Expanding the X-range, Fuji has joined the compact system
market with a classically styled model to rival higher-end models. Mat Gallagher takes a first look at the Fujifilm X-Pro1 camera.
FUJI?S X100 has been far more popular than the company ever expected, with the entire sales forecast well exceeded less than nine months into its life. The X10 that followed just a few months ago provided a cheaper and more consumer-friendly alternative, scoring very highly in our testing and is itself likely to enjoy big sales. As we wrote in our ideal camera feature in the Christmas issue, however, what we want is a refined X100 with removable lenses. It seems the designers at Fujifilm were on the same wavelength and just nine days into the New Year the X-Pro 1 was announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, USA, and we were there to see it.
As its name suggests, the X-Pro 1 sits in the new X-range as the flagship for the X10, X-S1 and X100 models and has been in development for at least two years according to Fuji. Rumours mounted when Fuji announced its intention to enter the compact system market, in late 2011, that they may opt to use the smaller format sensor of the X10 for their interchangeable lens camera. Thankfully, this is not the case. The new model features an APS-C-sized sensor that has a 1.5x magnification factor on 35mm. This sensor is a brand-new 16-million-pixel CMOS device that, instead of the traditional Bayer pattern of photo pixels, uses a new colour filter known as X-trans CMOS. The arrangement is designed to act more like film with a random arrangement of colours, though each line will contain red, green, and blue photo sites. This arrangement is designed to eradicate the moiré pattern and eliminates the need for a low-pass filter, though it is not currently clear whether an infrared filter is still in place. The benefit of this new arrangement and lack of low pass filter, Fujifilm claims, is that it allows the sensor to resolve more detail than the Canon EOS-5D Mark II and the Nikon D7000, which is an impressively bold claim. Both the processor and the AF system are brand new for this camera so hopefully we will see some improvement in operation speed compared with the X10 and X100 models. However, the version I tried was still a very early sample and so could not be used to judge these facets.
Though this camera focuses on simple manual exposure modes, it still contains the dynamic range controls of the X100 and Fujifilm?s branded colour modes for specific film reproduction. It also features a multi-exposure mode that allows you to superimpose the first image and your composition using the live view screen.
The lens mount is a new Fujifilm X-mount with a flange depth of a mere 17.7mm and is currently compatible with three prime Fujinon lenses: a 18mm f/2R (27mm equivalent), 35mm f/1.4R (53mm equivalent), and 60mm f/2.4R Macro (91mm equivalent). All three lenses feature manual aperture rings for operation, hence their R denomination. The lenses cover the main bases and we expect others to appear in the future. There are also plans to introduce a zoom lens at a later date. The lenses use a circular moulded blade, rather than a pressed metal type, for improved accuracy and a smoother, more rounded aperture. There is no image stabilisation in either the camera or these prime lenses, though the zoom is expected to feature optical stabilisation when launched, and not feature an aperture ring. With such a shallow flange depth the X-Pro1 is open to a wide assortment of lenses to be attached via lens adapters and while there is currently no word on whether Fuji will produce any adapters of its own for other mounts, I?m sure it won?t be long before the likes of Novaflex and SRB come up with third-party versions. The most popular of which is likely to be a Leica M-mount adapter.
The camera?s viewfinder is a hybrid device with electronic and optical view options like that of the X100 and remains a 1.4-million-dot resolution electronic display. The optical view provides framing marks for the 18mm and 35mm lens, which are displayed when the lens is attached and recognised. When the 35mm or 60mm lens is attached, an additional lens slides in front of the viewfinder to magnify the view by 0.37x or 0.6x and show the correct framing. Though this is a clever system, a fully zooming optical system would have given greater flexibility for future lenses and zoom models.
The camera?s body is noticeably larger than the X100 and seems to be more in line with the Leica M9 both in size and weight, with a magnesium top and bottom plates and metal dials. The button layout is very similar to the X100, with a slight adjustment to the rear dial to give a proper fully turning thumb control and the addition of a quick menu button, which accesses a quick-shooting menu for all of the main controls. The top Fn button is customisable for a range of functions, while the shutter speed dial now has a central lock button and the exposure compensation has been moved further in to the body. The rear screen is a new 3in unit and expected to have only a 460k-dot resolution, which is slightly disappointing considering the rest of this camera?s specification. The main menu has a new graphical interface (GUI) with more tabs to divide the features, which Fuji hope will make features easier to find.
Among the many accessories already planned for this camera are screw-thread filters in 52mm for the wide and regular primes and 39mm for the macro. On top of the existing two flashguns available for the X-range an additional third flash will be made available and an extra grip to allow more purchase on the camera.
The X-Pro 1 is scarily close to our vision for a perfect camera, though mainly as it shares so much with the X100 and takes inspiration from classic rangefinders for its design and operation. If past X-series cameras are anything to go by ? and if it lives up to what we?ve seen so far ? this model should be a massive success. Although a price has not yet been confirmed, we expect the camera to sell for around £1200-1400, with the lenses all less than £500 ? comparable with the Sony NEX-7 and a good deal cheaper than a Leica M9. The camera should make its UK debut at the Focus on Imaging show in March and will be on general sale shortly after.