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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Fun & Frustrating Fuji X Pro-1

First of all I should tell you that I love looking through a lens to compose and shoot. I have always been partial to reflex cameras, and 4X5 ground glass viewing for that matter, and the few times in the past I have tried rangefinder cameras I was quick to give them up. The little focusing squares in the viewfinder would drive me bananas. In the early 70's I tried the Nikon S2 and SP cameras. I liked that the controls were the same as the Nikon Ftn I had at the time, but the focusing and parallax issues were distracting, I could not work fast. I am also one of those guys who tries to use every millimeter of the frame for composition. You might be surprised but I find I do very little cropping when I know where the frame boundaries are. 

Two years ago I had a brief love affair with the Leica M9. I loved the size, the images were fantastic and the Leica glass, well, do I need to tell you? Again, I was vexed by the RF and less than a year after shelling out way too many shekels I bid it farewell. 

Fast forward to March 2013. After a stint with the Sony X-100, waaaay too small for my big mitts, I acquired a Fuji X Pro-1 kit. I traded my last Nikon camera, a D600 and a couple of lenses and flash, for the X-1 and four lenses. 
As I always do - because contemporary cameras are too complex for a geezer like myself - I spent a lot of time with camera in left hand and camera manual in right. Given the complexities and myriad features of today's crop of optical computers, I find it takes me about two weeks to be comfortable with a new camera and two months before I know it inside and out. Lest you think I am a bit addle-brained, I work with three systems that have almost nothing in common; the Fuji, the Canon 1Dx and 5DIII and the Leica S2. Yes, it may seem like an embarrassment of riches, but I use the Canon and Leica in my work and the Fuji for more personal endeavors like our recent extended weekend trip to Chicago. 

I have now had the Fuji kit for almost two months. I find it both fun and incredibly frustrating. I pick ergonomic nits with almost all cameras. I took the Canon 5D III to task for not having exposure compensation in a dedicated hard switch on the body as the Canon 1Dx does. Speaking of lack of similarity in the same line, especially the two top Canon cameras, does it not occur to engineers that the the photographer who buys a 1Dx may not want to spend as much on a backup (I didn't) and use a 5DIII for that purpose? Would it be so hard to make the controls more similar in the pro models? But, I digress. Back to the Fuji X Pro-1. 

Second, let me say that the images I get from the Fuji are outstanding. It has the finest APC sized sensor that I have used. Color rendering is wonderful and the sharpness is as well. All of the Fuji lenses I have, the 14MM, 35MM, 18-55 zoom and the 60 macro are top notch, both in output and build quality. No complaints there. Wait, there is one. It is too easy to knock the 14MM out of auto mode into manual exposure. There should be a locking button on the aperture ring to keep it in the "A" position like Nikon's AFD lenses.

The body is nicely sized, almost identical to the Leica M9, just a few grams lighter. The construction feels robust, it is a comfortable camera to hold, especially with the RRS grip on it. The shutter release button and shutter speed dials are in proper retro position and the exposure compensation dial (Canon, please note, dial, not button) is as conveniently located as possible. So far so good, so what do I find vexing? 

The "Q" button, a great idea, but in the wrong place. It is too easy to hit the button with the lower part of one's thumb when gripping the camera for a shot, bringing up the quick menu instead of an image on the LCD or within the hybrid viewfinder. One must hit the button again to get back to the viewing screens. I have had exposure interruptus too many times due to this design. The "Q" button could be located below the thumb rest next to the menu button,  a much safer position. 

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