About My Camera

High tech in a retro package - the X-Pro1.

High tech in a retro package – the X-Pro1.

Everyone knows that the most important factor in what makes a good photo is the person holding the camera. But no doubt the equipment plays a crucial role, especially if it allows the user to concentrate on the image instead of fiddling with the technology. That’s why I like the Fujifilm X-Pro1 so much – and I thought I’d share why.

Form Factor

The X-Pro1 was the first X-series mirrorless camera launched by Fujifilm with interchangeable lenses, following their very popular X100 fixed lens compact. Together with the release of three prime lenses, it was a complete solution in a retro-looking package. I just love the rangefinder style looks and the high tech optical viewfinder with the digital overlay, switchable to a full electronic viewfinder.

X-Pro1 with 35mm f1.4 lens

X-Pro1 with 35mm f1.4 lens

The X-Pro1 is by no means small. In fact, the body is almost the same size as my old DSLR, a Nikon D7000. But it’s much less bulky, and the build quality is very good. It’s much more portable than your typical DSLR camera, especially when carrying a selection of additional lenses. And much less conspicuous than toting a big body/lens combo, especially when you want to be discreet and low-profile.

Another characteristic of the camera is the use of dedicated dials for important settings. Shutter speed, aperture, and exposure compensation can be checked and set at a glance. The tactile feel of using these controls is something I really enjoy… Somehow you’re more involved in the process of creating an image.

Hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder.

Hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder.

Image Quality

I’m no pixel peeper but by all accounts the IQ of the X-Pro1 is outstanding. The 16MP X-trans sensor does away with the typical anti-aliasing low pass filter, resulting in a very detailed image. Processing of RAW files has also improved (software vendors took a while to figure out how to handle the proprietary RAW files). The in-camera converter is actually really good, as are the default JPEG images straight from the camera. Everyone raves about the beautiful “Fuji colours” from the various film simulation modes. Many feel that the image quality and ISO performance of the cropped sensor rivals that of full-frame cameras – debatable of course, but hard to argue with the cost and weight savings.

Lenses

Fuji launched the camera with three prime Fujinon lenses, and followed with a couple of zooms and additional primes. There’s lots of reviews on these lenses out on the Web. Suffice it to say that the build and image quality is top notch. No more cheap feeling plastic lenses!  Haven’t tried any of the zooms, but apparently they are also very good – much better than your typical ‘kit lenses’.

With the addition of a simple adapter, you can also use legacy manual focus lenses. These are readily available and (usually) at a reasonable cost, and open up a world of possibilities in using legendary glass. I’ll talk more about adapted lenses in a future post – suffice to say that I’m completely hooked!

Fujinon primes: 18mm f2, 60mm f2.4, 14mm f2.8, 35mm f1.4

Fujinon primes: 18mm f2, 60mm f2.4, 14mm f2.8, 35mm f1.4

Accessories

There’s lots of options to customize and pimp your camera. I try to keep the accessories simple and functional while still adding a personal touch. The braided leather strap is from Barton 1972, who is actually located here in Hong Kong. It’s just long enough to carry the camera across the shoulder sling-style, and the workmanship is excellent. I think it matches the style of the camera well.

I also use a Gariz leather half case that affords just the right amount of additional grip while protecting the base of the camera. The extra quarter inch added is just right for my hands. Being able to access the memory card and battery without removing the case is a bonus, as is the centering if the tripod mount under the lens centerline.

The Thumbs-Up thumb rest from Match Technical mounts in the hotshoe and really helps stabilize the camera, and allows for easy one-handed shooting. This is really an essential accessory for me – using the camera without it just feels weird for me now.

Finally, I added a wood soft release shutter button from Artisan Obscura. It helps me squeeze the shutter gently to minimize camera shake; and I just love the patina of the teak hardwood. The only time I take it off is when I use a shutter release cable for long exposure photos.

Pimp yo' cam! Braided leather strap, thumbrest, soft release button.

Pimp yo’ cam! Braided leather strap, thumbrest, soft release button.

Something intangible?

There is something special having modern technology in an old-school body with analog controls. This camera is really a joy to use every day. In addition, Fuji continues to update the firmware with improvements in functionality and usability. The autofocus performance (one of the biggest complaints in early reviews) has been improved considerably with the latest firmware release. And they added manual focus peaking, too!

You can, of course, use the camera like any point-and-shoot in auto mode. But it’s much more challenging (and rewarding) to slow down and really think about the shot. It forces you to consider all aspects of the image you’re creating. Maybe that’s why I find myself in full manual mode so often. I’m still learning, and enjoying every moment.

What do you think? Any ideas or suggestions? Let me know.

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