Shooting the XPro-1…

One of the hardest parts of being a full time photographer is that on occasion you can kind of turn into an image snob.  It’s not that you’re always looking at how well something is composed (which most often you are), but that when it comes to your camera you get spoiled by quality.  My D4, puts out such an amazing image that it’s hard to find something that I can carry around with me when Shannon and I just want to go someplace for ourselves.  Yes, Shannon does have a Nikon D7000, but that’s HER camera; and she’s not as nutso about this whole photography thing as I am.  For me, a point and shoot camera just doesn’t do it.  Chase Jarvis has become popular in saying that the best camera is the one that you have with you; and that’s incredibly true.  I can’t carry my D4 with me all the time, it’s just too big and lots of places wouldn’t allow me in the front door with it.  My phone, and a point and shoot don’t produce images to a quality that pleases me though.  So as a photographer, what do I do?

(Photo Courtesy of Fujifilm’s Website)

Enter the Fuji XPro-1.  Mirrorless camera’s have been kind of the new hotness lately, and with good reason.  They are relatively small unobtrusive cameras that put out a very similar image quality to that of a DSLR.  Fuji took it one step in a design direction by giving their Mirrorless camera’s a retro Rangefinder feel very similar to that of an old Leica of the film days.  Fuji isn’t the only one in this Morrorless Craze though as Nikon has the Nikon 1 Series, Olympus has the E-PL Series.  There are others, but those are the major Players here.  Rumor has it that Canon is working on a Mirrorless camera line as well (The G1X does not count); but after their somewhat failed launch of the 1DX thus far and the reported Light leaks in the 5D Mark III (along with press release), maybe they should work on releasing a Digital Holga.  Joking.

(Fuji XPro-1, 3200ISO, 35F1.4.  1/60th@F4)

The guys over at Roberts here in Indy knew that I’d been toying around with the idea of a mirrorless Camera so they said they would loan me the XPro-1 last weekend in exchange for reviewing it for them.  Seemed reasonable to me.  I had the camera Body, the 35mm and 18mm lenses and a battery charger.  No manual, no instruction, no pre conception other than the fact that everybody thought this camera was epic.  Only thing I had planned was to take the camera on a trip to Kansas City with the love of my life (That’s Shannon in case anybody out there thinks I’m talking about a camera or something) to visit some old college friends that I rarely get to see anymore.  On this trip I planned to use the camera like I would use any point and shoot to document a vacation, which was for documenting the trip and the memories.  I never even put an image the computer before leaving to make sure that I would shoot the way I wanted and hope to be pleasantly surprised by the results.  I’m getting ahead of myself.   First thing that I did was put a memory card into the camera, and start setting the camera to the way that I wanted it.  The card had been formatted previously in Shannon’s D7000 so I didn’t format it again but that was a HUGE MISTAKE.  I’ve got access to lots of cameras, and lots of memory cards of all kinds.  I’ll put one in my Canon 5D Mark II that was last used in my D4, and it works just fine.  I put one from my 1D Mark II into my D3 and it works just fine.  Any other combination of any other cameras I’ve come into contact with and that’s been the case.  NOT HERE.  This mistake caused my camera to start up exceptionally slow.  Between 30-40 seconds kind of slow.  I was annoyed most of the weekend with this startup time because I had no idea the card was the issue until I got home and downloaded the images to a computer; and then formatted the card.  Once the card was formatted in the XPro-1, the camera started up almost instantly every time.  No wait, just start up and shoot.  One could call this an RTFM error, but I personally wonder how the camera got out of Fuji’s R&D this way.  The worst I’ve ever seen a camera do with a card from another camera was write to the wrong folder.  40 second startup lag?  Seriously?  how does that happen?  After some researching, I found that the problem is potentially caused by the Macintosh filing system in Mac OSX.  Apparently if the card has eve been in a mac it makes it difficult for the camera to read the car.  This was learned via word of mouth, and honestly I can’t find much research to support it in any way.  That being said, it is the only reason I’ve found for this to happen so take it or leave it.

Despite all that, in terms of actual image quality I’m BLOWN AWAY.  The camera produces everything I could want from an image straight out of the camera on Jpegs (RAW images can’t be opened in CS5.5 or Lightroom yet).  The images are exceptionally clean too; in fact exceptionally isn’t a strong enough word.  Supermagnumexponentiallymega clean is probably more like it.

(Full Size File, Click to Ultra Biggify.  Fuji XPro-1, 2000ISO 35F1.4. 1/250th@F11) 

As you can see from the caption, that shot was at 2,000 ISO.  If you click to biggify as the caption also says, you can see that all of the leaves are easily discernible at that sensitivity as well.  Bravo Fuji.  Bravo.  The image quality is probably the best that I’ve seen out of an APS-C sensor ever.  A D3, or D4 series camera is probably a bit cleaner, but that’s apples and oranges here.  The point is that this camera can almost fit in your pocket while producing imagery that you could potentially sell or print LARGE scale.

One of the big problems with Rangefinder style cameras that have Optical Viewfinders is called Parallaxing.  That’s when the image you are viewing is at a different angle than the lens is looking at.  It took a little bit of brain power, but after using the camera for a few days I’ve decided that Fuji’s Hybrid Viewfinder is the real deal and should be something that other manufacturers take note of.  When using the regular optical viewfinder the camera displays information in the style of a Heads Up Display. This information is customized depending on how the user sets the camera.  For example, if you set the camera to manual focus a focus rangefinder gauge appears to let you know what range your lens is focused to while you’re looking through the viewfinder preventing you from having to remove the camera from your eye while manually focusing.  There is also a live histogram that can appear in the HUD to help you with exposure.  To deal with the Parallaxing Fuji has implemented a 3 Focus Square Focus point system.  That’s not a Fuji term, that’s just a term that I made up.  It sounds official though right?  I Digress.  The three square system works like this.  You have a square over the focus point you have chosen (there are 28 total I believe that you can get to through the Q Menu, which is very intuitive).  That is the square you will do your focusing through, and it also represents infinity.  To the lower right of that square is a square with an X through it, which represents the close focusing distance AND the perspective change of the Lens/sensor.  The third box appears after you auto focus to let you know about the distance through the range your focus is, and to let you know if you need to re-frame in order to not cut peoples heads off.  If this is all too much trouble though, you can always hit the switch on the front of the camera and have a completely Electronic LCD Viewfinder with the TTL image viewable through either the same optical viewfinder OR on the camera’s LCD.  Complete with Horizon line indicator.  Everything you could ever want in a camera of this size, shape and caliber plus more!

(Fuji XPro-1, 1600ISO, 35F1.4@F1.4.  @1/30th)

That photo is a little fuzzy, but it also goes with my point that this camera is definitely made to bring out your inner Hipster.  You can even tell it you want to shoot in 1:1 ratio mode, for when you want your pictures to be all Instragram like; except on a camera that’ll produce a quality you can reproduce.  That’s not saying your Fuji XPro-1 will provide you with all the Crappifying filters that Instagram uses to make the photos look the way they do, but that you can pretend like it’s a real camera and take the photos the way you see them at the same time.  You can however set your XPro-1 to replicate different styles of Film while you are shooting.  I predominantly had mine set to Velvia, but there were several other choices available as well.  I shot a handfull of photos in the 1:1 ratio, but this one that was slightly camera shake blurry was my favorite because of the colors.

(Fuji XPro-1, 250ISO, 35F1.4, 1/1000th@F2.8)

Over the weekend that I had the camera, I had both the 18mm and 35mm and honestly I’d be ok if the 35 were the only lens option available.  I shot some with the 18mm, but in the end I was looking more of the kind of things I was producing with the 35.  The camera itself has a Macro Setting, so even with the 35mm lens I was able to get sufficiently close enough to things to be pleased with the Macro Performance.  So much so that if I owned an XPro-1 I’m not sure I’d go after the 60mm macro that they offer currently.  Speaking of what they offer, the XPro-1 is not all Unicorns and Rainbows unfortunately.  Fuji did an outstanding job setting this camera apart from the competitors and is obviously gunning for the Leica M Series rangefinder.  The problem that I have with this intentional targeting is what it does to the XPro’s price tag.  For the body alone you’re looking at $1699.  Compared to a $5,000 Leica that’s reasonable, but for a newspaper photographer that would love what this camera produces for its size it’s a little much.  That’s more than Shannon’s D7000 WITH a lens.  Same size sensor, body is just a little bigger, and I GUARANTEE the battery in the D7000 is better since the biggest complaint I have is with the XPRO-1’s Battery.  In fact, I went on a 45 minute brewery tour (source of the first blog image) and the camera didn’t even make it all the way through.  You can say that maybe I was taking a lot of photos, but I wasn’t taking THAT many…The battery life was consistent with the old Coolpix cameras’ everybody used to own that took AA batteries.  You’re looking at sub 200 shots before needing to switch.  No joke.

(Fuji XPro-1, 200ISO, 35F1.4, 1/500th@F1.4)

This trip that Shannon and I took to Kansas City was in honor of several of us couples becoming engaged and getting married over the course of the next year or so.  This is Ben; one of my old college roommates.  Specifically the Roommate that I mentioned in this earlier blog post.  Ben here was kind enough to let me take a portrait of him before he got out of the truck on our way to try out some fine Kansas City Barbeque.  One of the big allures of the Fuji XPro-1 is it’s sensor size, and the quality lenses that you can get for it’s brand new X Mount.  As I said earlier, I was not at all disappointed with the image quality of the camera.  In fact, I feel as though the camera is capable enough that if while we were in Kansas City someone asked me to do a job, I’d probably consider doing it, even with no gear other than the XPro-1.  That’s not to say that it’s a replacement for my D4.  Not a chance.  It’s just a very capable camera once you learn all it’s little quirks.  Most of those quirks (minus the battery and the card formatting thing) are very minor. That being said, did I shoot anything with any intention on this trip? or was the camera just used to document friends, family and at least one of us doing something stupid?

(Fuji XPro-1, 200ISO, F16@25 Seconds.  Lightpainted by the gun’s owner Chris.)

One of the things that Shannon and I have gotten more into lately has been lightpainting.  We haven’t done it for a few weeks, but we talk about the different things that we could do with it and I have a feeling that once it gets warmer there’s going to be a lightpainting spree over the summer.  The Fuji XPro-1 didn’t have a setting to allow to shoot for longer than 1 second on the old school Shutterspeed selector on top of the camera.  It did have a Bulb setting though, which allowed for me to hold down the shutter (very carefully) while the guns owner Chris learned how to lightpaint.  Normally Shannon helps me with these things, but she was with Chris’s Fiancee Ashley talking about girl stuff (possibly halo).  Chris was interested as to what I was going to do to take a photo of his Springfield here with this camera I needed to write about, and offered to help.  Again in this case, the camera performed flawlessly.  It is a fine tuned machine, much like the Springfield in the photo above.  Not the most interesting gun photo I’ve ever taken, but for the purposes of this review it’ll do just fine.  I really wanted a much warmer white balance, but I never really got it set up correctly on account that I was afraid with so many long exposures that the battery wouldn’t last long and we would have to stop.  After about 15 shots we called it a day, and the above shot was the keeper.  ALL of the other shots, have the reflection of the flashlight in the speckled black glass table the gun was shot on. The real beauty though, is that the image is detailed enough that you can see the fingerprints on the guns slide, and that there is absolutely zero long exposure noise.


Whew!  So that was a lot of information.  In fact there’s still a lot more, except I’m afraid I’ve already got too many misspellings already and the internet will probably shut me down if I keep going.  So what do I think?  I think the Fuji XPro-1 is awesome.  Awesome Like Crazy Awesome.  It’s not without its downsides though.  The battery life is a HUGE DOWNER for me.  The camera’s image quality is beyond superb and I think that Fuji nailed what their market for this camera is looking for in that respect.  The Autofocus is slow, but deliberate.  if you’ve thought out your shot and you have a second for your camera to think about it for itself you won’t be disappointed.  The lenses are of superb quality and your images will be very sharp.  I  personally could do with only the 35F1.4, but they have a roadmap of many X-Mount lenses ahead for everybody’s needs.  If you Format the memory card in the camera before you get started the camera will start right up almost instantly every time so you don’t miss a shot (just don’t forget).  Just let me make it clear one last time though ORDER 5 MORE BATTERIES.  I was absolutely floored as to how short the battery life on this camera was.  At one point we wanted to take a group photo and I had to inform everyone that this camera didn’t have any battery left.  It was 1pm and our trip into the city had started at 10:30.  The camera Completely fits what I personally look for in a carry around camera.  I personally feel as though the Fuji X100 is more within the reasonable price point for what this camera is though.  Awesome performer, but doesn’t intentionally replace the SLR in your bag.  Could it though?  For some things it certainly could.  This breed of camera is meant to be carried, and meant to be used every day.  While the Fuji XPro-1 competes with the Leica M Series, I feel as though hit also Ostracizes a lot of professionals out there that want the supreme quality of their DSLR, with the ability to pocket it and walk around.

With all that being said; is this the camera for me?  Dunno.  I think the search continues.  More soon…

If it’s the camera for you; go get it here.

Oh, and don’t forget THESE.