With Fujifilm claiming the X-Pro1’s APS-C sized sensor can produce better results than full-frame rivals, it was with much excitement that we tested this compact system camera to see if it lives up to the hype.
ith the popularity of CSCs showing no signs of waning, Fuji has thrown its hat into the ring with the launch of the 16.3MP X-Pro1. It looks and feels like a rangefinder, and with its modern control layout and relatively large size there is enough here to suggest that it should be compared with, at the very least, an enthusiast level DSLR, and from a rangefinder perspective the Leica M9. There really is no other camera available at the moment to compare it against, like for like.
Fuji has only produced three prime lenses to accompany the X-Pro1 – the XF 18mm f/2, XF 35mm f/1.4, and XF 60mm f/2.4 Macro. And while Fuji is tight-lipped on what lenses will be produced in the future, it is fair to say that it will have to manufacture a wider range in order to meet consumer needs. But it’s really the sensor, and the image result claims that go with it, that got our hearts pumping with an eagerness to see results. So, can it take on the heavyweights?
Features & handling
Fuji has done a great job creating a retro look and feel for this camera. It is comfortable in the hand, feels secure thanks to a textured grip on the right-hand side, and there is a distinct toughness that became apparent the more we used it.
Most photographers will admit that aesthetics do play a role, and having the X-Pro1 hanging from your neck will certainly transmit an air of photographic knowledge. And despite its size, you can still get the body, plus three lenses, in a medium-sized bag. It comes with its own carry case and each lens has a fabric pouch to house it in. However, we prefer quick access to a camera and tended to discard the case. There is a downside to this though, in that it’s easy for the on/off switch to move, and if you’re unfortunate enough to flick it on when out taking pictures, you could find yourself with a drained battery at that crucial photographic moment.
The X-Pro1 has the option to switch between an optical and electronic viewfinder via its Hybrid Viewfinder. Exposure information can be displayed through the viewfinder in both modes. When taking your shot you are able to focus on a subject via the focus point and then recompose using the larger rectangle that reflects what the lens is seeing. It can be tricky but with time and practice it should soon become second nature. You’ll also see part of the lens to the bottom-right of the viewfinder, but this is common in a rangefinder.
The controls of the X-Pro1 are a combination of old and new. The traditional comes in the form of a shutter dial and exposure compensation dial on the top-plate, as well as aperture control rings on all the lenses. And the modern comes in features such as the handy Q button that provides instant access to ISO, image size, LCD brightness, autofocus and self-timer. Once selected via the selection pad on the back of the camera, a rear thumb dial runs through the individual options, making this a great control for instant adjustment.
Aperture-priority is selected by rotating the shutter speed dial to the letter A and then turning the aperture ring to the desired value. The process is reversed for shutter-priority, as the aperture ring is rotated to the letter A and the shutter speed dial to the value needed. The shutter dial is a little fiddly to operate but it does have a lock facility (something the X100 doesn’t have), which stops it being knocked out of position. Full manual control is attained by rotating both dials to the exposure values you want. Each lens has an aperture ring marked in full stops, but does allow for 1/3 stop adjustments. There is also a hotshoe mount flashgun, the EF-20 (we didn’t receive one in time to test it) that has both auto and manual control.
We found the exposure compensation dial a great addition for exposing in very bright, very dark or high contrast conditions. Without having to delve into the menu, you can choose a compensation value between -2 stops and +2 stops in 1/3 stop increments.
The lenses all ooze quality, with smooth operating aperture rings and manual focus. AF speed is good, and with 49 focus points available (more than enough to challenge many DSLRs) there’s plenty of opportunity for a wide range of shooting scenarios.
In a time when many manufacturers sub-contract the making of their camera sensors, Fuji has totally re-designed its sensor – the 16.3MP X-Trans CMOS – for the X-Pro1 so that it can do battle on a level playing field with its targeted competitors.
There’s also a new colour filter array, a mosaic of tiny colour filters placed over the pixel sensors to capture colour information. This is then converted to a full colour image. As a result, there is no need for a low-pass filter, therefore allowing the sensor to be even closer to the rear elements of the lens. This has helped the mirrorless design of the body, as the X mount has a short back distance of 17.7mm between the flange and the sensor. It’s been done to achieve high resolution right to the edge of the image.
In our image tests the quality was outstanding, with exceptional detail and sharpness. We ran it head-to-head against the Canon EOS 5D MkII and it held its own impeccably. This really struck a chord with how effective it could be for a professional studio photographer.
Controlled ISO shots – expandable from 100-25,600 – demonstrated superb performance up to ISO 3200, and the ability to shoot at f/2 on the 18mm, f/1.4 on the 35mm, and f/2.4 on the 60mm gives great scope for isolating your subject.
For portrait photography and landscape shots, the Fuji X-Pro1 is a serious contender against bulkier full-frame opponents. You’ll be impressed with the results, and may even develop a new way of shooting. It really made us think about the images we take, and reminded us of the basic practices of photography we used when we first started out.
The X-Pro1’s real highlight is its image quality. Fuji claims that it can compete with, if not better, full-frame DSLR rivals, and they’ve backed this up with a camera that takes exceptionally sharp and detailed images, has intuitive controls and is a very real alternative for serious photographers.
And although there’s nothing out there to directly test it against, it stood shoulder to shoulder with the Canon EOS 5D MkII in image quality terms.
Despite the lack of a zoom lens and the fact that you might have to take all three lenses with you on a photography outing, we liked the constraints put in place by using prime lenses. It forces you to take a more considered approach when shooting subjects. This camera has thrown down the gauntlet to challenge current enthusiast DSLRs. We’ll be interested to see if the X-Pro1 inspires a rangefinder resurgence...
- Street price: £329 (Secondhand price as of July 2016)
- Effective resolution: 16.3MP
- Sensor type: 23.6x15.6mm X-Trans CMOS
- ISO range: 200-6400 (100-25,600 extended)
- Viewfinder: Optical and electronic
- Metering: Multi, spot & average
- LCD size: 3in 1,230,000 dots
- Recording formats: RAW & JPEG
- Shooting speed: 6fps (Hi-speed burst)
- Video: Full HD (1080p)
- Weight: 450g
- Visit: www.fujifilm.eu/uk
This review was first published in the May 2012 issue of Practical Photography - download back issues here.