Review:http://www.martinzimelka.com/homepage/Blog/Blog.html

NAVIGATION:

Final Remarks:

BUILD AND OPERATION:


The X-Pro 1 fits well in the hand, and is light and easy to carry around all day long. The system is compact, fits into a small bag, and takes excellent images. It’s really an ideal system for travel, or candid street photography. It’s just a question of time until Fujifilm expands their lens line up for the system, or until third party lenses or lens adaptors are widely available, which will make the system even more versatile.


The X-Pro 1 is a camera I tried to enjoy, since it’s form factor is incredibly appealing, and the system has so much potential. For one, the camera is  slow in operation, and I doubt that additional firmware tweaks will change this significantly. The camera is also extremely expensive in my opinion. I doubt that the build quality of the camera dictated much of the selling price. I find the camera a half-baked attempt at capturing the feel and function of the Leica-M system. At the same time, it doesn’t manage to deliver the simpler things like auto-focus, snappy performance, or the every day creature comforts we have come to expect with other interchangeable-lens compacts or DSLR’s.


Another BIG issue is the lack of good RAW support in the most common and widely used RAW converters. Fuji film can’t expect photographers to drop their every day RAW converters to use the clunky and annoying Silkypix RAW converter. That would be blatantly naive, and it would be greatly beneficial for Fujifilm to give Adobe, or others alike, the help it needs to provide the best possible RAW conversions for the X-Pro1. Silkypix isn’t a strong piece of software, and Adobe seem not to take the X-Pro 1 files all that seriously, since ACR 7 has been updated once since it’s initial X-Pro 1 support (be it that LR4,2 is still a release candidate), and RAW conversions are still as poor as before. I’m of the opinion that the X-Trans sensor needs to go, or Fuji needs to team up with Adobe and get a better RAW conversion out there... Right now, images at true-pixel magnification look like images that were strongly up-scaled by something like Genuine Fractals software, with smeared pixels and colour artefacts.  


The range-finder style viewfinder is vaguely romantic, but when it comes to performing, things change a little. The optical viewfinder is quite cool, but accurate framing and focusing is simply not possible. The errors are far too large for me to consider using it, even with it’s parallax correction and AF point compensation. Using the indicated focusing point as can be deceiving, as the camera may focus on something entirely different, based on the lens in use and the distance of the subject from the camera. Unless composition isn’t that important and the focused subject is relatively large and distant, I would avoid using the optical viewfinder.


Switching over to the electronic viewfinder kills all the romanticism associated with a range-finder type camera. The image quality of the electronic display is quite good, but it’s far from taking on a realistic feel -  Is that at all possible? I suppose a much higher resolution display and an increased and seamless frame-rate will go a long way to achieve a more realistic feel. The viewfinder can be very very cluttered, but luckily this can be changed in the camera’s settings. The electronic finder ins’t unpleasant to use, and it’s effectively the only way I think one should use the camera. It provides accurate framing, and the best manual focus aid when it comes to photographing in difficult lighting situations, for instance when photographing the night sky. FYI, the infinity mark on the rangefinder focus scale is NOT a good enough reference for shooting a star filled night sky!


The X-Pro 1 also has a few quirks, but I didn’t bother to note down the problems I stubbled across. The camera did freeze completely a few times, mostly when coming out of sleep mode, and only removing and re-inserting the battery resolved this.  There are some puzzling features that truck me as odd, but the one that took me the longest to figure out was that silent mode disables the hot shoe. Can someone please explain this logic? If you want the cliche pre-recorded SLR shutter sound to be off, but still want to shoot flash, the only way is to turn the volume down. Another annoying feature is that ISO values are limited to ASA 200 to ASA 6400 when shooting RAW. The extended ISO values are only available for JPG shooting. The X-Pro 1 also indirectly allows me shoot in my preferred shooting style... I like to disable the AF function from the shutter release on all my cameras. It’s a personal preference, and luckily the X-Pro 1 allows me to do this by enabling manual focus mode, and then using the AE-L / AF-L button to focus on demand. This does speed things up a little in certain situations.




LENSES:


The three XF lenses I’ve tried were interesting (18/2, 35/1.4, and 60/2.4 lenses). A little too costly to some extent. Their build quality was fair, although the 35/1.4 was defective out-the-box; The metal housing between the focus ring and aperture ring was loose, and using the manual focus override had a lot of play and also made a unpleasant sound when switching focus directions. In general, the lenses are quite solid, but deceptively light. The fly by wire focus ring is dampened by white grease of sorts, which could be seen at the edges of the ring. I’m not sure how this will endure the test of time, usage and environmental conditions, but it’s easy to see that dust and fine dirt require little effort to get in there, potentially worsening the focus feel. The fly-by-wire focusing is something that is practically and functionally useless. Yes, the lens focuses when turning the ring, and it also adjust focus speed depending on rotational speed, but it doesn’t come close to proper manual focus override or manual focus lenses. I honestly think that this ‘feature’ needs to be greatly improved or removed altogether.


The only lens that stands out from the rest, is the XF 35/1.4. It’s a remarkable optic, and the only lens that’s possibly worth the price Fujifilm asks for it. Optically, the XF 18/2  is the weakest. Getting good edge performance at medium to far distances is hard. It seems to have inward running field curvature towards the edges, but even taking this into consideration, it’s not possible to get even sharpness across the frame for landscapes. Stopping down to f/11 or f/16 will help by reducing centre sharpness to make the image look more uniform. The lens also has a fair amount of lateral CA, and for it’s price, that’s annoying. The XF 60/2.4 macro is the weakest link in the XF lens chain. The focusing system of the X-Pro 1 lets down the lens, because it’s a very good optic, but in practice, the lens is very annoying to use. Even with the latest firmwares installed, the X-Pro 1 failed to focus on so many occasions, that I lost my sense of humour and avoided using the lens almost entirely.



CONCLUSION:


At the end of the day, I’m not going to give the X-Pro system the time of day if a few things don’t change.

Firstly, for it’s price, this camera grossly under delivers. Either as a cheap Leica-M competitor or as a feature and performance rich interchangeable lens compact. For the price of the body and the three lenses, I’d rather spend more money on a second hand M9 and a Zeiss 35/2 lens. This being unlikely to happen, and merely a preference, I’de rather buy something else, like a Sony NEX-7 with a Zeiss lens and an adaptor. The X-Pro 1 is too clunky and sluggish, and tries to deliver the best of both worlds, but doesn’t.


Secondly, a large reason for my disliking the X-Pro 1, is the poor RAW file support with mainstream RAW converters. While it’s not directly Fujifilm’s fault, it’s in their best interest to do something about it. I’m not going to give up using LR4 or Photoshop when converting X-Pro 1 RAW files, and especially not when the supplied software is the likes of Silkypix. Raw support in LR4 needs to either speed up, or deliver the best possible image quality to justify it’s ridiculous processing requirements. I think the quickest and best thing to do would be for Fujifilm to simply drop the X-Trans sensor. Moire isn’t difficult to beat in post processing, and the X-Trance isn’t immune moire either. A regular CMOS sensor would probably make the camera slightly snappier to use as well. At the end of the dat, the inclusion of a X-Trans sensor would be sufficient for me to not consider buying a future X200 or X-Pro 2. Simple as that!


Thirdly, the autofocus system needs to improve by a large margin. Other manufacturers have this department waxed, and the X-Pro 1 fails badly here. The use of the 60/2.4 Macro best demonstrates how poor the AF performance of the X-Pro 1 is.


Fourthly, the system needs proper manual focus support built into their lenses. The fly-by-wire method is ineffective and frustrating to use. The AF has enough difficulty as it is, and a poorly implemented manual focus system is adding insult to injury.


Lastly, the price of the camera body is too high for what it offers. I fail to identify the value the camera provides in order to justify it’s price, since it’s build and performance don’t justify it. The snob value is superficial, just like the toy camera market, Lomo, Holga, etc. I don’t get it, and I find it exploitive. Especially in South Africa, this camera retails for approximately 40% more expensive than the USA retail price. Again, the same question I asked Nikon, why? Canon offers a MUCH better pricing structure here in South Africa compared to Fujifilm and Nikon


I’m sorry for the harsh opinions, but that’s how I feel about the  X-Pro 1. I seriously considered not publishing the review. I do believe the X-Pro system has the potential to be absolutely amazing, but right now, the X-Pro 1 falls short.