Warning: This is not a review. This is just a personal opinion of an amateur who started photographing by the birth of his son one year ago. In terms of taking pictures of a baby lying, lying, crying, smiling (smiling? OMG he is smiling!!), lying, lying, sitting, sitting, crawling and – yes, proudly! – standing I am a real expert. I tried different cameras, auto settings, manual settings, big cams, small ones, everything. It worked out well, and it worked out not so well. I think it was just a matter of luck. Until one day. One special day when I held the Fuji X100 in my hands. That moment I remembered how I took pictures 20 years ago – and that there were good captures too. I remembered that there is light, iso, aperture, shutter speed and that there can be a soul in a camera. That day (which is eight months ago) I started getting excited. I started reading camera reviews. I started reading books about photography. I started thinking about pictures. And I started getting interested in what you call street photography. (And what I call the next step after taking pictures of your family when you see yourself as ambitioned but you still have no idea how to take good pictures.) In the meantime things have changed. Fuji has published an amazing firmware update for the X100 and is selling the X100´s big brother – the X! Pro! One! Hear the strings and bells? But not everything changed. I am still an amateur. And I´m still excited. So you won´t find pixel peeping, lab tests or zoom-ins of photos that look all the same. I don´t know anything about it, and I don´t care. This post is just about what I have in mind when I think about the Fuji X-Pro1: pictures. End of warning.
There are people who take their holidays as an opportunity to buy a new camera. For example me. But this time I did it the other way round: I took my new Fuji X-Pro1 as an opportunity to buy a few days off. After a quick look on the map and a longer talk to my wife I found myself sitting in a nonstop flight from Berlin to Beijing. Without my family, without a single person I know, without any plans but walking around and taking pictures. One week – no meetings, no phone calls, no ties. Just me and my camera (and 20 million Chinese as I soon found out).
The guidebook which I already opened in the plane told me that you should never – NEVER – visit Beijing around May 1st because the Chinese also have a few days off which they use for sightseeing. And they take sightseeing very seriously. One more reason to avoid temples.
To make it short: It was a great week. I enjoyed watching instead of talking, walking instead of sitting, burning instead of eating and photographing instead of reading reviews or blogs about photography. I managed a whole week with a vocabulary of ten words (yes, no, thank you, this, that, money, taxi, Tsingtao, please) and the awsome Beijing Taxi App. It is one oft the mysteries in history how Marco Polo could travel without it. And I fell deeply in love with the X-Pro1 which I just unpacked and updated the firmware a few days before I left to China. So Beijing and the X-Pro1 were kind of a blind date.
Because I had read every damn review about the X-Pro1 I was well prepared. I got the 35mm lens and the 18 mm lens with me. I had bought the hand grip and the strap Zack Arias recommends in his great review. I was also carrying the Fuji X100 in my retrospective 5 and the Sony NEX-7. The X100 because I never go anywhere without it, the Sony because I wanted to give it another chance. I am not so excited anymore about it just because the Fujis are so much better. I usually use it to catch my one year old son. The autofocus is (maybe) a little faster, and sometimes I enjoy putting all settings to auto. But in my opinion the image quality of the X100 and the X-Pro1 is much better. The look and feel is much better. And probably it was a mistake to buy the Sony because who buys a Fuji X100 and a Fuji X-Pro1 and a Sony NEX-7? People buy either a X100 or a X-Pro1 or a NEX-7. Although I recommend to have a X100 and a X-Pro1 with you.
In Beijing I wanted to test every detail of the X-Pro1. But what happened is, that I have not even read the manual in detail. I just took pictures. Because it was easy (you quickly realize that the X100 and the X-Pro1 are brothers – or sisters). And because it was a joy. I had no issue with autofocus. Not at all. The cam is not too big and not too small. It is not too heavy and not to light. The firmware update solved all the problems with noises. You can take the camera and do what their creators want you to do: shoot.
The first day in Beijing I walked around the three lakes near the Beihai Park and I forgot everything. I guess that´s what they call flow. I was already walking for nine hours when I noticed that I was hungry. The camera was such a joy. And the image quality, that I later checked in my hotel room, was as good as expected. The quality of the jpgs was even more than expected, much more. Most of the pictures in this post are slightly prepared in lightroom. Not because it was necessary, just out of habit.
Shooting under bad lightning conditions I even didn´t think of setting up the iso (I left it the whole week on auto).
At the Great Wall I was happy about the light weight of the camera and its lenses. The sun was hot and it was a challenge to climb the wall. Only those poor lambs carrying DSLRs looked worse than me – deep red faces, sweating waterfalls and panting like horses. Chinese business makers were selling water (price depending on the ability of talking and trading. I was thinking of selling my Fuji to one of them. But I didn´t want their Nikons and Canons.
At the Great Wall I also put on the 18mm lense which did a great job too. I still prefer the 35mm lense but I have got some nice results. The only thing annoying was the protection cap which I have lost and found about five times that week. At the Wall I have lost it too but couldn´t find it anymore. A few grams less to carry – to take it positively.
As I found a shady place I tried out the panorama mode. There was almost no oxygen in my blood – so I was happy that it was that easy. Generally I don´t need a panorama mode but it was kind of fun. Especially when the young couple with the blue umbrella appeared.
The X-Pro1 has done something even my wife didn´t succeed in yet: It took me out of bed at 4 am, let me pay way too much for a taxi to Tiananmen Square to watch the “unforgettable” (guidebook) ceremony of raising the red flag at sunrise – usually watched by a handful of patriotic Chinese. Usually. This time I counted about 3.000 people with 3.000 cameras or mobile phones fighting for a front row place. And then it happened: the big nothing. Cheap military march music came out of the speakers, uniformed raised the flag and after three minutes it was over and the masses went away. I was a bit tierd, but my guidebook was right: I will never forget it.
Thinking of China before I had two things in my head: tastes and colours. Tastes I have met on every street around every corner in Beijing. But with colours I have had a few difficulties. More than twenty meters away from you instead of colours you see smog in Beijing. But to see it technically: The X-Pro1 handled it quite well in my opinion – Colours in front, grey mash in the back.
The following pictures I converted to black and white in lightroom (no Silver Efex, just a quick klick). I like them, too. And as always I am not able to decide if I prefer colour or black and white. The wonderful colours of the X-Pro1´s JPGs don´t make it eaiser.
And here a few more imprressions…
As you already should have noticed: I like shooting with wide apertures. I think the X-Pro1 and the 35mm lense like that too. With a higher aperture it is a bit sharper. But isn´t it brilliant (brilliant enough) with f 1,4?