and sweaty to have the camera up to my face. I just had to get over the slightly amateur feeling of using the camera this way :) ]

The blasted focus issue...!

The slowness of this camera with focussing is more than irritating and you'll find many reviews complaining about the same thing. Downloading the firmware upgrade apparently helps, and I did this straight out of the box so can't compare before and after, but it still hunts a lot..and I often found it would back-focus (focus behind the subject). According to many sites it's due to the contrast focus system (in that it searches for contrast to lock onto), so it works pretty well in good light, but struggles in low light....but actually...I found it to struggle in many different lighting conditions. When it locks on it will blow your mind with the detail and sharpness...but when it doesn't...it's mind-blowing in a very different way! Swapping to manual focus can sometimes help, but winding the manual ring around and around...and usually the wrong way to start (!) is frustrating and doesn't gain time. Another option is to use zone focussing by setting the distance on the focus scale, but this isn't always suitable for what you're shooting. One more Manual focus option is to change the AE-L AF-L button on the back to be the focus button, rather than the shutter button. To do this go to Menu 4 and change AE/AF-Lock Mode to On/Off Switch and AE/AF-Lock Button to AF-L. You now have 'Back Button Focus' when in Manual focus mode, which is how I like to set all my cameras. The only issue is that the AE-L AF-L button sits just above the Q button and it's easy to push that instead, and before you know it you're changing all sorts of settings! You also now need to remember that when you change to Single or Continuous focus your shutter button is going to be the focus button again.

Fuji X-Pro 1

Continuous Shooting

6 frames a second is nice and fast, but it will only shoot in a 12 frame burst...then another one...then another one maybe...then stops to buffer the images to the card...so this will only be a great camera for sports or fast action if you can get the shot in 6 - 12 frames...and then have time to wait for the camera to recover!

It's strange and irritating that the focus point is locked to the centre point for continuous, which impacts on composition choices. 

It's also strange that the burst of images shot on continuous are collected into a single folder that you then need to enter to view in playback. It would be more practical to be able to view these as single images along with the rest of the images. It's a bit clunky and slow to view them this way.

Battery

I've mentioned the short battery life when using Live View modes, and the need for a second battery. They recharge quite quickly, which is an advantage. The battery is located in the same area as the SD card, which makes it tricky to remove the card - particularly if you have larger hands. My complaint about the battery slot is that the battery can go in both ways, but only works one way round. There's a handy arrow guide printed inside the slot and on the battery, but this doesn't help if you're changing batteries in the dark. It would be better if the battery was only allowed to be inserted one way. There were plenty of times I put it in the wrong way and didn't know it until I switched it on...to view a blank screen!

Image Quality

Amazing! I love the colour straight out of camera. I also love the clarity, and to improve this I set the Sharpness to +1 and Noise Control to -1. I don't have a flash for this camera so relied solely on high ISO in low light, and this camera delivers. I shot in pure darkness (to my eye) and it pulled out an image - this is was mind-blowing...in a good way!

I've shot both RAW and JPG, although for the most part I shoot RAW. To take advantage of the lovely inbuilt film settings (Velvia, Provia, BW etc) you need to shoot JPG...or set the camera to shoot both to get the best of both options (just make sure you have a large enough card for the extra file capacity).

The Panorama setting works really really well. It stitched together wide scenes perfectly with even exposure, which is much easier and more accurate than stitching in Photoshop. Top marks for this.

I also like the inbuilt video function. I'm a terrible videographer (just check out my Water Puppets attempt in my Halong Bay post for proof!)....but I like the option to take short grabs to add to my travel memories. I can't see me using it for more than that though - but then again I'm a purist for stills!

All of the images taken during my six week trip in Vietnam were taken with this camera and the 35mm 1.4 lens...and you can see these images on my blog. The lens clarity and colour is superb, along with the nice creamy bokeh. There was some slight fringing every now and then, but apart from that I didn't notice any other aberrations or distortion....it's a great lens.

Durability

Everything survived well after six weeks on the road. The only damage is a small bit of body paint coming off at the top right of the back screen...and this happened very early on without me doing anything. Other reviews mention the same thing so it must be a manufacturing fault. I'm just calling is patina! It doesn't effect functionality.

I didn't drop it...and am not willing to give it a go for the sake of a review...but will come back and update this if it ever happens :)

Fuji X-Pro 1

My Settings

  • Sharpness +1

  • Noise Reduction -1

  • Long Exposure Noise Reduction (NR) ON

  • Corrected AF Frame ON

  • Mount Adapter Settings (set to the lens you have attached)

  • Fn Button set to ISO

  • AE/AF-Lock Mode S

  • AE/AF-Lock Button AF-L (if you're shooting in AV/TV mode then you may prefer AE/AF Lock so both the focus and exposure is locked together)

  • Silent Mode ON

  • Focus Ring CLOCKWISE (choose what's logical to you)

  • Power Save Mode ON

  • Quick Start Mode ON 

  • Image Display OFF (saves battery power)

  • Sensor Cleaning OFF (turn on if you change lenses)

All other settings I leave as the default unless I need to turn them on or off for a specific use, such as White Balance and ISO.

Hits & Misses

Misses:

  • The lens cap is awful. It's flimsy and barely clips on, and as you can see I modified it with a beautiful (!) string so I didn't lose it. I just knew that if I put the cap in my pocket when shooting I'd lose it in no time...plus I'm a girl...so my clothes don't always have pockets and it would get lost in a handbag {everything gets lost in a girls' handbag!}. And because it's a loose fit on the lens it's easy to knock off, so the string at least meant it was attached to the camera when this happened. I've seen other Fuji camera models with a string lens cap attachment so hopefully they can easily introduce this into the new releases...if they deem this to be as important as I do :)

Fuji X-Pro 1

  • I didn't take the lens hood with me to Vietnam as the leather case won't close over the lens plus hood. It's pretty difficult to close without it...but the hood had to stay at home as I really wanted to be as compact as possible and fast. If I'm not using the extra lens cover then the hood can be attached and stay on no problem.

  • Battery life is not very long when using Live View or EVF modes.

  • EVF has a slight lag, which takes a little bit of getting used to. It's also not as clear as using OVF, but the real advantage is being able to see the exposure changing in front of your eye when adjusting the settings.

  • Not having the histogram on the first playback screen is an issue if you're used to shooting this way.

  • Really dislike the focus issue.

Hits:

  • Love the horizontal line in the Custom Display mode to keep everything straight....particularly horizons!

  • Lack of noise at high ISO.

  • Image quality...nuff said!

  • The colour is perfect, and Auto White balance does a great job.

  • Build quality and design...love it...and really like downsizing my gear to be more discreet while shooting...and it's a relief to my back to carry less weight around.

Strange Happenings

When shooting vertical the live view image disappears when the camera is tilted when I have the shutter button at the top...but not if I tilt it the other way with the shutter button at the bottom. Very odd.

A few times it just locked up and wouldn't focus on anything and needed a restart...but not a full battery removal. All digital technology has this issue though, and it hasn't happened very often.

My Verdict

A great camera for travelling with when you need a break from the SLR world, and are looking for a more compact solution. Travelling with only one lens was a little limiting at times, and another lens or two, or a zoom could be a good addition to the kit.

Overall I'm thrilled with this camera. It looks great...it feels great...and it delivers amazing image quality. There's certainly a learning curve as it's not a SLR, but that's what's great about it. I'm definitely going to continue with pushing its boundaries to see how far it can go, although I'm not sure if I can go SLR-free as I still very much need quick focus and fast setting adjustments for the work I do. Perhaps if I become a street photographer!

I don't think you'd be disappointed if you owned this camera.

Want to learn more?

I'm only one perspective...although I like to feel I gave this camera a really good trial and learned a lot about its performance and nuances...but I also did a lot of research and reading along the way to get to where I am. My Fuji X-Pro 1 and I weren't really friends at the beginning...but after 6 weeks of living together 24/7 in a foreign land we learned enough about each other to build a solid relationship....and dare I say we now 'love' each other :)

Here are some of the sites I found to be useful:

TechRadar

Digital Photography Review {for all the techy stuff}

Kevin Mullins {I found Kevin's settings helped me find what works well for me}

Steve Huff {a little lengthy...but stick with it!}

Where to buy one?

If you've been inspired and you want to purchase an X-Pro1...or one of the other Fuji X-Series cameras, then I recommend these sites:

B&H

Adorama

Amazon

 

If you have anything to add to this post, or if you have any questions for me, please make sure you leave me a comment. 

 

 


Comments

5.Lydia Shaw Photography | Doha | Qatar
In response to a couple of the comments I've received:

I did update the camera and lens firmware as soon as I pulled everything out of the box as I'd read that this would really help the focus issues. Despite the upgrade I still found that this camera and lens struggles every now and then. I understand there's no such things as perfect in camera land, but every now and then it would miss an easy shot without any reasonable explanation I can give....apart from 'it just didn't fancy it at that moment!'. It's not a deal-breaker for me, but I know that this limitation means it's not likely to be the camera I'll grab when the shot is critical as I don't feel I can trust it 100% in all situations.

I haven't used a Leica, but I've read plenty of forums to know that it also has focus issues and that Fuji is outperforming in this area.

At the moment I'm both a Canon and Nikon shooter (and also now Fuji!), {I really should settle on a single system :) } and there are certainly strengths and weaknesses across both brands that vary from camera to camera, and lens to lens. I'll be commenting on this in a future post.

Perhaps my vertical display vanishing act is particular to my camera. I've read of others with lock-ups occurring so I'm not along there.

Thanks for the comments so far...I appreciate the feedback.
4.Yama(non-registered)
Enjoyed reading your thoughts on this camera. As an owner of the X-Pro 1 myself, it seems like some of your less that enjoyable moments with focus may be purely down to your firmware. Make sure you have updated both the camera body and 35mm lens to the latest version. You will not reget the significant changes relating to focus speed, accuracy and card writing times (+ other improvements!).

If you haven't done this already, you should give this brilliant camera a new lease of life!
3.DJPB(non-registered)
Focus. I don't know. Have you ever worked with a Leica? Manual focus... it appears to be easy? But it's at least 10x slower to get focus than the X-Pro1 and what a lot of Leica owners will never admit, they are in quite a few cases also not 'snap to the right focus' due to the limitations of the rangefinder system. I belong to the wave of the first X-Pro1 owners, and coming from Nikon, I think quite some people overestimate those 'big' DSLR competences. I went through a lot of Nikon D300-pictures a few days ago and to be honest, there are a lot that had the same 'back focus' problem as you describe... My Nikon diidn't excel in low light. Bad colours, lousy ISO, slow AF, often VERY wrong. The X-Pro1 is just a camera you need to get used of, once that done, it's best photographic experience ever...
2.pinkopunko(non-registered)
When shooting vertical the live view image disappears when the camera is tilted when I have the shutter button at the top...but not if I tilt it the other way with the shutter button at the bottom. Very odd.
NOT SO WITH MY CAMERA.

A few times it just locked up and wouldn't focus on anything and needed a restart...but not a full battery removal. All digital technology has this issue though, and it hasn't happened very often.
NOT SO WITH MY CAMERA.
1.Judy priest(non-registered)
Very thorough! Been curious to other options to my SLR! Thanks!
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