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Fuji Meets Leica: One of the Best Street Cameras Gets Even Better

Gear Talk

To hear some photographers tell it, Fuji is the new Leica. The company, which saw rave reviews for its X100, has been on something of a tear of late. What began with an interesting concept morphed into a camera with a cult following, and was followed up by an entire system that has turned much of the photo world on its head.

The X100s, for example, is a body we can’t seem to keep in stock (though it is right now – go get it before it sells out again!), and the interchangeable lens-capable X-Pro1 is one of the finest low-light performers we’ve ever seen in a body that size. That X-Pro1 has now gotten a breath of fresh air. Fuji seems to be the sort of company that really listens to its users, and with the latest firmware update, has made a lot of those users very, very, happy indeed.

Fuji X-Pro1, Leica 50mm f/2.5

Fuji X-Pro1, Leica 50mm f/2.5

The 3.0 firmware update for the X-Pro1 brought with it one very important feature: focus peaking. For those of you who don’t know what that is, focus peaking is something that’s made its way over from the video world. It’s a tool that helps photographers and videographers ensure that they’re achieving critical focus in manual mode. When enabled, this feature adds white outlines to objects that are in focus, as shown below.

Focus Peaking on the X-Pro1

Focus Peaking on the X-Pro1

As you can see, the subject’s eyes and parts of his nose have what we colloquially refer to as “white squigglies” on the edges. This tells me that those are the parts of the frame that are currently in focus. In the image above, I’m using the Fuji’s live magnification feature to see those squigglies a bit more clearly.

So why is this important? Well, we have for some time now, carried this little gem of an item in our inventory: the Fuji M mount to X mount adapter. This adapter goes between the Fuji X-Pro1 and one of the many Leica lenses that we carry, allowing you to use Leica glass with the X-Pro1.

The Leica lenses are all manual focus lenses, and when used with a Leica M9 camera, are easy to focus as the Leica uses a rangefinder mechanism to allow you to focus quickly. When you look through the viewfinder, a small yellow square in the center shows you part of your subject in a sort of double-vision. You turn the lens’ focus ring till the two images merge, and that’s when your subject is in focus.

The X-Pro1 had no such focus aid, so you were forced to just eyeball it and hope you got it (or use Fuji’s excellent autofocus-capable lenses). Now, however, with the X-Pro1 getting focus peaking via an update, all sorts of manual lenses are now far more usable with the X-Pro1.

Fuji X-Pro1, Leica 50mm f/2.5

Fuji X-Pro1, Leica 50mm f/2.5

I took the Leica 50mm f/2.5 and the adapter out for a spin, and was absolutely delighted with the results. Focus peaking works pretty well  and if you switch the camera to B&W mode, the squigglies stand out just a bit more.

Even in dark conditions, working in minimal light, the peaking feature works well enough to make manual focus that much easier. You can zoom in on your image by pushing in on the jog wheel on the rear of the camera, and that makes the peaking outlines even easier. Using that feature and the X-Pro1′s low-light capabilities, I was able to capture some awesome shots.

Low-light shot with the X-Pro1 and Leica 50mm f/2.5.

Low-light shot with the X-Pro1 and Leica 50mm f/2.5.

To me, the Fuji X-Pro1 has always had the soul of a street shooter. Multiple firmware updates have improved the focusing speeds, added a few features, and generally improved the capabilities of this diminutive and unassuming body. The latest update from Fuji has breathed even more life into this camera, and demonstrates just how well Fuji listens and responds to its users. More updates from the company are on the way, but it’s this one that has shooters like me most excited.

The X-Pro1 is available for rent now, as is the Leica M adapter and a variety of Leica lenses.

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Sohail Mamdani is a writer and photographer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+. You can find his portfolio on his website at sohail.me as well as on 500px and Flickr.

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Comments

  • Adrian says:

    Thanks for the writeup! I’ve got my Fuji X-Pro1 here and my Leica 50mm Summicron but no adaptor to connect the 2, would you recommend the official Fuji adaptor? Or would a third party adaptor be ok as well?

    • Hi Adrian,

      I’d recommend the official Fuji adapter. I have a third-party adapter for Nikon lenses and there’s a little bit of “play” in the connections. The official Fuji < -> Leica adapter is pretty darn solid, with almost zero play in the connection. If you’re buying, it’s pricier, but it’s worth it, IMHO…

      Cheers,
      Sohail

  • […] too long ago, following the release of Fuji’s firmware update for its X lineup of cameras, I posted an article about extending the Fuji system with Leica lenses using the Fuji X mount to Leica M mount adapter. […]

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