Apr 26, 2012


The brand new X-Pro1 has been in my hands for two weeks now. There was (too) little time to take it through a full spin, but – other than the usual trial shots in and around the house – I took the camera out to two long photowalks (the recent Belgiumdigital Shooting Days in Antwerp and Oudenaarde). Here’s my first impressions and lessons learned.

DSCF0142wBeautiful color and tone rendition (with 35mm f/1.4)


I shot with optical viewfinder film cameras before and have intensively used an X100 for a year, so this type of gear is not new to me. Picking up the X-Pro1 after the X100 gave me no issues whatsoever. The camera is slightly but pleasantly larger and heavier. It balances well with the 18mm and 35mm lenses (my 60mm copy is still to arrive). I went for the additional handgrip, and I like how it adds to the handling. It will probably show even more useful with longer and heavier glass. Of course, it will take some time before I can operate the X-Pro1 without taking my eye from the viewfinder: some controls moved position, and my fingers must learn to keep away from the Q button and the AF/MF dial. The more than complete feedback through the viewfinder (in both OVF and EVF modes) is of great help!

One serious issue in this area: the lack of eyesight adjustment. Based on technical limitations or in a misguided attempt to ‘go retro’ even more, Fuji’s engineers threw a spell on anyone wearing glasses while shooting – especially those with progressive lenses. We simply cannot get a complete sharp viewfinder image, even with funny head contortions… Replacing the standard neutral diopter with an appropriate correction lens is the only solution. These once common optical gizmos today are very hard to find (and out of stock at about every dealer that still carries them).

I ordered a +2D Voigtlander diopter (of Bessa fame) from a specialized UK shop. Even better: I got news today that it just shipped by air. I soon will find out whether manual focus with the electronic viewfinder is feasible (judging from how things work from the back LCD, I am not all too worried).

DSCF0295wSubtle nuances all over (with 18mm f/2.0)


I grew to love the X100 and learned to live with its ‘personality’. The X-Pro1 improves in many areas, so it performs even better as long as you keep a conscious and ‘forward thinking’ shooting style. I will not rely on this camera as the primary body for a fast-action or be-ready-for-anything situation, but I will happily take it there as my second one. If you know nothing else but über-automatic compacts or faster-than-you-can-think DSLRs, you might end up confused and disappointed. I for one enjoy the more determined and relaxed approach that both X-bodies promote.

I looooove the extensive manual controls, and consider the new Q (for quick) button a godsend. For a Nikon fanboy like me, changing lenses feels awkward at first: the unlock button and the direction of rotation are clearly ‘wrong’…  The touch and feel of the lenses is excellent. I don’t understand why some people complain about their low weight: isn’t this kind of camera all about carrying smaller and lighter?

The aperture blade chatter was present but – to me – not overly irritating. It’s mostly gone now anyway after the 1.01 firmware update (thank you, Fuji-san, but were you really surprised?).

The battery capacity could be better, so far I cannot or just hardly make it through a full day of varied shooting (note that I do keep Power Save off and Quick Start on). Maybe battery life will improve after a few more charging cycles. The spare battery on my original order (still not delivered) will be more than welcome. Actually, I intend to buy an extra one from whatever dealer or webshop that can supply now.

DSCF0090wSizzle and detail (with 18mm f/2.0)

Image quality

As said before, I did not take the X-Pro1 through a full battery of tests - and probably never will. I did attempt to grab as many different types of shots as possible during the recent field trips.
I very much like everything I’ve seen so far. The 18mm lens is perfectly sharp, and the 35mm even more. The images are full of crisp detail, white balance is as correct as can be expected. Colors are Fuji-great, tonal range stunning. The X-Pro1’s images generally stand up to – correct that, often look better than – those from anything else I shoot with, including my trusted D700. No little feat.

DSCF0336wA dynamic range with room to stretch (with 35mm f/1.4)

Remember, all you see here comes from JPG files produced by the camera. No RAW file support for the X-Pro1 yet in Lightroom nor Aperture, and the bundled Silkypix software shows nothing that prompts me go through another learning curve. The quality of the out-of-camera JPG images is top-notch though! So far I did not experiment with the available conversion settings to get the results even closer to my taste. Rather, I leave all settings on ‘neutral’ and make minor adjustments in Lightroom, as usual.

DSCF0165-EditwPlug’em to your taste (with 35mm f/1.4)


Lightroom 4 is just great to explore and exploit the boundaries of your image data. The X-Pro1 images perfectly behave through all kinds of manipulations. Insofar those are required, beyond a basic cropping, contrast boost and occasional color twist. Obviously, JPG files come with less tweaking latitude than RAWs, so I shoot RAW+JPG and save the RAW files for later, Adobe permitting.

The JPGs are also fit for processing by your preferred plug-ins. The image above got a dash of Nik Software’s Color Efex Pro 4.

DSCF0418wGetting close (with Tamron 90mm f/2.8)

More fun to come

As with most compact system cameras, the X-Pro1 lenses are designed to come very close to the sensor. That setup – getting rid of the deep mirror box of a DSLR – leaves room for an adapter accepting lenses from another camera system. No doubt the current Fujinon lenses will outperform most of the old ones with similar focal length, but beyond that there’s macro, fisheye, portrait, long tele…

I already received a Chinese Kippon adapter for Nikon F lenses, and a lot of manual focus and AF-D lenses – some dating back to the 70s – are waiting to make a pass at the X-Pro1. The well-known Tamron 90mm f/2.8 macro lens was one of the first to get mounted. The example above shows part of a postage stamp (original size about 20 x 30 mm).

A newer Kippon adapter for Nikon G-type lenses (without an aperture control ring) is already in transit from Hong Kong, soon to be joined by yet another adapter for Leica 39mm screw mount glass (I am lucky to own a few of those built around WWII).

Hope to see you back when there’s more to report!

Gear notes: Fujifilm X-Pro1, Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 & 35mm f/1.4,
                  Tamron 90mm f/2.8 SP Di

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Apr 14, 2012

Black box revelations

Aaah! The joys of unpacking newly arrived boxes after weeks of anticipation! Opening plastic bags, slipping out exquisite pieces of craftsmanship, pondering over what-the-heck-are-these bits!


My new Fujifilm X-Pro1 camera arrived yesterday. Together with the body, I received the 35mm f/1.4 and 18mm f/2.0 lenses – a good starter’s kit corresponding to 50mm and 28mm field-of-view on full-frame systems. The 60mm f/2.4 macro lens has not arrived yet, neither has an extra NP-W126 battery (thus limiting my shooting autonomy for a while).

In this post and a series of follow-up ones, I will cover my early findings and ongoing experiences as I discover this camera. Don’t hope for technical specs, pixel-peep test frames or side-by-side comparisons to other bodies: there’s more than enough other blogs and sites for that.  Stay here for a step-by-step evaluation of Fuji’s new FX system, and for hints and tips about it.

As you might know I have very much enjoyed my Fujifilm X-100 over the past year. An intriguing device with original technology, excellent image quality but also eh… its own ‘identity’. Those who persisted however, willing to somewhat adjust their ways for optimal results, have been charmed by its unique qualities. A number of firmware updates have made the X-100 much closer to what its engineers must have intended at the start. So expect that form time to time I will compare the X-Pro1 to the X-100.

First encounters

Just as with the X-100, Fuji brings us nicely styled and sleek but also functional packaging. Everything that should be there is indeed included with the body and lenses. This time, even the lens hoods, and quite original ones too.

The body feels nice and solid, lighter than many seem to have expected. But isn’t the reduced weight one of the famed advantages of mirrorless systems? The lenses are compact and light as well, but I don’t see any reason to doubt about their quality and robustness.

What at first sight looks like a generous piece of microfiber cloths, packed with each lens, turns out to be a handy lens pouch. The carrying strap is made from leather and more discrete than the X-100 one. Good enough to start with.


Time to put a lens on the body. If you’re a long-time Nikon user like me, you will suddenly find yourself in a universe where all things look reversed: the unlocking button seems oddly placed at the ‘wrong’ side, and lens alignment and twist direction are different too. Something to get accustomed to.

Throw in a battery (that of course was already charging in the background) and a memory card. As with the X-100, go for the fastest card you can obtain and afford: it does make a significant difference especially if you are/will be shooting RAW. I use 16GB SanDisk Extreme Pro SDHC cards rated at 95MB/s, and these make me happy as a clam.

Now let’s look through the viewfinder, a hybrid one of course, that’s one of the features to want this camera for in the first place. I don’t have the impression (like others) that the X-Pro1 offers a smaller image compared to the X-100. I do believe however that the eye point is different: wearing my glasses (as usual) I find it harder to see all four corners at the same time.

But unfortunately, there’s more… Fuji has left out a built-in diopter adjustment, and that makes it impossible for me to get a sharp image across the viewfinder. Even worse, I use progressive glasses, and I can only see near-sharp through their bottom half. That means awkward head positioning and neck contortions.

It is possible exchange the ‘neutral’ ocular by a diopter lens matching your eyesight. Such 19mm round diopters have been used before on Zeiss/Cosina cameras and Nikon F-bodies. They are not easy to find, and (as I found out) mostly available on order only. I will have to wait a few more weeks for my +2 relief!


I also got the optional hand grip, as seen in the above picture. It doesn’t add a lot of weight or bulk, but makes the hold just that bit more comfortable. Having not that large hands, I am not sure I really need it, or even will end up using it most of the time. Only a lot of shooting practice will tell. But hey, I went for it anyway: you know it hurts less when extras are added to the initial order!

More accessories

The absence of a reflex mirror box makes it possible to move the elements of a ‘native’  mirrorless lens a lot closer to the sensor. That, in turn, opens the way to use adapter rings – essentially metal tubes with a different lens mount at each side – for attaching ‘foreign’ DSLR lenses at their original imaging distance.

I purchased a Chinese Kipon adapter for using Nikon F-mount lenses on Fuji FX-mount bodies. No mechanical links or electrical connections are present, so both focus and aperture control remain entirely manual, and must be set from the lens. Pre-AI, AI, AI-S, AF and AF-D lenses will do; G-type lenses (including all those for the DX crop format) will be stuck at their smallest aperture setting (highest f-number) and thus be pretty useless.

Kipon has announced a second generation device with an added control ring to (approximately) set the aperture from the adapter itself. That will make G-lenses work as well, and yes, my copy is already on its way from Hong Kong.

I have a collection of older and recent F-lenses, and some of these should be fun to use on the X-Pro1: fast ones like a 50mm f/1.4 and 85mm f/2.8, a 16mm fisheye (why did I sell the 10.5mm DX when I went FX?), a 90mm macro… I even kept a copy of the 28-200G, a small and lightweight do-it-all. Think compact 42-300mm sneak-in-the-bag travel lens?

The few ones I quickly slapped onto the adapter all worked well, at least mechanically. Below is the X-Pro1 with the Kipon adapter and a 1976 Nikon 50mm f/2.0, the very first SLR lens I bought from my own money!


And now for something completely relevant…

All of the above are mere impressions from my first 24 hours with the camera. Yes, of course I have initial opinions on image quality, AF speed, MF usability, aperture blade chatter… but all are way too early to be meaningful, as I have hardly made a decent shot so far (I don’t have a dog nor a black cat, no brick wall either, you see?).

The good news: tomorrow I will have the opportunity to take my X-Precious out all day long. A Belgiumdigital Shooting Day will take us to both an urban/industrial site and a nature preservation area. The X-100 will tag along (I fear that a single X-Pro1 battery will not take me through the day…).

Stay tuned for real images and more observations!

P.S. A small note to the title: Black Box Revelation is a Belgian garage rock band with a fast growing international reputation.

Gear notes: Fujifilm X-Pro1, 35mm f/1.4 – Fujifilm X100

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Apr 11, 2012

Heavenly peace

Little or no blog activity for some time, but that doesn’t mean my cameras have been idle… Most projects though were not for public sharing.

A week ago, I had to kill some time in the beautiful city of Lier. As always my Fujifilm X100 was on my side, and we paid a quick visit to the small but exquisite beguinage. While founded in the year 1258, most surviving buildings on this UNESCO World Heritage Site date from the 17th and early 18th centuries.

Amazing how this place still remains an oasis of peace in the middle of an otherwise thriving city.






Meanwhile, I am (im)patiently waiting for the X-Pro1 to arrive…

Gear notes: Fujifilm X100

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