What’s different about Fujifilm cameras that make me want to pick them up and shoot with them? This is something that I was thinking about today. I concluded that the experience of shooting with the cameras and the images produced by the cameras are what makes me want to use them more than other brands.
What is the Fujifilm shooting experience? Is it the retro styling? The manual knobs and rings? The optical viewfinder on camera series like the X-Pro and X100? What-you-see-is-what-you-get, perhaps? I think yes to all of those, but even more it’s about the feeling in the moment. That’s a very abstract explanation, so let’s see if I can do better.
When I have a Fujifilm camera in my hands with the retro styling, tactile manual controls, perhaps even through an optical viewfinder or maybe via an EVF showing me exactly what the final picture will look like, the moment slows, and it’s just me and my gear for an instant. I feel the sense of possibilities (as Rush put it in the song Camera Eye). It’s not about quickness. It’s not about resolution—it’s not about any specs of any sort. It’s just that instant and how it feels and that’s all. It feels different with a Fujifilm camera (like the X-Pro1, pictured at the top) because the body is designed significantly dissimilar from most digital cameras. “If I like a moment,” as Sean O’Connell stated in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, “I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera.” I know I just took that quote completely out of context, but for me, Fujifilm cameras aren’t a distraction, but an extension of my creative self, something I cannot say about any other digital camera I’ve ever owned. Perhaps if Sean was shooting with a Fujifilm instead of a Nikon, he would have captured a picture of the cat (joking, of course).
The other aspect of Fujifilm cameras worth noting is image quality. Again, this has nothing to do with resolution, dynamic range, lens sharpness or any technical specs whatsoever. It’s about the feel of the pictures. Fujifilm has a long history with film photography, and they felt it important to somehow infuse some analog aspects into their digital images. You can get straight-out-of-camera pictures from Fujifilm cameras that look less digital and more film-like than other brands. In fact, I’ve seen Fujifilm pictures captured using Film Simulation Recipes trick unsuspecting film pros into thinking the picture they were viewing was shot on film and not digital (true stories!). And, yes, with software and manipulation, you can achieve this with most modern cameras, but I’m talking SOOC, as in unedited. Fujifilm cameras have gotten better at this with time—thanks to new JPEG options, film simulations, and improved processing—but even the early models were quite capable.
To the second point—that the JPEG output from Fujifilm cameras is unique, wonderful, and an important aspect of the experience—I feel that Fujifilm has been on the right track with this, and it’s been getting better and better with each generation. I think there’s a bit of that analog-esque quality going all they way back to the very beginning—every Fujifilm camera has that soul—but the newer models especially have it. I know that some of you might disagree with this assessment, but that’s my opinion.
To the first point, I feel that Fujifilm has taken a divergent path lately, and has pursued pure specs and popular designs over experience—or, at least the experience that I spoke of—with most of their recent models. That’s not to say the cameras aren’t good or that people won’t love them or that Fujifilm shouldn’t have made them, just simply that it’s not going to provide the same experience (which is true); whether or not that is better or worse depends on your perspective. I might mourn it and you might celebrate it, and that’s ok—we can still be friends.
Today I dusted off my 11-year-old Fujifilm X-Pro1, attached a TTArtisan f/0.95 lens, and shot with that combo today. I programmed the Ektachrome Film Simulation Recipe, but to give the images a little more film-like character, I lightly post processed them in the RNI App using the Fuji Astia 100F v3 filter set to 40% intensity (so as to not overly manipulate the original aesthetic… I didn’t want to lose all of the original look, only slightly change it) and Grain set to 25% strength. I don’t normally edit my pictures—in fact, I had to download the RNI App because it had been so long since I last used it—but sometimes I wish the old models had some of the JPEG options found on the new cameras. Funny enough, though, the edited pictures are actually pretty similar to my Reminiscent Print Recipe, so I probably should have just shot with that and saved myself some time. Oh, well—lesson learned.
Even though this camera is ancient compared to the latest models, I personally prefer the shooting experience with it over some of my other (newer) cameras. If the Fujifilm X-Pro1 was my one and only camera, I’d be happy with it. But since I have an X100V, X-E4, and X-T5, which are the three models I’m using the most right now (all of which offer the Fujifilm experience I mentioned earlier—the X100V in particular), the X-Pro1 spends most of the time on the shelf. I happily put it to use today! Below are the pictures:
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I think it’s really easy to get caught up in the hype of advancing camera technology. It’s natural to think that we need the latest and greatest new gear. But lately I’ve been thinking that we should not forget just how awesome our current cameras are. Whatever camera gear you have, it’s pretty freakin’ amazing!
I found it interesting that Rob Morgan prefers the X100F over the X100V. He said, “…although the technical specs of the X100V are ‘better’ it lost the mojo of the earlier models.” In other words, he likes the five-year-old model more than the two-year-old one. What about gear that’s even older than that? Can it still be any good?
The Fujifilm X-Pro1 is ten years old now. So is the X-E1. If you are using decade-old camera gear, you are certainly behind the curve, right? Everyone else’s pictures are so much greater than yours, right? Those cameras aren’t capable of capturing worthwhile images, right? Of course, the answer is no to all three questions—your gear is not obsolete, your pictures aren’t inherently inferior, and, yes, your gear is plenty capable as long as you are. Photography has been around for 196 years, but only cameras released in the last 12 months are worth owning, some would say—those cameras that evolved after only 186 years aren’t nearly as good as those that have had the full 196 years to be released. That’s nothing but pure nonsense!
The X-Pro1, the X-E1, and every single other Fujifilm X camera is a capable photographic tool. Is the X-T4 better? Maybe. Is the X-H2 better? Maybe. Is the X-T1 better? There are some who think so. Is the X-H1 better? Many X-H1 owners think so. Does any of it matter? No. What matters is how you use your gear, not what gear you use.
The fact is that the X-Pro1 and X-E1 are just as capable today as they were in the year that they were released. Actually, that’s wrong. With Fujifilm’s firmware updates (that they used to be known for), the cameras are better today than they were in 2012. A lot of positive things were said about the cameras back then. A lot of wonderful pictures were captured with them back then. 10 years later and it all still applies, and the cameras can still capture amazing pictures today.
I thought it would be a worthwhile exercise to reread the old X-Pro1 reviews, and quote the positive things that were said about it back then. I think this is a good perspective to have, especially if you’re feeling a little camera envy. The X-Pro1 was a highly desirable model when it was released. I remember drooling over it in the pages of a photography magazine, but I couldn’t afford it back then. I’m very happy to own it now, because it’s still a solid camera, and still worth drooling over, even at the decade mark.
“It’s not just a retro look that distinguishes the Fujifilm X-Pro1, but its cutting-edge hybrid optical viewfinder and emphasis on quality prime lenses. Excellent image quality with very clean detail is the extra surprise inside.” —Imaging Resource, 04/18/2012
“The Fujifilm X-Pro1 does almost everything right: it’s a beautiful (if enormous) camera, it takes great pictures and video, and once you take the time to learn its controls and systems it’s as capable a shooter as I’ve tested.” —The Verge, 05/22/2012
“The X-Pro1 is certainly right up there with the best APS-C sensor cameras on the market, and some full-frame models too.” —Photography Blog, 03/15/2012
“The camera’s images are exceptional, delivering on the claims that it can match up to existing full-frame sensor’s abilities.” —What Digital Camera, 03/09/2012
“The image quality is stunning, with excellent, and I really mean excellent pixel level detail, with excellent colour reproduction, great dynamic range, excellent high ISO noise results and excellent JPEG output straight from the camera.” —ePhotoZine, 03/12/2012
“This is a high ISO street shooters dream. Yes, I said STREET SHOOTERS DREAM.” —Steve Huff, 04/04/2012
“With the X-Pro1 Fujifilm has built on the platform provided by the X100, and is beginning to look like a very serious contender at the high end of the camera market.” —Digital Photography Review, 06/28/2012
Whatever camera you have, don’t worry about it being “good enough” or “new enough” or anything else. What you do with the gear you have is much more important than the gear you have—the limitation is only oneself. Do the best you can with what you have, and in time you’ll surprise even yourself at what you create. Your camera—whatever it is—is awesome, and we shouldn’t so easily forget that.
Let’s drop a beer can into Mr. Fusion, jump into our DeLorean, activate the time circuits, make sure the flux capacitor is fluxing, blast a Huey Lewis tune on the tape deck, and see what happens when this baby hits 88 miles per hour! Yes, we’re headed back in time to understand why the Fujifilm X-Pro1 was a crucial camera that changed photography.
The first stop on our time-travel trip is 1988. The Washington Redskins defeated the Denver Broncos 42-10 in Super Bowl XXII. Sonny Bono was elected mayor of Palm Springs, California. George Michael’s Faith was the top hit song in America. Oh, and Fujifilm introduced the world’s first completely digital camera, the FUJIX DS-1P.
This first all-digital camera captured 0.4 megapixel images and stored them on a removable memory card—as many as 10 pictures! While this doesn’t sound like a significant achievement, it was a pivotal moment in the advancement of digital camera technology. One year later, the same year that Back To The Future Part II played in theaters, Fujifilm released the world’s first commercially-produced digital camera, the FUJIX DS-X. Fujifilm would continue to develop (pun intended) it’s digital camera technology throughout the 1990’s, making several important innovations, and even collaborating with other brands, such as Nikon.
Despite Fujifilm’s pioneering advancements, digital camera sales were slow, primarily due to the poor image quality of the early sensors plus the very high costs to buy. Meanwhile, film sales went through the roof! A billion rolls of film were sold in 1999, and even more were sold in 2000, which was the absolute pinnacle of analog photography. If you were a Fujifilm manager during those two years, and you’re seeing tons of money going into the digital camera department yet not much financially to show for it, and film sales seemed to be on a trajectory towards the moon, what would you do? It’s understandable, then, that Fujifilm did what it did: double-down on analog and pull back from digital. But the timing was awful, because film sales hit a wall, and in 2003 began to fall off a cliff, while digital sales rose sharply.
Although Fujifilm scaled back from digital, they didn’t abandon it. In fact, in 2000, Fujifilm introduced the S1 Pro, a Nikon SLR retrofitted with a 3-megapixel Super-CCD sensor. Fujifilm invented this new sensor type, which claimed to produce double the apparent resolution of a traditional Bayer sensor while simultaneously increasing dynamic range. There would be four models of these Nikon-turned-Fujifilm DSLRs—the last one, the S5 Pro, was discontinued in 2009, after disappointing sales. Mostly, though, following the fall of film, Fujifilm turned their attention to digital point-and-shoots, a fairly profitable segment at that time. They also turned their attention to non-photographic opportunities, including pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, among others things.
Around the time that Fujifilm was discontinuing their DSLR, they began to work on something new. Pocket point-and-shoot cameras were popular, but not with professional photographers, due to poor image quality and basic controls. What if Fujifilm made a high-end pocketable camera aimed specifically at the professional crowd? It took over two years for this idea to be realized—the Fujifilm X100 was released in March 2011, giving birth to the X-series. This camera had a rangefinder design with retro controls, harkening back to the glory days of film, and a 12-megapixel APS-C sensor. A Bayer sensor. Not Super-CCD, which was abandoned with the S5 Pro. And not X-Trans, which hadn’t been invented yet. This was also the first camera ever with a hybrid electronic/optical viewfinder.
If the X100 had been a flop, the X-series would have ended there. Thankfully, the camera was generally well received, and it sold a lot of copies. I know that I wanted one. I remember seeing it in a photography magazine and being captivated by it. I couldn’t afford the $1,200 price tag, so I didn’t buy it, but I would have if I could have. It was a camera you wanted to own!
What I said in the last paragraph—”if the X100 had been a flop, the X-series would have ended there”—isn’t actually true. The X-Trans sensor had been in the works for five years and was almost ready when the X100 was released. Work began on the X-Pro1 back in 2010, and it was decided that it would be the first camera to carry the new sensor. Whether the X100 was a flop or success had no bearing on the release of the X-Pro1, but its success most certainly helped the X-Pro1 to sell well, too.
What made this new X-Trans sensor unique? How was it different than Bayer? What was the point of it?
Fujifilm had been experimenting with different sensor concepts since the 1990’s. They tried many different things to get the most resolution, sharpness, and dynamic range from the low-megapixel sensors of the time, and that’s where the Super-CCD technology came from. Fujifilm continued to experiment, and, inspired by the randomness of silver halide, decided to test a “random” color filter array. Unfortunately, this takes a lot of computing power to interpret the data, and that was the biggest hurdle that had to be overcome, since processing power wasn’t plentiful back then.
X-Trans was a complex solution to what Fujifilm recognized as a problem, but most didn’t. The randomness of the color filter array made it less susceptible to moire pattern distortion, so an optical low-pass filter wasn’t needed. This did two things: produce sharper pictures with the appearance of more resolution, and the ability to better distinguish noise vs. signal. The latter was the most important of the two side effects. Since noise and signal could be more easily differentiated, Fujifilm could control it better, and get improved high-ISO results, as well as better shadow details. This is why Fujifilm’s noise is rendered differently than other brands, and has more of a film-grain-like appearance. Also, the extra green pixels in an X-Trans sensor produces more luminosity information, which improves dynamic range, high-ISO performance, and fine detail rendering.
Is there a difference between Bayer and X-Trans? Of course there is! It’s not immediately obvious at low-ISO, as many of the benefits are extremely subtle, but as the ISO increases the differences become more obvious. It’s not a night-and-day distinction, but there is definitely a divergence if you look close enough.
Fujifilm announced the X-Pro1 in January 2012 and began shipping it in March, which means that the camera is 10-years-old in 2022! The X-Pro1 was similar to the X100, but larger and with some design changes, and with the ability to swap lenses. Plus, it had the new 16-megapixel X-Trans sensor. Between the rangefinder styling, retro controls, hybrid viewfinder, and new sensor, Fujifilm made people take notice! The camera just grabs your attention.
It wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops, though. The X100 and X-Pro1, plus the X-E1 that followed, all had problems, and were called sluggish and quirky in camera reviews. Many of the issues were fixed with firmware updates over time, but it took time to iron out the wrinkles. Some issues weren’t Fujifilm’s fault, like RAW editing software having trouble handling the X-Trans files. Fujifilm actually intended the in-camera JPEG processor, which utilized Film Simulations (profiles created from Fujifilm’s extensive experience in film), to be a serious tool that photographers would utilize. When Fujifilm expressed this, they were scoffed at by the photography “experts” of the time, because, you know, real photographers shoot RAW, and only amateurs shoot JPEG. The response was so loud that for awhile Fujifilm stopped suggesting photographers should shoot JPEG, and put less effort towards promoting their in-camera processing.
Despite what the so-called experts thought, many of those with Fujifilm cameras began to realize that the JPEGs were actually pretty good. In September of 2014 Fujifilm announced the Fujifilm X100T, which had a new Film Simulation called Classic Chrome. It was intended to mimic the aesthetic of documentary-style pictures found in magazines. Classic Chrome was an instant hit, and it brought a new awareness to Fujifilm’s JPEG engine.
My journey into the world of Fujifilm began with a used X-E1 in the summer of 2016. Actually, let’s get back into our DeLorean and head even further into the past. In the summer of 1998 I took an epic trip with some friends to the New England states, and I borrowed my dad’s Sears 35mm SLR to photograph the journey. When I returned home and got the pictures back from the 1-hour photo lab, they were awful! I couldn’t have screwed up the pictures any more than I did. That fall I enrolled in Photography 101 in college so that I could learn to take a decent picture, and I ended up falling in love with photography. This was at the pinnacle of film. I was not a fan of the digital photography revolution because I didn’t like how digital pictures looked. In my opinion, film was much superior, and so I stubbornly stuck with it. Around 2010 I purchased my first digital camera, a Pentax DSLR, because it was inexpensive and because I could use the lenses from my Pentax SLR with it. I soon discovered why digital photography had surpassed film—it was much more quick and convenient—but I still preferred the look of film. While I continued to shoot both film and digital, I jumped from brand-to-brand trying to find a digital camera that I liked. After Pentax I tried Samsung. Then Sigma. Then Nikon. Then Sony. In 2016 I purchased the X-E1, and was instantly thrilled by the experience of the camera. Finally, a digital camera that I could love! One year later I bought an X100F, the fourth iteration of the original X100.
I configured my X100F to shoot RAW+JPEG, and after fiddling with the RAW files, I noticed that the post-processed RAW pictures didn’t look a whole lot different than the straight-out-of-camera JPEGs. I realized that with a few small tweaks in the camera settings I could make them match even more closely. That was the birth of my “Film Simulation Recipes” (camera settings that produce a certain look, often modeled after classic film stocks and analog processes). The popularity of Film Simulation Recipes has grown and grown—exploding over the last two years—and with it has seen a significant increase in those shooting JPEGs with their Fujifilm cameras. Film Simulation Recipes save you time by eliminating the need to edit (or, for some, reducing the amount of editing needed), while making the process more enjoyable. It is Fujifilm’s vision come true, although I doubt they envisioned exactly where this whole thing has gone.
Over the last decade Fujifilm has continued to innovate, leaping various hurdles, to improve and grow the X-series. Fujifilm has doubled-down on in-camera processing, and the stigma of shooting JPEGs has softened significantly. Even though much progress has been made, and the brand-new cameras are absolutely incredible, there’s still a lot of love for the original models. There’s a special quality to them, even if they’re slower, more quirky, lower resolution, and with fewer options.
While I started with an X-E1 (I’ve actually owned two), I’ve mostly used the newer models. Knowing that the X-Pro1 was approaching the 10-year mark, and loving the X-Pro series design, last year I purchased a well-used but still perfectly functioning X-Pro1. I wanted to use the X-Pro1 in 2022 as a way to celebrate the importance of this model in photography.
Let me pause here for a moment. Digital technology advances quickly. Most people aren’t still using a 10-year-old cellphone or television. Most people aren’t using a 10-year-old camera, although certainly some are. In the film era, it wasn’t uncommon to use the same camera for decades or even a whole career. In the digital era, a lot of people “upgrade” their camera gear every two or three years. While most aren’t still shooting with a camera from 2012, some are, and they’re probably thinking pretty seriously that it’s time to upgrade to the latest model. The X-Pro1 is a 10-year-old camera that not only are some people still shooting, there are actually people searching it out so that they can use it, even though they have newer models. In 2022, the X-Pro1 is a desired camera! This speaks to the genius of those who designed it—the camera itself is art, and it is a very capable tool for creating art, even after a decade.
Now, let me explain more directly exactly how the Fujifilm X-Pro1 changed photography.
While Fujifilm has been making cameras since 1948, and digital cameras since the late-1980’s, their DSLRs, while innovative, were Nikon bodies with Fujifilm innards. Buying one of these DSLRs was buying into the Nikon system. There were some advantages to buying the Fujifilm version, and there were also some disadvantages, so it was an odd market that Fujifilm found itself in. Basically, Fujifilm was hoping to convince Nikon owners to buy the Fujifilm version of Nikon’s camera, or else convince those from other brands to switch to Nikon, except the Fuji-Nikon and not actual Nikon. And there were no aftermarket products to sell, which is where the money is made. Fujifilm’s attempt to be in the professional camera market was halfhearted and failed, so with the writing on the wall, Fujifilm regrouped.
After the failure of the S5 Pro, the X100 was Fujifilm’s first attempt to capture the attention of professional and advanced enthusiast photographers, but right on its heels was the X-Pro1 with the brand-new X-Trans sensor. This was an interchangeable-lens model, which was important because selling lenses is where the real profit is. It was highly advanced: mirrorless (a fairly new concept at the time), hybrid viewfinder, new sensor type. But it was also retro: rangefinder style with no PASM dial anywhere. It was something new yet absolutely a classic. It was simultaneously modern and nostalgic.
The X-Pro1’s success allowed the Fuji-X line to continue, and all of the cameras that followed are thanks to the original model. If the X-Pro1 had flopped, Fujifilm would have exited stage left, and there would be no X-Pro3 or X-T4 or X-E4 or any other X-series camera today. I likely wouldn’t have purchased an X-E1 in 2016 and I definitely wouldn’t have bought an X100F in 2017, because the X100F wouldn’t exist. If not for the X100F, I wouldn’t have made Film Simulation Recipes, I wouldn’t have created the Fuji X Weekly App, and you wouldn’t know the joys of using these recipes. There are literally tens of thousands of photographers worldwide—from first-camera newbies to experienced professionals with recognizable names—who are capturing the world through the colors and tones of Film Simulation Recipes. If not for the X-Pro1, this would never have happened. If you shoot with Film Simulation Recipes, you can, in part, thank the X-Pro1 (or, more specifically, the team that made that camera a reality). Because of it, far more photographers are relying on camera-made JPEGs today than they otherwise would, which saves them time and makes their photographic process more enjoyable.
The X-Pro1 is an important camera in the photography continuum, but it is more than just a display piece. The X-Pro1, a decade after it was announced, is still a quality tool for capturing the world. It’s a camera I used in 2021, and it’s a camera I’ll continue to use in 2022, and likely the years to follow. My copy is a little worn, but, as long as it continues to work, I will still use it. I have many Fujifilm cameras, but I have a special place for the X-Pro1 both in my heart and in my camera bag. That’s a legacy worth noting!
What about you? Do you own a Fujifilm X-Pro1? What was your first Fujifilm camera? Which Fujifilm cameras do you currently own? Which Film Simulation Recipe is your favorite? Let me know in the comments!
Kodachrome is probably the most iconic photographic film ever made. It was legendary, and many people saw the world through its colors. Kodak produced Kodachrome film from 1935 through 2009, when it was suddenly discontinued.
The Kodachrome name has been used for many different films over the years. The first Kodachrome product was a two-glass-plate color negative that was introduced in 1915. Like all other color photography methods of its time, the results weren’t particularly good and the product not especially successful.
In 1935 Kodak released its next Kodachrome, which was a color transparency film with an ISO of 10. This Kodachrome was the first color film that produced reasonably accurate colors and was the first commercially successful color film. It became the standard film for color photography for a couple decades, and was even Ansel Adams’ preferred choice for color work. The December 1946 issue of Arizona Highways, which was the first all-color magazine in the world, featured Barry Goldwater’s Kodachrome images.
Kodak made significant improvements to Kodachrome, and in 1961 released Kodachrome II. This film boasted more accurate colors, sharper images, finer grain, and a faster ISO of 25. While it was still similar to the previous Kodachrome, it was better in pretty much every way. A year later Kodachrome-X was introduced, which had an ISO of 64.
Another generation of Kodachrome, which came out in 1974, saw Kodachrome II replaced by Kodachrome 25 and Kodachrome-X replaced by Kodachrome 64. The differences between this version and the previous weren’t huge and image quality was very similar. The biggest change was going from the K-12 to the K-14 development process (which was a little less toxic and complex, but still toxic and complex). This generation of Kodachrome is what most people think of when they picture (pun intended) the film, gracing the pages of magazines like National Geographic.
While I’ve published a number of recipes with the Kodachrome name, I’ve never made one for X-Trans I because Classic Chrome is necessary to replicate the look, and X-Trans I doesn’t have Classic Chrome. Well, Thomas Schwab got himself a Fujifilm X-E1, and he figured out a pretty phenomenal Kodachrome facsimile using PRO Neg. Std! Unbelievable! It’s amazing how good this recipe looks considering that it doesn’t use Classic Chrome. The X-M1 doesn’t have PRO Neg. Std, so this recipe isn’t compatible with that camera, but if you have an X-E1 or X-Pro1, this one is sure to become an instant favorite! Thank you, Thomas, for creating and sharing this recipe!
PRO Neg. Std Dynamic Range: DR400 Highlight: +1 (Medium-High) Shadow: +2 (High) Color: -2 (Low) Sharpness: +2 (Hard) Noise Reduction: -2 (Low) White Balance: Auto, +1 Red & -2 Blue ISO: Auto, up to ISO 3200 Exposure Compensation: +1/3 to +2/3 (typically)
Example photographs, all camera-made JPEGs captured using this “Kodachrome II” film simulation recipe on my Fujifilm X-Pro1:
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The Fujifilm X-Pro1 is nine-years-old. It was the very first interchangeable-lens X camera and also the first to have an X-Trans sensor. If it failed, this website and film simulation recipes probably wouldn’t exist. Thankfully, despite its shortcomings, people could see the potential, and the X-Pro1 was an instant hit.
My Fujifilm journey began with an X-E1, the X-Pro1’s little brother. I briefly shot with an X-Pro2, a camera that I loved. I never had an X-Pro1, but it’s a well-regarded camera, even today. The last Fuji Features article was entitled Fujifilm X-Pro3 in 2021, so I decided this week to find articles and videos about using the X-Pro1 in 2021.
Hopefully, you’ll find this post interesting, and it will help you get through another Hump Day. Maybe it will inspire you to add an old X-Pro1 to your camera collection. I did. More on that later.