The great switch. From Canon full frame to Fuji X-Trans

A review of the Fujifilm X-Pro after one year. How the Fuji mirrorless cameras has become a photographic system 2.0.

It was not a downgrade. The decision to try Fuji has been long and thoughtful, after reading numerous reviews on sites, blogs and magazines, having evaluated opinions of early adopters who have ventured with this brand. A forum that I follow carefully is fredmiranda.com, in particular topics dedicated to images taken with a particular brand. In truth, the cause was when I picked up my old Praktica BC1 of 1989 (a Zeiss clone produced in the former East Germany: really another age). I did the first shots of my life with this camera, I was a child. What a feeling of freedom and lightness. Within that bright viewfinder I discovered the world of photography.

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A premise. One of the most important things in life, I believe, is intellectual honesty. As I’m not a loyal customers of any brand, so when I run into those stupid discussions “is Leica better than Zeiss?” or “Canon vs Nikon”, I’ll immediately stop reading. I hate wasting time.

For about two years I used Canon full frame (5d classic, then mark II), after started shooting digital with 400d and 40d, all purchased in gray market. On this cameras I attacched a variety of manual lenses (contax, leica-r, m42 and so on). Canon, among reflex cameras, is the one that allows you to more easily adapt these lenses.

 

Full frame is full frame. Stop
It makes no sense to compare a full frame sensor with a mirrorless cropped one. The size of the sensor is the first factor that affects image quality: more light equals more details and information. Today Sony has made “full frame” the buzz of the moment. It was necessary, at least for the marketing departments, to step up in 24×36 format in order to compete with the old SLR. But one thing is having a technological tool, another using a camera for doing photography. Moral: overflowing a garden with plants, not always makes it a good garden, and you’ve to work more and more to take care of it.

 

The best aps-c sensor?
In certain genres such as landscape, having 5 more megapixels is always better, especially for those who, like me, print A3+ and does not shout wow! viewing a photo displayed on an iPhone. On the other hand, the lack of the anti-aliasing filter on the X-Trans sensor, is so positive that I cannot imagine myself to buy another camera with anti-aliasing filter. Finally, two reviews made ​​me decide to buy.
The first: the comparison between the same shot taken with a X-Pro1 and a D800e.
The second: the classic raw comparison at high ISO: above ISO 1600 the Fuji fights almost on a par with the best Nikon and Canon full frames.
Now the third reason (the most important): the quality of the optics, in particular of 35mm. The lenses make the Fuji a camera system. In particular, the 35mm 1.4.

 

Do you need everytime a full frame?
What is worth that one stop that separates a cropped sensor from a full 35mm? Everything. And nothing. It depends on the subject and purpose of your photographic project. You don’t need a stop difference in depth of field in every shoot, and your picture means something even without a gorgeous liquid bokeh. Even in photography content is king.
The small size of the camera and lens will put your subject at ease. This psychological dimension, which is naturally reflected in the final result, has more relevance than any bokeh, 3D sensation, or MTF curve. Photography is still a creative performance, not a beauty contest for your equipment.
It is always a shame to give up to many photographic opportunities when, after half a day walking in the mountains, you begin to hate 5 pounds of backpack, camera, tripod, lenses, filters, cleaning tools, adapters, hoods, water and food .
Photography, like life, is made ​​up of decisions. The advantage of mirrorless is therefore portability and discretion, which make it ideal for hiking and street photography, especially considering that you can push it to the very high ISO levels while maintaining high quality standards even at ISO 3200.

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Autofocus
Achilles heel of X cameras was autofocus. Until the release of the new sensor mounted on the X-E2, with the transition from a contrast to a phase AF. For those who know the difference between, no surprise. Myself did not expect any better, and my prediction has been confirmed: AF slower than 5D mark II, but more accurate.

 

Interface
Excellent. The Q button is great, because it allows you to manage the settings key in the EVF very quickly. Those coming from film will love the exposure compensation dial.
In June 2013 a firmware update moved the AF point selection in a better position, and on December, finally, we had Auto ISO fixed.
Compared to even the best SLR camera bodies of a few years ago, it is clear that historical brands like Olympus and Fuji have put all their experience in designing bodies designed by photographers for photographers: using these cameras is not only easy and convenient, but also a joy. This is the key point: the shooting experience, not the numbers printed on the box.

 

The rite of passage from optic to electronic viewfinder
It ‘s true: the X-E1 and its successor have a better electronic viewfinder (EVF).
The Pro (which I bought used in gray market, as always), felt more though and balanced for mounting my Leica-R lenses that have a substance of metal and glass.
The Optical viewfinder (OVF) is a rite of passage from a classic rangefinder and a EVF only camera. Frames and distances, which are adapted to the lens mounted, are not always accurate (even after the firmware update in December). Of course, at f/8 in hyperfocal distance with a wide-angle lens, it would be hard to miss your focus point, while retaining the advantage of a hybrid rangefinder style. Definitely, the X-Pro1 is not a rangefinder camera. In these two years technology has not stopped: the last EVF viewfinders of all brands are superior.

 

Kaizen 2.0
The firmware update which introduced the focus peaking leads me to introduce a “plus” that any geek like me will appreciate.
The Fuji is an open system in continuous innovation: they periodically update the software fixing bugs, and adding features for performance improving. Excellent example of software engineering, where update really means upgrade, due to the concept of kai (“change”) zen (“good”) i.e. “change for better“.
Therefore it’s strategic to listen the community: user requests or reviews in forums and blogs, expert photographers hired to test and suggest improvements. We have in our hands, truly, a “camera 2.0“.
If it became “open“, it would rise a community of independent developers in less than a day, as it happened for “Magic Lantern” for Canon. I’m sure it would attract the sympathies of a large niche of geek photographers.

 

RAW workflow
I was very intrigued when for the first time I read Fujifilm had developed a new matrix (Color Filter Array) instead of the traditional Bayer.
For those not familiar with the differences, just read here.
In addition to the focus speed, the other major issue of X-Trans was the demosaicing process, especially for Adobe users (Camera Raw, Photoshow and Lightroom) .
After a year of work and upgrades, we can say that the conversion of RAW files is not so problematic, except in certain cases, for example of fine green detail, like foliage: you can still find green “watercolor” areas without sharpness and constast.
On the other hand, if you try to convert raw files with Aperture, Photo Ninja, and above all, Iridient Developer or Capture One, the X-Trans shines. You might be surprised by the level of detail, three-dimensional and dynamic range of the X-Trans.
This post, however, shows how you may continue to use Lightroom as a basic program for organize and produce your own photos, by joining when necessary, an external conversion software. In practice, Lightroom sends raw to the external tool, which converts the image in a 16bit tif file, included in your library and so workable in LR. The disadvantage is obviously you’ll have two files instead of one on your hard disk.

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Summary
After a year of use I can draw up a summary, aligned with other reviews, starting to say that after six months I sold the Canon 5D and some full frame lenses to finance the purchase of Fujifilm stuff. From an economic point of view this is the most disadvantage of cropped format: invest in lenses that depreciate quickly, and may not be used on a larger sensor.
Why leave the great 5D? Three reasons: portability, dynamic range, easy of use. If I made studio works, probably I would not switch (use with flash must be improved). From a pure image quality point of view, using the same Leica-R lenses, I have never regretted Canon once opened RAF files. And moreover, the little XF 14mm and 35mm are quite comparable with Leica or Zeiss modern lenses, and the “kit” 18-55 and 55-200, when compared to their equivalent Canikon full frame siblings, for their quality/price ratio, are simply one of the best bargain on market. So, it was not a downgrade.

Pros
– One of the best image quality in APS-C format (dslr and mirroless) in particular at high ISO, where is comparable with full frame cameras
– Excellent color rendering, especially for skin tones
– Greater dynamic range for APS-C format, expandable in 3 modes to preserve highlights/shadows
– Lightweight, handling, interface
– JPG files almost ready for use, in various Fuji film color simulation
– Precise AF for static subjects

Cons
– Very slow autofocus, hunting in low light conditions, not suitable for fast moving subjects
– RAW workflow more complex than Bayer sensor cameras
– Possible color smearing and watercolor areas, especially with trees and foliage
– OVF still not 100% accurate
– Too much lag in EVF between shooting – reviewing – shooting
– Video features not up to competition

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