Updated 30/12/15 with details of the Fuji X-Pro2, scroll to the end of the article for the update. Much of this article was written in 2012 when the Fuji X-Pro1 was launched.
As a documentary wedding photographer I don’t want to work with big cameras with equally big lenses that shout “photographer” for that reason I switched from Canon 1D series cameras to the 5D a number of years ago, but even the 5D is on the large size compared to Fuji X series cameras. The shutter is also loud and intrusive on the Canon 5DII and I often curse it during quiet parts of the wedding ceremony, although the 5D3 and 6D have introduced a “silent shutter” it is still anything but silent. Then along came the Fuji X100 with it’s almost totally silent shutter and retro styling, I loved the X100 from the start and have used mine at every wedding. The X100 has a 35mm equivalent lens and I longed for a 50mm equivalent Fuji X200, instead Fujifilm gave us the X-Pro1 with interchangeable lenses including a 35mm F1.4 which is the equivalent of a 50mm F1.4 on the Fuji APS-C sensor. The question is would I love the X-Pro1 as much as my X100?
When the camera first arrived in March 2012 with firmware 1.0 it was almost there but had a few annoying niggles which included a geiger counter sound from the aperture opening and closing as it constantly adjusted to the light. I had a wedding the following week and decided to take the X-Pro1 along to try it out, I got the camera out for the bridal preps and the clicking aperture drove me crazy. In a quiet room it was very audible. Later in the day with some ambient noise the clicking wasn’t an issue and I started to enjoy working with the camera, I drove home from the wedding with mixed thoughts but once I had seen the image quality I decided to keep the X-Pro1 and email Fujifilm to ask if they had a fix in the pipeline for the aperture noise. Fujifilm told me they were aware of the issue and were looking into ways around it, a firmware update in late April 2012 completely stopped the chattering and I was left wondering why Fujifilm released the camera without fixing this first.
Above: 100 percent crop from the Fuji X-Pro1 with 35mm F1.4 lens
With the chattering aperture fixed I started to really enjoy the camera. Image quality is superb and the 35mm F1.4 is the sharpest lens I own, beating even my Canon L series glass. The above photograph is a 100 percent crop of the original. The sun was low in the sky just behind the tree, there is no sign of flare and the 100 percent crop shows just how good the 35mm F1.4 lens is (200 ISO, 1/500th at F4), these are out of camera jpgs. High ISO results are very impressive and I have to say the camera is as good if not better than a Canon 5DmkII at 3200 ISO and 6400 ISO. The X-Pro1 will shoot at 12500 ISO and 25000 ISO in jepg although the files start to show a fair bit of noise and loss of fine detail, I probably wouldn’t use anything higher than 6400 ISO for wedding photography.
The question most photographers ask is what the auto focus is like on the Fuji X-Pro1. With the latest firmware as of February 2014 the auto focus is useable, it isn’t as fast as a DSLR like the Canon 5DmkIII but it is good enough for wedding photography or street photography. Even in low light the focussing is much improved with the latest firmware. The photograph below was in very low light, evening guests arrived by boat and are lit by the light coming out of windows in a building to the right of the scene, there was also an uplighter under a tree to the right. The exposure time was 1/50th at F1.4 on 6400iso which gives an idea of how dark it was, I couldn’t see much through the optical viewfinder. The X-Pro1 locked focus in a fraction of a second, about the same amount of time it took my Canon 5DmkII with a 16-35mm F2.8 zoom lens to focus. The X-Pro1 image from this is superior to that from the 5DmkII.
Above: 6400 iso, 1/50th at F1.4
So what’s the X-Pro1 like as a wedding camera? Pretty good actually and it’s so nice to work with a camera that isn’t a heavy brick. I can’t see myself ditching my DSLR in favour of working with just a couple of Fuji X-Pro1’s at the moment, but that doesn’t mean the camera doesn’t have it’s place at a wedding. I now tend to photograph the bridal preps with a Fuji X100 and Fuji X-Pro1, the preps are often in a small room and I find big cameras can be intimidating for the bride. I have no use for long lenses during the bridal preps so a 35mm and 50mm lens work fine for me. During the ceremony I might work with the Fuji and a Canon 6D with a 70-200mm F2.8, then after the ceremony I’d be happy to go back to using just the Fuji X-Pro1.
Above : 35mm F1.4 lens at F2.8. I was keen to see how the camera would cope with the pattern on the bridesmaid’s blouse (right) as the lack of an anti-aliasing filter could result in moiré. As you can see this was not an issue at all.
Above: Lighting at this venue is very tricky, there are no windows to light the couple and most of the light is coming from the windows in the background. 2500 ISO 1/50th second at F2.8 using the 35mm F1.4 lens.
In summary the Fuji X-Pro1 seems to suffer from a few niggling issues just like the Fuji X100. Image quality is as good as the Canon 5DII, but the camera lags behind in other areas and I wouldn’t want to use it as my only wedding camera. Working with small lightweight cameras is hugely appealing to me as heavy cameras make my back ache after a ten hour wedding, as a documentary wedding photographer I’m also always trying to capture the moment without the subject becoming camera aware, this is sometimes a challenge when working with a large L series Canon lens. I find people largely ignore a small camera as it feels less intimidating.
update 16th May 2012
I have now had my Fuji X-pro1 for almost two months and have had a chance to use it at several weddings. The camera does have a few negative points. Firstly the battery life is dreadful, I use the optical viewfinder only and occasionally preview the images on the LCD to check the exposure as I’m shooting in Jpg until Lightroom supports the raw files. I find I get around 150 shots out of a fully charged battery, you certainly need to buy several spare batteries for a full day of shooting. Printed images from the X-Pro1 really stand out as being very sharp when using the 35mm F1.4 lens, this really is a fantastic quality lens for the money and I have to say it’s better than many of my Canon L series lenses that cost around 2.5 times more.
update 26th September 2012
Fujifilm have released Firmware 2.0 with the promise of faster auto focus, better manual focus and twice as fast processing and saving of the images to the SD card. I tried out the camera with the new firmware on two weddings last weekend and am very pleased with improvements. Auto focus is now quicker in low light, manual focussing is hugely improved and the files write much faster to the SD card. The only things left for Fuji to fix are the inability to select a minimum shutter speed when using auto ISO and the framelines with the 35mm F1.4 lens are still widely inaccurate. I had considered buying a couple of Canon 5DmkIII cameras to replace my Canon 5DmkII’s, but the high iso performance of the X-Pro1 and the image quality of the files are so good that I’m going to invest in the new lenses coming out for the X-Pro1 instead and replace my 5DII with a Canon 6D.
Above: 6400iso on the Fuji X-Pro1 using the 35mm F1.4 lens at F1.4. Image quality at 6400iso is superb and even at 100 percent the image has very little noise and is very sharp (saving for web has reduced the sharpness of the image, but believe me it is pin sharp).
Above: The X-Pro1 is a great camera for bridal preps due to it’s small size and quiet shutter.
Above: Images like this are difficult to frame with the optical viewfinder due to parallax, the viewfinder sees a slightly different angle to the lens.I switched to the electronic finder to ensure the couple appeared in the gaps. 35mm lens at F1.4.
Above: The quiet shutter allows you to photograph very quiet parts of the ceremony.
4/12/14 update after two years of using the Fuji X-Pro1 for wedding photography
Next month I will have owned the Fuji X-Pro1 for two years, in that time I have photographed around 70 weddings with the camera. A number of photographers have asked me for an update on my thoughts about using the X-Pro1.
The camera is now available with two lenses for a real bargain price of under £1000, even if the X-Pro2 was launched tomorrow I’d still recommend buying the X-Pro1 at this price. Fujifilm have shown they don’t abandon users of their cameras after a few months, instead they still support the cameras with firmware updates as was the case with the original X100 after the X100S was launched. This is pretty much unheard of in the photographic industry and Fujifilm should be congratulated. I have no issues to report with my X-Pro1, I haven’t had any problems with it and the camera and lenses have stood up well to continuous professional use. Fujifilm have launched a number of new lenses and the future of the X system looks very exciting.
Most of this review was written in March 2012 when I had one of the first X-Pro1 cameras in the UK. A lot has changed since then and the X-Pro1 is now an old camera in terms of digital cameras. A year ago I purchased the Fuji XT-1 which has become my main Fuji camera, the X-Pro1 and X100 have spent more time in my camera bag. I never really liked the XT-1 when it was first announced as it didn’t have the rangefinder camera looks from the X-Pro1 and X100 and there isn’t an optical viewfinder, however since buying the XT-1 I have grown to love it. I find the silent electronic shutter especially useful and I use this a lot during the wedding ceremony, especially if photography isn’t officially allowed. One thing I don’t like about the Fuji XT-1 is it has a tendency to use too much noise reduction when shooting jpg above 3200iso. although this can be overcome by turning down the noise reduction and turning up the sharpness in the settings.
It is no secret that Fuji will announce the X-Pr02 mid January 2016, I’m hoping that will bring the silent electronic shutter and a flip screen as well as better auto focus and improved performance. Four years is a long while for a camera model to remain current and the X-Pro1 is supposed to be the flagship for the X series, I’m hoping Fuji learnt a lot from the previous models and the X-Pro2 will address a lot of the issues.
The big question as we start 2016 is ‘should I still buy the Fuji X-Pro1’? The X-Pro1 is now available for a bargain price, in fact if you buy the two lens kit which is currently retailing for £500 you are getting the X-Pro1 for free and just paying the the lenses. Without a doubt it is still a capable camera and a good entry into the X series. I’d add the 35mm 1.4 and 23mm 1.4 lenses as these are fantastic. Just don’t expect the AF to keep up with the latest Canon or Nikon cameras.
You might also like my article on the Fuji X100 which can be found here