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Road Trippin’ with the Fuji X Pro 1

Let me just start this review off with a few disclaimers. First I am not a professional reviewer I can’t comment on all things technical. Kent Rockwell, and DP review already do a thorough job of that. Secondly Fuji did not pay me to make this review nor did they loan me a camera to test.  I paid for the Fuji X Pro 1 and lens with my own money (which in all honesty may make me slightly biased just by the plain fact that I have invested a good amount of money in this camera system) and lastly the Fuji X Pro 1 is NOT a Leica. That being said if you have never really spent any time with a Leica buy this camera and never look back because the camera and its files are excellent.

In February of this year a friend let me borrow his M9 for 8 days in NYC and after those 8 days I reluctantly returned it. Since then I have done nothing but lust for the M9 and the wonderful user experience it provides. With the M10 not being expected to be announced until September I was getting antsy for a camera that was lighter than my bulky Canon and 35mm f/1.4 lens.

When the Fuji X Pro 1 was released in late March I was interested yet skeptical. There were even internet rumors flying around that Leica was announcing something in May, May 10th to be exact. A perfect day to announce the new Leica rangefinder the M10? Sadly sources are saying Leica is not going to announce the M10 but a replacement for the x1 and a unique black and white only M camera. Sigh.

I had a road trip planned with my girlfriend and bought the X Pro 1 feeling that this trip would be a perfect opportunity to test this rangefinder/point and shoot/mirrorless camera thingy out. A couple days later the camera, an extra battery, two 16gig SD cards, and the 18mm fujinon f/2 lens arrived at my door. Let the testing begin.

FOCUS

This camera isn’t perfect. Manual focus is worthless. Like I said, not a Leica. However there are some work arounds that can make this camera fast using manual focus. Prior to using the X Pro 1 I have discovered the joy of f/16. If you shoot this camera at f/16 with the manual focus set at a zone focus of about 15 feet the camera is fast and responsive and allows you to concentrate on the composition, light, and moment. The auto focus is quick and responsive and nails the focus almost every time although I wouldn’t try shooting sports with it. With manual focus/zone focus this camera a great tool for doing street photography.

BATTERY LIFE

This thing sucks the life out of batteries! I read in earlier reviews that the power save mode affects the speed of the auto focus so I took their advice and turned the power save mode off. Being that this camera is pretty much an auto focus camera I need all the AF speed I can get. I also turned on the quick start mode. Both functions affect the life of the battery in a negative way. I got about four to five hours from each battery. I could have used a 3rd in my camera bag just to be safe.

ERGONOMICS

The camera feels pretty good in your hand and is lighter than my Canon. I purchased the extra grip which just gives me more to hold on to but honestly it isn’t necessary and you have to remove it if you want to switch out your memory card or battery.

ISO

When I shoot film I prefer to use either TRI-X or Portra 400 both rated at ISO 400 and I personally believe that you can take 90% of your photos using this ISO rating especially if you have fast glass. That being said ISO 6400 on the Fuji X Pro 1 is better than ISO 2000 on my Canon 5D Mark II. It is incredible. I am amazed where sensors are heading these days. All of theses photos were made at ISO 400 with exception of one that was shot at ISO 800.

EXPOSER/METER

I shoot in manual mode 95% of the time and tend to use my “instincts” rather than the meter. I tend to underexpose my images on purpose. I did notice that the meter in the X-Pro 1 leaned more towards a brighter exposure.

BUTTON LAYOUT/FUNCTIONS

My favorite buttons are the Q button that brings up a quick menu of functions you’ll most likely want to access in a rush. Also the Fn button allows you to customize any setting you want. It is factory set to adjust ISO and I found that a suitable function for the the way I shoot. In manual focus mode you can hit the AE-L/AF-L button and it will activate the auto focus. Kind of like using the AF-ON button on my 5d Mark II there is almost no reason to shoot with the auto focus mode on if you use the AE-L/AF-L button.

RAW FILES

Unfortunately Lightroom does not support the X Pro-1 RAW files yet so all of these images are converted TIFF files using Fuji’s provided software and then processed in Lightroom. I’d love to see what’s in these files because it seems like I could really work the highlight and shadow detail.

PROFESSIONAL USE/WEDDINGS

Most of my work is wedding work, however I do get a handful of editorial and event jobs as well. I bought this camera with no intention of using it for paid gigs. This camera for me is a walk around bring everywhere type camera although after I received it I think it could work great at a reception photographing the events after the first dance but I haven’t tested it yet.

LENSES/MACRO

The only lens I have tested with this camera is the Fujinon 18mm f/2. With the crop factor it roughly converts to a 27mm. I shoot 90% of my images with my canon 35 1.4 so I wanted a focal length that was as close to that as possible. There is a lot of buzz on the internet about the Fujinon 35mm f/1.4 lens with the crop factor the lens converts to a 50mm. Since there are so many adapters available for this camera I intend to buy a Leica 35mm lens as an investment for the day I can finally buy an M9 or M10.

That being said I found the optics on the Fuji to be exceptional and I feel comfortable having this lens as my only lens. There was very little distortion and excellent edge sharpness. You can focus up 4″ on your subject in manual mode.

EVF/OVF

This camera like the Fuji x100 has an optical view finder and with the flip of a switch turns to electronic view finder. If you want to manually focus you have to use the EVF. There is a bit of a lag if you are trying to track your subject and I personally couldn’t get passed looking at that digital view finder. For me OVF is the way to go.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Over all I would give this camera a B. The shutter lacks response compared to my Canon as well as the Leica. I’m still saving for the M9 but in the mean time I am extremely happy with this camera. I would recommend this camera to anyone looking for some kind of walk around camera for street photography, family outings, travel, even documentary work.