I’ve had the Fuji X-Pro1 since April 2012 and like anything it takes a while to really get to know it. So for this reason I wanted to add some further thoughts to my first blog post, the review of the X-Pro1.
I have been impressed with the image quality of this camera from day 1, in fact beyond impressed, blown away sometimes. The resolution and detail that the sensor can record is really something else. Low light (high ISO) capability is really great. I just had this image printed at 18×12 inches as a digital c-type print on lustre paper. The shot was taken at ISO 1000 and you cannot see a spec of noise in the final print. The detail level is also great, you can see every leaf. The image was taken with the 18mm Fuji XF lens at f/2.5.
But it’s not all good. If you take your photography seriously or at least want the best image you can produce, you shoot in Raw format. You then need to use software to process your files and this is where we hit a slight snag! Adobe Lightroom is my preferred application and at version 4.0 had no support for the X-pro1, they then introduced support with version 4.1, but there is definitely a problem with the results it produces, a strange painterly effect when looking close at the detail. Overall this makes the photo a bit of a mush, it’s acceptable for web but for not for prints. At the moment then the only option is the Raw converter that comes with the camera as part of the SilkyPix package. Horrible! or so I thought at first. I have had to get used to it mainly because it’s my only option right now. Now I am more familiar with it, it’s not so bad and I do love the results that come from it, detailed and nice colours. I feel there is more dynamic range that can be pulled from these files than what this software can do and I also believe that Adobe Lightroom’s tool for removing CA are much better. I still hope that Adobe will be able to fix these issues and I can return to the platform that I really love.
Back on to the camera again, I find the Raw file write times pretty slow, even with a really fast card. Having to wait a second or two (sounds like nothing I know) to view the image you’ve just taken becomes a complete bore. If you have your camera set to preview the photo automatically then you’ll have to wait for this to happen before you can take the next photo – not practical when you want to make sure you don’t miss a moment.
I have two lenses for the X-Pro1, the 35mm Fuji XF f/1.4 and the 18mm Fuji XF f/2. Both really excellent, I suppose the 35mm excels slightly more with image quality, the 18mm is a little soft at the edges wide open but by f/4 it’s fine and too be honest it’s more for landscapes for me anyway, so I’m using shooting at f/8 to f/16 anyway. I have noticed some AF issues, especially with the 35mm lens, it’s not as snappy as what I was used to, a Nikon D700. That’s not that surprising really but the problem becomes a lot worse in low light, it really struggles to find focus. For the most part this doesn’t cause me too many issues for my type of photography but I can see plenty of scenarios where it could be a big problem for some photographers.
Fuji have been pretty good at bringing out firmware updates to improve the camera, in fact the first one came only a week or two after I purchased it. They have today announced a new firmware update (Version 2.0) which promises to improve AF in low light (and bright light) situations. This is a very welcome update and I really hope it does do this but as it’s not out until 18th September, I can’t comment. The next new lenses on the way are the 14mm f/2.8 wide angle and the zoom lens with 18-55mm (28-84mm equivalent). These new lenses have new AF motors and promise to make AF much quicker. I just hope the fantastic 35mm f/1.4 lens will be acceptable when the new firmware update is here. I also wonder if we will see a version 2 of the 3 existing prime lenses (15, 35 & 60) in the future and whether existing owners will be offered a trade-in deal, I do hope so.
The firmware also promises to improve write times to the card, as much as twice the speed! If this is true it will be amazing and a huge step forward for this camera.
Manual focus also gets a revamp to make it much easier to focus. See the full details of the update here.
Back to lenses for a moment, it’s the new ones coming in the Spring of 2013 that really interest me. Especially the 27mm (41mm equivalent) f/2.8 pancake lens and more importantly the 23mm (35mm equivalent) f/1.4! The 23mm lens is the one I cannot wait to get my hands on. Also a 56mm (85mm equivalent) f/1.4 will come a little bit later which should be outstanding for portraits. See the complete roadmap for new lenses here.
So in addition to the current improvements that look to be on there way, I have a couple more suggestions….
1) The EF-X20 flash gun is pretty nice, but there is a very obvious flaw. When shooting with the flash on, when the camera goes to sleep or is turned off, the flash is turned off too. You have to press and hold the flash power button to bring it back to life. In a situation like a wedding for example this is not good at all. The flash should sleep (go in to standby) when the camera sleeps or is turned off. Every other camera I have every owned works this way and I really hope Fuji can fix this with a firmware update.
2) Focus points. You can select one of many points for your X-Pro1 to use for AF. It’s pretty easy to select and change these, just one button and then move the point with the track pad buttons. However for manual focus, given the way the camera works, it uses one of these points as a magnified view to aid manual focus. That is fine but often you want to move these much quicker to the appropriate place and I think having the option to activate the track pad on the back to move it without the need to press a further button may be the answer. Perhaps this is automatically set on when an adapter is fitted and you have the option to tun it off. Someone recently suggested using the current AF lenses focus ring to move the AF points when the focus ring is not in use, ie. in auto focus only. I think this could work really well, providing the calibration of how much movement needed to do this is paid careful attention. Obviously no good for manual focus though.
3) Image Review. I find that the review mode in the X-Pro1 needs a little attention. Currently you can choose to see the large image, the large image with some shooting data or smaller image with histogram and highlights. I’d like to see the option of viewing clipped highlights on the larger image too. Maybe clipped shadow detail too.
4) Auto ISO. I don’t use this too much, but when I have I find it frustrating that it often defaults to a shutter speed of 1/30 sec, which is often too slow. I see in the new firmware update there is a new Auto (6400) option which may help, but I’d like to see each Auto ISO have a setting for minimum shutter speed, maybe 1/30, 1/60, 1/125 options would be nice.
5) Tripod mount. This is position off-centre and just feels weird. Also when a tripod base plate is on the camera you can’t access the battery and memory card door, doh! You can purchase one of these base plates from The Really Right Stuff which will solve that problem. Or the Gariz half leather cases look pretty sexy, also solving this issue. Neither of which I have, as yet!
While on the topic of accessories…
The new Thumbs Up from match Technical looks pretty good. I’ve yet to use one, but I think it might be a useful addition. Not cheap though.
I use a soft touch shutter button too, mine is a plain chrome button and was about 3 or 4 quid from eBay, it works like a charm. Useful tip, put a little dab of clear nail varnish on the screw thread to ensure you don’t lose it! This won’t damage the camera and still works when you remove it (for cable release) and replace. It seems to add a layer of subtle stickiness to it that stays put for a while.
This clear nail varnish comes in handy elsewhere too. Beware that the eyepiece can come unscrewed and you will lose it like I did and so many other people!! Please remove the eyepiece and use a few dabs of clear nail varnish on the screw thread. Hopefully this should keep things together. I purchased this Nikon replacement from Harrisons Cameras – it fits perfectly but is not rubberised like the original Fuji one, which would be nice especially for glasses wearers like myself.
The X-Pro system has a lot of lens adapters available, including the Fuji brand m mount adapter. I purchased a Kipon M42 Tilt adapter to use my Super Takumar lenses, primarily the 50mm f/1.4. This is a really nice combination and you can see a shot above taken with it (Anita).
Of course in addition to all of what I have spoken about above, today Fuji officially announced the X-E1 camera which shares quite a lot with the X-Pro1. It has the same image sensor crucially, so you can get the same great quality. It also includes a pop-up flash which could be really useful, the X-Pro1 doesn’t have one. The X-E1 is smaller and lighter, but maybe at the sacrifice of some build quality – the X-Pro1 is all magnesium but the X-E1 has some plastic parts, like the X100. The X-E1 promises to have faster AF too, but I wonder if that is just down to the new firmware coming and the new lenses or whether the body aids that too – we’ll have to wait and see on that I guess. I suppose the big deal is, the X-E1 does not have the optical viewfinder, just an electronic one, but a higher resolution EVF than the X-Pro1. You can definitely see where they are going with this, it looks like a great back-up camera for pros using the X-Pro1 as their first camera and it’s going to be very tempting for a lot of enthusiasts too.
Then we may get a new X-Pro in 2013, which is quite a short time to bring out a new version. But I’ll reserve judgement on that until the time comes.