Fuji Film X-Pro 1 Initial impressions

I think my first taste of the X-Pro 1 was clouded by the environment in which I had the experience. It was in the honten (headquarters store / main office) of Yodobashi Camera, in Shinjuku, Tokyo.

In Japan it is typical to connect demonstration models of electronic goods to counters by using fine coiled cables. These cables function to tether the items, and also to both power them and connect them to alarm systems. This is clearly done to prevent people from stealing display items, but it also has the effect of restricting, often severely, any movement with the display models.

This is most certainly the case with the Fuji Film X-Pro 1 demonstration model in Yodobashi Camera Honten. Not only is the body tethered, but so too are the several lenses and the Thumbs Up accessory that are all available for trial. Countless repeated experimentation by customers has left the collective cables in a twisted, tangled, interwoven nightmare. A highly restrictive nightmare.

I had to slightly stoop to bring the camera to my eye, and I could turn only about 45 degrees in one direction. The whole experience was quite frustrating. So, I now wonder how much this contributed to my initial, quite sceptical appraisal of my primary point of interest in this camera, which is the viewfinder. In particular, the optical viewfinder.

I’m a big fan of rangefinders. I realise they are not for everybody, but they seem to suit me well. I like the large bright window through which I can see the world, I like the fact that the bright lines delineate a potential photographic scene without restricting my view of the outlying area, and I like the way the view stays during the taking process, when the shutter is activated. So, this is why I am so interested in this particular camera.

Over several visits to Yodobashi Honten, I repeatedly came away quite disappointed. The viewfinder seemed small, squinty and dim.

This initial opinion was much the same as one I later found, expounded by this person, on a DP Review forum.

When I first read this comment, I knew exactly what this person was talking about. I’m also fairly certain that they were referring to the exact same camera that I had been trying in Yodobashi Honten. I also immediately wondered how much of their opinion was influenced by the conditions involved with using this particular demonstration unit.

Because, the thing is, when I first discovered this person’s comment, I had changed my mind completely only the previous day. The reason for this was because I had found, by chance and quite unusually I thought, a demonstration X-Pro 1 and XF35mm f1.4 on display in a large but quite rural electronics store, near where I live, north of Tokyo. I never would have expected a shop located there to have on offer anything other than a restricted range of the most popular consumer point and shoot and dSLR models. It was a very pleasant surprise to find the camera there, and the surprise grew to a very real pleasure quite quickly.

What set this demonstration model apart, was the fact that it was tethered with an unusually long cable. I could take several steps away from the counter, and turn almost 360° with the camera. This also meant I could crouch down while taking photos. The store in question is also much, much larger and far more spacious than the Yodobashi honten, which is quite a restrictive and cramped space. In effect, the layout of this rural store is much more similar, in terms of the distances between things, to what you might find in real life.

It was quite a revelation using the X-Pro 1 under these circumstances. The optical viewfinder no longer seemed to have the problems I had previously encountered. It seemed just right now, being large and bright enough, and it worked flawlessly. And repeated visits to this store, K’s Denki, have only reaffirmed my opinion that the X-Pro 1 optical viewfinder is good. Quite good in fact. I intend to write more about this soon.

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