Fujifilm X-Pro1

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How much do I love you
With so much love, I bought this camera twice. I sold it twice. The first time I sold this camera, I thought I was better than that. Then I realised, I wasn’t. It’s the second time I sold it, I’m in love with someone else now. So, this is to tribute my love towards Fujifilm X-Pro1.

The camera
It’s brilliant. It’s quite big for a snap camera, but it’s not as heavy. It’s got great controls, but it’s not really a one-hand controllable camera.
It has a great optical viewfinder, but I stopped using it almost straight after I got this camera.
It has awesome dial controls, but they’re a little too easy to turn and number of times you have to check if the EV dial hasn’t been moved. Or if you’re using manual shutter speed, you have to check you are still in that same speed.

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Focusing
Focusing is uber slow, but it captures true. Once you figure out how contrast detection works, you know when it’s in focus and when it’s not. Plus the latest firmware fixed a lot of focusing accuracy & speed issues.
It’s super quiet. Most of the time in the wedding or travelling, people usually don’t realise they’re being photographed. But it’s much louder than X100s. Doesn’t come even close to being silent. Just much quieter than DSLRs.
Now we even have focus peaking which helps so much in manual focusing. But it’s peaking colour is limited to white. I mean… white is the hardest colour to do focus peaking, out of all colours, it had to be white… Why?

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Image Processing
Just lovely. Dynamic range is great, maybe not the best in DR100 mode, but renders beautifully. Recently, I realised how beautiful photos can be when they’re blown out or blacked out. It’s just different image and we don’t have to have all details. Photo is not a science.
I love how X-Pro1 performs in black and white. I don’t do SOOC black and white though. I have had many cameras before and Fujifilm does the best black and white rendering. The biggest reason is, because X-Trans sensor is somewhat different, when the image is converted to black and white, it has this grain like noise when pushed left and right. Feels very much analogue. It’s not film-like. No I don’t believe so. But it’s very analogue-like. Feels like you can mimic most B&W films with the photo.

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Colour is beautiful, too. I’ve also recently learnt the lesson. Colour accuracy really doesn’t mean anything. I asked myself, why am I taking photo? The biggest reason would be memory. I want to keep the part of the memory and look back at it again. Like this rainbow I found at home. I photographed it. Funny, I don’t remember the colour of the rainbow now. But I know it was rainbow and I know it was rather pleasant. I look back at this photo and remember how I felt then. The colour is just right enough for me to look back and remember perfectly how I felt. I think that’s what should be colour accuracy. Since I realised that, I no more care about white balance accuracy or colour reproduction accuracy. I am not a commercial product photographer who should always bring correct colour on the screen. I’m a documentary photographer who captures the visuals to remember.

I look at the photo and I remember. Yeah, that’s what it was. And I am satisfied.

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Travel
I have one regret. I never really have taken this camera for a trip. Maybe couple of short ones, but not a trip that I would really put this to a test. Now I know what it’s capable of, I regret that.
Everybody who reviewed this camera says that, it slows you down. Well, that is completely true. You spray and pray with this camera, you will never get an answer for your pray. Continuous drive mode is fast at 6FPS, but once it hits its buffer, which doesn’t take long, it will basically freeze until it’s done with saving images. During the weddings, it feels like forever.
Instead, you calculate before the shot. You visualise your image before you take it. You know what lens you have on it so you frame it before you shoot. Then you bring the camera to your eye level and make your imagination come true. At first, it feels so hard. But just like when you were riding the bike for the first time. It gets easier over time. Later on, it becomes a second nature. You know what you will shoot before you shoot. Only if it focuses as you wanted. Aha.

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Noise
It’s quite surprising. X-Pro1 does not have AA filter and thanks to X-Trans sensor, no moire. Good. But holding that sharpness, usually comes with more noise, or at least significant noise. But the sensor and processor holds well. I’m not saying there’s no noise. When ISO goes up, so does the noise. I won’t say it’s a film like noise. No such thing I believe. No matter how it mimics, it will always be a digital noise. The point I think is, how small is the noise grain and how much colour noise.
First of all, not much colour noise. Not unless you push the “already limit-reached over the top high ISO” image. Even at ISO 6400, noise is still quite pleasant with not much colour noise.
Second, Noise grain is usually quite small. Probably why people are saying it’s film-like. I’ve seen film. I don’t think it’s anything like film. I think it feels rather smooth noise grain. Pleasant to eyes because the grain is so small, you still see fine details. This, probably up to ISO 3200, would be true.
There is also one more matter about Fujifilm ISO. People say their ISO is somehow not accurate. I don’t really care much as long as I can use it in certain conditions. And certain conditions I had no problems, so I am fine.

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Weddings
Biggest question I had for myself. Is it good enough for weddings? After using it for about half a dozen weddings, I’d say Yes, but maybe as a backup is more appropriate.
Focusing is big issue of all. It’s gotten so much better. Before the firmware update, I had to trash about 1/3 of the images from wedding because they were out of focus. Slow focusing is one thing but accuracy was just not there. Since the firmware fix, focusing is faster and more accurate. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hunt. If there isn’t enough contrast, it will hunt and won’t focus. You have to find a work around and do it quickly. Switching between single AF to MF has to be quick and precise.
Continuous AF is a joke. I don’t know why it’s even there. I never used it. It kills battery so fast because it pre-focuses all the time even when shutter is not half-pressed, and it only works with centre focus point. What a joke.
Manual focusing is so much easier with focus peaking present, but it’s not perfect either. You can still miss focus if you don’t look carefully and find the exact middle ground of the peaked edges, otherwise you may end up with the edge of DOF.
But, creamy image processing is the key. If you nail the focus, if you nail the exposure, then it’s so hard to beat the quality. It’s warm, it’s creamy, it’s smooth and it’s sharp. I don’t know it’s just all that.

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Landscape
It’s brilliant. With L plate attached, I enjoyed so much with X-Pro1 shooting landscapes. It’s a beautiful kit. But of course, comes with few downsides.
Design. I feel like it’s meant to be on hand, not on tripod. I don’t know why. It’s just me though. People feel different things different ways. I feel range finder style cameras are meant to be shot on hand, not on tripod for some reason. Maybe because many documentary photographers used to use range finders?
Megapixels. I know megapixel is overrated. I used to go out with 4mp digital camera to take landscape. So how can a 16mp camera be bad? Well, to be honest, it’s more than enough. But the time changes and technology is getting more advanced. Is 16mp good enough to compete others? No. 16mp image cannot come even close to 36mp image.
It’s like when we used to debate the quality of mp3 files. When I was listening to the music before mp3 was announced, I was listening to WAV file that was reduced down to 2-3mb. Quality was worse than the tape. I used to record the music straight to cassette tape from PC and listen. Then mp3 was introduced and music quality suddenly got so much better. Then the debate started that 128k mp3 is so low quality. Then there were 320k mp3 files, uncompressed WAV files, and these days? FLAC and DSD and such that provides super high quality music that not all music players will be able to even handle.
So, yeah. Time changes and the technology advances. 16mp is getting outdated. Current technology is just that much better and no matter the photographers are happy now or not, it will be advanced in the future. Fujifilm X cameras won’t be 16mp forever. I used to say 4mp was more than enough for a camera. Only a year later, I was using 8mp camera. 36mp may feel too much at the moment. Wait till 46mp, 50mp cameras come and 36mp may sound not so much.
For landscape, more mp the better. We need more details and more dynamic range than 16mp can provide. Not because X-Pro1 doesn’t provide enough, only because there is now more out there.

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Will I buy again?
If I can, yes.
First reason, design. It’ll be super hard to beat the design of X-Pro1. So classic looking with hybrid viewfinder that we can actually use. A mixture of retro and modern design blended together. You don’t see that often. See how miserable Nikon Df failed in that.
Second reason, quality. I still love every bit of the image quality. Every time after the shooting, I think Yeah, the new X-T1 is better, and then I open up the files and I cannot even tell which is from which. Not saying X-T1 hasn’t advanced, but that X-Pro1 image quality was just that good, enough to be used even in current days.
Third reason, why not? It’ll be even cheaper if I buy again.

Why did I get rid of it, twice?
First reason, focus. I know how to work with it now. But it still sucks. Firmware upgrade pretty much changed the camera focusing, but still sucks. Continuous AF on X-Pro1 will forever be a joke.
Second reason, size. X-T1 is smaller than this. And packs more punch. Dang.
Third reason, flash sync. The limitation in syncing flash. (sync speed 1/180s, no flash sync unless shooting in Single Drive mode) This is the biggest bummer for me. If this gets fixed in firmware upgrade, I will seriously be considering buying back.
Fourth reason, time. It’s just time to move on. I thought I would hold on to this one forever. But time changes and well…. I already got another camera coming so I gotta empty the shelf before it arrives.

Sorry X-Pro1. I still love you.

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10 thoughts on “Fujifilm X-Pro1

  1. Great post, I feel exactly as you and I concur with your findings. I’ve had all Xseries except the XT1 and I still love it and often think about acquiring it for a 2nd time. At the moment, I went with the X100s LE and the TCL and so far so good but something inside me still yearns for the X-Pro 1.

    1. I was lucky to experience both XPro1 and X100s (although not an LE version) myself. I love them both, especially X100 series have some magic with them. I sometimes get quite disappointed with the result, but then mostly magically impressive. Sometimes it’s super accurate and sometimes just focusing out of the world. But with such love and hate relationship, I just can’t let them go. Something about them that just make my heart pound. It took me really long time to even let go of XPro1, twice… both times..!

  2. Enjoyed reading this article about the XPro 1 and wholeheartedly agree. It sure as hell has its quirks but its the best damned camera I have ever had the pleasure of using so much so, I’m looking for fine secondhand one to keep my 55-200mm lens permanently attached.
    How I enjoy photography again – takes me back to the days of my Pentax K1000……..nice and slow, thoughtful and unhurried photography

    1. I remember how much I enjoyed photography with my old Pentax ME Super, which I still have. I remember it used to be about patience, thoughtful process. I miss that sometimes. Digital has gotten us so impatient and “instant” in taking photos. XPro1 sort of gave me back that old process feel. I do feel like going back sometimes. Thanks for your comment.

  3. Great write-up on a camera most beloved by me, man. I think people give the X-Pro1 a hard time forgetting that it plays to a particular set of strengths. I honestly think it’s the best street and documentary project camera I’ve ever handled. It feels perfect in the hand. It gives beautiful black and white, and Pro-Neg Hi is pretty tasty too. The files are very forgiving in highlight and shadow and noise control and grain is superb. Plus its discrete, charming to look at and very quiet. Slap an 18mm on it, set it to zone focus and you can work a crowd like Larry Fink or a street like Winogrand. For landscape? Hmm, it can make nice images especially with great light, and the lenses are gorgeous, but I think full frame DSLRs have the edge for foliage detail. But for cities? Reportage? Street? Hell of a camera!

    1. It’ll take some good people with experience and know-how in photography to come up with such product. And their follow up with firmwares have been stellar. I believe they knew what they were doing. And I totally agree on what you’re saying and for that, I loved it so much. Perhaps with a bit of tweak and further improvement in their sensor technology, they may even buy back some of the landscape photographer’s heart. Oh, and some more of very good lenses in their already drooling line up would also help.

  4. I recognize all the con’s you’ve stipulated. But there are a few more for me… shutter lag is one. Due to a strange internal delay it ofter misses the picture you wanted to make by an instance. Secondly, 16MP is enough: well it should be. With any top notch camera, take a D4 or Df, it delivers you files that can be used for any purpose. But in the case of the X-trans when you’re using a RAW workflow, it just isn’t enough. The Fuji-approach is not only resolution-kiliing, take also the color artifacts and other strange issues in account that exist in all convertors I’ve tried (99% of what’s on the market) and I’m still feeling very disappointed – not even understanding why Fuji seems to stick to this concept. Even an entry level DSLR performs much better. Last but not least beside the things you mention about flashes, the firmware behavior itself is very unreliable. I’ve been loosing more than an hour in a studio because none of the transceivers wanted to work on the X-Pro1. Sticked them on my colleagues Canon, no issue. A complete reset of the camera did solve the issue, but for me, it was really the last hurdle that made me stop using the X-Pro1 for serious stuff. I had gone through so many problems, so many strange issues you never get with a DSLR, that I could only make one conclusion: Fuji firmware remains quirky forever, they just don’t seem to be able to design their concepts first time right and I just can’t afford this kind of unpredictability. Maybe when a X-Pro2 appears on the radar, I nighted be tempted. But I don’t know.

    1. I see what you mean. When I was using monolights with Fuji, I got so frustrated myself. I don’t remember all correctly at the moment, but it wasn’t firmware issue like you had, but there are more frustration to be had when it comes to using external artificial light source with their camera.
      I also recognised the convert issue as I am a 100% RAW shooter. Well, I just gave up on that.. =) Just decided I won’t get bothered with zooming in, but I still do.
      For shutter lag, I just took it granted. I didn’t expect XPro1 to be a speed monster anyway. Heck, I didn’t even know it could do 6FPS until last year, haha. I didn’t even bother looking through that. I just think XPro1, along with every other Fujifilm’s XF mount cameras, are built for different occasions. Well, maybe minus X-T1 which seems to be much faster (still not in the level of Canon or Nikon’s flagship).

      After fair bit of using Fuji’s XF mount cameras, I realised it’s a different monster from Canon or Nikon’s. Speed isn’t there, flash sync sucks, but it’s so light, it’s so inconspicuous in most occasions. Travelling and street photography, I preferred taking X100 then D700. I was more satisfied with D700’s image quality and speed, but X100 was much more comfortable on street, not causing extra attention.
      But yeah… they really need to solve RAW conversion issue. It’s gotten so much better but it seems there’s more resolution we can salvage by going through correct conversion.
      I think Fuji’s X-Pro2 will be another successful camera following its predecessor’s footsteps. But I don’t think it’ll be anything different when approaching the type of photography, and from that perspective, I don’t think you’ll be satisfied at all with Fuji.

      Oh, and talking about quirky firmware, you should try Sony and Sigma. Sigma is the king of quirky firmware. And Sony’s silly flash sync delay was a big bummer for me.

      Thanks so much for a great reply. It actually made me think a lot again about the camera, my usage and my photography.

  5. I, too, sold my fuji setup. Luckily I still had all my canon gear. Flash was a big one, weird colors when shot in raw and opened in lightroom.

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