Obscura: Kevin Sparrow Discusses the Fuji X-Pro1 and Cycling

Since this website is a one-man show 99.99% of the time, I like to make the guest appearances extra special. I’ve known Kevin Sparrow for some time now. I wouldn’t say we go way back, but in internet time, we’ve been around, doing relatively the same kind of work for a few years. Kevin’s someone I look up to, not only as a photographer, but as a person and a passionate artist. When he and I spoke a few months back about photography, he mentioned he was thinking of ditching his Canon 7D for the Fuji X-Pro1.


A camera is a tool, and like any tool you find the one that works best for the job. Just like a bicycle. I am by no means an expert on cameras but I do know what works best for me. If you are reading this review and are expecting some sort of tech geeky, pixel peeping build breakdown then stop right now and head over to DP review. I ride bikes, shoot photos and most of the time live out of my backpack. Over the last few months i’ve experienced a camera that has lived in harmony with my lifestyle, something that has never happened before. So if you have an open mind and are interested in hearing my opinion, carry on and enjoy!


I’ve traveled around the world with my bike, Canon 7D, lenses and flash. If you’ve seen me at events I am usually toting my massive Shag Bags backpack to carry around all that gear. The best thing about traveling with a bike is you never have to worry about bus schedules or rental cars. The bad thing about traveling with a bike is most of the time you usually have everything you need for the day on your back. Working on COG for the last 5 years traveling light has always been a fantasy. When we were documenting events it was vital our cameras were always with us.

When I first heard about the Fujifilm X-pro1 back in December I was definitely interested in what it had to offer. There were rumors that the X-Pro1’s images could rival the Canon 5D MkII. Camera forums were filled with skeptics and reasonably so. Normally, I try to stay away from camera forums because they are filled with camera snobs and trolls. If you have ever been to one you will know they are 10 times worse than anonymous commenters on bike blogs.

However, I couldn’t help myself to learn more about this camera because it seemed right up my alley.
With my tax return around the corner and my basement already filled with bikes I decided to pull the trigger and hop on the pre-order with the 35mm 1.4 lens. I was a little nervous to spend that kind of cash on a new system ($2300 with lens) no one knew anything about. With my 7d still in my bag I had nothing to loose (30 day return policy!) if I didn’t like the X-pro1. When the brown santa arrived, I was giddy like a little kid. I quickly opened the boxes and attached the lens. I fired a few test shots and familiarized myself with the menu and dials. It was super quick to learn. The aperture is controlled by the ring on the lens and the shutter is controlled by the dial on the top of the body. Wow. I felt like I was working with my AE-1. From that day forward I never touched my 7D again.


I am really impressed with the build quality of this camera. It feels substantially solid. I was expecting the body to be a little heavier than it was but I am over it and think its pretty perfect. The dials lock into place with the right amount of resistance. The only thing that feels a little cheap on the camera is the shutter button and the on off switch. I wish they would have done a little bit more with this. The fact that the body/lens isnt water resistant kind of scares me. If there is moisture in the air their are plenty of other options to cover the camera and still shoot.


This camera has a fancy little feature called a ‘hybrid viewfinder”. Its a viewfinder that has two different viewing options. You can switch between the two easily by a little switch on the front of the camera. I have no idea how they figured this out.
The “optical viewfinder mode” is real life with digital overlay of your settings, metering, and frame for the type of lens you have attached and other stuff. This is what I use 95% of the time. I like seeing a bike race in real life better than on a tv screen. The other view is called the “electronic viewfinder mode”. Its pretty much just like having a tv inside the eye piece showing you what the lens sees. It’s nice but kind of laggy like the Tour de France coverage this year. When shooting in macro mode the camera forces you into this view. It does come in handy when you want to check out your depth of field or framing. But other than that I stay in the optical mode. Its a simple camera, keep it that way.


Yes, I’ve seen comparisons between the X-Pro1 and the Canon 5d MKII. And yes, I’d have to say it is better. I can go up to ISO 3200 and see virtually no noise. This is because of the new X-Trans Sensor Fujifilm developed. It is supposed to simulate how film grain reacts to light. I am not going to go into detail on how it works because I am not totally sure I understand it ( Nothing digital will ever compare to film so don’t let this fool you. I will note that it does render some aesthetically pleasing and impressive images. I think this is a huge step for digital. The X-Pro1’s images zoomed in look WAY better than other files I have seen ATMO.


Oh hell yes! This black beauty performs! It took me a little bit to get used to how this thing behaves. I am actually pretty surprised on how well it is for action shots. The optical viewfinder is key when panning. There is a little bit of shutter lag that gets kind of annoying but I am hoping that this will be resolved in a firmware release. Ive learned to adapt just like a photographers adapt to other things beyond his control. It shoots 6 frames per second but honestly I hardly use it. You have to remember, this is not made to be a sports camera that shoots a bizillion frames a second. This is a photojournalist camera. You can certainly use it for action, like I said, but it takes some getting used to and the results are scattered mainly because of focusing issues. Focusing is ok. Its not fast but its not slow either. The autofocus is good but it is not perfect. It gets confused sometimes but when it is on point it is REALLY on point.


This was the biggest selling point for me. This is the first camera I actually enjoy having with me.

I can carry it all day and not be annoyed having it with me. Its small, I can carry 2 lenses and not even care about it. I carry it with me almost every day working as a messenger. Its light and the whole system was pretty much the same size as my Canon 16-35mm L lens alone. I am not sure who first said it but, the best camera truly is the one you have with you. I hate taking photos with my iPhone but before the X-Pro1 it was always with me. And thats what I loved about it. When I pull out this camera people react differently. They are not scared of it. Strangers don’t care and people act more naturally. I think it is because big camera are intimidating. Huge lenses and bodies scream pro and people might feel uneasy being in front of one. Most of the time I can pull out my camera, take a shot, and be on way without anyone even noticing. And people certainly don’t expect the image quality that comes from such a small body. I am able to get photos that I have never been able to get before.


There are tons of lens adaptors available for all your favorite lenses. Since aperture is controlled by the lens you can use some of your favorite film camera lenses including Leica (M-Mount), Canon (FD mount) and Nikon (F Mount). Pretty Awesome.


Yeah, I get women with this thing dangling around my neck. It matches perfectly with my brand new messenger bag and fixie. Kidding. But I can see how some people would buy this as a fashion accessory. It looks good. Before the X-Pro1, Leica was the only one making good looking digital cameras in my opinion. But to own a Leica you have to make a ton of money off your blog.*** I do get asked if it is a film camera ALL the time. There is no large Fujifilm logos on the front which is awesome. I LOVE the way it looks. I surely didn’t buy it just because it looks good. But it helped in my decision to purchase it. C’mon, Its metal as fuck! Its all black, something metal heads like Prolly can certainly appreciate.


Of course there are quirks and things that I don’t like. Shutter lag being one of them. I hope Fujifilm fixes this because this is the only thing that makes this camera feel…digital.


We all ride bikes and appreciate good photos. Thats why some of us visit this blog every day. We live our life on 2 wheels and its nice to have less on our back and more memories to share about our 2 wheeled culture. Over the last 4 months the X-pro1 has changed the way I document this culture and my idea of photography. Photography to me is very similar to cycling. When you find a bike that fits your lifestyle and the type of riding, you hold on to that bike forever. You learn how that bike handles in every situation and your style of riding. Just like a good bike you have to appreciate it as a tool. By no means is this camera going to make you a better photographer. Just like a bike will not make you a faster rider. But when you hop on a bike that feels good you will find yourself as a cyclist. I feel the same way with the X-Pro1. Love your tools and your tools will love you back.

Kevin Sparrow

Many, many thanks to Kevin for such an in-depth review on the new Fuji X-Pro1. See more information here or swing by your local camera shop, because they need your business!