First, sorry for the lack of posting this month – vacation and boy scout camp put a damper on computer time, but certainly not the photography time. I’m processing about 1,000 images from a week at camp, solely with the X-Pro1 and X100s. Some of the images will surprise you – especially a waterfall, handheld at 1/15 second with the 14mm (21mm in 35-speak). It took me three or four tries, but it’s tack sharp.
In any event, I think Fuji deserves a severe round of applause for the EARLY release of their well-anticipated version 3.0 firmware. Many have said, and I echo very loudly, the desire for Fuji to deliver to their customers. While any X-Pro1 user would love to purchase the X-Pro2 right now, Fuji continues to tide us over, not with mere eye-candy, but substance. The version 3.0 firmware adds a very significant item to the X-Pro1 – focus peaking.
It appears to me that the most common complaint about the X-Pro1 is focus speed and manual focus ability. Go back to version 1.0 and see where we’ve come. The focus ring now has a speed sensor, enabled because the focus is electronically monitored not physically moving the lens group. This means the faster you turn the focus ring, the faster the focus changes. The slower you turn, the slower the focus moves for fine-tuning.
The 60mm macro lens (about 90mm in 35-speak) has the sharpest overall field, corner to corner and the best contrast. This is because of two reasons – 1) it was developed for macro work and attention was paid to the detail rendition of the lens and 2) the f/stop is 2.4, much higher than the 1.4 35mm lens. The higher f/stop makes it easier for the lens designer to keep a relatively small profile lens that is very sharp. We would not see the same size for an f/1.4 60mm macro lens – it would be considerably bigger around to let in more light and heavier because of the need for even better glass …. anyway, excuse the lens rambling. Back to the firmware.
Focus peaking allows us to easily see where the focus plane is located in the viewfinder. This is especially important when the viewfinder is smaller. An SLR traditionally lets you view the image through the lens and see the ‘bokeh’ and other out of focus areas. However, it still relies on your vision, and mine is terrible! (I use a -2.0 diopter on my camera viewfinder, so yes, I’m blind). The Leica rangefinder system overcomes this problem of focus by aligning two images in the viewfinder. I have used Leica equipment for over 10 years and find this method incredibly fast and easy when practiced. However, the Leica uses an optical viewfinder.
Fuji has an optical viewfinder, but I find using the electronic viewfinder allows me better control over the image. The focus peaking then outlines the sharp edges of the area in the viewfinder that is in focus. This is true for either the EVF or the LCD display on the back. After the update, I could easily see highlights. I used the 60mm lens and focused about 2 feet away on a printed page. It easily highlighted the text on the page where the focus was. I also looked at a solid wall which is much harder to view. What I found was there are imperfections that tend to show up, just not as easily as a busier scene. Turn the camera slightly or side step to get some trim or a picture in the viewfinder and the focus peaking works easily.
Some have complained about the lack of color choice (any color you want as long as it’s white) and we know the Fuji has promised that in a future update. I will use different colors when they are available, but this works so much better than the previous firmware – leaps and bounds in fact – that white is great. I am happy for white and glad that Fuji didn’t delay the update to wait for more colors.
I also looked at the focus speed of the 60mm lens which was the slowest. Focusing close was very fast. Focusing far away, after focusing close, still seems a little slow. I can’t really tell if that is faster or not. I believe that the focal length of the lens, coupled with the long lens itself means more physical distance to focus. Translate all that to slower focus time. My solution has been to use manual focusing and leave out the sports photography with that lens.
My conclusion? Score! Game over, Fuji won this round of the series.