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Hands-on with the X-Pro 1: Streamlined controls and bright lenses in the same stylish package

x pro 1Today, we went hands-on with the much-anticipated Fujifilm X-Pro 1. And luckily, the camera isn’t just an X100, plus an interchangeable lens system. In fact, Fujifilm has used the X-Pro 1 has an opportunity to address X100 (and to some degree, X10) complaints and improve on the device–which, of course, comes at a steep price in the form of some serious sticker shock. 

To give you an idea, the X-Pro 1 is definitely larger than the X100, but most of this can be attributed to its lenses. It’s also somewhat heavier, with the same sturdy, hefty magnesium alloy body that the original X-series has had. Buttons and dials have been altered, and new controls added. But there are a few distinct upgrades that bear mentioning.  

First of all, Fujifilm made no qualms about the fact that the X100 was not praised for its in-camera menu UI. Which is putting it mildly: while we were fans of the camera, we found its interior controls alienating. To that end, the brand has a new menu system with its built in “Q” (which stands for quick) button. This pulls up everything within the camera you would want to manually adjust, and the toggle on the upper right hand of the back of the X-Pro 1 will allow you to determine settings once you’re here. 

The X-series is inarguably for photographers who know what they’re doing. No one is going to spend that much money to put the camera on auto and go. So some loyalists might say that the Q button is just dumbing things down for strugglers, but it does address another issue that critics had with the menu. Navigating wasn’t fast, and you spent time toiling through adjustments when you should have been shooting. It’s a new shortcut that makes things go that much smoother.

Of course Fujifilm outfitted the X-Pro 1 with its hybrid viewfinder. The mechanism still includes the instant switch between OVF and EVF, and also detects your eye movement to determine whether you’re looking at the LCD or the viewfinder. But now that the camera has lenses to communicate with, your options have been opened. Lens data is sent to the viewfinder, and the X-Pro 1 adjust depending on what type of lens you’re using. Picture is also much crisper and cleaner, and any of the distortion (which we found to be minor) in the X100 is gone–you definitely don’t have any edge manipulation going on here. It’s brighter and extremely easy to read, and we’d imagine that these upgrades would be getting more attention if they didn’t have the whole interchangeable lens system to compete over hype with.  

The camera’s sensor and X-mount system are to thank for the X-Pro 1’s DSLR quality stills and noise tackling capabilities. Here’s the thing: every micro four-thirds, ICL, mirrorless camera maker has been busy making noise about how their systems take DSLR quality photos. But the full-frame DSLR distinction is rarely made, and that’s because for the most part they can’t reach this level of quality. The X-Pro 1 has focused on cutting down on noise by revolutionizing how color filters lay out over the pixels, using an irregular pattern which suppresses color moire. Maybe it can’t compete when it comes to pixels (it has a 16-megapixel APS-C X-Trans CMOS sensor versus 20+ megapixel sensors in DSLRs) but the megapixel war is over and we all know that more doesn’t necessarily mean better.  

While the X-Pro is faster in combination with large apertures than the X100, it’s still not a faster camera. And Fujifilm admits that, saying this isn’t going to appease sports and action photographers. But for all its universal, ICL appeal, it’s still a niche product for street, portrait, and wedding photographers. 

It’s sure to become a favorite for this demographic, and the addition of lenses makes it a more worthwhile investment–because like the X100, there’s a serious upfront cost. The X-Pro 1 will (likely) sell for $1,700. While some manufacturers are trying to make their mirrorless devices more accessible, Fujifilm is clearly all about the professional segment. But the high cost with the X-Pro 1 makes more sense to us than the $1,200 of the X100, which boxes you in with its fixed lens.

On that note, we asked if the X-Pro 1’s release would herald a price cut for the X100. At the moment, the camera is still in incredibly high demand, so don’t expect to hear about slashed price tags next week, but we were told that Fujifilm thinks it’s in the cards. 

Clearly, Fujifilm wants to appeal to serious photographers with the series, and for good reason. Consumers are getting smarter and more interested in photography, both good things for the high-end camera market. While the brand won’t entirely forsake the entry-level point and shoot lineup, we were told that it’s taken note of the improving attention and abilities of digital camera consumers, and to that end investment in its X-series improvements and additions.