Daily Inspiration #324 by Jon Cook – Three from the X-Pro 1

Hi Steve,

I’m an aspiring social documentary photographer and wanted to share 3 images with you from a personal project that I’ve been working on for a year and a half now. I met Krystal Whitaker when she was 17-years old and had already been homeless several times in her young life. What drew me to her was the quiet presence and strength that she has, despite having experienced hardships that I never will and would not wish on anyone.

Starting in 2010 I documented her pregnancy, the birth of her daughter, and her eventual departure from Missouri. She’s now returned to the town where I live and I’ve resumed my coverage of her life as a young mother.

Three images can never sum up her life or fully show the strength that she possesses.I have an extended portrayal of my time with her on my website, although it too is inadequate in capturing the complexity of her life. Currently I’m working with audio and video to try and give a better sense of who she is as a person.

I’m only at the beginning of what I hope will be a life-long project. My goal is to photograph her at least once every year no matter where either of us live. I believe every human being has a story worth telling. I’m humbled that Krystal has let me into her life as a photographer and I will continue to make images as long as she allows me to.

The three images I have submitted might also be of interest to you and your readers because they were all taken with the new Fuji X-Pro 1 and 2 of the 3 new lenses (the 18mm and 35mm). I purchased the camera and lenses from Japan in case anyone is wondering how I got ahold of them.

Lastly, I don’t want to turn this into a review but I know people are anxious to hear about the gear. I’m not a reviewer, a pixel peeper, or even much of a gear head but I really love this camera in the short time I’ve had it. Previously I shot with the Leica M9 and M-glass for nearly two years (virtually every photo on my website was taken with the Leica) and I have to say I prefer the file quality of the little Fuji hands down. Yes, the build quality is nowhere near the Leica but what I really care most about is the file that comes out of the camera. Things are outstanding all the way up to ISO 6400 and all three lenses are a joy to use. Things are sharp, sharp, sharp! Autofocus is a mixed bag but I’m learning how it functions and am coping. For the images I make it works. Manual focus isn’t useable in my opinion and I don’t plan on messing with it (yes, I’m sad about that having come from the joy of using M lenses). I’m sure Leica will answer with something amazing but for now my Fuji set-up fits my budget and allows me to make the images that I want with my 3 favorite focal lengths (28, 50, and 90). Is it perfect? Nope. But unless I win the lottery I doubt I’m going to be tempted by another set of gear anytime soon.


Image #1: Krystal Whitaker smoking a Newport cigarette outside of a friends apartment.

Settings: Fuji X-Pro 1. 35mm lens, f/5.6, 1/500th, ISO 800.


Image #2: Nearly 1-year old, Kyah Whitaker looks for her mother.

Settings: Fuji X-Pro 1. 18mm lens, f/2.0, 1/60th, ISO 200.

Image #3: Krystal and Kyah leaving to eat dinner with friends.

Settings: Fuji X-Pro 1. 18mm lens, f/2.0, 1/60th, ISO 400.



Thanks for taking a look!

Jon Cook



  1. if you love your photos, that is all that matters. Critics mean nothing, ignore them all. #vangogh

  2. Jon, congratulations on some fine pictures.
    The first shot- smoking the cigarette is simply fantastic and incredibly detailed. Krystal’s eye through the cigarette smoke is very compelling.
    You did a great job on these shots and they are truly inspirational.
    Would love to see more of your work Jon.

    The Fuji can really produce quality output and i bet the images will print up really strongly.

    all the best for your post

  3. Jon, thanks for the write up and sharing your photos with us. They look great. Congrats about the new camera.

    As for the Leica fanboys getting all worked up because someone dares to like the Fuji better than a Leica … LOL! Even after getting my M9, I still felt that there is no ONE camera that does it all. The M9 is great for certain functions and I love using it and producing nice photos with it. But I also love to use the X100, X10, and a number of m4/3 cameras. Recently sold the K5, but the K5 was/is far superior at low light than the M9. The K5 eats ISO6400. The M9, I try to avoid 2500 at all costs. Sure it is usable if I am just going to post a 1024 pixel photo in Flickr. But try making a poster size print with ISO2500. Yikes! Just picked up a NEX7 and it takes great photos with M lenses, and can actually outrsolve the M9! So take a chill pill, and enjoy Jon’s photos.

  4. Jon,
    I have been a fan of your work ever since I voted for your photo in a certain contest on this site. Your work is very inspiring and I will watch for an update on Krystal soon.

  5. It’s sad to see that many users here are stubborn leica fanboys…

    I owned a m8 for 2 years and shot amazing pictures with it, just a really nice camera experience.
    At the beginning of the year I sold it to get an m9 but at the last moment I didn’t feel like spending so much on a cam so I got the fuji x100.

    I find the x100 to be an EXCEPTIONAL camera, sure it has some quirks but it’s the best camera I have used to this day (I went through the whole canon lineup before getting the m8).

    I can’t wait to get hold of the x pro1, fuji is still new to the game but they are far from failing…

  6. Leaving aside the annoying bickering, I do like these images, and had another good look because of the “too flat” comments.

    I can’t really say, judging from what they look like on a screen, whether the “flat” look is due to the aperture used (lots of DoF) or to the glass used. If (Jon, could you answer that?) the use of a relatively small aperture is a conscious choice which, incidentally, complements the “documentary” aspect well, then that goes some way towards explaining that look.

    Digital B&W still doesn’t really sit well with me; I’ve done a lot of analogue B&W lately and it’s certainly has a different look than converted digital.

    Two B&W links and a 24 mm with a non-flat look to it here




    I have sneaked in

    • The first image does not look flat if shown in the larger version. It has a very nice almost 3D effect with the cigarette almost sticking out of the monitor (Eizo CG245W)

      If anyone claims that this picture looks flat then they either have a bad monitor or bad eyes.

  7. Hi Jon, I have hust been over to your site. hat a great body of work. I admire your intimacy and dedication to your projects, thanks for letting us, the viewer, a peek into worlds we would otherwise not hav known…

    On a different note, I am considering the X-Pro 1, I am a photographer that were educated and trained at the end of the analogue era.. with Leica M4 Blad & Sinar, Tri-X & Rodinol…. I have an idea of using the Fujinon lenses, but supplementing them with Voigtlander M-fit lenses… the 12mm f5.6, 50 f1.1 Nokton and maybe the 75 f1.8 Nokton… the last two especially could be very useful, we just need to see how focus works with the adapter…

    All the best from not so sunny Denmark…

  8. Producing great files, if and when it can focus. A “pro” level camera requiring work around solutions to get the shots ain’t neither pro nor fun. It’s 2012, with blazinlgy fast mft AF offerings in the market place.
    Reminds me of the US muscle cars of the sixties. Got their butts kicked by Mini Coopers or Fiat Abarth (check the Charly Sheen ad:) on race tracks.

    • Did you have problems focussing Retow? Did you miss any shots due to the AF?
      Oh that’s right, you’ve never used it.
      I guess some people need ‘blazingly’ fast AF to make good photographs and some don’t…

      • My camera has no AF, it’s MF only. However, a pro level tool ought to have either state of the art AF or excellent MF implementation. The Fuji seems to have neither. I was expressing an opinion about a tool, if you feel personally attacked, it’s your problem. No reason to use dpreview style here.

    • retow

      Just a side note… muscle cars were meant for street drag and not for the race track as they are focused on sheer power than manueverability which you need on a track.

  9. Hey Everybody,

    Just got back from a long day shooting. Today was Kyah’s (Krystal’s daughter) birthday so I’ve been busy! Thank you all so much for your comments and thoughts on the project–it’s very encouraging to hear how others are responding to Krystal’s story.

    I wish you all the best in your image making pursuits!


    • Jon, these are wonderful photos, very moving and inspiring. Don’t let any of the negative comments put you off. Nowadays people spend more time reading & arguing about cameras than actually using them. They’re just more concerned with the tool than than they are creating something with it.
      What your doing is a meaningful thing, keep it up.

  10. lovely photos, but, i think the M glass has that extra depth, contrast and ‘feel’. These are very clinical and lack the leica something. Thats just my impression of the ‘look’ compared to the M, thats takes nothing away from Jon’s style and obvious talent.

  11. ok, this is in the first place a photography blog, but i don’t believe what i read in the comments…. this is an amazing story with breathtaking pictures and all i read is comments about sensors,focus, leica, fuji, nikon, lenses, …
    spoiled people we are, indeed….

    What I actually wanted to say: Jon, fantastic work !!!!

  12. I like the first picture very much, maybe it’d have been even better with the framing a bit more on the left…. 😉

    X-pro1 image quality seems to be outstanding especially at high iso, but pictures (Fuji-X lenses I think) don’t show something like “soul” to me (compared to Leica), maybe it’s too clean… 🙂 (I love B&W film look, so..)…

    Keep up your good job Jon ! (whatever Leica or Fuji…)

  13. Steve Huff,

    Are you selling your Leica gear? Or have you sold it?

    You said this is what will fit within your budget so I’m not sure if you’re having to trade your Leica gear for something less expensive or if you needed to add another camera alongside your Leica.

    If you’re adding the Fuji to your Leica, what does the Fuji offer you over the Leica?

  14. Jon;

    Thanks for sharing your work. That’s a trio of the finest photos; the first pic in particular is gripping but your work on all three is strong. Yours sounds like an unusually ambitious project and something worth the attempt.

    I salute you, and hope that being the creative type you can ignore the boring, angry, and laughably defensive comments.

  15. The X100 AF is more than good enough for people photography, particularly with the firmware updates. The XP1, according to those who’ve used both, is a bit better than the X100 – it will probably be bested by the E-M5 but that doesn’t make the Fuji unusable.

    Rangefinder-focusing is, itself, not the most efficient method of focus (nor, for that matter, was manually-focusing a SLR. As with artillery in the olden days – correct, over-correct, just right) – but it’s a compromise we make for bodies smaller than a D800.

    Regardless, as these images show, the XP1 is capable of excellent people photography in the right hands. Shockingly, it appears that the photographer is still more important than the size of the sensor or method of focusing.

    (“Fuji clearly doesn’t know how to design a quality camera” is worthy of a Picard facepalm. It’s almost like someone never used a Texas Leica or a ST701 or S5 or X100…)

  16. Thank you Steve for providing this “daily inspiration”, which is a true inspiration indeed. I´m thrilled by Jon´s project – a great, purposeful project well executed with a tool that obviously is up to the task.

    Unfortunately as a Leica M user I´m shocked how some of my fellows try to turn this discussion into an uninspired Leica vs Fuji thread. In my opinion this is completely missing the point. Jon decided to prefer the Fuji over the M9. Some of us don´t understand, but we don´t have to. In the end the decision for a given tool is always subjective. So, let´s pick up whatever camera we might have and try to come up with equally inspiring photos.

  17. Hi Jon, I like your work and for me you captured some of the complexity of this young woman’s life.

  18. A guy posts some amazingly good images, made with an X-Pro 1 and, unnecessarily probably, professes to be a “social documentary photographer” (whatever that may be), ánd dares to be critical about the M9.

    What happens? He gets flamed by the fanboys. What a great crowd this blog attracts.

    Still, great images.

    • Totally agree, as long as you start your daily inspiration with something like this:

      “I had a terrible canon 5dmkII with awful 85m 1.2 lens (or nikon counterpart) and my life was living hell, no inspiration, bad back, constantly sore muscles but now I have M9 and I’m inspired, birds are singing and the weather is nice”

      you can post whatever you want (mainly photos of fences, dogs and cats and obligatory b&w badly composed oof shot of the street scene) you’ll get the praise

      • LOL you guys are funny. I think you all keep coming back to this site hoping that one day you will own a Leica. Mika and Michiel. Maybe you are the same person? It’s funny how much you two complain but keep coming back again and again.

        • aha, so there is only one person in the world who doesn’t follow the Leica cult, anyways, I used to come to have a look at the user reports but not any more I just come to have a look at the daily inspirations as some of them, like today’s for example are truly excellent.

          I just find annoying the fact that people don’t acknowledge the fact that this person made nice shots (and many more excellent work on his site) but can’t get over the fact that he says that he cares about the photo quality and not build quality…

        • Jonny. Please.

          I was just wondering why this guy got flamed for uttering some minor criticism on the M9, while, at the same time, posting images that are well above the usual snapshots that you see here. Maybe you can explain?

          And yes, Mika is my twin brother. Very clever.

        • What did you say your website is, Jonny? I’d love to see if your arrogance is backed by skill or just monetary affluence.

          • Yes jonny, I too would like to see your photography, big as you talk. In fact I’d be willing to wager you don’t even own a Leica.
            I must say..You sure do remind me of someone from a certain photography forum…

          • Yes jonny, I too would like to see your photography, big as you talk. In fact I’d be willing to wager you don’t even own a Leica.
            I must say…You sure do remind me of someone from a certain photography forum…

          • Brian i just said it was monetary I don’t have any pics to show. I would rather caress my Leica and keep it under my pillow.

        • the M9 as a camera isn’t all that. In terms of speed and ergonomics it gets whipped by the fuji and the contax G. The Leica has the look from its lenses which in my opinion look better than those shot from the Fuji. I’m talking ‘look’ and feel rather than out and out resolution or lack of noise. But, in saying all that, I’d love to own a Leica. 🙂

  19. Excellent images, im pleased your pleased with the Fuji, I think it’ll suit your style perfectly.

  20. Excellent photos. Wow!!!

    I can’t wait to get my X-Pro + 3 lenses. I may even cancel the D800 based on what I’ve seen here and on Zack Arias blog.

    • I’m sure the D800 will blow the top off that XPro. Oh, and the lenses, AF, and pretty much everything else except for the fake vintage look are better. If you like an inferior camera with a fake vintage look then the XPro is great!

  21. I wonder why Fuji cannot make a camera that can focus reliably. What is the puzzle? Their cameras have lovely output, but no way am I going to f around trying to focus 100 different ways. It’s why I returned the x100. I don’t even know why people buy that camera with it’s clearly hack job focus.

    • Well, it’s not that bad. Many and many are still buying the X100, just because of the great IQ. It’s not about focusing only. Can you name me one camera, with that picture quality, for that money?

    • I agree. Sold my x100 for the same reason. IQ is great, but coming from Nikon I simply could not live with the AF. Even the oldest Nikons have AF that is light years ahead of the x100.

  22. Your pictures show what you want to communicate. That is what is important; not the M9 versus XPRO, etc. etc. More power to you. I am a Leica man and I admire your vision. Go for whatever works for you.

  23. Jonathan, Nice photos. Just curious if you are shooting black and white JPGs or RAW, then converting…?

  24. Excellent. Of course, some of your other work on your website is even better. Thanks for sharing your comments on Fuji X Pro1. It is really useful to hear from someone independent of Fuji hired people. Your comments are what all of us were expecting anyway, great quality, sharpness, lighter non intrusive camera with lousy focusing. I have already ordered one, and now that I have confirmation about focusing issues, at least I will not be disappointed. THANK YOU Jon.

  25. Stunning photographs Jonathan, especially the ones of the portfolio as shown on your site. Your eye for capturing special moments and your background in psychology and journalism really shine through!

  26. Interesting stuff. Jonathan, pictures on your site are awesome. And shot with a M9. Shot with a 35 mm Summicron?
    Really looking forward to see more bw stuff with the Fuji. Like so may others I like to see if the Fuji with its smaller sensor will be able to produce images as good as from a FF sensor. Is Fuji’s claim true or false.

  27. Great shots. The Fuji is supposed to have such great color — wishing you posted some color photos too.

  28. Hi Jon , i like the story and the photos,specially the first one with the portrait, very expressive , i wish you best of luck to complete your story of Krystal, regarding fuji-xpro1 , the more i saw from this camera the more i believe that it have the best IQ from any aps-c sensor , i think fuji make a breakthrough with this sensor, thanks again for your post .

  29. gorgeous moments.. the story of life behind it…

    i really feeling it

    dont really care bout the camera ..
    the moments u take.. breathtaking…

    i am glad and thankful for you sharing your project and vision


  30. Great report from an end-user, who doesn’t care too much about technique and resolution, but takes the camera as it is: A toolset to do the job – which is very well done!

  31. The last picture really shows a sense of danger. Look at the dents in the door. Somebody beat her door in anger.

      • Still a great picture even with the technical limitations you mention. Proves that pictures can be great even if they are not technical good for pixel peepers.

  32. “Autofocus is a mixed bag, manual focus virtually unusable”, but yet you prefer this camera over the M9? I’m confused, and still have no idea why someone with an M9 is attracted by this camera really.

    • In fact he says exactly why he prefers it: “I have to say I prefer the file quality of the little Fuji hands down. Yes, the build quality is nowhere near the Leica but what I really care most about is the file that comes out of the camera. Things are outstanding all the way up to ISO 6400 and all three lenses are a joy to use. Things are sharp, sharp, sharp!”

      • How are the lenses a joy to use if manual focus is impossible and autofocus is a mixed bag? Too many contradictions. Not to speak of his existing glass then that only can be used manually? Or the cropped sensor? I still don’t get it. You own an M9 with Leica glass and praise the file qualities of the Fuji while admitting none of your lenses can really be used properly on it. It all makes no sense.

        • What is so bad about a cropped sensor? For me it seems to be the future after releases like the K5 or the Exmor Series it is quite clear how capable (and cheaper) these sensors are. Just because Leica could not manage does not mean it to be a worse format.

          A lens can be a joy to use, even if some things bother. And hell – the AF and MF might be stubborn, that does not mean they are 90% of the time while using this camera. Hug your Leica and accept that other people can be lucky, too.

          • the AF and MF might be stubborn…” (read: impossible), and joy to use just leaves me puzzled when posted by an M9 user. If this came from someone upgrading from a point-and-shoot, I’d understand. But the full control you’ve got over your lenses on the M9 is way superior than virtually unuseable on a Fuji imho.

          • Clearly, for him the strengths of the X-Pro1 outweigh its weaknesses. And he’s obviously quite able to get great shots from it. I say go with whatever works for you.

        • Here’s what makes sense. A X Pro 1 w/ the 35 1.4 is $10,000 cheaper than a M9 with a 50 Summilux, and takes better pictures. Leica durability means something when film is used, but is a waste of money in digital if the sensor is obsolete in a year or two. Say all you want about Leica glass, manual focusing, rangefinder-goodness, etc…. the Fuji flat out creates better images. It’s not an attack on people who spent the money on a Leica kit, just the truth.

          • I very doubt about it. From what I have seen, the fujinion 35/1.4 looks not quite good, shots taken with it looks too boring, this lens doesn’t look special from samples I have saw. Certainly, it’s much worse than lux 50 @ full frame sensor. XPro may have an advantage in lowlight, but IQ≠IQ in lowlight. IQ in good light of Leica should be higher, due to superior optics (even when compared at APS-C, because my Summilux 35 asph II performs much better than this fujinion, at full frame the difference only grows).

            BTW, fuji color filter reduces color resolution, and I noticed I don’t like colors from sample shots.

          • Folks don’t enjoy Leica because of the excellent files, which it does in fact have. I bought in to the Fuji hype and purchased an X100 and have since sold it. I wouldn’t pay 1/2 of what this Fuji xPro costs. Fuji clearly doesn’t know how to design a quality camera. They are trying to ride the retro-look experience but can’t seem to employ a decent AF.

            If you want the best image quality, get the new Nikon D800e. If you want a rangefinder, get a Leica. No, I simply feel sorry for the suckers who buy Fuji. Sorry if that’s you.

          • Oh, Tom, Tom, what have you done? You will have to take monopoly action. Go directly to Hell, do not pass the Leica store, do not collect the free Leica lens. Hand in all your playing pieces they are forfeit. Never put your name on the playing list again.

          • @ Dennis

            Here this might help you… in terms of the sensor capability of the new Fuji. Funny thing is that alot of people are deadset that Fuji won’t release a fullframe in the future. You might even already see one next year…

            Bottom line is, there’s no sense in harshing other people’s mellow. If you think that Leica is the Holy Grail then good for you but don’t grind other people for preferring another.


        • When I hear complaints about “cropped sensors” I am reminded of people in the 1930’s who were accustomed to 4″x5″ and larger view cameras, and said that it was not possible to do serious photography with a “miniature” 35mm camera.

          In any case, it isn’t a “cropped” sensor. It’s a sensor of a standard size, intended to be used with lenses that are designed for it.

          There’s nothing magical about the size of two frames of 1925 movie film.

          • True, larger sensor equals better IQ…assuming the two sensor are of identical technology, which is not the case with the Leica and Fuji. The M9’s sensor is essentially the same base silicon that’s been around for 7-8 years, so there is no reason to think that new CMOS aps-c sensors from various companies couldn’t compete with the M9’s sensor.

          • You are quite right. That also means the 1960s Olympus pen F was the correct format for 35mm film and the others were 35mm X 2 That makes FF a strange odd size. Not the other formats.

        • I am a M9 user and I understand the author’s point.

          For me, M is wonderful, if used on ISO 160. I know, a lot of people can leave with Summilux with ISO under 400. But it’s just not me.

          Compared to latest tools like X-Pro1, anything above ISO 400 on M9 is miserable.

          • I’ve shot the M9 at ISO 2500 professionally and some of those ISO 2500 shots can be seen inside the booklet for Seals latest album, Soul 2. The M9 high ISO is fine if you expose it the right way. The X-Pro 1 is better, by quite a bit, but saying the M9 is only usable or good up to 400 is totally not true.

      • If the lenses are a joy to use, then obviously the autofocus is good enough. He writes “For the images I make it [autofocus] works.” You generally don’t need manual focus if the autofocus is good enough. I’m very glad to hear that the lenses are sharp and that the files are good up to ISO 6400. That is great news and makes this camera very appealing.

        • If the lenses are a joy to use, then obviously the autofocus is good enough. That’s funny strawman way to turn things around.

          • Sorry, I’m not understanding you. He says the lenses are a joy to use. That sounds very good. If the autofocus didn’t function well, then the lenses wouldn’t be a joy to use.

    • “what I really care most about is the file that comes out of the camera. Things are outstanding all the way up to ISO 6400 and all three lenses are a joy to use”

      He already said why. I have yet to try the camera but have been blown away by the sensor and by the x100 which I own. I have shot with an M9/M8 and as beautiful as the cameras and all the things about it, I am not in love with the sensor by a long shot. Especially above ISO800. The Fuji’s sensors do not disappoint.

    • Flaky autofocus and truly dire manual focusing (I’m talking ‘the worst of ANY camera I’ve owned’) is exactly why I sold my X100, dipped into my savings and got a second hand M9.

      Looks like Fuji are still (pardon the pun) focusing on making their cameras ‘look’ like a classic rangefinder, rather than addressing the major flaws that have existed since day one of the X100.

      • it’s a heresy here to say that anything is better than Leica M9, this is a brilliant quote:

        “Yes, the build quality is nowhere near the Leica but what I really care most about is the file that comes out of the camera.”

    • I recently purchased an x-pro 1 after returning my long awaited omd preorder. The omd picture quality verse the x-pro is not even comparable. The omd is fast to shoot but not always in focus and usually very soft with poor color variation. The omd is built like a tank and I love it’s looks too bad the photo quality was similar to most 4/3 sensors, might be a hair better. But the color and sharp photos of the fuji make my 5 year old d300 look it’s age. The fuji is slow to focus indoors but does a good job after a moments hesitation, outside it’s quick, not a d300 but not a point and shoot. I purchased the adapter for my Leica lenses but have not played with it much, but the few photos I have taken are very impressive against my brothers m9, the photos have brighter colors and better high Iso photos. Not ready to make further comments on that now but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. If you have used a range finder camera before then you understand their quirks, if you use dslrs mainly you will find this camera slow and a bit of extra work. But worth the work, the photos from the fuji are much better than the d300, the d300 is not great at high iso or with its white balance. Build quality on the fuji is no d300 or not even close to an m9, even falls way behind the omd. The photos speak for themselves though and at this price range the only other option is the Sony nex 7 which I personally dislike it’s photos color, they look very washed and the camera was awkward to hold for a while with its long heavy lenses on a narrow body. The long lenses also left weird distortion, but I was unable to demo the zeiss.

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