So I've had my camera for about three months now. It's been damn-near everywhere with me, seen lots of sights and been to plenty of shows. I think it's probably about time for an update!
I posted my initial thoughts on my old Tumblr blog not long after I received it - for those that haven't read it, here's a summary.
- I love the rangefinder-style setup. With a typical SLR, the viewfinder blanks out when you take a picture, so although you see the split second before and after the shutter releases, you never actually see that precise moment you photographed. It doesn't sound like a big deal, but it really helps get that "decisive moment".
- I liked the electronic viewfinder (EVF), but never really used it too much. On my old camera, the display would actually show you what the exposure would look like, which was a really useful feature I missed.
- The autofocus was fast enough for me, although untested in low light at that point.
Since then, I've used the camera significantly more. I'm not long back from a trip to Edinburgh where I further indulged in a bit of street photography, but more importantly I've also shot a few shows with it too. Fujifilm have also updated the camera firmware a number of times, addressing many things myself and users have brought up. It's been mentioned before in other blogs, but they have to be applauded for looking after their customers so well, instead of offering kludgey fixes or twisting arms to buy their latest gear.
The Optical Viewfinder
It's taken some getting used to again, but I do like the optical viewfinder (OVF). I works very differently from a typical SLR in the sense that it shows a larger area than is actually captured, instead showing a white outline of that area in the viewfinder. On the street, this can be utilised so that you can see people coming into the frame - you compose, focus, wait until he walks into exactly the right position and snap!
I find it works well at gigs too. All to often I've missed shots because of tunnel-vision - with the XPro-1, I see what else is going on and can react to it, which is vital when you only have three-songs in which to get the shot.
The only downside I've noticed is the accuracy of those frame-lines, particularly with the 60mm. I frame the shot carefully and somehow, the end result seems a little more tightly cropped than I expected. I'm not entirely convinced it is the camera's fault completely, but it is certainly easier to switch to the EVF when I use that lens.
The Electronic Viewfinder
Speaking of which, I still hardly use it due to the advantages of the OVF, but that might change a little in the future. The latest version of the camera firmware (v3.10, which can be downloaded here for any other X-Pro1 owners) includes the option to display the exposure live; I can immediately see if I've been an idiot and left my camera on ISO 6400 in bright sunlight (surely something every photographer has done before!). It can also be disabled; very useful for strobists.
One thing that did throw me for a good while was how to use the X-Pro1 in conjunction with flashes and wireless triggers. It's usually pretty simple - Cactus V5 tranceivers on the bottom of the flashes; one on the camera; press shutter; flash... doesn't fire. Huh?
Turns out I had the camera in silent mode, which funnily enough turns the beeps off and disables the flash. Unhelpfully, the user interface doesn't make it terribly obvious what's happening - the flash options in the camera are all greyed out. If they were greyed out, but selectable, a message could show up to say "Option unavaliable in silent mode" or something to that effect.
It's a very minor quirk, but one that had me confused a bit initially. Luckily, I worked all this out doing the silly little selfie on my about page and not in front of an actual model!
So anyway, back to my bread-and-butter. I knew it would perform great when it came to high ISO noise - all the reviews said as much - but the autofocus was almost universally derided.
My old camera used phase-detection AF, which worked perfectly for faster moving subjects - for example, the mountain bike shots I did a few years ago - and I've found it mildly useful for bands that do tend to run around a bit on stage. It was fairly snappy in lower light too, which made it ideal for the gigs I attended.
Contrast detection is slower. There is no getting away from it.
With that said, I barely notice the difference now. My 60mm does seem to take it's time a little bit to find the focus, so it's not a lens I would recommend for very fast action, but once you are used to the difference in how the two systems work, it's not terribly difficult to catch the important moments in a show.
It's also very accuarate, and to me that's the bit I mostly concern myself with. I can count the number of times it's mis-focused on me on the one hand.
If you're planning on purchasing the camera, and you're primarily a sports photographer, forget it and get youself a DSLR. The continuous focus mode works well enough, but with only the central focus point offered rather than the numerous points potentially avaliable it's simply not practical to use. Otherwise, the AF speed is nowhere near as bad as some reviewers make out.
I genuinely don't notice that much of a difference in low light too. The gigs I've attended have been lit in very much the manner I'm accustomed to at the venues, and I've never had any more troubles with focus than with my DSLR. No complaints here.
Pretty well all of my old gear is now sold. I now carry my camera far more often too, as it's nowhere near as conspicous or as heavy as my old SLR, and since then I've had far fewer "damn, I wish I had my camera with me" moments.
So all in all, despite the quirky nature, the Fujifilm X-Pro1 has been the camera I've been waiting for. Just got some lenses to save up for now - especially that new 23mm they released...
Images courtesy of Fujifilm UK, used with permission.