Fuji X-Pro1 £1429
21st Mar 2012 | 16:48
A harmony of traditional and digital photography
Overview and features
Inside Fuji's first compact system camera (CSC), the Fuji X-Pro1, is a 16.3 million pixel X-Trans CMOS that produces images of up to 15.89MP.
This means that when images are printed at 300ppi, they are just a small fraction short of full A3 size - ideal for most enthusiast photographers.
Although this sensor is APS-C sized, Fuji claims that its cunning design enables the XPro1 to produce images that are superior to a full-frame camera's.
The secret is in the arrangement of the pixels.
Unlike most cameras that use a Bayer pattern of red, green, green and blue receptors (usually referred to as RGGB) arranged in a 2 x 2 grid, the X-Trans CMOS device uses a 6 x 6 RGGB filter array pattern, with a random arrangement of colour filters within each block of 36 photo receptors.
Fuji claims this avoids the issue of moiré patterning, which can occur as a result of the fine grid structure that makes up the average Bayer pattern sensor.
As a result, the Fuji XPro1 isn't fitted with an anti-aliasing filter, which means it should be able to produce sharper images from the outset.
The Fuji X-Pro1 is the brand's first interchangeable lens camera since the Fuji FinePix S5 Pro, which dates from September 2006. While the S5 Pro is a DSLR that accepts Nikon F-mount lenses, the Fuji X-Pro1 is a compact system camera debuting Fuji's X mount.
To coincide with the release of the X-Pro1, Fuji has introduced three compatible XF lenses; the Fujinon XF 18mm f/2 R, XF 35mm f/1.4 R and XF 60mm f/2.4 R Macro, these have a focal length equivalent to 27mm, 53mm and 91mm optics on a full-frame camera.
Traditionalists will love the fact that each of these lenses has an aperture ring for adjusting exposure.
Similarly, the top plate of the camera has a shutter speed dial to set the shutter speed in whole stops running from 1/4000 to 1 second.
There are also Time and Bulb options on the shutter speed dial, with the first enabling exposure to be set to 2-30sec in steps of 1/3EV and the latter enabling manually timed exposures up to 60 minutes.
Both the aperture lens rings and the shutter speed dial have an A (Automatic) setting. Setting both to A puts the camera in program mode, while setting only one or the other to A selects aperture or shutter priority mode.
There are no scene modes, but the Fuji X-Pro1 isn't designed to attract novice photographers who need to use them.
In manual exposure mode (when the photographer sets both dials to anything other than A), the correct exposure can be judged using the scale on the left side of the viewfinder and LCD. In other modes this scale indicates the exposure compensation.
As a compact system camera, the Fuji X-Pro1 has no reflex mirror to bounce light into the viewfinder, but, like the Fuji FinePix X100, it has a hybrid viewfinder that combines a direct optical viewfinder (OVF) with an electronic viewfinder (EVF).
A small lever on the front of the camera enables the user to switch between the two finders - more of these later.
Images may also be composed on the 3-inch 1,230,000-dot LCD screen on the back of the camera. This is one of the highest resolution camera screens around, but unlike the units on many recent CSCs, it's not touch-sensitive.
Another consequence of there being no mirror in the Fuji X-Pro1 is that it has a contrast detection autofocus system rather than a phase detection system.
There are a total of 49 individually selectable AF points arranged in a 7 x 7 grid across the image frame. Helpfully, the size of these points can be quickly adjusted (there are five options) using the command dial near the thumb rest, so if you need more precision it takes just a second or two to achieve it.
Fujifilm has a history of making film, so it's hardly surprising that the company is underlining this in its latest camera in the form of Film Simulation modes.
In total there are 10 of these modes, with names such as Provia (the standard JPEG setting), Velvia, Astia, Pro Neg H and Pro Neg S ringing bells with photographers who started shooting on film.
No CSC would be complete without video technology, and the Fuji X-Pro1 can shoot Full HD (1920 x 1080pixels) movies up to 29 minutes long at 24fps and with stereo sound.
While in many ways the Fuji X-Pro1 looks and feels like a traditional rangefinder camera with the addition of an LCD screen, it has just about all the features you respect from a modern digital camera. These include a virtual horizon display to help keep shots level, plenty of control over white balance, a range of bracketing options, dynamic range optimisation settings and a motion panorama mode.
The only really noticeable absence is a built-in flash, but there is a hotshoe to accept flashguns such as Fuji's EF-20 TTL or the larger EF-42 TTL.
Build quality and handling
In comparison with other recent compact system cameras, the Fuji X-Pro1 is quite large, but then unlike the Micro Four Thirds offering from Olympus and Panasonic, it has an APS-C format sensor.
It is also a pretty solid feeling beast, though without a lens mounted it is a little lighter than we were expecting. With one of the three current lenses mounted it feels just about right and the body and controls have a high quality feel.
Given its retro styling and traditional control arrangement, the Fuji X-Pro1 isn't so much a CSC competitor as an advanced DSLR or rangefinder rival. And when the promised M mount adaptor comes to market, Leica users wanting a digital camera will have a more affordable alternative to the Leica M9.
Despite its overall rectangular shape, which is typical of traditional rangefinder cameras, the Fuji X-Pro1 feels reasonably comfortable in the hand, thanks to the textured rubberised grip on its front. It lacks the bulk of the average DSLR's grip, but it provides purchase and makes the camera feel secure in your grasp.
Although the Fuji X-Pro1's body looks similar to the X100's, Fuji has made a few changes to improve the new camera's handling.
First up, there's a Q button that activates the Quick menu, giving access to 16 key camera features including the sensitivity, Dynamic Range optimisation, white balance, file format and Film Simulation mode settings, to name just a few.
Any of the features within the Quick Menu grid can be selected simply by navigating to them, and then adjusted using the command dial near the thumb rest. It's quick to use and, unlike Olympus's approach, doesn't require a button press to select the feature ready for adjustment.
It is also possible to save up to seven custom set-ups governing the settings for nine features, for quick recall via the Quick menu.
While the Quick menu is really useful, it would be even better if you could specify what features you access from it. Users who always shoot raw and JPEG files simultaneously, for example, have no need of the image quality control and may prefer a faster route to the bracketing options.
Another issue we have with the Quick menu is with the button itself. This sits on the ridge that forms the thumb rest, and when the camera is turned to shoot in upright orientation, it's very easy to accidentally press it. Granted a bit of familiarity does reduce the frequency of this occurring, but it remains a problem.
In response to requests from X100 users, Fuji has given the X-Pro1's shutter speed dial a lock button and changed the command dial for navigation buttons.
The exposure compensation dial is also slightly recessed, to make it harder to knock out of position. However, we found it is still prone to being moved accidentally.
Although the shutter speed lock button is a bit fiddly to use, it only needs to be pressed when the dial is being turned from the 'A' (automatic) position. It's a small point, but crucially it prevents the camera switching from aperture priority mode to manual or from fully automatic to shutter priority mode.
Available to pre-order for the considerable price of £1,429 in the UK and $1,699 in the US, the Fuji X-Pro1 is a delight to use aside from one or two niggles.
Fuji first introduced the concept of a hybrid viewfinder that combines an electronic and an optical viewfinder with the X100, and it has managed to develop a similar finder for the X-Pro1 that can cope with interchangeable lenses.
While it is possible to look through the optical viewfinder (OVF) without seeing any shooting information, it is better to use it with the information view enabled so that the electronic bright frame, which shows the imaging area, is visible.
It is also possible to see the active AF point (with parallax correction) and the virtual horizon.
Although the Reverse Galilean optical viewfinder has a magnifying lens that slips into place when required, Fuji recommends that the EVF is used with the zoom lenses and longer telephoto lens that it intends to introduce in the future.
This is because the imaging area becomes an increasingly smaller proportion of the optical viewfinder image as the lens focal length increases. The EVF, on the other hand, shows the view through the lens so it indicates the framing more clearly.
Because the same data is visible in the OVF as the EVF, it's sometimes only possible to work out which is being used by flicking the selection lever. Generally, however, the EVF is brighter and more contrasty than the OVF. Although the brightness of the main LCD can be adjusted, the EVF brightness is fixed.
Images may also be composed on the 3-inch 1,230,000-dot LCD screen. We're told that the LCD has also been improved on the one on the X100 to make it better in sunlight, and our tests bear this out. Even in direct sunlight and at wide viewing angles, the image is still visible.
Given the quality of the EVF, it makes sense to use this in most situations. However, the EVF lacks the clarity of detail that the main LCD has and this makes focusing manually through it a little harder than we would like.
And, since there's an eye sensor that can trigger the camera to switch between the LCD and the viewfinder when the camera is held to the eye, it's feasible to use the viewfinder for shooting and the LCD for menu navigation and setting adjustments.
Fuji's new Fujinon XF 18mm f/2 R, XF 35mm f/1.4 R and XF 60mm f/2.4 R Macro lenses produce images that are comparable with 27mm, 53mm and 91mm on a full-frame camera.
The decision to launch the Fuji X-Pro1 with three fast fixed focal length optics underlines Fuji's stated intent to appeal to serious photographers.
We're told that we can expect to see zoom lenses in the future, but that the manufacturer's primary goal is to give professional and enthusiast photographers a high-quality system.
All three lenses have a high quality feel, and the focusing rings turn smoothly. However, we'd like the steps in the aperture rings to feel a little more pronounced and the rings to be just a little stiffer.
According to Fuji, the lens aperture blades are contoured to give a sharper edge and more pleasant bokeh. This appears to be confirmed by many of our test images, since the out of focus areas have a lovely smoothness and highlights have soft edges.
The only fly in the ointment seems to be a few instances of quite pronounced chromatic aberration spoiling backlit edges towards the edge of images shot with the 18mm lens.
We will publish a fuller test and lab assessment of the lenses in the near future.
Perhaps the best way to sum up the image quality from the Fuji X-Pro1 is to say that images have a film-like quality.
It's a hard thing to define, but at normal viewing sizes images look natural and not overtly digital. There's a smooth graduation of focus, and out of focus areas look naturally soft.
Meanwhile, in-focus areas of low sensitivity images have plenty of detail. There's not quite the same level of detail that we've seen from full-frame DSLRs, but it really isn't that far off, and moiré patterning doesn't seem to be an issue, despite the lack of an anti-aliasing filter.
Zooming into JEPG images reveals that strong edges are over-sharpened and the best results (as usual) are achieved by processing raw images post capture.
The native sensitivity ranges runs from ISO 100 to ISO 6400, but ISO 12,800 and 25,600 are available as JPEG only options. These top values are best kept for emergency only as the results suffer from oversharpening, presumably in an attempt to correct the softening created by the noise reduction.
At ISO 3200 and 6400 the X-Pro 1 produces respectable results, JPEG images have little sign of colour noise and luminance noise isn't obtrusive. However, some out of focus details can look a little smudgy at 100% on the computer screen, so if large prints or selective enlargements are required it's best to stick to lower sensitivity settings if possible.
Low sensitivity images have lots of detail and the best results are achieved by processing raw files with reduced noise reduction and bespoke sharpening.
Fuji supplies SilkyPix software for processing raw files, and while this provides a comprehensive range of tools, it doesn't feel especially tailored towards the camera.
We're looking forward to an update from Adobe or DXO so that we can process the raw files using Photoshop CS5 or Optics Pro 7.
We found that the standard Film Simulation mode, Provia, is a good option for many situations, and Velvia is good for boosting colours, although spring grass looks unnaturally vibrant.
As with most cameras, the basic Monochrome option produces fairly muddy-looking images that benefit from a contrast boost.
While it's fun to use the Film Simulation bracketing option to record three shots with different looks, we were a little disappointed to discover that only JPEGs are recorded and there isn't an unprocessed raw file available, even if the camera was originally set to record raw files.
On the whole, the auto white balance system does a good job of getting colours as they should be, but it struggles a little in warm lighting indoors.
This can be addressed by setting a custom white balance value, but unfortunately the option is located on the second page of the main menu. It would be nice if it could be accessed via the Quick menu.
One issue that has been of concern to prospective buyers of the Fuji X-Pro1 is the AF system.
But while the Fuji X-Pro1 isn't the ideal camera for shooting sports and action, for most day-to-day purposes the autofocusing speed is perfectly adequate. Testing the X-Pro1 alongside the X100 reveals that their AF speed is about the same.
The lens usually makes a little backwards and forwards adjustment (with accompanying noise), but focus is usually achieved pretty quickly. That said, it's not as fast as the Panasonic GX1, for example.
In continuous AF mode, the AF point is fixed in the centre of the frame, which has obvious limitations, and it can only really keep up with fairly slow-moving subjects.
Manual focusing seems like a natural option with a camera like the Fuji X-Pro1, but we found it's sometimes difficult to access critical sharpness in the EVF.
The ability to enlarge the view by pressing the command dial helps a lot, but the LCD view is clearer than the EVF image, and unless the camera is on a tripod, this feels an unnatural way of assessing manual focus.
Our analysis shows that all four cameras produce good results, but the X Pro 1's was the real star living up to Fuji's claims that images are as good, if not better in some cases than those captured by a full frame sensor. Only the Canon EOS 5D MK II was able to have any impact on X Pro 1's impressive results, with a better signal to noise ratio result for raw files.
As part of our image quality testing for the Fujifilm X Pro-1, we've shot our resolution chart with the Fujinon XF60mm f/2.4 R Macro lens mounted.
If you view our crops of the resolution chart's central section at 100% (or Actual Pixels) you will see that, for example, at ISO 100 the X Pro 1 is capable of resolving up to around 24 (line widths per picture height x100) in its highest quality JPEG files.
See a full explanation of what our resolution charts mean, and how to read them please click here.
Examining images of the chart taken at each sensitivity setting reveals the following resolution scores in line widths per picture height x100:
ISO 100, score: 24 (see full image)
ISO 200, score: 24 (see full image)
ISO 400, score: 24 (see full image)
ISO 800, score: 24 (see full image)
ISO 1600, score: 24 (see full image)
ISO 3200, score: 14 (see full image)
ISO 6400, score: 24 (see full image)
ISO 12800, score: 22 (see full image)
ISO 25600, score: 20 (see full image)
ISO 200, score: 24 (see full image)
ISO 400, score: 24 (see full image)
ISO 800, score: 24 (see full image)
ISO 1600, score: 24 (see full image)
ISO 3200, score: 24 (see full image)
ISO 6400, score: 22 (see full image)
Noise and dynamic range
We shoot a specially designed chart in carefully controlled conditions and the resulting images are analysed using DXO Analyzer software to generate the data to produce the graphs below.
A high signal to noise ratio (SNR) indicates a cleaner and better quality image.
For more more details on how to interpret our test data, check out our full explanation of our noise and dynamic range tests.
JPEG Signal to Noise Ratio
JPEG images from the Fujifilm X Pro 1 show noise is handled well across the sensitivity range, comparing closely to the Canon EOS 5D MK II and Nikon D700. From a sensitivity of ISO 3200 upwards the X Pro 1 exceeds the performance of all comparison cameras showing a better signal to noise ratio, this shows the camera is still capable of capturing decent image in low light conditions.
Raw Signal to Noise Ratio
At the lowest sensitivty value of ISO 200 the X Pro 1's raw images (after conversion to TIFF) have a better signal to noise ratio result than the Canon EOS 5D MK II, Nikon D700 and Leica M9. Despite the Canon EOS 5D MK II taking the lead at all other sensitivity values, the X Pro 1 still produces respectable results.
JPEG dynamic range
Raw dynamic range
TIFF images (after conversion from raw) again show that the X Pro 1 puts in an impressive performance for dynamic range, with only the Canon EOS 5D MK II getting similar results from ISO 3200 up.
Shooting at f/1.4 using the 35mm lens has restricted the depth of field nicely here. (See full image)
Taken using the 256-zone Multi metering system, this scene required +1.33EV exposure compensation to bring out the details of the statue against the bright overcasst sky. (See full image)
The auto white balance system struggled to cope with the mixed lighting and has produced a slightly warm result - it's also a little darker than we'd like. (See full image)
This is the same image as the one immediately above, but we've used Photoshop's levels control to address the colour and brightness issues. (See full image)
Another image that needs a little brightening, but there's plenty of scope for making adjustments thanks to the broad dynamic range. (See full image)
The same image as the one above after a quick levels adjustment. (See full image)
The X-Pro1 had no trouble focusing on the pigeon, while the wide aperture has blurred the background nicely. (See full image)
Edge sharpness is very good, while the out of focus areas are very attractive. Shot on the 60mm macro lens, using film simulation bracketing - this is the Astia filter. (See full image)
Here you can see the "standard" or Provia film simulation. (See full image)
The Velvia simulation, as you might expect, provides the richest and most vibrant colours. (See full image)
Focusing is very quick on the X Pro1, if not quite as fast as on other compact system cameras, such as the Olympus OM-D. It can take a little time hunting for focus, but switching on the macro mode helps in situations like this. Shot on the 60mm macro lens, with the Astia filter. (See full image)
Shot on the 60mm macro lens, with the Provia (standard) filter. (See full image)
Shot on the 60mm macro lens with the Velvia filter. (See full image)
You have the option of choosing the optical viewfinder, electronic viewfinder or shooting via Live View mode when using the camera, depending on the situation. (See full image)
The aperture is altered via a ring on the lens barrel itself, with f/1.4 being the widest available on the 35mm lens. This image was shot at f/9. (See full image)
Exposure compensation is altered via a mode dial on top of the camera, this image was shot at f/2.4, with an EV of -1.3. (See full image)
You can shoot in a variety of different formats, including 16:9. This image is shot with the PRO Neg. Hi filter using the 60mm macro lens. (See full image)
Shot with the 60mm macro, using the Velvia filter. (See full image)
Shot with the 60mm macro, using the Sepia filter. (See full image)
Colours are represented well when using the standard (Provia) setting, which can be boosted using Velvia, or muted slightly using Astia. (See full image)
The 18mm lens provides a wide angle of view and stops down to f/2.0, allowing for shallow depth of field effects to be used. (See full image)
A large amount of the scene can be captured with the 18mm lens. (See full image)
Colours are bright and punchy in this image, which has been shot with the Velvia filter. (See full image)
Even the 18mm lens can be used as a versatile lens, macro images can be shot by switching the camera to Macro mode, which is accessed via a dedicated button on the back of the camera. (See full image)
While it has a few flaws - specifically the speed of its AF system - we think that most serious photographers will find the Fuji X-Pro1 a joy to use. Low sensitivity images impress straight from the camera, having plenty of detail, pleasant colours and beautiful out of focus areas.
The camera produces beautiful, film-like images with good contrast and smooth out of focus areas.
The continuous autofocus is locked to the centre point, and it's hard to access sharpness in the viewfinder when focusing manually.
If you are an experienced photographer who's not concerned about having scene modes and ultra-fast autofocusing, there's lots to like about the Fuji X-Pro1.
Setting the exposure via an aperture ring and a shutter speed dial seems to come naturally, and the combination of excellent noise control and fast lenses mean that you can shoot with the sensitivity set to automatic without any serious concerns.
Fuji's Quick menu system is one of the best and fastest to use that we have come across. If it could be made customisable, it would be just about perfect.
The hybrid viewfinder is also excellent, although it doesn't work as well as we might hope when focusing manually.
Most importantly, however, the images from the Fuji X-Pro1 are superb. They may not have quite the detail that some full-frame cameras are capable of capturing, but they can beat these bigger beasts for dynamic range and noise control.
Well done Fuji.