Hands-On Review: the Fujifilm X-Pro1

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The Fujifilm X-Pro1 digital camera will appeal to a variety of photographers, due to its retro design, notable image quality, ease of handling and simplicity of use. The X-Pro1 mimics a 35mm rangefinder design with low profile, all-metal construction, an optical viewfinder and manual exposure controls. The X-Pro1 features a physical shutter speed dial and exposure compensation dial, as well as manual control of the aperture on the lenses themselves. This positioning of real controls makes handling more intuitive and traditional, since you are given the physical satisfaction of setting your shutter speed and aperture controls, without having to merely view your exposure settings on an LCD.

Also noteworthy is the camera's 16.3 megapixel APS-C-sized X-Trans CMOS sensor. This effective resolution is further enhanced by Fujifilm’s own sensor design, which lends itself to increased sharpness because there is no optical low-pass filter. By removing this filter from in front of the sensor, and by designing a new lens mount, the flange distance and shutter distance between the lens and sensor is also shortened for greater illumination and flexibility in lens design.

Aside from these unique design traits, this camera also conforms to many contemporary digital camera standards by offering Full HD 1080p movie recording, the ability to record images in a RAW file format and a 3-inch, 1230K-dot LCD monitor for reviewing images and for menu navigation.

Design

The most noticeable element of the X-Pro1 is its exterior design, and especially how this design diverges in comparison to other cameras available today. There is a strong harking back to a simplified, intuitive way of shooting that is definitely aided by the compactness of this camera. While it is certainly compact, it is not miniscule and does offer something to hold onto. At first, the body feels a bit lighter in weight than its appearance suggests, but once you add a lens and an accessory grip, the camera picks up a bit of heft, giving you a better sense of control over everything. The dials and directional pad for menu navigation are placed well and provide a sense of efficiency when you use this camera.

An especially notable facet of design is how you navigate between different exposure modes; since the exposure controls are all modified in an analog manner, there is no overarching dial or internal setting that lets you switch between auto, shutter-priority and aperture-priority modes. You simply select “A” on the shutter speed dial while keeping the aperture ring between available f/-stops for aperture-priority; select “A” on the aperture ring while modifying your shutter speeds for shutter-priority; or have both the shutter speed dial and aperture ring set to “A” for fully automatic exposure. There is also a convenient exposure compensation dial on top, allowing you to quickly modify your exposure by ±2 stops in 1/3 steps.

While this camera does look like a rangefinder, in fact it is not. The integration of an optical viewfinder in the top corner is reminiscent of the Leica M design; however, the viewfinder is not coupled with the focusing system due in part to the electronic lens mount and hybrid viewfinder capabilities. The optical viewfinder has some parallax issues, but does have an adjustment feature to move the simulated frame outline to more accurately represent the full frame.

Depending on the lens you use, the viewfinder has two separate magnifications, 0.6x and 0.37x, and presents a wider angle of view than the lens will capture, so you can roughly frame your shots while surveying the surrounding areas. Where this viewfinder becomes even more noteworthy is that it is a hybrid viewfinder, which incorporates the ability to switch to a fully electronic viewfinder simply by switching a lever. This 0.47” 1440K-dot LCD viewfinder presents a clear, high-resolution image identical to what you would see on the rear LCD monitor. There is also an eye sensor that, when working in one of the three distinct viewing modes, will automatically turn on or off when your eye is up to or away from the finder.

Imaging

Fujifilm has incorporated a 16.3 megapixel APS-C-sized CMOS sensor for capturing high resolution imagery. They have improved upon this simple formula by designing the sensor entirely on their own and modifying the typical color array for recording images. The X-Trans sensor uses a different RGB color array than the standard Bayer-array. By straying from the conventional 2 x 2 patterned color filter, Fujifilm has designed a new filter that features 6 x 6 groups of pixels. By breaking up the monotony of a 2 x 2 pattern, there is more randomness in the way light is collected, reminiscent of the grain structure of film, which in turn leads to a reduction of color moiré or false colors.

This resistance to these detrimental artifacts is also reinforced by the fact that there is a pixel of each color (RGB) in every column of the arrangement. With this ability to reduce moiré and color shifting at the sensor level, the X-Pro1 is also able to remove the optical low-pass filter in order to provide greater sharpness. This filter helps to cut down on aliasing and moiré by slightly blurring the image as it is being transmitted to the sensor, which in a sense is being replicated by having a more randomized pixel layout. Essentially, the lack of an anti-aliasing/low-pass filter results in sharper imagery than similar cameras are able to produce.

The Newly-Developed Color Filter Array
2x2 Pixels = Repeating Arrangement (with Filter)
6x6 Pixels = Random Arrangement (without Filter)

The images from the X-Pro1 feature impressive separation of tones and smooth gradations across the image. Due in part to how the sensor collects light, this is also a consequence of how close the lenses sit to the sensor. Because the flange distance between lens and sensor is lessened, there is a more even spread of light across the sensor, producing edge-to-edge sharpness and illumination. In addition to the RAW image quality, Fujifilm has also integrated a unique set of Film Simulation Modes designed to emulate Fujifilm films. When working in these modes, the image curves are adjusted to resemble image curves from a variety of films such as Astia, Provia and Velvia chrome films as well as Pro H and Pro S negative films.

There are also four monochrome settings: regular monochrome and monochrome with the contrast benefits of a yellow, red or green filter. Lastly, there is also a sepia mode available. In reference to the specific film modes, these modes do not provide an exact replication of the look of the films, but rather they are referring more to the contrast and saturation properties of these films, with Velvia being the most saturated and Astia being the lowest in contrast. These film-simulation modes make it easier to preset a look or feel to your images, rather than trying to craft the same appearance through extensive image-tweaking during post production.

Functions and Features

Bolstered by its strong imaging capabilities, the X-Pro1 employs a host of features and camera functions that help to expedite your shooting process and provide a greater range of possibilities when photographing. Menu navigation is standard among many other digital cameras; however, there is a secondary features menu, Quick Menu (accessible from the Q button on the body), that brings up some of the essential camera functions in an easily navigable manner. When working in this menu mode you are presented with a grid of 16 icons, each representative of a camera setting, and you can modify all of these settings quickly without having to delve into more complex menu trees.

Quick menu image control lends itself to adjusting the extended ISO range between 100 and 25600; choosing between sRGB or Adobe RGB color spaces; altering the noise reduction, sharpness, color and tone values; selecting film simulation types; changing white balance settings; switching between different file formats; and modifying other essential functions. Additionally, there are several custom functions available for you to dictate their use, including a helpful Fn (function) button that provides seamless transitions between normal working modes and more specialized modes, depending on the function you assign to the button. Functions include multiple exposure, film simulation, movie shooting, RAW override and depth of field confirmation, among several other possibilities.

When working with images a bit more intensively, there is a built-in RAW converter that allows you to accurately preview your results prior to transferring images to a computer. When working with this feature you can apply white balance settings, film simulation settings and other image enhancements to ensure which images are worthwhile for keeping.

For even more creative uses, there is a Motion Panorama mode which allows you to record wide-format imagery simply by panning your camera across the scene. Fast-moving or action photography is possible because this camera can record up to six full-resolution frames per second. Full HD movie recording is available in 1920 x 1080 format at 24 fps, which can be viewed directly on an HDTV via the HDMI interface.

Focus and Exposure Systems

Fittingly so, exposure and focus settings are controlled in a manual way versus having everything done for you automatically. The ability to have true manual control gives you a greater connection with the way you interact with a camera, and hopefully you will experience more enjoyment from this improved control while you're photographing. This is not to say that the camera is not capable of handling all exposure and focus settings automatically, but it does shine most when you are taking part in the decision of how your images are captured.

Exposure is controlled via a shutter speed dial on top of the camera body, and through the manual aperture rings on the lenses. When both are set to A, the camera will function in an entirely automatic mode. Furthermore, the X-Pro1 can employ a series of image-enhancing functions, such as control over the dynamic range and auto bracketing for exposure, film simulation, dynamic range and ISO sensitivity.

Focus can be controlled automatically or manually as well. The autofocus system uses a TTL contrast AF detection method and can function in either single or continuous focusing styles. Beyond this, you can choose from multi, spot and average metering types, depending on the lighting situation. Moreover, the X-Pro1 lenses have an easy-to-control manual focus ring that can be modified in the settings to turn either clockwise or counter-clockwise, depending on your preference. When working with subjects that require especially critical focus, you can also zoom in to your image to check focus on a portion of the image, to determine the greatest sharpness.

Lenses and the X Mount

Along with the release of this camera, Fujifilm has also designed a new lens mount in order to garner the benefits of having shorter back focus distances and a shorter flange distance of just 17.7mm. The new mount is also wider-set in comparison to similar systems; this allows the lenses to sit further into the camera body for accomplishing the minimal back focus distance.

The new lens mount is complemented by an initial release of three prime Fujinon lenses: an 18mm f/2, a 35mm f/1.4 and a 60mm f/2.4 (27mm, 53mm, and 91mm in 35mm equivalent focal lengths, respectively). These three lenses offer a breadth of angles of view to begin with, which will continue to grow over the next year. A 14mm f/2.8 (21mm equivalent) and an 18-55mm f/2.8-4 (27-84mm equivalent) have recently been announced.

The XF 18mm f/2 R lens is the widest lens currently offered and is a standard wide angle focal length for general applications. It features 8 elements within 7 groups, including 2 all-glass aspherical lenses. For a slightly narrower angle of view, the XF 35mm f/1.4 R lens is a normal-length lens that has 8 elements within 6 groups, including a single aspherical lens. The longest lens currently available is the XF 60mm f/2.4 R Macro lens, which as the name suggests, has macro focusing capabilities to a minimum focusing distance of 10.5” for a reproduction ratio of 0.5x. This lens is composed of 10 elements in 8 groups with one aspherical lens and one ED lens. All of the XF series lenses have Super EBC coating on lens elements for a reduction in lens flare and chromatic aberrations, as well as making them easier to clean. They are set in all-metal barrels with manual focus rings and manual aperture rings with 1/3 stop click-stops.

To further raise the compatibility level of the camera system, Fujifilm has also released an M mount to X mount adapter for use with many M-mount lenses on the X-Pro1. This adapter extends the flange distance between the lens and sensor to 27.8mm in order to accommodate the M mount design, while still maintaining the effective cropped focal length of the lens. The adapter features all-metal, three-part construction, with aluminum contact between the adapter and body, and stainless steel between the adapter and lens (the same native materials when using proprietary XF mount lenses).

In addition to functioning as a simple adapter, there are signal contacts incorporated into the adapter that correspond to specific functions as controlled through the body. Once the adapter is connected to the camera body, Shoot Without Lens mode is activated and will pull up a list of registered focal lengths to pair with the M mount lens of your choice. You can also access this menu by pressing the function button located on the side of the adapter. By selecting the focal length and registering it with the camera, you are able to apply image corrections based on the specific type of lens you are using in order to attain the sharpest, clearest images possible. When registering a lens (up to six different lens presets can be stored at a time) you can dial-in distortion, peripheral illumination and color shading settings. These help you to correct for any anomalies that might occur when using certain types of lenses, such as straightening pincushion distortion with longer lenses; correcting for vignetting or edge fall-off with wider lenses; and the ability to rectify any uneven color shading for a more neutral-appearing image.

X System Accessories

Aside from the X-Pro1 camera and lenses, there are also a couple of accessories that help with the basic functionality of this camera. The Hand Grip HG-XPro1 is a simple grip that provides more substance and contour to the camera body, allowing you to handhold more securely in low-light conditions. It also provides a bit more weight to balance the camera when working with larger lenses. The hand grip is constructed from aluminum and has a raised, rubberized section that corresponds perfectly to the undulations of the camera body itself. Once attached, you do lose direct access to the battery and memory card slot, but the grip comes off and on quickly from the camera's tripod socket. It also features its own 1/4”-20 tripod socket, which is placed along the optical axis for a more natural feeling when setting up on a tripod.

The EF-X20 flash is a compact, shoe-mounted flash that fits integrally with the overall design scheme of the X-Pro1 and offers a guide no. of 20 m at ISO 100. While this flash is small in size, it contains an impressive number of features to make it a highly viable addition to your system for auxiliary illumination. There is a built-in wide-angle panel that can be flipped down via a lever, allowing the flash to cover lenses up to 20mm in focal length (the guide number of the flash effectively becomes 12 m at ISO 100 when working with the wide panel, though).

Specs Fujifilm EF-X20
Guide Number 65.6' / 20 m (39.4' / 12 m with wide panel) at ISO 100
Color Temperature 5600K at full power
Effective TTL Flash Range X = Guide no. (√ISO/ISO 100) / f/-stop
Manual Flash Output 1/1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, 1/32, 1/64
Exposure Compensation ± 1 EV in 1/3 steps
Slave Mode Yes; per-flash and non-pre-flash control supported
Power Source 2 x AAA alkaline or NiMH batteries
Number of Flashes Alkaline: approx. 60
NiMH: approx. 90
Recycling Time Alkaline: approx. 6 sec.
NiMH: approx. 5 sec.
TTL Compatibility FinePix X100, HS30EXR, HS33EXR, HS25EXR, HS28EXR, HS20EXR, HS22EXR, SL300, SL305, SL280, SL260, SL240, X10, X-S1, X-Pro1
Operating Temperature 32 - 104°F / 0 - 40°C
Dimensions 1.4 x 2.3 x 1.9" / 36 x 59.5 x 50mm
Weight 3.5 oz / 100 g (excluding batteries)

Control of the flash is possible through a simply designed top dial that gives you the option to work in either TTL or manual mode. When working in manual mode, you have a range of output settings ranging from full power to 1/64 power, and when working in TTL mode you can control the flash output in 1/3 steps up to one stop over or under the given amount. Additionally, this flash can be used as a master flash to control other slave-equipped flashes or it can receive wireless transmission in either a pre-flash mode or non-pre-flash mode, depending on the master flash being used. Other flashes compatible with the X-Pro1 and the EF-X20 are the Fujifilm EF-20 and the EF-42, both of which can be physically adjusted in order to control the direction of the flash beam for bounce applications.

The Fujifilm X-Pro1 and accompanying X system lenses and accessories function as highly sleek and intuitive tools for capturing imagery very efficiently. Beginning with the simple design and styling, this camera feels familiar when compared to so many film-era cameras. Rather than being confined to learning menu navigations and intensive settings controls, you can be up and running with this camera very quickly, given previous experience using a manual camera. While this is one of its most distinct attributes, the X-Pro1 is also a smart camera in regard to automatic functions, and makes photographing enjoyable no matter how much control you leave to the camera or how much you decide to take on yourself.

The level of input you can exercise is further complemented by the effective resolution and sharpness you gain with Fujifilm’s uniquely designed sensor. Removing the anti-aliasing filter in order to gain more sharpness without the cost of increased moiré is a notable asset and affords you the image quality akin to a larger sensor. Furthermore, the series of lenses provides a continuously growing wealth of focal-length options. Fujifilm's decision to begin with a lineup of three prime lenses is a welcome respite to the standard kit-zoom lenses of late, and instead provides the same range of angles of view with larger, more effective maximum apertures and more control over the way your images will look.

The X-Pro1 is certainly aimed at the professional market, but can serve as a legitimate step-up for intermediate and novice photographers. The lack of frivolousness in camera features allows for the true ability of this camera to shine and bring its most impressive qualities to center stage. It pares down the essential elements and makes for a substantial tool, capable of capturing images that fulfill your unique vision.

Fujifilm X-Pro 1 Specifications

Effective Pixels 16.3MP
Image Sensor 23.6 x 15.6mm APS-C X-Trans CMOS with primary color filter
Sensor Cleaning System Ultra Sonic Vibration
Still Image File Format JPEG, RAW, RAW+JPEG
Movie File Format H.264 (MOV) with stereo sound
Number of Recorded Pixels 3:2:
L: 4896 x 3264
M: 3456 x 2304
S: 2496 x 1664
16:9:
L: 4896 x 2760
M: 3456 x 1944
S: 2496 x 1408
1:1:
L: 3264 x 3264
M: 2304 x 2304
S: 1664 x 1664
Motion Panorama:
L (Vertical): 7660 x 2160 / L (Horizontal): 7680 x 1440
M (Vertical): 5120 x 2160 / M (Horizontal): 5120 x 1440
Sensitivity Auto, ISO 200-6400 (expandable to ISO 25600)
Exposure Control TTL 256-zones metering; Multi, Spot, Average
Exposure Mode Programmed AE, Shutter priority AE, Aperture priority AE, Manual exposure
Exposure Compensation ± 2EV in 1/3 steps
Shutter Type Focal plane shutter
Shutter Speed Range 30-1/4000 sec., bulb up to 60 min.
Flash Sync Speed 1/180 sec. or slower (P mode or A mode), 1/160 sec. or slower (S mode or M mode)
Continuous Shooting Rate 6 fps or 3 fps (selectable)
Auto Bracketing AE Bracketing (± 1/3, 2/3, 1 EV)
Film Simulation Bracketing (Any 3 type of film simulation selectable)
Dynamic Range Bracketing (100%, 200%, 400%)
ISO sensitivity Bracketing (± 1/3, 2/3, 1 EV)
Focus Mode Single AF, Continuous AF, MF distance indicator
Focus Type TTL contrast AF (AF assist illuminator available)
AF Frame Selection Area (EVF/LCD: 49 areas with 7 x 7, OVF: 25 areas with 5 x 5), Multi
White Balance Modes Automatic scene recognition
Custom, Color temperature selection (K)
Preset: Fine, Shade, Fluorescent light (Daylight), Fluorescent light (Warm White), Fluorescent light (Cool White), Incandescent light, underwater
Film Simulation Modes Provia/Standard, Velvia/Vivid, Astia/Soft, Pro Neg Hi, Pro Neg Std, Monochrome, Monochrome+Ye Filter, Monochrome+R Filter, Monochrome+G Filter, Sepia
Dynamic Range Settings Auto, 100%, 200%, 400%
Self-Timer 10, 2 sec.
Flash Connection Hot shoe, PC sync terminal
Flash Modes Red-eye removal OFF: Auto, Forced Flash, Suppressed Flash, Slow Synchro, Rear-curtain Synchro
Red-eye removal ON: Red-eye Reduction Auto, Red-eye Reduction & Forced Flash, Suppressed Flash, Red-eye Reduction & Slow Synchro, Red-eye Reduction & Rear-curtain Synchro
Viewfinder Type Hybrid Multi Viewfinder with Eye Sensor (optical and electronic)
Optical Viewfinder Reverse Galilean viewfinder with electronic bright frame display
Optical Viewfinder Magnifications 0.37x and 0.6x
Optical Viewfinder Frame Coverage Approx. 90%
Electronic Viewfinder 0.47" / 1.2cm 1440K-dot color LCD viewfinder
Electronic Viewfinder Frame Coverage Approx. 100%
Eye Point Approx. 14mm
LCD Monitor 3.0" / 7.6cm RGBW, 1230K-dot (approx. 100% coverage)
Movie Recording 1920 x 1080, 1280 x 720 at 24 fps with stereo sound
Maximum Clip Length Up to 29 min.
Photography Functions Select custom setting, Motion panorama, Color space, Color (Saturation), Sharpness, Dynamic range, Film simulation, Gradation, Auto red-eye removal, Framing guideline, Frame No. memory, Histogram display, Preview depth of focus, Focus check, Electronic level, Multiple exposure, Date input, Fn button setting (RAW, Movie, etc)
Playback Functions RAW conversion, Image rotate, Red-eye reduction, Photobook assist, Erase selected frames, Image search, Multi-frame playback (with micro thumbnail), Slide show, Mark for upload, Protect, Crop, Resize, Panorama, Favorites
Digital Interface USB 2.0
HDMI Output HDMI mini connector (Type C)
Power Supply NP-W126 rechargeable lithium-ion battery
Battery Life Approx. 300 frames
Startup Time Approx. 0.5 sec. (approx. 1 sec when QUICK START and Power save mode are OFF)
Storage Media SD, SDHC, SDXC (UHS-I)
Lens Mount Fujifilm X mount
Operating Temperature 32-104°F / 0-40°C
Operating Humidity 10-80% (no condensation)
Dimensions 5.5 x 3.2 x 1.7" / 139.5 x 81.8 x 42.5mm
Weight 15.9 oz / 450 g with battery and memory card

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Seem #Fujifilm has fixed most of the reported issues (like slow AF) with incremental updates. I got a chance to review it recently and here is my take: http://bit.ly/1e14rVI

#UnposePhotography