If you’re a street or travel photographer, you’ve likely already read every review out there (and there are about a million) so you already know how this camera operates in those circumstances. I’m not a street or travel photographer, I’m a portrait photographer that operates in controlled environments, but I’m also a father of two, which was the main driving force behind my decision to get this camera. In 2011 I picked up the Fuji x100, and it fell short. The focus was slooooooow, and seeing as I had purchased it to take photos of my daughter (my son had not yet entered the world at that time) and she was entering into that “I just learned how to walk and I am going to tear ass all over the place” phase, I missed 8 out of 10 photos that I wanted to take. Needless to say I sold it to someone who didn’t have children……
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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…..
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In conclusion I must say it was a bit challenging testing the lens, given the limited time and my normal focal length vision. However at the same time I did appreciate what the lens can do and of course the build quality. It is a speciality lens for sure, especially given the extreme wide angle. And is something to take into consideration before acquiring one. Like many I was very excited when I first heard about Zeiss making a series of lenses for the Sony “E” and the Fuji “X” mounts. However after seeing which focal lengths would be introduced first, my enthusiasm was cooled . The choice of the introductory focal lengths, is an even better indicator that Zeiss designed these lenses for the Sony NEX system. As it filled vacancies in the Sony’s system. If one likes or is in need of this type of focal length, then this is a lens that will not disappoint. Top notch resolution and build quality being it’s primary attributes. The question begs to be asked, should one consider this Zeiss lens over the Fuji 14mm? Let me just repeat what I said earlier. At this focal length a couple of millimeters make a much greater difference then what one might suppose…..
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Most people who know me will know how much affinity I have for Fuji Film. Before I loved the X-Pro, I applauded the D800, was inseparable from the Nikon D3x, and was charmed with the Pentax 645. Previous camera champions were the 5D mark 2 or maybe the D700. I love and still use my Nikon D90. (Not so much these day though I have to admit) It is quite apparent that I might be a total geek when it comes to cameras. Not quite the pixel peeping type of geek that goes on forums to debate the sharpness of sensor V’s sensor though, for me it is something a little different that makes a camera …. good…. It is not the colour rendition, it is not how fast it auto focuses, or how high the ISO goes. In-fact, I more than likely could not tell you what the mega-pixel count of the X-pro is off the top of my head. It is just not a statistic that is important to me. I could however explain how the sensor of the X-pro is different to a Bayer Sensor, or how that differs over a Foveon Sigma Sensor. I could wax lyrical on why I still love CCD sensors like the one found in the Pentax 645. But to be honest, this is all not related to why I like a camera or not. I could not tell you the frame rate of all of the cameras I have mentioned and I could not tell you which is ‘best’. I could not tell you the file sizes or recite the detail spec of the camera like a Star Trek geek could give you chapter and verse of each episode. My love stems from how the camera feels, how it balances, how it empowers me, how it challenges me and ultimately how it helps me do what I want to do. I want a camera that does just what I want and nothing more. I don’t NEED Art Filters, or auto-face detection, anti-blink, perfect shot tech messing about with MY photograph. If I was to make a camera I would not even have the option to shoot to JPEG… It would be DNG and that would be the end of that. I would have 3 dials. Shutter Speed, Aperture, ISO and a slot for a battery and a shutter button. What more do you really need ?? Everything else it to make you feel better and something to play with while your not concentrating on your photograph. Before people comment, I have a clear idea that this would not suit everyone. I hear that Nikon are making a system of finger print recognition for the cameras? And no doubt people will find a marketing reason to say why they applaud it. Not for me though….
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Before I start the Fujifilm X-Pro1 review I just want to explain that I get asked at least once a week about cameras from friends/family/strangers so I thought it was about time I start reviewing them. Now these won’t be as in depth and crazy as other reviews, I wont have crazy in depth details about the technology used to power the camera or charts comparing it with it’s competition. My reviews are going to be simply based off my experience with the camera and who should buy or not buy the camera, followed by a hand full of images taken with the camera being reviewed. Now with that being said, shall we begin?! First camera up is a beast of a camera and one of my most recent purchases, its the Fujifilm X-Pro1…..
So Who Should Buy This Camera?
To be honest I would love to say everyone should buy this camera but that’s not true. The people who should buy this camera are camera enthusiasts, street photographers and or photographers who have a DSLR and want something smaller to carry around everyday with them. I would be brave enough to say that you can use this for fashion photography if you wanted. If your looking to capture fast moving action I suggest you stay away from this camera, unfortunately it’s not fast enough to capture those moments that need fast focusing……
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A rather big box arrived at the gallery this morning, furiously cutting through a million miles of tape and plastic air bags, lay my new lens, the 55-200 mm. It looked impressive and had a nice heft, not too heavy not too light. Quickly grabbed the X pro, locked into place nicely. Initial thoughts are very well made feels and looks good. The balance of the camera is quite even. Did the firmware upgrade, and had a play. Image quality is awesome, no I’m not bullshitting this glass is good, I would say a tad sharper than my 70-200 f2.8 vr2. Contrast is good too. The hood is nice and large and thankfully not a tulip one. The image stabilization works very well, however I think it will suck the hell out of the battery. Zoom ring is a trifle stiff but the aperture ring is a delight positive clicks. Not impressed by not having the aperture markings on the lens, this is a faux pas to me, you read the aperture in the viewfinder. I like to use it by setting it beforehand without having to raise the camera to my eye. The OVF is a waste of time so it’s EVF only with this baby attached. The light this evening is fabulous so I’m off to give it a workout. Well after spending a couple of hours out in the lanes. I am more than impressed by the image quality,and all round handling of the X pro 55-200 combo. Some of my shots tonight were direct into the setting sun testing out its flare handling, very very good, one of the flaws in my Nikon 70-200 was side flare, the Fuji lens showed none of those issues at all. That said the lens does struggle with focus, sometimes on seemingly easy to focus subjects. Macro focus is good I’ve never had a 300 mm focus so close. Overall I would score the lens 9/10. My lens roadmap is complete, the Nikons are being retired. Next up another body i think an XE 1, and leave the 55-200 on that…..
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First of all I should tell you that I love looking through a lens to compose and shoot. I have always been partial to reflex cameras, and 4X5 ground glass viewing for that matter, and the few times in the past I have tried rangefinder cameras I was quick to give them up. The little focusing squares in the viewfinder would drive me bananas. In the early 70’s I tried the Nikon S2 and SP cameras. I liked that the controls were the same as the Nikon Ftn I had at the time, but the focusing and parallax issues were distracting, I could not work fast. I am also one of those guys who tries to use every millimeter of the frame for composition. You might be surprised but I find I do very little cropping when I know where the frame boundaries are.
Two years ago I had a brief love affair with the Leica M9. I loved the size, the images were fantastic and the Leica glass, well, do I need to tell you? Again, I was vexed by the RF and less than a year after shelling out way too many shekels I bid it farewell….
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I’d love to say the Zeiss Touit 12mm f/2.8 should be purchased for your Fuji without question, but I can’t. As the pronunciation of the lens family implies, Zeiss would like you to just run out and do it today. I wouldn’t. I’d put the Fuji 14mm f/2.8 ahead of this particular lens. It’s less expensive and doesn’t have an aperture control ring that spins whenever the wind changes direction. On top of that, the Fuji 14mm sports a very useful depth of field scale and, despite being lighter, actually feels denser and less toy-like then the Zeiss. Out of the box I really, really wanted to love this lens. I love ultra wides, putting the 12mm right up my alley. Maybe if the price was $900 to $1,000, I could see past the minor flaws……
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Fuji have been making some incredibly exciting cameras of late, I owned the fujifilm x100 and loved the handling and simplicity of it. I’d been looking for a walk around camera that could produce excellent images, handled well and was digital. I have a wealth of film cameras that live up to this billing but I wanted digital for quick access to the photos. I loved the x100 but found myself constantly wishing for interchangeable lenses. When the x-pro 1 was announced it seemed to answer all of my wants Relatively lightweightChoice of lensesA workable viewfinderGreat image qualityNot spend Leica money to get it
The viewfinder was what lead me to the x100 in the first place, it uses a hybrid optical and electronic viewfinder changed at the flick of a switch. The fuji x-e1, which is practically the same beast as the x-pro 1 only has the electronic viewfinder. So, I sold the x100 and got the x-pro 1. It’s incredibly well constructed, solid and has the feel of a Leica M. The lenses so far from Fuji have been excellent, the 35mm f1.4 being the pick of the crop, it truly is an excellent lens and is a joy to use. From all accounts the 18-55mm zoom lens that was released recently is incredibly good. Due for release this year is the 56mm f1.4 which I can’t wait to get hold of. Here’s the proposed line up from Fuji. As with the other x series cameras the out of body jpegs are incredibly good, outstanding even, which seeing as right now there are no great options for raw file handling, is essential. I’m an Apple aperture user, as with most software choices it’s what I’m comfortable with, Ive used it so long that I find it quick and unobtrusive in my workflow. Due to fuji’s use of the x-trans sensor, Apple don’t support it as yet, I’m not even sure if they ever will, as trying to get a definitive answer from Apple is difficult. Adobe Lightroom supports the x-pro 1 raw files, but I’m not too happy with how it handles them and neither are others. There are a few other options, Capture One, Silkypix and Accuraw, I haven’t used Capture One for the x-pro raw files yet, but Silkypix and Accuraw are absolutely horrible. For me, this is a serious limitation, I’ve never shot in jpeg before, I came straight from film to raw and my entire way of working is based around raw. All that said, the x-pro 1 does some things so well that I’ve so far never cursed not having the raw file for an image, namely –
- High Iso performance
The Fuji x-pro 1 is incredible with high iso, these two were shot at iso 6400, and the last one at iso 3200. Completely usable and noise free, couple that with the 35mm 1.4 lens and you’re all set for low light photography. My first digital camera, the full frame Canon 5D, as amazing as that camera still is, couldn’t hope to compete with the fuji x-pro at high iso and my 5D mkii just about keeps up……
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My opinion is, that the xPro1 is doing a very good job but the M is a bit better.
The question now is, would I go back to Leica?
Well, a though question – I still love the Leica feeling, the way to take pictures and the Leica look of the M – but after shooting for one hour with the rangefinder, my eye problem were back. But, even if I wouldn’t have the issues with my eye, I am not sure if I would purchase the new M. With a 35 mm lens the M costs around 8000€ – 9000€. That is a lot of money!
There was a customer at the Leica store who was asking me if the new M is worth it?
If you have the money and you love shooting with Leica YES! Instead purchasing the new M getting a used M9 or M-E – NO! The M9 is not as good as the xPro1! You get the much better package & deal with the Fujis! I will stick with Fuji! They make a brilliant job! Using the xpro1, x100 etc. is fun, it is light, fantastic lenses and the IQ is awesome and I don’t have any eye problems!
…so, what about the RAW workflow?
Last week I decided to give another try – to work just with the jpegs and change a bit my settings. But it seems that the RAW file issue is now solved! Today Adobe released the new version of Lightroom. It includes now a correction to the demosaic algorithms for Fujifilm cameras with the X-Trans sensor. YEAH – problem solved! I just downloaded the new version and I am thrilled! The files look awesome… I can get now the look I want and cant wait to start my editing process. My pictures are getting back their soul and that feels damn good!
So, back to old habits?
No – I am looking forward to I stick with Fuji – for two reasons: First of all they make fantastic cameras and lenses and secondly they hear what customers say! They improved the X100 after getting feedback from Pro photographers and customers and worked together with Adobe to solve the RAW Processing problem. I just purchased the new x100S and I’m very curious to find out about the faster AF and improvements!
Is Fuji the new Leica?
In my opinion, NO – Leica will always be Leica. These are 2 different camera systems and brands… Owning a Leica is much more than owning a camera or a tool to take pictures with. You’ll get a hand crafted camera with soul. It is a lifestyle and everyone who ever owned a Leica knows what I try to say.
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