Picking the Fujifilm X-Pro1 up for the first time the first thing that strikes you about it is the size; by no means is it a small camera. Indeed, compared to its immediate APS-C touting compact system rivals such as the Samsung NX200 or Sony NEX-7, the X-Pro1 is by far the biggest of the bunch. If you're planning on going out all day with it then You’ll almost certainly need a camera bag to carry it around as it’s too big for all but the largest of coat pockets. The bag itself needn’t be all that huge though.
Despite the bulk and the not inconsiderable weight that comes with it, the X-Pro1 really does feel like a premium camera. Build quality is superb, with an all-metal outer casing finished off with solid metal Shutter speed and EV compensation dials. The camera’s unashamedly retro design is further enhanced by the faux leather finish used on other X-Series models – and indeed just about any 35mm film camera from the 1960s onwards. Taking this retro theme even further is the internally threaded shutter button that allows you to attach a threaded shutter-release cable.
On the front there’s a low-profile rubberised moulded finger grip that actually offers far more purchase than it looks to have any right to. Indeed, we found that it enabled us to get quite a comfortable hold of the camera. One-handed operation is just about possible, although you’re undoubtedly better off using two hands – especially given that the X-Pro1 lacks any built-in image stabilisation.
Start-up is all but instantaneous, with the X-Pro1 going from being switched off to focused and ready-to-shoot in a fraction under two seconds which is pretty impressive even for a CSC. Continuous shooting, meanwhile tops out at a respectable 6fps with the camera able to record around 12 consecutive full-res JPEGs before the buffer fills and the camera begins to slow down. Switching over to Raw capture brings this figure down to around 8-10 depending on the complexity of the scene.
Autofocus is taken care of via a 49-point module that covers the vast majority of the viewfinder, with only a small patch on the extreme edges that’s not covered. The focus box can be assigned to any of these points which allows for all kinds of creative focusing possibilities – especially with the f/1.4 lens attached. Autofocus speed itself isn’t at all bad, although it’s not as fast as some other compact system cameras we’ve tested recently. There’s no AF tracking mode either, although we’re not going to hold that against the X-Pro1 too much as it isn’t really designed to be a speed-driven camera for capturing fast action with in the first place.
At present there are only three Fujinon XF lenses available for the X-Pro1’s bespoke X-mount, all of which are primes. Our review sample came with a super-fast 35mm f/1.4 optic which we found to be exceptionally sharp as well as bags of fun thanks to the exceptionally shallow depth of field effect it’s capable of producing. Put simply, it’s the kind of lens you can shoot portraits with in which the subject’s eyes are pin sharp while the back of the ears are blurred.
Of course, the lack of dedicated XF lenses along with the fact that they are all primes does mean that the choice of focal lengths available to the X-Pro1 is presently a bit limited. No doubt Fuji will add to the range though and hopefully bring some XF zoom lenses to the table as well. If Fuji can maintain the same high degree of quality with all its XF optics that we’ve seen with the 35mm f/1.4 then they’ll doubtless be worth the wait.
And so to what is undoubtedly the X-Pro1’s trump card: image quality. Put simply, overall image quality is some of the best we’ve ever seen an APS-C camera. The bespoke X-Trans sensor, EXR Processor Pro and Fujinon XF lens all combine to produce JPEGs that are breathtakingly sharp and supremely detailed straight out of camera. Even when viewed at 100% images maintain sharp edges, and reveal stunning amounts of fine detail. Those looking for a camera to regularly make poster-sized prints with will find the X-Pro1 fits the bill nicely.
As with most advanced, enthusiast-targeted cameras the X-Pro1 offers plenty of scope to shape the type of images it will produce via a rich array of image processing customisation options. These are found in the main menu and enable you to adjust sharpness, highlight tones, shadow tones, dynamic range and noise reduction among others. Being a Fuji camera, there’s also the option to choose from a range of Film Simulation styles which, as always, are named after (and mimic the look of) classic 35mm Fuji film stock; with Provia offering lifelike colour, Velvia offering something more vibrant and saturated and Astia something deliberately muted. There’s also a good range of bracketing options available – from basic exposure and ISO bracketing to Film Simulation bracketing.
Metering is taken care of via a TTL 256-zone module that proves consistently reliable. Should you need to you can call upon /-2EV exposure compensation via the solid metal dial that’s located within easy reach of the thumb on the top plate. In addition, there's also a dedicated AE-L/AF-L exposure/focus lock button that can be called upon in trickier lighting conditions. Again, this is found within easy reach of the thumb on the back of the camera. White balance also proves accurate when left in the Automatic position, although you can, of course, force it to the temperature you require.
High ISO is another area in which the X-Pro1 offers class-leading performance, especially in the mid to high settings of ISO 1600 and above, where it’s able to produce cleaner, sharper images than most DSLRs. At lower sensitivity settings of ISO 100 to 800 image noise is all but non-existent as might be expected, but nudge things up to ISO 1600 or 3200 and you’ll be hard pressed to spot any significant deterioration. Even the top standard setting of ISO 6400 produces excellent results with very little in the way of visible noise. Beyond this, at the extended settings of 12,800 and 25,600 some noticeable image degradation does occur, however the fact that you can still get useable images from both settings speaks volumes for the overall quality of the X-Pro1. It’s the kind of camera that image quality purists will quickly fall in love with.
The Fuji X-Pro1 is an enthusiast-level compact system camera that produces class-leading image quality and a really satisfying user experience thanks to its manually operated shutter speed dial and lens-based aperture controls. Those looking for something to shoot fast-moving action with might want to look elsewhere, but for image quality purists, 35mm SLR film veterans and anyone looking for a camera that's as rewarding to use as it it is capable of should give the X-Pro1 serious consideration. While it doesn't come cheap, the X-Pro1 is a serious bit of kit that is sure to reward those who invest in one.