Fujifilm X-Pro1 in-depth review
Conclusion - Pros
- Excellent image quality at all ISO settings - impressive resolution and low noise
- Wide choice of film simulation modes offer superb out-of-camera colour rendition
- Intuitive and straightforward traditional control layout (aperture ring, shutter speed and EC dials)
- Well laid-out 'Q' Menu offers quick access to a wide range of settings
- Impressively solid build quality
- Hybrid viewfinder offers detailed information in optical finder (live histogram, electronic level etc.)
- Reliable and accurate metering and white balance systems
- Relatively quiet, discreet shutter
- Well-implemented in-camera RAW conversion
Conclusion - Cons
- Slow autofocus compared to its mirrorless peers
- Dysfunctional manual focus
- Overly-conservative DOF scale useless for zone focusing
- Poor auto ISO implementation (uses too-slow shutter speeds)
- Live Histogram doesn't work in manual exposure mode (always implies correct exposure)
- No face detection AF system
- Unimpressive video mode
- Limited control customisation
- Continuous drive mode uses different filename convention
- Very low playback magnification when shooting RAW only
The X-Pro1 is a logical evolution from the fixed-lens FinePix X100, and it shares many of that camera's best attributes. The traditional dial-based control layout makes it a very engaging camera to use, and the clever hybrid optical-electronic viewfinder gives an immersive view of the world while providing as much or little exposure information as you like. Perhaps most importantly, the X-Trans CMOS sensor gives truly excellent image quality, particularly in combination with the stellar XF 35mm F1.4 R lens.
Perhaps predictably, the X-Pro1's biggest problems are also inherited from the X100, most notably somewhat sluggish autofocus and unresponsive manual focus. Fortunately though Fujifilm has eliminated most of the other problems that beset the X100 when it first released, and as a result the X-Pro1 generally handles and behaves much as you'd expect from a modern camera. A few residual operational oddities and glitches have found their way over though, which means that the X-Pro1 still feels rather 'first generation' in some respects. But on the whole it's a very likeable camera to shoot with, and one that can deliver absolutely stunning results.
We were hugely impressed by the X100's image quality, and Fujifilm has scaled even greater heights with the X-Pro1. The camera's JPEGs are little short of superb, with appealing colour rendition, lots of detail, and remarkably low noise even at high ISOs. The various 'Film Simulation' modes allow you to tune the camera's colour output to suit different subjects, and there's plenty of further fine-tuning on offer. Skin tones have always been a particular strength for Fujifilm, and the two 'ProNeg' modes, N and H, offer further, more neutral options for portrait work.
One flipside of the X-Pro1's unconventional sensor, however, comes for RAW shooters, for whom support is limited. Raw File Converter, like all of the various incarnations of SilkyPix, has never been our favourite program to use, with its machine-translated menus and odd terminology. It's capable of quite decent results, but because it makes no attempt to match the camera's colour rendition its output simply isn't as appealing. Adobe Camera Raw, meanwhile, produces generally more-attractive colours, but can show various demosaicing artefacts if you look too closely. However we've not found these to be hugely problematic in normal use.
The optics, of course, play a major part in the overall image quality, and we're especially impressed by the XF 35mm F1.4 R, which is truly excellent. The XF 60mm F2.4R Macro is optically very good too; its major problem is sluggish AF, especially in low light. The XF 18mm F2 R not at all bad for a compact wideangle - it's impressively sharp in the centre of the frame even wide open, but needs to be stopped down to about F5.6-F8 for the corners to sharpen up. Fujifilm is using software correction for distortion, vignetting and chromatic aberration in the camera's JPEG processing, which helps make the images look clean. One slight oddity is that the 60mm F2.4 Macro uses correction for pincushion distortion, which slightly degrades detail in the centre of the frame - although most of the time you'd struggle to tell.
The X-Pro1's 'traditional' control layout, with physical shutter speed, aperture and exposure compensation dials, means that in many respects it's a joy to shoot with. It encourages you to engage with the process of making an image, rather than just pointing the camera and letting its automated systems do the job. The 'Q' Menu is a welcome addition too, giving quick access to a range of parameters that required menu-diving on the X100. It's not a new idea, of course, but Fujifilm's version is noteworthy for the simplicity and clarity of its layout. The X-Pro1's shutter noise is also relatively quiet and unobtrusive, which is never a bad thing.
Special mention has to be made of the hybrid viewfinder, and the ability to overlay detailed shooting information in the optical finder provides a unique viewing experience that's extremely well-suited to certain subjects such as portraits. The fact that you can also switch to the high quality EVF or use the rear screen for precise composition is an added bonus, especially as the user experience stays admirably consistent. One slight reservation here, though, is that the EVF's refresh rate can get distinctly slow, especially in low light.
The X-Pro1 does have its fair share of irritations, though. The AF point selection button is awkwardly-placed for use with the camera to your eye, slightly negating what should be one of the camera's key attractions - the ability to move the AF point freely around the optical viewfinder. AutoISO is a distinct step back from the X100's; in our experience it chooses shutter speeds that are too slow to guarantee sharp images, and should generally be avoided. Control customization is limited to a single Fn button, which you'll probably want to assign immediately to ISO, meaning you can't use it for anything else. This is especially frustrating as the X-Pro1's rear controls are distinctly under-utilised, especially in aperture priority mode (which we suspect many owners will use).
Our biggest bugbear with the X-Pro1, though is focusing. Its autofocus is slow compared to its mirrorless peers, especially in low light, and particularly with the 60mm F2.4 macro lens; this really isn't a camera for moving subjects. Manual focus is also distinctly flawed - the 'by wire' focus rings are rather unresponsive, requiring multiple turns to cover the full distance range. The X-Pro1's depth of field scale can't easily be used for zone focusing as it's ludicrously conservative, and accurate focusing using magnified live view can be impossible in bright light, as the camera will use an aperture of its choice for viewing that's often too small.
Having said all of this, if you shoot the X-Pro1 in aperture priority, using centre-point AF with focus and recompose, and setting ISO manually via the Fn button, then it behaves itself pretty well, particularly with the Q menu on hand for the less-frequently changed settings. Crucially, not only is this an entirely realistic way of working, it's one we suspect many users would choose by default. This doesn't excuse its flaws, but it does make them much more tolerable.
The Final Word
With the X-Pro1 Fujifilm has built on the platform provided by the X100, and is beginning to look like a very serious contender at the high end of the camera market. In a way the X-Pro1 has no direct competitors; its optical viewfinder and traditional stills-focused control layout sets it apart from the likes of the Sony NEX-7, and of course it's much less expensive than the camera it physically most resembles, the Leica M9-P, and operates rather differently too. This alone should ensure it a niche in the market, and we suspect many buyers will be delighted with it.
The problem that Fujifilm faces, though, is that it's still an expensive camera in the grand scheme of things, and one that the company has seen fit to label 'Pro'. This means it inevitably has to be measured up against the best of its peers in all aspects of design and operation. But while it passes with flying colours in terms of image quality, certain operational aspects are still problematic; for example, we'd argue a professional camera that costs the best part of $2000 (with lens) should really offer a manual focus system that works properly in bright light.
So when all is said and done, the X-Pro1 is a very good camera, with excellent design and image quality, let down by a few small but significant operational bugs and quirks. Because of this - and for no other reason - it just misses out on our top award.
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. We'll be revisiting our conclusions in due course.
Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category.
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Category: Semi-professional Interchangeable Lens Camera / DSLR
Ergonomics & handling
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Movie / video mode
The X-Pro1 marks Fujifilm's entry into the high-end mirrorless interchangeable-lens market, and combines excellent image quality with fluid handling. The hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder is excellent, but autofocus is relatively slow and manual focus doesn't work very well.
- 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
Jun 23, 2015
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Jun 27, 2014
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