Hybrid viewfinder

Fujifilm's unique hybrid viewfinder, a version of which was first seen in the X100, provides a bright optical view of the scene while simultaneously allowing you to view shooting information via an electronic overlay. In the example below, I've set the viewfinder to display minimal shooting information, for an uncluttered scene view.

In optical viewfinder (OVF) mode, the viewfinder provides you with a wider angle of coverage than the lens you're using - in this case the 35mm f/1.4 without its lens hood. Image composition is made with the use of framelines (seen here in yellow) that correspond to the lens' field of view.

In true rangefinder fashion, the framelines in the X-Pro1 indicate less than 100% coverage of what the lens will actually capture. Fujifilm claim aproximately 90% coverage in their specs but with the 35mm lens at least, I find it to be even less. Until you become familiar enough with the framing to take this into account, you'll likely end up with a composition including elements you thought were cropped out, but you'll never suffer the (even worse) fate of inadvertently cropping an element you though you had included.

In a subtle but welcome change over the X100, the framelines on the X-Pro1 change color based on the ambient light. With the camera pointed at a normal to dark scene, the framelines are white. Face the camera towards a bright scene, however, and those framelines become yellow, allowing for better visibility.

Fujifilm's engineers have provided two separate magnifications for the OVF when switching between the 18mm lens (.37x) and the 35mm and 60mm lenses (.60x). The higher magnification level ensures that even with the longest of the three XF lenses mounted, the framelines do not become unusably small in the viewfinder. The switch happens automatically upon mounting a lens, though you can also toggle between magnifications simply by holding the viewfinder lever selector for two seconds.

The hybrid viewfinder contains a magnification lens that is offset from the viewfinder prism when the 18mm lens is mounted. With the 35mm or 60mm lens attached, the magnification lens slides into the light path, enlarging the image seen in the OVF.

If you want to see 100% coverage for your attached lens, you can do so by switching the viewfinder to EVF operation. As seamlessly as this hybrid viewfinder system operates, the performance of the EVF itself is a little disappointing. From my experience so far, I feel the same way about the X-Pro1's EVF as I felt about that of the X100. Matched against the best of its competition (the Sony NEX 7 and Olympus OM-D E-M5 are the obvious points of comparison) its refresh rate is a little slow. If you're panning with a moving subject, for example (admittedly not the most typical usage scenario for the X-Pro1), the screen image can lag considerably behind the movement of the camera.

Focus

For all of the comparisons to the ultra-expensive Leica M9, it's important to remember that the X-Pro1 has other competitors as well. Realistically, anyone interested in the X-Pro1 will also be considering standout mirrorless models like the Sony NEX 7 and Olympus OM-D E-M5. Be warned though - if you're excited by the very fast autofocus performance of these cameras, you might be disappointed by the responsiveness of the X-Pro1.

In reasonably well-lit scenes with subjects of moderate contrast, AF acquisition is certainly adequate, although no-one will ever mistake the X-Pro1 for an action or sports-oriented camera. The real frustration comes in lower light scenes when using the 60mm f/2.4. Focus hunting is a constant problem, with performance that is noticeably slower than either of the other two XF lenses. I must say though, that while AF may be slow, when the X Pro1 finds its mark it is very, very accurate. After reviewing hundreds of my handheld sample images on the computer, I've only been able to identify a small handful that are unusable due to mis-focus by the AF system.

Manual Focus

Unfortunately, the MF complaints we had with the X100 are unchanged with the X-Pro1. In order to check focus you can set the EVF to magnification mode easily enough by clikcing-in the rear dial. Yet the camera insists on choosing its own aperture setting for the image preview - chosen presumably to maintain scene brightness in live view - which in some situations can make critical focus effectively impossible.

When pointed at a bright scene, for example, the camera will show you a magnified live view with the lens set to a narrow aperture, which of course shows a relatively wide depth of field. But if you actually want to shoot at a wide aperture (f/2.4 for example), you can easily be looking at a scene element that appears sharp in the magnified view but sits beyond the depth of field at the taking aperture. In this case, you'll end up with an out-of-focus image, despite it looking sharp in the magnified focusing view in the EVF. For a camera that is so clearly geared to enthusiasts and professionals, this is a critical misstep.

There is a workaround to this problem, although it's far from obvious. If you configure the Fn button for Depth of Field Preview, pressing it before you adjust focus sets the lens to the taking aperture. At this point, clicking in the rear dial for magnified view will allow accurate manual focus. Rather curiously, when set to video mode the camera honors the taking aperture in both normal and magnified live view all of the time, giving full time depth of field preview. I don't see why the camera can't behave this way in still image mode.

When using the EVF or rear LCD in MF mode, you can view the scene at 100%... ...or press the rear thumb dial for a magnified view in order to adjust focus.

There's another frustration that carries over from the X100. Looking through the viewfinder set to either OVF or EVF operation, in MF mode you can press the AE/AF lock button to engage AF acquisition on a chosen AF area. Yet there is no focus confirmation. Your only clue is an audible one, in that you can longer hear the lens being adjusted. Whether the camera thinks it has achieved focus or not is never clear; all you know for sure is that is has stopped trying. 

Ideally, we'd like to see a firmware update that incorporated Sony and Ricoh-style focusing peaking in MF mode. After all, one of the potential benefits of a mirrorless camera design is a short flange back distance that permits the use of a range of lenses built for other systems, past and present. It's likely we'll see all sorts of third party adapters for the X-mount in the coming months, which could quickly broaden the selection of usable manual focus lenses. Improved MF capability could go a long way towards making the X-Pro1 an attractive option for owners of third-party lenses, but right now I don't think the manual focus experience has received the attention it deserves from Fujifilm.

Oddities and quirks

Fortunately, the X-Pro1 is free from the majority of the handling oddities, operational quirks and downright bugs that made the X100 such a painful camera to use when it was first released. Fujifilm appears to have taken some of the feedback to heart, with the result that the X-Pro1 behaves much more sensibly. It isn't perfect though - here are a few things that have bothered me during my time with the camera. 

When shooting in continuous mode, the resulting files get saved according to a completely different filenaming system, which can cause all sorts of issues if you like to name and sort images using any camera-generated titles. Another bit of maddening behavior comes when you review vertical images in playback mode. Should you want to magnify the view, the enlarged view remains constrained to the same vertical format, as shown below. The only workaround - and I use the term loosely here - is to disable the camera's auto rotation ability, which is far from ideal. This quirk is also inherited from the X100, but on that camera it's been fixed in FW 1.20.

Because the rear screen is in a horizontal format, vertical images occupy a much smaller screen area. Frustratingly, and for no good reason, this behavior carries over into the magnified view, resulting in a lot of wasted display area. 

Finally, although you have the option to display compositional grids in the OVF, this function is rendered much less useful than it could (and should) be by the fact that they are positioned relative to the entire viewfinder area rather than to the framelines for the currently-mounted lens. Unlike the framelines, the gridlines don't adjust for parallax on focusing either. This means that when using the 60mm lens in particular, the gridlines are of limited practical use as 'Framing Guidelines', which is what Fujifilm claims them to be.   

Click here to continue to page 5 of our article, First Impressions: Using the Fujifilm X-Pro1