The brand new X-Pro1 is Fujifilm's flagship digital camera, the ultimate device for old-school hobbyists who crave the style and mechanical control of classic cams. Do not be fooled by the retro design, performance is absolutely state of the art. This camera lit up our labs with some of the best scores of the year, solidifying the X-Pro1 as far more than a simple gimmick, but rather a legitimate contender to the very top of the line.
Announced and released alongside the X-Pro1 were three prime lenses to fit the camera's new X-mount. We tested two of them, the 18mm f/2.0 and the 35mm f/1.4, and did some sample shooting with the third, a 60mm f/2.4 macro. All three seem to have been constructed with the same precision and care as the camera itself, leaving us with a very satisfying, albeit very expensive package.
They don't make 'em like they used to, and Fujifilm has fully adopted this message, extending the philosophy not only to the design style of their first mirrorless camera, but to the quality of its construction as well. The X-Pro1 is the finest Fujifilm model currently available, and a surprise contender for first place in many of our image quality lab tests.
Of course it's no longer true to call the X-Pro1's retro inspiration "groundbreaking." After all, Fuji has already found success with their X100 and X10 cameras, not to mention similar efforts by the Olympus PEN series and now their new E-M5. However the X-Pro1 is certainly the best of this new generation of old-school cameras, thanks largely to the performance of three new "X-mount" lenses: one for macro or portrait photography, one for wide angle landscapes, and one for a bit of both. We were consistently amazed by the razor-sharp detail produced by each lens, all of which are primes (meaning fixed-zoom) and therefore less vulnerable to ugly distortion effects such as chromatic aberration.
Color rendition was also remarkable. When using the most accurate color mode (or "Film Simulation" mode, for Fuji cameras), test scores surpassed even juggernauts like the Canon 5D Mark III, meaning human subjects will look especially realistic. Rates of unwanted image noise were also relatively low, and better than close competition like the Sony NEX-7 or Olympus E-M5, even at the sky-high maximum sensitivity level. This, combined with the lens family's wide-open apertures, as well as some very strong dynamic range, makes the X-Pro1 an ideal camera for low light photography.
But if there's one feature that symbolizes the X-Pro1's fusion of classic and cutting-edge, that's got to be the new hybrid-viewfinder. While it's possible to frame your shots using the no-frills optical mode, an alternate and much cooler method is the heads-up display that overlays relevant data, sort of like a fighter jet cockpit. Even though the camera's rear LCD monitor is of very high quality, you'll find the viewfinder is simply too impressive to ignore. The third and final mode is fully electronic, for the most accurate framing, and all three options are toggled by a mechanical lever.
In fact just about everything on this camera is controlled by a mechanical lever, or manual dial, or rotating ring. That's what makes the X-Pro1 so much fun. While the phenomenal images are certainly rewarding in their own right, actually getting out there to shoot with this camera is as empowering as it is convenient. There's something about clicking a manual aperture ring into place that a software menu just can't replicate, and so much control at your fingertips makes for a more painless experience too. Beginners may be overwhelmed, but photography purists will fall in love with the design.
No camera is perfect, obviously, and neither is this one. We had some trouble handling the body because the rear panel is so crowded with buttons. The decision to place both the AE/AF-L button and the quick menu button directly onto the thumb rest was a bad one in our opinion. Video recording is the most significant drawback of all. Fujifilm's new "X-Trans" sensor design is clearly outstanding for resolving detail, but the tradeoff is distracting, artifacted video footage. This camera is purely for stills.
Ultimately the Fujifilm X-Pro1 is an exemplary marriage of form and function, at once taking advantage of both proven, traditional manual control, as well as modern technological advantages. Although the asking price is steep at $1700 for just the body, that money goes to quality, not novelty; and the lenses are sharp enough to easily justify their $600-650 cost. We enthusiastically recommend the X-Pro1 for anyone longing for some hands-on photography or, for that matter, anyone interested in sharp, gorgeous pictures.