The above images were shot on my iPhone 4s, in case you're interested!
I'm little late with finally joining in with a review of the Fuji X series of cameras but, after spending the best part of a week with an X-Pro 1 and the 3 lenses, I though I'd share my thoughts and experiences.
A few months ago, the Fuji X100 arrived on the scene and really had a big impact...a small mirror-less camera with stunning retro looks and image quality to match, and it rocked the photography world! There were lots of reviews around, almost all of them positive, but some fairly loud, if not numerous, voices of dissent! I managed to hold off buying one at the time as there were whispers of something even better around the corner (isn't there always!).
So then the X Pro-1 arrived and there was the same reception with raves but still some critics. Now I guess this is fairly normal as we all have different tastes, but this was no help to me as I contemplated spending over £1000 on investing in a new camera system!
I had to keep asking myself if I really needed a Fuji X-Pro 1...of course I wanted one, but that isn't ever the real issue is it...we all have gear envy from time to time!
I was trying to work out if it would add any value or new possibilities to my work and creativity. I read some great articles around the web, most notably from Zack Arias in the US and Bert Stephani's 3 part review. You should check out Bert's blog as there is lots of great stuff on there and singling out his X-Pro 1 review doesn't do his material justice. I have had a brief email conversation with Bert before I got the X-Pro 1 just to get his thoughts on day to day usage before I had a go with it and he gave me some good pointers.
All this reading and waiting has prevented me from making a purchase, much to the relief of my bank account! Then Fuji go and make it more complicated with the announcement of the XE-1, why do they do this to us!!??
It was time for action....to stop reading and wondering and to actually do something about it! Us photographers are sometimes better at reading and talking than actually shooting and learning!
So, I called Duncan, from Calumet, to sound out some possibilities. Duncan has been a great help with my business in terms of advice, gear and time. When I rang, the Fuji rep was in the Calumet store and he very kindly agreed to loan me the X-Pro 1 body with the 18, 35 and 60mm lenses to see how I got on....thank you!
Duncan was kind enough to drop it off at my house last Thursday so I could get used to using it as I planned to to take it along to a commercial lifestyle shoot I had the next day.
I deliberately wanted to just pick it up, without any instructions, just to see how I got on with it. I really did come to it with an open mind and no preconceived ideas (apart from the stuff I'd read about the auto focus issue)
To help, I'll split up my experiences into parts... I find useful when I'm reading stuff and maybe you will too. So, first of all...
ISO 1600, 18mm lens, f2.0, 1/30 sec
The camera is easy to hold and feels good in the hand. It has a good weight, without feeling too heavy but does feel solid and well made. The controls were fairly easy to figure out and after a couple of hours I was pretty much familiar with the controls and their functions. I've never used Fuji before so I had no previous experience to help/hinder me. the buttons and dials all feel positive and are well placed, they just "feel" like they are in the right place...after only a few minutes, it felt natural, as if I had been using one for ages...this has got to be good, right?
Around 60% of my business is weddings and I could easily use this camera for a whole day and not end up with a sore back as I usually do! Another big benefit is that fact that it doesn't scream "pro camera!" It's size and styling make it less obtrusive and obvious and people really don't take much notice of it. We often do pre wedding shoots, and shots on a wedding day, in public places, and big cameras usually mean some attention from the public.
The X-Pro 1 doesn't have this issue, even the people I photographed, friends and family, felt is was easier and more comfortable for them, and they are used to me and my cameras! You'll see from some of the images that I went to a cafe bar with my little boy (who is a legend by the way and really puts up with my constantly taking photos of him!). It was really quite dark, I'll come to ISO performance later... the issue was that it was really busy, with people on the tables all around us and I was taking lots of shots. I can't remember a single person even taking any notice of me and the little camera. Not sure this would have been the case f I has been using my D800 and 24-70 2.8!
My point is this: we specialise in documentary wedding photography, and at a wedding, I think this camera will allow us to get closer to people and capture images without the intrusion a pro DSLR camera/lens combo can often bring. This means more natural images and a less obvious presence of the photographer, this is good!
ISO 200, 35mm lens, f2.0, 1/140 sec.
I'm used to Nikon menus which are fairly complicated and take some getting used to, but I felt the Fuji ones, while not as extensive as the Nikon equivalent, were fairly easy to master and the "Quick" menu is a great idea...giving instant access to the most used functions. You can even assign items in this menu which would be very useful using the camera regularly on shoots.
The camera is really easy to set up and use, I was comfortable using it almost straight away. Actually, it does inspire a certain level of confidence and it looks very cool too! One of the main issues that people seems to have gripes about is the speed of the auto focus. I was fully expecting to want to throw it through the window in frustration with this slow auto focus, but, in reality, it's not slow at all. Sure, it's not as quick as my D800 or D3, but really, I can't see what the fuss is about. I can't say I missed any shots because of slow auto focus, in my opinion at least, it was perfectly fine.
I have recently blogged about the way shooting film makes you slow down and think about your images, the X-Pro 1 has the same effect on my shooting. If you are careful with your shooting, the X-Pro 1 will reward you richly with some stunning quality, dynamic range and colours.
This shot was only ambient light, ISO 200, 1/125, f 4, 60mm.
In part 2, I'll talk more about the OVF versus EVF, image quality, ISO performance, off camera flash and Lightroom 4 workflo....
Please feel free to comment or ask questions....Cheers, Ian