The Aesthetic of Lostness: Inside Iran with the Fuji X100s
By James Conley
Iran. Although home to one of the world’s oldest civilizations, (dating back more than 5,000 years), since 1979 Iran is most commonly known for the Islamic Revolution that toppled Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and took 66 Americans hostage, holding them for 444 days. Iran is daily in the news, with its military activities in Syria and Yemen, its support of Hezbollah, endless negotiations over its nuclear program, and its detention of reporters like the Washington Post’s Jason Rezaian. “Death to America” is a chant heard in televised demonstrations in Tehran, setting the outside view of Iran as a hostile one to the West.
In contrast to this public view, I’ve been fortunate to know many Iranians who live in the United States, as well as abroad. Without exception, they love the United States and the common theme among them is a love of life and all it has to offer. With these contrasting experiences in mind, I determined to make a trip to Iran.
Getting into Iran as an American is no easy task. Reams of paperwork, multiple passport photographs, and multiple visits to the Iranian Interest Section in Washington, D.C., are required. Iranians work on a different time scale, and waiting (and waiting, and waiting) are part of the process. The government of Iran is suspicious of one’s prior travel, and does a thorough investigation into who you are. (It’s possible to go with a tour group, but tours are heavily monitored by the government and I wanted freedom of movement.) In the end, it took me over a year to obtain permission to visit Iran.
Visa in hand, I scheduled a flight. Since 1979, Iran has been subject to a range of economic sanctions, including ones which eliminated direct flights from the United States. Iran is not a close destination. My flight took me through Istanbul, Turkey—with a 7 hour layover. Layover included, total travel time from Dulles to Tehran was 20 hours.
Arriving in Iran was a bit of an emotional let down. Based on my experiences with Iranian officials in the United States, I had expected a high degree of security and curiosity about an American’s arrival. At the airport, I found only a single disinterested official at Passport Control. A glance at my visa, a scan into the computer, and I was on my way without even eye contact or a single question about the purpose of my visit. (I have reason to believe that the arrival experience is highly variable, and your visit may go a very different way!)
My first experience of the country was an extremely long drive from the airport to my host’s house in northern Tehran. Tehran is one of the biggest cities in the world, with more than 17 million people. It is spread out over more than 200 square miles, and the airport is more than 30 miles south of the city. It was an appropriate introduction to a city and country that are impossible to pigeon-hole, with variety and diversity which are difficult to comprehend.
Being inside Iran is much different from hearing about it from the outside. While not an easy country to absorb or function in, the people are warm and welcoming, and there is a vast range of poverty and wealth among a people who have been isolated from much of the West for more than a generation. (Although only the United States and Canada have official sanctions against Iran, the complexity of those sections affects travel, banking, postal services, and foreign businesses who also do business with the United States.) Despite all the international conflict concerning Iran’s political role and its present history, the people within Iran continue to flourish in an environment that’s all their own.
Working as a photographer in Iran is beset with challenges. I was based in the northern part of Tehran, making day trips to other parts of the country. Each place presented unique difficulties and opportunities.
The primary challenge I try to address in any place is blending in. As a street photographer, my goal is to be an observer. This means being as unobtrusive as possible while maintaining enough involvement to understand and appreciate unfolding events so that I can time decisive moments. In most western countries, these needs are solved by being mindful of one’s dress and manners, and generally taking the “when in Rome” approach is enough that I can fade into the background. Not so in Iran. One can’t blend bone structure and skin color. Although there is a fair bit of ethnic diversity in Iran, it’s all diversity from within the region and, unsurprisingly, I was immediately identifiable as a foreigner no matter where I went, simply because of the color of my skin, hair, and the structure of my facial bones. No matter my efforts to adapt, I was regularly approached by strangers who started every conversation in broken English. Being mistaken for a local wasn’t going to happen. While this interfered with my ability to blend, it also led to some opportunities for interaction which otherwise wouldn’t have taken place.
Photography inside Iran is not common. I occasionally saw some Iranians at famous places making images with cell phone cameras, but I didn’t see any DSLRs, mirrorless cameras, or film cameras, except a camera carried by a German tourist. Carrying a camera definitely singles you out.
I work as unobtrusively and quickly as possible, and make it habit to have only one camera out at a time. I try to carry only a single camera with lenses in my pockets, or at most carry only a small courier bag. I use Fuji X-Series cameras, which are smaller and quieter than a Leica, and to the uninitiated appear to be amateur pocket cameras. I wouldn’t advise carrying a large DSLR with a zoom lens because you’ll appear to be a journalist (read: spy). That said, most Iranians had little to no reaction if they saw the camera.
The images here were made with the X100s and its Wide and Tele companions. This set up of 28mm, 35mm, and 50mm (equivalents) allowed me to do 90% of my work while remaining extremely unobtrusive. The Wide converter stays on my camera most of the time, so I was able to carry just one lens, a spare battery, and a spare memory card. In a place where you want to stand out the least amount possible, this was a great kit. It is also relatively fast to change lenses without attracting attention.
A few shots required pulling out the X-E1, however. Architecture in Iran is immense, and even the 8mm Rokinon ultra wide angle (12mm equivalent) that I carry struggled to pull in the details. (None of those shots are included in this post—these are all X100s. Additional images can be seen here: http://fjamesconley.com/iran)
Traveling to places where one doesn’t speak or read the language is not uncommon. Traveling to places where one has little chance of grasping the culture, however, is rare. It’s extremely stressful and overwhelming, taxing one’s creativity as well as one’s emotions. But it’s also liberating to be lost. Removed from even absentminded awareness of so much of what’s going on, the mind has little choice but to double its efforts to observe and make sense of things. Lost, it’s easier to perceive humanistic patterns. Lost, it’s easier to put attention on the gestalt. Lost, it’s easier to let your deeper self emerge.
The aesthetics of lostness have a quality of their own. The feeling on many levels is one of isolation and disconnectedness. Like any state of mind, these aspects are revealed in the work. My interpretation of the images I made in Iran reflect this: isolated moments; overwhelming scale; and a puzzlement of things. I endeavored to embrace the lostness, however, because the alternative was to find a false narrative which would devolve into stereotype. In the lostness, I sought the commonality of humanity instead of looking for the superficiality of difference.
Iran is a country, and not a political entity. Whatever its government’s present role on the world stage, Iran’s people and the country itself are magical. I look forward to returning again.
Camera makers usually speak about skin tones. People always debate whether Canon is the best in rendering skin tones, some say that Nikon is better in ambient lights,some consider Lieca to be the best. The problem here is that all camera makers target their sales for Asia, Europe and the US. This makes life a little bit harder for people in the Middle east, South America, India Africa and all the countries with darker skin tones, so all the reviews and camera makers who are famous with their perfect tones are not for me
DISCLAIMER: I will be using terms like “Dark,Black, Brown skins”: I come from Egypt and we have a mix of all colors who lived in peace since the beginning of time! We in the middle east don’t even know what color racism is. So please don’t get offended in any way!
Having a camera which renders correct skin tones for all skin colors was a dream for me. I usually use natural lights and the results were always fine for pale, white and tanned skins. But as I said in Egypt we have a wide mix of colors, nearly every family have all colors. What I always experienced during my Nikon time was that it was a real challenge to capture the Brown, Dark brown and black skins. Not only you need a camera with a wide dynamic range to capture a dark skin in a highlighted background, but also you need to capture the correct tone. For me I never found anything better than the Fuji color rendering. Maybe its the X trans sensor or maybe just the algorithm that Fuji uses but believe it or not it was never a pain to get the correct skin tone on most of the exposures, Some time you have lovely glowy white eyes, Shiny Teeth and a near black skin with a very bright background. I never got these kind of shots with my Nikon. I used to do tons of post processing to adjust the white balance AND exposure. Thumbs Up for Fuji and another reason for me to love it. Its the first camera that nails the correct skin tone for all the colors. Below are some pictures captured in Egypt.
One is not enough – using both the m43 and X sensors
By Arindam Pal
Hi Brandon and Steve,
It’s been over a year I sent something to you. Those were pictures taken during a short visit to my native land in India. A lot has changed over the year, both personally and professionally. Last year, I was shooting with the OM-D E-M5 but did not much like the noise response and preferred the Fuji X Pro, in spite of it being slow.
Steve’s review on E-M1 was up by October of 2013 and I placed an order along with the 17 1.8 and 45 1.8. The E-M1 is a great addition to the family. It has improved upon the E-M5 in many ways. Love the large EVF, snappy autofocus and the rugged, all-terrain look. I was quite happy with the results, although I found low light noise to be an issue. I understand people have different preferences and opinions. Many would prefer the slight noise that the E-M1 produces at ISO 1600 and above. However, I personally find any amount of noise distasteful. Coming from a D3S, it’s a challenge to accept it.
So, I decided to get another body and ended up buying a lightly used X-E2 body along with the 23 1.4 and 14 2.8. I could not be happier. Now when I shoot in low light and want high quality noise free images, I use the Fuji and when I need a faster response, I just carry the OM-D. Both are equally fun to use. I also bought a Nikon adapter to use my existing Nikon primes. I found that the 85 1.8D Nikon lens goes very well with the Fuji.
Must say, I am tempted by the upcoming Sony A7S with its practically noise free images but hope Fuji or Oly will come up with something extraordinary very soon
Sending a few pictures chronologically. Hope you would like them enough to post them on your blog. I did not bother much about the technical details when I was shooting these – but they show the passion I have for my newly grown family! Please feel free to use any or all of them:
E-M1 and 45 1.8 @f/1.8 ISO 400 1/4000 with -1 EV to create the silhouette
The 1st one is of wife 36 weeks in pregnancy
X-E2 and 23 1.4 @f/2 ISO 1000 1/70
The 2nd one is our first daughter, Aarwen celebrating her 1st month on this Earth
E-M1 and 45 1.8 @f/1.8 ISO 400 1/200
The 3rd one – Aarwen again, holding on to her mother
X-E2 and 23 1.4 @f/2 ISO 1600 1/160
The 4th one – Aarwen with her first plaything
X-E2 and 23 1.4 @f/2 ISO 1600 1/25
5th – she likes to talk to Mommy
X-E2 and 23 1.4 @f/4 ISO 200 1/170
6th one is from my recent visit to Bangalore, a street vendor selling fresh young coconut water to beat the heat
A bit of background about me, I am a Zoology student at the University of Sheffield and have been passionate about photography for the past ten years with my main interests being travel and wildlife. Fujifilm UK currently sponsors me with X-series cameras but that doesn’t factor in my opinions here, as they want my honest views on their equipment.
My views from the previous trip haven’t change; in fact my affection for the X-series has been boosted by some hands-on time with the X-T1, 56mm f1.2 and 10-24mm f4 at the Photography Show in the UK earlier this week. For this trip I took the X-Pro1, X-E1, X100s, 14mm f2.8, 18-55mm, 35mm f1.4, 60mm f2.4 and the 55-200mm all in a Domke shoulder bag. I love compact systems purely for the space and weight saving possibilities! This trip is quite different to the last, though not in the baking tropical heat, it was still a very enjoyable experience in the relative wilderness that the Isle of Skye offers compared to the rest of the UK.
January is often a tough month at the best of times, but combined with university exams it is the worst month of the year by far. However there was an opportunity to get away to my godparents house on the Isle of Skye, which offered some sanctuary away from the stresses of revising and a much-needed opportunity to take some photos. The weather was on my side during the trip, the strong winds that had battered the west of Scotland for much of December had receded leaving the week calm and almost dry! Unlike the previous trip I brought along both zooms and the X-E1. These ended up being used extensively, with the X-E1 often using the 55-200mm and the X-Pro1 usually with the 18-55mm while driving around the island. This meant that as fleeting ‘special’ moments came around, where the weather was particularly beautiful, the opportunities were rarely missed. Straight out I am very impressed by the image quality of the zooms, for landscape work I would without hesitation use them over the primes I had with me at the time.
I enjoyed using the telephoto zoom; it focused as quickly as the other lenses (can’t wait to try it on a X-T1) and produced punchy, sharp images like the close up of the highland cattle and the sunlight over the bay.
The X-E1 performed very similar to the X-Pro1, which makes me want to try the XE2 as I assume Fuji’s brilliant updates will have struck again making it a more refined camera. All the camera bodies performed flawlessly in the cold weather and despite the fact I stated we had good weather, they still went through the occasional rain shower and sea spray (don’t tell Fuji!) with no negative effects.
Because I drove up to the Isle of Skye I had the luxury of space that I didn’t while travelling around Borneo, this meant I could also throw in my Pelican case that housed my Canon equipment. However, I found that I didn’t once want to use it; I find shooting with the X-series cameras so much more enjoyable and satisfying. The tactile design of the cameras makes the whole experience feel like you’re in control instead of responding to what the camera suggests. For me this is improved by the EVF’s that allow the instant preview of exposure compensation, which I find invaluable especially in situations where the light is constantly changing. This was the biggest surprise moving from SLRs, I couldn’t get enough of it and this made me stop chimping my shots. An example of this is the silhouette of the Highland cattle against the moody sky that I was able to accurately compensate for using the EVF.
Overall I am very happy with the X-series for my uses, as it produces great image quality; not least the jpeg presets which really pop. In my opinion raw files could still be developed better in lightroom but I’m sure improvements will continue to roll out. This negative point is outweighed by the better quality high ISOs as a result of the sensor design.
Fuji have struck the perfect balance between small, discrete gear and good enough image quality that make the system superb for travel as well as many other genres. It will be very interesting to see the performance of the future weather sealed lenses, opening up the wildlife and sports market for X-series.
I am off to Switzerland for the premier of a snowboarding film I worked on with the White Line Crew: http://www.thewhitelinecrew.com/ and intend to get hold of the latest Fuji gear to test against some action in the cold conditions. I will let Steve know if this works out and will try to put together another user review.
Initial User Report on the Metabones Sppedbooster for Fuji X
Hello Steve! Long time reader and follower of this site. Thank you for the great work. You are an inspiration to many. This article first appeared on my FB page where it was first seen by my friends, and was thus written for people of all levels of photography experience. Here goes…
Unless you might think I’m writing about some new dietary supplement, or a miracle cure for (my) aging bones… The Metabones Speedbooster is a lens adapter with an optical element at its rear end. Ok, I probably lost most of you by now. Ho hum, just another boring gear review. Yup, but to my photog friends and camera buffs, this is one piece of gear you just might find interesting. So, read on!
The Metabones Speedbooster adapters are available in several lens mounts, adapting various full-frame lenses to Sony NEX, Panny/Oly Micro 4/3, and Fuji-X cameras. The rear optical element (made by Caldwell Photographic) is a focal reducer, shrinking the full frame image by a factor of 0.71X. This means, the lens’ focal length changes by this factor and the intensity of the reduced image causes an increase in brightness equivalent to one full aperture stop! When you factor in the 1.5x crop of an APS-C sensor, a 100mm f/2.8 full-frame lens will have a field of view equivalent to 106.5mm f/2.0 lens when mounted on an NEX camera by a Speedbooster. Not too shabby huh?
From this we learn 2 very important and useful information;
1)A full frame lens’ field of view (FOV) suddenly becomes almost what it is again on a cropped sensor camera. Very useful especially for wide-angle lenses on cameras with smaller sensors.
2)An instant 1 FULL STOP aperture gain! Because the image focal length is reduced to fit the smaller sensor, an interesting “side effect” is the stronger intensity or brightness of the incoming image, which has been measured to be equal to 1 full stop! So, a f/2.8 lens becomes an f/2, an f/1.8 becomes f/1.4, and so on and so forth.
There are other amazing promises; higher MTF rating (sharpness), the “bokeh” very similar to the increased f-stop on a full frame camera… so much so that after the initial hype, skeptics felt this was all too good to be true. So was it?
Earlier this month, I won a Speedbooster (Nikon G to Fuji-X) in an eBay auction. Normally this pricey adapter retails for $429. I won it for $213! But that, is a whole other story! Anyway, I was going on a trip, and was excited when the package arrived the day before I left. I got to take it with me and play with it! The images of the two lovely ladies below were both shot on a Fujifilm X-E1 camera coupled to a Nikon 35mm f/2 AI-s manual focus lens from my film days. You can see the setup in the picture with the Fuji X-E1, and the Speedbooster adapter between the camera and lens. I have set the camera to shoot RAW+JPG fine. The RAF(raw) file retains the color info. The JPG is set to Fuji B&W+yellow with a +1 exposure compensation. Other than some minor contrast tweaks, these images are both SOOC (straight-out-of-camera).
Both images were also shot at f/2.8 (or, was it f/4?) with a 1/52 sec. shutter speed at ISO-200. I have to make a conscious effort to remember the aperture, however the shutter speed and ISO are from the images’ EXIF data. But wait! Remember the aperture gain mentioned earlier? Well, this “old” f/2 lens just became a f/1.8, amazing! Now, there are a lot of reviews online and you can read more about the MTF ratiings, if the adapter did or did not affect sharpness, if the “bokeh” did in fact look like it was shot with a full frame camera, etc. I don’t even have time to do 100% crops, so I’m sorry to disappoint the pixel-peepers. I am going to say however, that I am quite happy with the over-all performance of the adapter, and that it has lived up to my expectations. Yours, of course, may vary ;) This is about MY user experience. And although I have just started using it, I now have it permanently attached to my X-E1, which I use exclusively with legacy manual focus lenses.
There are 2 other sample pictures with this article. The first one is the colored 3-series long exposure on the beach. The second is the B&W daytime long exposure of a small waterfall. I used to lug around my DSLR’s to do this kind of shooting, but now with the Fuji X-E1 and the Speedbooster, my full frame wide-angle lenses are almost what they are – certainly wide enough for this APS-C camera. My old Nikkor 24mm f/2.8 AI-s lens is back to life with a FOV of 25.5mm f/2 – not bad at all! And my backpack is now much lighter with this setup. The DSLRs stay home!
There are other few things I’ve found out in my short time with the adapter;
1) Build Quality – In a word – Excellent! The adapter feels solid and mounts securely onto the camera with no play whatsoever. The adapter is heavy, but not too much. In fact the weight adds a good heft to the lighter feel of the camera. The rear optical element is made by Caldwell Photographic – ‘nough said. If you don’t know them, ask Google.
2) Since I now have the adapter on the camera all the time, the thought occurred to me that my camera’s sensor is better protected – especially during lens changes. I mostly use manual primes with this setup. So I am very careful during lens changes. The adapter covers the sensor and it is far easier and less risky to clean the adapter than the sensor.
3) I love the built-in (but removable) tripod foot. Some users remove it because they feel it gets in the way. This could be true if you do a lot of handheld shooting. I have gotten used to is as an additional point of contact thus making for a more secure hold on the camera. But I appreciate it more is because it places the tripod hole squarely in the middle line of sight of both lens and sensor. The camera tripod socket is NOT in this line of sight. Also, the solid build of the adapter with its tripod foot takes the “stress” away from the camera mount when using large heavier lenses.
I’m sure there will be other surprises as I spend more time with the Speedbooster. The adapter is pricey. And I’m not sure I would have bought it new, if I didn’t win it in the auction. It is not for everyone. Remember, there is no electronic communication between the lens and camera body*. There is no autofocus. There is no lens stabilization unless it is on the camera. To me, it lends itself more to an “old school” way of shooting. Its really great if you have a stable of legacy manual lenses, because now you can enjoy them again. In the end, the important thing is that it works for me. And I am happy to have and use it.
*The ONLY exception is the Speedbooster for Canon lenses that communicates focus confirmation, aperture and image stabilization. However, there is still no AF capability.
Why am I calling this a love affair? Perhaps it’s because this best sums up the experience I have for the Fujifilm devices, both the newly released X-T1 and the aging X-E1 before it. With the titans of the compact mirror-less camera world, the 24MP FF Sony RX1 and the 36MP FF Sony A7R, already comfortably sitting in my bag, how is it that the venerable X-E1 and superfluous X-T1 are sitting there beside them? This is my attempt at a reasonable explanation.
As always it starts at the beginning, when I first picked up the Sony RX1 it forever changed my outlook on photography (you can read my one year in review here…). It also made life difficult if I wanted to shoot anything other than at 35mm, I needed wider but now also wanted small and my old Canon wasn’t cutting the mustard any longer.
I first explored the idea of using focus extenders and magnifiers on the RX1 but they were frankly rubbish. Enough said. The next logical step was to will Sony into making an RX1 with a wider focal length… I gave up after a few minutes due lack of oxygen to the brain and a resulting headache. I then decided I would need another camera body, something small, light and manageable but with acceptable image quality and flexibility in lenses choices.
The Camera That Wasn’t Meant To Be
I was looking to get the handsome O-MD with its miniature good looks, rave reviews and wide range of lenses. With a freshly formatted SD card I walked into a local camera store to test one out; it was a responsive device and appeared to fit my needs but the store assistant decided to be helpful and offered up some alternative solutions, one of them a Fujifilm X-E1.
It was the first time I had seen the device (X-E1) and whilst it was good looking in an old school way it wasn’t love at first sight, I have grown up with SLR bodies but the rangefinder style intriguing me enough to pop in an SD card a give it a whirl. It was slow as a dog, the electronic viewfinder (EVF) sucked balls and it felt hollow but as I twiddled the loose aperture ring around the lens, it also seemed nice.
At home I reviewed the images and was underwhelmed by the files from the O-MD and pleasantly surprised by those from the X-E1. It wasn’t a win for the X-E1 though as the O-MD was ahead in speed, responsiveness and familiarity; all I knew was that I wanted another set-up to replace the 350D’s aging 8MP sensor. Cutting a long and boring story short, I packed up all my Canon gear and took it down to the local used camera dealer with the view of using the sales money on an O-MD.
What happened next was either fate or some sort of blind luck for Fujifilm as the store had just acquired an X-E1; you can probably guess what happened. It was there, it was easy and you get a better deal in part exchange so I left the store with a Fujifilm X-E1 in tow and a pile of extra cash which was put towards buying the XF14mm.
Quite unintentionally, I was now a Fujifilm camera owner.
It Shouldn’t Have Worked
Pitched against the mighty RX1, the X-E1 with its small strange sensor (16MP X-Trans APS-C vs. 24MP FF), hollow plastic body and terrible EVF on paper was always destined to become the poor second cousin to the RX1, only brought out on occasions to mop up the dirty work that the RX1 didn’t want to (or couldn’t) do.
I could run through the list of things that are wrong with the X-E1 – the crap EVF, the hollow design, the white only focus-peaking which meant you can’t see if anything was in focus, the silly button placements, the way you can’t move the AF point intuitively as you can with any other camera, the auto-focus hunt, the off-center tripod mount, the SD card slot – you get the picture. It’s also one of the cameras that the girlfriend refuses to use; she says it has crap ergonomics that doesn’t fit her hand, the EVF is rubbish and it can’t focus at all. The lady had spoken.
However that’s not how things turned out, it was becoming very difficult to put the X-E1 down; sure it had its glaring faults, niggles and its why-oh-why-did-Fuji-do-this moments but I was finding more excuses to bring the little Fujifilm out. It had character that developed and matured with every new firmware update and the more I learnt how to process the files coming from the X-Trans sensor, the more I was starting to love it. Even some of the negatives were turning into positives; the hollow body did make this thing extremely lightweight which was perfect for hiking.
The Love Affair
You are probably wondering why I am rambling on about my previous camera instead of the X-T1 but there is a real reason for this and also valid one I hope because my views and the purchase of the X-T1 relates directly to my prior experience with Fujifilm and the X-E1.
I am willing to part with the scrappy little X-E1 if I needed to but I don’t want to part with Fujifilm.
Let me explain.
The X-E1 is a beautiful device and I love to shoot with it but it is also a rubbish device (IQ not-withstanding). I should sell it because the A7R has replaced the need for it in my bag as it does everything the X-E1 was supposed to do but also much more. If the X-E1 is unnecessary then the X-T1 is doubly superfluous to my needs but I still have them both and the reason is I don’t want to lose Fujifilm as a company, as a camera system.
From my short experience as a Fujifilm camera owner, I have for one reason or another I can’t really explain found them to be charming devices backed by a company that really appears to listen to camera people. I love that they support obsolete devices by providing firmware updates that not only fix existing issues but add additional functionality, I like their ethos of wanting to create a long-standing consumer relationship at the detriment of short-term sales and I like their transparent lens strategy. Their XF line of lenses cater specifically to everything I would look for in a lens line-up; they have the lengths I want, the speeds I want and are all optically great. They now have all the ‘standard’ primes (21mm, 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm); they have pancakes and all the zooms you could ask for. They also communicate their future lens strategy so you can plan what you need and have confidence in future system. Kudos.
I don’t want to sound like a fanatic but this is a mere attempt to explain why I have bought an X-T1 and XF56mm lens which I have been shooting for the past couple of weeks, when I already have a Sony RX1, Fujifilm X-E1 and an almost directly comparable Sony A7R with a Zeiss Planar 85mm f/1.4 lens.
It’s got nothing to do with need or a hole in my camera and lens line-up. It has everything to do with Fujifilm – a belief they can deliver and support a product I would love to use.
The First Impression of the X-T1
The X-T1 has been with me on the streets of Hong Kong; on a hike (Dragon’s Back, Shek O Country Park); to a fashion show after party (a dark, smoky underground dive), on a plane to Taiwan, in the rain (I’ve already tested the waterproofing of this and the non-waterproofed XF56mm) and all around Taipei City. I’ve also shot with the XF14mm, XF56mm, Zeiss C Sonnar 50mm and Planar 85mm but mostly the new XF56mm; the 85mm focal length is a new one for me and so I’m forcing myself to shoot exclusively with it.
If you read my initial Sony A7R first impression you will see I am critical, highlighting the negative aspects of using a camera, it’s easy to highlight because it bothers me. Some commentators were confused as to why I viewed the A7R so highly even after all the negative criticism but it’s all relative; if I want to keep using the camera even with all the issues raised then those issues can’t really be that big of a deal, right?
Turning my eye to the X-T1 and even after only a couple of weeks of use I already know this first impression will be short. Why? Because I’m sitting here finding it extremely difficult to come up with anything really negative without sounding too petty. Sure it has its issues there but overall I’ve enjoyed using this camera so much that I have a feeling if I had to make a choice between the X-T1 and A7R, I’d rather sell the A7R than sell the X-T1. The only saving grace of the A7R compared to the X-T1 is the stellar FE55mm and 36MP combo which evens the field, even though I really (and I mean really!) do not like that it doesn’t have an aperture ring. I have been spoilt by the aperture rings on the RX1 and Fujinon XF line of lenses.
For me, that’s some major testimonial right there.
There are issues, there always will be and I am not naive enough to expect perfection:
The menu and directional control buttons are too shallow, give no confidence and my first X-T1 broke because of it (video here…)
the EV compensation dial is now too stiff, now it is far more difficult to make quick last minute exposure compensation changes with the EVF to my eye, this is an example of Fujifilm listening to the user based (and they are wrong, I much prefer the dial moving in the bag than not being able to move in use but that’s just me I suppose). Time will tell whether it loosens up
the customisable buttons can’t be customised to how I want them to work (i.e. select any menu item I want – but then this is an issue with ALL cameras I own and therefore classed as a rant)
the ISO button dial lock is annoying, yes it is but doesn’t really stop me from taking shots – the ‘A’ mode can be configured to have auto-ISO extend to 3,200 if I wanted
the EVF is truly great but isn’t oh-my-gawd spectacular as the hype seems to portray (I spent 5 minutes in the store trying to figure out how to turn on the ‘big-picture’ mode only to find out when I got home it was already on that mode)
the mushy M-C-S dial, it’s mushy
the movie button replaced where the Fn button used to be – why?
noise suppression on skin tones can be overly aggressive on JPG outputs but I’m primarily a RAW shooter so for those that rely on JPG, this may be a larger issue
However, for as long as I’ve been using this camera (which admittedly isn’t very long); I haven’t come across any situation which has caused me to stop in my tracks and reassess. Sure as a new body it takes time to adjust my shooting for the new layout but the greatest complement I can give is that I just forgot about it, I realised at some point that had I stopped evaluating the camera and just started shooting.
The Nice Guy
Breaking away from the norm of focussing on the negative aspects of the camera, I think the X-T1 deserves praise as there are areas that have worked well for Fujifilm.
The AF is very quick in daylight when paired with the XF14mm to the point that I didn’t trust it at first, I was sure it was missing focus (I was wrong) and I would definitely say it is the fastest I have ever seen a Fujifilm device focus (or any device for that matter). It’s okay fast with the XF56mm but will still hunt and miss focus in less than good light however it is magnitudes better than anything currently in my bag.
The biggest change however is not with the technology of X-T1 AF system but rather my own perception of it; I no longer seem to worry about focus anymore. With my other cameras (the new Sony A7R included), I always have an expectation of AF failure which is one of the reasons why I set my cameras to back button focus and DMF; I never rely on AF and can manually override as necessary. Shooting the X-T1 over the last few weeks I have realised I no longer assess a scene with the same mentality as when I shoot with the RX1, X-E1 or A7R, I haven’t even used MF. I’m not saying it’s perfect or even close to a dedicated PDAF system but it’s definitely more usable in many more situations than before.
Perhaps I had a more pessimistic view of the X-T1 to begin with, I never did buy into the advertised ‘quickest AF in the world’ spiel, I didn’t expect it to be a panacea and I almost expected more of the same, but in good light, in bad light and even in challenging light, my main action is to flick the power switch ‘ON’, lift the camera to my eye and press the shutter. In one smooth motion. How liberating is that. From a Fuji device of all things too.
I’ve tried to think about why this may be and I’ve come up with my main three reasons:
LCD/EVF power modes– there is a mode to turn off both the EVF and LCD screen thus saving power and the EVF only turns on when you raise it to your eye. There is a delay when the EVF activates but not nearly enough for it to bother me or make me miss a shot; however the absolute best feature is the X-T1 will use the LCD screen when reviewing photos. It’s so simple it hurts and there’s always a dedicated button to switch viewing options if needed – are you listening Sony?
No more menu digging – I can’t remember a situation in the last couple of weeks where I have had to really delve into the menu, most key functions are physically at hand which can be adjusted before the camera is turned on and there are 6 customisable buttons (although I do wish I could assign them to any function from any menu); for everything else there is the ‘Q’ quick menu.
As an example, whilst watching the Taipei MRT arrive onto the platform it dawned on me to test the tracking ability of the camera so I set the mode to ‘CH” burst, checked the ISO, shutter and aperture dials, made sure spot metering was selected and turned the focus mode to ‘C’ all before even turning the camera on. Then as I raised the camera to my eye, I flicked the ‘ON’ switch and started shooting.
Obviously it would be much easier if there was only one button to automatically set it to “continually-track-an-oncoming-train-in-an-underground-station-with-difficult-lighting” mode but you would really need to be a bit of a duck to criticise any camera for not having that.
Third point – oh, the IQ is good too.
But mostly I love that I can adjust all the major settings before I even turn the camera on even though I do admit I may miss a snap-shot but there is a remedy for that and I call it an iPhone.
I’ve tested it so I will post it. I’ve never used it before and I probably never will again but for all those that are eager to know here are some photos for you to judge for yourself. I must add that I was impressed but what do I know, meh.
This is the Taipei MRT where an underground train is entering the platform. Who knows how fast this thing comes in at but for those that want to know, I was shooting RAW + JPG, CH mode, onto a Sandisk 32GB 30MB/s card – what difference would a 95MB/s card have made? I don’t know because that card sits in my A7R. A total of 20 shots were taken starting at 8:56:33pm and ending at 8:56:36pm where I could tell the last one or two were slowing down.
XF56mmF1.2 R and VG-XT1
Works well, looks good and has a well dampened focus ring. Even better the aperture ring is much stiffer with much better ‘clicks’, how do I get my XF14mm to be like that?
I will let you judge the quality of the pictures for yourself, there are plenty of examples mostly taken at f/1.2 as I’ve only had time to shoot after work and using natural (low) light but I will say I like it a lot; the speed is good and sharpness wide open is excellent and has also given me reason (with much regret) to let go of the Zeiss Planar 1,4/85 ZF.2 – any takers?
The grip is very comfortable and is not heavy; I wonder why Fujifilm can’t fit two batteries in the grip and why you need to remove a rubber cover from the camera to attach the grip. I see a growing market for replacement covers. I’m also not going to dwell on this, it works well and is comfortable and that’s all I could ask for. It is also better than the equivalent battery grip for the Sony A7R for handheld comfort and button placement.
The Happily Ever After
This could be a never ending love affair. The X-T1 is fast becoming my go-to body and along with the Sony RX1 is looking like a camera I will not let go of. It’s not perfect (what camera is?) but at the end of the day they pale in comparison to the shooting experience. It doesn’t get in the way, it hasn’t frustrated me and it hasn’t made me want to switch cameras. It seems to just work.
Fuji..Finally..Nails It. The X-T1 seems to be “the” Fuji Body to wait for..
Just as I said Sony grew some balls when they designed and released the (now older) NEX-7, it appears Fuji finally did what I have been waiting for them to do. Yes, it appears Fuji finally ditched the hollow and cheaper feeling bodies and decided to design and create and release a truly solid and professional X body. One of the reasons I was so hard inn Fuji since the X-Pro 1 is because I KNEW that they could do better..much better. Sure, they had the color and IQ but everything else was sub par, especially in their “flagship” the X-Pro 1.
I predicted two years ago that Fuji would some day release a truly great X body worthy of their great lenses. The time is just about here :)
It appears that this X-T1 will also be a SOLID, WEATHER SEALED and MUCH FASTER body with external controls ala Nikon Df and Olympus E-M1. (THIS is a GOOD thing).
The body is very Olympus E-M1 and A7 like in design. You have the grip and the EVF hump. As for the EVF it should be much larger and nicer than previous EVF’s.
The EVF will be center mounted with all controls easily accessible. From these leaked images (courtesy of mirrrorless rumors) it appears that yes, Fuji did get it right. The rumored price is said to be $1700 US for the Body only. Add the superb 23 1.4 and you have a $2600 combo, about the same price as a full frame Sony A7 and Zeiss 35 2.8. It appears the competition and new tech just never ever stops!
I can feel it in my bones..this is the Fuji that will be “the one” many have been waiting for from Fuji. Will it be the “no compromise” body? Who knows but the X-E2 was and is a step in the right direction but I am really looking forward to this new one. Let us see what awaits on the 28th!
Steve Huff review –Experiencing Borneo with the Fuji X-series
By Ben Cherry
A bit of background about me, I am a Zoology student at the University of Sheffield and have been passionate about photography for the past ten years with my main interests being travel and wildlife. First of all I must thank Fujifilm UK for sponsoring me with some X-series cameras for my six-week trip to Malaysian Borneo. I approached Fujifilm because the X-series cameras offered a compact, yet high quality system that is ideal for travelling especially when weight and space are at a premium.
The cameras allowed me to take photos I wouldn’t have otherwise taken with my 5DIII, simply because I could take them everywhere, much more than an SLR. This especially applies to the X100s, as it’s so pocketable. Being a second-generation camera, it felt very refined, with my keeper rate being much higher than the other cameras. Walking around with these discrete cameras, I was at more ease than with my SLR; this isn’t a reflection of Malaysian Borneo, where the people are charming. The Fuji cameras allowed me to relax more and focus on taking photos. When walking with my SLRs I am always aware how obviously they stand out and how much I’ve invested in them! An example of how the X-series blend into surroundings is when I attended the Hungry Ghost Festival in Kuching. The big event had ten press photographers covering it for national newspapers. I left my SLR at the hotel and photographed the amazing spectacle with the X-series. With the big press presence I simply slipped under the radar with most people oblivious to my photography. This allowed me to capture more candid shots that I would have otherwise.
The versatile X-series lenses allow this system to capture photos that would require a much heavier set of equivalent SLR lenses. I love the fact that they initially focused on a strong series of prime lenses. I only took the 14mm, 35mm and 60mm with me on the trip. I had the option to take the two zooms available at the time plus the 18mm, but because of weight restrictions and equivalent zooms for my SLR, I decided to leave them behind. Despite the lack of telephoto lenses I was able to attain a good variety of shots with these three lenses. I used the 14mm and 60mm lenses the most, in conjunction with the X100s. This collection was brilliant for street photography, as well as pretty much anything else I threw at it. Even some wildlife!
Now I’m not saying I’m getting rid of my 5dIII just yet, as there are some things these cameras can’t quite cope with. Focus tracking is the main problem I have with the current X-series, it simply doesn’t work. Other than the slow writing speed of the cameras, I have no other quarrels. What I have found though is you can work around all of these problems, adapting by pre-focusing (where possible) and using selective bursts can counter these problems. The bonus of Fujifilm is that they seem to really listen to their users, making the X-E2 sound very interesting with its new and improved auto focus system.
A benefit of this compact system that I didn’t anticipate is the usability of the EVF. Having that real-time preview of what exposure compensation does to an image is invaluable when you’re trying to capture that fleeting moment. Yes, people will say “well with experience you know what to compensate”, probably a valid point but being able to see an accurate representation of what the end product will look like is extremely helpful to me, although the EVF does massively drain battery life, in an already short duration battery compared to SLRs. It’s one of those annoying things, having to carry around so many spares but at the same time it’s understandable as the small compact systems have proportionally smaller batteries too.
Regarding the build quality of these cameras, they stood up to hostile conditions deep in the Borneo rainforest where the humidity levels left me with a constant layer of sweat. I didn’t have a single problem with the cameras or the lenses. It’s worth pointing out that they were out of a camera bag much more than my 5Diii, as they were used generally a lot more.
The X100s is superb for flash use because of its leaf shutter and has actually got me out of a sticky situation where I was photographing a Bearded pig foraging on a beach at sunset, the little inbuilt flash came to my rescue and gave just enough filler to bring out the pig’s detail against the wonderful orange sky. I haven’t used the X-pro1 enough with flash to comment on its usability. Unfortunately it does have quite a slow flash sync but I’m still excited to try this out in the future.
Looking ahead, I think it’s an exciting time to be an X-series user/in the camera market in general. The lens road map has one lens that really stands out, the 56mm f1.2 as well as the recently released 23mm f1.4, which will be really interesting to try alongside the X100s. This combination of lenses will be truly mouth-watering for portraits. The already mentioned X-E2 and the future X-Pro2 will have important improvements, like the X100s over the X100, maybe the next round of improvements will make me seriously consider the Fujis as my main travel cameras, certainly have all the foundations to really become a legendary system. I’m not sure if this system will ever be able to really attack wildlife photography but then again would we want it to? Instead should it stick to the path its currently on and continue to make important improvements that make Fujifilm one of the brilliant camera companies that really listens to its users when creating future generation cameras as well as regular updates to firmware.
All in all I’m hooked on these cameras and really don’t want to give them back to Fujifilm UK! Below are some photos that I’ve taken with with these delightful cameras.
I would share with you some photos of my New York City trip. I have been there in January with my girlfriend. I have taken with me my new Fuji X-E1 with the very good Fujinon XF 18-55mm zoom lens. The weather was not very good and I have not found the classic blue sky that I can see everyday here in Sicily. But … New York is New York and you will always found something interesting wherever you point your eyes, so what is the problem if the sky was gray!
This was my second time in the Big Apple and I can clearly affirm that it is the city of my dreams. A city that is live and that never sleep, where you can meet people from all over the world.
TRY BEFORE YOU BUY! Zeiss Touit Lenses for Fuji X or Sony E Mount!
PopFlash.com has informed me that they are offering a very cool program for the Zeiss Touit line of lenses where you can actually try them out before you buy. In other words, give the lenses a try. If you like them, great! if you do not like them, send them back! This is a great way to see if you like the lenses before committing to buy 100%.
Here are the details from the PopFlash.com website:
“Here is your opportunity to have a hands on experience with the ZEISS TOUIT LENSES for Fuji X Mount or Sony E Mount. You will be billed for security purposes, then shipped the tryout lenses of your choice. Upon return, you will be refunded minus the shipping cost. All you pay for is shipping to your destination plus the **shipping cost to return the camera and lenses. If you like the “TRYOUT SET” and decide to purchase any of the lenses, just return the tryout equipment and we can bill and ship brand new Zeiss Touit Lenses of your choice at our current sale price.”
To check it out and read more visit the page at PopFlash.com HERE. You can read my thoughts on the Zeiss lenses for Fuji HERE. That 12mm is a superb lens!
Gorgeous new SLR Magic Hyperprime 35mm T0.95 and 35 T1.4 arrives for testing!
The “Noctlux” for your APS-C Mirrorless
The 35 T 0.95 Hyperprime ASP-H M mount Lens
So..you want a super fast, super sharp, super built, super bokeh 50mm equivalent cream machine for your Sony NEX, Fuji X or EOS-M camera? How about a 70mm equivalent for your Micro 4/3? Want one for each system without having to buy three different lenses? I know I do..and such a lens has just arrived to the Huff Household. Yep, UPS arrived yesterday with a huge box from SLR Magic and what the box held were two lenses I have been excited to review for a few weeks now. One of them is the premium 35mm APS-H Hyperprime (their premium quality line of lenses) and I have to say that it is a BEAUTY.
It’s large, hefty, built like a solid brick and is a damn nice T0.95 lens, which in F stop land means about f/0.92! This is the 50mm equivalent 0.95 lens for APS-C mirrorless camera shooters! Almost Like having a Noctilux for your Fuji X or NEX, speed wise anyway :)
This is an all manual lens designed for ALL of the popular mirrorless systems. You can shoot this one lens on the NEX system, Fuji X system, EOS-M or Micro 4/3 system. How so you ask? Well, when ordering you just choose which system you want to use it with but the beauty of it all is that if you own 2 or 3 or all of these systems you only need ONE lens and it will be compatible with all of your cameras using an adapter.
This lens is actually an M mount design but not to be used on an M camera. Instead SLR Magic made it in the M mount because so many adapters are made for this mount. So this one lens can be used on almost any mirrorless system with an adapter. This was a great move IMO. For example, if I have a Fuji X camera and an OM-D and a NEX-6 or 7, this one lens can be shot on all of them. Awesome.
One thing I found while doing test shots is that even with focus peaking set to on with the NEX-6 this lens is a beast to focus correctly when shooting wide open. It has a massively razor thin level of DOF at T0.95 so your focus has to be pinpoint precise or else the images will be slightly soft at the focus point if you miss.
A quick OOC JPEG at T 0.95 and the Sony NEX-6 – remember this is wide open at T0.95
The particular lens that was sent to me was shipped with the Sony E Mount adapter so I will be testing it on the NEX-6 (see 1st three OOC JPEGS above) and then later the Fuji X system as soon as I get an adapter for it. It appears the Fuji adapter will not work correctly but there are some that will and SLR Magic will be shipping them with their own Fuji adapter that will work just fine.
Out of the box, this lens looks pretty bad ass but I can not speak enough about how large it is. IT IS LARGE. So if you are hoping for something small this is not your lens. If you want super quality Bokeh and image quality it just might be your lens. The packaging is solid this time around with the lens and adapter encased in solid foam so there is no chance of shipping damage (unless the UPS guys decide to play soccer with it). I am excited to review this one.
A couple of B&W JPEGS with the NEX-6 wide open at T0.95
This 35mm T0.95 APS-H Hyperprime lens will be selling for $1349 starting in February 2013 from SLR Magic and that is a decent price considering their 50 T0.95 for M mount was nearing the $5k mark (this was mainly due to the RF coupling and it being a full frame lens). In the same price range as this lens is the Voigtlander 35 1.4 in M mount. Many use that lens as their fast 35 on their mirrorless systems and love it but from what I have seen, this lens just may surpasses that one in Image Quality and Bokeh when used on mirrorless cameras. The only negative is that you can use the Voigtlander on an M camera as it is a full frame lens. Again, This SLR Magic is NOT full frame so while it has an M mount, it is not compatible with M cameras.
The soon to be released SLR Magic 35 T0.95 HYPERPRIME premium lens. (all product shots with Sony RX1)
For those of you who have seen my review on the previous SLR Magic hyper prime, the 50 T0.95 for Leica M mount you may remember that I loved it and declared it to be just about equal to the Leica Noctilux f0.95 in image quality (in real world use) and I preferred the Bokeh of the SLR Magic. The construction of the Leica Noctilux is better (as is the resale value) but for all out IQ the HyperPrime was amazing. I never had one issue with it on my Leica M9-P or the Monochrom. It was large and heavy but it packed some serious glass. Unfortunately, as far as I know this lens is no longer shipping in the USA (the 50 T0.95) so if you managed to snag one, you have a rare lens in your collection :)
This new 35 T/0.95 seems to have rock solid construction and design, is much less expensive with maybe even better build quality and is a T0.95 35mm which will be like a T0.95 50mm on APS-C mirror-less cameras. Finally a fast and exotic 50mm for your APS-C. BUT, can it deliver the goods? I am not sure yet as I just got it so I will be shooting it in Vegas next week to give it a workout.
I will not know anything until I thoroughly use it but from the looks and feel it is impressive. This lens will come in at $1349 and will be available from SLR Magic starting February 2013. They are also offering $100 off for early buyers so keep an eye out here for info.
The SLR Magic 35 T1.4 for APS-C
SLR Magic also sent me their new 35 T1.4 lens to test out on the Fuji X-E1 and this lens is coming in at only $349. It is a budget lens but it certainly does not look or feel like one. This lens is also available for all other mirrorless systems but will come in whatever mount you order it in. The one that I was sent is for Fuji X and for a $349 lens this is one hell of a well built lens. Metal construction with the weight of a Leica 50 Summilux ASPH. This is no cheap toy lens in the construction department and the packaging is just as nice as the Hyperprime lens.
Andrew from SLR Magic told me they have tweaked their packaging and it shows.
This lens is not up to par with the T0.95 Hyperprime in the IQ department but it is not designed to be. This $349 lens is built for Bokeh it seems as it delivers a rich and creamy out of focus rendering with bit of softness to the images when shot at 1.4 wide open. The lens seems to sharpen up by 2.8 but even wide open will give you a soft etheral look.
What is nice about this lens is the build and the fact that you can order it NOW in any mount you want. This is what SLR Magic told me about the availability of this lens:
“The 35mm T1.4 is available now. We have it for X mount, E mount, EF-M mount, and mFT mount. It is not up on our website or eBay yet but people can already order by emailing us at [email protected] to get it before it is up on our website. We have already sold a bunch for the mFT version”.
So you can order this lens now if you desire and what is even better is that if you bought one of their older 35 1.7 toy lenses you can trade it in for a $90 credit towards this new lens (which is a much nicer lens than the toy lens in build and IQ). Also, if you order by Feb 2013 you can take $70 off of the price:
“We have two programs
A) Owners of the SLR Magic 35mm f/1.7 can ship their lens back to Hong Kong for trade-in at $90 value to upgrade.
B) If bought by Feb 2012 from us we have a $70 promotional rebate program.”
So if you buy this lens by Feb 2013 it will come in at only $279. Great buy for any mirrorless camera system if you want great Bokeh and a unique quality. This lens is not a pin sharp lens when used at 1.4 or f/2. It sharpens up by F2.8. I will be reviewing this lens as well with the Fuji X-E1 so stay tuned!
A couple of OOC JPEGS to show Bokeh Quality and expected sharpness at 1.4
“Best Beer in the world Part 2″
Remember that this is an all manual lens so you will have to manually focus and manually set Aperture on the lens barrel. Much like using a Leica M lens on your mirrorless camera. Both of these new lenses also have clickless aperture rings as they are “Cine” lenses which happen to be great for videos as well.
So if you want to order this 35 T 1.4 lens for your system you can e-mail SLR Magic for details at [email protected]. My full reviews will be coming soon on both of these.
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I wanted to make you aware of my journey to photograph the streets of many countries around the world. Very recently, I spent a month in Iran. A country that is very misunderstood, and quite mysterious to most. Of course, what I found is that street shooting in Iran, is just like anywhere else on Earth. Why? Because as the song goes – people are people. It needs to be said that Iranians are the most friendly and welcoming people I have encountered, and I’ve been to 37 countries so far (and counting), all in the name of cultural experience. The people of Iran hold no animosity towards Americans, or Westerners in general – they really do see the issues of governments as totally beyond the control of the citizens – whether that be their own government, or the US government. We’re all human, and we’re all in this together, right?
I’m traveling the world indefinitely, and at this point, I’m only using a single camera, with a single lens. The Fuji X-Pro 1, and the 18mm F2. This combination is in my opinion, the best travel camera set-up available. I’ve gone from a Nikon DSLR, to a Leica M6, to the Fuji. When you’re traveling, you need a light-weight setup – so that rules out DLSR’s. I love film, especially black and white, but it’s a chore to constantly be finding places that will develop my work when I’m in a foreign place. A digital Leica M would be nice, but it’s out of my budget. In my opinion, the IQ of the Fuji, combined with the shutter dial/aperture ring/exposure compensation adjustments and the optical viewfinder, make it the best camera for me. Of course, the X-Pro is not without quirks, and not for everyone.
I found it difficult to shoot street photography at first, not knowing what photographic regulations I needed to adhere to, nor knowing how the people would react to me. However, I slowly got into the groove, and a month later I had a small portfolio of images that I can look back at again and again, to remember such an incredible country.
If any of your readers would like to follow the journey, I think they would find it interesting – one lens, one camera, one world. I’m blogging as I go, and try to do a new set of street photos every few weeks or so.
Keep on doing your thing Steve, we all appreciate it. (Thank’s Nate)!
Well here we are and I have now had the Fuji X-Pro 1 in my hands for a little while and I am ready to let you all know how I feel about it! First off, let me say that this is the camera I have been waiting for with the kind of excitement that only comes around once a year or so, much like a 7 year old on Christmas morning. When Fed Ex came and the driver resembled Santa Clause I knew there was something special in that big brown box.
The last time I was this excited about a camera release was with last years Fuji X100, which I adored but at the same time, found frustrating on many occasions. You can read my X100 review HERE and see how much I loved that camera. I no longer have an X100 but still have a soft spot for it. On several occasions I even had the $200 overpriced black edition in my shopping cart because even though it is NOT a Leica (In case you did not know, I love my Leica) I felt a connection to it. The image quality, the feel, the small size and the hybrid EVF/OVF…it all brought me back to the basics of photography even though it was a bit more technical than a basic Leica M. What I mean by that is that it did not have the Zen like simplicity of an M.
But we can not deny the fact that the little X100 was the big camera hit of last year and when it arrived it was sold out for months. Prices on Amazon were jacked up and people were paying $1600 for the standard X100 kit and yes, even at that price they would sell out within a day or so. One of the reasons for this was that Fuji did a super job with the marketing and hype for that camera and with the huge success of the X100 they decided to keep the X train rolling full steam ahead. Even though MANY of the X100 users were having the “sticky aperture blade” issues with the cameras, Fuji started to work on a new higher end version. Yes, Fuji started working on the “top secret” X-Pro 1 and the internet buzz was insane for months about it.
ISO 1000 – Fuji X-Pro 1
Leica Is In Trouble? Well, not really…
I sat there and thought “Uh Oh” – Leica is in trouble. There it was…Fuji was set to release a PRO version of the X100 with interchangeable FAST lenses at 1/4 the price of a 3 year old M9. They even designed it like a black Leica M with that awesome retro look and feel. If Fuji could pull off a nice solid body, fast AF and rock solid reliability…then yes, I feared Leica would lose some sales to Fuji. Why wouldn’t they? There are so many people that would LOVE a Leica M9 but refuse to pay the $7000 body cost and even more for lenses. Some refuse to pay that price and some simply can’t. But with a camera like the X-Pro 1 at 1/4 the cost, it is now possible to get a Leica look-a-like and fast primes that give superb image quality. Fuji knew this so they targeted this camera system at those people.
In my honest opinion they are not trying to beat the M9 as the X-Pro 1 simply does not, but many of us who can not buy an M9 WILL think about the X-Pro and a few M9 users will buy one as well to play with. For Fuji it seems like a win/win.
So now that I have been shooting with this “X-Pro 1″ for a while, what do I think? Well, read on to find out my thoughts as I share my real world results about the build and feel, use, and image quality of the camera. I will say right now the main competitor to this camera is not the Leica M9 but rather the Sony NEX-7 and even the new Olympus OM-D. I will tell you all up front RIGHT NOW that this is not an M9 nor is it even remotely similar in operation. It feels nothing like an M9, shoots nothing like an M9 and the quality in not equal to an M9. The only area where this beats an M9 is in high ISO, and in this area it slaughters the M, kicks it while it’s down and stomps it before it kicks it across the street. In other areas like build, use, feel, manual focus, simplicity and image quality, the Leica wins. Period.
There, I said it. I am sure Fuji fans will call me a Leica fanboy but the fact is that there is still nothing like shooting an M. Unless you shot one, owned one and used one with great Leica glass you wouldn’t understand. Then again, do I feel the M9 is worth $7k? No, not in 2012. Do I feel the Fuji X-Pro 1 is worth $1699? No. I feel the X-Pro 1 should have come in at $1399 for the body only because as it is, this camera will cost you $3300 with all three lenses. Add the grip and extra battery and you are at about $3500. That’s a lot of cash for just about anyone.
Then again, if image quality is your #1 priority, then the X-Pro 1 may just be worth the $1699 body only cost as the IQ is SUPERB for a crop sensor APS-C camera. Probably some of the best IQ I have seen from any mirrorless to date. Due to lack of AA filter, the images that come from this sensor pop with detail and sharpness. Add to that the Fuji colors and you have a fantastic camera for image quality. Again, it is much like the X100 but you gain the advantage of the faster and different focal length lenses.
The 35 1.4 at ISO 1250 at night
A Video Overview of the Fuji X-Pro 1
In case some of you missed it, below is my video showing the X-Pro 1 body, lenses, and the menu system of the camera. It is a long video but if you want to see everything about it, take a look below.
The Fuji X-Pro 1 – What is so “Pro” about it?
The Fuji X-Pro 1 is a step up from the X100 in a few ways but in reality, the image quality is VERY similar and the usability is about exactly the same. I have shot both cameras in real world use and have to say that the cameras feel the same when shooting. What I mean by that is, both are on the slower side when compared to what is out there today in this class of camera (NEX, Micro 4/3). The reason this camera is more advanced and desirable than the X100 is that you can not only use the new Fuji X lenses like the 18 f/2, the 35 1.4 and the 60 2.4 macro but you can also shoot Leica glass with an adapter. So this camera is like an X100 on steroids as it is bigger, badder, and yes, much more versatile. It is also much more expensive and has the same size sensor and the same overall IQ traits.
The X-Pro has a 16 MegaPixel sensor, a 3″ LCD, the same Hybrid Viewfinder as the X100, Dust Shaker sensor cleaning and HD video capability. So what you get over the smaller and cheaper X100 is IC lens capability, a higher MegaPixel sensor, a slightly larger LCD display (2.8″ vs 3″) and higher ISO capability (12,800 max on the X100 and 25,600 for the X-Pro).
After shooting with the X-Pro 1 for a while it felt JUST LIKE shooting an X100 but with different focal lengths. I have to say that I have found some quirks with it that I was disappointed with but at the same time, much like the X100, the image quality that comes out of this camera is amazing. The colors and the look and the feel are all very “Fuji”. Yes, Fuji has their own look which is a bit on the brighter side, very poppy colors, and very sharp (with the 35 1.4 and 60 macro). I found the camera tended to overexpose when shooting in Aperture priority mode so I ended up using some Exposure Compensation to dial it down.
The signature Fuji “Velvia” colors – Both shots below were taken with the 60 Macro at 2.4
As with the X100, this review is all about the Photos and the Usability, so let’s get to it!
This beautiful X-Pro 1 is a camera I have been waiting for, drooling over and looking forward to with HIGH expectations. I mean, Fuji had the experience from the X100 so surely they would make this one as a statement piece. The Focus would be fast, the build would be solid, the lenses would be superb and sharp with creamy bokeh and the camera would not hang up, freeze or hunt for focus…right?
Well, that is what I had HOPED FOR and on some of those the camera delivered and in other ways it did not. I will now go over the usual suspects. The AF speed, HIGH ISO, Build and Feel, etc.
BUILD AND FEEL
The X-Pro 1 is MUCH lighter than many of you think it is. When you pick it up the 1st thing you think is “Wow, that is much lighter than I thought it was going to be”. In fact, my 1st impression was “man, this feels cheap”. BUT I remember the X100 was also lightweight, as is the Leica X1 (even more so) and even the new X2. So you really can not judge a camera on it’s weight though I must admit, a camera that feels like a solid slab does give you a feeling of confidence.
When you pick up a Leica M9 you think “Wow, this feels NICE”. When you pick up a Sony NEX-7 you think “This feels about right”. When you pick up an Olympus E-P3 or upcoming OM-D you think “Wow, this is heftier than I thought”. So we have super light cameras that perform just as well as the heavy ones. Weight is not really tied together with IQ.
With that said, the X-Pro 1 is lightweight but at the same time doesn’t wear out your hand or wrist. I shot it for hours one night and had no issues. The body and lenses are very light weight. In fact, one thing I was disappointed in was the build of the 18mm f/2 lens. It is so light weight it feels like it is made of all plastic. I wish Fuji would have made the lenses a little but more substantial. At $600 a pop, it seems they should be a bit more solid.
So the body is light, the lenses are light…but how do they FEEL when you are using the camera? The good news is that when shooting in real life situations the camera feels great in the hand, ESPECIALLY with the added grip. The grip that Fuji sells is Leica M9 like and at $100 or so it makes the camera feel even better when holding it. If you buy an X-pro 1, I highly recommend the grip. With the grip added I had zero issues with the feel of this camera.
The X-Pro 1 at ISO 400 – Low light, movement, she saw the camera and gave a quick smile – this was snapped just before that smile though
Careful with your thumb!
While shooting in Las Vegas for my Vegas weekend get together I realized my thumb had been moving the Exposure Compensation button so many of my shots were underexposed a bit. Could have been my fault for not paying attention but still, it happened. The buttons on the back of the camera are a HUGE improvement over the X100. They are bigger and easier to use. I never had an issue with pressing the wrong buttons so I appreciate what Fuji did here.
The dancing “Hello Kitty” – X-Pro 1 and 35 1.4 wide open at IDO 400
The Auto Focus Speed – The “X-Slow 1″?
So while in Vegas testing the camera some of the guys I was with were talking about the speed of the camera and how slow it was with focus. One guy nicknamed it “The X-Slow 1″ and we all laughed. The fact is that the auto focus of this camera is on the slower side. When in low light it can be VERY frustrating. I had MANY misses, many hunting moments and a few hits. I missed MANY shots due to the slow focus in evening light around 6-7PM when using the 35 1.4. The 18mm f/2 is faster but you do not always want to shoot with a 24mm equivilant lens.
So bottom line? The X-Pro 1 AF speed is decent in good light, fast in full sun, and slow/hunting in lower light. To me, it felt just like shooting with an X100. It may be a tad faster but if so it is not by much. UPDATE: Turn OFF Power Save mode for faster AF. When I did this, it was not as slow. Also, I am not saying this camera has the slowest AF ever, just that it is slow when compared to current cameras that are out now.
I was disappointed in the fact that Fuji could not get the AF speed to be as fast as cameras like the Olympus E-P3 or even the super fast Nikon V1. Not sure why this is but if I were the head honcho at Fuji I would sit down and test this product and say “NOT GOOD ENOUGH”! Don’t get me wrong, in good sunlight the focusing is pretty good. It’s quick. It is not lightning fast but it is more than acceptable. BUT, when the lights start getting low, and I am talking evening light or indoor light the AF hunts and sometimes misses. To be fair, the NEX-7 has also missed quite a bit for me in low light as well.
Still, why is it that Fuji can nail everything else – The design, the hype, the packaging (which is GORGEOUS, see my video above) and the whole concept but when it comes to AF it is the one thing that makes the camera feel sluggish. With the little Olympus E-P3 I had no problem raising the camera and firing away with AF, and it never missed. The high ISO suffered in low light though, so I guess it is a trade off. All I know is I look forward to the day when Fuji releases and X-Pro 3 or 4 with super fast AF :)
Spotted this kid in his stroller chilling out and his brother laughing. I quickly knelt down a bit and tried to AF and it missed the 1st two attempts. I did get this shot on the 3rd try, which was the best anyway due to the reaction on the face of the brother. He made that face because he knew I was taking the shot as I was down there for so long :) This was shot with the 18 at f/2.
High ISO Performance and Black & White
WOWZERS! This is a high ISO street shooters dream. Yes, I said STREET SHOOTERS DREAM. How so Steve? If the AF is slow in low light, how am I supposed to capture those quick moments?
Easy! Slap this baby in to manual focus and set your distance using the distance scale (zone focus) and you will be good to go. THIS IS a great street camera IF you set to manual focus and use ZONE focusing! For example…let’s say you are walking down the street at night, and you are looking for moments to capture. You can set the camera to manual focus using the handy switch on the front, set your distance to anywhere between 6-10 feet and when you see something just lift and shoot, or shoot from the hip. I had no issues shooting at ISO 1600-6400, and if shooting black and white, ISO 6400 is NOT a problem. I also tried shooting the street with AF and it was a no go. I always missed the shots as the AF hunted way too much. So if you want to shoot this on the street effectively, use zone focusing.
Also, just an FYI, I could Manual Focus my Leica M faster than I can Auto Focus the X-Pro 1 in lower light street shooting.
Below are some higher ISO examples when shooting in Black and White. Noise is not a problem. At all.
The next three images are all ISO 6400, JPEG – you can click them for a larger version
High ISO Color – The real test of high ISO
When shooting high ISO color the X-Pro also does a great job, again, keeping in mind that the AF is slow and hunts WHEN shooting LOW LIGHT images. With that, I found the X-Pro 1 to beat just about any mirrorless right now when it comes to high ISO with the Sony NEX-5n and Pentax K-01 hot on its heels. Still, who shoots over ISO 1600 anyway? If I owned the X-Pro I guess I would do so in Black and White after seeing my results but how about with color? Not bad! Well, really…some of the best high ISO around these days of ANY Mirrorless camera. I could use 3200 in color no problem. Click any image for larger version.
ISO 3200 – one lamp in the room – shot in Vegas in the confessional room of the “Real World Suite” during the Vegas weekend. 35 1.4 – at 1.4
ISO 640 – 35 1.4 at 1.4
ISO 1000 – 35 1.4 at 1.4
ISO 2000 with the 18mm at f/2
ISO 1600 indoors – after three tries (to nail focus)
and below, ISO 1250
Quirks of the X-Pro 1 – Grrrrrr
Starting up slowwwwwwww if you use bridge and photoshop…
As with the X100, there are quirks with the X-Pro 1 and I hope that Fuji will release new Firmware as they did with the X100 to make the shooting experience better and better. One problem I had with the X100 that 90% of shooters DID NOT is the slow startup issue. My X100 and X-Pro 1 takes about 20-30 seconds to start up. If you buy one, yours probably will not so why does mine? Well, it seems this camera has the same bug that the X100 has/had.
When I shoot for my reviews I do NOT use Lightroom or Aperture. I only use those programs for my personal images so I can catalog and store them. My review images do NOT get saved as they are review images and are forever documented and placed on this website. I do not need to save the tens of thousands of RAW image files from my review samples so I go old school. I use Adobe Bridge and Photoshop with Adobe Camera Raw. THIS is a problem when shooting with an X100 or an X-Pro 1, at least when using my mac (all I use).
The problem is this: If I shoot 100 images on the X camera and then put this SD card into my iMac or Macbook Pro and grab images off of them by browsing the card with Adobe Bridge it somehow creates an issue. If I take this card and put it back in the camera, I have to wait 20-30 seconds for it to start up. The camera turns on but the display is frozen and nothing can be done until it fully boots up. When it does, I have to format immediately or else this will happen every time the camera wakes up or powers on. I have never ever experienced this with ANY other camera and this was one of the reasons I ended up getting frustrated with the X100. Sadly, the X-Pro 1 does the same thing.
Sure, I can just use Lightroom, which obviously doest have this effect on the SD card but the problem should not be there to begin with. 98% of you will never see this issue.
Random freeze ups..
Another quirk I found was that the camera froze up on me twice while shooting in Vegas. I had to remove the battery twice to get the camera to power up. Not sure what this was about but it happened twice, which was irritating. To remain fair and balanced, my $7000 Leica has done this on several occasions over the years so it is not just a Fuji problem.
I found that this camera tends to overexpose. If I shoot one image with the X-Pro and the 35 1.4 and one with the Sony NEX-7 I find the Sony UNDEREXPOSES a tad and the Fuji OVEREXPOSES. You may have seen many overly bright Fuji samples on the internet over the past few weeks. This is because many of us early X-Pro 1 users are shooting JPEGS because RAW support is not here yet. In standard JPEG mode, shooting with standard evaluative metering, the Fuji errs on the side of OVEREXPOSURE. I dialed in some negative exposure compensation to help combat this. The cool thing is that it is easy to fix with the direct EC dial on the top. Also, shooting RAW will help with this as well.
So yes, the X-Pro 1 has quirks. It is not a fast as lightning pick up and shoot effortlessly type of camera. It is a thinking mans camera that excels at one thing. Image Quality.
As with all of the images in this review, this is an OOC JPEG. Velvia mode rocks and is one reason I love these Fuji’s so much in regards to IQ. Shot out of my windshield on my way back to Phoenix from Las Vegas with the 35 1.4 at f/5.6. Click image for larger view.
Abstract Color with the 35 1.4
The X-Pro 1 Launch Lenses – Which one(s) to get?
The Fuji X-Pro 1 shipped with THREE FAST PRIMES. YES, FAST PRIMES! No Zooms. Fuji listened to the enthusiasts with this one. Unlike Sony who seems to concentrate on slow Zooms for the most part Fuji came right out of the gate with three lenses that all LOOKED great on paper. But how are they in real use? Which one is THE lens to get?
Fuji shipped me the camera and ALL three lenses to evaluate but a few days after they did so I received an e-mail saying I had to send the 60mm Macro back to them as it was a pre-production copy. Now, I admit I did try out the 60 and found it to have amazing image quality. Razor sharp and great color. BUT, it did miss focus MANY times. I knew I would focus on one center point and it just wouldn’t or couldn’t do it. So maybe this is why Fuji have taken this lens back. It also seems it will not be shipping for 3-4 weeks while the other two ARE shipping so I think Fuji found an issue with the 60. But IQ wise, when I did get it to lock focus, it was superb.
I posted a couple of shots near the top of this review with the 60 but here is one more. I believe I used manual focus for this one and focused on the teeny leaf. Click image for larger view. This was wide open at 2.4 and as with all images here, a JPEG. Keep in mind that Fuji told me this was a pre-production copy so do not judge this lens by what I said here (AF speed and accuracy I am sure will be much better in the final version)
The 18mm is so small and so light that it almost feels hollow. At $599 it is priced a little on the steep side I feel, but it IS a wide angle 27mm equivalent and f/2, so that is a GOOD thing. THIS is the fastest focusing AF lens of the bunch and if you are just planning on shooting this lens then the AF worries are not a big deal. I found it focused fast, locked on and gave good results. This lens is not the last word in “wow factor” but if I were to buy an X-Pro 1 system I would probably pick this lens up so I could have a wide angle that didn’t cost me nearly $4k (Leica).
I did not do any scientific tests but I found no issues with this lens. Click on the images below to see them larger and in much better quality.
Ahhh! This, yes THIS is THE lens to get with the X-Pro system. A 35mm 1.4 lens at $599 that performs GREAT. At 1.4 the rendering is very very nice. Creamy, great look and color and a fast aperture that will get you the most from the camera in low light. The ONLY issue with this lens is the AF speed can be hit or miss depending on the light available. If you are in lower light then it is slow going. Do not expect to lift and fire away all fast and quick. If you are in full sun, then yes, but low light, no. With that said, the X-Pro 1 and ALL lenses are much quicker to AF than the old Leica X1, which is VERY VERY slow with AF. There are still people who ADORE the X1 so to some, AF speed is not that big of a deal.
Even with the slower speed, if you do buy the X-Pro 1 then this is a must own lens as you will get the best IQ from it.
I did notice this lens, much like the $5000 Leica 35 Summilux ASPH will show some CA in some situations.
Below: Example of CA
Shooting Leica Lenses on the X-Pro 1
NOTE: I will be doing the Leica lens test on the X-Pro 1 in a future update!
Yes, you can shoot Leica M glass on the X-Pro 1. All you need is an adapter and you can attach your beloved Summilux or Summicron lenses (or ANY M glass like Zeiss, Voigtlander, etc) and use Manual Focus to shoot. The big bummer here though is that Fuji did not include any kind of focus peaking like we get on the Sony NEX series and Ricoh GXR series. You can magnify the screen but that is a pain in my ass because you only see a super magnified portion of your subject and it is impossible to frame and focus at the same time. I feel Fuji should have put in focus peaking and have a feeling that shooting manual glass on this camera will be more of a pain than pleasure. On the Sony NEX-7 I LOVE shooting with the Leica glass as the EVF and Focus Peaking rocks.
I have not yet tried the Fuji with Leica glass as I still do not have an adapter (I DO NOT use Ebay or Paypal, so makes it tough). If anyone can sell me one, I would love to buy one from you or even borrow. I plan on doing a full article later and add to this review when I have had time to shoot Leica on this camera. So look for that in a future update. One thing to also note is that the X-Pro 1 does NOT have any kind of image stabilization and the upcoming Olympus OM-D will have a groundbreaking 5 Axis IS that is said to be pretty damn good.
Cool things about the X-Pro 1 – Just like its baby brother
The X-Pro 1 has the same cool features as the X100. Things like the film stock settings (Astia, Provia, Velvia, etc) panorama shooting and HD video. I will not go into details on those two things here as I already wrote about these things in the X100 review (see it here) but I do enjoy the film presets greatly. I find the Velvia setting to be superb and is the one I like to use the most. Others like the Pro Neg or the Astia settings. All are good. Below you can see the differences in the film stock settings.
X-Pro 1 Film Simulation Samples
Pro Neg Hi
Compared to the Sony NEX-7
Another hot camera that is available now is the Sony NEX-7. The NEX was another one of those HOT and exciting cameras that arrived MONTHS late so now it is competing with these new cameras arriving on the scene. No dount about it, the NEX-7 is a great camera. It is small, it is quick, it takes GREAT video (though seems to overheat), and the Zeiss 24 1.8 lens Sony released with it is fantastic. The problems with the NEX series is that there is a lack of GREAT lenses, sort of. The Zeiss 24 1.8 is great, the Sony 50 1.8 is very very good. But other than that, the rest of the lineup is good but not great and not able to get the most from the camera sensor.
In regards to speed, usability and fun factor…for me, the NEX-7 takes the nod. The Focus Peaking with Leica glass works REALLY well and images I take with the Leica 35 Summilux rock. There is depth and detail there that is, at times, jaw dropping. So the NEX needs good glass to get the most from it and it is an absolute JOY to shoot manual focus RF lenses with it. The NEX-7 comes in at $1198 for the Body Only, about $500 less than the Fuji X-Pro 1.So what do we gain in the X-Pro 1 over the Sony? Better high ISO, more flashy color and brighter out of camera images. We also get a full size camera body and smallish lenses. The NEX gives us a small body with large lenses.
If you want to shoot Leica glass, the Sony wins just due to the peaking feature which makes MF a breeze. If you want old school charm and better out of camera JPEG image quality, the Fuji wins. But is it worth $500 more? Not really. I feel the Fuji is a bit overpriced and should have come in at around $1399. That is just my opinion though and to many the $1700 asking price is well worth it. I can manual focus a Leica lens on the NEX quicker than the Fuji can Auto Focus with it’s 35mm.
One thing to know though is that the Fuji shoots like a camera. The Sony shoots more like a computer due to it’s complex nature and menus but also has the Tri Navi controls going for it and once you set it up to your liking it is a breeze to pick up and shoot, especially with old manual glass. To some, the design and feel makes the Fuji a better choice. When it comes to speed though, the NEX wins.
Below is a full size out of camera shot from the Fuji and Sony. The Fuji had the 35 1.4 mounted and the Sony had the Leica 35 Summilux APSH II mounted. Both lenses were set at f/4. Keep in mind the Fuji setup is $2200, the Sony with Leica over $6000! The fuji IQ holds up well to the Leica/Sony combo using just the Fuji 35 1.4 lens.
Fuji X-Pro 1 with the 35 1.4 at f/4 ($2200 Combo) – click image for full out of camera file – focus was on the “644” on the camera.
The Sony NEX-7 with the Leica 35 Summilux ASPH II at f/4 ($6200 combo) – click image for full 24 Megapixel file – focus was on the “644” on the camera.
and one more comparison.. 1st the Fuji at 1.4 with the 35 (click it for larger)
and the Sony with the Leica 35mm at 1.4 – both are JPEGS out of the camera to be fair to the Fuji (NO Raw converter at the time of this writing)
Compared to the X100
The X100 is smaller, and more compact and just as beautiful and with the latest firmware, the AF is even faster than the X-Pro 1. If you do not mind being stuck with ONLY a 35mm f/2 lens (I feel this is a good thing) then the X100 is a DAMN good camera. At $1199 for a full camera and lens vs $1699 for a body only, you will have to decide if you want the interchangeable lens capability. EIther one you choose will give you the same image quality with the X-Pro 1 delivering even better high ISO. With the new firmware out for the 100, I am tempted to buy one again instead of this X-Pro 1. In black, even though it will cost an extra $200 over the same compatible silver setup. Black is just so damn sexy with these types of camera designs!
Pro’s and Con’s of the Fuji X-pro 1
It is light and the design is retro cool
All black, stealth
There is a 35 1.4 available and it is VERY good.
Keeps the same look and feel of the X100 with gorgeous Fuji colors
Sharp detailed images that can pop when shot wide open with the 35
HIGH ISO is amazing, especially with B&W shooting
Zone focusing is easy to set up and use for street so makes for a great street shooter in manual focus mode.
The packaging is awesome :)
Fuji has a rep for putting out firmware updates so improvements can be made to the speed
Some of the best JPEG’s ever to come out of a camera
Has the good Fuji Dynamic Range just like the X100
Has the same OVF/EVF of the X100 – and this is good.
Again, image quality is gorgeous!
Slow AF and overall slow performance, MAINLY in low light – had many misses at dusk on the street with AF
Slow start up bug still here (in certain circumstances)
The 18mm lens is so light, it almost feels made of plastic
Manual Focus is still slow and is the same as the X100 MF
Price. $3500 for the complete system. $1700 for the body only.
The lenses do the “rattlesnake shake” when out in daylight (noisy clicks while not using it)
X100 now has faster AF than the X-Pro 1
My final words on the X-Pro 1 – Who is it for and will I buy one?
So far, to this point I have written 5,744 words in this review. Pretty short for a major review but I tried to not drag it out and repeat things that I already talked about in the Fuji X100 review. Many of the features of the X100 are in the X-Pro 1 and the image quality and overall usability is about the same. If you liked the X100 you will really like the X-Pro 1. It does allow you more creativity than the X100 due to the ability to change lenses and even shoot with M glass but at the same time do not expect huge speed increases with this “pro” model. In fact, just think about it as you are shooting an X100 with different lenses and better high ISO.
The X-Pro 1 for me is a mixed bag. I LOVE AND ADORE it for what it is and the images it can pump out, but the speed and usability kind of knocks it down just a bit for me. I WANT TO LOVE this camera and I just really LIKE IT, though I like it quite a bit because like I said, the Fuji files have a way of putting out incredible results and remember, EVERY image here was shot in JPEG mode as RAW support is not available at the time of this writing. The image quality will only get better.
So who would want an X-Pro 1?
Someone who wants to shoot JPEGS. The Out of camera JPEGS are very beautiful.
Someone who wants to shoot Black and White – B&W even at ISO 6400 is GREAT. Rich B&W files here.
Someone who doesn’t want to shoot FAST and doesn’t mind slow and steady photography.
Someone who wants to shoot landscape.
Someone who doesn’t want to spend several thousand more on a Leica M9 but wants a “Rangefinder Styled” camera.
Someone who owns an X100 and wants to have the ability to change lenses and have even improved high ISO.
Someone who enjoys shooting people/portraits or landscape
Someone who wants to shoot street using Zone Focusing
So who would NOT want an X-Pro 1?
If you own a Leica M9 and have been spoiled by the usability and file quality then you may not enjoy the slowness of the X-Pro 1
If you are used to speedy DSLR’s and expect lightning speed
If you don’t’ want to spend over $2k for a camera and lens
Those who shoot sports, action or wildlife
Video enthusiasts – other cameras in this class have better video capabilities
Basically the Fuji X-Pro 1 is a camera capable of putting out SUPERB IMAGE QUALITY. To many, this is all they need to hear. When you nail it you will be rewarded with beautiful color, depth and sharpness. The 35 1.4 lens is THE lens to get so if you do order the body, make sure you order this lens with it. JUST BE AWARE that in LOW LIGHT, as in indoors or outside even that the focus will hunt some and occasionally NOT lock on. I feel Fuji will be able to improve this with a Firmware update just as they did with the X100, which users are reporting is now MUCH faster and MUCH more accurate. In fact, I am confident Fuji will do this. You can also turn on the AF assist which helps lock focus quicker. Also, keeping the power save mode to OFF is said to increase AF speed, which I confirmed does indeed do so.
I have TWO X-Pro 1’s here that I pre-ordered and both have arrived. I have not yet decided if I should keep one or return them both before I even open them. The one I have been shooting with came from Fuji direct as a review sample. So I actually have THREE here! If it was not for the new OM-D coming in the next couple of weeks and the new Leica announcement on May 10th I would probably keep one for sure but as of today I am not 100% sure. I do love the EVF/OVF which is the same one used in the X100. These days, for me, an VF of some sort is a MUST.
I love the IQ I get from it, more so than most cameras I have shot with lately, well, really…any camera that has come out in the past year or so. It is HIGHLY capable in every area of IQ. Good light, low light, B&W and High ISO. It has an APS-C sized sensor so the IQ WILL be better than the OM-D but I have a feeling that the Olympus will kind of have it all. Speed, IQ, IS, Weather Sealing, Great video. I can not keep ALL cameras and I own the NEX-7 as well but the Fuji’s always tug at my heart a bit as they have a little bit of soul and magic. I just wish Fuji would get the quirkiness taken care of!
If you want great IQ, RF style and fast primes and have $2000-$3000 to spend, the X-Pro 1 may be the camera for you. With the 35 1.4 it is 1/4 the cost of a Leica M9 body with better high ISO capabilities. You be the judge. If you own an X-Pro 1 or have shot with one feel free to comment and let me know YOUR thoughts. One thing is for certain, this camera has image quality that will make you smile every time you view your images :)
UPDATE: I did shoot with the camera using “Power Save ON” and “Power ave OFF” and I did see an AF speed increase with this set to OFF. After shooting in my house at 6400 ISO with the Power Save off, I actually am more happy with the speed. Still doesn’t explain my freeze ups and other quirks but the more you use this camera the more you like it. Again, those damn beautiful Fuji files are sort of addicting :)
You can also RENT the X-Pro 1 at LensRentals.com HERE! They are the best rental shop, period!
I will leave you with even more images from the X-Pro 1…Enjoy!
Fuji X-Pro 1 Accessories
The strap I used on the Fuji, which is VERY comfy is the Street Strap. Very light, soft and recommended. You can see it on Amazon HERE
Also, I highly recommend the Grip if you are going to decide to buy an X-Pro 1. It dramatically helps the feel of the camera and makes it much more comfortable to shoot.
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New Fuji Interchangeable Lens rangefinder style camera leaks…
Fuji will be displaying and announcing its new X camera at this years CES next week. This one appears to be an APS-C (but no one is certain yet) and is sort of like a “pro” X100 with a new line of interchangeable lenses. If this has a solid body, quick operation and fast lenses then I feel Fuji is once again taking aim at Leica like they did with the X100 vs the X1. I am betting this will have the hybrid EVF (maybe even an improved version) as well as some fast primes at launch. All I know is that next week it will be revealed so this is pretty exciting news! As soon as I find out the details they will be posted here!