Flawed but Irresistable - Ongoing adventures with the Fuji X-Pro 1

Fuji X-Pro 1 35mm f/1.4 lens
All images -  Fuji X-Pro 1 35mm f/1.4 lens

Despite the fact that I write a great deal that criticises it, despite the fact that I have a newer camera, the Olympus OM-D, that I haven't used very much, and despite the fact that I have an excellent new lens, the Sigma 19mm, for my NEX system, the camera that I currently want to use and take out is still the Fuji X-Pro 1.

OLYMPUS OM-D EM-5 Voigtlander 35mm f.1.2

Fuji X-Pro 1 35mm f/1.4 lens

Yesterday it was pretty much in its comfort zone. I wasn't asking it to react instantly to fast moving situations. I was in a situation where I had time to focus properly, and gave it strong targets with pleny of contrast to lock onto. 

Fuji X-Pro 1 35mm f/1.4 lens

I used the 35mm f/1.4 lens throughout. This is now a much pleasanter experience with no chattering aperture blades anymore.There is still far too much chuntering away for my liking when the X-Pro 1 takes a picture, but I seem to be getting used to it.

In terms of focusing, there's a short video by Steve Huff on the AF compared to an Olympus OM-D. Not the greatest video in the world, but it shows just how frustrating the X-Pro 1 can be to work with.

My solution is basically to use the camera in situations where this doesn't happen. And in terms of what I do that is pretty much 90% of what I do. 

Fuji X-Pro 1 35mm f/1.4 lens

When Chris (CMHHK) originally got his camera, he did remark to me that the focusing would probably be perfectly adequate for the kind of work that I do, and for the most part this is right. Using it yesterday I had no problems with the AF in the camera, as I wasn't asking it to do anything that it can't do. And certainly under those circumstances its a great camera to use. I could of course have done this from the start, but if this blog is to have any use to other photographers, then its a good idea for me to try out different ways of working. Particularly when the design and "ethos" of the camera seems to point it in certain directions.

Oddly enough, this is exactly why I'm growing very fond of it. For whatever reason, its stretching me as a photographer. Above I talked about the cameras comfort zone, but there is somewhat of a change to my own. Though I wasn't that impressed with the cameras performance, the very fact that I went out and tried some street photography - http://soundimageplus.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/fuji-x-pro-1-street-photography.html - is an achievement in itself. The fact that I enjoyed it, was pleased with what I got and want to do it again, is something I never expected. I've also written about the fact that I don't shoot in low light usually, but that is changing as well. 

Fuji X-Pro 1 35mm f/1.4 lens

The shot above was taken at ISO 3200 in a dark church, and I like it a lot. Its pin sharp and for ISO 3200 its incredibly clean, with virtually no noise.Yesterday evening I uploaded a couple of files to a picture library shot at this ISO and one taken at ISO 640. Now this is something I do very rarely, if ever at all, because of the quality loss that usually happens. Even when I've used cameras such as the Nikon D3 and Canon 5D Mk II, I've never felt that I could shoot stock images at high ISO's and get them accepted by the libraries I submit too. For event / wedding shooting etc. they were fine, but the levels of noise and the applied noise reduction that those cameras used, made getting a sucessful image for what I shoot, difficult.

The X-Pro 1 has changed all that. Its combination of high ISO performance, which produces low-noise images which are still beautifully crisp and clean, is unique amongst the cameras that I have used, and consequently its opening up all sorts of possibilities for me. I'm no longer avoiding photo opportunities because I would have to increase my ISO settings. In the past using m4/3 and Leicas, and my NEX cameras, I wouldn't have been able to get the quality of results that I can now from the X-Pro 1. I wrote in a previous post about getting an image accepted by my most "picky" picture library at ISO 6400, for the first time ever.

Anyone who provides travel, location type shots to picture libraries will know what I mean, in that they aren't particularly keen on anything that doesn't look clean, sharp and bright. In the past, if I've shot interiors, I've always used a tripod. Now I don't have to, which both makes my life easier and also lets me shoot in a larger number of locations, since not everywhere I visit likes the photographers three-legged friend cluttering up the place, and in fact its often the case that tripods are banned.

So all of this means that the Fuji X-Pro 1 is enlarging the scope of what I will consider shooting and leading me into new areas. All of which far outweighs any problem I may have with AF speed.

Fuji X-Pro 1 35mm f/1.4 lens

Fuji X-Pro 1 35mm f/1.4 lens

Fuji X-Pro 1 35mm f/1.4 lens

The other reason I'm warming to the X-Pro 1 is the size and weight. Now that the annoying clicking is absent, the 35mm f/1.4 lens suddenly becomes a more attractive proposition. And it is a nicely balanced combination. I have always liked the reduced weight of m4/3 and other mirrorless systems, but I've always found them a little too small. The reason that I add on leather cases, lens hoods and other paraphenalia is often to "bulk them up" a bit. I always found the Leica M9 a great size to work with, but it could be heavy with metal m-mount lenses. The X-Pro 1 + the 35mm lens is almost the perfect weight and size as far as I'm concerned. Yesterday I was carrying the OM-D + 45mm lens as well, and I must admit the times I used it, it almost felt like a toy after the X-Pro 1 and I am certainly looking forward to the grips arriving for that camera, which should give that more to hold on to as well.

The X-Pro 1 Vogtlander 35mm f/1.2 Nokton combination I have used, is a nice manual focus alternative, but that is certainly not light. Just under a Kilo in fact, and this moving into DSLR territory, in terms of weight, and that is something I'm trying to get away from, not go back to!. Using the Fuji lens on the X-Pro 1 is certainly a nicer experience and means that I will walk further carrying that combination around. With this in mind I've decided to get the 18mm and 60mm Fuji lenses, and I will be picking those up today.

The final advantage the X-Pro 1 has, and why I've decided to firstly stick with it, and secondly move it to the "front of the queue", are the marvellous jpgs. it produces.

Like most of the other users of the camera I'm keen for Adobe to support the camera ASAP, as I just can't get Silkypix to give me results that I like. And believe me I've tried!! I've been through virtually every combination of settings, both presets and manually and the problem I have with it are the sharpening parameters. They are just too crude for me, compared with Adobe Camera Raw or Capture One. I'm convinced that there is Leica M9 crispness lurking in these X-Pro files, and to a certain extent I have been able to get that by the somewhat complicated process I have outlined before, i.e. converting files to tiffs using the super neutral setting and then importing those into Adobe Camera Raw. But that is proving problematic with some files and it is a long winded process. So its still a somewhat impatient wait for me (us) to see just what these files are capable of.

However the jpgs. are pretty much "ready to wear" and need very little adjustment before I upload them to libraries. I believe that there is still more that could be got from the raw files but there is no doubt the jpgs. are VERY impressive. As with the use of high ISO settings working with jpgs. is something that I haven't really done much of, as the majority of camera jpgs. are inferior to files processed in good raw software, to my eyes.

The first day I got the X-Pro 1 I mentioned that I thought it would be an "adventure" and its certainly proving to be that. In keeping with what I regard as the "true spirit" of a photographic blog, I have written about my ups and downs with it, as and when they happen, with no revisions and no using it for a couple of weeks and coming up with some kind of "definitive" review. There have been times when I've just wanted to get it on ebay ASAP, but I have slowly warmed to it and certainly as you will have seen, I can't leave it alone and keep wanting to use it.

Its that kind of a camera, fascinating yet frustrating and I'm sure there's still more changes of mind to come with it. But as mentioned above, this is the first camera I've used in years that is capable of leading me into different areas and ways of working and is exanding what I can shoot and will consider shooting.

I can't think of a better reason to use a camera.

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