Mike Kobal

April 4, 2012

Just Focus Baby, Please: Fuji X Pro 1: the awakening of classic photojournalism: real world image samples: occupy wall street, union square

opener_Occupy2_2294_1

One day Oscar Barnack got tired of lugging around 8×10 cameras, photography was just a hobby after all, he worked as an engineer in the motion picture department of Leitz and came up with the glorious idea to double the standard cine frame (18x24mm), got a small box, attached a prime lens to cover the full frame he had now, ditched his heavy monster of a camera and never looked back. The year was 1913 and Oscar had just created the Ur Leica. WW1 delayed things a bit but by 1925 Leitz started mass production of the little 24x36mm box and offered it to the public. Suddenly photographers were able to tell stories and photojournalism was born. Just in time for WW2. And after it was over, Robert Capa, one of best known war photographers of all times, founded Magnum photo in 1947 with Henri Cartier-Bresson. The past harmonizes ;)
2:40:01pm, UPS just delivered the Fuji X Pro 1, the 35mm 1.4 and the 18mm 2.0 from BH.
2:40:29pm, Battery is charging.
2:50:11pm, the battery is at 2 bars and I am heading out to see what’s happening at Union Square.
5:35:35pm, finished with my first shoot. Camera was set to Raw+jpeg fine, uploaded jpegs, slightly cropped with minor tweaks for the color shots, and higher contrast for the b/w. Full set after the break

Everybody counts or nobody counts
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bOccupy2_2095
cOccupy1_1998_1
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eOccupy2_2120_1
fOccupy2_2135_1
gOccupy2_2275_1
hOccupy2_2280_1
iOccupy1_1971_1
jOccupy1_2016_1
kOccupy2_2344_1
LOccupy2_2422_1
mOccupy2_2443_1
nOccupy2_2365_1
oOccupy1_2039
pOccupy2_2184_1

I hope you enjoy the photos, I will update this post tomorrow morning and tell you about my impressions from today with the Fuji X Pro 1.
Gute Nacht.
Guten Morgen. Sometimes, the past harmonizes with the present :)
But before I tell you what I think about the Fuji X Pro 1 let my tell you a little bit about my experience with rangefinder cameras and then I will get straight to the point. After winning a major photography award back in the days I purchased the Leica M4-2 (made in Canada) and the Summicron 35mm 2.0. I would take it everywhere and it became my favorite camera for the next couple of years. I loved it so much that I even broke it three times. Won a few more awards and my work from that period made it into the MOMA in Vienna. Over the following years I ended up shooting with the Mamiya 7, Voigtlander Bessa and Fuji medium format rangefinders.

The Fuji X Pro 1 is a rangefinder-like camera and has nothing in common with the Leica M except for appearance and shutter sound.
All the same, I snapped into rangefinder mode and felt right at home with the Fuji X Pro 1.
The Good:
I am a left eyed shooter and this is a blessing when using the Fuji – in case you want to switch AF points, the AF point select button is in the right place. Fuji’s hybrid viewfinder is my favorite way of looking at the world, bar none, the reasons are obvious. A) I can observe what is going on outside the frame while composing. B) I can get instant feedback via EVF without removing the camera from my eye. Parallax line indicators and selectable AF points.
The camera does not look or feel like a digital camera and I have noticed my subjects positive reaction towards the Fuji. The shutter sound is quiet and pleasant. The shutter speed dial can be locked (unnecessary, IMHO) and +- dial have the right resistance. Aperture ring on the lens.
When the X Pro 1 nails the AF it REALLY nails it.
Sure looks like this is the best APSC sized sensor to date.
No noticeable moire during this shoot.
The files are phenomenal, download the originals from flickr and examine at 100%. (set up for this shoot ISO 100 to 3200). Both, the 18mm and 35mm lenses are fantastic for my type of work. The 35mm 1.4-tack sharp wide open- produces the most delicious bokeh rivaling FF cameras. The 18mm is also tack sharp in the center (wide open), a great compact wide angle and it will stay on the body until Fuji releases the 14mm lens:)
The Not So Good:
One afternoon of shooting and the camera froze a few times on start up and went comatose while in sleep mode.
The AF select button would benefit from a lock, too easy to change accidentally, I had to gaffa tape it. Lack of buffer depth, I used a Class 10 HCI SD card and ran into trouble a few times shooting RAW+JPG fine. Mounting a quick release plate on the camera for tripod/monopod/bracket use will block the battery/SD compartment.
For right eyed shooters, the AF point select button is in the wrong place. Easily fixable with the next firmware update, allow to reassign functions to different buttons. Aperture’s cricket noise, unless wide open. For some of you the lack of raw support won’t be such a big deal since the camera produces beautiful jpegs. For others, including myself, this belongs in the ugly category.
The Ugly:
Oh baby, please, just focus! There was nothing challenging to focus on during this shoot, plenty of contrast and texture, nonetheless, I can’t recall a shoot in recent years with so many mis-focused images. This is serious, my friends, because the best sensor/lens/hybrid viewfinder won’t matter if the images are blurry! I am at a loss for words here, there is really nothing I can say except, Fuji, PLEASE try your best to improve it with the next firmware and use a much better AF module in your next model. I love the camera but the current state of AF disqualifies it for the type of work I would want to shoot with it.

If you are seriously lusting over the Fuji X Pro 1 I highly recommend ordering it from a reputable dealer with a good return policy or if you have the chance just check it out at a local store before purchasing it, make sure AF performance is not a problem for you. I can totally see a variety of situations where it won’t matter and the files this beautiful machine produces are breathtaking. Update: I still love the camera, two days later, maybe even a little more :) and have decided to keep it, I will work around the slow/unreliable AF, the only serious flaw and hope Fuji will give us a firmware update very soon.

I already received two private messages asking if I would recommend the Sony Nex 7 over the X Pro 1. I am planning to do a comparison between the two, getting busy with work though should be done with in the next two weeks.
All I can say for now if you currently own a descent DSLR, chances are you will not be happy with the AF performance.

I will be updating this post over the next couple of weeks and share my experience with the Fuji X Pro 1. Let me know what your findings are, don’t hesitate to post here and ask questions.

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Filed under: City Life,Gear Reviews — mike.kobal @ 10:14 pm

19 Comments »

  1. Amazing…..the XPro 1 is a time machine. Are you sure this isn’t Berkeley in 1967??

    Comment by William Kincy — April 5, 2012 @ 12:03 am

  2. :) thanks William, haha, only the AF is 1967

    Comment by mike.kobal — April 5, 2012 @ 5:55 am

  3. […] (Click here) tested the X PRO 1. First image samples from Mike Kobal (Click here). Stuck in Dulles with my Fujifilm X-Pro1 by Brandon Remler (Click […]

    Pingback by New X100 firmware updated and next X PRO reviews… - Fuji Rumors — April 5, 2012 @ 3:17 pm

  4. I completely agree with your assessment. I SO want to love this camera – it’s very nearly perfect. If it weren’t for the unbelievably terrible autofocus and the bizarre “chatter” that the lens emits is maddening. They’re so close to amazing. I hope their firmware updates can improve it enough.

    Comment by Steve Goldenberg — April 5, 2012 @ 9:14 pm

  5. still happy with my x100 and glad that i can’t change lenses- saves me money ;-)

    Comment by chris — April 7, 2012 @ 5:57 pm

  6. I have enjoyed reading your blog, you have called it the way it really is, most of the other sites have sugar coated the xpro1 system.
    I own the Fuji x pro and have just recently returned all the fujinon lenses, I miss the 35mm performance at 1.4 but not enough
    to keep it. I ordered the Kipon adapter and Im using Leica lenses on the xpro1. I have to say This was the best move ever!!!
    I crank up the iso to 3200 shoot f11 or F16 and can shoot in the focus zone, its much more reliable than the AF,
    or to focus through the viewfinder its quick plus you have the zoom to confirm focus, this beats the M9 in the dark for
    focusing. My suggestions to anyone having trouble with the AF is dump the fuji lenses and go with an adapter to manual focus lenses ( leica, contax, etc) If used correctly this camera will shine!!!

    Comment by GS — April 8, 2012 @ 11:51 am

  7. thanks much GS! I agree totally, Robert Frank, Lee Freedlander, Gary Winogrand, William Klein, to mention a few, used zone focusing with their Leica M cameras, the most popular way back in the days to get the shot. For shallow depth of field there was medium and large format. Glad to hear you found a solution to take advantage of this otherwise incredible camera, I will definitely give it a try and order the Kipon adapter and slam on a 28mm and hit the streets :)

    Comment by mike.kobal — April 8, 2012 @ 12:13 pm

  8. I’ve been also frustrated with the auto focus of the XP1. And I too pray for a firmware fix. However, how good can they make it. Only an incremental change like the X100? This is low light machine that seems doomed by a poor – bad – engineering decision to only have contrast detection for a focus mechanism. I’d say Fuji needs to stop being cheap with inexperienced engineers that don’t know how to make or match a focus system for a camera’s capabilities.

    Comment by Mike — April 9, 2012 @ 5:25 pm

  9. Barnack never used a 8×10″ camera. But that’s just a detail…

    Comment by Herocon — April 10, 2012 @ 5:55 pm

  10. and you know this for a fact? Very little is known about his life, the desire for a smaller camera due to his poor health inspired him to invent the Ur Leica

    Comment by mike.kobal — April 10, 2012 @ 6:38 pm

  11. As to the 8×10 in the image at the top
    Look closely; Anybody notice there’s an image on the ground glass on the 8×10…
    It appears to be “right”side up; instead of upside down.
    The film holder and both dark slides are in place.

    Is there a Walmart color 8×10 print incorrectly slipped under the ground glass for show?

    clever…

    Comment by Frank — April 16, 2012 @ 11:18 pm

  12. Guys do you think there will be a canon mount for the xpro1?

    EF lenses obviously.

    Comment by Dan — April 18, 2012 @ 1:02 am

  13. Dan, already exists, do a search on ebay Fuji x pro 1 canon adapter

    Comment by mike.kobal — April 18, 2012 @ 6:54 am

  14. yup, of course, noticed it during the shoot, I didn’t talk to the Lady photographer as she appeared to be in a sour mood and she didn’t even have to deal with Fuji’s crappy auto focus!

    Comment by mike.kobal — April 18, 2012 @ 7:04 am

  15. oh boy, do I feel you aggravation.
    After my recent trip through Europe carrying a FF DSLR and 2 fast zooms I realized that a 20 lb camera bag was too much to carry. I just got the fuji x-pro-1 and am delighted with the form, weight and image quality. … but the focus lag issue is a real problem when shooting people pictures. People’s expressions and eye contact are a fleeting, momentary thing. With this camera, if you are not pre focused and ready for the MOMENT you are f**cked.
    That being said, A new Leica with three lenses costs about as much as a new automobile so I am determined to find a way to work with the x-pro-1.
    scale focusing is an option… it was what I started with when I first borrowed my father’s circa 1950 Kodak Retina folding 35mm.

    Comment by chris.bushnell — April 21, 2012 @ 11:12 pm

  16. yup, scale focusing works very well with the X Pro1, I use it all the time, esp with the 18mm.

    Comment by mike.kobal — April 22, 2012 @ 6:40 am

  17. power save is off +image review is off … much faster and more natural shooter this way for me.

    Comment by chris.bushnell — April 23, 2012 @ 10:35 pm

  18. I’ve had my Xpro 1 for about three weeks now, and I wouldn’t dream of sending it back. It is the *best* digital camera I have ever owned. Image quality is simply stunning! And I for one like the way it handles.

    I find most of the complaints about the ‘slow’ auto-focus to be much-ado-about-nothing. While this camera certainly does not have the autofocus speed of the latest, high-end dslrs, it is still more than adequate. I would also add that the Xpro 1 blows many dslrs when it comes to focus *accuracy*. If you’re expecting Nikon af speed, then your expectations are out of place.

    And what about manual focus? Those who have complained about the ‘focus by wire’ system do not understand the design of this camera. When in manual focus mode you should hit the af-l button, and only then ‘fine tune’ the focus with (or without) the ‘zoom’ feature. My macro shoots have been dead-on using this technique.

    This is not a camera for the ‘spray-and-pray’crowd, to be sure. However, for those who want exceptional IQ without lugging around many pounds of equipment, it is a very attractive alternative. It is also an attractive alternative for those who don’t want to spend $7-10K on a piece of photographic jewelry (Leica M9)

    Comment by Phil — April 24, 2012 @ 10:54 am

  19. Hi Phil, thanks for taking the time to post here. I am glad to hear the xpro1 works for you, I wish I could say the same for myself. As I pointed out in my latest post, I would be willing to work around the slow af, I also like the way mf works with native fuji lenses, really nothing to complain about, esp for zone focusing. Focus peaking is still a feature I would like to see implemented with the next firmware upgrade, essential when using 3rd party or vintage glass. As always, my posts reflect my personal views on things. On this particular shoot however, I lost many good shots due to af issues and if it had been an assignment, this would be a major FAIL. FWIW, I don’t consider myself a spray and pray shooter :)

    Comment by mike.kobal — April 24, 2012 @ 11:20 am

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