FUJI X-PRO 1 - Street Photography

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

Like the X100 before it, there seems to be some notion that the X-Pro 1 is a camera for street photography. However I suspect that idea is based more on appearances and history than anything else. Leicas are often mentioned as being the same. 

If by street photography we mean the recording of candid, semi social-documentary shots of (mainly) city life, then many photographers such as Cartier-Bresson and Robert Doisneau, did use Leicas. But then Doisneau and photographers like Vivian Maier used twin lens Rollieflexes as well. Somehow the Fuji's seem to be seen as tools for this genre, possibly simply because they "look the part", and possibly because of the frameline optical viewfinder, which is similar to a Leica. I've often wondered what his reaction would be if a time traveller handed Cartier-Bresson an AF mirrorless camera with live view and a zoom lens. Would he have said "No I'll stick with my manual focus Leica and fixed lens" or bitten someones hand off to use it?

However, whatever the historical dimension, and putting aside the strange idea that if you have the "right" camera you will get the "right" pictures, it does seem we are stuck with the concept of a rangefinder or rangefinder styled camera as being the appropriate camera of choice for street photography. It seems we are also stuck with the belief that it has to be done in black and white. Despite the fact that many modern phographers use colour and point and shoot AF cameras - http://www.street-photographers.com/

In the spirit of adventure and curiosity I decided to have a go at using my X-Pro 1 for an afternoon of photographing the tourist busy streets of Stratford-upon-Avon, to see just how good it is at that. It would be particularly interesting since I've actually never done anything like it before. I've shot weddings, indoor and outdoor events, performing arts and concerts and I have of course shot large numbers of pictures in an urban environment, but until a couple of days ago, I had never gone out with the express intention of shooting people on pavements and attempting to record my own "decisive moments".

Since I've just updated the Fuji's firmware which stops the chattering aperture blades and since there is a suggestion that if you press your finger firmly through the shutter button the cameras AF is quicker, I decided to give it a try with the camera plus 35mm f/1.4 lens.

Here's a few examples of what I came up with.

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

Fuji X-Pro 1 35mm f/1.4 lens

Just to say that the tourists cameras of choice (other than phones) seemed to be mainy DSLR's. I saw nobody using mirrorless cameras at all.

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

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

Fuji X-Pro 1 35mm f/1.4 lens

So I managed to get a few "moments" but I not sure how decisive the camera was. In fact it was very difficult to use. I lost count of the times that the camera refused to focus and take a picture. It was also VERY sluggish, and my pressing the shutter button very firmly all the way down, didn't help much. 

Getting the camera to take the picture at the precise moment I wanted proved almost impossible. The following picture may look fine, but in fact its a large blow up from the picture that the camera finally allowed me to take. If it had fired when I wanted it to then the woman and the dogs would have filled the frame, however as time passed and the X-Pro 1 slowly found focus, locked it and allowed the shutter to fire they were some distance away, as you can see in the picture below.

Fuji X-Pro 1 35mm f/1.4 lens


This kept on happening, and in the end I opted either for a serendipity or shoot and hope approach, or tried to anticipate something interesting and set myself up in position in advance having pre-focused.

In the end I was pleased with what I got, but my sense of frustration with the Fuji was becoming quite intense after an hour or two.

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

Fuji X-Pro 1 35mm f/1.4 lens

The last one above is my favourite. This is a group of Russian tourists who were looking at the Shakespearean sights. This man wandered off on his own and seemed intent on directing the party to his own itinery. My Russian is non-existent, but it was obvious that there was a growing sense of annoyance with his behaviour and the womans look is priceless.

My frustration with the camera is that it isn't consistent. When it did work quickly and when I wanted it to, like the shot above, I got the picture I wanted, But too often it dithered about, and sometimes wouldn't take a picture at all, so I missed a lot as well.

When there is time to think about whats going on, its fine. I changed location later on, to a less crowded environment and it was much less problematic.

Fuji X-Pro 1 35mm f/1.4 lens

Fuji X-Pro 1 35mm f/1.4 lens

The camera does for seem reason seem to focus and lock on to bicycles pretty quickly, for whatever reason I cannot imagine.

To be honest, I did enjoy my first attempt at this style of photography enormously. I discovered that I had more "bottle" than I thought I would and the people watching and anticipation involved was quite exhilarating. However, I'm not sure that I'd use the Fuji again. I've resolved to try this more often, and I'm taking the OM-D next time.

So, I can't say that I recommend the Fuji X-Pro 1 for fast reaction photography in a crowded constantly changing environment. Try as I might, I couldn't get it to do what I wanted, and I tried virtually everything to see if I could get it quicker, but failed. There was no question that the quality was incredible, Most of these pictures are blow-ups from images shot at ISO 800 and you see the quality for yourselves.

I'm going back to using it as a landscape / location camera with manual focus lenses, as that is where it seems to excel. I was editing some images I took a while ago with it yesterday, and there was a wonderful quality to the images. I had taken them with my Voigtlaner 35mm f/1.2 Nokton lens, which after a lot of experimentation seems to give the beat results. However the disadvantage of this combination is that it weighs close to a Kilogram.

For my next foray onto the streets I will try the OM-D and I'd also like to give my NEX-cameras a go. When I do I'll see if that improves things.

N.B. to see more on the cameras and lenses featured in this post click on the relevant labels (tags and keywords) below.
All original material on this blog is © Soundimageplus

For comment and discussion - join us over at Google+

about soundimageplus - soundimageplus website
soundimageplus on flickr - http://www.flickr.com/photos/45203414@N06/
soundimageplus blog readers pictures group - http://www.flickr.com/groups/1705334@N24/
soundimageplus on YouTube - http://www.youtube.com/user/soundimageplus
soundimageplus on Vimeo - http://vimeo.com/user1050904/video