Fujifilm had a winner with last year’s X100, if only it weren’t for the terrible interface and hardware controls. At the time, however, a company representative hinted that there would be more from Fuji in the year to come—something intended to compete in the DSLR space. Leaks managed to steal some of the camera maker’s thunder, but those rumours came to fruition this week with the X-Pro1.
The X-Pro1 isn’t exactly a DSLR—there’s no mirror, for example—but it uses a full-sized 16-megapixel APS-C X-Trans CMOS sensor, which apparently delivers resolution that is superior to other APS-C cameras, “and equal to even some full frame sensors.” That sounds an awful lot like marketing hype, but we decided to go hands-on with the hopes of getting some sense of how Fuji’s latest X-series camera really performs.
The Fuji X-Pro1 is on the heavier side of the compact ecosystem, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The result is a camera that doesn’t feel cheap in your hands, but more like a professional-grade DSLR. The top and base are made from die-cast aluminum alloy which—in what seems to be a recurring phrase at this year’s show—were “designed and built without compromise.” That’s probably just part of the reason why this thing is rumoured to cost around $1700.
The new sensor is getting a lot of attention in the press, though it's hard to pass judgement on its effectiveness from the show floor. The X-Trans design was apparently inspired by the "random arrangement of film grain" on traditional cameras, and essentially removes false colouring and moiré —"a problem that occurs in conventional arrays when shooting stripes and other repeating patterns."
For those familiar with the X100’s Hybrid Multi Viewfinder, the X-Pro1 uses a similar, second-generation design, with the ability to choose between a electronic viewfinder and traditional optical display. The latter, however, overlays pertinent information such as shutter speed, aperture and ISO, and thus explains the hybrid moniker. As for the 4.7" LCD on the back of the device, Fuji didn’t say what type of panel is being used, but we were particularly impressed at how bright and sharp photographed images appeared. The density of the display—a whopping 1,440,000 pixels—is impressive for a compact of this size.
The X100’s fixed lens system, while sound in concept, suffered from a terrible manual focus system that made it difficult to use for those accustomed to operating DSLRs. The X-Pro1 is quite different, however, and features a legitimate interchangeable lens system that functions as you’d expect of a traditional compact or DSLR. You can change the aperture from the lens itself, with hardware dials on the body for ISO, shutter speed and bracketing too. ISO, we should note, is accessed via a customizable function button, which can be re-assigned to another function of your choosing.
The great thing about having all of these features accessible via hardware controls is that you can adjust settings on-the-fly without taking your eye off the viewfinder. As a whole, shooting is a much more coherent and natural process—there’s no more fiddling around in menus for important settings—and is very similar to the way in which you’d operate a DSLR.
Thus far, the company has announced three prime lenses—an 18mm f/2.0, 35mm f/1.4 and 60mm f/2.4, as previously reported—which Amazon’s website claimed yesterday would sell for $500 for the first two lenses, and $600 for the 60mm model. We were told that a total of nine lenses will eventually be sold with the new X-Pro1 mount, but unfortunately, Fuji was only demoing the 18mm model on the show floor.
While the X100 was impressive for its time, the XPro-1 might just be everything we wanted from a Fuji compact and more. We’ll need more time to determine whether that holds true with extended use, but you can be sure we’ll get our hands on one as soon as possible.