I am on the Star Ferry shooting pictures at twilight while crossing Hong Kong Harbour. The sun retreated hastily and out rolled a piercing black and blue sky. Iridescent. I love this time. I love this light. A time where day transitions to night and just for a fleeting moment – it is neither. It is exciting and ambiguous. Given the consternation concerning the performance of the auto-focus of its predecessor, the x/100, I was keen to test the X Pro 1’s focusing ability. As a photographer you are aware that you need to work in nano-seconds because light and color is on the wane and what is so beautiful now, soon will vanish. So I did work fast, two of the authored images are in this short slide show (click on post heading to see images larger if you like) above. One is the Asian girl wearing a faux polar bear head (hat) and the other is a picture where I focused on a thick translucent plastic sheet rendering a cruise liner that it framed, soft and dream like in the background. The ferry pitched from side to side in challenging low-light conditions and I took a score or two of images during the crossing from Kowloon to Hong Kong. The X-Pro 1 did not miss a beat in terms of responsiveness and the auto-focus locking onto the subject. This performance was repeated with several early morning walks photographing Hong Kong waking up to a new day as well. During my early morning wanderings I purposely sought out scenarios to make images that involved shooting through glass, against highly reflective surfaces, in shadow zones and at times in low light. This is apparent in the image of tea being poured by a waitress, shot through a heavily steamed coated window. Again, the camera did not miss a beat. It was smooth and seamless with the autofocus doing what I expect autofocus to do – focus accurately in minimal time. None of this searching searching – help me – I am lost! No whirring in and out. It focused with conviction. Similarly to the X/100, I suggest that one of the great advantages of this camera is its classically beautiful and understated retro-design. It is not (although often wanted to be) a high end DSLR. I am personally very happy that it is not a DSLR.
Said objectively, the Hong Kong Chinese are known to be just a little (it is infinitesimal really) gruff about having their picture taken but I did not encounter any negative reaction to working on the streets with this camera, in fact I was completely ignored. This camera is not great for your ego I am afraid. Get used to being ignored. If you want to make a statement swinging a house brick DSLR around your neck that in turn broadcasts that you are a photographer then this camera is probably not for you. And this is where we get to the core of what the X- Pro 1’s psychological advantage is. Because it does not solicit the unwanted reaction that comes with shooting pictures with a DSLR, I am left to document people in original moments. Sounds like visual small change but for me this is super significant in terms of access and time that otherwise may be stunted or stymied by using a DSLR. When I am on the street with the X PRO 1 I feel a synchronicity similar to that I have enjoyed when shooting black and white film with my Leica M6. Both cameras feel like a natural extension of me. Specifically, the X PRO 1 allows me to arrive at the creative conclusion, I want.
So the proceeding is what I think is attractive and important about the X-PRO1 but there are a few fixes that Fuji could consider in their continuing evolution of this ground-breaking camera. None of the following are hugely significant and nor did they compromise me while shooting pictures on this weekend in Hong Kong. It is more about a little fine-tuning needed.
- The exposure compensation dial can still be in inadvertently moved to +1 or -1, -2 Stops (or similar) this needs a locking mechanism.
- The Q button is easily activated when not wanted. Again, this needs a rethink in terms of design. As with the exposure compensation dial above this seems to happen by simply diving into my shoulder camera bag to retrieve the camera.
- The clicking chatter sound as the aperture blades automatically adjust during exposure would benefit in being less audible.
- The 60mm F2.4 lens appears to search significantly while focusing and in general takes longer to achieve focus.
In conclusion, similarly to the x/100, the X – Pro 1 is a result of a forward thinking Fujifilm company who have displayed significant creative courage in bringing this camera to photographers. The things that make this an advant garde and ground – breaking camera far outweigh the few minor fixes (cited above) that need to be made. Within this context a suggestion I do have for Fuji is; instead of going the compact camera route of sales thinking/marketing i.e. pack as many features as possible into a smallish camera in an effort to be competitive in selling as many cameras to as many people as possible, perhaps this could be rethought with the idea of reducing the X-Pro 1’s many features? Thereby edging the X-Pro 1 closer to a digital version of a Leica M4, M6 or a Voigtlander Bessa R2A. This I suggest, would be enormously attractive to professional and serious amateur photographers alike. Simplicity is still a much sought after desire. Just a thought?
The fact that Fuji have brought this hybrid camera to us from inception to reality in such a short window of time is extraordinary.
Something tells me that Leica must feel like they have had their cage rattled a little?
Fujifilm have a habit of wooing us and thrilling us. Hang on for the fast ride it is only going to get better from here.