I love reading camera reviews, in particular I love reading reviews that capture the experience and emotion that the reviewer feels when using the camera, something that began when I started reading Steve Huff’s reviews several years ago. I actually disagree with those who say “The camera doesn’t matter, a good photographer can take great images with an iPhone, etc.”. Rather I think that a good camera is one that gives you an operational and mechanical quality that you enjoy, that enhances your emotional attachment to the art of photography and gives you great personal pleasure from seeing the images that it produces. A good camera can do this. I love my iPhone, but its photos do nothing for me. I love my X-Pro1 too, and just looking at the photos that it produces fills me with enthusiasm. The camera does matter, because if I removed the emotions that it instills in me, I suddenly am no longer interested in making pictures.
With the release of Firmware v3.0, I started to reflect on my experience with the camera and how my technique and thought patterns have changed in photography over the past year whilst looking back on some of my favourite pictures from the camera. This is not a review in the traditional sense, but a summary of my thoughts on how the evolution of technology and trends in design can influence an individual’s growth as an artist. I will not focus on technical aspects of the camera. As it was released more than a year ago, there is already plenty of information already available on the internet.
I purchased the Fujifilm X-Pro1 more than a year ago, an upgrade from the original X100. A camera that really made me enjoy photography in spite of all of its limitations, most notably in relation to focusing.
For the first six months, I was using the X-Pro1 with the 35mm 1.4 lens, shooting jpegs. It was one of the most enjoyable cameras I have ever used, but I was acutely aware of its limitations, once again in relation to autofocus. Around 4 months in ago, I purchased the Fujifilm M Mount adapter and borrowed a Voigtlander 40mm 1.4 Nokton off a friend. It was this combination which changed my approach to the system. Focus was achieved by magnifying the EVF display, and this became increasingly quick and easy to do with practice. Using a manual focus lens with mechanical aperture actually makes the X-Pro1 much more responsive and there is almost no shutter lag.
Shortly after this, I purchased my first Carl Zeiss lens. The 2/50 Planar ZM and my opinion changed again. It’s hard to describe the pleasure I get from this camera/lens combination, both from an operational and mechanical point of view as well as picture quality. The Zeiss would have to be one of the sharpest lenses ever made, and although extreme sharpness does not immediately equate to a great photo, it can be both beautiful and breathtaking when combined with a great subject and composition. The Zeiss is not limited by the resolution of the Fuji X-Trans sensor, which omits an anti-aliasing filter and produces extremely sharp images which really show the distinctive Zeiss 3D look.
Over time we saw support for raw files in Lightroom, so I switched away from Aperture for this reason alone and haven’t looked back. Eventually raw support was further improved and VSCO developed camera profiles for Fuji to use their film simulation packs. This was the point at which I really started to enjoy this camera. With practice I could operate the camera with speed and confidence. I could focus quickly and achieve excellent results and the combination of Lightroom and VSCO was allowing me to achieve a picture style that I absolutely loved. I took the camera on my overseas adventures to Singapore and Vanuatu where the light weight and small size were invaluable.
The most recent addition to my kit is the Fujinon XF 18-55mm 2.8-4. The fast and silent focus on this lens actually feels like a significant upgrade when compared to the earlier prime lenses. The Image Stablization is excellent and I can get a sharp image reliably at around 1/30 at 55mm. I would highly recommend trying this lens if you’ve so far only used the primes. It really makes the X-Pro1 feel like a more responsive camera. At the time of writing I have only been using this lens for a short period of time but it has earned a permanent place in my camera bag, mostly for use at wider angles.
Changes in Perspective
Over time I began to rely on the X-Pro1 as a constant companion, there to capture my fondest memories, events and travel. As I was now taking more photos than ever before, I began to feel the desire to push beyond the basics of exposure and composition and explore the new and exciting world of photographic lighting. Following the tips and techniques of commercial photographers like Zack Arias, Joey L and David Hobby, I started buying into a lighting setup. To be in a state of constant inspiration and learning is one of the few things that we can’t buy with money. If the camera can contribute to this inspiration then it is truly a wonderful tool.
The addition of focus peaking and continuous improvements to autofocus and other functions of the camera is one of the factors that makes me appreciate Fujifilm as a company concerned with the evolving needs of their photographers. In a sense, the X-Pro1 was a prototype. It was incomplete and unfinished at release which can be considered both in a negative and positive light. With the release of v3.0, we have a camera that performs reliably, autofocuses with speed and accuracy and provides focus peaking for use with M mount lenses. But the beauty of the situation is that the X-Pro1 is still incomplete and unfinished. We can expect more additions, improvements and increases without incurring any further cost. Fujifilm are committed to improving their existing cameras when releasing a new model with incremental improvements would be more financially beneficial to them. No camera is completely faultless, but there are few cameras that actually improve over time in the way that the X-Pro1 and other X series cameras have.
The focus peaking feature is useful, and is the single most important addition to the camera for my personal use. The ability to focus M mount lenses quickly and accurately will once again change how I use the camera. From my quick tests I have found it to be very useful with the Zeiss 50mm Planar ZM and can achieve accurate focus without the need to magnify live view. One thing I have noticed is that the white highlights are much easier to see on the rear LCD than the EVF. They are slightly harder to spot in the EVF on the X-Pro1 and I will have to test it with the X-E1 to see if the phenomenon is related to the lower resolution of the X-Pro1 EVF.
The Fujifilm X-Pro1 has been an important camera in my life. It has fundamentally altered my lifestyle to the extent that I am now immersed in the art of photography. It is my constant companion for documenting life and carries the responsibility of capturing memories with the same vivid expression that I recall in my mind. In this task it succeeds spectacularly.