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Fujifilm XPro1 – did they release a Beta?
July 28, 2012, 3:32 pm
Filed under: Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The Fujifilm XPro 1 is an impressive camera, but it’s also a very frustrating camera. It seems to have a split personality.

There are plenty of sites with detailed specs on the camera, so I’ll skip the hardware and get straight to my impressions.  Let me start by saying I’m a former owner of the XPro1 – former because this camera just isn’t for me.  Previously I owned the X100 too – so some of my comments will reference that camera as well.

Here are some of the good points for the XPro1

  1. Seems to be well constructed, solid/quality feel to the camera
  2. Remarkable hybrid viewfinder – a credit to their engineers and designers
  3. Simple Aperture and Shutter speed controls via “traditional” lens ring and rotating knob respectively (and with simple “A” feature for Auto)
  4. A menu system that is so improved over the X100 that it would be good if they could port it back to the X100 via a firmware update
  5. Clever Q-Menu (Quick menu) for rapid access to key settings – this is great
  6. Clean files, the innovative sensor design works beautifully.  Image quality is superb from this well sized sensor (and being a bigger sensor than many small cameras. the signal to noise ratio is better – so you can shoot at higher ISO’s and still get clean files)
  7. Although I don’t tend to use Auto White Balance on any camera very much, my impression was that AWB on the XPro1 comfortably out-performs AWB on my pro Nikon gear, that’s impressive
  8. I had the 35 lens during my spell of ownership with this camera, and it proved a good choice. Nice fast glass, good weight/size.
  9. Much improved battery charger over the X100 (which had a ridiculous piece of plastic to insert to lock the battery in place. Something I lost in a few days)
  10. It’s a good looking camera, no argument it looks the part

And the bad points.

  1. Focus is frustratingly slow, and it’s hit and miss sometimes. In fact it’s unacceptable. More on this shortly.
  2. Forget the Fujifilm software, it’s pretty ordinary – and it’s Windows only (Fortunately Lightroom can open the XPro1’s RAW files)
  3. Manual focus is electronic “by wire” – it’s not all bad, but it’s not pure manual
  4. It’s awkward to get the memory card in and out

I’ve taken hundreds of thousands over photos over the years, and one of my all time faves was taken with the X100, so I have a soft-spot for Fujifilm – and I really like that they’ve taken bigger risks than Canon and Nikon in this space (and been rewarded for it). I guess I wanted the XPro1 to pick up on all that’s good about the X100 and build on some of it’s shortcomings (a camera which is also slow to focus, although firmware updates helped somewhat).  At this price point I wanted snappier focus response from the XPro1, and yes I know Contrast based AF will always be less speedy than Phase Detection AF as found in my DSLR’s, so it will never be as fast – but I can’t be bothered with it while it ambles along like this.

The camera will likely reward users who don’t chase sports or action shots, and if you slow down and think deliberately about your photography there’s no doubt it can deliver wonderful images.  But if you’re like me, and you want your gear to be an extension of your instincts and thinking, then the XPro1 will deliver a lot of out of focus images. For this reason, it felt like it was a camera in Beta to me.  Maybe there will be improvements to focus speed and accuracy down the track, as others like Olympus and Nikon have shown that responsive focus response is possible with non-DSLR bodies.  If you’re looking for a small high-quality camera, the X100 may suit you better – it’s smaller, lighter, and very capable if you take the same deliberate approach with it.

Some reviewers have argued that focus issues are “not that bad”, or “not as bad as some are saying” but sheesh this is not a cheap camera.  At this price point it needs to deliver a much better experience.  The printed brochure has a heading that says, “Without compromise” and this is simply PR spin (otherwise known as “marketing puffery”, which is legit and prevents a legal claim as thought it were a statement of fact)

I know you can learn to work with the camera’s quirks, in fact many users are raving about the XPro1 – but I’m not one of them.  If the above makes you hesitate, then take my advice and don’t buy this camera (yet). On the other hand, if you don’t always shoot wide open, and you are prepared to slow down and work systematically with the camera, then I think you’ll grow to like it.

Fuji, you did something remarkable with the X100, and now the XPro1.  All credit to you, but please please get auto-focus competitive either via firmware upgrades, or an XPro2 down the track.

(Oh, and one more thing.  When you’re researching cameras like this one and others, be sure to look for posts from people who have taken plenty of photos on the camera or lens before they review it.  There are plenty of sites that re-hash the corporate press release – this isn’t a review, it’s a free kick.  Equally, beware the pixel-peeping type who drill deeply into dark areas of a photo looking for noise. My comments are based entirely on everyday usage by an experienced photographer)

UPDATE 1:  Here’s are two additional articles that give insight to this camera

1. The Phoblographer review one

2. The Phoblographer review two

UPDATE 2: September 7th 2012.  Fujifilm have announced the next update to their firmware – with the first two items mentioned in their press release improvements to deliver improvements to the auto-focus. So maybe the camera is moving out of Beta 🙂  But seriously, why don’t they get this right first time – while firmware updates are normal enough for any camera, launching with sub-par focus is not…

From Fujifilm’s notes;

Improvements made after firmware update:

1.Improved performance of auto focus*1
Focussing in challenging lighting conditions, where light is low or bright, will now be much faster in Auto Focus mode. The focusing distance has also been improved, allowing you to get closer to the subject and capture a great shot without switching to macro mode.

2.Manual Focus improved performance
Improved operability
The speed of the image coming into focus when turning the focus ring has been vastly improved. When adjusting the focus ring using the electronic viewfinder or the LCD panel on the back of the camera it is now much easier to focus, always displaying the image closer to full aperture with minimum depth of field.

Update 3 – January 7th 2013 – Fuji have just announced the X100s, with a few features to improve auto-focus and they now claim they have the fastest autofocus.  Will have to take them at their word, suffice to say it sounds like the S version of the X100 addresses the weak focusing capabilities of the original model. A good move by Fuji.

Update 4 – May 2nd 2013 – I had  a play with the X100s the other day.  In the hand it felt instantly familiar, and the focus speed seemed much improved.  While I didn’t get to see the image son a computer there’s no reason to think they’re anything less than the wonderful quality of the original X100, so I’m very pleased to see a good camera has now been updated to become an excellent camera – not just the focus improvements but some other tweaks as well..  X100s owners will be marked by their big smiles.  I wonder if the XPro1 will see any of these improvements head to their model?



3 Comments so far
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I have been using the X Pro 1 with the 35 mm prime for about 3 months. I have made about 7000 pics. And I can’t be happier with my purchase. The autofocus system (this is not new) is not the fastest one out there. We all know that and we all knew that since the very first review was released. I guess it was pretty clear from the beginning. This is not a lightning speed camera designed to shoot sports and fast action. This is not a DSLR. This is a rangefinder style (not a rangefinder) camera with advanced digital features that you can use with manual legacy lenses too. My point is that if you know what you are buying and you know what you are buying it for, you won’t regret your choice. You will miss a few shots that you could have nailed with your DSLR, yes, but on the other hand you will be able to shoot lots of pics in places and circumstances where you would have never found yourself lugging a DSLR system, and you will be able to shoot them with almost the same image quality of a full frame DSLR. Especially in low light it’s such a pleasure to go around with. If you do streets and travel photography you may love it. If you are into action photography, no way, there are better choices in the market like the Oly EM5. In the end it’s a matter of personal preferences. All cameras have their pros and their cons. At least for me, the pros of the Fuji clearly overcome the cons.

Comment by Grumete

All true. Good advice to purchase in the full knowledge of what you’re getting – in this case a truly remarkable camera, but with slow focusing. I am pleased that Fuji are being so progressive, they deserve the sales success they are enjoying with their recent models. I’d just like to see them improve the autofocus.

Comment by zeofoto

Always have a thought of letting go my X-Pro1 but looking to the image quality i somehow change my mind you just have to know your camera capabilities in terms on your genre, autofocus may bit slow or really slow i somehow found myself on a manual focusing pressing the AE-L/AF-L button seems fine to me now.

Comment by louiemondigo

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