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Pro tool from Fujifilm worth the extra cash

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Christopher Snow

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The Fujifilm X-Pro1will satisfy lovers of old-school design as well as the gadget fiends.

Exemplary marriage of form and function ... Fujifilm X-Pro1.

Exemplary marriage of form and function ... Fujifilm X-Pro1.

If there's one camera company taking the maxim "they don't make them like they used to" to heart, it's Fujifilm. In testing the company's latest interchangeable lens camera, the X-Pro1, we found a camera that produces top-of-the-line image quality in a body as sturdy and rigidly built as any all-metal camera you'd find kicking around a garage sale.

The Fujifilm X-Pro1 is the company's finest digital camera to date, and a contender for first place in many of our image quality tests. With a new line of interchangeable lenses that each offer superior image quality, you can officially colour us impressed with Fuji's latest effort. Here's the bad news: the X-Pro1 sells for about $1799 in Australia - just for the body alone, no lenses included.

The lenses have to be purchased separately, but they're well worth the price. Each of the three debut lenses - one wide-angle for landscapes, one for general photography, and one for close-up macro work - offered razor-sharp detail. Each lens is also a "prime" lens, meaning that they don't zoom in and out, but offer a fixed field of view and a large aperture that lets in more light than other lenses.

Fusion of classic and cutting-edge ... the X-Pro1’s hybrid viewfinder.

Fusion of classic and cutting-edge ... the X-Pro1’s hybrid viewfinder.

The X-Pro1 offered pleasing colours in our sample photos, and attained the hallmark of great lenses: sharp, in-focus subjects against a smooth, blurred background. The X-Pro1 also was quite good in low light, keeping ugly image noise relatively low - even better than competition like the Sony NEX-7 and Olympus E-M5.

But if there's one feature that symbolised the X-Pro1's fusion of classic and cutting-edge, it's the new hybrid viewfinder. It can be used as an electronic viewfinder that mirrors the rear display, as an off-centre optical view window, or as an optical finder with a heads-up display grid of shooting information on top of your image. Each has its benefits and drawbacks, but no matter your preference, you should find a mode that works for you.

Just about every feature on the X-Pro1 - the viewfinder included - is controlled by a mechanical lever, a manual dial, or a rotating ring. While the phenomenal images are certainly rewarding in their own right, actually getting out there to shoot with the camera is as empowering as it is convenient. There's something about clicking a manual aperture ring into place that a software menu just can't replicate. There's a bit of a learning curve that may overwhelm beginners, but for those willing to learn the X-Pro1 rewards you with complete control right at your fingertips.

Sharp turn ... manual dials on the X-Pro1.

Sharp turn ... manual dials on the X-Pro1.

The X-Pro1 is certainly not without fault, though, as we had some trouble handling the camera with so many buttons and dials crowding the back of the body. The decision to place two essential keys - quick menu and auto exposure/focus lock - right on the thumb rest is a perfect example; they're right there to be pressed at a moment's notice, but accidental presses are far more common than we'd like.

We also felt that the X-Pro1's video feature was simply tacked on, with quality far below what the camera achieves when shooting stills. The new "X-Trans" sensor design may do wonders for still-photo sharpness, but we found that it produced video plagued by the blocky artifacts of heavy compression. This is a camera for still-photography only.

Ultimately, the Fujifilm X-Pro1 is an exemplary marriage of form and function, at once taking advantage of traditional manual control and modern technological advances. While the $1799 body-only asking price is steep, that money goes to quality, not novelty; the camera produces some of the sharpest photos we've ever seen and the build quality is as good as it gets these days. Whether you're a lover of old-school camera design or a gadget fiend who needs the latest and greatest, the Fujifilm X-Pro1 has you covered.

USA Today