Fuji X-Pro 1, Thoughts and Impressions 3 Days Later
I had the chance to wander around the increasingly gentrified and trendy district of Tiong Bahru in Singapore today before dinner. Amidst the yuppie cafes and quirky designer stores sprouting up in the area, remain generations-old ‘mom and pop’ businesses that have been there forever, some probably from when the estate was initially set up by the British colonial authority in the 1930’s as a means to provide mass public housing for Singaporeans. These old school businesses are an increasingly rare commodity in Singapore, where the ‘new’ is usually favoured over the ‘old’, and the ‘old’ is something seen as awaiting replacement by the ‘new’.
I had my 3 day old Fuji X-Pro1 with me, along with the XF 18mm and XF 35mm lenses.
The sun had already set but it was still relatively bright, a nice diffused evening light basking the estate. Armed with my X-Pro1, I walked around checking out the shops in the area and spoke with some of the owners. The X-Pro1 proved a relatively stealthy camera for such a task, I received no glares from people as I was taking photographs, probably due to the unintimidating retro styling of the camera and the extremely silent shutter (the first thing I did upon getting the camera was to turn on ‘stealth’ mode, shutting off the focus assist light and the fake shutter sound). The focal plane shutter was going ‘snick, snick, snick’ and I doubt anyone more than a few feet away outdoors was able to hear it.
Main door of one of the ‘walk up’ apartments
Tiong Bahru also has a number of ‘walk up’ apartments, so named because the low rise residential flats are without lifts. These old flats are often quite charming and a lot larger than the newer residential offerings in Singapore, owing to the relatively plentiful space when they were first built.
The light was still decent so the AF worked relatively quickly, although I noticed a tendency for the camera to choose pretty low shutter speeds, in an attempt to keep the ISO (set to auto) low. With such phenomenal high ISO abilities, I think Fuji might have been a tad too conservative with suppressing shutter speeds in favour of ISO, and I found a few of my shots with a bit of camera shake as a result.
A bit of background
I come from a SLR/DSLR background, from the Canon 50E (my first serious camera), to the 10D, 5D and 5D mark II, along the way, I’ve also acquired a Ricoh GR1V, Canon G1 (yes! the original!), Panasonic Lumix LX3 (hate the colours from that camera), Leica M7 and Sony NEX 5N. But most of my ‘serious’ work is done with the DSLRs. So that is the reference point from which I comment on my Fuji X-Pro1 experiences. If you hail from a film rangefinder background, you might find some of my comments ‘wimpy’, I fully admit to being someone spoilt by the indulgences of autofocus.
The biggest advantage of the Fuji X-Pro1 over a DSLR, and also the main reason why I bought it, is that it weights a fraction of what a similarly lensed DSLR would weigh. There’s a school of thought that one has to ‘suffer for his/her art’ (by the act of lugging the huge lump of magnesium alloy, glass and plastic around) but the X-Pro1 offers a possibility of having your cake and eating it. The camera and 2 lenses probably weigh less than a single Canon EF 24-70 f2.8L lens (feels that way, I haven’t empirically weighed it)
The quality of the output is very very impressive, it definitely punches above its weight (no pun intended). I haven’t bothered shooting in RAW yet as Aperture does not yet support RAW files from the X-Pro1. Jpegs coming out of the camera are clean, sharp and easy to work with.
I was shooting exclusively in AF. I briefly tried MF but found it pretty unusable, it was dreadfully slow and quite impossible to figure out what you have really focussed on, zooming in (via the control dial at the back) helps but by the time you have done this, the subject would have moved and the moment, long past, leaving you twiddling with the camera pointed at nothing in particular. So AF is the way forward for the Fuji lenses, the upcoming M-mount might bring different results with a proper mechanically geared legacy lens.
We bought kilogram of mangosteens and a few peaches from a stall by the junction and chatted briefly to the owner. There were a couple of apparent regulars hanging around the stall, trading local gossip with him.
I was shooting perhaps 50% of the time using the EVF and 50% using the LCD screen. The LCD screen is helpful when you are trying to be discrete, since you can shoot from the hip. I do wish that the LCD screen could tilt like my NEX 5N though, it would have made it a lot easier. Being a control freak with my framing (and from a SLR background), I did not bother with the OVF and its ‘guesstimated’ frame lines.
Hanging from a butcher stall
The sky was now a deep blue, most of the street lights had already been turned on. Despite it being rush hour everywhere else in the city, Tiong Bahru at dusk still retained a slightly sleepy atmosphere. Diners were strolling along, considering various dining options on offer, and some businesses were packing up and winding down for the day. I saw this man just as he was shutting his electrical goods shop and took a photo of him through the metal grilles.
The AF still worked quite decently, although I have to add, not quite near the performance of my 5DmarkII (which is not known to have a very sophisticated AF system). The Fuji X-Pro1 required me to slow down a bit in my shooting. I was used to just seeing the shot, lifting up the camera and expecting it to focus immediately and firing the shutter. The X-Pro1’s AF hunts a bit in low light and its something to get used to. It forces you to anticipate the shot before you actually take the picture, rather than just purely reacting to the environment.
Aquarium owner, surrounded by all manner of exotic tropical fish
Beef noodle stall owner
With the sky now completely dark, I packed away my X-Pro1 and heeded the call of my growling stomach to the delightful smells wafting about from the many stalls at Tiong Bahru Market.
‘X’ Marks The Spot
It would seem blasphemous to say such a thing only probably a year before, but I believe there are a number of people who are looking at the Fuji X-Pro1 with the view to replace their DSLR kit. This is especially true of advanced amateurs, who do not make their living from shooting photographs and had simply bought into DSLR systems as a means to obtain the best image quality possible. Depending on your style of shooting, the X-Pro1 might offer you such a possiblity.
If you routinely shoot fast action, and even ‘not so fast’ action like kids running around, the X-Pro1 might not be the best tool for the job. I wish they had implemented an AF system as advanced as in the Sony NEX 5N/7 but sadly, it is not quite there. When the AF does latch on however, it is pretty precise.
If you intend for the X-Pro1 to be a street and travel camera, that’s where it truly shines, providing outstanding quality in a relatively compact and light package and the Fuji lenses are wonderful – lightweight, renders beautifully, wide apertured and quite affordable.
The camera is also a joy to use, I hated the convoluted menu system in my NEX 5N and in that regard, the X-Pro1 trumps even the NEX 7 in my opinion. Everything is pretty intuitive and buttons are where they should be. It feels wonderful in the hand and is a camera that will motivate you to go out and shoot. I can’t quite explain it, it is sort of like an iPhone in that regard, where iPhone owners will just constantly fiddle with their phones even if they don’t have any reason to do so. Any camera that inspires you to go out shooting more is a good camera in my books.
The stunning image quality of the files produced by the X-Pro1 has been discussed all over the internet and is probably the most important achievement by Fuji. If you have a moment to capture (provided it does not involve anything moving too quickly!), you can be sure the X-Pro1 will render it in the best possible way, in a package that is easy to carry and fun to shoot with.
I look forward to taking the X-Pro1 on travels and to try on my m-mount Leica and Zeiss lenses on it once the Fuji m adaptor is released.
For me, the X-Pro1 is the camera I’ve been waiting for for a long time, since the Sigma DP1 was first announced, packing a large sensor in a small body (flawed as it was). The Fuji delivers on that concept beautifully, removing many of the drawbacks of such a system and most importantly, not compromising on image quality.
I will be posting more thoughts and photos from the X-Pro1 in the weeks ahead, subscribe to Handcarry Only to stay tuned!