Fuji Has Me - The X-PRO-1

That $300 instant rebate from Amazon got the better of me and my judgement. I just couldn't resist. I had to by the X-PRO-1. I only used it for an hour or two so far as it just arrived a little over 24 hours ago. I cannot possibly write a lot about it that hasen't been said before but I will give you my first impressions.

First off I have no regrets at all. None. I purchased the X-PRO-1 with the must have 35mm f1.4 and now I have my "50". The lens, like the one on the X100 is sublime - especially for the price. The imaging performance, like the X100 is astoundingly good - even a hair better in some ways but not enough to really make a gigantic difference in the real world. For me it was all about the "fast 50" in a reasonably compact package. In APS-C obviously that is the fast 35mm.

Both the X100 and X-PRO-1 represent the very first time since the dawn of digital where I actually have the camera I've wanted. Something the same size or smaller than what I used when shooting film but more importantly with the imaging characteristics I gravitate towards at a cost that is not Leica ridiculous - and in many ways is at least as good. Couple that with a real viewfinder for most of the time and a 100% frame accurate EVF for occasions that call for it and I am happy as can be.

So here are my random thoughts after spending two solid hours of playing with the X-PRO-1:

  • Similar but very very different handling characteristics than the X100. Don't think for a second that shooting one will translate to intimate familiarity with the other. Both take some time behind them to really get into a comfortable second nature kind of relationship. My first hour was really fumbling and bumbling.
  • On a similar note the menus, etc are kind of funky if you are used to Nikon or similar cameras and I am sure that funky-ness has lead many "reviewers" (way different than actual users) to conclude that the UI is a mess. Not so. With my Nikons I find myself in sort of a set it and forget it mode where I find a feature set I can live with and then leave the camera alone for the rest of eternity rather than attempt to actually use the various features of the camera. With the X100 and even more so with the X-PRO-1 I find myself actually using a lot of the various functions of the camera. Not through the menus but the buttons. Just one example - EVF/OVF when manually focusing I quickly switch to the EVF for super accurate focus spot positioning and verification, tap the AE/AF lock to focus - switch back to OVF for framing and shutter release. Sounds like some giant process but for a lot of shots where I want to shoot a few frames of the same composition to grab a specific facial expression, etc it is very fluid. I could list a bunch of other specific things for my shooting habits but the point is that I find a lot of what the camera does and it's variations very very useful and easy to deal with on the fly in actual use.
  • Needless to say I love the 35mm f1.4 as much as I do the 23mm on the X100. The imaging performance from a holistic point of view is spectacular. If Fuji continues this I can see myself being a long time X-Series/System diehard. Just like Leica - it's all about the primes. Actually it's all about the compact fast primes that do all the right stuff from an image making perspective - screw spec sheets. Does Nik-anon make decent primes? Sure - are they compact… Uhhhh nope. Do all of them make images I like? Uhhhh nope. Are really really really good ones $600? Definitely not. So are the Fuji's really that expensive? Not really.
  • My impression is that the X100 may have an edge in hand-holdable low shutter speeds even with a wider lens on the X-PRO-1. Just an initial impression based on casual results.
  • My biggest dislike happens to be the crappy font Fuji used for the "X Pro 1" engraving on the top of the camera. WTF? Oh okay something meaningful - what kind of moron decided the front to back opening of the battery compartment with the SD card located at the back. Changing cards is an exercise in frustration. Was the thought process to make changing SD cards as inelegant as changing film on an M series? WTF - the biggest improvement down the road has to be easier SD card access in the X-PRO-2…
  • I have no gigantic desire to acquire gaggles of lenses. Maybe, just maybe I will eventually get a short fast tele and a superwide - like a 24mm equivalent. I would love to see Fuji keep the system extremely succinct and focused on fantastic primes maybe with a few variations on aperture - hey that would be a lot like Leica. You know maybe a Noctilux type thing and some crazy large aperture superwides - stuff like that instead of a bunch of overlapping slow big zooms. I hope the system is inspired by Leica's M line of lenses vs the mishmash of stuff to "compete" with typical dSLR systems or M43. Yea Yea there are a few really great M43 lenses but for the most part they are a mis-mash of who-cares zooms.
  • Having said that the X?00 part of the line-up - where should that go? I don't know but I could have been very happy with two non-interchangeable X cameras. The X100 and a theoretical X200 with a 50mm equivalent.
  • The viewfinder on the X100 is a bit better than on the X-PRO-1. Don't get me wrong - aside from the lack of diopter adjustment and the strange default diopter that Fuji picked it's fine just not as good as the X100 which is pretty damn fine. It's a little strange that the X-PRO-1 one is significantly bigger than the X100 and Fuji couldn't squeeze in a viewfinder of the same calibre.

Obviously more to come. My biggest issue right now is that I really have to get my workflow sorted out with Aperture 3 and the options are… hmmmm… limited to say the least. I am not at all happy with the ACR RAW conversions. I hope and pray that Apple decides to support the X-PRO-1 and make the conversion the best out there - at least as good as the X100 support now in Aperture 3. I know there is an undertone that Aperture is too focused on consumer non-sense vs pro level needs lately. Supporting the X-PRO-1 in a big way would certainly endear Apple to more than a few photographers at the moment and send a signal to a bunch of photographers that are exactly the kind of people that like Apple stuff in the first place.


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