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The Amazing Evolution of the Fujifilm X Pro 1


A Bear at the Feeder ( Fujifilm X Pro 1, XF18-55mm f2.8 @ iso4000)

A couple of months ago, I weighed my options, vis-à-vis whether to buy the Fuji film X 100S, or stay with its predecessor:  the charming but quirky X100.

As I compared specifications, it seemed as though the new sensor alone was not sufficient reason to upgrade.  I was happy with the image quality of the original X100, and at the time was concerned about the quality of the X 100s Trans-X sensor’s raw conversions possible through then existing  software choices.  I have detailed here what I think are the advantages of the newer camera, but pre-purchase.  I thought that the most compelling advances in the “s” that would prompt me to upgrade, had to do with focus functionality.

Now I don’t work a lot with manual focusing, but the new manual focus aids seemed to round out the camera’s capabilities. Now having purchased the newer model, I find the “focus peaking” feature to be most useful in this regard.

Maybe the most important feature;  one I had wished for on both my “X” cameras from the first shutter press of the X 100, was the ability to change the focus point, and activate the shutter, using  my right hand. This would make the X Pro 1 similar for instance,  to the Panasonic “G” series cameras I have utilized over the years.  When it first appeared on the X100s  this was one of the most important features that led to my upgrading the X 100.

Now having enjoyed those features on the newer camera, I  felt had to tolerate the now retrograde features of its older cousin, my X Pro 1. It was reasonable to assume that those upgrades would be withheld until introduction of the “X Pro 2”. It seemed that for me at least, a certain amount of head scratching that would go on after that introduction about whether to upgrade what is, otherwise, a beloved instrument, and one that has already evolved significantly due to past firmware upgrades.

I was therefore somewhat surprised, but obviously delighted, when I read several days ago  of the newest firmware releases that were coming online for the X Pro 1; upgrades that would improve the focus functionality of the camera almost to the specification of the X100S.

There are apparently two firmware updates to be made available. The first, which I have already downloaded and installed, allows, one to reassign the function of the auto focus button, currently, (and awkwardly) placed on the left side of the camera to thee “down” button on the right.  This nearly duplicates its position on the X100S (where it is controlled by the “up” button). I suspect the fact that the macro feature on the X Pro 1 is controlled by that button, prevented Fuji film from completely duplicating that functionality.

It’s close enough.  I can definitely adapt.

For an autofocus guy, this essentially fixes any problem I had previously. It is now fast and easy to quickly choose a focus point. If I loved the camera before, I really love it now.

The second firmware upgrade, available in a couple of weeks, will  add focus peaking to assist with manual focus, which will be particularly helpful for use of third-party lenses. The only feature not transferring from the X100s would be the electronic “split focus window” which one suspects may be too complex to reengineer for the older camera. As I had settled on focus peaking at my manual focus method of choice, this upgrade perfectly suits me. Hell, maybe they’ll surprise us and add the split focus “thingee later on. Either way I’m delighted.

Over the history of this product, Fujifilm has managed to transform the X Pro 1, through software, in a profound way. I don’t recall any series of firmware upgrades, offered by any manufacturer that has so completely transformed a piece of electronics or a camera.  The closest thing I have experienced would be the firmware upgrade offered for the Nikon D2x, which almost converted that body into the model that replaced it, the D2xs (funny, how that “s” suffix keeps cropping up).

What confuses me is that I’m pretty sure that a lot of X Pro 1 owners had to be thinking that they would likely want to upgrade if a replacement camera offered the updated features from the X100s. Now, the upgrade pressure is off.  The X Pro 1 replacement would now have to offer a really serious, perhaps groundbreaking sensor and focus improvement to capture the attention of our type of shooter,  who will probably  be happy to “brass up” these classic bodies with prolonged usage.  Where does Fuji  go from here with this model? Longer shutter life-possibly. Weatherproofing… would require new lenses, and anyway Leica bodies weren’t weather tight and functioned just fine.

I am delighted that I invested in this system. As a long time (and sometimes disappointed) user of their photography products, I perceive that Fujifilm is really hitting its stride.

Other companies take note: this is how you treat your customer base.

I just hope this strategy allows them to thrive, and continue on this path.