USER REPORT: Shooting Birds With The Fuji X-Pro 1
By Gareth Brough
So there I am, on a small Island off the coast of Pembrokeshire, Wales (UK) surrounded by lots of other photographers with serious kit – we are talking big heavy gear for some ‘proper’ wildlife shooting – and I am lying on the ground with a Fuji X-Pro 1 and the 35mm F1.4 lens. Surely I don’t expect to be able to photograph birds with this tinny little camera/ lens combo? Well, actually I do. There is a bird on the Island called a Puffin, they are rather odd-looking, live in underground burrows and seemingly have no fear of humans, so if you sit and wait, they will come to you.
Taking the Fuji X-Pro 1 on a trip like this may seem like a gamble, after all the autofocus is not exactly cutting edge (more about that later), but the positives outweigh the negatives. I have used and owned cameras for many years – from medium format (Hassleblad / Mamiya 7 / Pentax) to the big Canon and Nikon digital beasts, all had one thing in common, WEIGHT! My last DSLR was the Nikon D700, which I used to carry around with tilt & shift lenses and an 80-200 f2.8 AFS, and I found (as Steve has said many times) that I would leave my kit at home on more occasions that not as I just couldn’t be bothered lugging it arround. So I made the decision about a year ago to get rid of all my gear and switch to a camera that I might actually enjoy using. I looked at all the cameras on offer (I wish the Sony RX1 had been around), nearly bought a Leica M8 but got the jitters due to my experiences focusing the rangefinder on the Mamiya 7, and finally bought the Fuji. I loved their collaboration with Hassleblad on the XPan and thought this camera could just answer most of my needs.
Walking around an Island all day with a heavy backpack = my idea of hell, so a Fuji X-Pro 1 and the LEE Filters RF75 kit snuggled into a Billingham Hadley Pro was just the ticket, and there was room for my Leica binoculars. For general scenic shots the Fuji is perfect, you can take your time to compose – add action to the mix and the Fuji can struggle. The autofocus on this camera does not keep up with anything that is fast moving (like birds) so you have to think of other strategies to get the shot. I spent some time watching what the birds were doing, how they moved, where they stayed still for a brief moment and then, when I was crouched into the right position, I started to fire away. If you are used to the precision of DSLR focusing then the wishy focus on the Fuji may come as a shock, the focus area, to me, is too large, making it easy to miss critical focus on an eye, but again, go slowly and you can get results.
I like the fact that the Fuji is a camera that you need to spend time with, learn how to get the most from it – it can frustrate and please in equal measure, but for me, it is a camera I always have around, and that outweighs any issues. Plus, Fuji does seem to listen to customers and gives us treats in firmware updates (focus peaking coming soon).
It seems you can’t talk about Fuji without mentioning post processing, so for anyone interested, I shoot RAW, process my files through RPP (Mac only) to 16bit Tiffs, and then bring them into Lightroom for final processing. I would love for this to be a one stage process, but I am not happy with what I get out of Lightroom from the RAW files on Fuji at the moment.
I would urge anyone reading to go try something a little different with their kit, do something unexpected and you may be surprised by the results and learn something new about your camera.
All photos : Fuji X-Pro 1, 35mm F1.4 lens, LEE Filters RF75 System with .6 grad filter