May 042012
 

Adobe has announced an update to its Camera Raw and DNG Converter plug-ins.

ACR 6.7 will be the last update of Camera Raw for Photoshop CS5. Fortunately, most of the cameras that have appeared on my radar in recent months as possible purchases are supported, namely Canon 1DX, Canon 5D Mark III and Olympus E-M5 OM-D. The one notable exception is Fujifilm’s X-Pro1.

Canon 40D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro. ©Calvin Palmer 2012. All Rights Reserved.

The absence of RAW support effectively brings the curtain down on my interest. Sure, the X-Pro1  comes with Silky Pix to handle RAW images. I would love to meet the marketing executive who came up with the name Silky Pix. It would be better named Silky Pants because its performance is regarded by many photographers as being just that — pants!

What version of ACR will eventually support the X-Pro1 is anyone’s guess. It does mean, however, that for someone like myself, if I were to buy the X-Pro1, I would also have to factor in an extra $199 to upgrade my version of Photoshop.

As much as I genuinely admire the image quality the X-Pro1 produces, I still cannot get past this cameras quirks and foibles.

The absence of the X-Pro1 from ACR 6.7 also coincided with an assessment by British photographer David Taylor-Hughes as to its usefulness as a camera for street photography.

Now if you idea of street photography is a photograph of random strangers doing nothing particular out of the ordinary or the photograph of a homeless person asleep in a doorway then the X-Pro1 will do just fine. But if street photography means capturing a decisive moment or a fleeting expression then, according to Taylor-Hughes, the Fujifilm X-Pro1 isn’t up to the task.

On his blog SoundImagePlus, he concludes:

So, I can’t say that I recommend the Fuji X-Pro 1 for fast reaction photography in a crowded constantly changing environment. Try as I might, I couldn’t get it to do what I wanted, and I tried virtually everything to see if I could get it quicker, but failed.

He commends the image quality of the X-Pro1, as most photographers do, but what use is fabulous image quality if the camera cannot deliver the shot the photographer had in mind?

No doubt photographers will be quick to point out that my assertion is wrong or that Taylor-Hughes needs to hone his skills and it is not the camera’s fault. Whatever!

Canon 40D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro. ©Calvin Palmer 2012. All Rights Reserved.

I am grateful to a photographer like Taylor-Hughes for giving an honest assessment and one based on personal experience.

Don’t get me wrong you will see street photography shots taken with the X-Pro1 and they really do come alive because of the image quality, particularly at a high ISO. But look at them a little more closely and many of them are capturing a static subject. And for those who do manage to capture a shot with motion, the photographer will rarely disclose how many attempts he had to make before getting the shot.

As Taylor-Hughes states, he did get some successes but also missed out on a lot of shots that other cameras would have taken in their stride and delivered the goods. And it is the inconsistency of the X-Pro1 that may lead to frustration and missed photo opportunities.

Talking of missed opportunites leads me to the M-mount adapter for the Fujifilm X-Pro1. It was the announcement that the X-Pro1 would be compatible with M-mount lenses that really fired my interest in the camera.

But where is it?

Third party manufacturers have got M-mount adapters in the marketplace. Now unless the Fujifilm adaptor offers something above and beyond what the third-party manufactures can offer, they may well have missed the boat. If Fujifilm’s M-mount adapter is only comparable to those of third-party adapters, people are unlikely to ditch the third party-adapters for the Fujifilm version, are they? Although a great many people who buy cameras seem to have more money than sense, so maybe Fujifilm does know what it is doing.

Time will tell.

Mar 192012
 

When a new camera is announced, the press release always makes it out to be flawless and the best thing since sliced bread. With the passage of time, reviews begin to appear and a more balanced view begins to emerge. Finally, the camera reaches the hands of early adopters – I mean people who have actually paid out hard earned money to buy the camera rather than photographers invited to try out the new product. With the latter, it is hard to know just how critical they can be about the product. Human nature being what it is, people are reluctant to pan something they have had free access to.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2012. All Rights Reserved.

When the Fujifilm X-Pro1 camera was announced, its specifications on paper certainly impressed me – a camera with a hybrid OVF/EVF viewfinder, the former was a great plus; a compact retro design; three small prime lenses; Fujifilm-designed revolutionary 16MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS sensor with no anti-aliasing filter; and a much improved menu from that in the X100.

Most important of all was the mention of an M-mount adapter. Fujifilm has yet to release this adapter but third-party manufacturers have wasted no time in bringing one to market. Such an adapter would allow the use of Zeiss ZM lenses, and you all know how fond I am of Zeiss lenses, as well as Leica M lenses.

The X-Pro1 seems to offer what the Ricoh A12 M-mount lacks, namely a built-in viewfinder; the option of using an optical viewfinder and a 16MP sensor.

Of the three newly-designed lenses for the X-Pr01 — Fujinon XF 18mm f/2 R; Fujinon XF 35mm f/1.4R; and Fujinon XF 60mm f/2.4 R Macro – the first two interested me the most. Given that the crop factor is 1.5, those lenses are the 35mm equivalent of 27mm, 52.5mm and 90mm respectively. The f/2 wide-angle lens would be faster than those offered by Zeiss and Voigtlander. The AF on the 35mm f/1.4 lens would be of great benefit to my ageing eyes.

The Fujifilm X-Pro1 camera was beginning to look good and ticked a great many of the boxes with regard to what I am looking for in a camera.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2012. All Rights Reserved.

At this point, I have to make it clear that I have never held an X-Pro1 let alone shot with one. The comments I am about to make are based on reviews I have read and comments posted by early adopters.

No one can argue that the image quality produced by the X-Pro1 is phenomenal, rivaling even full-frame cameras such as the Canon 5D Mark II. Fujifilm gets full marks for the design of the sensor and its new approach to sensor technology. In its review, What Digital Camera, gives the X-Pro1 a score of 20/20 for image quality. Some of the examples I have seen taken by enthusiasts have caused my jaw to drop in terms of the colour and clarity of the images.

The final product emerging from the X-Pro1 can look amazingly good but it is how that final product is achieved where things start to go a little awry.

The AF focus although adequate is described as slow and some users have found a degree of inconsistency. The AF also has a tendency to hunt, particularly in low light. While the AF is fine for static objects, in continuous AF mode it can only keep up with fairly slow-moving subjects.

The three lenses offer manual focus but it is manual focus by wire. Of greater concern is the difficulty in obtaining critical sharpness in both the OVF and EVF modes of the viewfinder. Unlike the Sony NEX range and Ricoh’s A12 M-mount, the X-Pro1 does not feature focus peaking. Fujifilm dropped the ball there and it is hoped it can be introduced with a firmware upgrade. With the lack of focus peaking, the X-Pro1 began to slip off my radar. Techradar’s review concludes by saying:

The hybrid viewfinder is also excellent, although it doesn’t work as well as we might hope when focusing manually.

Several posters on DPReview have also commented on the difficulty of manual focusing and also the EVF freezing when focus is attained. Basically that means the image taken when the shutter is fired is not the image seen in the EVF at the time of focus. That seems a bit of a handicap when it comes to portrait and street photography, two subject areas for which the X-Pro1 is designed.

I have not been overly impressed by the performance of the 18mm f/2 lens, particularly when shot wide open. The lens does not create a pleasant bokeh.

Some samples shot with the 35mm f/1.4 also display a harsh bokeh that deflects the eye from the main subject. The 35mm lens also suffers from “aperture chattering” as it attempts to achieve focus. I think I would find that annoying.

EV compensation is adjusted by a dial on the top of the camera, which offers convenient access but some people have reported accidentally moving this dial while using the camera.

The problem of write speeds is highlighted by Photography Blog. It states:

Shooting a single RAW + Fine JPEG takes about 8 seconds to record to the card, although thankfully you can take another shot almost straight away.

Although the reviews commend the X-Pro1 for being a solidly built camera, What Digital Camera did report that the black paint began to peel off after just a couple of days use. Given the camera body costs $1,700, a “well-used” look after just a couple of days is something most people would expect to find so soon and after such an outlay.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2012. All Rights Reserved.

I really wanted to like the Fujifilm X-Pro1 and for a time saw it as the replacement to a bulky DSLR camera but I am afraid my interest has completely waned in the light of the reviews and hands-on experience. And that is a great pity because the image quality it produces really is outstanding.

Until Fujifilm irons out some of the flaws with updated firmware, it is a case for me of the cons outweighing the pros of the X-Pro1.

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