Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Fuji X-Pro 1 (Pimped)

Last week, I turned 52! Nine weeks before my birthday, I (with some help from Donal at Fixation) decided to "buy" myself a early birthday present, which came in the form of a boxed quality used Fujifilm X-Pro1. Now, I have to admit it, I've been hankering for the X-Pro 1 since it's launch and first got my hands on one at Fujifilm's South African HQ in Johannesburg two years ago, when I was still using my a Canon G7 compact as my go-anywhere digital camera. That camera, the G7 had been "pimped" within a inch of it's life, both internally (in the form of a third party firmware namely the CHDK hack) and externally with various accessories from a company called Lensmate, which included a extra finger grip and a lens extension tube.

The trusty Canon G7 compact digital camera (un-pimped)

I intended to do exactly the same thing with the X-Pro 1. Alas, (and as previously mentioned) I was overtaken by events, which included sending back the camera to Fuji's service department in Northampton for an extensive repair and replacement of it's main board and lens mount. Yep, I had managed to dodge an very expensive bullet. My advice to anyone considering buying a 2nd hand X-Pro1 is to be very, very careful before parting with your hard earned cash. As the saying goes "buyer beware!" There are loads of bargain basement X-Pro 1's doing the rounds on Ebay, fleabay and elsewhere at the moment and many of them, dare I say, are too good to be true. If your cheap as chips X-Pro 1 doesn't come with at least a six month warranty,  I'd think again and save a few more pennies because if it goes wrong, your bargain will quick turn into a very expensive non functioning doorstop. Lucky for me, I brought mine from a trusted source (Donal from Fixation) and the guys and girls at Fujifilm did a bang up job repairing my X-Pro1 and I now have something that is as close to resembling the  performance of the upcoming Fujifilm X-Pro 2  that money could buy. So, having  established a solid baseline with this new reborn beastie, I declare, let the pimping begin.

Step 1: Firmware Upgrade. 

The first thing you should do with your X-Pro 1 after fully reading it's user manual,  is turn it on and check which firmware it's currently running, then visit Fujifilm camera support here, where you will find the latest firmware upgrade for your camera and all free of charge.

As you can see my camera is currently running firmware V3.41 and the battery is fully charged.

I cannot stress just how important taking this first simple step can be in giving you the camera you deserve (and that Fuji intended) and here I must give credit, where credit is due. Three years after it's launch Fuji has continued to fully support this camera, primarily through a series of firmware upgrades which have utterly transformed this camera into a totally different beast from that of it's launch. Three years ago,  it was a open secret that the X-Pro 1 couldn't focus for toffee. Now (as long as you separate the function of metering and focusing and learn the benefits of back button focusing) a upgraded X-Pro1 can focus in near darkness. And it's not only the body that can be given the full firmware magic treatment, Fuji's series of X-mount lenses can also be upgraded. Perform both and you should end up with a X-Pro1 which is both fast and responsive. Doing a firmware upgrade is a win-win, no brainer. Do it and do it now! Trust me, you won't regret it. 

Step Two: Protection 

The Fuji X-Pro 1 is fundamentally a street camera and as such it should be afforded some form of protection both from the elements and YOU! I have always adhered to the rule that if you look after  the tools of your trade, your tools of work WILL LOOK AFTER YOU. So with this in mind I wrap both body and lens in  neoprene pouches, keeping them nice n cosy while in transit in my canvas bag.  I call it my "ragga" look.

My X-Pro1 Bag and it's neoprene protected contents
Then there is the X-Pro 1's rear LCD screen which is a thing of beauty but very exposed to being damaged. The previous owner of my camera had had the good sense to apply a hardened glass protector over the LCD screen and judging by the amount of scratches it's taken, the screen has already proved it's worth.

Step Three: Military Grade Pimping and Sports Car Handling.

My X-Pro 1 fitted with a "Arca" style handgrip L shaped plate.

The Fuji X-Pro 1 has always been a good looking camera, even dare I say, "Leica" like which if truth be told was part of it's appeal but the addition of a quick release "Arca Type" L plate hand grip, takes the X-Pro 1's retro looks to an whole new level. The plate has other advantages too. It's base and vertical plate are 100% compatible with RRS lever-quick release clamp system which means you can easily and quickly mount your X-Pro 1 body onto a suitable "arca" type tripod head. It's extra chunky handgrip is great for people like me with big hands and fat fingers and when used together with a "Thumbs Up" grip offers up superb handling to any and all photographers employing this combo. All in all this bracket offers rock solid protection to both the bottom and the side of the camera from the daily knocks of working life but let's be clear it turns the X-Pro 1 into one bad looking gangsta camera. 

Step Four: Off Camera Flash.

The off-camera flash system for my X-Pro 1 is made up by three main components.

1. The Yongnuo "Canon" ETTL off camera flash cable.
2. The Nissin i40 "Fuji X" iTTL speedlight and finally
3. The Nikon SK-7 off camera flash bracket.

Now it's been common knowledge amongst the X-Pro 1 community that there is some kind of link between Canon and Fuji in the way they have implemented their ettl flash protocol. I chose the Yongnuo cable over that of the OEM one made by Canon because quite frankly, the Yongnuo worked better. I couldn't tell you why exactly this is the case. I've tested both the Canon and non generic Canon OCF cables and to date only found the Yongnuo cable to be fully up to the task. It don't figure. With this combo, I can use the Nissin i40 both in manual and ittl modes with the cable enabling seamless communication between the X-Pro body and the Nissin speedlite. More importantly, the flash is moved from the top of the camera to the side of it, which works fine for me as a dyed in the wool "Strobist".

My X-Pro1 as viewed from the top with the Yongnuo OCF cord in the hotshoe connected to the Nissin i40 flash.
Step Five: Full "Pimp" Custom

Henry Ford once said of the Model T that his customers could choose any colour they liked, as long as it was black. The boffins at Fujifilm (and others) have taken a rather different tact with the X-Pro1 although you wouldn't know at first glance.

I have left the best till last because this option should only be considered by those of us who truly want to turn their X-Pro 1's into a urban fashion statement. Fujifilm will, for a price, give your understated ordinary looking black X-Pro a total custom makeover. Fuji calls it their "Signature" re-skinning service and trust me when I tell you that your camera will be un-recognisible by the time they finish with it. Alas I live in North London and this would attract the wrong kind of attention but if you're living in Chelsea........

A Fuji X-Pro 1 sporting Arsenal colours 

PS: There are three other things I'd recommend which will enable you to get the most out of your X-Pro1. First off, if you can and budgets permitting, get the fastest SD memory cards that money can buy (note, I said "fastest" not largest). The second and third amount to the same thing, batteries! The energy consumption of both the X-Pro1 and the Nissin i40 speedlight is HUGH and they both eat batteries. From my limited experience the original Fuji battery that came with the camera is the best option but that alone will not last a full days shoot and that's why I'm about to order three more direct from Fuji. As for powering the Nissin, the choice is easy. A fresh set of fully charged Sanyo Eneloop AA rechargable batteries will be the order of the day. Trust me, these batteries are the lick! Get a spare set, just in case but you won't be disappointed. 

Anyway if you want to check out "What's in my Fuji X-Pro 1 bag?" go to my YouTube channel and see for yourself. 

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