Fujifilm X-Pro1 review
UPDATE: Fuji has announced the X-E1, a much more compelling offering on the face of it (it still has to be reviewed, but it looks promising). See here for the announcement.
After the unexpected success of the fixed lens rangefinder-esque X-100 Fuji were quick to develop and launch the X-Pro1, a similarly designed model featuring the unusual hybrid viewfinder but with interchangeable lenses. Fuji also used the opportunity to develop a new higher-resolution APS-C size X-Trans sensor with a unique RGB filter array consisting of 6x6 pixel sets as opposed to the conventional 2x2 tile arrangement.
The larger pixel set allows Fuji to adopt a more random RGB pattern which they claim leads to reduced moiré and improved colour accuracy yet at the same time allowing Fuji to drop the optical low pass filter (OLPF) of conventional sensor designs. As the OLPF is in effect a blur filter, everything else being equal, the benefit to X-Pro1 users should be an increase in fine detail rendering over a conventional 16MP sensor.
Fuji say this camera’s X-Trans sensor comes close in resolution to that of rival full-frame sensors with conventional filters, by which we’re to assume they’re referring to the then current 21MP Canon EOS 5D Mk II and not the 18-MP Leica M9 as that also lacks an OLPF, or anti-aliasing filter as it’s sometimes known as.
Pear Blossom, London, April 2012.
Fuji X-Pro1, ISO800, XF35mm f/1.4R at maximum aperture (in-camera JPEG).
Horse Box, London, April 2012.
Fuji X-Pro1, ISO400, XF18mm f/2.0R, taken at f/4.0 (in-camera JPEG, adjusted to taste in LR4).
Unfortunately, it’s not possible to say with any real certainty until a superior Raw file converter is available to the bundled Silkypix, as that appears to have poor demoasicing with the Fuji Raw files. Images appear quite soft and lacking in micro-contrast and it's not helped by the inclusion of a largely ineffective un-sharp masking tool. However, in-camera JPEGs suggest the X-Trans sensor is capable of resolving a little more than a conventional sensor but while moiré or false colour remains low it doesn’t appear to be able to match the fine detail rendering of files from a Canon EOS-1DsMk III.
Nevertheless, the X-Pro1 still has a lot to offer. While the layout is similar it’s bigger and heavier than the X100 taking its fixed 23mm f/2.0 into account and yet the ergonomics are largely superior. Like that camera though, the X-Pro1 is difficult to master. The hybrid viewfinder is a logical extension of that found in a rangefinder, but the shortcomings from parallax error with AF accuracy and composition mean you’ll almost certainly want to adopt the EVF option exclusively.
As electronic displays go it’s not bad in terms of detail but, as you might expect, it falls wildly short of the optical viewfinder in terms of dynamic range. Bizarrely, Fuji decided not to add built-in dioptre adjustment which, for those of us over 40, make the finder image difficult to see clearly without relying on third party lenses. Fuji claim the viewfinder’s 14mm high-eyepoint is comfortable enough for spectacle wearers. It isn’t. But perhaps the biggest disappointment with it, though, is the lengthy black-out time during capture.
As for handling, the body fits nicely in the hands but some of the controls appear almost randomly placed. The lens release button is situated in an awkward position and the AF point selection button is difficult to access with the camera up to the face. Some of the camera’s operation isn’t particularly intuitive either. At first sight the rear command dial seems under-utilized, most of the day-to-day operation is achieved using the other dials and buttons located around the body. But it’s this dial that’s used to access high magnification options during manual focusing and playback, yet it’s also supposed to be used to select options from a page of short-cuts, but it’s just too clunky for that.
Overall the body balances well with all three of the Fujinon-branded XF lenses currently available; the 18/2, 35/1.4 and a 60/2.4 macro. Of those, the 18/2 balances best, though it’s the weakest of three optically, at least when wide-open, stopping down the lens performs very well. The 35/1.4 is a truly excellent performer optically, even wide-open, though autofocus is tardy and noisy on all three optics.
Butterfly Girl (courtesy of Butterfly World Project), St Albans, April 2012.
Fuji X-Pro1, ISO400, XF60mm f/2.4R Macro, taken at f/2.8 (in-camera JPEG).
Part of the reason can be explained by the contrast-detection system employed, they’re rarely faster than phase-detection systems found in DSLRs. More telling perhaps is that all three lenses use front group focusing; speedier focusing would be achieved using rear group or internal focusing. Manual focus is also something of a compromise. The focus ring is generally smooth in use but there's a slight disconnect using the electronic control system. What’s more, the ‘gearing’ is low, so while it’s possible to make precision focus adjustments you can’t do so quickly.
Like others in Fuji’s X series, the X-Pro1 looks promising on paper but through a combination of tardy autofocus performance, complex and unintuitive handling and poor choice of control placement, it’s somewhat disappointing in use. Without unrestricted access to the camera’s Raw files, image quality is also difficult to assess at this time, although from the resultant JPEGs it appears the X-Pro1 is capable of outstanding image quality, excellent dynamic range and superb colour, even at high ISO settings. In terms of price it sits between the Sony NEX-7 and the Leica M9, and like those would complement a DSLR or medium format camera but by itself it’s less of a convincing solution.
Compact body with interchangeable lenses
Hybrid optical / electronic viewfinder (0.47-inch, 1.44M dot)
16.3-megapixel X-Trans APS-C CMOS sensor.
ISO200-6400, extended range ISO100 to ISO25600
3-inch (1.23M dot) LCD.
Magnesium alloy body
Continuous shooting in up to 6fps (up to 13 Raw + LF JPEG).
1280x720 / 24fps movie clips (max 29-mins)
Single SD/SDHC/SDXC slot
Body weight: 450g (15.6 oz) inc battery and SD memory card.
Body only, $1,335 / £1173 inc VAT
XF 18/2 $599 / £485 inc VAT
XF 35/1.4 $599 / £475 inc VAT
XF 60/2.4 Macro $599 / £475 inc VAT
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