Fuji X-Pro1 Review – six months in
Fuji X-Pro1 Review – six months in; I’ve now been using my Fuji X-Pro1 for around six moths professionally. Initially, I was commissioned by Professional Photographer magazine to test and review Fuji’s (then) latest addition to their X-Series camera range. I was so taken by the camera, that I got one straight away, along with the three lenses that were initially on offer.
I’m a professional wedding photographer by trade and I specifically shoot in a reportage or documentary wedding photography style and the Fuji X-Pro1 seemed like a perfect tool for that job at the time. I already had the Fuji X100 which I also loved, and also used at weddings. However, there was always the nagging feeling that the X100 just wasn’t quite up to the mark for professional wedding photography – specifically the inability to change the lenses. I still have my X100, it’s battered and bruised and well loved. It’s my go-everywhere camera and I don’t intend to part with it, but when the Fuji X-Pro1 came along I was very excited by the opportunity that it gave me to compact the equipment I used, make it lighter and allow me to get in closer than ever before whilst still being as unobtrusive as possible.
I recently took ownership of a Canon 1DX and whilst that is an amazing camera in it’s own right, it won’t be replacing my X-Pro1 at weddings. This won’t be a full technical review – you can find many of those on the Internet or indeed an more in depth review in my article at Professional Photographer magazine. This is more a findings overview, along with some pictures.
Fuji X-Pro1 Key Highlights
The camera itself is a little larger than the X100 and whilst still retaining some of its retro look features, has a more professional polish to it. The APS-C X-Trans sensor that is fitted in the camera produces stunning jpg files. Just stunning. To have a sensor of that size and quality, along with interchangeable lens options, means the camera is almost perfect for wedding and social documentary photographers alike. The images are sharp and glowingly beautiful, partly because of the lovely wide-aperture lenses that Fuji have produced, but also because of the elimination of the optical low-pass filter inside the camera that allows it suppress colour moire.
The above shots show my Fuji X-Pro1 with the base section of the Leather Case.
The camera has very recently had a major firmware update (version 2.0) which I suggest anyone with one of these cameras installs as a matter of urgency. The new firmware fixes a number of minor issues, but importantly really brings alive the focusing of the camera. Both the AF and MF systems have been improved and the camera really has moved up a level in it’s performance with the upgrade. It’s great to see Fuji continuing their support of the camera range.
The weight and size of the camera is almost negligible compared to some DSLR’s on the market and for me the ability to really get in close and mingle with the subjects, without being too obtrusive is a really positive. The button layout, feel and positioning is much improved over the X100 and whilst I do occasionally find myself pressing the “Q” button accidentally I have no issues what-so-ever with the buttons. The overall ergonomics of the camera are great and it feels safe and sturdy in my hand.
Talking of the Q button (you can see it in the above shot) – this is a marvellous addition. Bizarrely, I rarely use this feature on my DSLR’s that support it, but on the X-Pro1 I use it almost all the time to quickly set the exposures that I want. I primarily shoot in manual or aperture priority mode and this helps to speed up the setting procedure. The menu system whilst a little laboured, is fine once you get used to it.
I have my FN button set to ISO control which makes using the top dials and the FN button a very quick way of controlling everything. I don’t want this to become a technical review so I will concentrate now on the way that I set the camera up and get the most out of it for me.
Fuji X-Pro1 Settings
I normally set the camera to the auto ISO setting of 2,500 or 3,200 depending on where I am. It’s a shame there is no minimum shutter speed option but the auto ISO does work remarkably well.
I set my camera to record in fine JPG. I only shoot in RAW as well for certain aspects of the day (such as the ceremony). I find the JPG files the Fuji X-Pro1 produces are as fine as I’ve ever seen and prefer to work with those images in my processing. It speeds things up and offers a greater consistency. I keep the Dynamic Range at 100%.
If I am shooting in colour I set the film simulation to Velvia and the only other image setting I change is the Sharpness which I set at +1. This combination gives a real pop to the images and emphasises the sharpness of the photographs.
If I am shooting in black and white I use the R filter. The Sharpness is still at +1 and the shadow tone I set to +1 (medium hard). In both cases I shoot with Auto-White Balance which I have found to be adequate at all times.
I generally shoot using the OVF – which I find (even with the new firmware) focuses quicker than the EVF. In relation to that, I turn the Power Save mode off and the Quick Start mode on. I also keep the silent mode off as the shutter noise still makes a substantial sound anyway. When I do need to use the EVF (for macro shots, close up or in very low light) I have my focus point set to the very smallest size (which you can do by pressing the AF button and using the thumb rotation dial). This greatly reduces my chances of missing the focus point. This is especially useful with the 60mm macro lens.
As mentioned earlier I have my FN button set to ISO control so I can quickly switch out of auto-ISO if needed.
Fuji X-Pro1 Lenses
There are more lenses being released by Fuji but the three that I have and use are:
Fuji 18mm f2 R Fujinon Black Lens
Fuji 35mm f1.4 R Fujinon Black Lens
Fuji 60mm f2.4 R Macro Fujinon Black Lens
Each of the lenses are excellent in their own right. Well built, light and perform excellently. They each come with hoods and pouches to keep them clean and safe. In my opinion the 18mm is probably a little faster at focusing than the 35mm. The 60mm is very slow to focus, but when set to macro mode especially, it produces some incredibly crisp and detailed images. It was the last of the three lenses that I obtained but it’s one I use a great deal – especially for detail shots and actually I’ve used it may times with the kids at home too.
All the above images are shot using the 60mm macro Fuji Lens.
Fuji X-Pro1 Low Light Capability
Specifically at weddings, especially here in the UK, it’s common for us to be shooting in very low light. In the summer in rains, and in the winter it’s dark at 3pm – what can you do? I prefer to not use flash at all during my wedding work – and luckily rarely do so. In stead, I prefer to crank up the ISO and actually love seeing some grain in images as a direct result of my love of old 35mm street photography.
So how doe the Fuji X-Pro1 perform in low light? Take a look at the following photos and you can decide for yourself:
The above photo was shot using the 18mm lens at ISO 2,000 1/125th second at f/2.0
The above photo was shot using the 18mm lens at ISO 3,200 1/250th second at f/2.0
The above photo was shot using the 35mm lens at ISO 6,400 1/125th second at f/1.6
The camera really has great image rendering and performance in low light and I’m comfortable using it at 6,400 ISO where necessary. I’m interested to see where the new Fuji X-E1 takes the X range in terms of performance and any improvements (or, as I presume, its effectively an X-Pro1 without and OVF).
In summary, after six months of use, the X-Pro1 remains a primary camera for me for my wedding photography work. I don’t see this changing, even with the introduction of new Canon DSLR’s. Quite simply it’s a marvellous camera, rolled into a little portable box. The optics are wonderful, the weight and portability are excellent.
Battery life and start-up time have been improved with recent firmware updates but could perhaps have a little more legs in them. I’d like to see a minimum shutter speed added and I’d also like to see an adjustable dioptre. Perhaps, even in future cameras I’d like to see a built in wi-fi module as this would allow creativity and communications combination whilst out travelling or shooting street photography.
I’ve been asked many times what the video capabilities of the X-Pro1 are and to be completely honest I have never used it so can’t offer any qualified information on the video support.
However, the overriding reason I use this camera is because of it’s image quality. It’s simply astounding – from low ISO up through the range it consistently produces lovely perfectly saturated images that are just a joy to work with. There is a great choice of film simulations should you wish to use them – the Q button is a brilliant feature and the hybrid viewfinder is exceptional with its detailed information including live histogram and exposure settings). It’s also amazingly discreet and apart from the shutter release itself almost silent to use.
So, finally, a few more images shot with the Fuji X-Pro1:
Hopefully this article will help some of you who are considering purchasing the X-Pro1. My advice would be – do it! From a wedding photographers point of view at least it makes perfect sense. If you have any questions please feel free to use the comment form below and I will reply to any there.
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