A few days with the Fuji X-Pro1

About a week ago, I decided to rent the brand-new Fuji X-Pro 1 for a few days. It was on a whim; I had not played with a Fuji X100 before, and so I didn't know really what to expect. My professional cameras to this point have been the Canon 5d and 5d mark 2, plus a stint with a 20d several years ago. Photographers have talked about the retro feel of the body, and there's no denying it. It has a definite Leica sensibility. Large, metal dials on top of a tank-grade metal body. APS-C sized sensor. About 18 megapixels. Having not spent a lot of time with either Leicas or retro-ish cameras (before they were considered retro), the feel of the X-Pro 1 was new to me. But I quickly got used to it as the benefit of a smaller-than-a-5d-body mentality kicked in.

One of the biggest benefits of the X-Pro 1 (other than its new, interchangeable lens mount), is its hybrid viewfinder. When you are looking through it, you can either see a LCD version of your scene (the EVF, or electronic viewfinder), or an optical version with some informational overlays (the OVF, or, wait for it, optical viewfinder). They both have good and bad points. The EVF mode definitely shows more information, but it seemed more difficult to focus for me. In low light, however, it excels. The OVF is interesting because you are not seeing directly what the lens sees - you are looking through a viewfinder that's a little bit off axis. So, you have to learn to adjust for that (but it wasn't that difficult).

Both viewfinder modes suffer from some sort of polarization issue. Meaning, when I use the camera with my polarized sunglasses on, I can't see either the EVF or the information overlays in the OVF. I'm sure there's a fancy name for this issue. It goes away when you rotate your camera vertically, but I thought it was weird to have this issue in a camera that has a rubber protection piece specifically for eyeglasses. All you 'togs that sport those self-shading glasses may want to take note.

And let's talk about that focus. Zack Arias originally thought this camera would be his DSLR killer. It's not, at least not completely. Overall, the image quality is awesome and I could see using it as an additional camera for a lot of jobs. Just not any involving motion, because the focus is too slow. One way around this I found is to pre-focus on an area and wait for the moving subject to pass through. With enough light and a tight-enough aperture, I was able to get some good results. In fact, the X-Pro 1 beats my 5d2 in fps by at least a full frame. But there were several times I thought I had achieved focus, only to discover later that I was way off:

Over the few days that I had the camera, I got better and learned to give the camera the time it needs. I even brought it along on a portrait session:

Manual focus is near impossible in a motion shoot, as it's a focus-by-wire system. Turning the focus wheel doesn't actually rotate the lens elements. The super-smart Fuji computer does that, just slowly. This might be something fixed in a future firmware update.

The built-in picture style modes are cool - I found myself shooting black and white and film simulation images in-camera a lot. You can also have the camera record multiple simulations at the same time (say, a RAW and a black and white.) Those are fun. Speaking of RAW, I couldn't test that as there was no RAW support for the files in PS or Lightroom, and you can't download the Fuji software from their site (update: a recent Adobe update has appeared to fix this.)

So, after 4 days with it, I was sad to see it go. It does have a personality to it that you immediately feel when you hold it. It's hard to describe. You find yourself wanting to make the camera work despite all of its idiosyncrasies. It has charm. Or it's dope. Or tight. Or whatever you kids want to call it. It's the camera I would take on a trip when I want great quality without the size of my 5d. Quiet and not intimidating.

Here are some samples, processed with VSCO via LR 4 (thanks a lot, Ben).