If Fujifilm is becoming known as something of a maverick manufacturer, its latest product announcement will do little to dispel the reputation. Fujifilm’s show-stealing unveiling at this year’s CES trade show in Las Vegas was the X-Pro1, the first mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera body directly aimed at the pro market.
If Fujifilm does not leap to mind as a manufacturer of professional equipment, then you’ve missed a lot of history. Fujifilm made a series of highly regarded big rangefinders for 120 rollfilm in the 1990s dubbed ‘Texas Leicas’ – some even had interchangeable lenses. They also helped build the remarkable Hasselblad X-Pan panoramic 35mm and other Hassleblad models.
Then, last year Fujifilm had an unexpected success last year with the X100, a fixed (28mm) lens rangefinder with a unique hybrid finder, old-school manual controls and an APS-C sensor. A gorgeous thing and while some couldn’t cope with its quirks, many loved it for the image quality. The X-Pro1 takes the X100 to the next level.
So what is the X-Pro1 – another mirrorless compact? Oh no. It is a Leica M killer. The first autofocus rangefinder since the brilliant Contax G-series in the 1990s. Key features are a unique 16-megapixel Fujifilm APS-C sized CMOS sensor with no no anti-aliasing filter and the same style hybrid-optical electronic viewfinder as the X100. There’s also a three-inch LCD with 1.23 million dots of resolution and Live View.
Three lenses will be available for the camera initially – and none of them are zooms. An 18mm f2 pancake wide, a 35mm f1.4 standard and a 60mm f2.4 macro (or portrait) – that’s 27mm, 53mm and 90mm equivalent. It is expected Fujifilm will release a further six lenses over the next two years. In 2012 we'll see a 14mm f2.8 wide (21mm equiv.) and an 18-72mm f4 stabilised zoom (27-108mm). In 2013 there will be a 23mm f2 (35mm), a 28mm f2.8 pancake (42mm), a stabiised 72-200mm f4 (108-300mm) and a 12-24mm wide zoom (18-36mm). Zooms on a rangefinder? Fujifilm says the hybrid viewfinder remains fully functional with both zoom and fixed focal length lenses. The Fujinon lenses are likely to be extremely good. There is a long tradition there too.
The back focus distance is a wafer-thin 17.7mm which means that just about any brand of manual lens can be fitted with an adapter – we understand that Fujifilm will offer a Leica M adapter at some point.
Leica killer? – it’s about the same size and shape as a Leica M, offers live view, autofocus, finder info and other refinements – oh, and look at that lens logo on the top. Very retro Leica! And the X-Pro1 is a quarter of the price of the M. Expect around $1700 for the body and $2,200 with the standard lens.
More lenses will follow, as will a cheaper version of this model, or so the rumours go. Local stores, such as Camera Electronics in Perth, are taking pre-orders.
The only question left is, when are they going to drop the ‘film’ from their name?