The latest addition to Fujifilm's line of attractive retro cameras is the top-end X-Pro1. It comes in a chunky metal chassis with an interchangeable lens mount, behind which you'll find a 16-megapixel APS-C sensor.
The X-Pro1 is extremely stylish. It's a camera you'll be proud to show off, and it's less likely to turn heads than a bulky dSLR. So if you're a street photographer, you'll likely get more candid shots with this than a larger, more conspicuous model.
You can buy the body for £1,300, or expect to pay £1,800 with one lens.
The X-Pro1 is highly reminiscent of the Leica M9. It sports a very traditional design, with a no-nonsense boxy body and a viewfinder that's offset from the lens.
Often this is a problem, as the offset means the viewfinder and lens provide different views, but in this case Fujifilm has come up trumps. Not only can you switch the rear display between live view and two levels of information, but the sensor beside the eyepiece can be set to swap out the offset optical view for a live through-the-lens sensor view.
The sensor view can be overlaid with the same information as the rear display, including the division of thirds and a live horizon alignment guide.
As with the best professional cameras, you'll spend very little time trawling the menus as all of the most important settings are directly accessed using hardware buttons and dials. On the rare occasions when you'll want to resort to software settings, you're still saved the chore of working your way through every option, as a Q button calls up a menu of the most commonly used settings, which you can adjust with the rear-mounted wheel.
Shutter speed runs from 30 seconds to 1/4,000 second, with a top-mounted dial beside the flash hot shoe (there's no built-in flash) giving you direct access to 1 second and faster. There are supplementary options for auto, bulb and time, the latter of which lets you dial in a time between 2 and 30 seconds using the left and right buttons on the four-way controller.
Focus mode is selected using an old-school three-way lever on the front of the box, while exposure compensation of +/-2.0EV in 1/3EV steps is handled by another smaller dial on the top of the chassis, set back from the shutter release.
There are 49 auto-focus points arranged and selected using Fujifilm's now familiar grid system which, unlike some rivals' implementations, extends right into the corners of the frame, so you'll spend less time focusing and recomposing to get the shot you're after.
There are only three compatible X Mount lenses for this camera right now, covering off 18mm f/2, 35mm f/1.4 and 60mm f/2.4 macro. Expect to pay around £500 to £550 apiece for these, and budget to buy at least one on top of the camera body itself.
The lenses are beautifully made, with manual aperture control and a smooth manual focus ring should you switch out of auto. If you prefer to leave everything in the hands of the camera's firmware, turning the aperture dial beyond its narrowest setting drops you into auto, at which point you only need point and shoot. Doing so, though, would rob you of much of the fun involved in taking pictures with the X-Pro1. The more you get involved in the look of your pictures at the point of shooting, the more satisfying an experience it is.
Once again, Fujifilm has made much of its paper and chemical heritage, with 10 film simulation modes including Provia, Velvia and Astia. Used with care, they can really bring life to a dull shot on an otherwise overcast day. The built-in monochrome modes feature simulation for various filters, allowing you to accentuate particular tones in-camera, rather than waiting for post-production.
If you can't decide which film mode would best suit your particular shooting conditions, then you can use them to bracket a single shot, as you would with sensitivity, exposure and dynamic range.
Fujifilm loaned me an X-Pro1 with the full complement of compatible lenses, each of which was sharp and quick to focus.
The level of detail delivered by these prime lenses, paired with its 16.3-megapixel (4,896x3,264-pixel) APS-C sensor, is impressive. At their widest apertures, they take a very narrow slice out of the subject, making it easy to focus on the particular part you're after. The image below was taken using the 35mm f/1.4 lens at its widest aperture, delivering a sharp fold of skin on the cat's ear, and a soft fall-off outside of the sweet spot.
The 60mm f/2.4 macro lens delivers extremely high levels of detail too, with the horse below perfectly focused while the branches both before and behind it have been thrown out of focus. The 49-point focusing system comes into its own here, making it easy to set up a shot exactly as you want it, in this case positioning the focus point between the branches, so the shutter's ready to fire as soon as the subject lands on the point.
I performed most of my tests under far from ideal conditions in early May, when the south of the country was washed out for weeks. Yet under overcast skies, and dodging the showers, it was rarely necessary to step above ISO 200 -- the lowest standard setting -- thus ensuring crisp edges, clean contrasts and smooth areas of flat colour. The disused village jail in the image below is perfectly captured, with realistic colours and no sign of noise in the results.
Frames shot using the in-built monochrome modes are as good as anything you could achieve through converting the RAW data in post-production. Contrasts are excellent and its filter simulation is versatile for coping with a wide variety of subjects and lighting.
Sadly, it wasn't perfect in every instance, as there was occasional fringing in the extremities of some shots, where the lens didn't perfectly focus every tone of available light in sync with the others.
This effect, known as chromatic aberration, can occur at the point where the lens has to bend the light at its most extreme to reach the sensor. It manifests as a pink or turquoise halo around fine detail set against a brighter background, as can be seen in the image below, which was shot using the 18mm lens.
The vertical and horizontal panorama modes are a very effective mix of old and new. You guide the lens across the field of view, as you would with a regular sweep panorama mode. But rather than lock open the sensor, the X-Pro1 shoots discrete stills that it stitches together in-camera. The result is very well put together, with the yellow horizon guide moving up and down as you tilt the camera to help you keep everything level.
The X-Pro1 shoots 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution or 1,280x720 at 24 frames per second, with single shots limited to 29 minutes. This is fairly standard. But where the X-Pro1 stands apart from its peers is in its ability to apply the same film simulation to movies as it can to stills, making it easy to give dull, overcast videos a quick boost.
There's no option to cut wind noise or for image stabilisation, which is a shame, as the footage I shot while walking lacked some clarity. Furthermore, with the camera set to auto-focus, there was considerable play in the lens. This affected both the framing of the footage as the focus changed, and the soundtrack, as the motion of the lens servos was recorded along with the surrounding noises. Switching to manual focus and setting a narrow aperture to maximise the depth of field fixes this.
Image quality was, on the whole, good and there was plenty of texture to the soundtrack, without it being so sensitive that it was spoiled by operator sounds.
The X-Pro1 lets you revel in the very essence of photography, and it encourages you to spend more time thinking about your shot before you take it. That's not to say it's ponderous or that it's not up to the task of shooting more flighty subjects, like children and pets -- it can manage these just fine. But if you consider photography an 'art', then this is the most inspirational digital paintbrush you can buy right now.
It's lovely to look at, great to use, and produces a first-class set of stills. If you can afford one, you won't regret buying it.