The Fujifilm X-Pro1 – A Year in Review

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.

One of the first photos taken with the X-Pro1. A portrait of my mother.

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.

DSCF0993DSCF5461DSCF7569DSCF6572

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.

Voigtlander 40mm 1.4 NoktonDSCF4478Zeiss 2/50 Planar ZMDSCF8907Vivid Festival Sydney. First RAW photo I took on the X-Pro1. Processed in Lightroom.DSCF0632

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.

Streets of SIngapore. Fujinon 35mm 1.4.DSCF0212DSCF9860DSCF0218DSCF9696DSCF9809DSCF0231

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.

My first attempt at infrared photography. Hoya R72 on Fujinon 35mm 1.4.DSCF4045Fujinon XF 18-55mm 2.8-4DSCF2733DSCF2800

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.

DSCF1457

Version 3.0

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.

Conclusion

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.

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20 comments

  1. Great review.

    1. Thank you and thanks for stopping by.

  2. Nice article and lovely photos. I’m considering moving from a Canon 5d mark iii to this. I have the x100s and I love it, and the canon only gets used for event work nowk I just hope the new firmware will make it useful enough in similar low light event situations…

    1. Hi Vik. I might be slightly controversial with this one and say that on a pure image quality level, I think the 5D mark iii is still better and to a noticeable degree, full frame does make a difference. In a purely operational sense I much prefer the X-Pro1, but my style of photography doesn’t really ever demand fast autofocus so I can get away with it. Have you tried packing your X100s and using it for events?

  3. Switching back to Aperture will once again open a new world. It’s quite a bit better than LR, sharper, better colours and most of all, less artifacts. For me, Adobe did a very average job in the support of this camera.

    1. I have actually considered it for a while, just importing them into Aperture as a referenced library. There was a feature in that I used to love in Aperture which was to use multiple curve adjustments and brush them in which is impossible in Lr.

  4. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and lovely photos.

    1. Thank you for your kind words Henry.

  5. John Weeks · · Reply

    Not since my nikon F3 has a camera so inspired me….agree with your comments. I plan on converting mine to IR when the x pro 2 comes out. The x pro deserves a place to continue to reside. Also I love the captures of the young woman…a quiet and caring essence she appears to have.

    1. Thanks John. I had a similar experience when I discovered my dad’s old Canon QL17 and ran a few rolls of Neopan 400 CN through it. I bought the original X100 about a week after this and haven’t looked back. Actually that’s not a bad idea as a way of retiring the X-Pro1, I just might do the same when the time comes!

      1. John Weeks · ·

        Hi Adrain,
        For some great information about a x pro converted for IR and the fuji lenses see Mark Hilliard’s photography site. He has written some articles about it. I think you will enjoy…

  6. Brad Horn · · Reply

    Really nice. Your thoughts mirror my own. I’ve owned various digital cameras, but none of them brought back that raw creative feeling that I had when I used a Nikon FM2. The X-Pro1 retains that same traditional control layout and moves all of the other “bells and whistles” {which are still there} out of the way. I absolutely love it.

    1. Thanks Brad. Agreed, it’s the control and operational quality that really make the camera. In terms of image quality you won’t really find a bad camera out there these days. If only Nikon made a digital version of the FM with the D600 sensor…

  7. Paul Po Yi Lee · · Reply

    Your way of writing and your photos are so extraordinary impressive that I am compelled to drop a few lines of praises to you! Really well done.
    I shared the strong emotion like you with my Xpro1 and other Fuji gear. There is really some magic about Fuji. I did not find focus peak helpful when I use my Leica R 28/2.8, perhaps I will need to wait till the next upgrade where Fuji promises to have other color for the outline in peak focusing.
    When you use your Zeiss ZM, did you not find that extra length on the adapter annoying? I am planning to save some money on a Leica M because I am driven crazy by the extra length to my lens when using my R lens.

    1. Thank you Paul. To be completely honest it has taken me several years to amass the confidence to write and post my photos publicly and your kind words are more encouraging than you might realise.
      Regarding the focus peaking, I actually find it much easier to use on the rear LCD. In the EVF it’s quite hard to see the white outlines. Funnily enough I’ve actually never had the chance to use a native M mount camera for more than a few minutes at a time so my only real experience of the Zeiss ZM is actually on the X-Pro1. It is very slightly longer in length with the adapter but M lenses are small in general and I would imagine nowhere near as long as with the Leica R adapter. The photos with the Leica 28/2.8 must be stunning!

  8. I own a few zm lenses, one of them being the 50/2zm, and have been wanting to buy an xpro1 to use them on but have had a hard time finding samples, do you happen to have any more with that set up?

    1. Hey Luis, you won’t be disappointed with the 50 planar on the X-Pro1, it’s super sharp and looks great. Most of the my other posts have images from the planar as its my main portrait lens. One thing I will mention is that I tried a 35 Biogon f2 and it had very smeared corners (there’s a lot of info online about smearing on wide angle lenses), I ended up swapping this lens for the 32mm Touit which is fantastic.

  9. Hey, love your photos and your blog, I chanced upon it through Thomas Menk’s fantastic X-Pro1 Scoop.it page.

    I’ve also been shooting exclusively with the X-Pro1 and the 3 original primes over the past year whilst travelling. It has served me very well and my shoulders thank me for the weight reduction over my Canon DSLR kit.

    I’ve got a ZM35/2 and a Leica 50 Summicron which I’m considering buying a M adaptor for, do you think its worth the effort? I mean the Fuji 35 is outstanding as it is.

    What do you reckon?

    Adrian

    1. Thanks Adrian! It’s so great to hear from you, I have been following your blog for some time and I likewise discovered it on Thomas Menk’s Scoop.it, pretty much the best page on the internet for anything Fujifilm X related. Your photos are stunning I might add!
      Interesting story about the Zeiss 35/2, I actually picked one up recently but had some serious issues with corner smearing. I normally am not too fussy about these things but this was very obvious and pronounced and looked quite unnatural. I can even send you a few examples if you want to check it out. I ended up sending it back to Zeiss for testing and they couldn’t replicate the problem even with a staff member’s X-E1, but in the end I swapped it out for a Touit 32mm which is nice but doesn’t have the same tactility that an M lens provides. The 50/2 ZM is spectacular as is the Voigtlander 50/1.5 that I just picked up (I’ll do a write up once I have a good selection of images from it). I would say the Leica 50 will be superb but maybe try out the 35 Biogon and just see if you get the corner smearing.

      1. Thanks for the info!

        I might try to see if I can wrangle an adaptor to try out before I spend any money on it. Although I sold my Canon 5D2 when I bought the X-Pro1, I’ve kept my Canon lenses and recently, I have to say when I see my 50mm f1.2 sitting there staring lonesomely at me, I feel slightly tempted to get back into the DSLR game. The f1.2 look on a full frame just can’t be replicated.

        My Fuji has served me very well though, and I still see myself bringing it on travels where I don’t want to break my back carrying camera gear.

        Looking forward to seeing your photos from the Zeiss and Voigtlander!

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