Fujifilm X-Pro1 at a glance:
- 16.3-million pixel X-Trans CMOS sensor
- New colour
- filter array
- No low-pass filter
- ISO 100-25,600
- Built-in hotshoe
- Hybrid viewfinder
- Street price £1,429 (body only)
Ever since the Fujifilm X100 was announced in September 2010, many people suspected that it would form the basis for a potential Fujifilm compact system camera. After all, it made sense: the X100 uses an APS-C-sized imaging sensor, and it should theoretically be possible to remove its fixed lens and replace it with a lens mount. Such speculation was vindicated when Fuji announced the X-Pro1 in January this year.
Like the X100, the X-Pro1 retains the company’s excellent hybrid digital and electronic viewfinder. However, although the X-Pro1 has clearly evolved from the X100, there are many differences, the most obvious being the new Fujifilm X lens mount as the X100 had a fixed 23mm f/2 lens.
Another difference is the resolution of the APS-C-sized sensors used in each camera. The X100 has a 12.3-million-pixel sensor, while the X-Pro1 is equipped with a 16.3-million-pixel version. This X-Pro1 sensor also has a new colour filter array that helps to improve colour and reduce moiré patterning.
With the X100 being very highly regarded by photography enthusiasts, I was eager to see how the X-Pro1 compared. Can it compete with other APS-C-format compact system cameras already on the market, or even Leica’s M9 digital rangefinder camera and system?
At the heart of the Fujifilm X-Pro1 is its APS-C-sized, 16.3-million-pixel X-Trans CMOS sensor. However, it is the sensor’s new colour filter array and lack of a low-pass filter that are the most interesting aspects of its specification.
I’ll go into this in more detail later, but briefly the new colour filter array has a different pattern to the regular Bayer version used in most digital cameras. It looks more random and is said by Fujifilm to reduce moiré patterning, removing the need for a low-pass filter. This, in turn, is said to improve the sharpness of images.
The sensor has an equivalent sensitivity range of ISO 200-6400, with an extended range of ISO 100-25,600. The most sensitive extension is a 1EV increase from the ISO 12,800 setting found in the X100. However, these extended settings are only available when shooting JPEG images.
Ultra Sonic Vibration is used to rid the sensor of dust, but the camera doesn’t offer image stabilisation. The lens road map for the X mount shows that Fujifilm plans to introduce optically stabilised lenses, the first of which we are told will be an 18-72mm f/4 IS zoom, due for release later this year.
At its launch, the X-Pro1 was introduced with three lenses – a Fujinon XF 18mm f/2, an XF 35mm f/1.4 and an XF 60mm f/2.4 Macro – and I was fortunate to have all three available to me for this test. The introduction of the zoom lens to the existing range should provide all the basic focal lengths required by travel and street photographers.
In addition to this, there are five more Fujinon lenses listed as in development: a 14mm f/2.8, a 28mm f/2.8 pancake, a 23mm f/2, 72-200mm f/4 IS and a 12-24mm f/4 IS. All these lenses are due for release in 2013, except the 14mm optic, which is due out later this year.
One of the advantages of compact system cameras is that the short flange depth allows many other lenses to be mounted and used, via a mount adapter. Measuring just 17.7mm, the Fujifilm X mount actually has one of the shortest flange depths of any system camera. It is fractionally shorter than the 18mm depth of the Sony E mount used on the NEX models, and more importantly for many, it is more than 10mm shorter than the 27.8mm depth of the Leica M mount. Fuji has already shown a prototype of a Leica M-to-X-mount adapter at the recent CP+ show in Japan, and it should be released this year. Novoflex has also announced that it will be making lens mount adapters for the X-Pro1, presumably in all the standard lens mounts, including Nikon F, Leica M and Pentax K.
Having the option to use Leica lenses on a classic rangefinder-styled camera will delight many Leica film camera owners, as well as potentially saving them a fortune. The Leica M9 costs around £5,000, while the X-Pro1 comes in at around £1,400 body only.
Like the X100, the X-Pro1 uses a hybrid multi-viewfinder, which combines an optical viewfinder with a digital display. At the flick of a switch on the front of the camera, this optical finder is replaced with an electronic view, so users get the best of both analogue and digital worlds.
Other interesting features of the X-Pro1 include exposure bracketing, ISO, dynamic range and film simulation bracketing. The latter allows three different film simulation colour styles to be selected and saves three different images when a picture is taken.
Continuous shooting is available at either 3fps or 6fps, whether shooting JPEG or raw image files, although the focus is locked at the first frame. I found I was able to take one raw and JPEG image before the shooting rate slowed. After a few more shots the buffer fills and it takes a few seconds before shooting can continue at the full 6fps.
Dropping to 3fps didn’t change much, although I was able to shoot 12 raw frames before the shooting rate slowed right down. Switching to JPEG made an obvious difference and I was able to shoot around 23 images at 6fps before the buffer became full. Dropping to 3fps allows nearly 40 JPEG images to be taken before the buffer fills and the shooting rate drops.
The feature set of the X-Pro1 is as comprehensive as a serious photographer would want, but without being bloated with facilities that will never be used. Many photographers will simply set the camera up with a suitable image style, or set it to raw for later adjustments, and then use the camera as a traditional rangefinder, forgetting about the bells and whistles.
Build and Handling
The Fujifilm X-Pro1’s resemblance to a classic rangefinder lends it a reassuring familiarity. It is larger than other compact system cameras, yet it feels comfortable to hold, with no small fiddly buttons. It is clear that it was never intended to compete for the title of ‘world’s smallest system camera’, but is instead meant to be much more of a workhorse built for ease of use and quick handling.
Fuji’s decision to include an aperture ring on all its X-mount lenses is a great one. Combined with a labelled shutter speed selection dial, a separate exposure compensation dial and, of course, the hybrid viewfinder, the X-Pro1 feels, for want of a better term, like a ‘proper’ camera.
When I first picked up the X-Pro1, I was taken aback by how light it is. As it looked like an old rangefinder, I expected it to be a rather solid lump of metal, but its magnesium-alloy top-plate provides strength without the weight. In fact, at just 450g including battery and memory card, the X-Pro1 is more than 160g lighter than the Leica M7 and 143g lighter than the M9.
As well as adding to the classic charm, the faux leather finish of the body allows the X-Pro1 to be comfortably gripped. However, as easy as the nostalgic references make it to forget, the X-Pro1 is still a digital camera with all the associated settings.
For instance, there are a lot of options in the camera’s menu system, which can make it a little daunting when deciding exactly how images are to appear. I shoot raw and JPEG as much as possible and aim to get the JPEG as close as I can to perfect. It was only for the occasional awkward scene that I had to delve into the menu to change the white balance or switch the metering.
Thankfully, there is an excellent Quick Menu button on the back of the camera, which displays all the shooting and image settings, and makes quick changes possible for the most regularly used modes.
Most other options have their own dedicated settings. The drive mode button allows access to all the bracketing choices, as well as basic single or continuous shooting modes, and there are metering and AF buttons, too. All that is missing is an ISO sensitivity button, but this can be set to the Fn button on the top-plate.
My impression of the X-Pro1 is one of great design. Of course, it can never fully be as simple to use as a film rangefinder, but the direct exposure controls and viewfinder display do capture some of that experience, which is something that most other compact system cameras have failed to do.
Images: A superb amount of detail can be captured, but purple fringing is visible in the corner of both raw and JPEG images shot with the 18mm lens
I have few complaints about the 256-zone evaluative metering of the X-Pro1. Generally, images are well exposed and the few times I did need to tweak the given exposure I could do so using the exposure compensation dial, without having to take my eye away from the viewfinder.
A half-press of the shutter button shows a preview of the exposure and depth of field, so it is easy to assess the scene quickly and make any changes before the image is taken. This is one of the advantages of using the electronic viewfinder.
For more complicated scenes, such as metering for highlights in a particularly strong sunset, I opted to use the X-Pro1’s spot metering option. However, I found that the often-overlooked average metering was one of my favourite methods. I say this because it is predictable, making it easy to compensate for an ‘incorrect’ metered exposure. It is also easy in this mode to tilt the camera upwards to expose for the sky, and then lock the exposure and recompose.
As I stated previously, the direct shutter speed and exposure compensation dials, combined with the lens aperture ring, make it easy to alter exposure quickly. However, the multi-metering setting rarely needed more than a slight ±0.6EV adjustment.
White Balance and Colour
Those familiar with Fujifilm’s professional range of digital cameras will know that the company names its image colour settings after its range of films. The standard colour setting is inspired by Fujifilm Provia, while Velvia and Astia provide the models for the vivid and soft styles respectively.
The X-Pro1 also introduces two new film modes: Pro Neg Standard and Pro Neg Hi. These replicate the look of colour negative films, with the Hi version having increased colour and contrast. Of these colour settings, I mostly used Velvia and Pro Neg Hi. They provide punchy images with good contrast and colour. However, the Astia mode is great for just taking the edge off an already high-contrast scene.
While most cameras allow the individual colour settings to be adjusted to taste, Fuji has adopted a more universal approach for the X-Pro1. In the shooting menu are highlight and shadow contrast adjustments, which alter the contrast curve to produce softer or harder shadows and highlights. I found myself making the shadows slightly harder, while setting the highlights to be softer. This produces a good level of contrast, while helping to keep some subtle detail in highlights.
Monochrome enthusiasts have not been forgotten and there are four different black & white modes, including standard and red, yellow and green filter modes. Sepia tone is also available.
In terms of colour reproduction, the X-Pro1 is excellent, and colours look realistic no matter which film simulation mode is set. One of the most important subjects that require successful reproduction is the sky, and the X-Pro1 renders blue sky very well, without the hint of cyan that is apparent in some other cameras.
When shooting outside, I rarely had to take the camera out of its auto white balance mode. Indoors, AWB leaves a hint of colour from domestic tungsten lights, taking the edge off the amber hue without removing it completely. Switching to incandescent white balance removes all the amber hue, producing a clean, neutral image.
Overall, the colours produced by the X-Pro1 are superb, and combined with the contrast and dynamic range options it is possible to produce great JPEG files straight from the camera. In fact, if I were to own a X-Pro1 myself, I would probably shoot raw + JPEG, and use the raw images as archive files. The vast majority of the time I would be perfectly happy with results straight from the camera, which is testament to the colour and sharpness of the images produced.
Image: There is a choice of in-camera black & white styles. This image was taken with the red filter effect
In high-contrast landscapes, I found there is still a lot of highlight detail that can be recovered from raw images, although I tend to underexpose and lighten shadow detail post-capture using software. Thankfully, noise is controlled well enough at low ISO sensitivities that this underexposure and lightening are possible without introducing too much luminance or colour noise.
The camera has dynamic range optimisation built in, and this uses an increased ISO sensitivity to ensure that highlights aren’t burnt out before lightening shadow detail. In most circumstances the effect is quite subtle, and again, if you are shooting JPEG images, it can save a lot of editing in post-production.
While not directly affecting the dynamic range of the camera, the highlight and shadow contrast options should be mentioned here. They are simple contrast curve adjustments, but are particularly useful if the highlight strength is reduced, in combination with the dynamic range optimiser, to make sure that highlight detail is maximised in JPEG images.
Noise, Resolution and Sensitivity
We have tested numerous cameras with 16.3-million-pixel sensors, and the Fujifilm X-Pro1 is among the best. This camera can record a staggering amount of detail, as can be seen in our test chart resolution images, and it clearly benefits from the lack of low-pass filter.
When viewing the very tip of the test chart, it looks like the camera can resolve all the lines, but closer inspection reveals that while there are indeed some solid lines visible, there are just five instead of nine. That said, there is still an impression of detail where there would just be a blur when photographed with other cameras. In fact, when the X-Pro1 is combined with the 60mm macro lens, the detail resolution is on a par with an 18-million-pixel camera.
Noise is well controlled in JPEG images. At ISO 6400 there is a hint of luminance noise, but the X-Pro1 is as good as, if not better than, most other 16-million-pixel models. Colour noise is virtually non-existent at all ISO settings, although there is a decrease in colour saturation that would suggest a fair amount of colour noise removal has taken place.
The raw files obviously show more luminance and colour noise, but this is easy to reduce. Tweaking the contrast and sharpness of raw files reveals even more detail, and the 16.3-million-pixel sensor produces some of the most detailed images we have seen from an APS-C-sized unit.
These images show 72ppi (100% on a computer screen) sections of images of a resolution chart, captured using a Fujinon XF 60mm f/2.4 Macro lens. We show the section of the resolution chart where the camera starts to fail to reproduce the lines separately. The higher the number visible in these images, the better the camera’s detail resolution is at the specified sensitivity setting.
Image: Of all the colour styles, the vivid colour of Velvia produces the most pleasing images
The best way to describe the contrast-detection AF of the X-Pro1 would be ‘steady’ rather than ‘snappy’. For instance, when using the 60mm and 35mm lenses, the camera’s AF motors can be heard whirring before it locks into focus. The 18mm optic is faster. However, while hardly gazelle-like, the X-Pro1’s focusing speed should be good enough for the type of subjects and situations for which the camera is most likely to be used. After all, it isn’t designed for sports photographers.
When most cameras are set to continuous AF mode, the focusing starts as the shutter button is half depressed. However, the X-Pro1 is a little different. When set to continuous AF the lens is continuously focusing, and a half-press of the shutter actually locks the focus point. The system works well and becomes very intuitive.
Manual focusing is also available with both the electronic and optical viewfinder modes. Here it is important to note that the focusing is electronic, with the ring simply driving a motor that moves the lens optics, rather than the focusing barrel moving them itself. There has been a lot of internet chatter about this, but while I would prefer a direct physical lens barrel for focusing, I found that the electronic focusing was fast and response, particularly given the types of scenes that people will typically be photographing while focusing manually.
When focusing manually using the optical viewfinder, it relies on a rangefinder scale at the bottom of the finder. This gives the current focus distance, along with a bar indicating the depth of field. You do not see changes to the lens focus through the optical viewfinder. Switch to the electronic viewfinder, though, and it is easy to see the changes in focus.
There is also an enlarged option to ensure that fine detail is in focus, and once again it is easy to switch in and out of this mode without removing the eye from the viewfinder. Usefully, there is also a one-shot AF option, which focuses the camera with a single press, effectively overriding the manual focus.
Viewfinder, LCD and Live View
As already discussed, the hybrid viewfinder allows images to be composed using either the 1.44-million-dot EVF or the optical view.
When using the optical viewfinder a wealth information can be overlaid, including gridlines and all the shooting and AF information. This makes the optical viewfinder an extremely useful tool, and perfect for using in bright sunlight.
As the optical viewfinder is offset, the lens can often been seen in the bottom-right corner of the frame. A white digital image frame is overlaid on the optical image, and it changes in size depending on the lens currently in use. The viewfinder also has a 0.6x magnifier, which slides into place when a telephoto lens is used. This makes sure that the digital image frame doesn’t become just a tiny square in the centre of the optical viewfinder when longer focal lengths are used.
The digital overlay also has an advantage in that it allows the photographer to see exactly what is going on outside the image frame. This is very useful if you wish to time a shot of something entering the frame perfectly.
The X-Pro1 EVF is also excellent. It is bright and detailed, plus it has the added advantage of allowing a magnified view to be shown for even more precise focusing. However, there is a slight lag in the display when locking the autofocus.
The 3in, 1.23-million-dot screen is very detailed and perfect for reviewing images, but I prefer holding a camera up to the eye where possible.
Video capture in the X-Pro1 is something of an afterthought, and although it is capable of recording HD video at a resolution of 1920×1080 pixels at 24fps, I doubt it will be more than a handy addition for most photographers.
Overall, with the choice of an optical or electronic viewfinder and a live view screen, the X-Pro1 gives photographers a lot of freedom when composing their images.
I had high hopes for the Fujifilm X-Pro1 when it was announced and, having tested it, I am pleased to say that I am not disappointed. Like the company’s own X100, the X-Pro1 does have its quirks, and aspects such as AF speed could be improved, but it handles extremely well and is a pleasure to use. In fact, the main strength of the X-Pro1 has to be its combination of easy handling and the amount of detail it can resolve.
The X-Pro1 has a sense of the familiar. It may not have all the scene modes or creative picture styles of other digital cameras, but it doesn’t need them. It is a camera that has clearly been designed with a particular type of photographer in mind, and Fujifilm has done an excellent job of meeting their demands. The amount of in-camera control over the colour and contrast settings is excellent, although it is the hybrid viewfinder system that many photographers will love and really benefit from.
For anyone looking for a compact system camera, but who is put off by the compact camera-style build and handling of many other models available, the Fujifilm X-Pro1 could be the camera they have been waiting for – and it will save them the extra £3,600 required for a Leica M9.
Fujifilm X-Pro1 key highlights
The X-Pro1 features a dedicated hotshoe that is compatible with Fujifilm’s EF-42, EF-20 and EF-X20 flashguns
This sensor turns on the electronic overlay, or electronic viewfinder, when the camera is held to the eye
RGBW screen array
The LCD screen features an RGBW array, meaning that as well as red, green and blue dots, it also has white ones. These extra white dots aid colour rendition and brightness.
Although the white dots on the LCD screen make the screen brighter, they consume less power. In power save mode, using the optical viewfinder, Fujifilm claims that 1,000 shots are possible on a single charge.
In-camera raw conversion
It is possible to preview how an image will look with settings such as aperture, shutter speed and dynamic range optimiser applied – on-screen and in the viewfinder.
Fujifilm claims just a 0.05sec shutter lag, even when shooting using the EVF.
This button displays a menu of all the exposure and image settings
Conveniently located on the camera’s top-plate, the EV dial allows exposures to be quickly adjusted
Image: Leica M9, Sony NEX-7
Logically, the Fujifilm X-Pro1’s main competitor will be the Leica M9. The Fujifilm camera has all the retro looks and image quality to match the Leica, but is £3,600 cheaper. With the Leica mount adapter due out later this year, I’m sure there will be more than a few owners of a Leica M-series film camera buying a Fujifilm X-Pro1 to make use of their Leica glass.
Sony’s NEX-7 may also offer some competition. It has a higher resolution of 24 million pixels, and is physically smaller. It also has a lot of direct controls for exposure settings, and a 2.4-milion-dot electronic viewfinder. The camera is around £1,100, including kit lens, so is about £300 cheaper than the X-Pro1 body only.