Experiences XPro-1, three lenses (incl. the dreaded 60mm)

Started Jul 15, 2013 | Discussions thread
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Ednaz
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Experiences XPro-1, three lenses (incl. the dreaded 60mm)
Jul 15, 2013

I've had my Xpro-1 and three lenses (14mm, 35mm, 60mm) for quite a bit now and have come to the following good and bad conclusions.  Spoiler alert - while the bad section is longer, the important stuff's in the good section, and the system is now part of my working kit.

First the bad.

The XPro-1 isn't really a rangefinder camera, or at least not a terribly reliable one.  Even after selecting the compensation in the menus, I find that the optical viewfinder image disagrees significantly with the actual image captured, and not just in real close up situations.  I'm defining real close up as close enough that you have to select "macro" for close focusing.  I'm OK giving Fuji some slack there.  And the differences are different by lens, along with being inconsistent.  The 35mm does best; the 14mm and 18mm (borrowed for a couple days) do OK, and the 60mm is almost weirdly random.

So for me, it's much more accurate to think of the XPro-1 as an EVF camera with a limited value optical option - making it much more directly competitive with m4/3 cameras.  Looked at as an EVF camera, it's very good - but knowing what I know now, I can't justify the cost differences between the xPro-1 and the XE-1.

The 60mm lens is just plain embarrassingly bad mechanically.  Maybe they let an intern write the firmware for it.  It hunts, a lot, and its hunting algorithm is horribly inefficient, sometimes traversing the entire focus range before zipping back to a point it passed through almost at the beginning of the hunt.  I've found that the 60mm coupling to the optical finder is not just bad, but it's randomly bad - three images in a row from the same place of the same subject, putting the camera down in between so that it starts fresh each time, and the framing will be off three different ways.  The other thing I noticed is that the AF is really bad when using the optical finder, which makes no sense other than if there's a bug in the code.  I shot a series of pictures at an event, speaker at a podium.  Shot 10 with viewfinder, 10 with EVF.  Not a single image shot viewfinder was in focus, every one with EVF was in focus.

The viewfinder affects focus quality with the 35mm also.  Same test, 10 optical finder, 10 EVF, and about half the optical finder images weren't in focus.  I waited to finish pressing the button until I heard the lens stop moving around, so in every case the camera was sure it was right.  Again, there's no good reason for this, probably a firmware bug.

UV contamination - under studio lights in high-key shooting, there's a bluish cast that shows up almost like flare (but across the frame evenly, unlike flare) that I've seen before in cameras modified with low UV filtering over the sensor, and at very high altitudes where the UV content of daylight is much higher.  It's enough that I'm probably going to add UV cut filters when shooting in studio.  I've been shooting the same strobe system for years, never saw this with any camera previously (including the D800e, which has a similar low-interference sensor covering.)

The add on grip feels great but is impractical since it blocks the battery and memory card door.  Should't have bought it.  Having the tripod socket off center is just goofy bad lack of thinking. The exposure compensation dial is WAY TOO EASY to inadvertently adjust.

The good

Amazing files.  Wonderful dynamic range, sharp in a way that's unflattering to normal people with normal skin (and that's how it should be).  The metering is very accurate, and the program exposure mode is excellent - no need to use spot or averaging and fiddle around under difficult lighting.  Auto ISO is extremely usable because of how good the files are across a really wide ISO range.

Excellent glass.  All three lenses are amazing examples of modern lens design, crispy sharp, contrasty, consistent across the whole range of f stops.  The 35 and 14 are also mechanically excellent lenses, snapping into focus quickly.

The handling and ergonomics are quite good, other than the memory card/battery/grip issues.

Overall, the amazing image quality makes it possible to put up with the other things.  Knowing what I know now, I would have bought an XE-1, getting the same quality images for less money and less frustration with the optical viewfinder falling short.  It is displacing my m4/3 from event shooting gigs and for hacking around personal work - it's really a spectacular EVF camera.

I'm giving Fuji two more firmware updates on the 60mm to get things right before I give up on it and get rid of it.  Will probably also try sending it in for repair to see what happens.  I love the glass, but the best glass in the world is useless if the mechanics conspire to lose shots.

Nikon D800E
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