Thursday, March 29, 2012

Fujifilm X-Pro1: Review & Images

Fujifilm X-Pro1, XF 35mm f/1.4 lens, f/4.0 at 1/2 second, ISO 400

The Fujifilm X-Pro1 has finally shipped and I've had a few opportunities now to shoot with a production camera. I am going to be adding more posts on this exciting new camera in the future, but for now I will start with an overview of one of this camera's strengths, focusing on Fujifilm's new "X-Trans" sensor and its tremendous dynamic range.

For those not familiar with the X-Pro1, here are a few links to previous articles where I mentioned it.

First Thoughts: Fujifilm X-Pro1 System

NEW: Fujifilm X-Pro1

For some writings on the X-Pro1's predecessor, search my own blog for X100 related entries.

The X-Pro1 builds on many of the X100's strengths and, for example, boasts a new, improved Hybrid-Viewfinder, which now has an automatic sliding magnifier and allows for optimal viewing magnification with lenses of differing focal lengths. However one of the X-Pro1's biggest improvements is its new X-Trans sensor, featuring a higher resolution at 16 megapixels and seemingly even greater dynamic range than the already excellent sensor in the X100. The X-Pro1's sensor also lacks an anti-aliasing filter which improves the pixel-level sharpness of images. To combat the appearance of moiré, which the slight blurring of an anti-aliasing filter normally prevents, this new sensor has somewhat randomized colour pixels which seem extremely effective at eliminating moiré and appear to work precisely as advertised. In all the shots I took, so far I have never seen even a hint of colour moiré, even in places where I would normally expect to see problems.

For more info on moiré and its potential effect on image quality, see my article here: Nikon D800 or D800E: Which one should you buy?

The single most impressive aspect of this new sensor has got to be its amazing dynamic range. As of this writing, one still cannot open the RAW image files with Photoshop or Lightroom, but even the JPEGs, with a bit of judicious fine tuning of settings in-camera and a bit of post processing in Lightroom, offer up huge amounts of useable dynamic range with resistance to highlight blow-out and gobs of shadow detail.

Take the following shot for example...

Fujifilm X-Pro1, XF 18mm f/2.0 lens, f/11 at 1/280, ISO 400

There was full strength sunlight hitting the white siding of the building near the center of the frame and despite there being an abundance of clean shadow detail in the shaded foreground, there is no blowing out on any of the bright highlights... and this from a JPEG file! I can't wait to run the RAW images through Lightroom once Adobe adds support for the X-Pro1.

The camera has various dynamic range (DR) modes, from Auto-DR to manual DR settings of 100%, 200% and 400%. At its sensor's base ISO of 200, the camera will only operate in DR 100%, but boost the ISO to 400 and you have the option of 100% or 200% DR. At ISO 800 and above, this expands to 100%, 200% or 400%. Even though shooting at ISO 800 to get 400% DR might seem a bit strange (heck, I don't want any ISO 800 noise appearing in my shot, right?!), rest assured that the camera performs very cleanly in low light and at higher ISO settings as well. Here is an available light shot of my father, in a dimly lit restaurant at ISO 3200...

Fujifilm X-Pro1, XF 35mm f/1.4 lens, f/1.4 at 1/40, ISO 3200
You can click on the image to see a larger version (on any of them actually), but even on the original full-size image, there is barely any noise at ISO 3200. Very impressive for a 1.5x, APS-C crop sensor! So as mentioned, if you need the dynamic range, don't hesitate to use one of the expanded DR settings, even though it requires an ISO boost to do so.

Here is another example of the X-Pro1's great dynamic range...

Fujifilm X-Pro1, XF 18mm f/2.0 lens, f/11 at 1/350, ISO 400

Effortless dynamic range from the brightest parts of the clouds to deep shadows! One last dynamic range example with Fujifilm's beautiful colour rendition out in full force...

Fujifilm X-Pro1, XF 18mm f/2.0 lens, f/11 at 1/210, ISO 400
All the examples at ISO 400 were shot at DR 200%, so if you encounter even higher contrast situations than these, you could switch to DR 400% for even more dynamic range. One thing that is very nice about the X-Pro1's JPEG settings, is the ability to adjust the degree of shadow and highlight roll-off. This works to improve the dynamic range as well, and in conjunction with the high DR modes, will give you JPEGS so good that they will equal, or maybe even exceed, the exposure latitude of some DSLR raw files.

So there's the first part of my review. As I shoot more with the camera, I will talk about its operation and its lenses in a future posting. In brief, most of the quirkiness that was apparent in the first version of the X100's firmware seems nowhere to be found. I discovered a few bugs in the X-Pro1's operation, none of which are deal-breakers by any stretch, but generally it seems pretty solid for v1.0 firmware and in fact, it's much more pleasant to use than the X100 already.

It wouldn't be fair not to mention anything about the lenses I suppose, so I'll simply say this: the 35mm and 60mm macro are very near flawless from an optical standpoint. Corner to corner sharpness, pleasing bokeh, virtually no lens aberrations of any sort and extremely flare-resistant as well. The 18mm is a bit weaker optically, with some corner softness and some purple fringing along extreme high contrast edges at wider open apertures. However, across most of the frame, the 18mm is very sharp as well, and it has geometric distortion and flare under tight control. Remember too that these Fujifilm XF autofocus lenses are extremely affordable: the 18mm and 35mm lenses are only $599 each and the 60mm f/2.4 macro is only $649. Since I didn't mention it before, the body is selling for $1,699. All in all, for the level of performance you get from this camera, the pricing is very reasonable if you ask me...

Lastly, for some more sample images (available at higher resolution too), see my Fraser Canyon gallery ... all the colour images were shot with the X-Pro1.

We have limited stock on this new camera system now, as well as a demo unit, so come on in and have a look for yourself! More to come down the road...

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