There was something about the Fuji X100 that really caught my attention. To me the X100 is Photography as it should be, the compact simplicity combined with stunning image quality it passes the control back to the photographer.

In public using a compact camera is subtle and less intimidating than the DSLR with a zoom lens and in the last twelve months compacts have leapt in technological advances combining hybrid viewfinders with high ISO almost noiseless images.

The Mournes from Dundrum

Deep down everyone knew the X100 was the appetiser to something very special. I know photographers who lusted after the X100 but passed for the promise of what they described as the X200 with interchangeable lens and in January their dream became a reality with the announcement of the Fuji X-Pro1 camera. An improved sensor, software and now a range of stunning prime Fujinon lenses.

Image Conversion
It should be noted that the photos in this post although shot in RAW were converted to TIFF using a beta version of SilkyPix RAW Converter and then the TIFF was imported in to Adobe Lightroom. The photos were also captured in a preproduction version of the camera. The full set is available on flickr.

The X-Pro1 is a significant upgrade to the X100 even within a few minutes I could sense the snappier menu system, faster focus and virtually zero shutter lag. The Q button on the back of the camera makes adjustments remarkably quick and easy.

My desire for the digital compact camera is born from the fact I find lugging my 5DMKII with 24-70 lens around a growing hassle. It might be my prime tool for sports and long reach music photography but as a camera to carry around everyday it just isn’t practical.

There is no question the 5DMKII is heavy and for that reason it is often left behind but the question at the back of my mind is will the X-Pro1 be the compact camera to replace the digital SLR and after just a few weeks I am beginning to think it actually is.

The X-Pro1 on the other hand, although physically larger than the X100 doesn’t actually feel significantly heavier. Certainly compared to the dSLR the X-Pro1 feels agile and considerably less cumbersome. Even after the first few days of shooting it was obvious the mobility was a massive bonus without any loss of image quality or features.

APS-C v Full Frame

I think the main issue many photographers will consider a negative is the fact the X-Pro1 is an APS-C sensor. Although the X-Pro1 isn’t full frame (like the Canon 5DMKII) the image quality is certainly on a power. With prime lenses I obviously zoom with my feet and those composition is controlled by my distance from a subject.

A cropped sensor has a bigger impact on landscape work given my love for ultra wide captures but surprisingly the impact isn’t as big as I first thought.

I rarely shoot at 17mm in reality it tends to be 20-24 and shooting with an ND filter attached creates a significant amount of vignette that tends to be cropped out in Lightroom.

Sunlight X-Pro1

This postproduction crop is an approximate reduction of around 25-27mm which can be catered for by the X-Pro1 with the 18mm lens and very little vignette. That said if the rumours are correct a 14mm f2.8 prime and a 12-24 f4 (image stabilized) have a planned release date of late 2012 or 2013 that will surely tempt me.

My X-Pro1 is equipped with the 18mm and the 35mm lenses. The build quality is spectacular and both lenses come with a lens hood and a plastic lens cap for the hood which is something I haven’t come across before. I do fear these caps could be easily lost though.

One lens feature I really like is the fact that the aperture control is a dial on the lens body. Although the lens is marked in the traditional 1/1.4, 1/2.0, stops it should be noted the aperture wheel moves in 1/0.2 stages e.g. 1/1.4, 1/1.6, 1/1.8 etc. and thus offers greater and quicker control over the depth of field.

The Q Button

I think the Q button on the back of the X-Pro1 is evidence that Fuji value and listen to their customer. One of the most frequent criticisms of the X100 is that the image controls are all set via the menu system. If you want to change the ISO or image type it is a 2-3 step process. On the X-Pro1 Fujifilm have included the Q button, a one-tap shortcut to all the important image controls.

On the topic of ISO the X-Pro1 produces even better high ISO images that the already brilliant X100. If you are not confident gauging ISO or are working in conditions with rapidly changing light levels then the auto ISO limits are a very nice feature.

AUTO(400), AUTO(800), AUTO(1600), AUTO(3200) means the camera will select the best ISO up to the set limit to ensure you get the least amount of noise. I found the quality of the high ISO photos that I tended to shoot at 400-800 outside to ensure the sharpest possible photos.

Fujifilm X-Pro1 Image Features

There are a few features on the X-Pro1 that don’t feature on my 5D. I’ve always been envious of the ability to create multiple exposures on Nikon cameras but the good news is Fujifilm have added this feature to the X-Pro1.

Panorama Mode

One of my favourite features of the X100 was the ability to create panoramic images using the ‘drive mode’ and again the Pro-1 offers the same feature with the better sensor.

Fujifilm X-Pro1 Panorama : Dundrum

Fujifilm X-Pro1 Panorama : Jetty

Fujifilm X-Pro1 Panorama

Macro

Macro mode works in the same way as on the X100 and the clear LCD screen means you can really get the camera close to ground based subjects easily. Focus in macro mode is fast and accurate and detail is stunning.

First Day Discoveries:

1. Despite a quick boot time and very respectable battery life you can get a little more out of camera for prolonged shoots. Turn on Power Safe Mode and Turn Off Quick Startup. Although the camera will now take 0.5 of a second longer to ‘boot’ it will offer up to 50 extra captures. This jumps to 1000 captures if you use the Optical viewfinder.
2. Make the focus point smaller. Hold in AF button and rotate the command dial.
3. Format the memory card on the camera. This seems to improve startup times compared to when the card is formatted by OSX.

Conclusion

Despite this being written with all the excitement of someone with a new toy even the preproduction X-Pro1 impresses me even more than I expected. Fujifilm have actually listened to their X100 and produced a camera of remarkable quality that certainly appears to be worth of the ‘Pro’ title.

I am really looking forward to the additional lenses especially at the ultra wide end. The X-Pro1 is new chapter for digital photography, the power of a pro level camera wrapped up in tiny, lightweight and beautiful package. The title image is part of a great exhibition project called “Things that fall in-between“.

Some of the photos in this post will featured at Focus on Imaging 2012. You can see more X-Pro1 Photos on the FlixelPix Facebook Page and flickr set.