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Initial thoughts on the X-Pro1

Patrick V , Mar 06, 2012; 07:42 a.m.

On a recent business trip to Tokyo I collected a pre-ordered Fuji X-Pro1. This was preceded with the usual excitement and web surfing for any new morsels of information about Fuji's latest offering. Here's my view which adds to the general fervor the camera has created.

A brief background, which I present as a comparison point. My primary kit is a Nikon D3s which is the third digital Nikon body I've owned. When traveling light, a Canon s90 is the tool of choice. I've an extensive array of film cameras. These days the more frequently used include a Voigtlander Bessa R3A, Mamiya 645, Mamiya RZ, Fuji 617 and Tachihara 4x5.

So down to the matter at hand.

Slightly larger than an M9 the XP1 will be a joy to handle compared to heavy "professional" SLRs and accompanying lenses. It's comfortable and molds well to the hands. Some have commented (complained) about the "plastically" feel. I disagree. The body feels solid but isn't heavy -- which is a typical and desirable Japanese design trait. The camera top has a minimalist and retro design, with analogue-inspired dials for shutter speed and exposure compensation. However an array of buttons on the back belies the XP1's modern pedigree. Bottom line, nothing got in the way and I'm confident that the controls will become second nature once muscle memory creeps in.

Much has been written about the clumsy menu system of the X100. I can’t comment on that, however, the XP1's incarnation is relatively uncomplicated and intuitive -- especially when compared to a Nikon D3s. It takes a bit of getting used to but what camera doesn't.

Much has also been written about the X100's AF system and whether the XP1 will be an improvement. Again, without specific reference point the AF system is responsive and perfectly adequate for most needs. There was little hunting, except perhaps when the lens cap is inadvertently left on! It's not a professional Nikon body with AF-S lens so it won't be the first choice for action or sports but, then again, that's not what the system is about. This all applies to single servo AF (in Nikon-speak) as I've yet to get to AF-C mode. All-in-all, this is in line with expectations. Certainly do disappointments here.

The focal plane shutter is reasonably stealthy. More Bessa than Leica. There's no mirror slap and the feint tactile feedback from the shutter action is enjoyable and comforting.

It's still too early to comment on the other bells and whistles. There is a wide array of features which have promise. I particularly enjoyed the film simulations. Bracketing functions are great albeit limited to 3 shots at max +/- 1 EV. Results from the macro function (via the EVF) are also excellent.

So what about IQ? This was one of the (positive) surprises. I had read widely about the much vaunted X-trans sensor and Fuji's claims that the 16.1M APS-C sensor will out-resolve recent FF offerings from Canon. Whether it's the extra mega-pixels (my reference is 12.1M Nikon D3s) or the lack of anti-aliasing filter, or both, pixel peepers will not be disappointed. Even severe crops are still crisp and sharp. Dynamic range was good although I'm yet to come to terms with some of the advanced settings. Most importantly images (with the 35mm XF lens) look great, even straight out of the camera. The only question is when the M-adapter will be made available by Fuji or produced by enterprising Chinese OEMs!

The one aspect of the camera that hasn't performed to expectations is the viewfinder. The XP1 has three shooting modes being optical viewfinder, electronic viewfinder and via the rear LCD. I've used an owned a couple of rangefinders over the years including a Bessa R3A, Fuji GA645 and Super Ikonta III. To me, this is the primary value proposition of the XP1. A digital rangefinder that doesn't require a second mortgage. The OVF is a joy to behold with bright white lines and fully customizable read-outs through a real world view. However, there is one "BUT". Unbeknownst to me the frame lines are far from "true" meaning it's not WYSIWYG. Parallax aside, coverage from the OVF is about 80%. So tight shooting results in shots that contain more than what expected. This is true for both close and far subjects with the latter thus eliminating the parallax error. The result is the same. There are two workarounds for this. Either estimate the difference by getting closer to the subject (which is tough when shooting at or near infinity) or using the electronic viewfinder -- which is absolutely spot on in terms of framing. Frankly, this is a disappointing. Surely the designers can get that right, or at least to a higher tolerance of say 95% coverage. This isn't a $100 point and shoot. This is a $2,000 body aimed at serious amateurs and professionals. I want, as many buyers will, a digital rangefinder with a workable optical viewfinder. With my limited experience thus far, if you're looking to shoot tight using the OVF you will get more than you want. I hope/trust this is something that could be solved via a firmware upgrade.

Although certain Leica owners may disagree, no camera is perfect. There are always trade-offs and every system has quirks that take getting used to, hence, final judgment should be delivered after concerted use. With 48 hours behind me I can say that the XP1 has not disappointed in terms of handling, image quality and other technical "stuff". Full marks to Fuji on that score. Full marks also for producing a very sexy retro-style rangefinder body. Only the Japanese are capable of melding the traditional and modern in a workable package -- with perhaps the Germans in second place. However, the XP1 loses marks for the quirks in the OVF. If the engineers want to make a middle aged amateur photog happy they will fix that PDQ with the first firmware release. That said the proof of the pudding is in the eating and for that a few sample images can be found at http://www.flickr.com/photos/peevey/sets/72157629160666740/. Apologies in advance for a subject matter. It's slim picking where I'm currently located i.e. on the outskirts of Tokyo.

Responses


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Patrick V , Mar 06, 2012; 08:03 a.m.

Here are a couple of the images ...

Louis Meluso , Mar 06, 2012; 08:05 a.m.

Thanks for that thoughtful hands-on review, Patrick

Steve Solomon , Mar 06, 2012; 09:39 a.m.

Nice article and images! I’ve been vacillating between the Sony NEX-7 (with the Zeiss 24) and this Fujifilm X-PRO1 as a perfect “travel” companion to my Pentax K-5 kit. I just can’t decide which system would produce the highest resolving (sharpest) images. I know all about each system in terms of specs, but have not seen sufficient testing done, particularly on the X-PRO1 and its supposedly awesome lenses. I already have the K-5 with some deliciously sharp Pentax optics (FA43, DA*55, and DA70 Limited). I wonder if either the Zeiss 24 or the Fuji’s would equal the sharpness and micro-contrast of the aforementioned Pentax lenses.
Thanks, Steve.

Eric Friedemann , Mar 06, 2012; 09:49 a.m.

That's some good information. I've shot some with the X100 and have a black one on order. In time, depending on how much I like the X100, I may pick up an X-Pro1.

The main draw of the X-Pro1 to me would be the 16MP sensor. Having owned an Oly E-P1 and having shot the Fuji X100 and processed RAW files from both cameras, 12MP sensors sometimes leave me wanting somewhat more resolution.

I'm not surprised by your comments about using the OVF with the electronic frame lines. On the X100, I think the accuracy of the OVF frame lines is dismal. However, when switched over to EVF, the viewfinder accuracy is 100%.

Sanford Edelstein , Mar 06, 2012; 10:37 a.m.

Any sign of that "white orb" issue plaguing the Fuji X10?

Mukul Dube , Mar 06, 2012; 11:57 a.m.

"...if you're looking to shoot tight using the OVF you will get more than you want. I hope/trust this is something that could be solved via a firmware upgrade."

Firmware has to do with electronics, I think.

Massimo Foti , Mar 06, 2012; 12:49 p.m.

Thanks a lot for taking the time to post it. It's good to get feedback from field usage about the "hybrid" viewfinder.

Patrick V , Mar 06, 2012; 06:43 p.m.

Thanks for the feedback.
@Steve: I've been using the Fuji XF 35mm lens. The results look very good indeed. Fujinon lenses rarely, if ever, disappointment. Any lingering doubts would be put to rest once the M Adapter comes out. Am really looking forward to pairing an XP1 and Leica 50mm Summicron!
@sanford: Regarding the white orb issue. I've not really experimented with the dynamic range settings, which I believe contribute to the issue on the X10. That said I did a few shots at sunset and the sun rendered fine.
@Mukul: Firmware is software permanently stored on a digital camera's non-volatile memory which runs the electronics. In the X100 firmware upgrades have improved AF performance, fixed OVF/EVF issues etc.

Eric Friedemann , Mar 06, 2012; 08:32 p.m.

What EFV issue?


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