This review is only intended for photographers or people who have an interest in the Fuji X 1 Pro. Although I use pictures from several weddings I’ve shot as a reference, it’s not a blog on the actual weddings. I’ve blogged on those wedding separately, and you can read about it in my separate blog entries.
I’ve been using the Fuji X Pro 1 for weddings since it first came out. I’ve shot four weddings using it so far. I shoot with it alongside my Fuji X100, Canon 5d Mark 2, and Canon 7d. In total, the Fuji X Pro 1 accounts for about 30 percent of my pictures. As much as I may love any camera, I never depend on just one to do the job. I believe all my cameras have different roles to fulfill throughout the day. Sometimes I use the Fuji X Pro 1 exclusively. At other times during the wedding, I shoot it alongside any one of my other cameras. In this review I will explain how I use it, why I use it, and how I feel about it as a tool for professional wedding photography. I’ve read many reviews about this camera as a tool for street photography and for travel photography, but have not seen too many reviews for this camera in regards to wedding photography. Incidentally, there are many parts of the day where photographing a wedding photojournalistically is very much like street photography. I hope that my review will help others decide if this camera is the right camera for them.
I will try not to dive too much into the technical side of the camera. I assume that if you are interested in this camera and are considering using it as a backup or as a substitute to a DSLR, you would have read everything there is to read already about the features and technical attributes of this camera. I will not repeat them here except for when I need to make my points. I will only talk about it as it relates to how I use it to do my job and what it does for me. I’ll explain what it does right and what it does wrong. You will get a feel for why I choose to use this camera over my Canon 5d Mark 2 or Canon 7d in certain situations. At times I may get off track and talk about how I shoot weddings. This is partially because I can’t disconnect the two thoughts.
Let’s start off my saying that I love this camera. It is my favorite camera right now. This is not to say that it is the best of all my cameras. In fact, there is no such thing as “the best” camera. It is very good at certain things and inadequate at other things. There are many reason why it is my favorite camera. I love the image quality it gives me in low light. I love the natural skin tones it gives me whether I’m indoors or outdoors. It’s auto white balance is superb. When I have to do custom white balance, it is just a few clicks away and I can do it all without even taking my eye from the viewfinder. This makes it very convenient and easy to do custom white balance. I find myself doing it more often than with a camera that does not have that capability. As a result, I end up with more accurate colors. I love how sharp the 35mm f1.4 lens is, at all apertures. I love the hybrid viewfinder because it allows me to work in many different ways. I love how this camera focuses manually! (Yes, you heard that right. Despite everything you’ve heard about how useless this camera is at focusing manually, I will come to its defense and praise it. I’ll go into in later in this blog.) I love the tactile feel of its aperture ring and shutter dial. I can glance down at my Fuji X Pro 1 and know what setting it is currently at before I even turn it on. That’s huge. I can preset my camera in anticipation of the next scene. I can adjust the aperture and/or the shutter speed even before turning on the camera! It’s very intuitive and I love working that way. Finally, I must admit I love it for how it looks and feels in my hands. It makes me want to photograph and I find myself not wanting to put it down. It is so lightweight that I can carry it all day without it wearing me down.
All the pictures posted in this article were shot by the Fuji X Pro 1. I shot some of it in color and others in black and white. I did very minor processing in Lightroom. I mostly increased the lights and increased the darks for slightly more contrasty black and whites. That said, I am very impressed with the black and white pictures right out of the camera. I find myself shooting in black and white a lot because I love the images that were coming out. It’s quite different shooting in black and white than shooting in color and converting afterwards. I like the instant feedback and it motivates me. Sure, I can convert a color picture to black and white afterwards, and I do plenty of that, but somehow doing that you lose something. It’s not scientific. I can’t explain it. It’s just how I feel. However, it is valid because how I feel is part of how I take pictures. In some cases, the pictures are tack sharp. In other cases, its adequately sharp. When it’s not tack sharp, it may be because of motion blur or because the focus was slightly off in the heat of the moment. In any case, all the pictures here are good as far as focusing goes for my purpose. I favor emotion over sharpness in almost all cases. Had I valued sharpness emotion, I would shoot everything on a tripod and everything would be tact sharp and void of emotion.
I usually start the day with the Fuji X Pro 1 on one side and the Fuji X100 on the other side. I use an Op/Tech Double Sling instead of Rapid Strap or Camera Slingers because I love their fast connectors. I can easily unclip one camera and clip on another as needed. My assistant also wears an Op/Tech strap and always has a camera clipped to her strap as well. This is not so she can shoot, because as a rule I am the only one shooting, but it makes it easy for her to unclip whichever camera she has on to hand to me and then clip on whichever camera I hand her to hold onto. In this way, even though I always have two cameras on me, in reality it’s like having 3 or 4 cameras at all times.
Most of these shots were taken with the 35mm F1.4 lens. I find this lens to be very useful in all situations, from candid moments to portraits. I also have the 60mm lens, but honestly I don’t use it as often. The bokeh that the 35mm (50mm equivalent) gives me is great for how I use the Fuji X Pro 1. I really don’t need a longer lens. One reason I like the Fuji X Pro 1 is because I can work close and discretely to get some great moments. The camera doesn’t scream pro and it doesn’t scream paparazzi either. This helps me remain unobtrusive. In many cases I am able to get my shots without people even knowing and changing their behavior. It I were shooting from a distance, I would probably use my Canon with the 135mm or the 70-200 because they focus much faster and I don’t need to be as discreet in those situations.
While we’re on the subject of focusing, let me give you my take on it. I think it does an adequate job in bright light and in low light as long as people are standing around talking. If I’m walking towards someone and they are also walking towards me, forget it. I can get the shot by punching the shutter in S-Focus mode, letting the camera track the subject, and making the exposure when it achieves focus. But this is like gambling. The camera doesn’t always nail it A better technique is to step aside and photograph the person as they are heading towards their intended path. This give me more time to get the shot and decide when I want the shot to happen. It’s also makes a much more interesting picture than someone walking towards you because I not only get the subject, but the object of his interaction as well. The Fuji X Pro 1 is accurate in it’s focusing, but it is a lot slower than what I would have liked it to be. I would love it to have the fast focusing of the Olympus EP-3 or the Om-d Em 5. However, it is usable, as you can see from my pictures. You just have to really practice and get to know it and it will serve you well.
One technique that I would like to talk about is how it focuses manually. The consensus seems to be that it is worthless at focusing manually. I completely disagree with this assessment. Most of the complaints seem to revolve around the fact that the focusing is fly by wire and not geared. This creates a slight lag that most people find irritating. The other complaint is that the lens does not have a distance scale marked on the lens.
While I would agree that I would have prefer that the feel of manual adjustments by gear instead of fly-by-wire, I feel that this is a blessing in disguise. Because it is fly-by-wire, it is able to communicate its setting to the camera electronically and the camera is able to relay that information to me through the viewfinder. What this means is that without taking my eyes from the viewfinder, whether I’m in optical or EVF mode, I can see the distance scale! With a Leica or other cameras that uses lens with a distance scale, I can never do that. I have to take my eyes from the viewfinder and look at the lens’s distance scale to set the zone of focus. This becomes very difficult when it is dark, such as in a dark reception hall.
With the Fuji X Pro 1, I can shoot with it using the viewfinder and manually adjust the lens while using the lens distance scale in the viewfinder as a guide. If I’m shooting at f4, I can get pretty accurate, pretty quickly. I’ve used this technique successfully in the evening when the dancing is going on. I have one Quantum QFlash at each side of the room and I have a radio popper transmitter on the camera’s hotshot. Shooting subjects that are 3-6 feet away, I have an approximately 1 foot margin of error. Shooting subjects 10-15 feet away, I have about a 2 feet margin of error. This margin of error is enough for me to get the shot. The nice thing is that as soon as I take the picture, I get an instant playback of the picture in the viewfinder. This gives me a visual confirmation of my exposure, my focus, and of what I captured. I have the display set to 1.5 seconds, but I can immediately go back to shooting by just half clicking the shutter. Instant chirping without taking your eyes from the viewfinder! With any DSLR or Leica, you have to take the camera from your eyes to view the picture for the same confirmation. I can’t stress how useful this feature is. When used in combination with the electronic distance scale in the viewfinder, I find that this camera excels at manual focusing if you take advantage of what it has to offer instead of focusing on what it doesn’t have.
The Wedding Day
So now let’s get on with the wedding day. I usually start with the bride getting ready at her home or at a hotel or salon. I usually start with the Fuji X Pro 1 and the Fuji X100. I have the 35mm on the X Pro 1 for my normal 50mm equivalent perspective and the X100 is fixed at 23mm for my semi wide 35mm equivalent perspective. My assistant is holding onto the Canon 5d Mark 2 with the 24-70 for my all-purpose go to camera and lens combo if I need it. Generally I don’t because noting really quick is going on at this part of the wedding day. I prefer using the Fuji’s because I like to fade into the background and shoot quietly. The Fuji’s are quiet and very good at high ISO’s for natural light photography. I either dial it in manually or shoot shutter priority to keep the shutter speed at least 1/125 or 1/250 to lessen motion blur. The one thing that I do differently with this camera then with my Canons is that I tend not to use Aperture priority. The camera tends to favor a lower shutter speed of 1/52 rather than a higher shutter speed and higher ISO. I guess Fuji does this to keep the IQ the best possible, but in the real world, 1/52 is too slow when people are moving around. So to get around this, I shoot with Shutter priority or Manual mode and set the shutter speed to where I need it to be. I let the camera decide the aperture. Generally under most hotel rooms and salons, the aperture would fall to 1.4 to 4 depending on how much light there is in the room. If I need more depth of field, I shoot manually and let the camera set the ISO.
For the ceremony, I start with my 5D Mark 2 on one side and the 7D on the other side. I hand my Fuji’s to my assistant to hold on to. She has it ready to switch with me if I need to at any time. I use the Cannons because while people are walking down the aisle, I need the faster autofocusing speed of my Cannons. During the ceremony, I may hand one of the Canon’s to my assistant and grab my X Pro 1. People at this point are staying relatively still and I want to use the X Pro 1 for it’s sharper images and more accurate colors. As soon as the ceremony is about to come to a close, the Canon 7d is the one I reach for the same reason I used it at the beginning of the ceremony.
Moving onto the portrait session, I use the X Pro 1 plus either my 5d Mark 2 or my 7d. The reason I use the X Pro 1 in this case is not because I”m trying to be discreet, but because I find that I get sharper images and better color with my X Pro 1 than with my Canons. Now, if I have the bride and groom or the bridal party running around and doing action type of portraits, my Fuji X Pro 1 takes a break and my Canon 7d comes to life. The IQ is not as good, but with its superior focusing speed, I have more chances of getting a sharp picture. Like I said, one camera is not better than the other. They both have their purpose.
At the cocktail hour and reception, I tend to favor the X Pro 1 for walking around and getting discreet pictures. I like to blend in with the guest and be unobtrusive. The funny thing is that in the Bay Area, many of the guest are walking around with big DSLR’s and flash modifiers on the cameras. I think they look more like “the photographer” then I do. This is a good thing because it makes me even more invisible during this time. The 35mm and the X Pro 1 is all that I really need at this point in the game. I use autofocus for most of this and it works well. As soon as it starts getting darker, I put the flash triggers on my cameras and use my Quantum Q Flashes for off camera flash to light up every picture. If it’s too dark for auto focus to work, I switch to manual focus. My preference is to use the X Pro 1 and the 5d Mark 2 at this point. I have either the 24-70 or the 135mm on the 5d Mark 2 and the 35mm stays on the X Pro 1 for the most part. This is pretty much the combo I use until the dancing starts. At that point my 7d takes over my 5d Mark 2 because of its better focusing speed. I use the Fuji x Pro 1 in manual focusing mode using the technique I outline earlier. Both cameras are triggering the two Quantum Q Flashes I have set up in the room.
I’ve written enough about why I like this camera and why I use it over my DSLR’s at certain points of the wedding day. At this point I would like to point out some things about this camera that I feels needs improvement.
1) Shutter Lag
This camera has an annoying shutter lag at times. I work around it, but I shouldn’t have to. The Fuji X100 has no shutter lag and neither should this camera. I’m not talking about the slow auto focusing speed. There is a lag even when it is in Manual focus. The lag is there even when I manually set the aperture and shutter speed. I hope Fuji addresses this in the next firmware update.
2) Slow auto focus speed
Even though I’m able to work with it the way it is, it would be wonderful if Fuji can improve the auto focus speed. As it is currently, the Fuji X100 focuses faster than the X Pro 1. If this camera focuses as good as my DSLR’s or even as fast as the Olympus EP-3, I actually feel it can totally replace my DSLR’s, at least for anything 90mm and below.
3) Auto ISO
The auto ISO implementation needs improvement. As it is, I cannot set a minimum shutter speed in Aperture priority mode, like I can in the X100. The camera defaults to a too slow speed of 1/52 in favor of a lower ISO. I would like the ability to choose a higher shutter speed minimal and live with a higher shutter speed. I can do this with the Fuji X100. There is no reason I shouldn’t be able to do it with the X Pro 1.
I would also like the ability to use the exposure compensation dial when shooting in manual exposure mode. If I want to shoot at f4 and at 1/250, I would like to be able to dial the exposure compensation to plus 1 or plus 2 and have the camera adjust the ISO accordingly to facilitate what I want to do. If I’m shooting a bunch of guys wearing black and I’m shooting in manual exposure mode, I want F4 for the dept of field and I want 1/250 to freeze motion. The camera will over exposure the picture to make the blacks look grey. If I dial down the exposure compensation, the camera should be able to decrease the ISO to allow for a darker and more accurate exposure. As it is, the dialing down the exposure compensation will do nothing. I have to take my ISO off auto and manually dial it down to get the exposure where I want it to be. Fuji should be able to correct this with a firmware update.
4) Focus point selector
In order to change the focus point, I must first press the button on the lower left side of the camera before I can use the 4 buttons on the right to select the focus point. This is entirely cumbersome because my face is usually pressed against the LCD and is blocking the AF button. A better implementation would be to not have to press the AF button at all. I should be able to just press the 4 directional buttons to choose my points, like in other cameras.
As with any other cameras I have it has it’s strength and faults. I love it and use it accordingly but am also hopeful that it will be improved with firmware updates and will probably jump on the next version Fuji comes out with as well.
Check out the pictures in the gallery below. There are many more pictures that what I’ve shown already. They are all taken with the Fuji X Pro 1 at several weddings I recently shot.