For its first mirror-less CSC Fujifilm has produced a model that refuses to fit into any of the existing moulds. For many people the closest thing (though not in price) is Leica’s M9. And given Fujifilm’s history of rangefinder camera production, maybe it should come as no surpise that the X-Pro1’s design owes more than just its looks to the company’s rangefinder legacy.
Despite its traditional appearance the X-Pro1 is no stranger to new and even ground-breaking technology. Its 16 Megapixel X-Trans sensor introduces a new architecture that does away with the Bayer filter array and low-pass filter. And its hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder offers the best of both systems while introducing some innovative solutions to the problems of displaying different focal lengths and dealing with parallax.
Back on more conventional turf, the X-Pro1 offers full PASM exposure modes via conventional analogue controls, a 3 inch high resolution LCD screen, 6fps continuous shooting, a range of film simulation modes, a range of 3-frame bracketing modes and multiple exposure and motion panorama features. It can shoot 1080p24 video with program AE and aperture priority exposure control.
The features it lacks are as revealing of the X-Pro1’s philosophy as those it provides. It has no built-in flash, lacks any stacking modes for improved low light performance, there are no scene modes, creative filters, or ‘fun’ features; it lacks face AF or any kind of scene or face recognition and (for now at least) has no stabilised lenses. And with three prime lenses currently available the convenience of zooms isn’t something Fujifilm believes will be high on the priority list for X-Pro1 customers. And It’s not without it’s faults, the main one being the slow and erratic behaviour of the AF system and the poorly implemented aperture control on manual focusing.
You could say the X-Pro1 takes digital photography back to the basics. It concentrates on doing the important stuff really well – the foremost being excellent image quality – adds some truly innovative features and ignores the rest. For serious photographers that’s a very attractive philosophy and one that will win the X-Pro1 a lot of admirers.
Compared to Sony NEX 7
Though they are aimed at the same market, in many respects the Fujifilm X-Pro1 and Sony NEX-7 couldn’t be more different. The X-Pro1 with it’s retro styling, analogue controls and focus on photography fundamentals, and the NEX-7 with its sleek modern lines, soft buttons and profusion of features provide a compelling set of contrasts.
The NEX-7 is smaller and lighter, but in terms of handling the most obvious difference is with the viewing systems. The NEX-7 has the most advanced EVF of any compact system camera and an articulated 16:9 flip out screen to complement it. The X-Pro1’s hybrid viewfinder takes a totally different approach, one that you’ll either love or hate, but it’s really a question of personal preference rather than objective (no pun intended) technological superiority.
The NEX-7 has a built in flash, but it also has Sony’s proprietary Alpha hotshoe, while the X-Pro1 has a conventional hotshoe and a PC flash sync socket allowing more flexible choice in external and studio flash use. You can attach an external mic to the NEX-7 but not to the X-Pro 1. With a 1080p60 best quality mode, the NEX-7 offers a wider range of video modes than the X-Pro1 and it’s C-AF is a lot more sure of itself, in fact both auto and manual focusing on the NEX-7 is in general a much faster, surer and more accurate affair. The NEX-7 also has faster continuous shooting with 10fps versus 6fps on the X-Pro1, although the X-Pro1 can shoot an 18-frame burst at its fastest speed compared to 10 on the NEX-7 and the optical viewfinder doesn’t black out between exposures.
Anyone considering either of these cameras will also need to take into consideration the range and cost of available lenses. Now a couple of years old, the NEX E-mount offers a choce of stabilised zooms in addition to primes, while X-Pro1 owners are currently limited to three unstabilised prime lenses and will have to wait for the promised stabilised zooms. And though there’s no denying their superb optical quality, the Fujinon X Mount primes are significantly more expensive than most E-mount lenses.
Lastly there’s the question of image quality. With both cameras using APS-C sized sensors you can expect quality at least on a par with today’s crop framed DSLRs. But in my tests the 16 Megapixel CMOS sensor in the X-Pro1 with its novel architecture wins out over the NEX-7’s 24 megapixel sensor in terms of image quality particularly at higher ISO sensitivities.
There’s a lot for a potential buyer to weigh-up, but such are their different approaches to photography and handling that most people will already know that one is much better suited to their needs and desires than the other.
See my Sony NEX-7 review for more details
Fujifilm X-Pro1 final verdict
Since its announcement at the begnning of 2012, the Fujifilm X-Pro1 has been awaited with anticipation by enthusiast photographers eager to witness the evolution of the company’s earlier fixed lens X100. With a groundbreaking new 16 Megapixel sensor, an innovative hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder, traditional retro styling with analogue exposure controls, and a launch range of three quality prime lenses the X-Pro1 combines quality construction, traditional features and cutting edge technologies. There truly isn’t another camera like it.
Rather than trying to compete by packing more features into a compact system camera format already established by its competitors, Fujifilm has gone back to its roots to recreate the rangefinder models of its heyday in a modern digital context. And it has largely succeeded. The X-Pro1 is a delight to use and produces images of amazing quality.
It would be surprising if there were no issues in a first generation model and with the X-Pro1, focusing is its Achilles heel. There’s no avoiding the fact that if you’re used to fast AF on a high end DSLR you’re going to be in for a frustrating time and that’s going to present some challenges for the X-Pro1 in what could be one of its most natural markets: street photography.
Focusing shortcomings aside, the X-Pro1 is a beautiful camera that reaffirms the best traditions of what used to be called miniature photography. It’s well-built, functional and a joy to use, and even with focusing issues is thoroughly deserving of a Cameralabs Highly Recommended award.
(relative to 2012 compact system cameras)
18 / 20
18 / 20
18 / 20
17 / 20
17 / 20