"Let life enchant you again." - Fernando Gros
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Blog // Technology
April 16, 2012

Can The FujiFilm X-Pro1 Replace A dSLR

It’s been a couple of weeks since I posted my initial impressions of the new Fuji X-Pro1 camera. I’ve been writing a comprehensive hands-on review. But, there are a few more things I need to understand and a couple of situations I want to photograph in, before I can finish that piece. However, I want […]

X-Pro1 Detail & Bokeh Test

It’s been a couple of weeks since I posted my initial impressions of the new Fuji X-Pro1 camera. I’ve been writing a comprehensive hands-on review. But, there are a few more things I need to understand and a couple of situations I want to photograph in, before I can finish that piece.

However, I want to address one question that many people have been asking; can the Fuji X-Pro1 replace a dSLR?

The best answer I can give is – maybe.

Why Do Photographers Buy dSLR cameras?

I’m not trying to be evasive, but, there is a problem in the question. Photographers buy dSLR cameras for many different reasons. Speed, image quality, flexibility, and ergonomics are some of things dSLR cameras have in their favour. But, not all of those matter to every photographer in the same way and to the same degree.

This Is a Camera With Strengths And Limitations

The image quality of the X-Pro1is as good as the best crop-sensor dSLR cameras out there and better than the best dSLR cameras from a few years ago. I’ve been shooting with Fuji’s own 35mm f.1.4 lens and my best images look great, straight out of the camera, with no processing.

But, great image quality is useless if you can’t shoot in focus. The Fuji lens is useless in manual focus mode and the camera’s autofocus system is temperamental at best.

And, there is no news yet on when we will be able to open the X-Pro1’s RAW files in Lightroom or Photoshop!

Moreover, image quality is irrelevant if you miss the moment. The X-Pro1 takes an age to start up and feels slow in general. For example, when you shoot exposure brackets the camera shoots the bracket quickly, but then takes an age to process the images before you can shoot again.

The X-Pro1 does a good job of putting its controls in (relatively) usable spots around the body. Features are less menu-trapped than on many low end dSLRs. It’s a fairly good layout for photographers who shoot in Manual and Aperture modes. There is also an assignable Function button, which I use for ISO. But, it does mean that I then have to dive into the menus to adjust White Balance.

The Joy Of The Hybrid Viewfinder

The X-Pro1 has one huge thing in its favour – the hybrid viewfinder. The X-Pro1 overlays, in a heads-up-display style, a lot of the information you need while shooting and lets you see the image you just shot and the menu all inside the viewfinder. That means you can do everything without having to lift the camera away from your face.

If you watch photographers, a lot of them waste time in between shots lowering the camera and navigating buttons and menus. The X-Pro1 is designed to encourage you not to do that. In effect, it is built to help you shoot like most pros, who rarely move the camera away from their face to make adjustments.

Why I Bought The X-Pro1

I bought the X-Pro1 to go alongside my Nikon dSLR gear, not as an out and out replacement. I will soon move to full frame dSLR for my landscape and studio portrait work. While I can imagine using the Fuji for portraits, in the full review I will explain the reasons why I wouldn’t use the X-Pro1 for landscape.

But, there are lots of situations, especially on day trips and city streets, where a dSLR feels bulky and indiscrete. There’s a lot to be said for carrying a smaller camera that packs the same kind of image quality and creative versatility.

And, since I can use my Nikon lenses (with adapters) on the X-Pro1, it makes a nice slim alternative as a second body on long trips, especially when I’m doing a mix of landscape and street work.


This is not a full review of the X-Pro1. There’s a lot more to be said about the camera’s strengths and weaknesses. But, I hope this goes at least part of the way towards answering whether this camera can replace a dSLR in certain situations.

Ultimately, the answer really depends on what you photograph and how you work. To be honest, I still haven’t made up my mind about the X-Pro1. Some days I like it, some days I don’t. But, if it does turn out to be a keeper, then I will be carrying it instead of a dSLR for some adventures and alongside my Nikon gear for others.

spike 12 years ago

you probably already know this but just in case … if the adapter situation for the XPro1 is similar to adapters for Sony’s NEX series, then you are in full manual mode with 3rd party lenses. No autofocus, no auto exposure. And, if your Nikon lenses are G lenses, then you can only shoot wide open since the lenses don’t have aperture rings.

Toni 12 years ago

Thanks Fern, interesting and thoughtful as ever.

Considering the image quality, I’m amazed that landscapes are a task you wouldn’t use a slower handling camera for, given the limitations. While I also appreciate that a smaller camera is more discrete, I find most compacts badly fail at portraits because they handle slowly and the autofocus is unreliable, so they almost always miss the moment. This seems to be turning things on their head a little!

I await your review with bated breath.

BTW weren’t you using old Canon gear a while back?

Fernando Gros 12 years ago

Spike – thanks for that. I was expecting that. But, it’s good that everyone reading this review also takes note of those limitations.

I have two G lens, one is a 12-24mm f4, which might be useful. The other is a fisheye, something I had not planned to use on the Fuji.

Spike 12 years ago

Fortunately, I’ve got a Nikon 50mm D lens which works quite well – the focus peaking assist on the NEX-& is incredibly useful for that. And older Nikon lenses, “D” and older, are easily found used and cheap. I picked up a 70-210 for this purpose. But it makes the camera so large that I think at that point no purpose to not using my Nikon (and my far better 70-210mm G VR II lens).

Fernando Gros 12 years ago

Toni – My first digital camera was a Canon IXUS. I did buy a bottom of the range Canon SLR many years ago. Apart from one roll of B&W I never got any decent images from it though. The only dSLRs I’ve owned and used have both been Nikon.

I’ll explain further why I would use the X-Pro1 for the kind of landscapes I shoot in the review. But, I will say, as a camera for carrying while on the bike, or going for a long walk, the Fuji is very attractive.

Fernando Gros 12 years ago

Spike – my Nikon 50mm f1.4D is the lens I am really keen to try on the Fuji. That’s my favourite lens for the kind of photography I want to do with the X-Pro1 and really great lens for manual focus.

Van Krausse 12 years ago

Hi there, i just wanted to drop you a line to say that i thoroughly enjoyed this detailed post.

Stacy Castillion 12 years ago

This camera is really easy to utilize, after you finish reading the handbook and viewing the DVD that accompanies your camera kit.

DM 12 years ago

Fernando, X Pro1s start up basically instantly, upon power on or sleep. However, if you use a Mac (as I do) and insert your memory card to export your photos as opposed to using the USB cable, Macs will write some hidden files to the card which interfere with this and cause the camera to take a few seconds to start up or wake. The fix is to re-format the card upon reinserting it. Problem solved.

Neal Kernohan 12 years ago

Thanks for the post. I’m very interested in ‘trying’ the X-Pro1, though I’m now torn between the D600, the 6D and this Fuji. At first I thought the choice simple, but I often dream of going pro, though this dream I have had for years. New firmware, out yesterday?, reportedly fixes a number of focus and start-up issues. I would be very keen to read how you find the update. hint, hint. 🙂

Fernando Gros 12 years ago

Neal – thanks for the comment. I am writing a post on the firmware update and the changes I’ve adopted, in how I use the X-Pro1, along with it.

I’m also taking a look at the D600 as it’s a sweet looking camera. But, they really are different beasts. For shooting live music and landscapes, I would rather use a dSLR than the Fuji, but for street/urban/people the Fuji is quite impressive.

I should have that post up early next week with some more info.

Thanks Fernando, I should think a lot of ‘us’ skeptics will look forward to that post. The focusing/shutter lag is what has put me off the camera to date, that and the price being so close to a D600 or a 6D. See, I used to shoot a lot of street stuff and I’d like to get back to it, and Cape Town does has it crime problems. That said, like you, I have other reasons too for owning/upgrading a dSLR instead. Tricky times.

gunston 12 years ago

in my opinion the X-Pro1 is unobtrusive and discrete for street photography as well as portrait shot. The question about the replacement for DSLR, yet it does in some perspective which each individual photographer know what are their needs and style of shooting.

Perhaps it would be more appropriate to create another post about “Can The Fuji X-Pro1 Replace Leica M9/M10” would be more interesting provided you do have a Leica M system for comparison (eventhough you don’t, you can always rent it easily).

Personally, i would say Yes, it is a replacement for DSLR, which i came from 5D Mark II and Leica M system Leica M8.

Stefano 11 years ago

I’m not a pro, and I don’t shoot sports. I am looking for the best image quality I can get, awesome ergonomics and quick, intuitive handling. I have, at times , carried a giant heavy camera bag filled with FX dslr and assorted lenses ( I have a penchant for primes). I want to shoot street, event, family , travel and possibly some fashion with a dollop of architectural and landscape here and there. How does the X Pro 1 stack up under those parameters? Or better yet, the rumored X Pro 2?
I want something light and cool with badass IQ. Am I barking up the right tree?

Fernando Gros 11 years ago

Stefano – You may well find the X-Pro1 works for you. Although the camera, with a couple of spare lenses will take up some bag space, it’s a lot less than most dSLRs. I’ve been shooting exclusively with my D800e for the past few months, but the images from some fellow photographers (like Matt Brandon here) make me want to take the X-Pro1 out soon. I still really like the X-Pro1 for street photography.

I can’t really comment on the other Fuji cameras because I’ve not yet tried them. I really don’t like to speculate from technical specifications. What the camera can actually do, in our hands, is all that matters.

My suggestion would be to try and borrow, rent or at least spend some time with the X-Pro1 in your hands. It might also be worth a look at the Olympus OMD E-M5, which a few people like and the Sony RX1, which is a camera I was very tempted to buy recently.

Gerardo Pedraza 10 years ago

I enjoy the manual focus on the 35mm in the Xpro1

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