FujiFilm X-Pro1: The X System Comes of Age
Hot on the heels of Canon’s G1 X announcement, Fujifilm revealed it’s long-anticipated interchangeable lens offering in the mold of the X100, the X-Pro1. With a roughly $1700 price tag (note: Adorama is not taking pre-orders yet because the price is not confirmed) to announce its intended audience, this is the first of the mirrorless cameras (outside the stratospherically priced Leica M cameras) with its sights aimed specifically at pro users. With a gorgeous all black retro-styled chassis, this is perhaps the most handsome camera in the X series yet. Living in Williamsburg, the world headquarters of hipsterdom, where twenty-something trust-funders walk around with their barely-used Leica M9s dangling from their necks – as utilitarian as pearls and furs on a trophy wife – I can guarantee this will be the camera of choice for style-conscious seekers of all things retro. But don’t let that stop you! There’s a lot of substance behind the style, as you’ll see.
The body is a fair bit larger in every dimension than the Sony NEX-7. A side-by-side comparison shot with Leica’s M9 shows the scope of FujiFilm’s ambitions with this camera: no less than to introduce an high-tech autofocus rangefinder for the digital age, while evoking that legacy feeling.
The new 16.3MP X-Trans CMOS sensor is the star of the show. Fujifilm performs some clever engineering tricks they claim will eliminate color moiré by mimicking the randomized pattern of film grain, bypassing the need for an optical low pass filter applied to traditional Bayer pattern sensors, meaning a claimed resolution on par with full-frame cameras (as anti-aliasing filters lead to resolution loss). Native ISO range runs from 200-6400, expandable to 100-25,600.
Like the X100, the X-Pro1 retains (wonder upon wonder!) classic on-lens aperture control (now in one third stop increments) as well as fixed shutter and exposure compensation control dials, a layout still arguably unsurpassed in its simplicity and ease of operation. Gone is the finnicky rear wheel, replaced by a d-pad and the addition of a presumably programmable thumb dial along the top back.
The new electronic X Mount, with a 17.7mm flange-to-sensor distance, has the shortest of any APS-C system, edging out Sony’s 18mm, which will allow for plenty of compatibility with other lens systems via adaptors. The short back focusing distance allowed by the recessed mount, also will allow more light to pass through the lens to the sensor.
FujiFilm has thankfully not overlooked the hallmark of a great camera system: lenses! Three beautiful and impressively compact prime lenses for the new X mount will be available at launch: an 18 f/2.0, a 35mm f/1.4 and a 60mm f/2.4. Each aperture blade on these lenses is rounded rather than cut, creating an exceedingly circular aperture, leading to enhanced sharpness and pleasing bokeh. Although none of these lengths fits my shooting style, a promising lens roadmap has leaked, which Fujifilm says is more or less accurate. Two more lenses will arrive in 2012, an 18-72mm f/4.0 IS (Image stabilized) zoom and superwide 14mm f/2.8. Four lenses are slated for 2013: a 28mm f/2.8 pancake, a 23mm f/2.0, 72-200mm f/4.0 IS and a 12-24mm f/4.0 IS.
Hopefully, manual focus performance has been improved, as the laboriously unresponsive focus-by-wire system of the X100 was a point of frustration for me. Presumably, manual focusing would be accomplished in the EVF through zoom focus assist. Unfortunately peaking, a highly useful system borrowed from video cameras, and my preferred method for manual through EVFs, has only made its way to Sony cameras thus far.
A redesigned tabbed user interface will hopefully satisfy critics of the original layout, which often felt arbitrarily organized and unnecessarily sprawling. And an increasingly common Quickmenu button, allowing direct access to oft-used features, has been added.
It inherits the revolutionary hybrid Electronic/Optical viewfinder from its forebear, though I had hoped for a resolution bump in the electronic display from its current 1.4 million dots, to bring it closer to the standard set by the NEX-7 (2.4 million). The 1.23 million dot 3″ LCD will be super sharp, but unfortunately juts out awkwardly, my only aesthetic critique of the original X100.
Video performance was my major beef with the X100, and it’s unclear that Fujifilm sees it as any more important this go round. They’ve stepped up the video resolution to Full HD at 24fps, but no word yet on whether full manual control will be included, a make or break feature for many looking for an all-in-one image-making hybrid device.
Any way you look at it, the enhancement of the X100 formula which adds interchangeable lenses and irons out many of the kinks of the original is hugely exciting news for camera lovers everywhere. Now to get my hands on one…