Fuji Xpro1 with manual focus legacy lens review

fuji xpro with m mount 3/4th view

 

[I] am reviewing contemporary cameras (and the Epson RD1), and comparing them to see how they fare with manual lenses. Epson RD1 vs Olympus OM-D vs Ricoh GXR vs Sony Nex7 vs Fuji Xpro-1 all with M mount manual glass. Jump in for the fun!

The Premise

Let us start by understanding the nature of cameras. Let's say that you want to take a photo of your son, 5 year old and running like crazy. You have two cameras, both exactly the same as each other, except that camera A can go up to 12fps and Camera B can only do 3fps. Technically camera A is better than camera B for the shots of your son, BUT if you diligently apply yourself to wait patiently for the right moment, it really doesn't matter which cameras you use. Some cameras are better than the others in some sections, like better handling, smaller build, higher fps, etc but in the end it's all about ease of use and compromises, and if you accept compromises, the camera really does not matter that much (except for speciality purposes of course). All the 5 cameras reviewed are great cameras, and you must choose to get the one that will fit you the most, which features you cannot do without, which features you are willing to compromise. I like saying that the best camera is the one you love, and indeed you will be more willing to shoot and learn with a tool you love to use.

 

A warning

Before going on, I must say what this comparison is, and what it isn't. This is a review and comparison of all 5 cameras only as M mount bodies, and mainly in a street photography or documentary photography setting, were reflexes need to be fast. So a camera might not be good with manual rangefinder glass but stellar with it's own AF glass; and a camera might do bad in a street setting but excels in a landscape of architectural setting. So every comment must be taken with that in mind, that I am after Leica M mount glass handling in a street-documentary setting. Also I would like to point out that I am reviewing these cameras with a USER's point of view. I might like a camera while it's the opposite for another, so if you are looking into a camera, do your research first and take all points of views into account.

 

 Fuji X-Pro1

[I]f you study the history of design, one thing will become abundantly clear: design trends tend to make a circle. Apple gets it's design inspiration from 1960's brAun, and nowadays camera manufacturers get their inspiration from analog cameras. One of the first digital cameras with a retro look is the Panasonic LC1, but I believe that the market was not ripe enough for it, it was bad timing. Olympus struck the heart with the original Pen EP-1 and the retro craze has been on since then. Rangefinder lookalikes are back, with no small thanks to the Fuji X100, with some adopters claiming “They couldn't resist” buying the camera.

But more likely than not, the X100 was a market test for something bigger, the Fuji X-Pro 1…. it had to be done. That camera really got a whole lot of buzz, and Fuji struck gold with a digital rangefinder lookalike. It has been reviewed to the max with all the proprietary glass (I must admit that they have a very appealing lineup for photographers) but I wanted to see how it did with M glass in the streets and against the popular cameras of today.

back of the fuji xpro camera

[Image quality]
I am really leaving the image quality up to you, I have some RAW files for you to download and judge for yourself, only you know what makes your cut. Personally I am really impressed with the quality of the files, everything is simply sharp and very well defined, and 16 MP is plenty for an APSC sensor also there is good dynamic range so you have wiggle room to play around with your images. I am no pixel peeper, and all the cameras compared are good enough for great photographs in my opinion, so my issue was more how does it handle in the streets with M glass then how the IQ is.

Judge for yourself with these Fuji Xpro Full size jpgs:

fuji xpro full size sample 1

fuji xpro full size sample 2

 

[Build/handling]
Having a rangefinder that shares the same body as a Bessa 2, I must say that I was kind of underwhelmed by the build quality compared to a real rangefinder, but I quickly fell in love with the camera when I was out shooting. The thing looks good…. you can use it as a pick up tool …”Hey baby, you look as good as my camera!”…. more seriously tho you might get some compliments like “THAT is a cool camera”, etc. But being behind the viewfinder, the handling is more important than looks and everything must be in reach in other not to intrude vision. The camera is simply a large rectangle with a raised grip on the right, I wish it was twice as big but at least it has it.

 

close up of dials of fuji xpro with m mount

top of fuji xpro camera with m mount lens

The camera is designed for your 3rd finger to stay on the front lever, your index on the shutter, and your thumb resting in a nice corner behind the camera. The thumb rest area gives you quick access to the EV dials (a GREAT placement for on the fly exposure compensation), a jog dial for various uses and a very useful Q button that displays all of your current settings. AEL is also in thumb's reach. You can access your shutter speed dial with your index and thumb really fast. The litmus test for camera handling IMHO is would you be afraid to drop it if there was no strap attached….the fuji x-pro passes that test with flying colors, you have a good grip on the camera. I do believe that the shutter release button has kind of a weird feel to it but that's no big deal.

 

fuji xpro with m mount jupiter 8 lens

side view of the fuji xpro with samyang 85 and offcial m mount adapter

[The viewfinder]
When the X100 was out, there was a whole buzz about a Hybrid viewfinder that I passed over because I thought it was silly marketing wordplay…. turns out it's a real innovation. Basically what you have is an optical viewfinder with the possiblity to replace it with an electronic viewfinder with the front camera lever (used to be the timer in older film slrs). The framelines in rangefinders are lit by a white window but in the Xpro (and presume all of the x series) the framelines and other info are all electronicly lit. I had a WOW moment when I saw the histogram superimposed on the optical viewfinder, it was like a glimpse at the future…. the kind of stuff you can expect to see on cars windshields with superimposed rpm and speed. The EVF is an EVF like any other camera, but it is impressive that the same viewfinder has both OVF and EVF.

back of the fuji xpro camera

bottom of the fuji xpro camera

[Adapter]
The adapter I used was the official x to m mount from Fuji themselves. A nice thick and sturdy adapter that can communicate with the camera. The electronic stuff in it is for a little button on the adapter that brings up a menu for custom M mount settings. This is very nice, you can have 6 lens profiles saved in the camera with corrections for barrel, pincushion, colour correction and vignetting. You can only change the focal length on 2 of the slots, the other 4 are locked to certain focal lenghts, the framelines automatically adjust to the focal length in the OVF….Impressive…


fuji xpro sense closeup

fuji xpro m mount adapter side view

fuji xpro m mount adapter close and top of camera

[Focusing]
The camera has a great handling for the streets, but where it falls WAY short is the focusing. And again please remember that I am only speaking about MANUAL focus lenses. The Fuji Xpro is not a real rangefinder, so the lens does not communicate with the camera… that mean that OVF is irrelevant for focusing. You could put the OVF for good use, and use it for framing after zone focusing, but the hiccup is that everything almost disappears when you are in bright light, framelines included. So with manual glass you are stuck with EVF, and there is another hiccup: it's hard to focus. If you look at tattooed man in the “taken with Fuji xpro section”, the guy was standing in front of me, immobile, and I could not hit 1.4 on his eyes to save my life….imagine in a street setting where people are moving and so are you. You can have a magnified image with the Xpro but I am against all forms of magnification, I find it way too distracting. But others are fine with it thought.

fuji xpro with samyang 85 and m mount adapter

[Street handling]
I quickly realized my dilemma here, I could not use OVF, and neither could I use EVF…. I could not even hit f8 on a darn TREE that was near my place. You are just never sure the thing is in focus with the EVF, so Lightroom is always a nasty surprise. There is a trick by following the moire patterns but it is a very bad replacement for focus peaking. So my only  option was zone focusing for street. I am not good with distances so I simply played it safe and stopped down to f/16 on infinity to have everything from 1.5 meters in focus. Such a small aperture needs generous shutter speeds, witch I would not allow because I am fast and needed some wiggle room for fast shooting….so I was left with leaving the ISO with the camera. If there is something that came to my head it is that I missed my Ricoh GRD, where I did not have to deal with depth of field that much because of the small sensor size.

I tried zone focusing on infinity and using the OVF and it is a nice setup if you forget about your framelines and relevant information. My only issue with the viewfinder is that I expected 1:1 viewfinder and the Xpro hasn't one, so make sure you know where you are walking. I really felt limited in the streets stuck at f/16 ranging between [0.7-1.5] and [1.5-infinity], even more knowing that if I wanted a detail shots or shallow depth of field I would probably miss. When I focus on something with 1.4 I have to bracket my focus, but sometimes the class 4 SD makes the camera lag seriously when the buffer is filled. I must say that focus peaking is a TRUE deal breaker here, everything would be easier if the camera had that feature. I kind of wish that I had X mount glass because I am sure that it would kill in the streets, but manual lenses suck on the camera.

side view of the fuji xpro with samyang 85 and offcial m mount adapter

fuji xpro with m mount jupiter 8 lens

Sample RAW files

Click image to download Raw file. Requires Lightroom 4 or CS6 I believe.

ample jufi xpro raw file to download

Fuji xpro sample raw file to download 2

 This one is mainly for you to play with recovery/dynamic range

fuji xpro raw file sample to download

fuji xpro raw file sample to download 4

fuji xpro raw file sample to download 5

Taken the Fuji Xpro1

I saw this man coming from afar. Tats? Check Rosary? Check. I had to get this man's portrait, and I did. I barely had the Xpro for long and I was sweating because I knew I was going to miss my focus, and I wanted a 1.4, so I simply bracketed my focus and hoped for the best. While looking through the viewfinder, I forgot that I was in EVF mode and I saw light spilling on the frame, I freaked out because I was like how the HECK do you get this on a rangefinder? Is it even possible? I eventually incorporated it in the frame and hoped for the best. It was the only one sharp out of all the frames.

 

street photograph in fort lauderdale near miami
Untitled – Fort Lauderdale

 

 

The way this jewish man was waving the Israeli flag, I knew I was in for trouble, I basically prayed and sprayed, just trying to get his face in focus, it didn't turn out that bad.

 

jewish man waving a flag taken with the fuji xpro 1
Untitled – Fort Lauderdale

 

The depth of field really played well for this image, they were giving out free redbulls in the street

Untitled – Fort Lauderdale

 

Knowing that I was too fast with the camera, I simply slowed down for each shot, not quite my style though.

Untitled – Fort Lauderdale

 

In order to get this shot, I shot many frames because I knew not to trust the EVF that well. I got this one in focus at f/4 I believe

Untitled – Fort Lauderdale

The one below is simple zone focusing on infinity, no sweating over the focus there.

Unitled – Fort Lauderdale

 

 Strengths / Weaknesses

+ Great handling

+ Quick changes with dials

+ Q button

+ Great IQ

+ M mount lens corrections

 

 Not 1:1 viewfinder

 Useless OVF for manual focus

 Useless OVF in bright light

 No focus peaking

 Hard to manual focus with EVF

 

[Verdict]

 

f/8 maybe
The Fuji Xpro with manual focus lenses was not a good experience. But pop in the  X mount lenses and this is a little beast. Get it if you are comfortable bracketing your focus, zone focusing or focusing with a zoomed in image if you are planing on using manual lenses on it.

[Where to get it]

Get it here from Amazon

About The Author

21 thoughts on “Fuji Xpro1 with manual focus legacy lens review”

  1. Olivier,
    I’d be very interested in seeing a few photos from each camera under similar conditions. Then I’d like to hear how you feel about each camera and the way it worked making the images.
    C’mon man, you can do it…your a streetshooter.

      1. Olivier, It’s a good idea not to take your GRD4 with you on this test. Nuff said.
        I am as unexcited about the Fuji as I am excited about the GRD4. It’s a good idea but not developed enough to want to use. Next generation could be a winner.

        The Eppy is a camera to keep an eye on. Of course one has to be a shooter and not a peeper due to the file size. I have tons of 16 x 20 prints from it and they are super.
        I await anxiously your findings and continuation of this work.
        Don

  2. Not sure what lenses you have for each but how would you compare the Oly and the Ricoh, IQ, handling, photo venue they are good at etc? Thanks for offering your time

  3. Hi Olivier,

    Great observations so far! I am planning to get the OMD and will be using it with M glass. My question is: Do you know if the hyperfocal focus markings are still accurate on the M43 sensor? I use scale focusing a lot. I think that the DOF will be wider, can you confirm this and to what extent?

    Also, this might be a bit off topic but I am a big fan of the snap focus feature of the GRD series. Is there something like this with the OMD when used with an AF lens? Maybe a manual focus feature with a DOF scale? Thanks!

    Kelvin

    1. Hi Kelvin, 
      I used the hyperfocal markings with no second thoughts and I did get the images that I wanted. The sensor being smaller I suppose the dof will be more generous but I did not do any scientific test. Zone focusing is the way to go on the OMD, even though I could nail 1.4 more accurately than the X-pro in EVF. One advantage of the OMD is the fps, so you can bracket your zone focus fast and easy. 

      But if you want ease of use, get the NEX7, I nailed 1.4 while walking on a dude’s head in front of me like a piece of cake. And when in comes to zone focus, you can go down to something like f/4 and still get what you want in focus because of the NEX’s focus peaking. Having instant feedback on what is focused is absolutely great. Except if you are super good at judging distances, then focus peaking is irrelevant.

      Snap focus is only on Ricohs unfortunately. So if you want snap you have to do it yourself by putting it in manual mode and focusing at the distance you want. There is no full press for snap and half press for AF…that’s only for the Ricohs. There is this feature on the GXR 50mm and 28mm witch has focus peaking and a very useful dof scale on the left when it’s on manual focusing.

      Did that answer your question?

  4. Nice work Olivier – I’d love to see the opposite  e.g. down sampled to R-D1 but I have downloaded your RAW files and will take a look through.

    I can remember foaming at the mouth when the NEX-7 was announced as it was an amazing package but then it got delayed and I moved on. I got to try it in a Sony Store and didn’t like where the dials were placed – felt a little too far away for my liking. I ended up going with the X100 and now the R-D1.

    The OMD looks great but I find it a VERY ugly camera and strange to hold. That is of course no good reason not to use it but for me the whole package has to work including the look and feel.

    Look forward to the next parts – thx for the hard work.

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  6. Oliver: regarding this passage:

     “I have heard that you could zoom in the image to focus but I have yet to find how to do it… and I do not like the zoom function because I do not like going back and forth zoomed in and full image, its too distracting.”

    I urge you to try the XPro1 again, as a focussing aide, simply press the rear dial, that’s the instant zoom… if you’re in OVF or EVF mode, it zooms into the point of focus… manual or autofocus and then press the shutter and you are back in OVF or EVF mode again.. it’s quick, very responsive and very quickly becomes second nature… this way you KNOW you are in focus and don’t have to wait to check the images in Lightroom… 

    Possibly not a method to everyone’s liking, but if you like the hybrid viewfinder, then this is what it’s all about, it offers a different method of focussing that is reliable because you use your own eye for verification, rather than the camera…

    I’m using manual lenses with my XPRo1 using this method, and am very happy with it: I’m only surprised how many reviews are missing this aspect of the camera. Its effectively a new technique, which once learned becomes second nature…

    Cheers… 

    Steve

    1. Good to know, I tried pressing it but nothing happened. Unfortunately I do not like that kind of focusing at all, it’s distracting. I tried to get into it but couldn’t… but everybody has their taste and I happy you are using yours well 🙂 The Xpro is nice besides that

  7. Olivier – That particular lense, the Voightlander 35mm Nocton 1.4, was designated as imcompatible with the Fuji m mount according to their list of compatible m lenses. How were you able to use it without any problems? – MartyC

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  9. Olivier…..with all respect please read the manual if you are going to go to all the work to write a camera review.  As Steve mentioned you simply tap the rear dial and you are instantly zoomed in….press the shutter and you are back…..it works great once you get used to it.  You need the camera to be in M focus mode…..

    1. Hum now that I think of it, since the adapter is electronic, they should have made it go automatically in M mode, I think this is why I couldn’t find it. Didn’t find anything in the manual about it when I read it. But again, magnification is not for everybody so it would be ok for me in a garden or something but not in the streets. Tried it on many cameras and I can’t deal with it. Thanks for your comment Boss!

      1. You have to switch the front lever to “M” in order to bring up the zoom, not too hard. The reason it doesn’t automatically do this is because it’s a manual camera which you just said was one of the reasons you liked it.

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