I’ve had the chance to play with the Fuji X-Pro 1 over the past couple of days, popping into Wilkinson Cameras in Kendal and annoying them to play with it! Despite having severe misgivings trusting Fuji after having two X100’s break on me within the first month, I relented and tried out the X-Pro 1 as I love the images the Fuji X100 produces. Just the way it renders images suits my personal tastes exactly, which is why I bought a second X100 six months after my first one broke as I missed that beautiful ‘X100 look’. Unfortunately after just a few days and less than 500 shots, my second one broke too. Much as I’d love to buy a third, I just can’t be sending the camera back to Fuji to be fixed every week! I’ve heard that Fuji say that they have finally resolved the issue, but I for one will not be taking that risk.
It was my intention to take a look at the NEX-7, which they have just got into stock. Having spent some time with it, I took the images home on my SD card and personally wasn’t happy with images at ISO 1600, they are just far too ‘mushy’ and look like they’ve had a lot of processing done on them to remove noise. The NEX-5N in comparison is superb at ISO 1600 – if the NEX-7 had the NEX-5N’s sensor in it, the combination of control and low light image quality would be pretty much unbeatable, what a shame Sony felt the need to be in the numbers game.
I had noticed the X-Pro 1 in the window when I went in to look at the NEX-7, but because of my experiences with the X100, I wasn’t all that interested – but couldn’t help but have a play with it too! Comparing images side by side at normal ISO ratings (200/400) there is very little to choose between the X100 and the NEX-7, you’d be hard pushed to say one was better than the other in terms of image quality. The NEX-7 did better in terms of auto white balance, but that is easily corrected. However once pushed into higher ISO range, the X-Pro 1 really starts to stand out.
NEX-7 v X-Pro 1 base ISO comparison images.
The X-Pro 1 JPEG has been very slightly corrected for white balance for a more accurate comparison, but other than that, both images are untouched JPEGs straight from the camera. Despite the extra 8Mpx from the NEX-7, the difference in detail between the two cameras is pretty negligible. The NEX-7 OOC JPEG looks slightly sharper than the X-Pro 1 JPEG, but my feeling is that is due to a higher default sharpness level in the NEX-7 JPEG processing engine rather than a better raw image. Lightroom 4 doesn’t have a RAW converter for the X-Pro 1 yet, but once it does I’ll be able to get a better idea.
Much to my delight, the X-Pro 1 produces images with that beautiful rendering of the X100 that I love to much. High ISO images look stunning, and any noise that is there is very ‘film-like’ with little colour noise and is unobtrusive rather than mushy and over-processed like the NEX-7. The controls have been refined and are far more user friendly in the X-Pro 1 than the X100 – Auto ISO is finally on the normal ISO menu, even through the Fn button option, so no need to keep going in and out of the menu to change things!
AF is about the same as the X100 with v1.2 firmware installed, and better than the X100 with the previous firmware – although as per the X100, it still seems to have a problem with faces – it is almost like Fuji developed an anti-face detection AF system! It seems to struggle with AF on faces more than any other subject. Other people have criticised the speed, but I honestly don’t find it worse than any other CSC, with the exception of the PEN EP-3, which is in a class of its own when paired with the Oly 45 or 12mm primes. AF on the 18mm prime is quite a bit faster than the 35 and 60mm lenses. Manual focusing is still somewhat behind other CSCs in terms of ease of use, but improved over the X100 and I found the 35mm lens was quite easy to manual focus – I haven’t tried MF with the other lenses yet, but imagine they are very similar.
The viewfinder is good, not outstanding like on the NEX-7, but more than useable. Personally I prefer to use the EVF as I don’t find the frame-lines in the OVF particularly accurate, and I prefer to see that what I’m shooting is in sharp focus when I press the button. It still suffers from locking up whilst focusing like on the X100, but because focusing is quicker, it doesn’t lock up for as long so it isn’t quite as annoying. On the X100, you could half press the button to AF and by the time it had locked focus and the EVF returned to normal operation, what you were shooting had gone completely out of the frame!
I am not a fan of the rotating D-pad design control, the only camera it really works on is the Nikon V1/J1, all others I’ve used it on makes for a very awkward operation, often resulting in pressing the rotating wheel rather than actually rotating it! Fortunately it has been dumped on the X-Pro 1 and navigating the menu is a much improved experience as a result. This can be done on the X-Pro 1 because it isn’t used for any of the main controls – aperture, shutter or exposure comp as they all have their own dedicated control – other manufacturers should take note!
The upper push/sideways nudge control on the X100 has been replaced by a push/rotating dial on the X-Pro 1, again resulting in an improved user experience, this works particularly well with the Quick menu which is accessed through the Q button, and gives easy access to the major functions. Combined with the the new D-pad buttons and the new scroll wheel, it makes for much simpler operation and far quicker access to the primary features.
I tried the 18mm and 35mm lenses, for the moment the 60mm isn’t one that I’d be interested in buying straight off, so didn’t try it. The 18mm is the fastest focusing lens, although wide open suffers quite bad purple fringing – although not ideal, it is not the end of
the world as it can be removed in post, and one stop down the issue is mostly gone. You’re unlikely to be shooting the 18mm at f/2.0 under conditions with bright highlights anyway. Both the 18 and 35mm lenses are sharp, and at first may seem expensive, at £549 (Fuji offer a £40 voucher offer for each lens when you buy the body (valid until end of 2013!) making them closer to £500. That makes them cheaper than the Zeiss alternatives for other makes and a whole lot cheaper than the Leica lenses, which is what the X-Pro 1 is firmly aimed at. Don’t forget that Fuji produce lenses for Hasselblad medium format camera, so they are no stranger to producing high quality glass. They are not cheap lenses, but looking at similar performing lenses around, they are not expensive either.
All of the lenses have a ‘proper’ aperture ring, in 1/3 stops (unlike the X100 that only had full-stops) the aperture ring isn’t mechanical of course, but an electronic control. Each lens also has a nice big focus ring. Again this isn’t mechanical, but merely an electronically coupled control, which does introduce some delay when focusing, though not nearly as bad as the X100’s focusing ring.
Each lens comes complete with a beautiful box, and more importantly a lens hood and lens hood cap. The lens hoods, though not the most beautiful of designs, are beautifully made from metal (I presume aluminium) and are really of top quality. Compare this to the Olympus 12mm prime for example where they charge an extra £60 for the official lens hood, and the lenses suddenly start to seem even better value. The Olympus 12mm lens is priced at £599, plus £60 for the hood makes that lens around £150 more than these Fuji lenses.
Overall I would recommend the X-Pro 1. If you’ve tried/owned the X100 and been put off Fuji cameras, I’d strongly suggest you try the X-Pro 1 as I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
I’ll be doing a proper real-world review of the X-Pro 1 when I get hold of one and have used it for a few weeks myself to get to know how to get the best out of the camera, and any annoying little habits! For the moment I’ll leave you with a few sample images I took in the couple of days I had playing with the camera – please don’t critique them from a photographic point of view, they are there more to show how good the IQ of the X-Pro 1 is!
Buy the X-Pro 1 in store (in the UK – not sure about elsewhere) and benefit from a voucher book giving discounts on X-Pro accessories and lenses, plus a Fuji Platinum Service Pro membership, which amongst other things includes a free yearly checkup of your X-Pro 1 for the first five years! I have to congratulate Fuji for supporting the high-street dealers in this way. I’ll be picking mine up in-store in the next couple of days and will do a full review after I’ve spent some time shooting with it.
I haven’t had a lot of time to take any decent images with the X-Pro 1, that will have to wait until I get my own, but below are a few samples I took with the in-store demo camera. The portrait is beautifully rendered (to my taste) and super sharp at 100% even at f/2.0.
Click on the images below to see larger samples. These images are JPEGs straight out of the camera with no post processing.