Not only did I buy Leica M9 in 2021 - I also got Fujifilm X-Pro1. People often call the X-Pro line a Leica M killer or a "cheap man's Leica". I don't subscribe to any of those. It can be likened to a Leica M rangefinder. And it is cheaper than one. But I don't find it useful to look at things this way. Nor does it make much sense to do so.
I've been eyeing X-Pro1 for quite a while. For no particular reason. I found it interesting and wanted to try it out. I like how it looks. I like the theoretical concept of hybrid viewfinder. And over the years the price has dropped to make it an impulse buy. Lately the prices started to rise for the X-Pro1 again. I blame the popularity of "classic" photography. X-Pro1 can almost be called a classic camera. In the digital camera realm at least. A classic digital camera if you will.
I had X-Pro1 in Ebay saved searches for quite a while but no big deals came up. Then one day a really beaten up example was listed with a low Buy It Now price so I went for it. And now I have a beaten up X-Pro1.
Thoughts About The Camera
I have to note that I don't have any autofocus lenses for the X-Pro1. Not one. And I'm not that interested in getting it. I use the X-Pro1 as a body for old and funky lenses. This won't be a review that looks at autofocus or other "more modern" digital things. No butt tracking testing. No tethering to my smart toaster. I won't even check to see if I can upload my photo straight to Instagram with all the hashtags generated by AI. With that out of the way...
I love how the camera looks. I definitely prefer black cameras so X-Pro1 gets an easy point there. I also like the shape. It's like a slim and cute brick that has a slight slant. It reminds me of Yashica Electro 35. They both have that cool brick like appearance. I wouldn't mind having a house made from bricks like these.
It also has that classical rangefinder look which is one of the reasons why people liken it to Leica M cameras. There have been many digital mirrorless cameras that have had the "rangefinder style" label attached to them. Most of them don't deserve it. For example I have seen Sony NEX cameras ( e.g. Sony NEX 5 ) being described as "rangefinder like". It must be hard for people attaching these labels. Surely they also think that a soup bowl is "toilet like" and so must have many mishaps. That being said - X-Pro1 does actually have that rangefinder aesthetic. That is all. It's not an actual rangefinder. Would be great if it was.
Ergonomics & Ease Of Use
Dials. Dials and buttons. It's both great and also not.
I love that there's a physical shutter speed dial. It is easy to turn and it locks at auto mode so that you don't turn it by accident and suffer terrible consequences.
There's a physical exposure compensation dial. Also great.
I also like the lever that switches between the optical and electronic viewfinders. It's very nice to use so I sometimes play with it for the pure pleasure of it.
And I kind of like the small wheel on the back. I use it for magnification so that it's actually possible to critically focus with manual lenses ( which are the only lenses that I use ). It's not in the best place for my hands and fingers. And it's a bit fiddly to use. But it's OK.
Most other buttons and things might as well not exist. For me at least. I suppose you need a playback button and a menu button and buttons to navigate the menus. But do you really though...
I'll part with 5 or more buttons in exchange for a physical ISO dial. Currently I use the auto ISO mode as I can't be bothered to click buttons to change it. Auto ISO is fine. I also use auto exposure 90% of the time. But sometimes I would like to change the ISO with great speed. Like how I can do it for the exposure time.
Holding the camera feels good. I wouldn't say it's the most comfortable but it feels nice in the hands. For example holding SLRs is very comfortable to me, but it doesn't feel as nice. I know...personal preferences are weird. Especially mine. All I'm trying to say is that comfort and feel aren't the same.
Menu is huge. Like everything - it's my personal preference and needs. I don't need all the features so 90% of it is waste. It's much more like Sony A7S than Leica M9.
Now that I've said that I don't care about 90% of what the camera can do - let me tell you about that 10% that I do care.
Electronic viewfinder. Is there. It's usable. It's not great by today's standards. Without magnification it would be very hard to critically focus manual lenses when close to wide open. There's just not enough resolution and focus peaking is not strong / good enough. With magnification it's OK. It won't be a fast manual focussing machine but for static things it's all good. You can even shoot things that are slow in their movements!
Optical viewfinder is...optical. I would like to love it but it's hard to do when using manual lenses. Because it's just a window you can't focus through it. With manual lenses at least. Only way you can use an optical viewfinder with manual lenses is to scale focus and / or use a wide lens and close the aperture down. It would be great for street photography. I wish that the optical viewfinder had a small screen in the middle that showed a magnified section of the center part of the image. To focus. Kind of like...hmmm...there was a similar concept...ah yes...a rangefinder.
Optical viewfinder makes me want to have at least one autofocus lens. So that I can use the optical viewfinder and put my trust in autofocus. But the autofocus lenses are expensive. And I don't need them as I don't use X-Pro1 often. But...if one would happen to appear rather cheap - it might find its home with me.
Auto exposure and auto white balance works well. No complaints. I find that X-Pro1 tends to underexpose a bit so I use the negative exposure compensation less than on other digital cameras. This is nice as it keeps the highlights from blowing up. And there's still plenty of information in the shadows to pull them out if one so chooses.
The camera produces good images. As do 90% of other dSLR and mirrorless cameras made in the last 10 - 15 years. This is the first X-Trans sensor camera that I have tried. Some people claim that this first generation X-Trans sensor has a film-like output. It doesn't.
Other people enjoy Fuji color science. I find the colors pleasing but I haven't been blown away. I definitely want to post-process the photos. There are various film simulations to try but I have not used them. I have tried some simulations on Fuji X100 and XF10 but they also don't wow me and since I shoot RAW and post process it's not convenient to use them. So I leave the default simulation on forever.
On the post-processing topic - RAW files are easy to post-process. There's definitely plenty of dynamic range available. More modern cameras will have even more DR but sometimes too much is too much. Even X-Pro1 is sometimes too much for me. My sweet spot for digital dynamic range and handling of shadows and highlights goes to Leica M9. M9 files also post-process in a way that results in a better final image. Same goes for Sigma Foveon sensor cameras although you have to jump through too many hoops to get there.
I also don't like how X-Pro1 files convert to black and white. They don't look right. I can't put my finger on it but something is off. It's possible to edit yourself out of this but not for every file and I have to spend more time doing that. Maybe a certain b&w film simulation would fix that but that means shooting in JPEG mode which is a line I can't cross.
It may seem like I'm not the biggest fan of the X-Pro1. And I'm not. But I don't regret buying it. Although the image quality didn't impress me - it's not worse than the biggest majority of other digital cameras. And it has a great upside - it's fun to use! Having a camera that is fun to use and that gives you joy is one of the most important things in any camera. It will make you go out more to take more photos. If that's not the most important thing then I don't know what is.
It's not going to replace the M9 for me. M9 is also fun to use and it has the better image output ( for me ). Plus it's a rangefinder which is the most superior camera type of them all. Facts. It's also not going to replace the Sigma DP2 Merrill. That camera occupies a weird niche in my photography which no camera will fit in.
With that said - I pick up X-Pro1 quite often. Having the ability to adapt many weird lenses is great. Focus peaking and magnification are also useful features. It allows for things which are impractical with a rangefinder. Or a slow Sigma DP2 Merrill camera.
Should you get it? If you've gotten this far and didn't hate the review then - probably yes.
I will leave you with more photos taken on the X-Pro1.