3 Year Real World Review – Fujifilm X-Pro 1

X-Pro – how much I love thee….

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Certainly, amongst the throngs of mirrorless cameras out there these days, few have polarised opinion more  than the Fujifilm X-Pro 1. In the UK we would call this a ‘marmite’ camera – you either love it, or you hate it. There is no grey area. It is one or the other. Period. See ya.

It seems the X-Pro’s days are numbered. In fact, they probably stopped making them a while ago such is the heavy discounting going on right now. Therefore, as an early adopter of the system (June 2012 to be exact) I figured it would be appropriate to write a few words in honour of this little beast – especially as murmurings of an X-Pro 2 are getting steadily louder.

It is also noteworthy to mention the current price of these bad boys – I paid about £1500 – is now at a ludicrously low level, tempting many more people to investigate the system. At £299 or thereabouts, this camera represents STAGGERINGLY good value for money. Read on to find out why…

To make things easier to follow, I have chaptered as below:

1)Build Quality

2)Focus

3)Image Quality

4)Features

5) Look and Feel – Usability

6)System

1) Build Quality –  Yes, its very good. No, it is not pro-level. It is NOT ‘built like a tank’ but it is well made. Being an old school film photographer, I was always surprised by that rather bold statement regarding build quality. For a start, X-Pro is not weather sealed (not a deal breaker for me anyway), but its more than that. It carries about a third of the heft of my Olympus OM-4, but its more than that too.

Its the ‘gaps’ that are visible when the grip has been added, little havens for gunk and crap. Its the monthly loss of sync caps, the yearly loss of dioptres – yes, bits fall off this camera. As a reliable camera, absolutely, X-Pro has not given me a wink of trouble. It has been no where near a service centre, and by all accounts this is the norm amongst most users – but pick it up. It doesn’t ‘feel pro’ – it feels ‘nice’, but it doesn’t feel pro. In fact, the XT-1 feels more pro…

I believe build quality will be a major marketing point of the X-Pro 2 when it appears. If you’re going to have ‘Pro’ in the name, make it ‘Pro’ in game too.

2) Focus & Performance.

Lets just put this out there – X Pro is somewhat clunky. If you’re coming to this camera with a DSLR background, the chances are you will struggle, and you will need to be patient. The rewards are there, but this is not to be used like a DSLR and if you bought this with that in mind, you were, and are, kind of silly. I’ll see you on Ebay.

Although NOT a rangefinder camera, the X-Pro was designed for that kind of photographer. Make comparisons with the Leica M series and Contax G series. Nothing else. If you like, or liked, those X-Pro is for you.

Auto focussing, while improved over the years with firmware, will always be this cameras Achilles heel. In medium to good light, its ‘fine’. Its fairly snappy with some lenses, bloody awful with others (the 60mm, while optically astonishing, is practically useless at focussing on this camera). In low light, switch to manual focus or set a hyperfocal distance. There is an AF illumination bulb, which does help a wee bit but I don’t like to use it.

Despite all this, once you know the camera well enough and feel confident in knowing what this camera CAN do, don’t let it stop you from having fun:

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3) Image Quality

X-Pro’s stand out feature. Image quality is SUBLIME – let no one tell you different. Marry an X-Trans version one sensor to Fujinon prime glass and you are, as we say, ‘laughing’….

In my humble opinion, the original X-Trans sensor is the best APS-C sized chip still out there. I have an XE2, which has a the newer version II, and as good as it is I vastly prefer the files coming from the original. You would be absolutely right to assume sensor technology has advanced somewhat in the almost 4 years since the X-Pro came out – but to what end? Low light ISO performance and dynamic range? Sure – my XE2 has probably a whole stop’s worth of improvement in that area. Auto focus? Definitely – phase detect has been added, and that really does improve things, especially in low light. Pixel count? Again, yeah sure, although not on the current range of Fuji’s…but there is so much more to this argument.

X-Trans version one gives me what practically no other sensor can – beautiful, rich, organic ‘FILMIC’ files which are a joy to work with. XE2 files are fine, lovely, in fact. But to me they are TOO perfect, too pristine and more importantly – TOO DIGITAL. I like the element of chaos that the original chip gives me. Glorious grain, subtle noise, natural skin tones and a certain ‘realness’ I cant get anywhere else in digital photography. I shoot mainly RAW, but if JPEG is your thing (or you WANT it to be your thing) this chip performs WAY better than the XE2 in that regard. I would’ve liked the Classic Chrome preset you get with later models, but trust me, shoot mono JPEG on this camera….holy mother of god.

5000ISO!! REALLY!!! –

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4) Features.

From a base level, X-Pro could be seen as lacking a bit here now. For its time, it was actually pretty loaded but we’ve moved on a bit now.

The 3″ screen, while very good still, looks a bit tired compared to what’s around now. Its fixed, obviously, and in truth a tiltable screen would be pretty sweet for me – the old knees are failing. There is no point in mentioning the auto focus again, although its really not as bad as people say it is. Including me. Increased latitude on the exposure comp dial is welcome on later models, but I never really struggled with plus or minus two stops in the first place. 5+ frames per second is fine for continuous I guess – but this camera was never really designed for that kind of shooting. Slow flash sync? Yes – but I’ve never used flash. I hate flash.

The EVF is higher in definition on later models too – but also laggier in some. Lower res does in fact improve this and its very much the case on the X-Pro. Focus peaking is there too now, but its not so great. The EVF is pretty good, but a Leica Q it aint…

And video – yes – video blows pretty hard on this camera. But again, no one bought this bad boy for that.

What you DO get is an optical viewfinder. Still the only interchangeable mirrorless camera that has one. Is it good? It is for anything other than close focussing. Its not great with zooms, extreme wides or anything over 90mm focal length. But it is fun to use and pretty unique right now.

5) Look & Feel

The Fujifilm X-Pro 1 is gorgeous in this respect. Everyone has an opinion on this – but for those that bought one, its appearance was pretty high on the list. I know it was for me. I mean really…look at it:

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Admittedly, I’ve over pimped mine (don’t judge) but even at its bare bones its sexy enough to make a Samsung jealous (not hard). Even a Contax G2 looks longer in the mirror these days.

Aside from this, it is also a highly intuitive and (most importantly) FUN camera to use. Having an aperture ring is fantastic, especially if you shoot mainly in Aperture Priority – its just QUICKER. Manual dials on the top plate are inspired (and solid) – and the Q menu is responsive and really easy to follow as well, if not very flashy. If you’re from the old school, this is your camera.

Note: Buy a third party grip if you have big hands – the Fuji one is expensive and not great – iShoot do a good one that is Arca compatible – awesome. Thumb grips are useful too. I promise, you’ll be checking the Exposure comp dial by the minute if you don’t get one. Trust me on this. Its a pain in the arse.

You’d have to be a real hard nose to not enjoy shooting on this camera. The amount of users that have had their love of photography re-ignited as a result of getting this camera is a testament to its design and user interface. Its my first camera of choice.

6) System

As a film maker by trade, I know glass. Fujinon glass is freaking awesome. If you only get into the X system for one reason – the quality of the lenses available to you should be top of the list. Sensor’s are important, but glass is more important. Great glass on a shit sensor will still give you an acceptable result. The same cannot be said for the reverse.

I have quite a few nice lenses – though this picture is a little out of date now, I have added to it since:

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Firstly, there are NO BAD, OR EVEN AVERAGE, PRIME X LENSES. The 18mm gets a bad rap, but I have never understood why. Its lovely and small, snappy (for a Fuji) and mine is pin sharp. I can only assume there are bad copies out there, as my experience with it is anything but poor. Its also one of the cheapest to buy and a great way to start in to the system. Same can be said for the 27mm pancake.

The 60mm F2.4 is the most frustrating of the bunch – optically, its right up there. In fact, it could be the sharpest lens I own which is why I keep it around, but its AF lets it down. Badly. It is cheap though, especially used. Don’t write it off, just learn to use it in manual focus in bad light.

As for my favourites? The 23mm may as well be bolted on. I’m a street shooter, and this lens kicks ass in every way, centre, edge, wide open, closed down – its a dream street lens. The 56mm APD has a special place too, though only really for portraits and studio work. The 35mm 1.4 should really be the first lens you buy, purely as its so good it should be used as a yardstick for what kind of image quality you can get from this camera. I struggle to find fault with it optically, though it is a little noisy when focussing.

The zooms I own (18-55 and 55-200) are spot on (though not all that suitable for use with an optical viewfinder on the X-Pro). I don’t use zooms often, but I have total faith in these two if I have to opt for variable focal length optics. The short zoom, especially, is very sharp and the image stabilisation is excellent.

The X system is growing, and each new lens that comes out is normally followed by a plethora of five star reviews. And yes, I really do want the 90mm now. It looks spectacular.

Flash is still a weak point. I’m sure it will be addressed in the next generation of cameras, but its poor right now. Having mentioned previously, I do not like flash, so this doesnt affect me at all. And with the low light capabilities of every X-series camera, this shouldn’t hamper you either. Note: these cameras work terrifically with continuous studio lighting. see right here:

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Samyang/Rokinon/Bowens/Walimex – They’re all the same lens, and many of them are excellent and great value alternatives if you cant justify the cost of a specialist Fujinon lens. The 12mm is excellent for interiors, the 8mm is fun to use and the 85mm is terrific for portraits. These lenses are manual in focus and aperture, but dont let that put you off – the super wide’s barely need any focussing at all, and the tele is worth the patience. Check them out. This was taken on the Samyang 12mm – almost too sharp:

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SUMMARY –

So, should you still buy an X-Pro 1? At £300 body only, yes. YES. Available new, with a couple of primes its now only £600 – which is just plain daft.

Of course I am biased – I adore mine – but even a non fanboy has got to appreciate the image quality that few other cameras at this price range can even get near to. All those things you hear about – the Fuji colours, the Fuji skin tones, the Fuji glass, the Fuji focussing (see,I’ve got to stop gushing haven’t I?) is all here, and its a great way to get into one of the best systems available.

And no, Fujifilm don’t pay me. They don’t send me gear to test. My thoughts are my own – but that’s not to say I’m not tempted by free gear. Fuji, if you’re listening, I will say whatever you want me to for free gear. That includes your polo shirts… 🙂

And to prove it, here are some images from the 60mm which I have slagged off from the get go:

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Thanks for reading.

😉

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25 comments

  1. munozhuerta · November 7, 2015

    I got mine last April, I’m still not 100% comfortable with AF but I can take this camera anywhere because it’s compact (mostly it’s thin) and I love using the OVF, it helps me frame better. I have used it for astrophoto and high contrast scenes and I’m constantly amazed by the latitude and quality of the RAW files.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jezmouk · November 7, 2015

      Thanks for this munozhuerta – and I agree with you. RAW files have stacks of latitude, and actually there is a surprising amount of ‘wiggle room’ in the JPEG’s as well. Thanks again, happy shooting.

      Like

  2. lefey · November 8, 2015

    Yes, I am with you all the way. My X100 images still look better , I reckon, than the XE2’s. I use manual focus much of the time, so no problem at all for the XPro. I am never sure though, if the XPro sensor is the same as X100 with just a few more m/pixels. What do you reckon?

    Like

    • jezmouk · November 8, 2015

      Actually, the original X100 has the standard Bayer pattern sensor, not X-Trans. But its still a terrific sensor and lens combination. Thanks for your comment! 🙂

      Like

  3. Sergey · November 8, 2015

    Great points here. I’ve had the Xpro since the first day it was released and love it. I dont miss any of the features of a DSLR. Its just a pure fun camera with great color rendition.

    Like

  4. wing0949 · November 9, 2015

    Really like your article/review.

    I’ve owned the original X100, loved it and the IQ, but ended up selling it because the performance and handling wasnt quite up to level I wanted (this was prior to the x100s and subsequent firmware upgrades). Always wanted to get back into Fuji but nothing new was quite enough to get me back in . almost got back a few times, but held back cause the current camera system I had did everything I wanted.

    Still, there was always an urge to get another Fuji. I prefer the rangefinder style most, and it had to have the hybrid ovf.. So that just left the x100 variants and the x-pro1.

    I really like the x100t, especially since it has the ERF which allowed more precision in ovf focusing both mf and af with that little window in the corner to show focus point. But, I really wanted to go ILC and have Fujis nice range of prime lenses available.

    Yes, the prices for a new x-pro1 are so good these days, I finally got one and the 35mm f1.4. Sure it’s several generations behind in technology, but the performance with current firmware is acceptable and the IQ is still undeniably great.
    This was a purchase out of want over need, but I’m happy i made it. There’s something different about using it to take photos which is fun and encouraging and I like it makes me approach photos differently than my standard work camera which is very efficient and gets the job done well and fast. . but sometimes it’s not just about efficiency. I think if I had to explain it to someone why the X-Pro1 can be that special, then that person would probably never really understand my POV on this.
    Anyways, I know an x-pro2 is imminent (finally) and there’s a new 35mm f/2 out soon, but the cost for entry into Fuji ilc system with the X-Pro1 and highly acclaimed 35mm f1.4 lens is totally worth holding off on the latest models that will be out at a much lower cost.

    I waited all this time and finally jumped on board again with one of the oldest and much loved model and lens and very happy with my recent decision.. That must mean something is special about the x-pro1.

    Your words helped back up this feeling. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jezmouk · November 9, 2015

      Thanks so much Wing0949 – its been great hearing from you and your X-Pro adventures! I think it is a common theme amongst us X-Pro shooters – it literally changes the way we shoot. If we take our time in composition, and if we’re confident in what this camera can give us – it will rarely disappoint us. Thanks again, really glad you made this comment. Cheers!

      Like

  5. Luigi Cavalieri · November 9, 2015

    You are really talking about the “soul” of this camera, specs aside. I thank you for the point you made about first generation X-Trans. Most shoots I took were with a XE-1 since late 2012. I gave it away to a friend for trial. May be I want it back to encounter more the subtle differences you are confirming, compared to the XE2. Or I am getting this X-Pro1 for little money. I made my own thoughts about a coming X-Pro2, but keeping in mind the classic user interface of the present X-Pro1. So if you like have a look at http://luicaphoto.8pro.net/x-pro2-article
    Have a good time!

    Liked by 1 person

    • jezmouk · November 9, 2015

      Ha! Thanks Luigi!! I saw your article earlier today! Excellent ideas!

      Like

  6. martspic66 · November 9, 2015

    I bought mine last month, along with some fuji glass, 18, 27 & 35mm lenses. I’m completely blown away by it, absolutely love this camera. Feels so well made, excellent IQ – love it with the 18mm for street and will be doing some portrait work next weekend so will give the 35mm a run on that job. It’s a photographer’s camera for sure although now available at a price that puts it almost at budget level, ridiculous really! As for the X-Pro 2, well it will have to have some significant upgrades to improve on the ‘1’. While technology has moved forward since 2012, fundamentally, photography and camera’s must ultimately be judged on IQ and I’d like to see the images that are better than those already available…

    Liked by 1 person

    • jezmouk · November 9, 2015

      100% with you there, Mart. You’ll like the portraits from the 35mm, I still use mine a lot for that, especially in the studio. All the best, and thanks for your comment!

      Like

  7. rossjkennedy · November 10, 2015

    Very interesting comments, especially on your preference for the X-trans1 sensor instead of the Xtrans2. I totally agree with this…I’ve tried to upgrade my X-Pro+X100 to an X-T1+X100T but was very disappointed with the colour and digital look of the X-trans2 files…The X100T in particular seems to produce much more saturated and unnatural-looking raw files than the earlier cameras. I finally decided to go back to my X-Pro (and X100) as the images are just so gorgeous. I will miss the eye-detection and wifi though….

    I do worry that I have a huge investment in Fuji glass but I don’t like the output of their newer camera….

    Liked by 1 person

    • jezmouk · November 10, 2015

      Thanks for this Ross. In truth, I use the XE2 when I absolutely need the extra focussing speed – its X-Pro otherwise. The X-trans II is fine – but I always have to work so much harder in post to get the results I want. With the X-Pro, its practically done for me in camera. A few tweaks, and out. As for the investment in glass? Yes, I hear you…plenty to think about. Roll on January, right? Thanks for your comments. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: miXed zone: Anticipating the X-Pro2 design :: 35mmF2 reviews :: RAW Vs. JPEG (by Kevin Mullins) :: Macro Ring Flash deal & more! | Fuji Rumors
  9. Pingback: 3 Year Real World Review – Fujifilm X-Pro 1 | Capitalfaces
  10. Lee Mason · November 19, 2015

    Great review and I’m in complete agreement that this future classic has something organic about the images it helps you capture. Yes it can be a merciless friend but it does force you to think about what you are doing. Spray and prayers are better off using a Nikon or canon in my opinion. This is a camera for those who listen to music rather than just hear it. On the subject of flash, I’ve been using the Lumopro LP180 along with a set of Flash Q triggers from LightPix Labs. The triggers are tiny and look the part on the X-Pro 1. Oh and they work a treat!

    Liked by 1 person

    • jezmouk · November 21, 2015

      ‘Merciless Friend’ – loved that, Lee! And dead right – since when did easy equate to good? Well, I’m sticking to that! (Only because I have to….) Thanks for your comment. I’m still not convinced on flash though….

      Like

  11. LCN · November 20, 2015

    Very mixed feelings about the X-Pro1. When it was released in 2012 I was extremely interested in the exchangeable X-series. As a first wave adopter, I have been trying to love this camera for about 1.5 years but sold it in a wave of complete frustration. It didn’t like low light, I had pretty soon several technical issues with the LCD and shutter button that got locked – most of all, I got tired from the electronics that were somehow always standing in the way of shooting ‘the decisive moment’. I still can’t forget the terrible issues I experienced with the first RAW convertors – supporting the X-series in a way that missed any kind of professionalism. I was a lot shooting with Nikon pro-DSLR gear – and I still do, but I’ve to admit that the X-T1 – I own now – is a far more solid concept, having everything that the X-Pro1 was completely missing at its release and RAW-support has evolved to a level I can accept it now. The one point is… looking back at the pictures I made with the X-Pro1, I judge the X-Trans II not having the same kind of colors/setting as X-Pro1, which was indeed more ‘organic & filmic’. That being said there’s something in Fuji X I like a lot, their glass is indeed top notch but still, quite a bit of more firmware-related matters don’t always make me such a happy shooter, to name one is the way these cameras deal with flash units.

    Like

    • jezmouk · November 21, 2015

      Thanks for this LCN – believe me, I felt much of your pain too. On all the negatives you mention – right there with you. The X-Pro is absolutely NOT for everyone – and that is not a criticism of either the camera or past users. I don’t like The Smiths, but it doesn’t make them a crap band….

      In truth, your comments on lack of RAW support in the beginning had most resonance. If anything was going to make me change system it would have been that. Thankfully, its OK now – Lightroom isn’t perfect, but it will get better. Dread to think how long it will take to be compatible with the new X-Pro 2 sensor (when it arrives)…I’m hoping Fujifilm gave Adobe a heads up this time….

      Like

  12. John Canavan · November 23, 2015

    I have bought and sold 2 Xpros, and then bought a used one and love it and use it about 99% of the time with the 35 1.4 (the real 35 ha!)
    I have an xt1 but seldom use it although it is superior in AF , but i have a love affair with my Xpro that as yet has no name but we plan on running away together,for me there is nothing like it .
    I have been through all the Canon full frame stuff and now it leaves me cold like kissing my sister, (not that i ever did )and i can’t imagine myself picking up one of those souless beasts ,good cameras as they are they don’t have the fun and real photography feel that i get when I’m out with the Xpro,
    Interested to see what the xpro 2 is like but it won’t replace my secret love.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. L. Ron. Hubbard · January 2, 2016

    What drivel. Only a drooling fan boy can write crap like this.

    Like

    • jezmouk · January 2, 2016

      MUM! you always change your screen name…whats for tea?

      Like

  14. Richard Alton · February 2, 2016

    Now that the X-Pro 2 is out, I’m seriously tempted to buy an X-Pro 1. My usual camera’s a Leica M3 with 50mm lens, so the X-Pro 1 isn’t going to feel slow or past it. A thought provoking post, thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jezmouk · February 2, 2016

      Hey thanks for your comment Richard. As a Leica user (love the M3) I think you’ll have a blast with the X-Pro. Some great deals around too. Suggest you get it with the 35mm 1.4 or even the latest F2 version – a good yardstick for seeing how good the camera is. All the best. Look forward to seeing some of your images.

      Like

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