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

Charlene gear, general

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:


“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.


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