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Fuji X-Pro1 Hands on Review

Discussion in 'Other Systems' started by veereshai, Mar 14, 2012.

  1. veereshai

    veereshai Mu-43 Top Veteran

    May 12, 2011
    Arlington, VA
    I am really thrilled and lucky that I got a pre-production X-Pro1 with 18mm, 35mm and 60mm lenses and the flash model no (forgot the name as I didn't use it) to test. I am not an expert in terms of evaluating a camera and photographs technically, so this is going to be a user experience review.

    Back story:

    A friend of mine was posting images from the X-Pro1 on his facebook page. I commented on a couple of them and offered (I was joking) to take it off his hands as he was not happy about certain features when compared to his X100. This happened couple of days back and when I logged into facebook yesterday, I had a message from Mahesh Shantaram. Mahesh is a famous photographer in India, who does subjective documentary photography. More about him here: Mahesh Shantaram / Photographer / Bangalore, India. He asked me if I would be interested in testing out the X-Pro1 and it was a too good an offer to refuse. Mahesh was one of the few photographers who was given a pre-production X-Pro1 to give his views and he has been generous to pass it on to other enthusiasts like me to get a feel of the camera, even before the rest of the world gets it in their hands. So, after exchanging couple of messages, I decided to pick it up from him in the evening. He didn't have it as he had given it to someone else to test it out so I met the other friend and got the camera in my hands.

    Initial Impression:

    As soon as I got the camera with the three lenses and a flash, it felt so light. And that statement from a micro four thirds user says a lot. But, I did notice that the paint had worn off on the lens hood and the digit "8" on the 18mm also has lost some paint. The camera looks slightly cheap with the plastic on the front, almost toy camera like. But, the cheapness ends there. The fujinon lenses are a pleasure to hold and the metallic hoods give them an extra edge. Even though I had previously not liked the Panasonic GF-1 (because of the range finder like styling), this one felt just right in my hands. I fell in love with it when I held it in my hands.

    The button layout is very good. Everything is accessible without putting in extra effort, including the small button/lever to switch between EVF and OVF. I really liked the fact that the lenses have an aperture ring. The two dials on the top of the camera which can be used to set shutter speed and change exposure compensation are placed very well. These things matter a lot and am really glad that Fuji has decided to go with this design.

    The menu is straight forward, and I really didn't struggle much as the layout is similar to what I have seen on my Panasonic G1. There's a "Q" (Quick menu) button that brings up a ton of options that I can use the thumb wheel to change the values if necessary.

    Image Quality:

    We've already seen the various images from the internet that show how good the camera and the lenses are. I was quite impressed with high ISO shots as the noise was hardly visible. There's another DR option that I am yet to explore, but with the limited time I have with it, I doubt I'll get a chance to test it out.

    Will upload photographs later as I want to spend more time taking photographs with it rather than processing them :smile:. The RAW (.RAF) files can be opened only in Raw Therapee or Silkypix for now. I use Silkypix to open the RAW files and export it to .tiff and then use other software to make all changes.

    Auto Focus (The Big Question):

    I'll be honest, I hated AF on it. It could be because this one is a pre-production model but I hope Fuji gets it right in their production model. There are three modes called S (Single Focus), C (Continuous) and M (Manual Focus), which can be set using a small button located at the front. When the camera is set in S mode, you can half press the shutter button and it locks the focus, press it completely to make an exposure. But, the camera hunts quite a bit to focus. Mahesh has given me an alternative approach which seems faster. He has asked me to leave the camera in M mode and upon pressing the AE-L/AF-L, the camera engages auto focus even though it is in MF mode. Somehow, using this method is faster than directly using the auto focus.

    Another thing to note here is that the camera's EVF/LCD "freeze" or do not refresh if you move the camera while trying to auto focus. The EVF/LCD come back to life only after the focusing mechanism is dis-engaged by the camera. So, if I half press the shutter button in "S" mode and move the camera, the EVF/LCD does not refresh and this can cause some lag and a lot of irritation. This was never the case in my Panasonic G1 as both the LCD and EVF are very very responsive.

    When in "M" mode, the camera's display shows the distance meter which is a nice touch, but as it is "fly-by-wire" focusing mechanism, it takes a while to get used to it. I am kinda used to it because micro four thirds also has similar lenses. There's a macro mode on the camera to shoot close-ups if need be.

    But, even with all these quirks, there's something about this camera that makes me want to go back to it. It just feels right in my hands and slows me down for the right reasons.

    Misc Stuff:

    There are many more things like Exposure bracketing using aperture or ISO, in-camera multiple exposure blending, setting the DR etc that I am yet to explore. I doubt I'll be too interested to do it as I really want to go out and test this camera to my heart's content.


    I love this camera. If I had the money ($3-$4k), I'd buy this camera without a second thought along with some nice Leica lenses (I'll probably be able to buy only one lens though). The IQ is top notch, ISO performance is excellent and there's nothing more I could ask for. Yeah, the AF is a bit of a let down, but I am sure Fuji will work these out before releasing the camera to the market. The X-Pro1 will definitely give Leica a run for its money when Fuji comes out with the Leica M mount adapter. The Kipon adapters for Contax G etc are already out on ebay, it'll only take a while before we see M mount adapters for X-Pro1.

    I can't wait to get out of work and go out to shoot :) . Please let me know if there are any queries or questions that you have or if you want me to test a particular feature, I'll try and oblige before I give the camera to the next friend in line on Friday. Also, all the above views are purely based on my experience and are not Mahesh's experiences/views.

    I'll add photos to this thread in a few days.
    • Like Like x 7
  2. starlabs

    starlabs Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 30, 2010
    Los Angeles
    Thanks for the user review! That was pretty awesome of Mr. Shantaram to lend out his pre-production X-Pro1.

    It will be interesting to see how the camera fares once it's out. Given Fuji's QA issues...
  3. Ben

    Ben Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 16, 2009
    I desperately want this camera to be fantastic. Everything seems to say only the AF may let it down. Please keep us posted!
  4. shnitz

    shnitz Mu-43 All-Pro

    I don't think that any higher-end Fuji digital camera of the last decade was NOT fantastic. Go look at how gaga people are still being over the S3 and S5 Pro today!
  5. timallenphoto

    timallenphoto Mu-43 Veteran

    May 20, 2011
    Kent, England
    Why would they let people use it if the AF was suddenly going to get better on release? For all of their good points, you can't escape the fact that the X100 had many flaws, the XS1 is flawed and of course so is the X10. They're charging premium prices and should stop releasing cameras with such issues in my opinion.
  6. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    I don't see any reason to stop releasing flawed cameras. A Leica M9 can't even autofocus, which puts it distinctly below a Fuji X-Pro 1 for my purposes. I'd rather have a flawed Fuji X100 than a refined Leica X1. I'd rather have a flawed X10 than a refined Olympus XZ1. For me, the good of those cameras outweighs the bad (Disclaimer: I have used all but own none of those cameras).

    On the other hand, I completely agree that we are highly unlikely to see a big increase in AF speed between the pre-production X-Pro 1 cameras floating around and the production units. That would be unprecedented.
  7. shnitz

    shnitz Mu-43 All-Pro

    It depends what you consider "issues." Different people have different priorities, and if slow AF is a tradeoff for the current image output of the X100, you'll find more users than not who are willing to put up with it. Fuji never tried to be a mass-market, appeal-to-all camera maker. They certainly did not price the X100 or give it features so as to attract casual photographers. They know the die-hards that they're marketing to, and they're trying to give what they consider the best mix of image quality, features, and handling for the price.

    Heck, I see that you have an Olympus. The E-P1 had a ton of issues upon release. Slow operation, slow AF, bad LCD, bad menus. The E-P2 fixed ZERO of these issues, and the only difference that it had was a viewfinder port so that you weren't limited to the 17mm/VF-1 option ($100 optical viewfinder)! They had the gall to give it a new model number! The E-P3 is still using the same sensor, from a camera that didn't even have competitive sensor performance 3 years ago. So, I'd argue that those are worse issues than what the Fuji X100 has. Because at least with Fuji, when you nail that autofocus and exposure, the final image forgives all.
  8. Ben

    Ben Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 16, 2009
    I have an X100 (pre-ordered it). Simply the most enjoyable camera I have ever used and produces some of the best results I have achieved (amongst others I have or had a Leica M6 and a Canon 5D).

    AF isn't brilliant but it's good enough. Concerned that the extra glass being shoved around in the X Pro 1 will slow it further. We'll see I guess.

    I'm waiting for the reviewers/photographers who liked the X100 to opine (Huff, Arias and, yes, Rockwell). If the AF is useable and the IQ equals the X100 this will be some camera.
  9. LovinTheEP2

    LovinTheEP2 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 15, 2011
    At the end of the day, there is still no killer smaller then a dSLR form factor available yet.. the OM-D might be the 1st close one. It's always a trade off.

    m43s - trade off, poorer DR and high ISO to APS offerings
    Fovean - trade off, poor ISO performance, DPs not ILC
    APS - trade off reasonable priced quality lens like m43s, body cost typically more, af slow on some ie Fuji

    The gap to dSLR is closing every 8-12 months but still a way to go. However, the will never be 0 as the dSLR will always continue to evolve.

    Every camera is series of compromises: the 3rd gen PENS, OM-D, X100, X-Pro1, GX1, DPm, Leica 8 and 9 etc.

    Best bang for your buck: M43s
    Best IQ: X-Pro1 or Sony

    At the end of the day, the cheapest and best option still remains a dSLR period. Anything else is sacrificing IQ, focusing, movie quality, lens offering etc. For those of us, not willing or wanting to get a dSLR for a number of reasons, it is a matter of deciding what matters most and finding the best compromise and there is nothing in the pipeline that I have read for the next 24 months will change that.

    OM-D maybe could have but sensor didn't set the world on fire - more of catch up,
    Fuji Pro focusing issues wont be resolved anytime soon as was the case with the X100 and X10,
    Sony dont seem to really be addressing lens

    1. IQ
    2. Body Size
    3. Quality of Lens
    4. Cost
    5. Stablization Approach ie In Body or In Lens
    6. High ISO Performance (for some it's a key feature)

    Its a matter of getting what you can afford now.. and upgrading when it makes sense too.. for me, the OM-D or EP4 might just be the ticket.. waiting for real world reviews and any news on what the EP4 will be - hope it doesn't lose the onboard flash :frown:.

    I was curious about the Fuji but looks, sluggish performance makes it a no go.
    • Like Like x 1
  10. Hikari

    Hikari Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 26, 2010
    • Like Like x 2
  11. LovinTheEP2

    LovinTheEP2 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 15, 2011
    Zack's got quite the eye and abilities with the X-Pro1. Almost makes me want to ignore the Pro's ugly looks and sluggish focus for that Fuji look.
  12. grantb

    grantb Mu-43 Veteran

    Does this mean that it is not possible to half-press for AF and then reframe in S mode? Or is there just a lag while focusing and then the display goes back to live before you finish your shutter click?

    Could you tell us how easy it is to achieve accurate manual focus and what method is the fastest/easiest? I have read widely divergent opinions on this so far. Do you think adapted M lenses will be a realistic option on this camera with the available focusing facilities?

    Would you consider shooting with the OVF if accurate focus was a priority? Is the AF dependable enough or are you getting false locks?

    Also what do you think of the 18mm in terms of sharpness and "character"? By now I have seen plenty of "WOW!" images from this camera, but none of them came from the 18mm.

    Thanks so much for answering our questions and I look forward to your pictures, you lucky guy you!
  13. veereshai

    veereshai Mu-43 Top Veteran

    May 12, 2011
    Arlington, VA
    I didn't guess I'd get this lucky after moving back to India. But since the number of photographers are relatively less, almost all of us know each other or have heard of each other. And yes, Mr.Shantaram has assured that he won't be this generous when he gets his production release X-Pro1 in couple of weeks :tongue:.

    To be honest, I am not looking for a perfect camera (does anything like that exist?). Everyone's needs are different and a perfect camera to me might seem imperfect to you. To me, the camera felt quite right and a pleasure to use. And yes, the AF has issues, but it's not totally useless. I apologize that I was unable to communicate that clearly in my review.

    AF indeed is good enough with decent amount of light. I was probably expecting it to do wonders even in low light, which of course it couldn't. Also, I have read elsewhere that the new release of firmware has improved it quite a bit. In such scenarios, I didn't have a moment's hesitation of shifting to manual focus and shoot. In the "M" mode, you can press the thumb wheel and the image gets magnified. Similar to what we have in our micro four thirds cameras.

    Indeed and I am trying to see if I can get even one decent photograph to post. I'll try and post some RAW files for you guys soon.

    You can do that once the focus point is acquired by the camera, but you'll have to lock the focus using AE-L/AF-L button first. Let's say, I like a frame in a relatively low light condition and I half click the shutter. The camera tries to focus and it takes about 1/2 sec or 1 sec to do so. In that time, I like some other frame and move my camera by taking my finger off the shutter. But, since the camera started its process of trying to acquire focus, it takes a while for EVF to refresh. Basically, it takes a while for the camera to realize that you have taken your hand off the shutter and are not interested in that frame anymore. So, in such a scenario, the EVF takes sometime (1/2 a second, maybe) to refresh. I noticed that this happens only in low light situation and need not apply to all situations.

    I have been a macro guy for 2-3 years now and I have accepted manual focusing to be part of this journey. I don't feel crippled to use MF and quite like it. My experience with micro four thirds and this camera has been similar when it comes to manual focusing. I quite like it and by pressing the thumb wheel (in "M" mode) it magnifies the image, quite similar to what we can do in micro four thirds as well.

    It displays a distance scale on the LCD/EVF which is very useful in manual focusing. If there was no distance scale, it would get really frustrating as you wouldn't know what's happening unless you train your eyes to see minor shifts in focus plane. Especially when you're shooting wide open at night.

    Honestly, I wouldn't shoot with the OVF. Yes, even with the AF being a little dodgy. The reason is that, OVF has a wider FOV than the lens (mostly 35mm) that I was using. So, I felt a little uncomfortable that I'd shoot with a frame in mind and see a different image in the preview. Yes, there's a frame line in the OVF, but it takes a while to get to used to limiting your
    vision/composition to a smaller boundary in the OVF.

    And, the EVF is quite good other than lag as explained above, so I don't see myself using the OVF as much. I probably am used to EVFs because I have been shooting with one for a while. May be someone who is still used to using OVF on DSLR might prefer using the OVF on X-Pro1 as well.

    To be honest, I have taken only 2-3 photographs with the 18mm. The 35mm is so good that I have been ignoring the other two lenses altogether. I wanted to see how the 60mm performs for macro, but I can't get myself to take the 35mm off :smile:. Let me try and shoot a few photographs with 18mm and post them here.

    No problem :smile:. I have learnt a lot from this community that I would like to contribute in anyway possible.
    • Like Like x 2
  14. timallenphoto

    timallenphoto Mu-43 Veteran

    May 20, 2011
    Kent, England
    All good points, I should point out though that I've only bought my Pen's used because I don't think any of them offer great value for money when new, especially the E-P3 and OMD which in the UK are priced at crazy levels in my opinion. If I'd paid full price for an E-P1 when it launched I'd have drowned in a flood of tears :D  I'm quite scathing of my Pen's noise performance which is a long way off what I expected it to be, and in general Oly and Pana have rushed out way too many models that are too similar.
  15. timallenphoto

    timallenphoto Mu-43 Veteran

    May 20, 2011
    Kent, England
    As a belated follow up, after much thought and then the recent 1.2 firmware update from Fuji, I bought an X100 and love it. Definitely selling my E-PL2 and 20mm, will probably keep old E-P1 as its worth so little now. I think my year using m4/3 has overall had about as many lows as highs.
    • Like Like x 1
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