We've had our hands on the Fuji XPro1 for about a week now, and starting to get used to it and its nuances. Yesterday myself and a few friends met up in Soho and headed over to Temple Street in Kowloon which is a great little area for street photography with vibrant buzzing markets and even more vibrant characters around the place.
After a short trip on the ferry across the harbour, we walked up Canton Road, which has a lot of the big brand shops and is always full of characters, a great area to warm up before hitting the markets further into Kowloon. You can always be sure to see hundreds of mainland tourists spending their fortunes around here on designer brands.
This was the first full day of shooting the XPro1 in this environement for me, and using only the 35mm 1.4 Fujinon lens in full autofocus mode (I believe the manual focus with the fuji lenses is totally useless as its fly by wire only), which means there is no tactile connection between you and camera/lens...its way too slow. If using manual focus with other lenses such as the Leica lenses, its brilliant, I don't know why they insists on developing a fly by wire manual focus system, it really is completely unusable in my opinion unless you use it exclusively for 'zone focussing'.
So, I decided to shoot everything with autofocus. There has been much debate about the AF capabilities of this camera in light of the X100 problems. I can say this....yes, its not perfect, however, it is pretty fast (if the camera is kept awake) and it nailed 95 percent of my shots without a problem.
I shoot very fast when in the streets, so normally i use zone focussing, so using AF was almost a step back for me, however, I think this environment was the perfect test for this camera, as I believe many people are looking at the Fuji as a viable street photography/travel photography replacement for their DSLR or even as an alternative to the Leica M system such as M8/M9.
I shot everything in RAW, converted via the Fuji software supplied with the camera, then edited in Lightroom 4 using VSCO film presets set to Kodak Portra 400 for all images other than the black and white conversion using Niksoft Silver Efex Pro 2.
A quick note on the VSCO film presets - If you are looking for a good film emulation preset for lightroom, then look no further, these really are good, I have hundreds of presets and I keep going back to these ones, I believe they are the most realistc set available, and I am eagerly awaiting a specialist set from the for Leica and who knows maybe a Fuji specific set also, as they tweak camera calibration settings in RAW also, not just basic adjustments, they have camera specific versions for Canon and Nikon already, as well as a generic set for other cameras for now, and they have promised to release Leica specific profiles, which I hope to get my hands on as soon as possible.
The markets around Temple street - as you can see from these pictures have a diverse mix of characters. Although its probably classed as a 'tourist friendly' area, there are still a lot of things going on behind the scenes here, with triad activity and in particular prostitution clearly visible on the streets even in the middle of the day. Any photographer visiting this area should be aware that most of these girls will react quite adversely if photographed....some are friendly of course and don't seem to mind....however, if unsure, then my advice would be just stay well away from shooting anyone you think may react negatively.
I noticed many muslim girls around the markets when we were shooting, so approached them to ask permission to take their picture as they were wearing some great colours. All of them were more than happy to be photographed.
The Autofocus on the Fuji had no problem at any stage with shooting a diverse mix of subjects, and as the image below shows, shooting into the sun, (sometimes difficult for autofocus), there was again no problems with the performance.
Two of the young ladies accompanying us on this 'photo walk' were Becky and Cheryl, both previous attendees of the street photography workshop, Becky was keen on shooting her 5DII using zone focussing to get her shots, whilst Cheryl preferred to use her new Canon S100 (I think that's what it was), for speedy and discreet street shooting.
This gentleman below was a great subject I thought, he was just squatted on the road, laughing continuously, and was more than happy to be photographed. I noticed on closer look that he had a cigarrete in one hand and 3 spares in the other!!! Thats what I call chain smoking!.
The only lens that I used during this trip was the Fujinon 35mm 1.4, which so far I must say is a great lens (as long as not using manual focus - way too slow), normally I shoot much wider for street photography and closer to my subjects, but this seemed to work well on this day for me. I keep emphasising about the autofocus - and again you can see from the image above, quicky focussing on the cigarretes on the bottom left corner of the frame, it had no problem locking on and giving me the desired focus point.
The total time we were in the markets was only about 2 hours, and I found the camera consistently delivered the results I needed. I have tried this camera with a Leica M mount adaptor and the 35mm F2 ASPH lens also, and the results were quite spectacular, very clean and sharp images, very easy to focus using the EVF its really great with an M mount lens for this, my wish would be that it had 'focus peaking' similar to the NEX-7, then there would be no need for me to zoom in to fine tune focus using the rear dial, especially with wide lenses as its a bit harder to fine tune the focus than with a longer focal length lens.
This fantastic gentleman was more than happy to let me take his portrait and yet again the fast performance of the Fuji XPro1 had no issues nailing the shot for me. Something else I have noticed is that the metering system of the camera seems to overexpose about half a stop most of the time...I consistently left the camera set to -1 or -2/3 to get more accurate exposures, but this is not a problem for me, I just think it takes a little bit of practice, figure out where all the buttons are (there are a lot on this camera that are easy to press by accident...) then it will be fine. It's just like any other camera tool, we need a bit of time learning our way round it, and then there won't be any issues.
Overall I am very pleased with this camera when using it for street photography. Being a similar size to my Leica M9, the feel was quite similar and I believe its a perfect size for this style of photography. People aren't really intimidated by a camera this size compared to a DSLR with a big zoom lens, its ultra light (maybe feels even a little too light for me - again i'm comparing the the tank like construction of the Leica which many won't like).
So my final thoughts are as follows:
Recommended for street photography - A BIG YES.
Recommended to switch if you already have a Leica M9 - personally NO, but I think many will....
Recommended for manual focus with Fuji lenses - NO WAY!
Recommended for manual focus with M lenses - YES, REALLY WORKS GREAT.
Recommended for anyone wishing to switch from DSLR or looking for travel photography camera - YES YES YES.
So, I won't be swapping it for my Leica just yet....but I can still highly recommend the camera, its ergonomically great, looks the part, and I personally haven't had any serious issues with autofocus.
I have another blog post using this camera at night with a 50mm 0.85 lens from SLR Magic, if interested to see the image from that, please click here.
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F8 Photography provides commercial photography and training across Asia, with workshops on Street Photography and other photography and video training courses, more details can be found via the ‘courses and workshops’ link and upcoming events via the front page of our website.