I rented an X-Pro1 for the weekend from LensRentals to see if it could work as a lighter weight replacement for my 5d. The ideal camera for me would be small, light, have a full frame sensor with interchangeable lenses. Basically a Leica M9 with autofocus but not with a $7000 pricetag. The X-Pro1 has most of this on its spec sheet: APS-C sized sensor (~1/2 of a full frame), swappable lenses, electronic viewfinder, and autofocus.
The real things that I really liked about it:
- Its very light (full pound lighter than my Canon 5d+24 f/2.8)
- Its discrete, both small and quiet (near silent) and ‘retro’ (un-DSLR-like).
- It has manual dials or levers for almost everything except focus distance & ISO.
- Aperture priority: Set the aperture (on the lens)
- Shutter priority: Set the shutter speed (on the dial)
- Manual Mode: Set both aperture and shutter speed (so simple).
- Image quality is great (especially considering the weight)
- Highlight retention, exposure and white balance were all surprisingly good
The simplicity of a shutter speed dial plus aperture ring stands out compared to using my 5d. Immediate visual feedback of what the camera is set to is really nice. The Single, Continuous and Manual focus selector switch is similarly obvious.
It felt like there was less friction in bringing it along, just because. At an RSL game this Saturday: it fit in the pocket of my jacket, its not large and intimidating to point at friends and its not heavy when hanging off its simple neck strap. I wouldn’t have brought the 5d to the game.
Nothing to complain about in the image quality department, would be good enough for me. Really liked the 18mm f/2 lens (27mm equivalent), but I would want a prime in the 20-24mm equivalent range in the long run for climbing.
In this light, I could not get it to focus on the flags. However, the manual clearly states that the AF will struggle in scenes with high contrast.
Curious things (thinks I didn’t like) about the camera:
- If the eye-sensor is active you get no EVF or no frame-lines when you put the camera to your face while wearing sunglasses.
- The autofocus seems to hunt more with optical finder (the EVF off)
- Weird blue tint to snow, perhaps with raw file support this could be fixed.
- Software macro mode, lens can focus close in the right mode, but no distance scale or minimum distance marked on the lens to know where the cut-off is.
- You have to wait for either the frame lines to come up or the EVF to fire up before it will take a photo, and if you accidentally have the eys-sensor on & are wearing sunglasses, it’ll hang out in limbo land and not fire the shutter.
- I don’t get the name… X-Pro1 if the precursor was the X100, just make this one the X1 or X10. For a camera that is otherwise about simplicity the name is kinda dumb (really shallow dislike I know).
The focus-by-wire and no manual override on the lens force you to wait on the autofocus. Its not that slow, but its still slow enough that in the time it takes to turn it on, bring it up to your face, wait for it, then take a photo; the moment may have passed. You could pre-focus on a spot, then use the AF-lock, but that doesn’t help the out-of-the-bag speed.
The camera seems to reward patient, well thought out shots, and its great if that’s how you shoot. ‘Photo missions’ while climbing and skiing aren’t the norm for me. I end up shooting more documentary style (as it happens) and there are rarely re-dos, spending the time to set up a shot or waiting for light.
After a weekend with the X-Pro1, I think the quirks loose out and I’ll just keep dealing with the weight and size of my 5d. Its a really close call though, if the next version has faster autofocus or a faster time to ready-to-shoot then it will be hard to want to keep the 5d.