Fuji X-Pro 1… Another Fuji Misfire?

A while back ( around the time of the launch of the X10) Fuji stated they were serious about getting into the upper echelons of the prime camera bracket.

Obviously with the arrival of the X-Pro 1 and with it pitched into the same market as the Leica M9 it was supposed to be a more affordable alternative to the much more expensive M9 ( $10500.00 NZD). For US dollars deduct about 20% on the NZ price and you are close to what an M9 costs in other countries.

It therefore appears that Fuji’s X-Pro 1 will sit squarely in the middle of the Leica range, and as it offers video support as well as a series of interchangeable lenses it should appeal to the enthusiast who likes the look and feel of a rangefinder style camera. And with its distinctive retro styling whats not to like?

Well quite a bit as it turns out. Some reviewers have noted that it definitely isn’t a compact camera (no surprise really) and that its somewhat bulky. Fuji have also touted the camera as a “Pro” level camera but I have serious doubts about that. I think there are better “Pro” alternatives in the market place than the Fuji.

Lets assume that we are going to go the whole hog and set up a new X-Pro 1 system and do away with all our other cameras. So heres a list of items that a “Pro” might well consider when buying a X-Pro 1:

Fujifilm Finepix X-Pro1 16.0MP body $2,580.00
Fujifilm XF18mm f2.0 lens $870.00
Fujifilm XF35mm f1.4 lens $870.00
Fujifilm XF60mm f2.4 lens $870.00
Fujifilm EF-X20 TTL Flash $375.00
Fujifilm LC-XPro1 Leather Case $279.00
Fujifilm HG-XPro1 Hand Grip $185.00
Fujifilm NP-W126 Battery $140.00

Our thanks to Photo & Video International for these prices.

Thats a total of $6169.00NZD or approximately $4935.00USD. In terms of pro -gear and the cost its not excessive, a new Canon 5D MkIII with a 24-105mm lens will set you back $6399.00NZD and the new Canon 1DX body only is a cool $9900.00 NZD, therefore in terms of cost for a pro photographer the outlay isn’t huge.

Dpreview did a review of the X-Pro -1 back in June this year. You can find the article here, http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/fujifilm-x-pro1

While the list of lenses isn’t over the top price wise the range is very limited. There is a suggestion that a telephoto lens is on the way but as yet details are very sketchy. Prices are rumoured to be about $1200.00 NZD. We will have to await any announcements from this years Photokina, or from Fuji directly.

While the Dpreview reviewers find the X-Pro 1 a pretty decent camera and gave it a rating of 79%, I think this is overly generous. With a camera of this class, I expect, not hope for, top quality AF and manual focus. I would also expect the Auto ISO function to work accurately, not to mention the fact that the Histogram doesn’t work in manual mode. You have gotta be kidding right? Even my lowly HS20 and s1000fd have a live histogram in manual mode. A pro-photographer isn’t going to take that too well when wanting to check exposure values before pressing the shutter. What were the Fuji techs thinking? Then there’s the advent of no Face detection AF. WTF? Again my lowly HS20EXR has face detection AF. In point of fact it can do multi face detection Af.

Another thing that is important for pro and enthusiast photographers is the depth of field gauge or scale. Even my Pentax MZ-6 SLR has a rudimentary version of this. In a Pro level camera this needs to work and work properly and as statemed in the review this is basically inaccurate and useless.

For me at least you can have all the image quality in the world, coupled with a very solidly built retro styled rangefinder camera, but if it cant focus and do what you would expect a DSLR a quarter of its price to do then what you end up with is another expensive door stop. Sound harsh? Perhaps but if the brakes of your brand new Audio only worked one pedal press in four you wouldn’t accept that now would you? So why would you accept a camera that is poor in performance with some pretty serious limitations? At the price point of this camera and given its limitations I doubt that you would.

It seems on reflection the the Fuji engineers really haven’t learn’t from there mistakes with the painfully slow x100. It’s all very well to have stellar image quality but you have to be able to capture the image in this lifetime, and at present that’s not really an option with the X-Pro 1. Yes there are those, just as there are with the X100 that are happy to work around or put up with these limitations and kudos to them. I for one aren’t. If you produce a premium grade product and advertise it as such, then it damn well better live up to the hype.

This then leads us back to the statement that Fuji desires to be taken as a serious contender in the market place. I applaud their innovation with the mid and upper level camera ranges. I don’t mind paying for a premium product providing that’s what I get. Unfortunately that’s not what you get with the current batch of X Series cameras, and Fuji needs to acknowledge this and set the bar a lot higher for its design and engineering teams. Good quality imagery and design is being let down by some very poor implementations, and the QC needs to be held accountable as well.

I haven’t a clue as to how much longer Fuji enthusiasts are willing to forgive them these  problems, but sending back faulty cameras doesn’t help. Once again we approach the time of year when we hear what Fuji has in-store for the next generation of cameras. Hopefully markedly better versions of what we have now.

2 weeks from hell!!

I seldom if ever get a cold and up till the end of last month this remained true.

Unfortunately 2 weeks ago I happened to be working on a clients house who had the nastiest cold virus I have ever encountered. I’ve had the flu ( genuine article) in the past and while this didn’t put me in bed for a week it did all but incapacitate me for four days. To make matters worse I had to work as well and that didn’t help.

After starting to feel better on day four my wife started to come down with the virus as well as my daughter and daughter in law. My son moved home to finish his studies at a local poly-tech and his good lady has been incapacitated since last Friday.

Unfortunately my wife still smokes ( only 2 or 3 a day now) but the virus has affected her so badly that she is showing signs of bronchitis and we are off to the doctor today.

Needless to say that not a lot has happened here at the blog for a while, and to make matters worse I’m starting a new job this week and we still don’t have the house reorganised for the extra people here now. So make sure if you have the flu virus vaccine available in your health system you get them. While this wasn’t a full blown flu attack its a very good reminder of why you should get the vaccine shot regardless of your current health status.

On a brighter note, over the coming weeks I will be doing a review of the iPad, iPad2 as well as one of the current Samsung smartphones to see how they compare photographically to your HS20 or other Fuji cameras.

Some of the functionality , features and resolution of the iPad has certainly made me want to take a second look at these pieces of technology.

Site Update

Progress so far.

Although it may not be evident approximately 1/3 of the content has now been shifted here to our new home. On the Main index page all entries under the cameras heading are now done.

All topics under the HS20 are now done. The HS10 & HS20 review sections will be next.

Fuji HS30 & X series are also done.

Camera accessories is done as well.

As well as the two sections mentioned above everything from image series down is still to be transported. At this point I have approx 45% of the old site transferred here. As always all new posts will continue to be posted here at the new site.

Using Macro Lens Filters & The HS20 – Pt1.

For HS10, HS20 And The HS30

Recently I posted  that I had received some Macro Lens Filters courtesy of my daughter when she came back from the UK. I had originally seen these referred to from a forum member at MyFinePix Forums, and I was impressed with the results that he had posted. As I’m a fan of Macro Photography, both mine and other folks as well I ordered some from E-Bay UK, and had then posted to my daughter who was a at Lancaster University at the time, finishing off part of her degree. Macro photography has long been a strength of the Fuji Bridge/super-zoom cameras, and with the advent of the manual zoom/focus lens that many of the better Fuji bridge cameras sport, it makes for some very interesting imagery.

For the first set of images I had the camera set to EXR DR, @3:2 (7mp), Auto ISO 400 and Auto DR 400%. Depending upon angle of light and amount of zoom Ev was adjusted accordingly to ensure proper light levels. This would also require changing the metering to suit.

Other settings used were Velvia for color, noise reduction set to low and sharpness set to low. Ordinarily on a brightly lit subject I would leave sharpness set to hard, but as we are introducing extra lens elements into the system I wanted to get the most from Post Processing for sharpness.

The 7 Mp setting was a brain-fart as I didn’t check the settings initially. All other images are shot in EXR HR @ 16Mp. This is the reason for changing the sharpness setting. I also used ISO100 as well, and while this limits the amount of DR% range it does allow me latitude in the post processing. If I was shooting this sequence in RAW, there would be no changes in settings other than the RAW itself.

I find that the HS20 shot in 4:3 mode at 16Mp with the settings I’ve listed here gives a Jpeg that’s very similar in nature and look to the RAW output of the HS20. The HS10 & HS30 will differ somewhat from these settings given the different sensors and their inherent sensitivities.

So what sort of outcome was achieved? The results were interesting to say the least. All these images were handheld with the Image stabilisation set to full. Normally I have I.S. set to shooting only, but given the large magnification factor I opted for full settings here. To start with we have a standard 24mm wide angle of a leaf from a plant growing by the back door. Interestingly the camera missed focus, as it was set to average for the shot.

That’s the first thing to remember, metering! The focus area when set in average is quite large (approx 1/3 of the image area). Spot is a much better option for this type of work as it narrows the area for the AF to work with considerably.

Click on the images for a full resolution image. Be warned though that they are large and may take a few seconds to load.

Standard 24mm wide angle

Next up is a standard Macro shot taken from approx 9 inches (229mm) distance from the subject. At this point you cant really see the subject, although I could when the sun was in the right spot in relation to where I was sitting. The subject is tiny.

7Mp standard macro

Next up is a standard supermacro both a before & after post processing version.

supermacro @ 7mp-after
7mp-Supermacro- before
+10 lens @7mp – before
+10 @7 Mp – After

Its at this point that a few things become evident rather quickly after viewing the +10 images. In the supermacro image, at ISO400 and after post processing the image is good. No real eveidence of chromatic abberation  shows up (think purple fringing), but the noise level and slight granulation of the image isnt that good. Resolution isnt too bad but an image of this size wont necessarily standup to large print sizes.

With the images of the +10 filter it clearly evident that chromatic abberation is an issue and is evidenced very clearly in the processed image. Resolution isn’t terribly great at this point and depth of field is quite shallow. At first glance you may wonder why you would bother with this type of Macro Filter. A lot of the image quality problems associated with these images arent in fact due to the filter, but the fact that the camera is choosing too high an ISO, isn’t producing good resolution and image quality is suffering. Setting the camera to 8Mp in Dr had little or no effect. This is one of the clearest indicators I’ve seen to date that show how much resolution is lost when using EXR DR.

At this point you may be wondering what I mean in regard to resolution, but thats precisely what HR mode is all about. EXR HR is the mode you use when you want to record every possible detail the sensor is capable of for a given set of settings. It goes without saying that the HS20 is best at ISO100, and thats where things change considerably, and will be the focus of the next part of this article.

Oh and the target subject hasn’t yet been resolved in these images. One thing however that will be instantly clear to the sharp eyed among us is just how good these filters are at creating really nice Bokeh. By comparison the backgrounds in the standard macros were very busy. This can be improved by altering zoom and distance from the camera to your subject.

In the next part of this article I will repeat the process but with optimal settings.