(Provisional) Review: Fuji X-Pro 1

Specs and Pricing

120413 162659 35mm f1 4C35mm, f/1.4, 1/1700th, ISO 400

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Fuji releases a delightful camera that’s not quite like anything else out there, but it comes with all sorts of quirks.

A lot of you will remember that the same thing could have been said about the X100, but honestly you can say the same of all of Fuji’s professional digital camera line-up, going back more than 12 years to the “frankencameras,” S1 and S2 Pro, which had great technology at the time but also felt like welded-on digital backs for the Nikon F60 and F80, respectively. They’re weird, they’re wild, and generally I love them for it. I ground the S2 Pro into fine dust from overuse, and the S5 Pro helped see me through the dark days of Nikon bodies with terrible high-ISO quality.

So now Fuji has merged its dormant line of professional interchangeable lens cameras with the aesthetic of the X100. It brings the retro styling and — most importantly to me — the fantastic hybrid viewfinder that turns from optical to EVF with a flick of a switch, and allows you to use a variety of lenses. Fuji released three at launch, the wide-angle 18mm f/2, the “normal” 35mm f/1.4, and the telephoto macro 60mm f/2.5 (the sensor is DX-sized, so each lens is cropped 1.5x the focal length equivalent to a 35mm frame). It’s a nice high-level kit, made even more interesting with the lenses coming down the pike. f/2.8 ultrawides? f/4 constant aperture zooms with IS? This all shows a focus on making an advanced compact kit with a great deal of versatility — in contrast to, say, the Sony road map, which is dotted with variable aperture zooms. They also have an adapter for M-mount lenses, and companies are now coming out with third party adapters for all sorts of other lenses — versatility that is an advantage of any sort of interchangeable mirrorless system.

I’ve played briefly with all of the lenses, but I’ve gotten to use the X-Pro 1 with the 35mm for a while now thanks to B&H. My friend Sam Hurd had me come along with him to a wedding, which gave me the opportunity to test this camera in ways I couldn’t do as a primary shooter. I have more than enough information to write a review as it is now, but from the start I need to make two caveats:

1) Virtually no third-party software, not even Adobe, supports the X-Pro 1 RAW files yet. I don’t know why the delay is so long. I can open the files in Fuji’s recommended Silkypix, but Silkypix is, in a word, terrible. Every company needs a RAW converter that at least will open up a file that looks like the JPEG the camera took, but in Silkypix out-of-the-box the files look much, much worse than the camera’s JPGs, so most of these are edited JPG files.

Luckily, the camera takes phenomenal JPEGs.

2) Fuji is becoming known for releasing half-basked cameras and then fixing problems in firmware. I know they’re already working on solutions to the biggest problems. But given that it took a full year to make the X100’s autofocus better, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

The body:

RKB 5175

As you can see, the X Pro-1 is significantly larger than the X100, but much, much smaller than my normal big, honking’ DSLRs. In fact, it’s almost exactly the same size as the Leica M9, which is full-frame (but also in a complete other price class). It’s also much larger than the camera that competes most with it on specs, the Sony NEX-7.

In practice, while you’re not sticking this in any sort of pocket, it feels quite nimble. The ergonomics are great for a square body, with a nicely modeled grip, and the exposure compensation wheel is extremely easy to nudge with your thumb without taking your eye away from the viewfinder. In aperture mode, the EVF will mimic the proper exposure, so you can very quickly and easily use the exposure compensation dial to expose your photos just the way you want to even in changing light. X100 shooters will be frustrated that they’ve flipped the OVF/EVF switch upside down, but that takes approximately 30 seconds to get used to. The shutter and aperture controls are the same retro dials as the X100, and a pleasure to use.

It’s much easier to change settings on the XPro 1 than the X100 in general, since important things like auto-ISO can be customized to not be so deeply buried in menus and a “Q” button brings up pretty much any setting change in two clicks that can’t be found on a top dial.

It’s a good looking camera, but it definitely needs some styling on the top plate. Put on a plastic red Leica dot and quadruple its cost, perhaps?

Battery life was decent as long as you don’t use the back panel or continuous focus all that much. It lasted me through a wedding and well into another shoot (though it wasn’t my only camera).

I love the viewfinder and use that about 95 percent of the time, but it’s nice to have the option to quickly switch to the LCD display live view, giving angles that are not always easy to get, like the lively legs of this father-daughter dance:

120413 201419 35mm f1 435mm, f/1.4, 1/125th, ISO 1250

And a 6 fps mode allows you to quickly capture action and the perfect moment, although after any use it throws the buffer into overdrive:

120406 155848 35mm f1 8D

Focus:

Autofocus is a mixed bag, particularly in low-light. With a fast lens it could lock on to targets even in terrible lighting, but it takes a while at all times. Operation is a little faster in continuous focus mode, but it’s annoying to hear the camera constantly whirring away, and probably not great for the battery.

It’s not as responsive as is ideal, and I often felt like I was struggling against it instead of working with it, but as you adapt it can work well in a variety of situations, including strong backlight and at distance:

120413 154114 35mm f235mm, f/2, 1/450th, ISO 800

120413 163734 35mm f1 435mm, f/1.4, 1/850th, ISO 800

The images:
Even though I can’t use a proper RAW converter yet, the images from this camera are phenomenal for a DX sensor. First of all, noise is extremely well-controlled. This is ISO 12,800 in an extremely dark restaurant:

120410 224125 35mm f1 435mm, f/1.4, 1/100th, ISO 12,800

But better yet, Fuji has always had a keen understanding of color, and skin tones in particular. That’s what makes the JPEGs out of this camera so good. Without any tweaking you can get great portrait tones right out of the camera:

120406 144623 35mm f1 635mm, f/1.6, 1/60th, ISO 2000

The best thing I can say for it? When Sam saw me looking over the photos after the shoot, it took him a while before he realized they were from X-Pro 1. He thought they were the shots I took with the $6K full-frame Nikon D4.

One Big Problem and provisional conclusion

As has been reported many other places, the XPro 1 chitters like an Ewok when you point it from dark to light or vice-versa. This is a huge problem for my usage. I want this camera to be as silent as possible, not call attention to itself, and allow me to make people comfortable more quickly than I can with a giant DSLR. I can’t do that when it’s clicking like a spider-monkey. It’s audible, and it’s annoying. Now, this won’t really affect casual usage, vacation shots, even most street photography, but it does affect what I do. I know they’re working on a fix in firmware right now, and I’m eager to see what happens with that (and with RAW support), because I love the files from this camera so much. In the meantime, my X100 is working better than ever, because despite their quirks, Fuji has shows that they do care about continually improving their existing products and customer experience. That goes a long way.

Click here to buy the Fuji X Pro-1
Click here to buy the Fuji X 35mm f/1.4

More sample photos:

120413 184403 35mm f235mm, f/2, 1/350th, ISO 400

120413 133433 35mm f1 835mm, f/1.8, 1/1100th, ISO 800

120411 173844 35mm f1 435mm, f/1.4, 1/640th, ISO 400

120411 183637 35mm f235mm, f/2, 1/480th, ISO 800

120413 195332 35mm f1 635mm, f/1.6, 1/60th, ISO 2000

120410 144634 35mm f1 835mm, f/1.8, 1/60th, ISO 200

35mm, f/1.4, 1/52nd, ISO 800

35mm, f/1.6, 1/52nd, ISO 320

35mm, f/1.4, 1/125th, ISO 1000

Click here to buy the Fuji X-Pro 1
Click here to buy the Fuji X 35mm f/1.4

Paul - “chitters like an Ewok”. Is that the technical term for it? ha. Excellent review.

JPanda - X1-Pro is a camera which is near the top of my list of “wants” at the moment.

I have X100 right now and I LOVE this camera, small and quiet and VERY portable. The images straight out of the camera is very nice too. I use D700 and use X100 as a sub but it seems X100 is getting more use these days.

For someone who loves x100 and most likely be using 35mm (FX equivalent) mostly with X1-Pro, do you think it’s worth the upgrade to move from X100? (I will have to sell X100 if I were to get X1-Pro). Oh and I will always have a FX DSLR in my gear line up.

Thanks in advance for any input ^^

mike - Solid review, Ryan. Between your and Zack’s, I feel I’ve got a good handle on the camera.

David - Great review and stunning pictures as always. I’m sure they will iron out the quirks, in particular the RAW file support and the noisy nature of the camera. Looks like a winner and definitely has its place for wedding photography. That 12800 ISO example is just amazing!

Brad - Those are some beautiful shots! I have really enjoyed my x100 and glad to see Fuji coming out with more great products. Now for some firmware updates!

Nessa K - Awesome review! I take my DSLR with me everywhere, but I was talking to someone who wanted something smaller, nicer, and easier to control in manual than his current camera. I’m glad I have something informative to share now!

Also, Ewok chittering and clicking like a spider-monkey made me smile. :)

Eduardo Suastegui - Nice review, Ryan. Sounds like the XPro-1 is just not quite there, but the images are really terrific. Hopefully Fuji will make it right, and hopefully other manufacturers (like Nikon and Canon) will feel obligated to offer their own versions.

MikeD - As a professional photographer for more years than I like to count, I have been through about all of the gear that Canon and Nikon have to offer. Now strictly in auto racing, I first bought the X100, then added the little X10, both great in my estimation, now, after adding the XPro1, I can’t imagine Fuji doing any better. Just one longish zoom though, please. GREAT tools!

Marco - Hey Ryan! Lovely images as always :)

I have been using the X-Pro 1 for 5 weeks now and have pretty much the same experience as you with the camera. A year from non (after 5 FW updates) it’ll be nearly perfect. But for now we have to work with its quirks.

One thing I found a bit strange in your review was the reference to the huge focus point in AF-S mode. When you are using the EVF you can push the AF selector and turn the command dial to increase or decrease the focus point size. I use the smallest one with good results.

Marcus - I have the camera and all three lenses and really love it as an alternative to my D3 bodies – so much less to lug about!

I am still getting to grips with getting the best from it (and to shooting JPEG, which I never do with my Nikons) but when I get it right, it is spectacularly good.

Agree completely re the chattering blades: very annoying and I hope that they fix it and improve AF a bit too.

There are a number of other minor fixes I would like to see, including the menu actually showing when you press the menu or Q button, even if the rear screen is set to ‘off’! Also, a menu option to limit the 60mm from focusing closer than say 3m or so might speed up performance with that lens as it hunts quite a lot.

Overall, a great camera – although the card slot should have been put on the side, not in the battery area if you were being picky about the ergonomics!

Charles Le - Excellent review of this camera and excellent photography that shows that the camera is quite capable of capturing fleeting moments when in the right hands.

Howard Lucas - Thanks for posting this, it’s great to see some more ‘in the field’ use images. It’s the way forward and as has been mentioned once it’s had a couple FW updates it’ll really excellent.

t tapp - great review

Justin Ashton - Love the double exposure shot. I rented this camera for a week. I think it takes you back to the days where you really need to think about a shot. One thing I learned from the cam is if you push down the shutter in one motion and not stop halfway for it to focus it is much faster. The same work for the x100. There is about 1/4 sec delay but 9/10 pics come out crisp. I def going to pic up this cam for along side my d800 and d700 and can’t wait to try it at some weddings. Awesome shots with it by the way!

Erica - Thank you so much for the review and the gorgeous shots. I love the moments you captured, that split second when it all comes together, and the emotion is evident. You really do wonderful work. I particularly wanted to know whether this camera is capable of getting those shots, as that is what I like. My Canon 5D Mark III almost always gets it right, but I was hoping for a smaller, lighter, more discreet alternative. I love that you showed how Fuji renders skin tones and Bokeh. Have you gotten a chance to process RAW yet? And I’m wondering how you think the X-Pro compares to the M9? Particularly in terms of image quality. Thanks!

roland hale - An Ewok chittering spider money. Enough said.

David Clem - Could you please tell me what film simulation mode you used in these shots. Wonderful!

Thank you.

V. - The Image Quality from this reviewed encouraged me to give the X-Pro 1 a try, I now shoot them exclusively. They are brilliant for wedding documentary work, things keep getting better with Fuji’s firmware updates!
V.