Journey to the X Pro 1

So I have just traded in a full frame DSLR (Canon 5D mk i), three lens, some extension tubes, a flash gun and my horde of John Lewis vouchers for a Fuji X Pro 1 and two lens.

I have wanted an upgrade for a while, and whilst some of this was gear acquisition syndrome, I had two overriding reasons why I made this move, switching both systems and styles of camera.

One – Whilst the 5D can outshoot a lot of cameras out there, its image quality is starting to suffer when you compare it to what is possible with the current crop of semi pro cameras out there. Even cameras with sensors half the size of the 5D are catching up. I recently rented an Olympus OM-D and was very impressed, I struggled to tell the difference between the EM-5 output and the 5D at times.

Two – I just wasn’t using my 5D and it was sitting there doing nothing whilst I was shooting pretty much everything on my far more portable Panasonic GF1. In fact the 5D was doing one thing, depreciating in value on the second hand market, so now felt like the right time to cash in, but what should I replace it with.

Olympus OM-D

First of all I looked at the Olympus OM-D. I decided to rent it for a week so I could really experience what using the camera was like rather than just going by reviews or a few minutes handling it in a shop. I really wanted to like it as it would mean I could consolidate my bodies and lens around the micro four thirds standard. At the start of my week with the camera, reading the manual on our drive down to the New Forest, I was in love with the OM-D, but by the end I thought we should just be friends. So what happened?

Whilst I did like a lot of the features – particularly the small size, blazingly fast auto focus, articulated screen and good image quality (for a camera with a half frame sensor) – I just didn’t get on with its handling. It was just too small. For example, its buttons were too cramped and didn’t give positive feedback. I found myself hitting the wrong one at key moments or taking the camera away from my eye to see if I had really had the correct setting.

One other reason I had for not going with the OM-D was the image quality (whilst good for a camera with a half frame sensor), it didn’t exceed what I was replacing. And if I was going to drop a lot of money on a new camera I wanted to see some clear improvements.

Canon 6D

The Canon 6D looked like the obvious replacement for my 5D as it is Canon’s current entry level full frame camera. Whilst not as good as the 5D mk iii, it is a lot cheaper and I wasn’t really going to miss the extra few mega pixels. It would be a straight upgrade, so would allow me to keep using the lens I had, give me a better sensor and cool new features like built in wi-fi and GPS.

However, whilst DSLRs are the most versatile type of camera, being able to turn their hands to almost any type of photography, they no longer excite me. I had a feeling I would carry on using my GF1 for everyday photos and would only roll out the 6D for holidays or special outings.

So I was looking for something smaller than a 6D, but with similar image quality. I think photographers have been looking for this type of camera for years. However, they are starting to appear on the market.

The compacts

The Sony RX1; the Fuji X100 and X100s; the Sigma DP1,DP2 and DP3; and the Pentax Ricoh GR just to name a few are all serious cameras, with full frame or APS-C sensors you can carry around in your pocket.

Whilst awesome and tempting (the X100s was oh so very tempting), I discounted these as they all have fixed focal lengths lenses. If this new camera of mine was going to be my primary camera, I just couldn’t accept being limited to a single focal lens. So again I turned my back on another family of cameras.

Getting closer

I do own one camera which although I don’t use much (as film is getting so expensive these days), but I love shooting with. It is a joy to hold, so simple yet leaves you in complete control of the picture you are taking and pretty portable. The Leica M6. Now Leica do make digital bodies, like look and feel like their old M film cameras, but they have one major issue. They cost thousands – even second hand – so a digital Leica was out, but there was one last option…

Fujifilm have recently started making a move on Leica’s market. With their X series of cameras they have produced a camera system which feels like a Leica rangefinder, but is less than quarter of the price, oh and it auto focuses unlike the entirely manual Leicas.

In addition the X-Pro has some pretty amazing specs:
* Awesome image quality especially at high ISO sensitivities. So we have a special APS-C sensor which compares very favourably with a full frame sensor (take a look at the dpreview data if you don’t believe me). Also the lack of an anti aliasing filter means the images are tac sharp.
* A hybrid view finder – so this camera is mirrorless, but as well as the electronic viewfinder and rear screen it has an optical viewfinder which feels like it has come straight off a rangefinder like a Leica. You get frame lines projected into the viewfinder which allow you to see both what will be in the picture you take and what is outside the fame, so it is far easier to react to adjust your photo as events unfold.
* I can carry it and three lenses all day long and not have a bad back at the end of it. Okay I know I am in my early 30s, but when you have a two year old child and all the extras they require you to cart around, you soon start to realise what a boon not carrying an SLR is.
* Whilst it does have its faults, Fujifilm through an awesome programme of firmware updates have addressed loads of the them and even added new features (focus peaking is coming in July 2013). The X series of camera have to be one of the best post release supported products I have ever used.

So that’s why I choose it. Over the next few weeks I hope to be able to show what I have been doing with it.

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