Should I go mirrorless? A photo-walk with the Fuji X-Pro1


I’ve been considering a compact or mirrorless camera for a few months now as something to carry around with me more often, DSLRs are fairly chunk beasts and even my diminutive 6D is a bit of a burden to carry with the 24-105 on the front so I tend to miss out on the ‘random’ shots I used to enjoy taking.  Of the ever increasing selection of mirrorless cameras available I’ve read great things about the Fuji X-series and their new X-Trans sensors and at the recent SWPP convention Fuji were offering the chance to borrow either an X-Pro1 or an X-E2 and a range of lenses so I jumped at the chance. 

At the Fuji stand I tried both cameras and immediately ruled out the X-E2 since the electronic viewfinder (EVF) is still way too laggy for my tastes, if you’re coming up from point-and-shoot cameras you probably wouldn’t be too worried about that but going from an SLR to an EVF felt like a massive downgrade so I opted for the X-Pro1 since it has both optical and electronic options. 


The camera itself felt solid and well-engineered, the ability to adjust aperture by twisting the lens ring felt good as did the shutter speed dial on top although I’d have liked an equivalent dial for ISO as well to complete the picture.  The electronic overlay on the optical viewfinder (OVF) was bright and easy to read although since the OVF is a fixed lens it takes some getting used to the changing boundaries as you change lenses, essentially the camera places a rectangle over the area of the viewfinder that your shot would include however it’s not 100% accurate and didn’t seem to work when zooming the 55-200 lens which is a shame. 

One feature many would find useful is that even when you’re using the OVF every shot you take is overlaid on the EVF screen so for about a second you get to ‘chimp’ without taking your eye away from the viewfinder, it’s a great idea but I found the quality of the image display to be a little on the low side so I’d probably disable that feature.  Aside from the low quality I found the parallax caused by viewfinder being off-centre somewhat distracting and despite aiming carefully often found that I took shots that weren't quite straight.  


To some extent I expected a lot of strange characteristics from this rangefinder style camera and I'd be willing to put up with a steep adjustment curve if I could prove that it'd be worth making the leap but when I got the RAW files home I was a little disappointed.  I shot at a range of ISOs, a lot on 3200 and the odd one or two on 6400 and the files just don't push and pull as well as the files from the 6D, Canon's full frame sensor far outstrips the X-Trans and that's just not what I'm looking for in a camera.  Sure, the JPEGs came out alright but I want the maximum editability from my shots and having been used to that I'm not willing to give it up.  


All told I think the Fuji X-series cameras are great products for the market they're in but they’re not for me, whils I managed to get a few good shots out of it (dotted around this post) I’m not willing to make compromises for the sake of portability.  So, what next?  If I really need something small and light I could pick up the tiny 100D from Canon and using my existing 40mm f/2.8 pancake lens, it’d be the equivalent of 64mm but I know it would feel ‘right’. 

Thanks to the guys at Fuji for running the photo walks I’ll definitely recommend that people check out the X-series cameras if they’re not interested in going down the SLR route and perhaps in another year I’ll be back to check out the improvements but for now I'm sticking with the six.