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Fujifilm X-Pro1 Review: A Straight Shooter
by Jim Keenan -  6/21/2012

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:

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.

Performance

The X-Pro1 commands a DSLR-like price for its body and lenses but is, after all, a mirrorless interchangeable lens compact digital - a class which traditionally doesn't match up with all of the performance parameters of a DSLR. Does the X-Pro1 make any performance inroads above and beyond what we usually see for cameras of its type?

Shooting Performance
The X-Pro1 starts up a little quicker than most cameras in the class, displaying a focus point in about 0.9 seconds - I was able to get off a first shot in about 1.75 seconds. Single shot to shot times ran about 1.3 seconds with a 1.5 second write time for JPEG fine captures. Even though the camera had not finished completely writing the first capture it would allow you to capture subsequent images as long as the buffer wasn't full. Write time for a RAW image ran about 3.7 seconds; a RAW/JPEG image took about 4 seconds - all on a 16 GB SDHC (UHS-1) 633X card.

The camera made its advertised 6 fps continuous high-speed shooting rate and I stopped at 20 JPEG fine images - write time for these images was about 10.5 seconds. Switching to RAW/JPEG image format the camera managed 11 captures before the buffer slowed, and write time was a glacial 40 seconds. Both high and low speed (3 fps) continuous shooting modes establish focus and exposure for the first shot of any sequence and apply it to all subsequent images in that burst.

One interesting aspect of continuous shooting is the X-Pro1 offers you the option to review only the first shot of each sequence instead of every capture. One nice aspect of the OVF is that it provides a real-time view of the subject with no interruptions between captures when using continuous shooting modes.

AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)

Camera Time (seconds)
Sony NEX-7 0.13
Olympus E-M5 0.13
Fujifilm X-Pro1 0.16
Pentax K-01 0.62

Continuous Shooting

Camera Frames Framerate*
Sony NEX-7 20 10.0 fps
Olympus E-M5 12 9.0 fps
Pentax K-01 6 6.6 fps
Fujifilm X-Pro1 6 6.0 fps

*Note: Continuous shooting framerates are based on the camera's fastest full-resolution JPEG continuous shooting mode, using the fastest media type available (300x CF, SDHC, etc.). "Frames" notes the number of captures recorded per burst before the camera stops/slows to clear the buffer.

Autofocus acquisition time came in at 0.16 seconds, among the best in the cameras of this class that I've reviewed. AF time predictably drooped a bit in dimmer lighting conditions. Fuji claims a 0.05 second shutter lag time but our studio measurement gave it a 0.01 - either way the camera shutter does not appear to be an area of concern and takes images promptly when asked.

If any of you are wondering if you missed any mention of stabilization, you haven't - there is none in either the X-Pro1 body or the current three lens offerings. There was no mention if the lenses due to be released later this year and next will be stabilized, but it would be surprising if at least some of them (the longer telephotos) didn't pick up stabilization along the way.

There is no built-in flash on the X-Pro1 and while Fuji makes several flashes that will mount externally on the camera we did not have one available for this review. I did, however, trot out my 30-year-old cable release and can confirm it worked perfectly on this Fuji's shutter.

Battery life is listed as 300 images but Fuji claims up to 1000 images may be captured by activating the power save mode and using the OVF exclusively. A spare battery is a good idea for all-day shooting sessions, power save mode or not.

The motion panorama shooting mode is among the best on any camera I've reviewed. Once you select the panorama shooting mode, acquire focus with a half push of the shutter button and then give the button a full push to start the capture process. You don't need to hold the shutter button down after the full push, just pan the camera in the direction of the arrow on the viewfinder or monitor. There are two options, L (7680 x 1440) and M (5120 x 1440) when shooting horizontally and the camera also offers vertical panorama options. While Fuji recommends use of a tripod for this feature I found it was easy to make captures handheld by locking my elbows into my side to stabilize the camera and simply pivoting my torso above the waist. Here's a look at the L and M options, both captured on the first try.

Fujifilm X-Pro1 Sample Image
Panorama M Mode

Fujifilm X-Pro1
Panorama L Mode

While the X-Pro1 does not have continuous AF available when capturing in either of the continuous shooting modes, continuous AF is available for still image capture and may be selected very simply by a switch on the camera front to designate C, S or M for continuous or single autofocus as well as manual focus. Carrying the X-Pro1 around in continuous AF and single image capture results in a busy (and somewhat annoying) camera as you can feel the AF constantly working even when you're not actively composing an image for capture, at least until the camera goes to sleep due to power management settings. It's also an additional drain on the battery, two good reasons to set S for most of your still image capture needs.

Because of the absence of the anti-aliasing filter in the X-Pro1, I went out of my way to shoot subjects with repeating patterns in order to test the performance of this filter-less sensor. The subjects included a wicker weave pattern on lawn furniture, horizontal plantation shutters, horizontal and vertical walls of bamboo fencing, birdcage bars and wire lobster traps. None of these shots showed any evidence of moire or false colors, so based on this admittedly unscientific experiment I would have to conclude that the Fuji sensor performs as advertised in this regard.

Lens Performance
I had the 18 and 35mm lenses available for this review - here's a look at the view provided by each lens.

Fujifilm X-Pro1 Sample Image
18mm
Fujifilm X-Pro1 Sample Image
35mm

The 18mm had a fast f/2 maximum aperture and seemed to have just a hint of barrel distortion, although the effect would be difficult to notice in subjects other than horizontal lines near the edges of the frame, and then only under close scrutiny. The lens was sharp in the center, with just a bit of softening on the edges and slightly more softening apparent in the corners, but overall fairly good across the entire frame. There were some instances of chromic aberration (purple fringing) in high contrast boundary areas but these were relatively limited and required magnifications in the 300 to 400% range to become readily visible under careful scrutiny.

The 35mm lens has an f/1.4 maximum aperture and appeared free of distortion. The lens was sharp in the center and also turned in a good performance in both the edges and corners, with little, if any softening being readily apparent. Chromic aberration was largely absent, with only a few slight examples in some high contrast boundary areas at high magnification.

Video Quality
Video quality was quite good in the X-Pro1 and continuous AF is enabled by default when you switch the camera into video mode. The AF tended to wander a bit if there were multiple moving subjects in the frame, but did a pretty good job overall.

Download Sample Video

The stereo microphones can be susceptible to wind noise and there is no wind cut feature. Because it utilizes a CMOS sensor, the X-Pro1 may be susceptible to rolling shutter effect during video capture, but my experience required exaggeratedly fast pans to demonstrate the effect, which was fairly well controlled in any event. Rolling shutter should not be of concern to most users unless they are deliberately trying to produce that result.

Image Quality
Still image quality out of the X-Pro1 was quite good at the default settings - accurate color, perhaps a bit oversaturated, and pleasing sharpness. There are numerous adjustments available to the user to shape image quality to their individual taste.

Fuji's "film simulation" color palette permits users to simulate the look of various types of film, including black-and-white with color filters. Choices include standard, vivid, soft, pro-negative (high and standard versions), monochrome, sepia, and monochrome with yellow, red or green filters. Film simulation options can be combined with tone and sharpness settings. Here's a look at the standard, vivid, soft, pro-negative and black and white versions.

Fujifilm X-Pro1 Sample Image
Standard
Fujifilm X-Pro1 Sample Image
Vivid
Fujifilm X-Pro1 Sample Image
Soft
Fujifilm X-Pro1 Sample Image
Pro-Negative High
Fujifilm X-Pro1 Sample Image
Pro-Negative Standard
Fujifilm X-Pro1 Sample Image
Black and White

The camera offers several bracketing options, including exposure, ISO, film simulation and dynamic range. Exposure bracketing produces three captures, one at the metered exposure and the other two up to 1 EV above and below the metered shot; ISO and film simulation bracketing take a single shot and then process it in the camera to produce additional shots and dynamic range bracketing takes three shots with 100, 200 and 400% dynamic ranges, respectively.

Auto white balance by automatic scene recognition is the default setting for the X-Pro1 and performed well under a variety of lighting conditions. There are also custom and Kelvin (temperature) options available as well as presets for fine, shade, fluorescent (daylight, warm, and cool), incandescent and underwater. I used auto white balance for all the captures in this review.

Fujifilm X-Pro1 Sample Image
Auto White Balance, 5500k fluorescent light

The 256 zone TTL (through the lens) multi metering setting is the default exposure calculation method on the X-Pro1 and was used for all the captures in this review. Exposure is based on an analysis of composition, color and brightness distribution. There are also spot and averaging methods available; spot utilizes a 2% area in the center of the frame for its exposure calculation and averaging is based on the exposure average for the entire frame.

ISO performance in the X-Pro1 was nothing short of amazing - I had a hard time telling the difference between 200 and 1600, 3200 was virtually a twin for 1600 and finally 6400 was slightly worse than 3200, but still exceptionally clean in both noise and fine details.

Fujifilm X-Pro1 Sample Image
ISO 200
Fujifilm X-Pro1 Sample Image
ISO 200, 100% crop
Fujifilm X-Pro1 Sample Image
ISO 400
Fujifilm X-Pro1 Sample Image
ISO 400, 100% crop
Fujifilm X-Pro1 Sample Image
ISO 800
Fujifilm X-Pro1 Sample Image
ISO 800, 100% crop
Fujifilm X-Pro1 Sample Image
ISO 1600
Fujifilm X-Pro1 Sample Image
ISO 1600, 100% crop
Fujifilm X-Pro1 Sample Image
ISO 3200
Fujifilm X-Pro1 Sample Image
ISO 3200, 100% crop
Fujifilm X-Pro1 Sample Image
ISO 6400
Fujifilm X-Pro1 Sample Image
ISO 6400, 100% crop

This camera, without a doubt, has the best high ISO performance of any APS-C sensor camera that I've reviewed. While the camera allows the user to extend the ISO range down to 100 or up to 25600, Fuji recommends 200 to 6400 as the nominal ISO range and it's clear why. RAW format image capture is not available in the extended ISO ranges (100, 12800, and 25600).

Nikon and Fuji have collaborated in the past (the Fuji S5 DSLR was built on the Nikon D200 platform), so maybe it's just wishful thinking that this Fuji sensor might find its way into Nikon's replacement for the D300S, but that's a camera I'd snap up in an instant.

Additional Sample Images

Fujifilm X-Pro1 Sample Image Fujifilm X-Pro1 Sample Image
Fujifilm X-Pro1 Sample Image Fujifilm X-Pro1 Sample Image
Fujifilm X-Pro1 Sample Image Fujifilm X-Pro1 Sample Image
Fujifilm X-Pro1 Sample Image Fujifilm X-Pro1 Sample Image

Conclusion

The X-Pro1 is a camera that's hard not to like - the retro rangefinder look is cool, controls are nicely placed and materials, build quality and overall fit and finish are quite nice. Auto focus and shutter lag performance are good, as is image quality - combine this with ISO performance that, frankly, sets a new standard for APS-C sensor cameras to my eye and it's clear Fuji has done a lot of things right with their latest mirrorless, interchangeable lens offering. I just can't get over that ISO performance, and the minimal range of shooting options actually makes this a fun camera to shoot.

So why am I just a bit ambivalent over the X-Pro1? It has a lot to do with that $1700 price tag for the body and lenses at $600 a pop. Your $1700 will buy camera bodies like Nikon's D300S or Canon's 7D, and while both of these cameras are older models and due for replacement, in most performance parameters they will outdo the X-Pro1: shutter lag, AF acquisition time, burst shooting with continuous autofocus, power up time, single shot to shot time, burst write times, diopter viewfinder adjustment - the list goes on.

The X-Pro1 enjoys a high ISO noise advantage, but that's about it. It's a large camera and not that much lighter than a DSLR so the size/weight argument as a reason to go with a mirrorless interchangeable lens model versus a DSLR doesn't gain as much traction as it would with a smaller mirrorless platform. Fuji has unabashedly promoted the camera as being designed for professionals and advanced amateurs, but folks who shoot fast moving subjects need continuous autofocus with burst shooting, so that's at least one group that probably will not flock to the X-Pro1.


Make no mistake, I really like this camera. The image quality and particularly the high ISO performance are just marvelous. But with midrange DSLR money involved I'm just not sure that the overall higher and more balanced performance of the DSLR doesn't trump the ISO card of the X-Pro 1.

Pros:

Cons: