I picked up a Fujifilm X-Pro1 a couple of weeks ago as a replacement for my Epson R-D1. As sorry as I am to see the R-D1 go, I am very happy with the new X-Pro1. Very happy.
Before I start to talk about my recent experience with the camera, I want to address what is “less” and what is “more” about the XP1.
First of all, the less part. Like the X100, this is NOT a rangefinder. It is a rangefinder-style camera, but it lacks the ability to quickly manual (the only kind on the M9) focus. Without that feature, you must use it differently from a rangefinder. To compare it unfavourably to a true rangefinder because it lacks this ability is completely unfair. This is an AF camera with the ability to use MF. Who knows what results will be with the M-mount adapter and some Leica glass. I purchased the camera assuming that this might not be an option. I knew that this is an AF camera.
Now for the more part and this is the reason that I opted to replace the R-D1 with the XP1. I can use it like a RF camera (fast primes, quiet and discreet operation), it produces great (really great) results AND I can use it in many ways that I can not use a RF. This is the more part. With the current lens options for the camera, I have a great portrait lens that also shoots macro. The hybrid viewfinder allows for RF-like shooting (OVF) but also accommodates close-up photography and adjusting your focus point when using the EVF or LCD. With the future release of a longish telephoto, this camera will really serve as a great all-around camera that feels like my M9.
The new camera has been immediately put to use for work and the results and my first impressions have been great. As I haven’t had any RAW file support (hurry up Lightroom team!), I have been shooting RAW plus Fine JPEG and using the JPEGs as my working files. This made me nervous at first and only resulted in a few unusable files. The camera has been exposing well and the only time I lost highlight detail was when I inadvertently moved the EV dial. Argh.
My normal work setup for shooting events is to put a 35 Summicron on the M9 and something longer on the R-D1. With that scenario in mind, I ordered the 60mm f2.4 for the X-Pro1, along with the 35mm f1.4. A day after getting the Fuji, I shot two events, one inside and one outside. I photographed both with the M9/35mm and the XP1/60mm. For the inside event, I used flash on both cameras. Using small strobes on the cameras gives me a lot more latitude for lighting and I wasn’t sure about how high an ISO I could trust the XP1 with. Also, with flash, I can stop down a bit, f4 on both cameras and still shoot at 1/90 to 1/125 of a second.
The XP1/60mm combo worked great even though I was still coming to grips with focusing with the camera. I used the optical viewfinder for most of the job. Sometimes with AF and sometimes with MF. When using MF, I use the AE/AF lock button to focus and check on the distance scale at the bottom of the viewfinder to confirm that the camera has focused in the region that I would expect. This method proved successful and I am using it more and more.
Since that event, I have tested high ISO performance with the XP1 and the 35mm f1.4 lens. Shooting indoors, at night under poor lighting conditions, I got useable results at ISO 6400 and f1.4. After a little noise reduction in LR4 and converting to BW in Silver Effects Pro, I had good looking photos.
This week, I tested the XP1 in a different way with very good results. I used it for a portrait shoot. Set up on a tripod, with a radio flash trigger mounted and using the 60mm lens (did I mention that I really like this lens?), I used the EVF/LCD to frame and focus my shots. So, instead of using the tiny frame lines in the OVF, I used the XP1 like a view camera. This is certainly an example of the “more” of this camera. I have shot portraits with the M9 and my 90mm lens. However, focusing and reviewing the results are not necessarily user friendly. As a side note, the flashes were used in manual and one was a slave to the other, triggered strobe. A secondary side note, the R-D1 did not sync with the Cactus V triggers, so was completely useless for this type of photography.
To sum up these thoughts, I have had to ask myself, if I could afford it, would I have purchased a second M9 instead of the XP1? So far the answer is “no.” I think that the XP1 gives me more of what I can use without suffering too much from being less than an M9. Of course, I’m very happy to also have an M9. Having both gives me what I need for my work and personal photography.
Would I change anything? YES! And, I hope these are changes that Fuji can and will make to the camera’s firmware.
The XP1 has many more buttons and dials than the M9, which can get in the way. I’m learning my way around the camera and hope that I will adjust enough to not keep hitting the Q button. Handling aside, my main concerns are around software functionality. The main areas to fix, in my opinion, are auto ISO setup, continuous shooting mode and exposure bracketing.
- I want to set the slowest shutter speed and the ISO independently of each other and of the lens in use. When setting this on the M9 or D3/D700, I choose a faster lowest shutter speed than what the XP1 will allow me because when shooting people, I want to stop action when they move or speak. This is a “pro” camera. I know what I need for auto ISO, so let me set it myself.
- The continuous shooting mode needs improvement. Shooting at 6 FPS is adequate, but the slow buffering of images as it writes to the memory card is a weakness of the camera. I have to shoot a few (3-4) shots and then stop for a few seconds to allow the camera to write to the card, before I shoot a few more. It’s workable, but I need to moderate my shooting to make sure that the camera isn’t locked up when there is a shot I have to get. I don’t expect the XP1 to perform like a D3 or D4 and I’m not going to use it to shoot sports, but when photographing a speaker at an event, it is good practice to shoot in a burst so that one can get a pleasing facial expression in at least one out of three or four shots. So, improvement in writing speed is what I’m looking for here.
- Related to the continuous shooting mode on the XP1. I’m not convinced that using a different naming system and grouping the review images is a good idea. I would be just as happy if the naming system remained the same and I could scroll through all of the images as shot. This is a workable situation but I believe the Fuji engineers have over thought and complicated what should be a straightforward process.
- Finally, exposure bracketing of only one stop is silly. Two stops between exposures should be an option (perhaps more?) and one should be able to shoot more than 3 shots per exposure bracket. I shoot a fair amount of interior architecture with the M9 and bracket the exposures at two stops apart. If I could do this with the XP1 and use the LCD screen for framing and focusing, it would become my architectural camera too.
I hope that Fuji makes a firmware update soon to address these issues and that they can give me “more” of what I’m looking for in this great camera.