Here’s a post that was submitted by my good tech-minded friend Kevin Lurie. He was so delighted with his new Fujifilm X Pro 1 that he wrote a review and sent it in to share on our website. I’m glad he did and I think you’ll find it a very useful read especially if you’re contemplating on a high-end mirror-less digital camera. Thanks Kevin!
Fujifilm X Pro 1 Camera Review
I was lucky enough to snag a cheap deal on overseas travel to Thailand and used the savings to splash out on a new camera – namely, the new mirror-less Fujifilm X Pro 1. This camera builds upon the very impressive market inspired and started by the Leica M9, followed by a raft of competitors. Fuji announced their own “X” line in competition, with the X10 and X100 models, with fair reviews. They were good, but lacking the high-quality sensor of the VERY expensive Leica. Sony brought out their NEX-3, improved NEX-5 and the new NEX-7 as their offering, again with fair reviews, with various reasons that each model was missing “something”.
And then Fujifilm announced the X Pro 1. A photography enthusiast friend of mine that I trust summed it up beautifully: “Leica had the best sensor and lenses, which is why they have been #1, but you pay for that privilege. The sensor and lens review sites, testing SOLELY the sensor, have said this is the first sensor to beat Leica, and the lenses are of superior quality. This camera would be as good, at a third of the price.” You can’t PAY for a better rap than that!
I was curious and poked around and there were certainly many “preview” reviews of the X Pro 1 and a few comparisons to the newest Sony model and the like. The X Pro 1 came out the winner hands-down in most comparisons, but it is a bit more expensive – ~AU$2500 for the body with the 35mm lens. Sony, as a comparison, would be about $700 cheaper. Again, going back to my friend who is a prosumer camera enthusiast, “I’d by the Sony NEX-7 for my wife, but I’d buy the X Pro 1 for myself.” A clear indication that for the features, picture quality and price, the X Pro 1 will take better pictures, period.
Sample Fujifilm X Pro 1 Shot : Thailand Waterfall (Click for full 9MB version)
So what is the fuss all about? Let’s start with what this camera REPRESENTS. Yes, I realise this is not a specification list but my personal opinion. The X Pro 1 represents a professional camera that you treat like the “old days” – you like a particular shot, grab your camera, focus, light balance, shoot. No zooming, no fiddling – you want the high quality shot, you know what you need to make it look GOOD and you have the tool in your hands to make it happen instantly. Because the camera is mirrorless, the body is incredibly compact. The 35mm lens and body barely feel like more than a pocket handy cam and you feel like a camera user from the good old days.
Looks aside, the camera simply produces excellent photos, shot after shot, without exception. The colour is rich, there were no noticeable quirks or defects in any shots I took and it performs amazingly in low-light situations and high speed shots. The X Pro 1 is quick to meter and focus (if you choose to let it automatically select either or both of those settings) and you can literally snap away at anything you want. Lacking zoom of any kind, you initially feel apprehensive taking shots, until you see the results – amazing focus metering, rich colours and high enough resolution that you can crop the photo to highlight what you want. The camera build and technical specifications allow you to have excellent control over the broad ISO range, exposure length, and aperture size – basically all of the functions you WANT in a handy cam but NEED to normally carry a full DSLR to obtain. The high resolution of 16 Megapixels is more than enough for large format prints and over-proofing shots for later cropping. The standard 35mm 1.4R lens allows for easy shot selection without being lost in searching for detail. And finally, the proprietary sensor processing and mirror-less construction removes the issues with existing camera digital trickery that delivers rich colours and detail even in low light situations. The mirror-less construction keeps the size down but also allows Fujifilm to use their proprietary sensor and processing systems to great use to produce, in my opinion, the best affordable compact camera today.
To add to the excellent “single shot” performance, Fujifilm built in a number of drive options – continuous shooting with 3- or 6-fps (limited by the speed of writing to the SD Card), AE and ISO bracketing in ±⅓, ⅔ and 1 levels, video shooting (1920×1080 and 1280×768) at 24fps, dynamic range shooting and a VERY impressive panorama function – sweep the camera across a vista and it will auto-stitch the shots and produce a great wide angle shot. This last function is best used on a tripod, although it does produce passable results when done by hand. To add to all these amazing options, I particularly liked the fact that there is a built in digital level display which auto senses horizontal or vertical shooting. Combined with the grid options for the built in LCD, it makes your images perfectly centred shot after shot.
For ease of use, there are a number of buttons on the camera for accessing the functions. A handy “Q” button under the right thumb gets you full customisation menus selectable by the four-direction buttons, easily changing multiple settings quickly using the neighbouring jog dial. A dedicated auto-exposure/auto-focus button allows for semi-automated shooting if you have the right settings and want a little help. And a customisable “Fn” button allows you to rapidly set your favourite function without scrolling through the Q menu. For fine control, there are physical dials for maximum ISO (from 1 through 4000) and exposure levels (from -2 to +2 in ⅓ increments) and a physical selector for Manual, Continuous and Spot focus.
This camera does have some minor flaws which I very quickly learned to live with or ignore after using the camera for a few days. Firstly I’d say you need the fastest SD card you can get your hands on – I went for an 8Gb, 95Mbps guaranteed throughput professional card and I am glad for it. Shooting in RAW mode or a long video, you do notice the write time but it is manageable/unavoidable. A RAW shot will write in under a second, but the fact it locks the focus and display means you may be disappointed if wanting super-high-quality shots in quick succession. Secondly, the built-in viewfinder seems to be less featured that the back LCD – while the simplification of the features may be seen as a boon, but because it lacks the digital level, the fact it is off centre makes it difficult to select your shot perfectly without practice. This also means that with the supplied light hood for the lens, the bottom right of your shot through the viewfinder is blocked by the hood! To top it off, the image quality of the shot review through the viewfinder is quite low – washed out whites and too blue saturated compared to the actual shot. All in all, I quickly switched back to reviewing the shot by the back LCD. Thirdly, the amount of noise put out isnoticeable, but not irritating. It initially is concerning but ultimately comforting to hear the auto focus click or shutter engaging, but if you are truly worried, there are a number of “silent running” options to explore in the menus. Short of extremely noise-sensitive environments, this flaw is most quickly ignored.
Overall, though, these minor gripes fade away when you first start snapping shots and disappear completely when you see the results on a full resolution display. The photos are simply stunning and the feel of the camera in your hands is completely effortless. As a prosumer, you are looking for the best shot quality-for-price ratio yet with this camera, you will notice you spend less time obsessing about the shot and rather find yourself happily running around taking and appreciating your shots like a kid in a candy store. This camera may cost a bit more than the rest but the sheer joy of use, coupled with the truly staggering quality of the shots it pumps out, makes every cent worthwhile.
Specifications – http://www.fujifilm.com/products/digital_cameras/x/fujifilm_x_pro1/specifications/
Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com) review – http://www.dpreview.com/previews/fujifilmxpro1