The new Fuji has pretensions of greatness … does it measure up to the hype? ● 17/05/2012


By now, many of you may have already read ― indeed, voraciously combed the web in search of ― copious amounts of information about Fujifilm's new X-Pro1 camera. It has stirred all sorts of controversy, with the majority of opinion being that it is a terrific tool hampered primarily by an inadequately fast (though very accurate) autofocusing system.

Having spent some time with Fuji’s excellent X100 ― including hauling it to Africa (not much hauling with that camera, admittedly) ― I decided to take the plunge, sell my X100, and upgrade to the X-Pro1 (yes, I would have loved to have kept the X100, but given that I also own a Nikon D7000, I couldn’t financially justify the ownership of three APS-C cameras).

The content creator & cultural curator in me couldn’t resist this camera’s bag of tricks. Here is a piece of hardware that not only produces superlative image quality in the most contemporary of ways, but does so with a heavy nod to the classic image-making tools of the past (similarly to the X100). And by that, I mean the Leica (the X-Pro1 is actually a bit closer in overall design and execution to the Contax G and Konica Hexar cameras―but Fuji themselves have targeted the Leica M in some of their Asian marketing efforts, and the X-Pro1 is almost identical to the Leica in overall dimensions, if not weight).


Whether you love it for its elegant simplicity, or despise it for its antediluvian technology, the Leica M remains in the minds of many the quintessential ‘mirrorless’ camera (technically the Leica M cameras do employ mirrors in the rangefinder mechanism); and the pinnacle of 20th century 35mm camera design.

What made the Leica the ultimate working tool for photographers during the middle of the last century was its simplicity and [relative] speed of operation. Optics, though superlative, were really the secondary concern to photographers like Henri Cartier-Bresson and Alfred Eisenstaedt, who merely wanted to capture life around them as it happened.

As I mentioned above, today’s X-Pro1 body is almost identical in dimensions and overall profile to the current Leica M9, offering much of the handling characteristics of the German stalwart (though the Fuji is much lighter) along with the greater discretion that a rangefinder-styled camera provides. Pull out that big, bulky DSLR on the street, and watch people run for cover.

Of course, unlike the Leica, today’s X-Pro1 isn’t a true rangefinder. Practically, it’s better. It takes Leica’s idea and catapults it a half-century forward. The X-Pro1 is autofocus. Its innards rely far more on electronics, and offer far more electronic control, than Leica may ever be comfortable with. The hybrid viewfinder is far more useful and innovative.

Yet the ‘spirit’ of the Leica remains intact here: a discreet, high-quality camera forged from the rangefinder gestalt, yet loaded with contemporary technology whose essential raison d’être is superlative image quality. Fuji began this trend with the X100, which boasted classic rangefinder styling and control dials, combined with modern digital innards and the unique hybrid/optical viewfinder, which allows users to select between a clear Leica-like optical view with digital overlays, or a fully electronic viewfinder for precise framing and enhanced low light composing.

dpreview.com perhaps summed it up best in their hands-on preview of the X-Pro1: 

"It’s not rocket science to work out who Fujifilm are really gunning for – the X-Pro1′s similarity to the Leica M9 demonstrates the company’s refound confidence, having already placed the X100 squarely up against the Leica X1. It’s pretty clear that Fujifilm very much sees the X-Pro1, with its hybrid viewfinder and infinitely-variable framelines, as the modern autofocus reincarnation of the classic rangefinder. Let’s not forget that the company is no stranger to the high-end professional market – it may have had a hiatus of several years, but made a wide range of medium format film cameras."

To be up front, I like the Fujifilm X-Pro1 a great deal, for most of the same reasons as I liked the X100. Both are light, discreet, provide wonderful image quality and, if you can get past the quirks, inspire you to stop and think about your photography. You don’t shoot these cameras the way many often do with DSLRs―like an Uzi that blankets the world in front of you. The X100 and X-Pro1 lend themselves to taking one’s time, and typically planning one’s shots more carefully. It’s a different approach, to be sure, but one that harks back to, dare I say, the era of the Leica M3…except that you’ll have far less improperly exposed or missed shots with either the X100 or X-Pro1.

Let’s get into the camera’s specifics now―what works, what doesn’t…and what some simply might not be able to live with.


  • 16.3 megapixel resolution
  • First-of-its-kind Fuji-designed X-Trans CMOS APS-C sensor with unique pixel arrangement
  • No low-pass filter provides extremely high resolution
  • Dedicated interchangeable lens system featuring fast, high-quality primes
  • Hybrid electronic/optical viewfinder
  • 3.0″ high resolution rear LCD
  • In-camera RAW processing
  • Fuji film color modes 



This is the X-Pro1’s tour de force. A new CMOS design with a unique arrangement of pixels is what makes Fuji’s X-Trans sensor so special. It differs from the conventional Bayer-type configuration, where the red, green and blue photo receptors are arranged in a repeating 2×2 pixel grid, which contains one red, two green and one blue pixels. In the Bayer design, given that some rows and columns contain no red or blue pixels, interpolating the inherent gaps causes moiré patterns in scenes containing fine detail.

On the left below you see the traditional Bayer sensor pixel configuration, and on the right the new X-Trans sensor pixel configuration.

A traditional Bayer sensor design utilizing low pass filters to blur fine detail and reduce instances of moiré. What separates the X-Trans sensor from the traditional Bayer design is that the placement of red, green and blue photo receptors is ‘randomized’ across a larger 6×6 pixel grid. In doing so, all rows and columns contain all three photo colors, providing a more organic arrangement of pixels with improved color fidelity ― Fuji says much closer to the organic structure of film grain ― and a significant reduction in moiré artifacts.

Fuji’s X-Trans sensor benefits from both eliminating the low-pass filter, and from a new pixel arrangement that mimics the organic grains of film. The two promise improved sharpness and resolution, with a significantly reduced instance of moiré patterns.

The X-Trans sensor’s new design also eliminates the need for a low-pass anti-aliasing filter, typically used to reduce moiré by minutely blurring detail to the sensor before the final image is recorded. The side effect of such filters is that they reduce ultimate resolution, sharpness and micro-contrast.


Any camera is only as good as the quality of the lenses you place on it. This was true in the days of analogue shooting, and it’s even more important in the current digital age. It’s an axiom that has kept Leica relevant long beyond the M-Series’ useful shelf life, frankly. As the acuity of sensors improve every couple of years, lens design & quality has become ever more critical.

Fuji has developed a brand new XF mount and launched three new interchangeable lenses with the X-Pro1, an 18mm f/2, a 35mm f/1.4, and a 60mm f/2.4 (with more to follow in the months ahead). The company’s marketing literature touts the extremely short mounting flange to sensor distance, 17.7 millimeters specifically, as another reason for improved image quality. It might sound like hyperbole, but really it isn’t. A short flange focal distance means less image degradation at the corners of the frame, specifically better edge resolution, reduced vignetting and less chromatic aberrations.

Moreover, since the exit pupil of XF lenses are nearly the same size as the APS-C sensor, the red, green and blue wavelengths of light are supposed to reach the surface of the sensor at the same parallel distance, further improving resolution and sharpness.

The Fuji X-Pro1 marks the first of the company’s mirrorless cameras to employ the newly developed XF lenses. Before some of you exclaim out loud, “But hey, what does Fujifilm know about making lenses, anyway?” I’m going to stop you in mid-synapse. Fuji’s Fujinon division actually have a laudable reputation for making extremely high quality lenses for commercial broadcast and cinematography applications. Moreover, not only did Fuji help design and build Hasselblad’s X-Pan camera, but also the Hasselblad H-Series cameras and lenses.

The company is thus leveraging a significant amount of glass-making expertise with their new XF lenses, so consumers should be able to expect optics of the first order.

Here are some highlights of the XF lens system:

  • All-glass optical designs
  • Metal lens barrels
  • Dedicated aperture rings with 1/3-incremental aperture control
  • Rounded aperture blades
  • Aspherical elements
  • Reduced chromatic aberration
  • Enhanced edge performance


In a word, sterling. The X-Pro1 delivers files that are just gorgeous. The X-Trans sensor and EXR processing really do provide quality approaching equivalent full-frame sensors, Fuji’s much-touted claim. Sharpness, detail and resolution from the camera and its lenses ― particularly the stunning 35mm f/1.4, which is being favorably compared to Leica’s 50mm f/1.4 ASPH Summilux-M in some quarters ― is extremely high, with acuity that pops. Also thank the lack of an anti-aliasing filter, at least in part, for this.

The below images were both captured using the X-Pro1 and the XF 35mm f/1.4 R lens.

Compared to my Nikon D7000, I would say the X-Pro1 nudges it out slightly. Both cameras are comparable at low ISO ― with primes of roughly equal quality ― but beyond 1600, as the light begins to fall, the X-Pro1 shows the clear superiority of its design. Files demonstrate improved resolution and tonal gradation with less noise using the X-Pro1. I realize I am comparing apples to oranges here to some extent, but at the end of the day both are image-making tools, so perhaps not such an unfair comparison after all…

Now, if one is shooting sports, action or wildlife, needs a better buffer, and superior autofocus (especially autofocus tracking), the Nikon walks the Fuji into next week. It’s wise to remember that old adage: horses for courses (if you’re not that old, it means different tools for different tasks).

Color moiré is well controlled on the X-Pro1, but it is still possible to fool the X-Trans sensor when fine, repeating detail is photographed. That said, certainly not to the extent that one would find with a Bayer sensor.


This is definitely one of the X-Pro1’s wow factors. Fuji have worked their magic with sensor development and design in this regard, and the result is awe-inspiring. The X-Pro1 scoffs at low light, with performance all the way up to ISO 6400 that humiliates most other cameras. ISO 6400 looks like 1600 on my Nikon D7000, no kidding! And the D7000 sensor is no slouch. Bear in mind we’re only talking about jpegs here! If more information and detail can be squeezed out of the X-Trans sensor’s RAW files, once support for said files comes on-online, Fuji will have accomplished a remarkable coup in digital imaging development. 

No stifling noise reduction here, either. The X-Trans sensor walks that delicate line between maintaining fine detail and suppressing chroma noise. And it does so with nary a hiccup.

30×20 enlargements from ISO 800 or 1600 appear quite feasible, something we could only dream of with digital cameras a scant three years ago, and with quality clearly surpassing the analog days of film.

The image below was shot at ISO 3200 with the X-Pro1 and the XF 18mm f/2 R lens.


Much like the X100, the viewfinder employed in the X-Pro1 is Fuji’s hybrid optical-electronic system, which allows users to select between an optical view with digital overlays, or a fully electronic image display that eliminates parallax and makes composing at night a breeze.

Using the optical viewfinder approximates the feel of a modern rangefinder, like the Leica M9, except that one is provided with more useful information, thanks to LCD overlays that function much like a heads-up display (HUD) on the inside windscreen of your car. Frame lines are superimposed that show the framing of the scene relative to the wider view of the optical viewfinder, and you can view exposure mode, shutter speed and aperture, exposure compensation, a histogram, and more.

Though parallax still becomes an issue as one moves closer from infinity ― the bane of all rangefinder systems ― Fuji has evolved this tried & true technology by allowing the user to select any of 29 different focus points within the middle two-third of the projected frame lines while in OVF mode. It’s not something you’ll find with any past or current Leica M-Series camera, but then, of course, neither is autofocus.


You can carry around the Fuji all day long with little or no fatigue. Try that with your Canikon 10D1000. The X-Pro1 will give you image quality comparable to, or better, than DSLR offerings from the usual suspects, and do it at a fraction of the size…and certainly of the weight. Moreover, Fuji’s XF lenses are small and light as well, making the carrying of a complete kit a relatively painless affair. Here, too, the X-Pro1 emulates the Leica ethos, but even more so.

To be fair, however, as I mentioned above, the X-Pro1 cannot do everything your DSLR can do. An SLR will typically offer a better buffer, faster write times, faster autofocus and a greater range of lenses that give you the oft-favored optical WYSIWYG view on the world. Like everything else, it’s a trade-off. The X-Pro1 is ideal for candid shooting, street shooting and travel. Your DSLR will remain king for sports, action and wildlife. Both are equally suited to still life, landscape and reportage. Pick your battle…then pick your weapon.

Control interfaces on the Fuji X-Pro1 are greatly improved over the X100; even the main menu is better organized.


Smaller and lighter than any DSLR, but with image quality that rivals or bests any of them―save Nikon’s new D800. What’s not to like? Well, a few things, as it turns out (I’ll get into what doesn’t work below), but taken as a whole, the implementation of the X-Pro1’s handling characteristics is praiseworthy.

Overall, the camera balances well in the hands, and controls fall naturally where they should. Having ‘mechanical’ control dials ― shutter speed on the top deck and an aperture ring around the lens ― may recall another era, but there was a reason for those design placements to begin with: they just work, particularly the latter (controlling the lens aperture from on the lens…what a novel idea!).

Fuji’s addition of the Q-button ―a quick menu on the back of the camera ―calls up most used functions at the touch of button, without the need to drill through the main menu system, a clear improvement over the X100.

In fact, most controls are an improvement over the X100, which is proof positive that Fuji is a company that takes consumer feedback to heart.

The exposure compensation dial, for example, has been firmed up and recessed to be flush with the body, a move clearly in response to the many complaints from photographers who were accidentally knocking the dial off its zero detent position.

The X-Pro1’s new quick menu (Q button) provides instant access to oft-used functions. 


Think of Fuji’s X-Pro1 as the F-117 stealth fighter of cameras. The forward leading edges and surface areas almost seem to absorb light under the majority of conditions. Whether surface reflectivity was tested during design, I cannot say, but to the layman, along with many subjects, this machine just doesn’t draw attention to itself. Of course, being black helps, but Fuji has done a thoroughly effective job of ensuring that the X-Pro1’s front is not festooned with anything superfluous, red dots or otherwise, that might catch the eye of a potential subject.

I have noticed while shooting on the street that many people remain blissfully unaware that I am taking their pictures, even when a camera is merely a few feet from them. I’m not saying the X-Pro1 is completely invisible; if someone looks right at you purposefully, they’re going to notice you staring down their mug through an optic. But even then, the X-Pro1 presents itself as far less threatening.

In this regard, the X-Pro1 shares an identical philosophy to the Leica M9-P.



At the top of the X-Pro1’s shortcomings list has to be the autofocus. No, it’s not state-of-the-art compared to the usual crop of today’s DSLRs. But in practice, it’s not terrible, either. I would argue it’s about as good as what most experienced photographers could do with a manual focusing rangefinder, especially if said photographers’ eyes aren’t quite what they used to be. That goes double if the subject is moving.

In good light, the Fuji’s more than adequate. As the light falls, performance becomes increasingly marginal.

In macro-mode, the camera leisurely hunts before locking on.

The good news is that when it does lock on, in any mode, it’s almost always dead accurate.


Simply stated, not as accurate as they could/should be. Similar to the Leica M9, the frame lines in the X-Pro1 show you less than will actually be included in the final image. While this is better than the reverse (one can always crop to taste), some photographers might find it impedes the creative process in-camera. Given that the X-Pro1 is electronically projecting these lines ― as opposed to the Leica, which mechanically projects them ― one would think that Fuji could have made its iteration very accurate indeed. Apparently, one would be wrong.

Solution: think outside the box, literally, when shooting in OVF mode.

Of course, for 100% accuracy, you can always switch to the EVF―something you cannot do with the Leica M9.


The X-Pro1’s buffer is too small. Despite the 6fps burst rate, which is actually impressive for a camera like this, shooting RAW images in continuous mode can lock up your X-Pro1 for several seconds, during which time you’ll be cursing and swearing like a banshee. Using a fast card like SanDisk’s 16GB Extreme Pro 45MB/s will significantly alleviate this issue. So will shooting jpegs exclusively.

Again, bear in mind this isn’t a DSLR. Of course, also bear in mind that during burst shooting, the X-Pro1’s viewfinder won’t blank out like a DSLR.


This is admittedly a niggling quibble, but the SD memory card slot (located with the battery port) on the bottom of the camera is so close to the door hinge that pressing the card to eject it is a cumbersome affair. If you have big, thick fingers ― or happen to be working with gloves in a cold environment ― you’re going to find placing or ejecting memory cards a bit of a challenge.

Caution: Do take care not to damage the interior battery contacts on the door when adding or removing a card.


While the buttons and dial controls on the X-Pro1 are a noticeable improvement over the X100, they still feel a little ‘light’ to my tactile sense. Given that the rest of the camera’s control interface is well-sorted, and considering the overall quality of the build, the buttons on the back don’t have that ‘solid push’ feel, and the control wheel that allows one to change individual settings within the Quick Menu feels too flimsy (a stiffer rotation like what Nikon uses on its DSLRs would be an improvement here). Moreover, the aperture control ring on the XF lenses is too ‘light’ and easy to move (some advocates of the one-handed approach might actually prefer this―I do not, however).


Just as the X-Pro1 deserves cheers for stepping beyond the X100 to add a center lock button on the shutter control dial (just like we used to see on SLRs back in the ’70s), it deserves jeers for failing to provide a similar lock for ‘A’ on the lens aperture dial. When in Shutter Priority mode, this would be a definite advantage, particularly given ― as I mentioned directly above ― that the aperture dial on the XF lenses rotate through their 1/3 increments so lightly that a stiff wind could practically move them.


There is nothing more annoying that shooting a sequence of images – whether at 3fps or 6fps – and then not being able to review them in normal sequence on the rear LCD panel. Instead, Fuji have organized a hierarchical structure that requires the photographer to drill down into a kind of sub-folder to review images after each burst. Annoying to say the least.


Thus far, the major RAW processors are unable to read Fuji’s proprietary files for the X-Pro1. One can use the bundled SilkyPix software if one wishes, but… Scratch that, no one wishes to do that.

What we need is support within Lightroom and Capture One. Word is that the folks at Adobe, at least, are listening, and the good news is that they are said to be working on RAW support for the current iteration of Lightroom.

The Fuji jpegs are stellar, to be sure, but RAW support is needed asap if professional photographers are to be sated.



OK, this one is pretty much inexcusable, Fuji. Not only is the battery only good for about 300 shots (a fraction of what my D7000 will allow), but worse still, the battery indicator is next to worthless. An indicator that shows three bars, then moves to two bars before dying completely a couple of dozen shots later, as this camera does, is hardly useful.

This problem plagues the X100, too. 


Like the X100 ― before the most recent firmware updates ― this is cumbersome on the X-Pro1. The fly-by-wire system is slow and you have to rotate the focusing ring on the lens barrel several times to get even minimal movement.

One’s best solution here is to use the AF button to catch focus quickly, then fine-tune as necessary…if necessary. Also, the X-Pro1 does offer the capacity to zoom way in on your selected focus point, which enables one to confirm that they’ve got the image sharp before one takes a photograph.

Hopefully Fuji will be able to implement a firmware update that makes the traditional manual focusing ring more responsive.


Someone in Fuji’s engineering department was really asleep at the wheel on this one. Bafflingly, with the X-Pro1, one cannot select the minimum shutter speed at which the camera will automatically bump the ISO. The shutter speed is fixed to a predetermined minimum. With the 35mm f/1.4 lens on the camera, that minimum is 1/52nd of a second…appropriate for that focal length, but hardly adjustable.

On a camera with such tremendous high ISO capability, it’s an unforgivable oversight when the sensor & processor easily have the ability to adapt to vast lighting fluctuations. I expect Fuji is aware of all the complaints being tendered over this issue, and has a firmware fix in the works.

They better. Losing images to motion blur given this sensor’s remarkable low light sensitivity will be a deal-breaker for many photographers.


Though user-selectable, multiple focus points are a wonderful addition on the X-Pro1, activating them is a less joyous affair. Fuji has stuck the AF button on the lower left side of the camera back, a location that might be accessible for those with six digits on each hand, or General Grievous, but less useful for the rest of us. Pull your left hand away from cradling the lens to change focus points? Nuh-uh, no thank you.

Hopefully Fuji will fix this by allowing the FN (function) button to be programmable to activate user-selection, while using the arrow cursors to change the focus points. A simple solution which a future firmware update could, and hopefully will, address.


Unfortunately, and inexplicably, it is not possible to have the X-Pro1 display a histogram in the instant preview image immediately after a photograph is taken. To see the histogram, one must interrupt shooting and change to playback mode.

For many, this is an essential element of digital photography, as it allows one to optimize exposure. Not having the option to review the histogram while shooting is a glaring omission.

Fortunately, this too should be correctable with a firmware update.


Don’t bother. OK, that’s two words…but you get my point. Video production is not this camera’s forte, anymore than the Penske NASCAR Dodge would be at home on an F1 track (though I would pay good money to see that).

Here are the specs: The X-Pro1 shoots HD video at 1080p resolution and 24 frames per second. Video is encoded using the h.264 codec at an average bitrate of around 15Mbits/s and saved in a QuickTime .mov file. There’s also a lower resolution 720p24 HD mode. Stereo sound is recorded via twin mics located on either side of the front panel’s AF illuminator. The X-Pro1 automatically selects continuous AF in movie mode unless you have manual focus selected. As with still shooting, AF has a tendency to hunt in low light and create noise that results in clips that are near unusable.

Bottom line: use it in a pinch. If you shoot video regularly, a videocamera or a higher-end DSLR with dedicated functionality is your best bet.


Notwithstanding my photograph below of the X-Pro1 with a Billingham Hadley bag, no matter how small and light a shoulder bag is, it can still end up full of unnecessary junk that you don’t really need during a day’s photographic outing. Carry it, and you’ll feel obligated to haul around all that goes in it…even if it’s redundant. That translates to more weight, faster fatigue, greater annoyance…and a less productive shooting experience―the antithesis of the X-Pro1 philosophy, in my opinion. Save the cumbersome carryall bags for your DSLR kit. The X-Pro1, like the Leica, is about simplicity. Embrace that simplicity and you’ll find your photography improves, in much the same way that learning to see [again] can be aided by shooting with a single focal length lens.

If you find you must carry a bag to bring little things like lens cleaning apparatus, a table-top tripod or possibly even a second lens, then consider my solution: a Pacsafe stashsafe 100 waste/fanny pack (or the Pacsafe stashsafe 200). These little packs hold a surprising number of small accessories, while at the same time allowing you to carry either the Fujinon 35mm or 18mm lenses for the X-Pro1, should you wish to rotate them. You can even use it to carry Fuji’s accessory flash for the X-Pro1, though personally I try to avoid ‘on-camera’ flash whenever and wherever I can (as a superlative street weapon, intrinsically the X-Pro1 is better suited to ambient light photography, IMO).

You can even pack the X-Pro1 body and two lenses into the central compartment of the 200 for longer transportation, provided you do so with the lenses removed.

Moreover, the Pacsafe has clever organizational pockets inside, and, as the name implies, well designed security features, including a wire mesh perimeter exoskeleton, a lockable, slash-proof strap, and a smart zipper system which can be locked with the included padlock. After locking the zippers, you can also lock the whole kit around things like secure stanchions, restaurant chairs, or radiators, thwarting all but the most determined of thieves.

For myself, right now I use it to carry the X-Pro1 with the 35mm f/1.4, an Ultrapod, a cable release, spare battery, lens pen and a few other sundry items. Keeps things simple and lightweight, following the ethos of the X-Pro1 itself.


So is this really the second coming of the Leica M? Truthfully, no. Only Leica can build a Leica. What the X-Pro1 is, is one Japanese camera maker’s answer to what the Leica M could be, arguably should be, in many respects, more than a half-century after the launch of the groundbreaking M3 in 1954, and before that, the Leica III in 1933.

Think of the X-Pro1, therefore, as a Japanese homage to the spirit of the Leica M, but with many of the 21st century state-of-the-art technical & electronic innovations that the Land of the Rising Sun does so well.

What will be more interesting is whether or not Leica responds to the technological gauntlet that Fuji has thrown down with the X-Pro1. Leica execs have previously praised the X100’s hybrid OVF, which tells me that they’re well aware of what Fuji is doing. Will that influence the forthcoming M10? Personally, I doubt it, but praise for Fuji’s tech coming from Leica means that the German company has definitely taken notice. An M11 may see some more serious innovation, particularly in the evolution of the traditional rangefinder implementation.