X

Fujifilm X-Pro1 (Body Only) review: Fujifilm X-Pro1 (Body Only)

Fujifilm X-Pro1 (Body Only)

LoriGruninNewHeadshot.jpg
Lori Grunin
LoriGruninNewHeadshot.jpg

Lori Grunin

Senior Editor / Reviews

I've been writing about and reviewing consumer technology since before the turn of the century. I'm also a photographer and cat herder, frequently at the same time.

See full bio
10 min read

CNET editors pick the products and services we write about. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.

Fujifilm X-Pro 1 (body only)
7.4

Fujifilm X-Pro1 (Body Only)

The Good

Stellar photo quality and a beautiful-looking, mostly streamlined design make the <b>Fujifilm X-Pro1</b> a really attractive camera for deep-pocketed enthusiasts and curious professionals.

The Bad

Poor autofocus performance and a bare-bones feature set make the X-Pro1 harder to recommend for a general audience than it should be, and a new sensor means raw processing support will take longer to appear than I'd like.

The Bottom Line

The Fujifilm X-Pro1 is a nice compromise if you can't afford a Leica but want to approximate the experience and get some stunning photo quality to boot.

It seems strange that until as recently 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 X-Pro1 interchangeable-lens model now sits at the top of that line, packing a lot of innovative and promising technology into a really retro and mostly well-designed -- if a bit large -- body. While it doesn't win any points for its autofocus performance or bare-bones feature set, the stunning photo quality (for its class) does a lot to make up for that.

Image quality
The X-Pro1 uses a new sensor, the X-Trans, which in combination with mostly intelligent JPEG processing delivers excellent photo quality across low- and midrange ISO sensitivities, and in combination with the sharp XF lenses, very good detail resolution, color, and tonal range.


The typical Bayer color filter array on the top; Fujifilm's X-Trans array on the bottom.

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 demosaicing to build the image out of the pattern of RGB values. The demosaicing process can also result in image artifacts, which is inevitable given that the software essentially has to "guess" at 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 that 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 moiré and results in fewer false-color artifacts and a sharper image.

Original photo samples
Click to view/download
ISO 200

ISO 800
ISO 6400

In practice, the X-Pro1's JPEG photos showed exceptional detail at low ISO sensitivities, and the sensor itself had a large latitude in that I was able to shoot a couple of ISO stops down from where I might normally be in low light and get clean images. While you can see some mushiness in the flat areas from the noise and consequent noise-reduction algorithms starting at about ISO 1600 in low light, there's very little loss of sharpness and I ran into many instances where the ISO 6400 shots looked very good for a camera under $2,000. In night shots the high-ISO-sensitivity images did look more traditional, soft and grainy with hot pixels, but the fact is with the X-Pro1 you don't need to shoot at those settings as often as usual.

The camera produces consistent and appropriate exposures, and with one exception the colors are both accurate and vibrant. As with the Fujifilm FinePix X100, I saw hue shifts to orange and blown-out highlights in extremely bright, saturated, natural reds (example); but unlike the X100, the X-Pro1 seems to only have problems in the JPEG versions. Reds in the raw files are completely different, and I was able to recover some of the blown-out detail as well. Unfortunately, that means you have to use raw if you shoot flowers, landscapes, and the like. Also, as far as I can tell there isn't a lot of recoverable detail in light-colored, blown-out areas; what makes the sensor so good in low light overwhelms it in bright. However, I'm not confident enough with my Silkypix skills to state that with 100 percent certainty; it's possible there's some technique I don't know about to maximize highlight detail. I do know that saving as 16-bit TIFF and processing using Adobe Camera Raw didn't work.

Which brings me to the downside of the X-Trans sensor. Because it uses a nonstandard CFA, the raw-processing algorithms need to be redesigned for optimal results. Adobe's seemingly in no rush to support the X-Pro1 in Lightroom/Adobe Camera Raw and Apple tends to be even slower on the uptake. Other raw software developers tend to devote their resources to the more popular models. That means for raw you're stuck with the bundled Silkypix software, which is slow, with a clunky, almost impenetrable user interface. More important for some people, having to use yet another program breaks your work flow, or at least slows you down as you use the converter to save as a 16-bit TIFF for editing elsewhere.

The video is a mixed bag. It's very sharp, with bright colors, and in low light the noise looks pretty good. But otherwise it displays a cornucopia of aliasing, moiré and rolling shutter artifacts. While the autofocus has trouble staying locked, the lenses are nicely designed for manually focusing.

Performance
There's no way around it: the X-Pro1 is disappointingly slow, thanks to sluggish image processing and a finicky autofocus system. The most frustrating aspect is that the better lens, the 35mm, is much slower to focus than the 18mm lens, which simply isn't as sharp. We did our lab tests with the 35mm, since I think it's the more desirable lens, so our performance numbers reflect its slower AF.

It takes about 1 second to power on, focus, and shoot; slower than many cameras, but still adequately fast. Shot lag in bright conditions is 0.5 second and 0.8 second in dim, which just isn't what I expect from a camera in its price range. Two sequential JPEGs run 1.4 seconds, while raw takes that up a bit to 1.5 seconds. While all of those times aren't pull-your-hair-out slow, it can get a little frustrating for street shooting. In a studio you might not mind so much.

Ironically, the continuous-shooting performance is pretty good. It's relatively fast at 5.2 frames per second, and the hybrid viewfinder means zero lag for framing while panning. You do need to use a fast SD card for a sustained burst: I noticed a significant difference in the number of shots it could take before slowing between the 30MBps SanDisk Extreme III and 95MBps Extreme Pro cards.

And the battery life in this entire class of cameras is sad.

Design and features
Attractive to look at and sturdily built, the X-Pro1's design and operation are mostly very well executed with only a couple of facepalm-level annoyances. While the camera isn't particularly compact, it's a nice size for people who like a little heft. I do wish the grip were a little deeper, though.

On top of the camera are a couple of dials, one for shutter speed and one for exposure compensation, and the shutter button has a cable-release connector. You dial in both shutter speed and aperture, with a real old-fashioned aperture ring on the XF lenses. Putting the ring in A enters shutter-priority mode; setting the shutter speed to A puts you in aperture-priority. If you put both on A, you've got full auto. My one complaint with this scheme is the slavish adherence to history means that you're stuck with full-stop shutter speeds in shutter-priority mode: I've gotten used to shooting at speeds like 1/80 sec. On the other hand, the lens' aperture dial does support third stops, which is a nice feature.

There's also a Fn button next to the shutter button, which is the single user-assignable control. Given that there are multiple relatively unused controls -- like three of the navigation buttons -- this is a bit disappointing, and I suspect could be changed in a later firmware update. Not only does the camera lack a dedicated movie record button, you have to be in movie mode to record (unlike the rest of the world, Fujifilm considers movies a drive mode), so I ended up wasting the Fn button by mapping it to movie mode. On the plus side, the X-Pro1 has seven custom settings slots that are easily accessed via the quick menu.

Overall, I found the control layout and button design comfortable, though the learning curve will be a little steeper if you're not used to Fujifilm's mindset. Down the left side of the LCD are the drive mode, metering, and AF-area selection buttons. On the right, the AE/AF lock button and quick menu button sit on a plastic protrusion that provides a little extra stability when you're gripping the camera. Of the four navigation buttons, only one is hardwired -- to macro, which I used a lot because of the odd minimum focus distances of the lenses (7 inches for the 18mm lens and 11 inches for the 35mm lens). It's kind of annoying that when you hit the macro button you then have to arrow over to macro mode; it should just toggle.


The X-Pro1's quick menu is easy to access and navigate.

Like the X100, the X-Pro1 uses a hybrid viewfinder that can swap between a reverse-Galilean 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. Getting the right viewfinder display can be a little confusing. The View Mode button on the back rotates among the optical and electronic viewfinders and auto eye sensor, and this switch on the front toggles between the optical and electronic viewfinders. Ultimately, I found the EVF a lot more useful than the OVF, even with the adjusted framing. But overall the viewfinder is very nice -- big, bright, and comfortable.

  Fujifilm X100 Fujifilm X-Pro1 Olympus E-P3 Sony Alpha NEX-7
Sensor (effective resolution) 12.3-megapixel CMOS 16.3-megapixel X-Trans CMOS 12.3-megapixel Live MOS 24.3-megapixel Exmor HD CMOS
23.6mm x 15.8mm 23.6mm x 15.6mm 17.3mm x 13mm 23.5mm x 15.6mm
Focal-length multiplier 1.5x 1.5x 2x 1.5x
Sensitivity range ISO 100 (expanded)/200 - ISO 6400/12800 (expanded) ISO 100 (expanded)/200 - ISO 6,400/ 25600 (expanded) ISO 200 - ISO 12800 ISO 100 - ISO 16000
Continuous shooting 5fps
10 JPEG/8 raw
6ps
approx 15
3fps
unlimited (LN) JPEG/17 raw
3fps
unlimited 10 JPEG/6 raw
(10fps with fixed exposure)
Viewfinder
magnification/ effective magnification
Optical
90 percent coverage/
EVF
1,440,000 dots 0.47x
Optical
90 percent coverage/
EVF
1,440,000 dots variable
Optional EVF
0.5-inch
2.4-million dots
100% coverage
1.09x/.73x
Autofocus 49-area
Contrast AF
49-area
Contrast AF
35-area contrast AF 25-area contrast AF
Shutter speed 30-1/4,000 sec; bulb to 60 min 30-1/4,000 sec; bulb to 60 min; 1/180 x-sync 60-1/4,000 sec; bulb to 30 minutes; 1/4,000 FP sync 30-1/4,000 sec; bulb; 1/160 sec x-sync
Metering 256 zones 256 zones 324 area 1,200 zones
Flash Yes No Yes Yes
Image stabilization None Optical Sensor shift Optical
Video 720/24p H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/24p H.264 1080/60i AVCHD @ 20, 17Mbps; 720/60p @ 13Mbps AVCHD 1080/60p @ 28, 24Mbps, 1080/24p @ 24, 17Mbps, 1080/60i @ 17Mbps; H.264 MPEG-4 1,440x1,080/30p @ 12Mbps
Audio Stereo Stereo Stereo; mic input Stereo; mic input
LCD size 2.8-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 shots 300 shots 330 shots 350 shots
Dimensions (inches, WHD) 5.0 x 2.9 x 2.1 5.5 x 3.2 x 1.7 4.8 x 2.7 x 1.4 4.8 x 2.8 x 1.7
Body operating weight (ounces) 15.8 15.7 13 12.4
Mfr. price n/a $1,700 (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 (with 18-55mm lens)
n/a n/a $899.99 (with 17mm f2.8 lens) n/a
Ship date March 2011 February 2012 August 2011 November 2011

My biggest problem with the design is the placement of the SD card slot in the battery compartment. While this is a standard location on consumer cameras, it just doesn't work well for advanced and pro photographers who frequently take the card out. But even worse, the X-Pro1's battery compartment is right next to the tripod mount (and some users may take issue with the mount being so far to the right rather than in the middle), which not only makes it a huge pain to pull the card when the camera is mounted on a tripod, it means you can't even open the battery compartment when using a tiny tripod-mount attachment for a sling strap (which looks like this). I know -- this seems trivial. Until you're in the middle of shooting and realize you have to disconnect your strap to change cards. Also, the battery isn't keyed to a particular direction, so it's easy to put it in backward and then wonder why the camera won't power on.

As for features, the X-Pro1 provides the basics and nothing more; perhaps even a little less, given the price. There's no on-camera flash, and it's got a fixed LCD. Compare that with the cheaper Sony Alpha NEX-7. Do a lot of people at this level use features like in-camera HDR or special-effects filters? Probably not. But the feature set still seems pretty stripped-down.

Conclusion
All of this raises the question, Who is this camera for? Though the X-Pro1 delivers pro-level photo quality that should appeal to wedding and portrait photographers, if you have to process large volumes of images on a regular basis, the lack of widespread raw support may really impede your work flow. Not to mention its battery would need frequent changing over the course of a wedding.

Ultimately, I keeping coming back to it as a poor man's Leica. That's not necessarily a bad thing to be -- and when Fujifilm ultimately comes out with its Leica mount adapter it should be even better -- but there's also a lot of competition for that deep-pocketed enthusiast.

Shooting time (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot  
Raw shot-to-shot time  
JPEG shot-to-shot time  
Shutter lag (dim light)  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Sony Alpha NEX-7
0.9 
0.9 
0.6 
0.5 
0.2 
Canon EOS 60D
0.2 
0.6 
0.5 
0.5 
0.3 
Sony Alpha SLT-A77V
0.5 
0.6 
0.6 
0.6 
0.3 
Olympus PEN E-P3
0.6 
0.8 
0.7 
0.6 
0.3 
Sony Alpha NEX-5N
1.2 
1.1 
1 
0.6 
0.3 
Fujifilm X-Pro1
1 
1.5 
1.4 
0.8 
0.5 

Typical continuous-shooting speed (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Fujifilm X-Pro1
5.2 

Fujifilm X-Pro 1 (body only)
7.4

Fujifilm X-Pro1 (Body Only)

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 6Performance 6Image quality 9