Ummm. Maybe. Ummm. Yes. :: Fuji X-Pro 1 Review
I’ve had my hands on the new FujiFilm X-Pro1 for a little over a month now and I have put it through the paces in three countries and on various jobs. If you are a frequent reader of this blog you know the deal. If you are a new reader of my blog let me explain the deal. I don’t pixel peep, shoot side by side comparisons, show images of color checkers and resolution charts, or talk about the new technology packed into whatever camera. Heck, I really don’t do “reviews” that often.
This review is more of a “how-does-this-thing-work-in-the-real-world-and-is-it-something-that-excites-me-or-does-it-just-become-a-photographic-appliance?” kind of review. Also, let me state for the record that I was hired by FujiFilm Middle East, and was paid in camera gear and cash to take this machine for a joy ride. The first thing I said before taking this gig, though, was if I was going to blog about it they needed to understand that I would say whatever I wanted to about it. The good folks at Fuji said they expected nothing less. Especially after my x-100 review. It was that review that put me on their radar in the first place and it was the good folks at Gulf Photo Plus that convinced them they should send me to India. I’ll be doing some stuff with Fuji North America as well. So, full disclosure now aside, let’s get into it after the jump…
When the box of Fuji love arrived, and I began unboxing it, I believe I said, “OMG!” over and over like a teenage girl getting re-tweeted by Justin Bieber. I was in the middle of a job when it showed up and I immediately put it to use. I was shooting promo images for Southern Ground Artists of The Wheeler Boys and started with the 18mm f2 lens.
I wanted to move on through the lenses but the battery lasted about 15 shots and was done. That’s not a testament about the battery life. That’s a testament about how impatient I was to start shooting with this camera. The little brother to this camera jump started my photographic creative soul unlike any other camera had before and I was dying to get this camera in my hands to see if it could live up to the x100. I charged the batteries later in the evening and started shooting crap around the house, Meg sitting at her computer, the dogs, my feet, etc. I casually glanced at the manual just to make sure there wasn’t some odd ball thing I needed to keep in mind with this camera. There wasn’t. The next day Meg and I went to check out the Quiet Hounds first show.
It was at this show that I started saying my first curse words with this camera. Note the title of this blog post. “Ummm. Maybe.” is the first part of it. I had super high expectations for this camera. I have never been so excited for the release of a new camera before. Nikon introduced the 38 MP D800 and I didn’t give a damn about it. (I still don’t BTW.) Canon has the new 5d3 out and I have yet to read a spec sheet on that camera. But for this Fuji? I was refreshing Google twice a day trying to get new information about this X-Pro1. I was ready for it to be the DSLR killer. This was going to be the little underdog camera company with the underdog camera that was going to rock the photographic world with the X-Pro1. I would soon be selling all my Canon gear. That was supposed to be my exact experience as soon as I started shooting with it. And… it wasn’t.
First, I told myself that it was a pre-production camera. Second, I realized I was judging image quality on my MacBook Air screen and that might not be the best screen to do so. As soon as I popped the images on a better screen my image quality fears were quieted. Note to self: Don’t judge image quality on an Air screen. It sucks. The thing that was really killing the experience for me was the focus and shutter lag. How could it be worse than the x100? What in the hell was Fuji thinking? It couldn’t be worse but it was. My pre-production model was slower and lagged far more than the x100 and it was causing a 47% increase in CWSS. (Cursing While Shooting Syndrome.) The camera feels amazing. The lenses are, dare I say it… cute! Cute little lenses! The optical / electronic viewfinder is just as awesome as the x100 and then some. The look. The feel. The quality. All of it was there except the focus and shutter lag.
ETA – 6/14/2012 - Firmware 1.10 has dramatically improved the speed and responsiveness of the X-Pro 1. It’s now acting more like an x100. Focus is accurate. Lag is shorter. Overall speed of the camera has improved tremendously.
“And how much money do they want for this thing? Oh jeez.”
The other issue I immediately ran into at the Quiet Hounds show was the “which lens should I use?” question kept rearing its ugly head. I’d settle on the 18mm f2 then want the 35mm f1.4. Then I thought I’d try the 60mm f2.4. I kept swapping back and forth and none of them were the lens I wanted at the time I was trying to make a photograph. Never had that problem with the x100 being there is only one lens choice with that camera. I didn’t know the lenses. I didn’t know the camera. I was in sh:t light. The focus and shutter lag was driving me nuts. This was not the DSLR killer. I actually wished I had brought my x100 instead. I was starting to feel as though I should just send the damn thing back to Fuji and say forget it. I’m keeping my x100. I left that show super excited that I just heard Atlanta’s greatest new band and depressed that I had all my X-Pro1 expectations dashed on rocky GAS shores. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome). Stupid effing camera.
The next day I packed my bags for Dubai. I had enough time before I left to go to Joshua’s soccer practice.
Yeah. That’s totally awesome.
I was now uttering OMG in frustration instead of joy. I had fourteen and a half hours to sit on a plane and think about this stupid camera. As I sat on that plane I realized one major flaw that I had with the camera. Meg and I call it “expectations management.” It goes like this. If I hear a new band that I am completely in love with, and I think Meg will love them as much as I do, I tell her I heard this new band and they’re “ok”. Maybe she’d like them. Meh. If I pump this new band up too much, and they don’t meet her expectations, then they are the worst band in the world. That sort of thing.
I expected this point and shoot on steroids to kill the DSLR for me. That is a tall freaking order for a camera. There’s a reason the SLR system is what it is. Point and shoots, rangefinders, SLR’s, view cameras, and the like, have been around for decades. This P&S/Hybridy (new word) system isn’t new and there’s a reason Nikon and Canon didn’t put all their eggs in this kind of basket in the transition to digital. So I hit Dubai with a clean slate. I was going to just use the camera as a camera. I started over.
Straight out of Compton. I mean, Camera. Not bad at all.
I can’t tell you how fast security would have been on me had I been shooting with a DSLR here.
iStock called. They want this image back. The X-Pro1 isn’t as silent as the x100 because it has a focal plane shutter but it is still quiet and discreet.
I shot and shot and shot with the X-Pro1 in Dubai during all of the classes that I taught at Gulf Photo Plus. As we’d go on location the X-Pro1 was on my side more than the 5d but this, at first, was more out of convenience than desire. I was running around checking on everyone and shooting demos here and there and having a lightweight camera on my side was kind of nice. Ain’t gonna lie. The lazy part of me liked it right away. The more I shot with it the more I was digging the camera. About half way through my time in Dubai I got to trade my pre-production body in for a production body and the new body was more responsive. It was better but still laggy as hell. I finished my work in Dubai and re-packed my stuff for India. My goal was to take all my photo gear minus chargers in one tiny ThinkTank Photo shoulder bag. I chose the Hubba Hubba Hiney bag. I could fit the X-Pro1, its three lenses, and an x100 in that bag with a few extra batteries and a card case. I threw a flash, chargers, extra batteries, and a Gorillapod in my laptop bag. Off to India…
You’d think I paid them to stand there. Nope. Totally walked up on this. Three cute kids to match Fuji’s three cute lenses.
The X was growing on me. I was walking the streets of a new place with two cameras and three lenses and never once tired of carrying this gear. It was hanging on my side or in a pocket. The weight of all of it was distributed around my person and I never felt it. No tired neck. No sore shoulder. Kick ass image quality. Lens choices. As long as I was methodical in my shooting the camera, and all of its quirks and laggy issues, were beginning to fade away. Then I had my shoot with Gabriella and we threw a few Rupees at a cab driver and the sun was just right and….
And I was sold. I’m in. I got it. It’s worth every effing rupee, peso, penny. I don’t care. I’m not in Bombay any more. I went somewhere else and once this light was gone I woke up with the X-Pro1 in my hands and yes. Ummm… maybe? No. Ummm… Yes. I zoomed in on this image to check focus. “Hot Damn.”** It was one of the greatest personal moments of my professional life. I was given a D100 and a second chance eight years ago and now I am in India shooting with a new camera that is ten times the camera that D100 was. I would have sold major organs to have this kind of camera back then.
I’m stepping away from the computer for a minute. I’m all emotional about this right now. I mean, a piece of dust just got in my eye or something. Srsly. One more of Gabby and the Cabbie as requested by commenter Craig…
Ok. Moving on. Shot more of Gabby…
A number of you have asked on twitter… “Would you shoot a job with the X-Pro1?” Funny you should ask. I left India and had a whopping 36 hours at home in Atlanta before I was off to Biltmore Estates in Asheville, North Carolina to shoot a job for Land Rover. 98% of that job was shot with the X-Pro1. The job was basically this… “Zack, you’re one of five photographers in five cities that we’re setting loose to photograph our cars in whatever way you want. So here’s a sick location and some sick Rovers. Have at it.”
I had such a great time on this job. A) I love all Land/Range Rovers and getting my pick of the litter from a Series II, to the last Classic to roll off the line, to Rover Sports, to Defenders, to LR4′s, and then taking Meg out on the town in the new Evoque was pretty dope. I was brought on by the Undercurrent crew who are also working with AllDayEveryDay on this LandRover Tumblr project where this work will be shown first. Check out the other photographers. I’m really blown away by Adam Goldberg’s work. He shot for them in Los Angeles. All film. That’s a blog of another flavor. Each week new images from all five of us are showing up on the site. My direct link is here. It’s cool to see five photographers take on the same job on one site. The other shooters are Frances Tulk-Hart (NYC), Jayms Ramirez (San Francisco), and Chris McPherson (Phoenix).
So yes. I will, and have, shot a job with this camera. There’s no way in hell I would have done this job for Land Rover had I not believed in this camera. I had the Phase out for this job on some “hero” shots and I had the 5d around with the 135 f2 lens in case I needed it. Never did. Oh no. Is this X-Pro1 a DSLR killer? Have I come full circle by going around the world with this stupid camera? Let’s bring this home. I’ll pull from some FAQ’s I’ve received.
• Is the X-Pro1 a DSLR competitor? Yes and No. Despite it being a 16MP APS class sensor with a
crap crop factor I would say it challenges my 5d2. Even in the higher ISO range. That new bayer pattern thing they did with the sensor is legit. If your job is shooting toddlers running through parks or some sort of sports outside of competitive dart throwing, then this camera is by no means a competitor to a DSLR. If your work is more methodical like portraits and the like then… there’s a place in your bag for this camera.
The next time someone asks me what kind of camera they should get I will have them look at the X-Pro1. It’s a camera that you can grow from amateur to pro with. If you were ever shooting with a Canon Rebel, 20d, 30d, D100, D200, D70, D60, etc then as far as image quality and ISO goes, this camera spanks all of those and keeps up with today’s prosumer DSLRs. It’s the slow focus where it starts to slip and lag.
• The focus and lag. Is it that bad? Yeah. Kind of. The focus is ok. There’s just this lag that it has that is annoying. It’s like, I’ve thought about the shot. Then it wants to think about the shot too. NO. Just shoot. But I think back to my x100. When that came out of the box it sucked in those two areas. A few firmware updates later and it’s a new camera. I can only imagine the same will be said with the X-Pro1. Fuji has done an amazing job listening to all of us and have addressed many of our concerns. Even down to the request for the AF selector switch be changed to Manual, Continuous, Single. Single was in the middle before and hard to hit on the fly. I can’t remember the last time I used a continuous focusing mode so it’s fine if I don’t ever hit it.
• ETA – 6/14/2012 - Firmware 1.10 has dramatically improved the speed and responsiveness of the X-Pro 1. It’s now acting more like an x100. Focus is accurate. Lag is shorter. Overall speed of the camera has improved tremendously.
• What about manual focus on the X-Pro1? Uh. Yeah. No. Definitely not. The new lenses are focus by wire instead of having physical little gears in there. It’s slow and laggy and kind of sort of useless. If there was anything I was truly disappointed in was the fact that the focus by wire was kept for these lenses. As I said in my x100 review, I don’t know jack about lens design so I’m just armchair quarterbacking here but if the lenses could be physically geared then manual focus would be more of an option on this camera.
• x100 or X-Pro1? Oh boy. Tough one. The x100 is still, IMHO, the greatest camera ever made. It’s the scrappy little brother now that the X-Pro is out but it still has the most soul. My minimalist heart still sings when I’m shooting with the x100. It’s a bit smaller. A bit lighter. Silent. The 23mm focal length (35mm equiv) is fantastic. It’s still my favorite but I can’t say which I would choose over the other. They are two different little cameras. They are “too” different as well. It seems that the x100 line will continue. I don’t have any inside information on this but it comes from what I’ve read on the internets. I hope this is the case.
• ETA 6/14/2012 - AS much as I love the X-Pro1. AS much as I’ve used it for personal work and on paid jobs. AS much as firmware 1.10 has improved it… The x100 is still my baby. It’s still my favorite of the X series. It’s never far from me. The X-Pro1 translates to working on a job better than the x100 does but the x100 is still my favorite camera I’ve ever owned.
• What about the X10? I bought one of these for Meg. I like the x10 but this is how I think of them. The x100 and the X-Pro1 are photographer’s cameras. The x10 is a photographer’s point and shoot. If you are itching for an X class Fuji go for the x100 or X-Pro1.
• What do you think of the lenses? IMHO the 35mm f1.4 is THE lens to have for the X-Pro1. Holy crappoly do I ever love this lens. You could just weld it onto the camera and I’d be fine with that. It’s perfect. You know, other than not being geared for manual focus. No really, it’s fantastic. A grand slam of a little lens. My next favorite is the 18mm f2. It’s a really sharp lens and pretty wide. It holds up nicely. The 60mm f2.4 is my least favorite and that surprises me. I knew I was going to love the 35mm before I ever got it and I figured I’d love the 60mm just as much but I sort of think that maybe I have a bad copy of the 60mm. All my lenses are pre-production and the 60 is the worst performer of my three. It’s slow to focus and lock on. I have heard that firmware tweaks are in store for the glass but that’s just stuff I’ve read online. Don’t quote me. I think I need to try another 60. When it locks it’s great. It just doesn’t perform nearly as well as the 18 and the 35.
• Accessories? Definitely pick up the Black Rapid SnapR sling for this camera. Use the strap. Ditch the bag. That’s what I do. If you have two small cams on you (like an x100 and an X-Pro) then put each on a SnapR strap and pick up the CouplerR. This allows you to have one camera hanging on each side of you. This is how I rolled in India and it was awesome. You’ll forget they’re there in a few minutes. The new Fuji lenses come with lens hoods so you don’t have to Frankencamera something on the front of them like I did with the x100 for awhile. I finally broke down and bought the Fuji hood for the x100. Still a stupid price tag on that piece of plastic. Another thing that’s really nice is the extra grip for the X-Pro1. Picked one of those up and I’m glad I did. It adds just a bit of weight to the camera but I have a more solid grip on it now. I wouldn’t say it’s a must have but almost.
• How does it compare to the Sony/Nikon/Olympus such and such? I have no idea. I also have no desire to go shoot all these different cameras side by side. I’ll let dpreview do that.
• Best improvements from the X100? – The “Q” menu! The Q menu is awesome. It allows you to quickly make a number of changes to the camera through a very easy to navigate menu. Dear Fuji, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE bring this to the x100 through a firmware update! PLEASE! It’s fantastic. Whoever designed that gets the employee of the month parking space for sure. The battery life has gotten a lot better as well. The battery is physically larger so that might have something to do with it. I can go all day on two fully charged batteries.
• What about the Leica M Class? How’s it hold up to those? While I have held and popped off some frames with an M8 and an M9 a few times, I have never had a full run with a Leica M class. I don’t want to step on the hallowed toes of the Leica legacy but there is no way I’d ever pay that much for those cameras. Esp when this X-Pro1 is out. I know there’s a Porsche / VW conversation to have here but I’d almost put it more like a Porsche / Subaru WRX metaphor if I was going to put it in the car world. Two different cars. Too different cars. Both faster than a scalded dog. One has an approachable price tag. The other does not. Girls usually aren’t impressed if you’re driving a Subaru even though you could smoke a number of Porsches in it. My metaphor is running out of gas. Oh, Fuji is coming out with a lens mount accessory that will allow you to mount Leica/M glass. Haven’t seen it nor tried it so I can’t speak to it. With those lenses being geared though, I sort of imagine that thing is going to be awesome and will give a number of us some more GAS for glass.
• Is it worth the money? Yes. But that’s coming from a guy who worked one off right? If you ever lusted after an M9 then this camera is right up your alley. You’ll be all over this camera because compared to $7,000, the $1,699 price tag for the X-Pro1 body is a steal. If you’re rocking a $500 DSLR with a kit lens then it’s a big stretch. There is a place for this camera at this price point in a working photographer’s bag. If you’re just starting out then you’re most likely better off to put your money in your DSLR kit for awhile. If you have a full DSLR kit and you’re looking for that “something” then this camera is that “something” you are looking for.
I’d have no problem pulling this out at wedding or other event. NOT for night time dancing shots but hell, I hate my 5d2 in those situations. Portraits. Getting ready. Detail shots. Yeah. Oh, and the macro mode on the 60mm is awesome. That would be my detail lens. We’re talking about a camera that weighs less than most of your lenses being job worthy and still fit in a large pocket. It’s much quieter than a DSLR and would allow you to look more like a guest than the hired gun when the crazy “NO PICTURES EVAR!!!” church ladies come around. Hand the X to your second and stick them in the third row. Done. I mean. Honor the rules. Don’t ruin it for the next photographer but, ahem, (third row with the quiet non pro looking camera and get the shot) Ahem.
I’ve run through the gamut with this camera both physically and mentally. I’m really glad Fuji gave me the camera as it is missing some paint now. It’s not weather proof but it has been in the rain, had mud slung on it, and held an inch from running water. It’s funny how I wanted it to be what it kind of is but it was a bit of a journey to figure it out. This isn’t the camera you hand to your mom to grab a few shots. I’ve watched very talented photographers pick up my X-Pro1 and sort of scratch their heads after taking a few shots with it. I then explain how you have to stick your tongue out a certain way, stand on your left foot, grab your elbow, and click your heels three times to get the most out of it. When you do all that… angels sing. Really.
I did a job yesterday with this camera along side the Phase. I’d get my main shot with the Phase like this (ISO 50. Lit.)
With the X-Pro1 hanging at my side I would then pull it up for an “available” light shot for a different look. (ISO 800. Lit with the modeling light from a beauty dish. The blue light is daylight mixing in. WB set to tungsten.)
With the small size of the X-Pro1 it can always be on your side. You can shoot with your main camera and then pull something different off without skipping a beat. Having this camera on you isn’t a “commitment” if you know what I mean. Go shoot a 12 hour wedding day with two DSLRs hanging on you and you’ll know what I mean by “commitment”. With an X hanging on one of those BlackRapid SnapR straps it’s the same as having your phone in your pocket. Even though Instagr.am just got bought for a cool billion, ain’t none of us shooting major jobs with an iPhone. This camera however can shoot a job. Unless the job involves bob sledding or toddlers. Or toddlers bob sledding. Get a Nikon for that job.
I’m heading to Iceland in June to teach a week long people and portrait workshop with Focus On Nature. We’re going to be shooting everywhere from the streets of Reykjavik to the interior tundras and glaciers and other nature stuff places and I’m pretty certain that I’m taking my Phase and my Fuji’s for the workshop. I think the Canons are going to stay at home. And yes, this Iceland workshop is going to be as cool as it sounds.
While I was in Dubai I gave a presentation at the launch of the X-Pro1 in the Middle East. I talk about my experience with the x100 and how my #de_VICE series was born from that camera and ended up on CNN. You can find that on Fuji ME’s youtube channel.
Will I sell my Canon kit? No. There will be plenty of jobs where I will need the speed of the 5d. Wait. What? I can’t believe I just said that. I guess after shooting with the X and the Phase the 5d feels like a Porsche. And while the X-Pro1 does shoot HD video it isn’t a 5d. [dream]But the weather proofed X-Pro3 with a full frame sensor and fast AF?[/dream] Yeah, the DSLR will get less and less use. ETA – I will never travel on vacation with a DSLR again. Ever. Seriously. If you want a travel camera, this is your travel camera. No question about it.
Oh… Can’t have a camera review without…
Questions? Concerns? Hit me in the comments. I’ll update this blog post periodically as firmware updates come through. I made a number of changes to my x100 post due to firmware updates fixing a lot of issues I had with it.
Again for the record — ETA – 6/14/2012 - Firmware 1.10 has dramatically improved the speed and responsiveness of the X-Pro 1. It’s now acting more like an x100. Focus is accurate. Lag is shorter. Overall speed of the camera has improved tremendously.
**I really hope the “hot damn” is strictly about the XPro-1 and has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that he was shooting a gorgeous woman in gorgeous light in an amazing location. Did I mention the fact that she is gorgeous? I’m going to go get out of my pajamas and get dressed or something. And pout my lips. And lounge somewhere in a pile of saris. Or the dang pile of clothes I have to fold. Yeah, me in a pile of 2T Yo Gabba Gabba underwear and socks and jeans will put Gorgeous Gabby to shame. (Meg)
*** Hot Damn was about the camera dear. Honest! (Zack)