Fujifilm X-Pro1 in-depth review
NOTE: On September 18th 2012 Fujifilm released Firmware version 2.0 for the X-Pro1. This improves certain key aspects of operation addressed in this review, most notably both autofocus and manual focus performance. Please bear this in mind when reading this review, we'll be revisiting our conclusions in due course.
When Fujifilm announced its FinePix X100 retro-styled large-sensor compact at Photokina 2010, it captured the imagination of serious photographers in a way the company seemed not to have quite anticipated. The X100's combination of 'traditional' dial-based handling and outstanding image quality brought widespread plaudits, making it something of a cult classic despite its undeniable flaws. The subsequent addition to the range of the X10 compact, with its bright, manually-controlled zoom lens, has cemented Fujifilm's resurgence as a brand worthy of serious attention.
The X100 may have looked very traditional but it housed some very modern technologies - foremost amongst which was its hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder. This design not only allowed the choice of a rangefinder-style optical view or a fully electronic view, but was also able to overlay electronic data over the optical viewfinder. It was a masterpiece of engineering, but appeared to be a design very much dependent on its use with an integrated prime lens.
With the X100's success and the increasing popularity of mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras, it seemed only a matter of time before Fujifilm would introduce a higher-end model with exchangeable lenses. That camera has now arrived in the shape of the X-Pro1, whose name leaves absolutely no doubt as to its intended market: it becomes the first of its type specifically aimed at professional photographers.
Fujifilm X-Pro1 highlights
The X-Pro1 is the start of an all-new camera system, with a brand new mount and lenses. It's unashamedly targeted at a high-end audience, with analogue control dials and a small set of compact, large-aperture primes available at launch. Fujifilm is keen to stress its future commitment to the system, with a promise of seven more lenses by spring 2013, and further camera models to come too. Key features are:
- Fujifilm-designed 16MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS sensor
- Novel colour filter array to suppress colour moiré, no optical low-pass filter
- EXR Processor Pro image processor
- Dual-magnification hybrid optical / electronic viewfinder
- Analogue dials for shutter speed and exposure compensation on top of camera
- All-new, fully electronic X lens mount; 17.7mm flange-to-sensor distance
- Three 'XF' lenses at launch: XF 18mm F2 R, XF 35mm F1.4 R, and XF 60mm F2.4 R Macro
- Prime lenses have traditional-style aperture rings (1/3 stop increments) and large manual focus rings
- Revised rear-panel control layout
- On-screen 'Q' control panel and redesigned tabbed menu system
- Focal-plane shutter, 1/4000 sec max speed
- 3.0" RGBW 1.23M dot LCD
|The X-Pro1 with its initial lens set, with hoods attached: 35mm F1.4 (mounted), 60mm F2.4 Macro and 18mm F2|
The X-Pro1 is most easily characterized as a beefed-up, interchangeable-lens version of the X100, but it's a lot more besides. It retains the same basic analogue control philosophy, but the design has been rationalized and refined in a fashion that suggests Fujifilm has been listening to feedback from users and reviewers alike. For example, the shutter speed dial has a central lock button for its Auto position, and the exposure compensation dial is recessed, which reduces the risk of accidental settings changes. There's also a conveniently-placed 'Q' button that brings up an on-screen control panel to access a range of functions that previously required a trip into the menus - a much-needed improvement over the X100.
However potentially the most interesting change is on the inside, and specifically the image sensor. The X-Pro1 uses a proprietary, Fujifilm-designed 16MP APS-C 'X-Trans CMOS' chip that eschews the conventional Bayer-pattern colour filter array in favour of a more complex layout. The result, claims Fujifilm, is a practical immunity to colour moiré, which means that an optical low-pass (anti-aliasing) filter is no longer required. This suggests that in terms of detail resolution the X-Pro1 should punch above its weight based on pixel count alone - indeed at launch Fujifilm claimed it should out-resolve the full frame 21MP Canon EOS 5D Mark II.
The X-Pro1 uses an entirely new all-electronic lens mount, and the initial lens line-up will consist of a set of bright primes with focal lengths that neatly complement the X100's 23mm F2. There's an 18mm F2 wideangle, 35mm F1.4 normal, and 60mm F2.4 Macro telephoto (offering 28mm, 50mm and 90mm equivalents respectively) - the latter with extended close-focus capabilities giving 0.5x magnification. Each has a prominent manual focus ring and an aperture dial controllable in 1/3 stop increments (a welcome improvement over the X100). However, neither control is mechanically coupled - both focus and aperture are electronically driven 'by wire'.
The X100's signature optical/electronic 'hybrid' viewfinder is retained, and to help cope with interchangeable lenses it now offers two magnifications. At its lower magnification (0.37x) it covers the field of view of the 18mm lens; when the 35mm lens is mounted, an additional magnifier slides into place to match, giving 0.6x magnification. The 60mm lens uses a smaller frameline within this magnified view. One of the advantages of the hybrid finder, of course, is that it can project suitable frame lines in the optical finder for a wide range of focal lengths, and critically-accurate composition can always be obtained by switching to the EVF regardless of the lens used.
One perhaps less-obvious change is that the X100's near-silent in lens shutter has gone, and the X-Pro1 employs a conventional focal plane shutter. This is inevitably louder in operation, and offers slower flash sync. But it also means that unlike the X100, the X-Pro1 is fully capable of combining its fastest shutter speeds with large apertures.
Further additions compared to the X100 include an upgraded LCD, which Fujifilm says offers wider viewing angles and lower reflectivity to aid viewing in direct sunlight, and a clever multiple exposure mode that provides a live preview of the composite image even when using the optical viewfinder. There are also two new Film Simulation modes, designated ProNegS and ProNegH. These, of course, play on Fujifilm's long heritage as a film manufacturer, and as the names suggest aim to replicate the characteristics of Fujicolor professional colour negative film (PRO 160NS and PRO 400NH respectively). They're therefore targeted specifically at professional photographers shooting portrait and wedding work.
All of this certainly makes the X-Pro1 an enticing prospect. We very much like the X100, despite its numerous quirks, and on paper its big brother promises improved handling and even better image quality, along with all the flexibility of interchangeable lenses. In this review we'll see whether it lives up to its billing.
Hands-on Preview video*
*Note that this video was prepared as part of our original preview content of the X-Pro1
If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).
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