Fujifilm X-Pro1 Review: A Straight Shooter

by Jim Keenan Reads (218)
Editor's Rating
8.60

TG Ratings Breakdown

    • Image/Video Quality
    • 9
    • Features
    • 10
    • Design / Ease of Use
    • 9
    • Performance
    • 8
    • Expandability
    • 7
    • Total Score:
    • 8.60
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

Overview

  • Pros

    • Very good still images
    • Exceptional high ISO performance
    • Good ergonomics, styling
  • Cons

    • Cost
    • No continous AF in burst mode
    • No diopter adjustment for VF

Quick Take

The Fujifilm X-Pro1 produces some of the best high ISO images we've seen in its class. But overall performance still doesn't match that of a mid-level DSLR, even though the X-Pro1's price tag does.


Fujifilm’s X-Pro1 is the newest and most advanced edition to Fuji’s premium X series digital camera line, a mirrorless interchangeable lens system camera with the retro look of a classic rangefinder 35mm film camera. There’s a resemblance to the X100, but while that camera features a fixed 23mm lens (35 in 35mm film equivalents) the X-Pro1 will initially be offered with three interchangeable prime lenses – 18, 35 and 60mm, respectively.

And just to be sure the X-Pro1 designation doesn’t throw anybody off, Fuji’s press release points out the camera is intended for a professional and advanced amateur audience. You don’t need to be a professional or advanced amateur to pick up an X-Pro1, but if you’re the point and shoot type who relies on automatic mode for all of your image capture duties the X-Pro1 offers you only one option: program auto. The camera also offers the typical manual exposure modes (all three of them) and a video capture capability, but that’s it. If the pro-DSLR shooting mode selection hasn’t scared you off, read on.

Overview

The X-Pro1 features a newly designed 16 megapixel CMOS sensor whose color filter array introduces a higher degree of Fujifilm X-Pro1randomness of its pixel units than a more conventional sensor. This new array has allowed Fuji to dispense with the optical low pass filter (also known as an anti-aliasing filter) found on virtually every digital camera and used to deal with moire and false colors. In very general terms, moire will sometimes occur in captured images consisting of a subject composed of a repeating pattern – the camera sensor adds a second pattern that overlaps the first, producing a third pattern that is the moire.

Nikon’s recently introduced D800E DSLR doesn’t have an anti-aliasing filter and provides a “Slight increase in sharpness and resolution with increased occurrence of false color and moire.” This camera is intended for a select user base who are able to exert greater control over their subject and shooting conditions (and who are prepared to deal with moire in post processing) – Nikon also produces a D800 model that includes an anti-aliasing filter for use in all shooting conditions. Fuji claims the X-Pro1 sensor array goes a step further and provides improved resolution while eliminating moire and false colors. This new sensor is fitted with an ultrasonic vibration dust elimination system and complemented by a newly designed Fujifilm EXR Pro processor.

The camera features Fuji’s new X lens mount and as already mentioned three lenses will be released initially – Fuji has also introduced an M-mount lens adapter for the X-Pro1 that features an array of electronic connections that automatically pass information to the X-Pro1 body based on pre-registered lens profiles. The M-mount adapter allows users to create and fine tune up to six lens profiles through the X-Pro1’s Mount Adapter Settings menu. There are four pre-sets for 21mm, 24mm, 28mm and 35mm lenses, plus two optional settings for additional optics. As this is being written (June 26, 2012) Fuji has announced the roadmap for future XF lenses for the X-Pro1: a 14mm prime and 18-55mm zoom in the fall of 2012; 23, 27 and 56mm primes in early 2013; 10-24 and 55-200mm zooms in mid-2013.

The X-Pro1 features an improved version of the hybrid viewfinder that first appeared in the X 100, offering optical and Fujifilm X-Pro1electronic viewfinder options. The LCD monitor size has increased to 3.0 inches with well over twice the resolution of the 2.8-inch model of the X100. Continuous shooting rates may be set at either three or six frames per second (fps) and still images may be captured in JPEG, RAW or RAW/JPEG formats. Video options include full HD or regular HD with stereo sound.

Standard ISO sensitivity ranges from 200 to 6400; expandable down to 100 or up to 25600. The camera accepts SD, SDHC or SDXC (UHS-1) memory media – there is no internal memory. Fuji includes a lithium-ion battery and charger, shoulder strap, USB cable, body cap, metal strap clips, clip attaching tool, protective cover, CD-ROM software and owner’s manual with each camera. The camera is available as a body only for $1700; the 18, 35 and 60mm lenses sell for $600, $600 and $649, respectively.

Build and Design

The X-Pro1 features a magnesium alloy chassis with painted aluminum alloy base plate and top cap; the rest of the body is finished in synthetic leather with a pebble grain finish except for the modestly raised handgrip at the right front of the camera body, which is a rubberized material. Overall, the body shape is rectangular with gently rounded edges. Made in Japan, the camera appears well-built and fine details like milled edges on the shutter speed and exposure compensation dials along with a shutter button threaded to accept a traditional cable release help explain the lofty MSRP.

Ergonomics and Controls
While the basic rectangular shape of the X-Pro1 is not in and of itself particularly ergonomic, the built-up grip portion at the right front of the camera body is nicely complemented by a thumb rest fashioned in part from a round extension of the exposure compensation dial on the right rear of the camera body. The camera is quite pleasant to hold one-handed, with the tip of my index finger falling naturally to the shutter button. My thumb, at rest, sits alongside the exposure compensation dial where it is a simple matter to introduce exposure compensation on the fly. The thumb is also nicely placed to activate the nearby “Q” (quick menu) button which provides access to items such as white balance, ISO, noise reduction, image quality – in total, 16 camera or shooting settings. The nearby selector and command dial make it easy to designate and then change any of the settings the user desires. This is a very shooter-friendly camera when it comes to changing settings on-the-fly.

I had to smile when I first took a look at the top deck of the X-Pro1 – something there just reminded me of an old friend. Here’s a look at the X-Pro1 and my 35mm Nikon F3 HP SLR, circa 1980. Shutter buttons threaded for a standard cable release, exposure compensation dials and shutter speed dials featuring time, bulb and “A” settings – the F3 was the first of Nikon’s iconic “F” series SLRs to offer aperture priority.


Fujfilm X-Pro1

Nikon F3

The X-Pro1 doesn’t have just a retro look, its basic shooting controls harken back to a simpler time before the advent of fully automatic or specialized scene shooting modes. Here’s the set up for program auto – both the lens diaphragm and shutter speed dial are set to “A,” leaving both exposure decisions up to the camera.

Fujifilm X-Pro1

To shoot in aperture priority simply select an aperture size via the ring on the lens while leaving shutter speed set to “A”; shutter priority involves leaving the aperture set “A” and selecting a shutter speed; and manual exposure involves selecting both a shutter speed and aperture. A small vertical scale with a +/- 2 EV range appears on the left side of the monitor or viewfinder to indicate exposure in the manual setting – it designates exposure compensation in the other still image shooting modes.

Video is selected via the “drive” button on the camera back, which also provides basic shooting options such as continuous high-speed, bracketing options and a nifty panorama shooting mode. Here’s a look at that screen.

Fujifilm X-Pro1

The X-Pro1 doesn’t have a one touch video capture option per se – you first have to get the camera into video mode before initiating capture by the shutter button. However, the camera’s function button can be customized to take you directly to video mode, a quicker process then scrolling through the options provided by the drive button.

Menus and Modes
Menus are fairly simple and quite intuitive in the X-Pro1 – there’s a five-page shooting menu, a three page setup menu and a two-page playback menu including an in camera RAW conversion feature that allows you to convert RAW files into JPEGs while saving the original as a RAW file. RAW conversion also allows you to apply a range of modifications to the image, including push/pull processing, dynamic range, film simulation, white balance, white balance shift, color, sharpness, highlight and shadow tones, noise reduction and color space.

We already touched on the narrow range of shooting options offered by the X-Pro1, but here’s the formal list:

  • Program Auto: An automatic mode with the camera setting shutter speed and aperture while the user retains a wide range of other camera settings.
  • Aperture priority: User sets aperture, camera sets shutter speed and the user retains a wide range of other camera settings.
  • Shutter priority: User sets shutter speed, camera sets aperture and the user retains a wide range of other camera settings.
  • Manual: User sets shutter speed and aperture; retains a wide range of other camera settings.
  • Time: Permits the user to cause the shutter to remain open for an extended period of between 2 and 30 seconds in steps of 1/3 EV.
  • Bulb: Permits the user to cause the shutter to remain open for up to 60 minutes as long as the shutter button remains depressed.
  • Video: Permits capture of video in full HD (1920 x 1080) or HD (1280 x 720); both resolutions at 24 fps and with a maximum clip length of 29 minutes. Stereo sound. Fuji recommends a class 4 or better memory card for video use.

Display/Viewfinder
The 3.0-inch LCD monitor has an approximately 1,230,000 dot composition and provides about 100% coverage. The monitor registered a quite high 943 nit peak brightness and equally high 849:1 contrast ratio on our studio tests – well above the 500 nit/500:1 thresholds that typically characterize monitors with better outdoor performance. Even so, there were times in bright outdoor sunlight where the monitor was difficult to use for image composition during the capture process.

Fortunately the X-Pro1 has that hybrid viewfinder to fall back on, offering optical (OVF) and electronic (EVF) versions that may be selected by a simple flip of a lever located on the front of the camera. The OVF offers approximately 90% coverage, better battery life and, at least for nearby subjects, the possibility of parallax injecting itself into your images. Very simply, parallax is the difference in the apparent position of an object viewed along two different lines of sight. In the case of the X-Pro1 using the OVF, the image capture path is that of the subject into the lens while the image is being viewed (and composed) through the viewfinder which is not aligned directly along the axis of the lens. Both photos that follow were composed from a distance of a few feet with the dish centered in the frame, but the first was composed using the monitor while the second made use of the optical viewfinder. Parallax is responsible for the dish going high and a bit left in the image made through the viewfinder, and is one reason why Fuji recommends the OVF not be used for macro photography.

Fujifilm X-Pro1 Sample Image
Composed using monitor
Fujifilm X-Pro1 Sample Image
Composed through OVF

Even so, the X-Pro1 OVF doesn’t concede parallax as a matter of course due to camera design – when you initiate a half push to establish focus the framing guide and focus point shift to eliminate parallax. If you recompose using the new guide and focus point locations and then initiate capture parallax is eliminated; initiating capture without recomposing will result in parallax.

The EVF has an approximately 1,440,000 dot composition and offers about 100% coverage. More importantly, the EVF provides a view as seen through the camera’s lens, taking parallax out of the equation. Neither the OVF or EVF has diopter adjustment for varying levels of eyesight acuity, but Fuji recommends Cosina brand diopter eyepiece lenses if you’re unable to see clearly with these displays.


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