With all the new cameras released recently by Fujifilm I’ve been very tempted to go and buy one, the X-Pro3 looks great, and I especially like the new X100V. Both look very impressive, plus a flip-screen is a game changer for these models for me as it’s something I used every single day and find it hard to shoot without one now.
There’s been one thing putting me off buying one though, and that is the price. For the X100V, instead of being a camera that you used to be able to pick up (once upon a time!) as a reasonably affordable second camera, it’s now firmly priced as an expensive luxury for many people at £1299. Certainly not one that I could just go out and buy as a camera I’d be using purely for personal reasons.
It made me stop and think about why I actually needed to buy the latest camera. I looked at second hand previous generation X100 series, but then it came to me that my favourite camera of all time, my X-Pro1, is still more than good enough and capable of producing those stunning images I was so impressed with from the moment I bought it in 2012 at launch.
I still have it with the original 35mm f/1.4 lens I bought on that day, and it’s still the only camera and lens I have owned from new and never sold. I also have the 23mm f/2 WR lens (more on that later) that effectively makes it into an X100 series camera in terms of framing as I tend to prefer a 35mm equivalent to 50mm.
I’ve used my X-Pro 1 many times on a professional level, but it was retired from that work a few years ago when I moved over to full-frame mirrorless cameras. Not from an image quality point of view, but because the nature of my speciality, interiors, are much better shot with a larger sensor due to the lower inherent distortion at wider angles when using a larger sensor. Medium Format is even better in this respect, and I did own a GFX for a while, but the nature of the camera (and restricted lenses) meant there wasn’t enough of an improvement in quality and look over my (at the time) Sony A7R3 for it to be worth the compromise, unfortunately. I’m now shooting full-time professional work on the Panasonic S1, which I absolutely love for commercial work! When I get time I will write about that.
Back to the X-Pro1! I had a trip to Bordeaux, which just so happened to be the first city break I went on when I initially got my X-Pro1, so what better place to rekindle my relationship with this truly special camera. Within this piece are just a few ‘holiday snaps’ taken with the X-Pro1. This is more about my thoughts on using the camera in 202 than the images here.
Many photographers, myself included, believe that the original X-Trans sensor of the X-Pro1 was the best. It produced clean images that had a special look to them, an analogue quality and feel that very few digital cameras ever achieve. Later Fujifilm sensors lost that feel and have become very sharp, crisp and much more digital looking than this original one. That seems to be what many people want and it’s clear that any company will do what sells more cameras. The unique quality of image from the X-Pro1 though is why I still own it! I’ve had many later Fujifilm cameras, but they have all come and gone.
There is also a special place in my heart for the 35mm f/1.4 lens, a spectacularly good lens that mated with the X-Pro1 can produce stunning images. Now showing it’s age in terms of auto-focus speeds, it’s somewhat overlooked these days, but if you can work within it’s limitations it is a classic lens and still more than worthy of being in your camera bag. I am surprised that Fujifilm are yet to replace it with a MkII given how popular the 50mm equivalent is.
Almost all shots in this piece are taken wide open on either the 23mm f/2 or 35mm f/1.4. One of the great things about the Fujifilm lenses is how well they perform wide open.
Coming onto the 23mm f/2, again another great lens. Not up-to the standard of my all-time favourite Fujifilm lens, the 23mm f/1.4, but a fraction of the size and still an extremely capable lens. Being a more modern lens with better AF mechanicals, this also transforms the X-Pro1 in terms of AF speed, making it more than capable enough of a system to cope with all but the fastest of motion. Not a single shot was out of focus and I took some images in very poor light.
The same performance applies to any of the recent small f/2 range of lenses from Fujifilm, all designated “WR” for Weather Resistant. There are 16mm (f/2.8 in this case), 23mm, 35mm and 50mm models. Pair any of these lenses with the X-Pro1 and you will probably be surprised at how well the auto-focus system copes for an 8 year old camera body, especially one so berated at the time of release for it’s poor AF. Not only that, but you will have a relatively compact and lightweight kit to carry around.
One thing to note is to make sure your X-Pro1 body has the latest firmware installed (v3.81 at the time of writing) as this can make a significant difference to AF performance, depending on when it was last updated.
I shot using the Mono Film Simulation mode JPEGs combined with RAW. I included RAW files in the event that I wanted any of my images in colour later on without having to switch modes when shooting.
JPEGs from the Fujifilm cameras using their Film Simulations is one of the things I love most. For personal use I don’t want to spend hours processing RAW files, so getting beautiful images straight out of the camera is a big draw for me. This is where the more recent cameras do appeal in that the newer Film Simulations are only available for more recent Fujifilm cameras.
High ISO images still come out great despite the age of the camera, check the 100% of the image below at ISO 2000 and tell me that you need better than that! Consider it is shot wide open at f/2 so would sharpen up if you needed it to. That’s direct from the JPEG and if you don’t think it’s good enough then you could process the RAW file and no doubt improve on it.
I know battery life was always an issue with mirrorless cameras, especially early ones, but I took 2 batteries with me for 4 days away and I didn’t even use up one! I took it out every day, but I wasn’t shooting all the time, and my shooting style is to only take a photo of something once I’ve seen what I want to shoot, so I don’t leave the camera switched on. Even if I’d been using it more vigorously I still would have been fine on 2 batteries.
Do I miss anything?
Yes, in a word!
There are things that are obvious signs of it’s age when using the X-Pro1 in 2020.
Start-up time. It’s easy these days to forget that you don’t just turn a camera on an expect it to be ready almost instantly. The X-Pro1 definitely feels slow when you’re starting it up, especially in the way that I shoot, which is generally to have the camera turned off all until I see something I want to shoot.
The flippy screen! I did find it hard to frame shots as I’m so used to having a screen flipped so I can shoot from lower down, and found myself guessing the framing for many shots where I wasn’t able to look directly at the back of the screen or through the viewfinder.
USB charging. Now I know I said I didn’t use more than one battery, but if I’d been away for longer I’m now so used to just taking a single USB-C charger with me to charge all my devices that not having the ability to charge via USB is definitely something I’d miss on a two-week trip.
WiFi. I wasn’t able to share any of my images from the X-Pro1 whilst I was away. I also use this as a quick and easy back-up function when I’m away, and will regularly transfer over all the images I want to keep from my camera from that day to my iPad. I do this just incase there is either an issue with the SD card, or if the camera gets stolen.
I know I could have used an SD card reader on the iPad, but I only had the newer dongle that connects to the camera with a USB lead and had forgotten that the X-Pro1 has a proprietary USB connector and not a micro-USB so didn’t have the correct cable with me! WiFi would still have made it easier!
I still love my X-Pro1, I still feel it produces the nicest looking images of any digital camera I’ve ever owned, and I’ve been lucky enough to own a lot of them!
At one point you could pick up an X-Pro1 for around £150 second hand. The fact that they are now selling for £250-300 shows that this camera is still desirable in 2020. 2012 as it turns out was a good year for digital cameras, the Nikon D800 was released that year too, and is another example of a camera that still commands respect even now.
The Fujifilm range of lenses expands even today, and offers a wide selection of both focal lengths and prices to suit everyone. Pair the X-Pro1 with any of these lenses, particularly the more recent f/2 primes and you will have not only an affordable system that you can expand into in the future, but also a very capable camera that I’m sure you will fall in love with as I once did, and one I still intend to use and cherish for many years to come.
If you can’t afford the latest and greatest Fujifilm camera, my advice is to look to the X-Pro1, or even the X-E1. The X-E1 is basically a clone of the X-Pro1 but without the hybrid viewfinder and can be found for much cheaper than the X-Pro1. I’ve seen them for as little as £100! Buy yourself a couple of lenses either 2nd hand or new and go from there.
The great thing is that upgrading the body in the future is always possible if you find you need something from one of the newer models, and adding to your range of lenses is another way of give more options. Opt for the X-E1 and for well under £500 with a top quality prime lens you can have a great starter system that still performs to this day.