Fuji X-Pro1 arrives

As this is my first blog post of 2014 (yes, I know, I'm a wee bit late to the party but it's been an unusually busy start to the new year, so bear with me) I am really pleased to report that there have been some changes taking place, as well as some really great news to kick the year off with.
First of all, after seeing my review a few weeks ago, I was approached by Cotton Carrier (www.cottoncarrier.com) and asked if I'd like to join their team of Pro Shooters. How could I possibly say 'No' to the opportunity to join thirteen of the worlds top photographers - especially when the only other wedding photographer is none other than Kevin Kubota (one of American Photo magazines Top Wedding Photographers in the World)! Obviously, I jumped at the chance and am proud to support Cotton Carrier and their incredible products (not to mention feeling very humbled to be included among such great photographers).
Next up is the main reason behind this post - I bought a new camera! Big deal, right? Photographers buy new cameras all the time - week in and week out - so what makes this one so special? Well, for me it's the fact that it's the first non-Canon camera I've bought since 1991 (not including an Olympus Mju compact back in the early '90s). It's not a brand new model, in fact it was launched almost two years ago, but it's caused quite a stir in that time. After trying out a friends one and seeing the resulting images I just had to have one. The camera in question is the Fuji X-Pro1 and I have totally fallen in love with it! Now, I'm not going to bore you with all the specs etc. - there have been plenty of reviews in the last two years which will give you that information if you want it - but I would like to share my initial thoughts on it and how it has affected my work.

Based around Fuji's 16.7 megapixel X-Trans sensor, which is designed differently from a conventional Bayer array sensor it negates any need for an anti-aliasing filter. Every review I have read, and every user I've spoken to rave about the incredible image quality this sensor produces and how great the jpegs are straight out of the camera. Obviously, I was a bit skeptical, until I tried it - these jpegs are incredible! They are so good, in fact, that from the jobs I have shot with it I have been happy enough to supply the colour jpegs direct to the clients (or to upload straight to the relevant gallery on my website). There are several film-simulation modes available, for those of us who grew up with rolls of 36-exposure, and although him not a fan of all of them I have found some of them to be quite useful, especially when shooting portraits in the studio vs outdoors (and the black & white with green filter mode is great for Boudoir and Hollywood style portraits!) 
The X-Pro1 lenses have good old, proper aperture rings, which allow you to adjust them as you shoot, a shutter speed dial and an exposure compensation dial. We like dials here, at KSG Towers :) - although I'd have preferred the shutter speed dial to work in 1/3 stop clicks instead of full stops (1/3s are adjustable by pressing the left and right buttons on the back of the camera - not ideal, but nothing's ever perfect, is it?)

The X-Pro1 looks like an old-fashioned rangefinder and the optical viewfinder (OVF) suffers from the same parallax error issues at close range that you would expect from this style of camera. Not that this is a major issue as not only do the focus point and brightline in the OVF adjust to compensate slightly, you also have the LCD screen at the back or the Electronic Viewfinder, which is activated with the flick of a small switch on the front of the camera. The switch is easily accessible while you're framing a shot, so there's no need to take your eye off your subject while you change it. Being a wee bit old-school, I initially dismissed the option of the EVF (almost as quickly as the LCD) but, after trying it out I find myself using it more and more often. It allows for perfect framing of the shot as well as being great for those times when you use manual focus. And therein lies another wee treat, as Fuji's EVF allows 'focus peaking' to create a halo around your subject when it's focused manually. This means that all your old manual-focus lenses can have a new lease of life, via a relatively cheap adapter. To try this out, I invested the princely sum of £12 on a Chinese-made 'EOS-X system adapter' which lets me use my Canon L-lenses at full aperture (there are more expensive models which have a basic aperture control on them and adapters for various other camera systems) as well as my manual-focus Samyang & Rokinon lenses. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that, not only did it work, but that the EVF made focusing even easier than using my DSLRs! This means that my ultra-sharp 85mm f1.4 (my favourite portrait lens) can now be paired with the ultra-sharp Fuji sensor and gives me the equivalent (almost) of a 135mm f1.4 for £12! (it works out at 128mm, but it's close enough). As for Fuji's own lenses, they really have worked wonders with their fast-aperture primes. I have added try 18mm f2, 35mm f1.4 & 60 f2.4 macro to my bag and find that these cover most of the normal focal lengths I tend to use on my DSLRs (28mm, 50mm & 90mm equivalent on a full-frame DSLR). As Fuji continue to roll out some incredible fixed focal length and zoom lenses they really are raising the bar. Small, lightweight, fast-aperture primes are a huge selling point for the X-system (their new 56mm f1.2 is due to be released, and is getting some killer reviews already - imagine a small, lightweight, auto-focus, 85mm equivalent f1.2 portrait lens! I've already heard the phrase 'giant-killer' being used to describe it!)
Whilst the X-Pro1 isn't the fastest kid on the block, it does encourage a more 'considered' approach to shooting. With a huge choice of settings to let you fine-tune your images, film-modes and framing options (3:3, 1:1, 16:9 etc.) it does slow you down a little bit. Now, personally, I see this as a good thing, as I find the number of shots I take on jobs now is less but the number of successful shots has stayed the same. I have also found that it allows me a degree of 'invisibility' as the smaller size and fact that it doesn't look like a 'professional camera' mean that I can blend into a crowd easier than I can when wielding a DSLR - at a recent military event, I was shooting just a couple of feet away from some of my subjects and they never gave me a second look - allowing me to get some really nice candid shots. The shutter noise - or rather, the lack of it - is another added bonus as I no longer resemble an anti-aircraft battery trying to drop an enemy fighter jet! This has got to be a good thing when shooting ceremonies in churches. Speaking of which, the high-ISO capabilities often X-Trans sensor, couple with the 35mm f1.4 lens mean that shots from inside a big, dark church will take on a whole new life. The X-Pro1 has an ISO range of 200-6400 when shooting RAW, or 100-25,600 in jpeg (don't ask me why, but I guess Fuji must have a good reason for it?). I recently compared a 25,600 jpeg straight from the camera against that of a friends 5D Mk2 and the Fuji file was the clear winner. At 6400, the shots are usable and, with a little bit of work in Lightroom, even 25,600 could be used to save the day if you absolutely had to get the shot. (I don't have access to a 5D Mk3 for comparison, sorry)
In just a few, short weeks, the Fuji X-Pro1 has completely sold itself to me as a highly capable, professional tool for weddings and portrait work. I have used it at every opportunity to test it out and whilst there are still some applications where a DSLR will win, I truly believe that Fuji are streets ahead of their competition for the wedding and portrait professional (the weight reduction alone makes a huge difference - I can carry my X-Pro1, 18mm, 35mm, 60mm lenses and iPad in my Billingham Hadley bag all day and feel absolutely no discomfort whatsoever and there are few jobs which you couldn't turn up and shoot properly with that combination).
The number of professionals, and amateurs, who are completely switching from other manufacturers to Fuji is growing every week (and a friend who has been a Nikon user for over 40 years, and who has been building his Fuji-arsenal with an X-Pro1, X100s and X20, has just taken delivery of the first X-T1 to land in Scotland and he tells me that he will be now selling his entire collection of Nikon kit ASAP!) No, I'm not selling all of my Canon kit, but what I will say is that in my never-ending search for the highest image quality for my wedding and portrait clients, I will be adding another Fuji X-system camera to my bag pretty soon to allow me to carry two focal lengths at the ready.
Here are a few sample shots taken over the last five or six weeks. Please feel free to leave any comments or ask any question and I'll do mŷ best to answer them for you.

Shot with the 60mm macro wide-open at f2.4, here's the full shot and a 100% crop:

Shot using candlelight at ISO 6400

Shot with the Samyang 85mm f1.4 at f2.8

This final shot is actually a colour image, straight from the camera. By feathering the light from an octabox, it allowed me to pickout the details of Sams physique while also rendering the image almost monochrome.

Making a fraction of a second... last a lifetime


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