Back when I was preparing for my trip to Nepal, I realised that I was not looking forward to lugging my DSLR around with me. Back then my workhorse was my Nikon D7000. This is a brilliant camera that I had owned for over a year but which I was using less and less. For any of you out there with DSLRs you have to admit that lugging them around with a decent lens on them is a bit of a pain. It is also not the best for street photography as people see you coming from a mile away.
I had my eye set on a Leica M9 back then but they were/are prohibitively expensive. A second hand Leica plus a decent 50mm lens would set you back at least 5000€. I was doing all sorts of mental justification to try to convince myself I could afford one when I stumbled across Zack Arias’s post on the Fuji X-Pro1 (see here). While I will admit that he is not the most unbiased of reviewers, he did manage to pique my curiosity. At that time a new X-Pro1 with a 35mm lens and a free 18mm lens were going for 1500€. This was more in my price range though still a lot of money to spend on a camera!
I started reading up on the Fuji X cameras and the more I read the more I was convinced it was the camera for me. Not only was the image quality one of the best out there in low light (when I do a lot of my day to day shooting) but Fuji was continuously upgrading the firmware of the cameras and adding new features that the customers wanted. When I saw someone selling one on-line for 900€ I pounced and bought it.
What I love
The thing that first impressed me about the X-Pro1 is its size and shape. It fits perfectly in my hand and all the controls are within easy reach. I own the 35mm f1.4 and 18mm f2 lenses and the whole pack fits easily into a very small bag. For my entire trip to Nepal I could carry all my electronics gear in an over the shoulder carrier bag. This would have been impossible with my DSLR.
I also love the control set-up. All the functionality I need is easily adjustable without having to delve into any menus. This makes me forget about settings and just focus on taking pictures. Add to that the highly innovative combination of optical and electronic viewfinder and I’m almost back to shooting film but with infinite (almost) film!
The combination of size and almost silent operation volume means it is great for street photography, theatre photography and anywhere else where you don’t wish to be seen taking pictures. As I can easily shoot with extremely high ISO with almost no loss of quality I do not need to use a flash and can capture great candid shots without ever being seen.
The thing I love the most and which still blows me away every day is the quality of the images I get from this camera. I don’t know what kind of witchcraft the people at Fuji did but this camera produces the best images I have seen. The colour and dynamic range in these files is hard to understand. Add to that the outstanding quality of the Fuji X lenses and it’s hard to get a bad picture!
What could be better
Don’t get me wrong, not everything is perfect with this camera! The focusing is sometimes hit and miss, you do need to pre-focus or be patient but it is getting better with every firmware upgrade. You will also sometimes end up focusing on the wrong thing, especially when focusing close and using the Optical Viewfinder. I would never recommend this camera for a sports photographer.
The battery life is also pretty bad, especially when used to a DSLR. I carry around 3 spare batteries and have to switch them out every 150 shots or so which is not great.
Most of these quirks are easy to work around and not much of an issue for street photography. They have also mostly been addressed in the X100S which I also now own (more on that in a future post).
As I gave away in my title, I have finally taken the step and sold my Nikon DSLR. It wasn’t an easy decision but I realised I had not used it a single day since I bought my Fuji. I am currently in the process of selling most of my old lenses as well as my big, cumbersome carry bags. I am keeping my sigma 105 macro lens as I have an adapter to use it on my Fuji and it works like a charm.
I am now a convinced user of the Fuji X system of cameras and am saving up to get my hands on the 56mm f1.2 lens sometime in the future. If you have any questions on this camera please feel free to let me know below.