A camera built to endure klutzes: the Fuji X-Pro 1

My X-Pro 1 and 35mm f1.4, present day, almost 2 years on.

I bought the X-Pro 1 with the 35mm f1.4 lens in July 2012.

Earlier that year I’d sustained a neck injury that meant DSLR gear was too heavy to lug around. I wanted something smaller and lighter, which still delivered DSLR quality images with good low light handling. Until that point, I hadn’t come across a compact camera that was quite satisfactory. The X-Pro 1 came with that customer proposition. Several months after its initial release, I still couldn’t find a review which faulted any aspect of it that mattered to me. It sounded perfect. 

Chinatown, Washington D.C., USA

Chinatown, Washington D.C., USA

I sold most of my professional DSLR gear to afford the X-Pro 1 and the 35mm f1.4. There was no hesitation involved. I knew a fair few people who used the X-Pro 1 and loved it, and went for it based on that. I’m no specialist user. I’ll quite happily get used to whatever is tough enough to withstand me. The other camera I was considering at the time was the Olympus OM-D, but the Fuji had the larger sensor. Real estate, in my mind, is always good.

Tangier by night. Morocco, September 2013

Tangier by night. Morocco, September 2013

Unboxing it, like any longed for equipment, was deliciously anticipative. But then I picked it up and there was that snail pace autofocus (firmware v 1). The long lag between hitting the shutter button and the picture actually being recorded (again, firmware). The optical viewfinder, showing you a view top left of the frame actually in the lens – I think this is part of what people keep saying is the “rangefinder experience” (like I said, I’m no specialist user) – which I never got used to, switching exclusively to the electronic viewfinder almost immediately. The DSLR user in me was freaked out, realizing (“Arrrggghhhhh!”) that it had given up performance for good.

Port Townsend, WA. USA, September 2012

Port Townsend, WA. USA, September 2012

Unable to gel instantly with it, I packed it away after a few days, picked up my Nikon, and resigned myself to less frequent, shorter walks, managing its toll on my body.

I was due to spend a month in the USA in September 2012 and packing my carry on, the DSLR, 2 primes, and batteries took up the whole bag, and allocated carry on weight. The Fuji and its one lens, on the other hand, weighed half of that, and left me room for passport, journal, wallet, Kindle, various odds and ends, and a week’s worth of clothing. This was the point at which I decided I loved it.

A child skips down the street in Melha. Fes, Morocco, September 2013

A child skips down the street in Melha. Fes, Morocco, September 2013

I spent  the whole of September 2012 (herehere and here) astounded, not at what it could do, but the situations it enabled me to get close enough to capture. Being so much smaller and less flashy than a DSLR and associated lens, few people minded my shooting close to them, if they noticed. As a DSLR user I was used to being waved away, told off, or even accused of terrorism (true story). Walking around with the X-Pro 1, I am a harmless, snap-happy tourist. That, to someone who does a lot of street photography, is a gift.

So I spent September 2012 getting really good at manual focusing because in a lot of situations, it was faster than waiting for the autofocus to do its job. By the time I took off in January 2013, I was comfortable enough working around my issues with its performance, to have sold off what remained of my DSLR gear. 

Albuquerque, New Mexico. USA 2012

Nailing that manual focusing during a rodeo in Albuquerque, New Mexico. USA, September 2012.

The X-Pro 1 and the Fujinon 35mm f1.4 have been the only bits of camera gear I’ve traveled the world with all through 2013. Despite being armed with a bigger carry-on bag than I had in September 2012, priorities in space and weight limitations went to my laptop, its power supply, and the 3 portable hard disks that are my backup and mobile archive.

A year later, I was shooting hyperactive performers leaping around in crazy light. Still manually focusing – but helped along with major firmware improvements for performance, and notably, focus peaking.

To its credit, the X-Pro 1 has – so far – survived the abuse of travelling with a mega klutz. It has been kicked, dropped from various heights, a moving car, survived a bicycle crash, knocked about countless times, been rained on, and flung from one end of a cafe to the other by a rapidly descending foot catching its dangling strap. This was how amazed I was to discover it was still working after the distance it was propelled:

charlene-and-the-omg-it-still-works-expression

“Omigod, it’s still working!”. After the fall, Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. USA, September 2012. Photo: Flemming Bo Jensen

It should be noted that everyone else in the cafe had the same expression.

The fact that my X-Pro 1 still working is a testament to how solidly this baby was built. Against all odds, despite the slew of delicious new offerings from Fuji, I’m hoping it will be a companion for many more years.

The hood of the 35mm f1.4, after hitting the tar after moving car incident. Nothing a pair of pliers can't bend back into shape.

The hood of the 35mm f1.4, after hitting the tar from a moving car. Nothing a pair of pliers can’t bend back into shape, kinda. February 2014.

CharleneWinfred-XPro1-6820

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26 Comments

  1. My cameras don’t show bumps and bruises but they get close and personal with food, so I’m constantly cleaning the lens filters, spattered by meat fat and juices from barbecues, and the body splashed with sauce, and controls touched by (my) dirty food-covered fingers. The aperture rings are constantly in need of cleaning – most recently, chilli mayonnaise, paella and gelato. But I’m sure there are remnants of food ghosts from past meals embedded in the grooves that I won’t ever be able to fully get rid of.

    • Charlene

      Indeed! My camera has experienced it’s share of drenchings too, although, not sustained. It hasn’t come into contact with snow or ice… yet. But I suspect that’s a matter of time!

  2. I remember the sound of the camera crash landing 3 meters away from the table and the look on everyone’s faces in the cafe! Pretty much mirrored your own expression of surprise and disbelief, did this really happen, a camera magically flew! Your X-pro1 would win any back alley fight!

    • Charlene

      If i remember right, I was feeling terribly nauseous at the thought of a dead camera. It didn’t seem possible that the electronics or glass could have survived that kind of impact.

      It’s certainly taken a few beatings in its time!

  3. Rodney

    Your camera looks worn out.. you need the new X-T1 with 56mm lens attached.. :)

  4. Perfect time for to get XT1 perhaps? I will happily look after your XPro1 for u

    • Charlene

      Heh, I’m pretty sure it’d fare better with you than I, Vincent :D

  5. Haha, not sure about that. My second X-Pro body had a bit too much sea water to drink whilst in Jamaica so it’s at Fuji repairs at the moment. I am considering a trip to Morocco, and I am blaming you for it… :) V.

    • Charlene

      It’s a good thing to be blamed for. Blame away :)

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  8. I’m about to pick up some additional lightweight gear to relieve my aching back and was wondering about the durability of Fuji. I think you’ve just convinced me, Charlene. Thanks a lot!

    Cheers, Mike.

  9. Stephen Scharf

    Love it, Charlene!

    Good to know the X-Pro1 is tough when it counts.

    After shooting pro motorsports for 10 years with my Canon 1D-series bodies, I got some great stuff shooting pro NHRA drag racing with my X-Pro1 and the 14mm prime using continuous focus at 6 fps! LOL!

    Great article! Thanks!

    Cheers,
    Stephen

    • Charlene

      Wow, that’s certainly putting your X-Pro 1 through some demanding paces. I’m amazed to hear it. Thanks for sharing!

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  11. Chris Legg

    Love the rodeo shot – nice to know that manual focus lives on! Goodness but isn’t the X-Pro1 a toughie? Reminds me of an ancient ad campaign for Pentax where they showed cameras belonging to celebrities. Spike Milligan’s Pentax showed more brass than paint. And no, before you ask, you can’t borrow my car :).

    • Charlene

      Thanks Chris :) I’ll have to check that Spike Milligan pentax out. That sounds like something to aspire to, although I’m trying to be more tender with the X-Pro 1 these days – I don’t know that I could afford to replace it should it go anytime soon!

  12. Ian Docherty

    Charlene,

    Like your pics…..the camera is a credit to you! :-)

  13. Rob

    I really enjoyed this post. A few similarities to my experience. I have the XE1 and Xpro but am selling the Xpro partly cause I got a bit frustrated with its speed, I think the XE is quicker, and mostly cause I’m saving for the XT … I love the Fuji look and experience and was happy to see how much you love yours. I think Fuij owners have this bond with their cameras and that seems to foster this joy of photography and hearing about others’ experiences.

    • Charlene

      Thanks for dropping by Rob :) If my X-Pro 1 carked it today I’d go out and get myself an XE-2. It’s smaller and lighter than the X-Pro 1, performs better, has better low light handling, and truth be told, I like the understated small-rectangular-box design. The X-T1 sounds like a formidable camera but it’s so… flashy looking. For most of the shooting I do and places I go, that’s a definite minus.

      This being said, considering they have a similar price point, we’ll see what happens when my X-Pro does finally record its last image!

      I think it would be hard for any photographer not to get emotionally attached to their camera :)

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