One week with the Fujifilm X-Pro1 – Graham Merritt

As I work in the Photographic industry, I did my bi-annual stint at Photokina earlier this year. It is a long and very busy show, with, as it turns out, both an upside and a downside.

The upside is that you get to meet, and chat to, many photographers and photography enthusiasts from different countries and walks of life, with equally varied opinions and viewpoints on their equipment.The downside is that this almost always end up costing me money, as a group of strangers enthusing about something is a surefire way to spark my interest.

I arrived in Cologne this year with a vague hankering for something new, for something to renew my purely amateur interest in purely amateur image making. I used to own a hasselblad X-Pan (my first proper camera in fact) and I have never found anything since that gave such enjoyment or  satisfaction to use.

I left Cologne this year with a complete Fuji X-Pro1 outfit, having heard nothing but good reviews, along with various comparisons to my beloved X-Pan, and having gone very slightly mad during the week long show and plainly forgotten the value of english currency.

So do I regret this act of spontaneity, this involuntary emptying of my bank account?
Not at all, and here’s why.

The Fuji is an absolute gem. I have had this week off work and have been out three times to give the new camera a work out.


My first trip was to a spot I often go to test new gear. The river test is right on my doorstep and this little fishing hut is 15mins drive and easily accessible from the road.

My first impressions of the Fuji were that it felt solid although being incredibly light, and that all of the buttons were entirely in the wrong place. Using the X-Pro1 is bit like playing the saxophone – the first thing you have to learn is how to hold it properly (without accidentally setting exposure compensation, or accessing the Q menu, or turning it off and on repeatedly).

Any new camera takes a bit of learning and although the Fuji could be well described as quirky, you will be rewarded with images with a resolution and colour, straight out of the camera, that are very good indeed.

My second photo jaunt was a walk around the local lakes.
I wanted to use the 35mm 1.4 lens to isolate some autumn colours and hopefully get a bit of sun shining through. Unfortunately, the weather turned pretty foul on me and there was certainly no sun to do any nice backlit shining. I did the only thing you can do in these situations, which is go home – but on the way there I switched to B&W and square format and try to get a few grab shots. Again the Fuji proved to be a dab hand, focussing quickly and accurately, and exposing nicely using AV. The camera seems ideal for this sort of thing, especially using the optical viewfinder, although when focussing closely, you have to be ready for the parallax shift, which is not immediately evident when focussing on manual.


On Thursday, the sun came out. So I headed for the coast. My new camera was rekindling the photo bug in me, and I happily headed to the beach on my own, in my own time, which is rare. I am finding the camera very satisfying to use. I have switched off the rear screen, and photo review after each exposure. This allows me to concentrate on my next shot rather than worry about the last.

A big bonus for landscape work, is that it works well with filters. You can position a grad filter using the EVF with ease, because you can actually see the grad line, and it also sees through a Big Stopper (but does not meter accurately). Using both manual exposure and manual focus (with the one click AF a great little feature) it becomes a very high quality and lightweight little landscape tool, which is exactly what I had hoped it would be.

 

The one main drawback for me is the lack or RAW support in Aperture. I am pretty sure that this will come in time and in the meantime I am processing RAW in Silkypix (which comes in the box) and then importing large TIFF files into Aperture.
One thing I have noticed is how little post production I need to do on the X-Pro files. Certainly no sharpening and just a little bit on the levels is all I have needed on the vast majority of images. It also has to be said that the JPEGs straight out of camera are superb, and if it wasn’t for my innate pixel snobbery, I would be using those.
I took the image below as a test for colour and sharpness, without any subsequent tinkering.

I still can’t stop accidentally turning the camera on and off again every time I pick it up, and handling the camera has yet to become second nature. But it has only been the first week, and I have enjoyed the experience much more than I have using a DSLR or Micro 4/3 in recent years.
 
I have regained the joy of photography and am getting the image quality that I have always wanted.
I feel that I am now limited only by my creaky knees and my lack of photographic ability, not by my camera, which dare I say it, image wise, knocks the spots off of my old X-Pan.

Graham is the Technical Sales Manager at LEE Filters.
He takes photographs neither as often or as well as he would like.
But he is getting there, slowly.