Fuji X-Pro1 First Impressions


As I mentioned in an earlier blog entry, I decided to pick up a Fujifilm X-Pro1 (and 35mm f/1.4) as a Christmas present to myself. The recent price drop and lens promotion finally got it down to something I could justify (only mildly more than the Fujifilm X-E1). Took it out yesterday for several hours and then woke up ridiculously early this morning to join a photowalk with it. A good way to get used to it in somewhat realistic shooting conditions. The one thing I have yet to do is to shoot with posed subjects, where I often use off-camera flash. Hopefully will get a chance to do that soon and see how it performs.

My initial impressions of the camera, just shooting random objects around the home, were very good. I tried various ISOs and Apertures out. I tried using the OVF and the EVF. I tried using single shot, continuous and manual focusing modes. There are tons of reviews and articles going into great detail about using the camera, so I won’t repeat boring technical details. Like other reviews note, the continuous focus mode leaves a lot to be desired. In fact, I found it almost unusable on first attempt. I’ll try to research and pick up some pointers online, but I’m not optimistic in that regard.

As to Single shot mode, I found the focus to be faster than I had feared. However, sometimes in low light, even with the assist lamp, the camera struggles to lock focus. But if it can lock focus, I found it extremely reliable. Manual mode was much better than I expected. Being able to use the AE/AF Lock buttom as an AF-ON button (I’m coming from Nikon’s D700, so excuse me if the terminology is different elsewhere) to set initial focus, then being able to get a magnified view to fine tune, was very powerful and accurate. I may end up using manual focus mode a great deal. I do hope Fuji adds focus peaking like so many have asked for, as it would make it much faster.

Ergonomics in a camera is really critical, at least in my experience. My D700 is very well thought out, and I can change anything I’m likely to need to on the fly quickly. The X-Pro1 has a great many things that are as well thought out, or even better, than my Nikon. I appreciate the Aperture ring, Exposure Comp button, and Shutter Speed ring. But there are some downsides. Having ISO available by default on the Fn button is pretty good. The problem being, that then means you can’t use it for other functions. With ISO as important as shutter speed and aperture, it is a shame that, like on many cameras, it is relegated to being a second class citizen.  The Quick Menu design is promising, although I don’t see some items I’d like to. I do need to explore more, though. Perhaps some of that is customizable? (doubt it). I do find that having the wheel so far from the Q mode and AE-L/AF-L buttons makes things a little odd when trying to use Q mode or Manual focusing when you have your eye to the viewfinder.

One big complaint is that the self-timer function is buried a bit too far in menus. And apparently it resets to off after awhile(?). (I need to bring a cable release next time, but still, would be nice to be able to access this in a better way when needed).

The other ergonomic complaint is with the focus points. On my Nikon, moving the focus points is always available. On the X-Pro1, I have to hit a button to activate the ability to then let me control the focal point. It really slows things down in my use.

I’m not ready to complain about some other things, because perhaps I’ll get the hang of things and it won’t impact me. But, I will at least mention that the overloading of buttons in the various view modes was a bit maddening this weekend. I was out shooting and I could not get anything to appear on the rear screen for awhile. I finally figured out that I had hit the view mode and gotten into a mode where it wasn’t active.

Anyway, on to using the camera out and about. After getting the hang of things around the house, we ventured out yesterday and my camera stayed around my neck (where I barely noticed it).  We walked around downtown on a very bright day, then headed indoors to lunch. The shadow abstract shot was from downtown, with the bokeh and the older man in the bar shot were from lunch. With the bokeh shot, I had a little trouble focusing on the “tree”, but once it locked on, I was good. I framed it very loosely, so cropped a good portion out, which explains why it may look a tad noisy. Still, well controlled noise. And beautiful bokeh.

I found the older gentlemen interesting, especially with the way the laptop screen was illuminated his face. Nailing focus with autofocus proved troublesome, so I decided to try out manual focusing. It worked great in this situation, allowing me to get his face crisply in focus. Good thing he was still. If this had been, say, a performer on stage singing or playing guitar, it most likely would not have been doable.

The shot of the fence looked like a good opportunity to see how the out-of-focus areas would render in a daylight situation without all the pinpoint light bokeh of the earlier shot. I really like how creamy the bokeh is here.

I also managed to get my son to sit still how long enough for me to focus on him and snap a shot, so I could see how a person’s face and skin tone are rendered using the in-camera film simulation jpeg modes (using Pro Neg Std here). Unless I can get continuous focus working, I doubt I’m going to be getting a lot of candid pictures of my son, though, and that is unfortunate. Still, I like the skin tones.

Returning home from being out all day, we stopped a lake that we drive by near our home. We had a very nice sunset, and I probably should have switched to Velvia mode instead of sticking to my Pro Neg Standard jpeg setting. I still like the photo I got, though. I also really appreciated the horizon level on the display since I was shooting handheld.

I got up before dawn and walked along a river greenway trail for a few hours this morning. Where I’d been mainly shooting near wide open and only shooting handheld yesterday, today I was stopped down to f/11 and using a tripod for everything (as well as shooting raw). That brings up another complaint. I have to remove my tripod plate to get the battery and memory card out of the camera. That is a huge flaw.

The other guys I was shooting with had long lenses and ultra wides. I was having to work a little harder to find good shots with a normal range prime. I got a handful of shots I was happy with. Although I do think it is ironic that my favorite shot today from my $1700 setup looks like it came from my $20 Holga. Jokes aside, I was able to get some really nice, filmlike looks out of the raw files using Lightroom. I know there are a lot of complaints right now about the raw support in Lightroom, but luckily it wasn’t an issue for me with these files (Although, really, everything was pretty gray, so I converted many to b&w. We’ll see about color smearing once I shoot a model with a colorful outfit).

All in all, I’m impressed. I’m pretty sure I’ll get used to the quirks and come to really love this camera.  It has only been two days, and like I said, I haven’t used strobes with it or really shot much in the way of people yet. I’m sure the sync speed slowness with frustrate me, once I do. It will be interesting to see how much, if any, this can replace my D700 for that sort of work. That isn’t why I got it, but it is the cherry on top if it works out.

Hopefully I’ll get to try that soon and report back here.

The pictures shown here and a few more are available in larger sizes and a full-screen slideshow at : http://gallery.rodneyboles.com/fujitest