Shooting Birds with the Fuji X-Pro 1 by Gareth Brough

USER REPORT: Shooting Birds With The Fuji X-Pro 1

By Gareth Brough

So there I am, on a small Island off the coast of Pembrokeshire, Wales (UK) surrounded by lots of other photographers with serious kit – we are talking big heavy gear for some ‘proper’ wildlife shooting – and I am lying on the ground with a Fuji X-Pro 1 and the 35mm F1.4 lens. Surely I don’t expect to be able to photograph birds with this tinny little camera/ lens combo? Well, actually I do. There is a bird on the Island called a Puffin, they are rather odd-looking, live in underground burrows and seemingly have no fear of humans, so if you sit and wait, they will come to you.

Taking the Fuji X-Pro 1 on a trip like this may seem like a gamble, after all the autofocus is not exactly cutting edge (more about that later), but the positives outweigh the negatives. I have used and owned cameras for many years – from medium format (Hassleblad / Mamiya 7 / Pentax) to the big Canon and Nikon digital beasts, all had one thing in common, WEIGHT! My last DSLR was the Nikon D700, which I used to carry around with tilt & shift lenses and an 80-200 f2.8 AFS, and I found (as Steve has said many times) that I would leave my kit at home on more occasions that not as I just couldn’t be bothered lugging it arround. So I made the decision about a year ago to get rid of all my gear and switch to a camera that I might actually enjoy using. I looked at all the cameras on offer (I wish the Sony RX1 had been around), nearly bought a Leica M8 but got the jitters due to my experiences focusing the rangefinder on the Mamiya 7, and finally bought the Fuji. I loved their collaboration with Hassleblad on the XPan and thought this camera could just answer most of my needs.

Walking around an Island all day with a heavy backpack = my idea of hell, so a Fuji X-Pro 1 and the LEE Filters RF75 kit snuggled into a Billingham Hadley Pro was just the ticket, and there was room for my Leica binoculars. For general scenic shots the Fuji is perfect, you can take your time to compose – add action to the mix and the Fuji can struggle. The autofocus on this camera does not keep up with anything that is fast moving (like birds) so you have to think of other strategies to get the shot. I spent some time watching what the birds were doing, how they moved, where they stayed still for a brief moment and then, when I was crouched into the right position, I started to fire away. If you are used to the precision of DSLR focusing then the wishy focus on the Fuji may come as a shock, the focus area, to me, is too large, making it easy to miss critical focus on an eye, but again, go slowly and you can get results.

I like the fact that the Fuji is a camera that you need to spend time with, learn how to get the most from it – it can frustrate and please in equal measure, but for me, it is a camera I always have around, and that outweighs any issues. Plus, Fuji does seem to listen to customers and gives us treats in firmware updates (focus peaking coming soon).

It seems you can’t talk about Fuji without mentioning post processing, so for anyone interested, I shoot RAW, process my files through RPP (Mac only) to 16bit Tiffs, and then bring them into Lightroom for final processing. I would love for this to be a one stage process, but I am not happy with what I get out of Lightroom from the RAW files on Fuji at the moment.

I would urge anyone reading to go try something a little different with their kit, do something unexpected and you may be surprised by the results and learn something new about your camera.

All photos : Fuji X-Pro 1, 35mm F1.4 lens, LEE Filters RF75 System with .6 grad filter











  1. I didn’t read all the questions and answers here so pardon me if this has already been asked. In RPP, do you make any adjustments or simply convert to TIFF and do everything else in LR? I would like to try RPP but it looks complicated. Thanks!

  2. Why in the world you you shooting in what appears to be mid day light? You are really missing the quality, feel, saturation and modeling that comes with early and late lighting angles. The shots are nice but miss the mark with your choice to shoot in this light.

    • Hi Jim, there are fixed times that boats take you to the Island of Skomer, you can’t land until mid day and then the last boat back is around 4.30pm (the Island is a carefully managed nature reserve) so you can see that you have to make do with the light you get.

  3. Great shots, love the colours happening there.

    I just noticed that the colour is different when looking at the full size.
    This sort of inconsistency happens when I don’t save for web in PS.

    Ta for posting, great set.

    • Who would have thought? I had only seen pictures of puffins taken by superteles, the photos themselves are really beautiful.Except-I would have preferred sky and ocean to look blue….its a bit like looking at the world through empty beer bottles.

  4. If there are any Fuji users reading, I would highly recommend upgrading the firmware, it rocks! The focus speed on my 35mm has been supercharged, the camera is now more responsive and manual focus is now really easy, great for landscape work.

  5. Thanks for the comments everyone, and a big thanks to Steve for putting the post up. I didn’t expect the whole sharpness thing to blow up – it is impossible to know how sharp the images are from the small, compressed images I sent Steve, all I will say is the original files are packed with detail and they make fantastic large prints.

    • Hey Gareth. That makes two of us!! Your images are nice though, and I appreciated your original post. I hope you realize that I did not intend any negative implications. As I said, I’m probably too hung up on image sharpness anyway! Best of luck with your photography, sir!

  6. Gareth, these are excellent shots. It is too bad that your post was hijacked by the silly discussion above concerning their sharpness. I would be very proud of the images you presented, keep up the good work and ignore the negative comments.

    • Paul, it was not my intention to “hijack” anything. I was merely offering my comments relating to a photographic topic regarding some posted images, in order to stimulate discussion and learn from others’ photographic knowledge and experience. Isn’t THATwhat this site is all about? Thanks.

  7. OUTSTANDING IMAGES! Congrats. I too have stopped Lugging my D700, and D800 with the Nikon glass around whenever possible. This past Sunday I shot the grand opening of a new church in a run down urban area. I took the D700 (as the D800 doesn’t cut it in low light) plus my 24-70 and 70-200. I also, as an afterthought threw the X-E1 with the 35 F1.4 in the bag. Well I shot over 500 images with the Fuji compared to about a hundred with the D700. The Fuji just excelled!! Yes, the focusing was a tad difficult especially as the minister was moving/jumping around but I still nailed enough of them to make everyone happy. My ISO was min of 800, to a hight of 1250 and even with that, and even though I shot Raw + jpeg just in case, I was able to just use the jpegs. They were amazing. Just as an FYI I use Aperture to process my Fuji raws. Everything else: LR 4.4
    Great job! I love these images.

    • Jorge, you could of course have taken the D800 with just a good, say Zeiss, 50 and get much better results. If you know how to use that camera of course.

  8. Puffin are always fascinating and I wish I have a chance in my life to shoot some photos on them. Enjoy reading your article a lot. I was wondering, why would you need to bring ND filters on a trip like this?

    • Hi there, I will always take my set of Lee Filters ND Grads, on these shots they helped balance the exposure between the sky (which was bright) and the foreground.

  9. Great photos! You would think that Fuji actually had a substantial focus-speed update to their otherwise excellent camera. Clearly exceptional effort and patience on your part.

    Wonderfully photogenic medium. It always amazes me how good bokah and unique color can personalize the character of the subject.

    Well done.

  10. I own both XE and XPro. Although the sensor and software are stated to be the same, i noticed the XPro has significant advantage on low light performance. Wonder if this is just my perception, although i have similar experience on several occasion , missed taking the same shot with both cameras though. Also been using the 55-200 extensively for wild life shot lately, with the variable ND filter attached, notice the AF tends to be erratic or less reliable although system states “green”. Nice work FUJI, i believe the softness may actually be cause by the AF rection to filters accasionally. NOT certain about the science behind it, but happened quite often when i used ND filters.

  11. really good and sharp shots! Did you test the XF 55-200mm? I think you will appreciate very much: extremely sharp and wide open, nice bokeh

  12. These images are plenty sharp, very nice and a good example of why so many are changing to the Fuji systems. The pixle peepers in here need to just take a trip and post some “sharp” pictures, but this is not what this site is about.

  13. Wonderful. You seem trustworthy to Puffins using just that short lens still getting so close. I am impressed.

  14. Simply wonderful shots, Gareth. Seen Gordon Ramsey handling these birds on TV 🙂

    People who use ‘bazookas’ to shoot birds should try going wide too. These shots reveal the puffins surroundings which is very informative. They’re plenty sharp too.

    Some, go to an art gallery and view pictures from a comfortable distance, feeling and appreciating the artist’s point of view. Then, there are some who’ll put their faces really close and remark about the brush strokes not being perfect.

  15. Really nice pictures! I love them but the Blue Sky is not right!… if you are using RAW format, then check the sky color it should be blue instead of Cyan! By using LR 5 or Capture 7 it is very easy to correct the Sky Color!, unfortunately the Fuji’s Blue is not the right blue!!
    I have both Fuji X Pro 1 and Fuji X100s, both of them has the same problem but now I know how to fix it. I always shoot in RAW & FINE JPEG

  16. I think you can change the focus box size (can on the X100 – Hold the AF button on the left of the camera, then turn the upper control toggle left or right to reduce or enlarge the focus frame size).
    Also switch to af-c for snappier focussing – esp in low light – although this does use the battery up.

    Re sharpness if you click on a pic and then zoom in with the little magnifying glass you can see all your images are very sharp. Sometimes the images can look a bit soft when displayed at these standard “Steve” page sizes. Only the landscapes in this case though really. Nice pics and it is how you use what you have got rather than what you have.

  17. Lovely pics, don’t know why anyone is questioning sharpness, they look just fine to me. Many digital images theses days are over sharpened. I use Hasselblads and Leicas for film and Leicas and a Ricoh GR for digital. Too many images that I see are unnaturally sharp. Incidentally the colour looks a bit Portra but I like it.

    • Points taken, JSKG.
      My apologies to all (especially the OP), for opening that can of worms…Unless one is comparing lens MTF charts, “sharpness” is obviously a subjective quality, means different things to different people, depending on use of the image, output medium, size, etc. and I shouldn’t be as anal about it as I am. These images are nice, as I stated earlier. Thanks for all your thoughts!

  18. Really great pictures .Natural sharp pictures ,great colors ,etc . The fuji xpro1 is great . For me Fuji is the new Leica and i am waiting for the new organic cmos sensor that boosts dynamic range and sensitivity .Yummy news

  19. These are very sweet shoots, but how come everyone talking bad about DSLRs? And why isn´t there any DSLR user reports? DSLR is the most common camera system today.

    • DSLRs aren’t bad. But they are not always necessary to get good or even exceptional images. And unless you are a pro on a paid assignment where a DSLR capabilities might make the difference in getting the job done to a clients satisfaction, most mirrorless cameras will do just fine for most people’s needs. I’ve seen another blog somewhere where the guy is a paid pro and he fully switched to a Panasonic GH3 setup and it gets the job done. I personally think a lot of non-pros get sucked into DSLR land because 1) they think its required to produce results better than a P&S and 2) they walk into Best Buy where the latest mirrorless offerings are not represented and the salesperson isn’t going to tell you otherwise because they want to make a sales and/or they don’t know any better.

    • Steve, and most of the visitors to this site I suspect, prefer smaller lighter rangefinder or mirrorless/evf digital cameras over the weight of a DSLR. Personally I own both and enjoy them both for different reasons. The site posts articles by people using a huge variety of equipment though, from iphones all the way to medium format, and I like the different perspectives.

      I also like the puffins, must have taken incredible patience to take those shots with a 50mm equivalent lens, but the results put you right with the subjects………. without the smell

      • So now you’ve explained why it’s allright to justify your own preference in gear by talking down someone else’s preference. Just sounds immature to me. Some people prefer real viewfinders in 24×36, digital or film, and put up with the increase in bulk and weight. Let them be.

    • As others mentioned, this site is for cameras smaller than a DSLR. I own both and IMHO DSLR is still the gold standard but I want smaller cameras to carry much of the time and this is where I figure out which ones to try.

  20. Should also say, try using Aperture for processing your X-Pro1 files. It can replace your combination of RPP and Lightroom for most purposes.

  21. Totally amazing. Nice photos. Anyone would be happy to get them. Not only sharp, but sharp enough. When I first saw the closeups of the birds it never occurred to me that they were not sharp. They’re sharp. But any photo can always be sharper. If you want to blow these up for say Times Square, then you need them to be sharper. If you want to print for the wall or share with us, then sharp enough. If you want shaper then . . . (and here’s what always amazes me) . . . then use a Nikon D800 with tripod and telephoto lens. But you still have to carry it around. The whole point of the article is what you can do without carrying a “sharper” camera around. I suppose I could lay down with a Leica M9 or the new Leica without tripod or telephoto lens, and get a somewhat sharper image than these, but what would be the point if this one is good enough? If you do use a sharper camera, then what I said before–any camera can benefit by being sharper–still applies. The 36 mp Nikon D800 (oh, only the “e” of course!) can still be sharper and it soon will be. And the landscape/wildlife photographers will use the newer one again. And should, I suppose. After they buy all new computer equipment that can handle the larger files . . . again.

    Or do I misunderstand. If so, I apologize. You could just mean there there may have been a way for this camera to have produced sharper images. That’s a different question.

  22. Fantastic pictures!
    Really impressive with a fixed lens. I also like the consitant and nice, warm colours.

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

  23. Wonderful shots. I gave up my DSLR gear a few years back (from fuji x100 to a Leica M), and for me part of the joy I get from photography comes from the frustration of using gear with limited capabilites. Of course if I were a pro and I had to “get the shot at all costs” I would feel differently 😉

    • Well I’m on the XE1 & have Minolta glass from years back. I got a Fotodiox adapter for Minolta A lens to Fuji X. Bewarned, it doesn’t come with instructions. (I had a laughable adventure dismounting it!)

      I just got it this week, so haven’t gone out to shoot anything yet, other than test shots at home.

      Here’s the thing – my A lenses do not have aperture markings on em.
      I’m a bit lost as to how I’m going to really use the lens outfield, but I guess some manual markings have to be made.

      So tip for the day: If you’re getting legacy glass, make sure there’s an aperture ring is on the lens!
      (I may well be the last person on Earth to realise this!)

  24. NIce shots sir, but I’m puzzled that they are not as SHARP as I would expect from that Fuji kit, especially after PP in Lightroom. Understandable perhaps, if they were shot wide open (f/1.4), but the last puffin was at f/4.0, which I would have expected to be tack sharp. (If you want to see what I mean by “Sharp”, please check out my site at totalqualityphoto[dot]com. Thanks, and enjoy your Fuji!

      • Justin, it’s not a question of “need”, but one of “expectation”, just from what I’ve always read about Fuji and especially their optics. Not having that equipment myself, I’m no expert, but I have shot many systems over my 35 years in photography, and I admit to being rather a sharpness fanatic. IMHO, these beautiful birds are just the type of subject that warrants good detail, and that Fuji kit is certainly up to the task, hence my original comment.

          • My original comment was just reflective of my subjective opinion of Fuji equipment and what I think it is capable of. As for these images, like I said, they are nice…I’m just a sharpness nut, but agree that these images are “acceptably” sharp.

          • I’m with Steve on this. I shoot both a Fuji X100 S and X Pro 1 for, among other things, the phenominal sharpness of their optics. I post process with Aperture and rarely find myself looking to enhance sharpness. I find these birds shot to be at once lovely, and a tad soft.

          • The shots are lovely! They don’t need to be sharper, or more colorful etc etc…but owning this setup myself something does look off. It looks like they were shot through very dirty glass. I’m not criticizing these awesome shots…like I said they are lovely. Just backing stevetqp up because the rendering does seem a bit off.


          • Thanks, Terry! For a while there, I thought I was alone and thus wrong in my subjective opinion! However, as I just noted, perhaps I shouldn’t nitpick about other folks’ images, and only be critical of my own. 🙂

          • I honestly believe that we have arrived at a point where we have become so used to OVER sharpening that normal optical sharpness is no longer good enough. The degree of micro contrast that many images subjected seems to become greater with every new version of plugins that perform that task. And I suspect that many are guilty of it including moi.
            That is not to say there is anything wrong with this approach to image making its that we should just accept it for what it is…

          • Sean, to clarify my original post:
            1. With regard to sharpness, I was looking at the JPEGS from the OP, and viewing them at 100-200%. My only point was that simply from all I’ve read about the IQ of the Fuji X-Pro 1 and the Fuji 35mm f/1.4, I was expecting to see absolutely tack sharp images that are superior in sharpness even to my own Nikon jpegs. Frankly, to my eye, while these images may be “acceptably sharp” to most folks, they just weren’t quite up to MY own expectations, that’s all. but again, I admit to being a pixel peeper and perhaps TOO anal about sharpness, (And I realize that sharpness is a SUBJECTIVE quality, and my comments here are ONLY my subjective OPINION, not facts! Please take them as such.)
            2. I have no direct experience with this Fuji System. I can only go by what I’ve read, including Steve Huff’s own reviews. Again, my comments are merely my own subjective opinion. Isn’t that one purpose of these articles, to elicit and share “comments” from fellow photographers?
            3. I’ve stated that the images are “acceptably sharp”, i.e., for the medium of web publishing.
            4. IMHO, one can judge “true sharpness” OF a “small JPEG” FROM a “small JPEG. 🙂
            5. As I said in my original post, these images are nice.
            I learn from and respect the opinions of all photographers who posted here. Thank you!

          • Stevetqp (and Terry and Josh), I wonder if you clicked on the image in the article before enlarging. When you refer to “OP” does that mean “opening page”? The thing is, you can enlarge the shots as they appear in the article but those are poor quality. If you click the image first a much better quality shot comes up. The reason you are getting so much blow back is that the clicked shots are very sharp and well focused. Gareth nailed them and the camera delivered. I am a sharpness and detail junkie too (I mostly shoot a Canon 5DIII and Leica M9) and I was very impressed when I clicked through and saw the better version. I don’t think he could have gotten a better shot with any other camera. The reaction you are getting is not that the rest of us have lesser standards than you. What you say just doesn’t make sense.

          • Hi George.
            I actually opened these images in Adobe Photoshop and viewed them at 200%. When I mentioned sharpness, (BTW, “OP” means “Original Poster”) I did NOT intend to imply that anyone’s standards are less than my own! I’m just a picky old pixel peeper who is always seeking better sharpness and detail in his images, and that I have a high regard for Fuji products, that’s all. If the OP and others are pleased with the sharpness, that’s great! Appreciate your thoughts, sir.

          • Too much sharpeness leads to digital looking images and looses the feel of the photo is how I feel right now. That is why I prefer the original X100 look over the X100s. These photos is plenty of sharp and rendering is so good looking that it makes me forget about cameras and I can enjoy the photo and beauty of nature portrayed 🙂
            Now if only every photo from the X-Trans CMOS sensor would look so good.

          • Yes, I did look at the images enlarged, before expressing my “opinion” about their sharpness. As I said earlier, I don’t have direct experience with the Fuji system, but was just basing my comments on my perception of the quality of Fuji and their lenses. Apparently I was not alone in this opinion, as a few others who do have Fuji systems concurred I agree with your points about “oversharpening” as well. And I’ll say it again…the OP’s (Original Poster’s) images are very nice. I’m just a sharpness nut and if interested, you can see several bird images on my site as well. Thanks!

      • these images don’t “need” to be sharper, but it’d be cool to have them sharper because it’s not the easiest for wildlife photography. I think the reason is the images are cropped.

        • Newton, while true that a cropped image will lose apparent sharpness upon significant enlargement, I think these images are of sufficient size (1200×1500) to represent the sharpness. inherent in the image, even at 200% on the screen. Beyond that magnification, of course you would see “jaggies”.

        • @ steve, apart of using a pretentious adjective to name your site, i cant see anything special on any of the images in there, very amateur.
          i wonder how there you mention sharpness issues about this post.

    • I will join the chorus saying what are you talking about? These are quite sharp. More importantly, they are interesting. The detail on the birds’ heads is really neat. Good work Gareth!

      • To my eyes, the photos appear perfect in just about every respect. It is as if I am there with the birds. In my case, I suppose it is an advantage to be lacking in proficiency in technical analysis of images; there seems to be a certain perfection in reproduction here and I am glad I am incapable of picking it apart. Just about every image out of my XE1 and X20 has the same effect on me.

        Thanks for taking the time to post-very inspirational.

      • George, Wayne: Agree! What’s with this nitpicking about sharpness if the images are interesting and make you feel something. I don’t get it… Great job, Gareth!

        • I think he isnt saying that its “not” sharp. he just expected, from the equipment that was proposed to be used that it should have been more sharper. He just wonders what happened in the process. did the OP reduce sharpness on his own? did the OP have problem with his lens? is it just the effect of cropping? etc. Its like he has this one image in his head based on his own experience or knowledge about the equipment used, and then he compares it to the subject photos which is against the image he has in his mind. So he just wants to know if he needs to reevaluate his knowledge, experience, expectation of the equipment used (Fuji xe1 with 35mm) Im sure he didnt mean any negativity and we all know that each person have their own preferences when it comes to photos. some people love incredible sharpness, some people want the more natural look, some people even want the color exploding HDRs, and a lot more other crazy preferences.

          Not everyone on the internet is out there to spread negativity 😀

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