First Wedding with Fuji’s X-Pro 1
Fuji recently released firmware v2.0 update for the X-Pro 1 and I’m very glad they did because it gave me enough confidence to use the camera at a wedding I photographed at the weekend. Prior to the v2.0 update, I was a bit hesitant to use it at an event such as a wedding where many of the moments I aim to capture (usually candidly) last only a few seconds. With wedding venues often being dimly lit, the main concerns for me revolved around focusing, namely:
- The speed of focusing in low light.
- The inability to use manual focusing due to the process of turning the focus ring feeling very detached from the lens focusing movement.
- The EVF freeze-framing during auto-focusing.
With v2.0 of the X-Pro 1 firmware:
- Focus lock is now achieved quicker under low light conditions although it’s still not as fast as phase detection systems of DSLRs – I wonder if the remaining limitation is now due to the performance of the autofocus motors in the lenses.
- Focus-by-wire is a lot more responsive – it’s not instantaneous as with fully mechanical lenses, but it’s definitely more usable now,
- EVF freezing has been overcome by reducing the resolution of the live view. Whilst it’s not as detailed a view, it’s sufficient to allow you to determine whether you’re still aiming at your subject or whether your subject has moved during the auto-focus process.
- Another focusing related enhancement is the introduction of a default 3x zoom of the live view (EVF and rear LCD) when magnifying during manual focusing. As manual focusing aids go, it’s not as fast as using focus peaking as an extra button has to be pressed to activate the magnified view, but it’s more usable than the previous 10x zoom view which is still available. One thing I’ve noticed is that you can’t go back into the magnified view whilst the contents of the internal buffer are being emptied onto the SD card after taking a photo.
The biggest issue
The biggest remaining issue for me and for many other photographers is the inability to specify a minimum shutter speed when using auto-ISO. The introduction of auto-ISO up to ISO 6400 was a welcome addition in v2.0 firmware, but the minimum shutter speed of 1/52 sec when using the Fuji 35mm f/1.4 lens is just too low and has caught me out on more than one occasion resulting in too slow a shutter speed to eliminate subject or camera movement. In order to workaround this, I have to switch from aperture priority mode and set a manual shutter speed which takes valuable seconds in a fast paced event. In addition to this, I also have to remember I may have to change the shutter speed dial again when the light changes.
As a consequence of the X-Pro 1 being on manual aperture, manual shutter and auto-ISO, the exposure compensation dial is ignored by the camera (I’m not sure whether this was by design or not). So, if you’re photographing a back-lit subject and want to apply exposure compensation you then have to take the camera out of auto-ISO mode and set it manually or flip back to aperture priority providing you’ve enough available light to allow the camera to choose a faster shutter speed than 1/effective 35mm focal length. This can become a bit tiresome in changing environments so I’m hoping user defined minimum shutter speed in auto-ISO mode is coming soon in another firmware update to bring that level of functionality in line with the X-Pro 1’s older sibling, the X100.
How the X-Pro 1 performed
With all that said, the X-Pro 1 performed very well at its first wedding replacing my Nikon D300S. My usual two-body wedding combination would be a Nikon D700 and Nikon D300S. The D700 would have either a Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 or Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 mounted for most of the coverage whilst the D300S would have a Sigma 30mm f/1.4 wide open for picking out individual subjects. I love using primes wide open, but this usually isn’t practical when trying to get more than one person in focus as trying to position them onto the same focal plane becomes too risky when shooting candids.
Auto-focusing performs well under most conditions considering it’s contrast detection based, but I’ve usually got my X-Pro 1 set to manual focus mode to avoid unnecessary auto-focusing. In this mode, the AF-L/AE-L button acts like the AF-ON button on the back of my Nikon D700 i.e. auto-focus is controlled by a separate button away from the shutter release. No focus is always going to be faster than any auto-focus!
During the wedding, I came across a situation which would give any auto-focus system a headache; the face of a harpist through the harp’s strings! Manual focusing on a D700 isn’t the easiest of things to do due to the lack of focus aids (other than focus confirmation which would have been foiled by the harp’s strings too) so I tried manual focusing the X-Pro 1 using the 3x magnified EVF view. It was a little tricky with the harpist’s movement, but I got the shot.
To give you an idea of just how dark the setting was, the photo was taken at f/1.6, ISO 6400 and 1/250s. The resultant raw file was good, in my opinion. I shot many other ISO 6400 frames with the D700 in the same room and they were as impressive as they always are. To see such quality coming from an APS-C camera is equally impressive especially considering I limit my D300S to ISO 3200 as beyond that the noise gets too much for my taste.
Regarding the X-Pro 1 raw files
On the X-Pro 1, I’ve been shooting combined raw and fine JPG for a while now and I don’t see the issues some other photographers are complaining about. I use Lightroom 4 as my primary processing tool and as far as I’m concerned it can handle the raw files and produce output which is as good in quality as the JPGs straight out of the X-Pro 1. So much so, that I have always started my processing with the raw file due to the additional exposure latitude they contain.
Overall, I was very pleased with the X-Pro 1’s performance. Some of my favourite photographs from the day were taken with it and I can see it replacing my D300S on a more regular basis which my back and shoulders will thank me for.