Fujifilm X-Pro1 in-depth review
The X-Pro1 has no built-in flash, but offers a standard hotshoe and sync socket for use with external flashguns. Fujifilm offers a range of accessory flashes, including the EF-X20, which shares the camera's relatively compact, rectangular design and has a top-mounted dial to control flash compensation or set the power output manually. However, it's also fixed so that it can only shoot directly forward, with no option for bouncing. The larger, but less-expensive EF-42 unit offers a fully articulated head for more-creative lighting options.
|This example was shot using the matched EF-X20 flash unit. The camera has done a good job of balancing flash output and ambient lighting, but the flash unit's fixed head and proximity to the lens means the results look a little compact-camera-esque.|
The X-Pro1 provides a range of colour 'looks' that Fujifilm - playing on its rich analogue photography heritage - calls 'Film Simulation' modes. These consist of five colour modes which are named after the company's professional films - Standard / Provia, Vivid / Velvia, Soft / Astia, Pro Neg Hi and Pro Neg Std - and a number of monochrome modes that aim to simulate the effects of using coloured filters with black-and-white film (yellow, red, green or no filter), plus a 'retro' Sepia-toned mode.
|Standard/Provia||Vivid/Velvia||Soft/Astia||Pro Neg High||Pro Neg Standard|
|Monochrome||Mono (Yellow Filter)||Mono (Red Filter)||Mono (Green Filter)||Sepia|
The Standard/Provia and Pro Neg Standard modes both use a very 'open' shadow tone curve, that reduces perceived saturation and 'punch'. Of the two, the latter is the less-saturated, and therefore the X-Pro1's most 'neutral' colour mode; we think it's an excellent choice for natural-looking portraits. Curiously the Astia/Soft mode is actually rather higher in contrast, and (as with the X100) probably our favourite for everyday shooting. Meanwhile Pro Neg High is a little contrastier, but the colour is less-saturated.
The Vivid / Velvia mode certainly lives up to its name - we're not convinced that it provides exactly the same look as the iconic film it's named after, but it's certainly very vivid and saturated. Highlights tend to blow more easily, though, and we'd probably be tempted to dial the Highlight Tone down a notch. Of the mono modes, we'd be most inclined to use the red filter mode for landscapes, and green filter for portraits.
The X-Pro1 offers a great deal of control over its JPEG processing; you can adjust the colour saturation, sharpening and noise reduction, and even set the shadow and highlight tone (contrast) independently. However, the Film Simulation modes can't be tweaked individually to suit your tastes; instead any changes you make to the various processing settings are applied universally across all of them.
A workaround to this is to save any preferred tweaks to one of the custom settings sets, which can then be recalled through the Q menu. However it's important to remember that these save ISO and DR settings too. It's also worth bearing in mind that if you shoot raw, you have free control over all of these processing parameters when using the in-camera raw developer in playback.
Dynamic range expansion modes
Like the X100, the Fujifilm X-Pro1 offers two expanded dynamic range settings, labelled DR200 and DR400 (the standard setting is DR100). They work in exactly the same way too; technically they apply less amplification to the data that's read from the sensor to avoid clipping highlights, then compensate by applying a different tone curve in processing to lift the midtones to the correct brightness. Because of this, the minimum available sensitivities are limited to ISO 400 with DR200, and ISO 800 with DR400. (Note that shooting at ISO 100 in effect does the opposite, and reduces highlight range by a stop).
|DR100 (1/1800 F5.6 ISO 800)||DR100 - sky detail|
|DR200 (1/1800 F5.6 ISO 800)||DR200 - sky detail|
|DR400 (1/1800 F5.6 ISO 800)||DR400 - sky detail|
The example above shows how this works in practice, with a high-contrast scene in which we're trying to balance a dark foreground against a bright sky. At the standard DR100 setting, a large area of the sky is blown out and entirely devoid of detail. Much of it is recovered using DR200, and DR400 does better still, managing to capture almost all of the extreme brightness range of the scene. If we'd simply used exposure compensation to control the highlights instead, then the foreground would be underexposed and devoid of detail.
Normally, this kind of approach might be expected to deliver highlight range at the expense of increased shadow noise. But with the X-Pro1 this simply isn't the case, due to its combination of excellent sensor and image processing. In this comparison there's no visible difference in noise between the DR settings, even when delving deep into the shadows:
|DR100 (100% crop)||DR200 (100% crop)||DR400 (100% crop)|
While DR400 clearly gives best results in this particular case, we've found this to be unusual - it only rarely provides a clear advantage over DR200. In principle, to get the best possible image quality you still want to use as low an ISO as possible, which in turn means using the minimum DR expansion to capture the required range. Sadly the camera's built-in DR bracketing mode doesn't quite do this; it won't use ISOs lower than 800 (and won't record RAW files either). However because the ISO setting overrides DR, you can effectively bracket by first setting the DR to 400, and shooting at ISO 200, 400 and 800.
RAW highlight recovery, and relevance of DR settings to RAW
It's tempting to think of DR settings as being most relevant for JPEG shooters, but they apply equally to RAW capture. Both Raw File Converter and ACR/Lightroom recognise the X-Pro1's DR settings, and make use of the additional highlight data by default. As usual, it's also possible to recover highlight detail that's lost in the camera's JPEGs even at DR100 - but there's potentially an extra stop of fully-recoverable highlight data at DR200, and two stops more in a DR200 file. Whether you'll actually get this, though, depends on the dynamic range of the scene and the camera's metering - often DR 200 will retain everything that's available.
The example below looks at crops from a bright sky region shot at the three DR settings, comparing the camera's JPEGs with RAW files that have been developed using an exposure setting of -2 in ACR. In this particular case we can see a clear advantage for DR200 both in JPEG and RAW; the DR100 recovered RAW file shows tell-tale desaturation and loss of tonality, indicating that one or more of the colour channels has clipped completely and ACR is making a 'best guess' on the limited information that's left. In contrast the sky detail is recovered fully at DR200, and (not atypically) there's nothing extra to be gained by using DR400.
|DR100 JPEG (50% crop)||DR200 JPEG (50% crop)||DR400 JPEG (50% crop)|
|DR100 ACR -2 EC||DR200 ACR -2 EC||DR400 ACR -2 EC|
The DR Modes also have a couple of operational advantages compared to using negative exposure compensation to control the highlights. Most notably, the preview image is displayed at the correct brightness when you're shooting with the LCD or EVF, and the review image in playback is likely to be more representative of your final image too.
However there is one significant operational problem - the live histogram doesn't understand the extended highlight range at all, and can therefore incorrectly indicate overexposure. This means that if you shoot mainly with the optical finder using the histogram to avoid highlight clipping, and intend to adjust the image brightness during RAW development, then exposure compensation is probably still your best bet.
Overall image quality / Specifics
In terms of image quality, there's not a huge amount to say about the X-Pro1, aside from the fact that it's excellent in almost every situation you can throw at it. We've shot thousands of frames with the X-Pro1 across a wide range of lighting conditions, and it delivers fine results time after time. White balance is well-judged, and colour rendition is excellent. High ISO image quality is extremely impressive too, even under artificial light where many cameras struggle.
|The X-Pro1's low light, high ISO image quality is impressive. This ISO 6400 JPEG example shows attractive, saturated colour and well-judged white balance. Noise levels have been kept impressively low too.|
It's worth reiterating here that the optical quality of the lenses, along with Fujifilm's integration of software corrections into the system design, obviously plays a large part in the system's overall image quality. The XF 35mm F1.4 R in particular is one of the very best lenses we've had the pleasure of using - we struggle to find any fault with it at all - and while the others may not quite reach the same giddy heights, the XF 60mm F2.4 R Macro is still optically very good indeed, and the XF 18mm F2 R performs very acceptably given its size and speed.
Chroma blur in JPEGs
If you look closely at the X-Pro1's JPEGs you can occasionally see a tradeoff for its high ISO performance, in the form of a degree of chroma blur where strong colours can bleed across low-contrast edges into neutral-toned surrounding areas in certain situations. The effect is minimal at ISO 200, but gets increasingly obvious as the sensitivity is increased. This, in turn, has implications for the use of the higher DR settings, as you risk increased chroma blur using DR400 (which requires ISO 800).
This is illustrated below; here we're looking at the same scene shot at ISO 200 and ISO 800/DR400. There's a little colour bleeding in the crops even at ISO200, but it's more pronounced when the sensitivity is increased. These examples use the Standard (0) noise reduction setting - reducing this to Low (-2) has little effect. Neither RFC- nor ACR-converted RAWs show this effect.
|ISO 100 (1/220sec F5.6), XF 18mm F2 R||ISO 800 DR400 (1/1000sec F5.6)|
|100% crop||100% crop|
It's important to reiterate that this is only an occasional issue that occurs under specific conditions - we've shot many hundreds of images with the X-Pro1 and only seen it a few times. It's worth knowing about, but not worth getting worried about.
- 15 Photographic features
- 16 Image Quality Tests
- 17 Noise & Noise Reduction
- 18 Resolution
- 19 RAW mode and RAW conversion
- 20 Dynamic Range
- 21 Lens corrections
- 22 Movie Mode
- 23 Image Quality Compared (JPEG)
- 24 Image Quality Compared (High ISO)
- 25 Image Quality Compared (Raw)
- 26 Conclusion
- 27 Image samples
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