Will wedding shooters say 'I do' to the Fujifilm X-Pro 1?

The company's mirrorless model is targeted at--and priced for--primarily the growing number of wedding photographers seeking sources of differentiation.

Lori Grunin/CNET

LAS VEGAS--As potentially the most expensive mirrorless camera on the market, the Fujifilm X-Pro 1 backs the price up with a promising new sensor and sleek design.

It seems strange that until as recent as a few years ago, we'd come to associate Fujifilm primarily with masses of middling point-and-shoot cameras. But the company has come quite far in a short time, thanks to its premium X series of cameras, which deliver strong image quality in striking vintage designs. Its new X-Pro 1 interchangeable-lens model now sits at the top of that line, packing a variety of innovative and promising technologies into a really retro and seemingly well designed--if a bit large--body.

(As an aside, take a moment to ponder the trajectory that Fujifilm's business has taken compared with Kodak: two old-school film companies that weathered the digital disruption with extremely different fates.)

The typical Bayer color filter array Fujifilm USA

Lens mount. A new ILC, a new mount; one of the more-unfortunate carryovers from the SLR and film eras are the proprietary mounts. (I was really hoping that Four Thirds would kick off a trend.) Though it seems pretty well constructed, as far as I can tell, the new X mount doesn't seem to have any advantages over other ILCs. Most of the benefits Fujifilm expounds upon--the short distance between the sensor and first lens element (back focus distance), direct optical path between the lens and the sensor--are typical for this type of camera. Ditto for the extensive available pinouts.

The company claims some innovations in the lens construction, though, including improved, curved aperture blades that will produce rounder bokeh at all apertures.

However, Fujifilm will face the same problems with launching a new lens mount, namely, lack of options. At launch, the company will offer three XF prime lenses: an 18mm f2, 35mm f1.4, and 60mm f2.4 macro. The choice of lenses clearly indicate this is intended for a pro audience, as well as street photographers. The company plans two more lenses this year, a 14mm and 18-72mm f4 IS, followed by three more next year: 28mm f2.8 pancake, 23mm f2, 70-200 f4 IS, and 12-24mm f4 IS. There's also Leica M-mount support on the roadmap.

Sensor. In a typical sensor color filter array, each pixel is responsible for capturing a single color intensity (red, green, or blue), while most of the detail falls to the periodically spaced, more-sensitive green pixels. Then the camera (or software) performs what's called demosaicking to build the image out of the pattern of RGB values.

Fujifilm's X-Trans color filter array Fujifilm USA

The demosaicking process can also result in image artifacts, which is inevitable given that the software essentially has to "guess" at the the image detail and color for intermediate pixels. In addition, the more regular the pattern of the array, the more likely it is to combine unattractively with any regular patterns in the scene, an artifact known as moiré. Most sensors apply a low-pass filter to the image in order to remove any potential moiré, which can reduce perceived sharpness.

The X-Trans sensor uses a different pattern for its CFA, one which has a few more green pixels as well as more irregularly spaced red and blue ones. Fujifilm claims this arrangement obviates the need for a low-pass filter to prevent moir&eacute and results in fewer false-color artifacts and a sharper image.

The potential downside, at least in the short term, is that new CFAs always require software raw-processing algorithms to be rearchitected for optimal results.

Viewfinder. Like the X100, the X-Pro 1 uses a hybrid viewfinder that can swap between a reverse-Galliean type with an electronic overlay and a straightforward EVF. To accommodate the different angle of view of the various lenses, a magnifying element with lens-specific framing and parallax compensation shifts in. Though the model I looked was preproduction, the viewfinder was quite nice: big and bright.

Here's how its specs compare with high-end ILCs:

 Fujifilm X100Fujifilm X-Pro 1Olympus E-P3Sony Alpha NEX-7
Sensor (effective resolution)12.3-megapixel CMOS16.3-megapixel X-Trans CMOS12.3-megapixel Live MOS24.3-megapixel Exmor HD CMOS
23.6 x 15.8mm23.6mm x 15.6mm17.3mm x 13mm23.5mm x 15.6mm
Focal-length multiplier1.5x1.5x2.0x1.5x
Sensitivity rangeISO 100 (expanded)/200 - ISO 6400/12,800 (expanded)ISO 100 (expanded)/200 - ISO 6,400 25,600 (expanded)ISO 200 - ISO 12,800ISO 100 - ISO 16,000
Continuous shooting5fps
10 JPEG/8 raw
approx 15
unlimited (LN) JPEG/17 raw
unlimited 10 JPEG/6 raw
(10fps with fixed exposure)
magnification/ effective magnification
90 percent coverage/
1,440,000 dots 0.47x
90 percent coverage/
1,440,000 dots variable
2.4-million dots
100% coverage
Contrast AF
Contrast AF
35-area contrast AF25-area contrast AF
Shutter speed30-1/4,000 sec; bulb to 60 min30-1/4,000 sec; bulb to 60 min; 1/180 x-sync60-1/4,000 sec; bulb to 30 minutes; 1/4,000 FP sync30-1/4,000 sec.; bulb; 1/160 sec x-sync
Metering256 zones256 zones324 area1,200 zones
Image stabilizationNoneOpticalSensor shiftOptical
Video720/24p H.264 QuickTime MOV1080/24p H.2641080/60i AVCHD @ 20, 17Mbps; 720/60p @ 13MbpsAVCHD 1080/60p @ 28, 24Mbps, 1080/24p @ 24, 17Mbps, 1080/60i @ 17Mbps; H.264 MPEG-4 1440x1080/30p @ 12Mbps
AudioStereoStereoStereo; mic inputStereo; mic input
LCD size2.8-inch fixed
460,000 dots
3-inch fixed
1,230,000 dots
3-inch fixed OLED
614,000 dots
3-inch tilting
921,600 dots
Battery life (CIPA rating)300 shots300 shots330 shots350 shots
Dimensions (inches, WHD)5.0 x 2.9 x 2.15.5 x 3.2 x 1.74.8 x 2.7 x 1.44.8 x 2.8 x 1.7
Body operating weight (ounces)15.815.913.012 (est)
Mfr. pricen/a$1,700 (tentative; body only)n/a$1,199.99 (body only)
$1,195.95 (built-in 35mm lens)n/a$899.99 (with 14-42mm lens) $1,349.00 (with 18-55mm lens)
n/an/a$899.99 (with 17mm f2.8 lens)n/a
Ship dateMarch 2011February 2012August 2011November 2011

Fujifilm also compares the X-Pro 1 with the Canon 5D Mark II, a favorite among wedding photographers. However, given the lack of emphasis on video the company seems to be placing on this model, as well as its general lack of expertise in video, I think Canon still has an edge for that market. Still, the design and relatively smaller size of the X-Pro 1 offers a shooting intimacy that the dSLR lacks. On the other hand, the battery life seems awfully lame for nonstudio professional use.

When Fujifilm showed us sample photos compared with models like the 5D Mark II and NEX-7, it obviously displayed better noise profiles on its own camera. But JPEG comparisons and default noise-reduction settings don't really mean much when you're paying $1,200-plus for a body. The JPEGs didn't look bad, but there was some loss of detail compared with the other cameras that had more color noise.

Still, Fujifilm's track record with the X100 shows it may be able to pull off best-in-class quality. I really can't wait to give this one a try.

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