Shooting with the X-Pro 1 and Legacy Glass, part 2

A great part of my motivation to experiment with affordable manual glass on the X-Pro 1 stems from the fact that I feel a connection with the old. With the outdated. The fact is, I enjoy being entirely responsible for the images I capture. From composition to exposure, metering to focus, post processing to being my own harshest critic. For good or ill, the photographs I decide to share are mine from start to finish. As a photographic tool, nothing has given me the feeling of control and satisfaction over both process and result like shooting with the X-Pro 1 and a manual focus lens.

There is no autofocus to curse at. No ‘shutter lag.’  There are end stops when focusing manually and the focus ring feels like a proper focus ring because it IS a proper focus ring.

How long is it?

I’m a fan of the 35mm full frame equivalent focal length.  There, I said it.

I bought my X-Pro 1 with just the 35mm/1.4 prime lens (~53mm equivalent on the X-Pro 1’s 1.5x crop factor sensor). While it is is a fantastic piece of glass that creates beautiful, near-perfect images with lovely bokeh, sharpness corner to corner and great color rendition, it frequently feels too long for my taste. I looked at the 18mm/f2 prime for the X System and thought that that was too wide.

To my eye and for what I’m trying to convey with the images I capture – mainly architecture, landscape, street photography and the occasional 10-stop ND daytime exposure – I wanted something wider than 50mm. While many will point out that there is no one lens that is appropriate for every circumstance, I simply contend that the ~35mm length offers consistency the look of my images.

At this time there is no X-System 23mm lens available – Fuji’s 23/1.4 is due next year, but I can’t really see myself buying it – so those of us who want a wide prime lens at this focal length are compelled to look at what already exists and experiment. So far I’ve owned and set aside a Tokina 24mm/2.8 RMC that leaked light like a sieve (returned), Voigtländer Color Skopar 21mm/f4 (performs fairly well but smears corners and is presently for sale) and the subject of this blog entry, a Canon FD mount 24mm/2.8 SSC.

Manual Lens Purchasing Landscape

When it comes to old glass, Micro 4/3 and mirrorless camera shooters have an incredible selection of focal lengths across virtually every lens manufacturer’s (retired) product lines from which to choose.  The absence of demand from Canon shooters seems to have left the FD and nFD mount glass relatively out of favor and therefore somewhat less expensive than similar offerings from Nikon, etc.  Regardless, as more people migrate to the mirrorless/M43 systems, prices on all of the ‘obsolete’ glass move higher by the month as people experiment and rediscover the charm and utility of these great old pieces.  Still, for the price of a new OEM battery for your camera, you can frequently add a very capable prime lens and the required adapter to your bag.

FD lenses have remained affordable in large part because they require an adapter to be used on EF mount cameras.  Because of the difference in register distance between the FD and EF cameras, an optical element is required to retain infinity focus on EF bodies.  This element degrades image quality fairly significantly, so many Canon users look elsewhere for throwback primes.

Mine

I managed to pick this lens up for next to nothing as it was in less than pristine cosmetic condition and had at some point been ‘repaired’ (read: reassembled improperly resulting in some longitudinal slop in the moving part of the front end of the lens). I was happy to take on the challenge of troubleshooting and repairing the problem and was successful in doing so.  The thing is built like a truck and the glass is outstanding.  While it adds some heft to the X-Pro 1, it’s totally manageable and does not detract from the shooting experience.

Following are some of the images I’ve made with the X-Pro 1 and the Canon 24.  The photo below of the tree branch on a picnic table was taken in pre-dawn near darkness, handheld at ISO 6400, f2.8 in Portland last month.  Hope you enjoy.

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9 thoughts on “Shooting with the X-Pro 1 and Legacy Glass, part 2”

  1. Great camera. Since I shoot with prime lenses only… I got the (black) X100 that comes with a compact wide (28mm) lens. That’s all I need: small/light camera for everyday use and superb quality.

  2. It was a tough decision between the X100 and the X Pro 1. I also own an X10 and enjoy that camera for its smaller form factor and great image quality. The only thing that kept me from going with an X100 at the time of purchase was the ability to switch lenses. As you can see, I’m also a prime lens shooter but really enjoy the flexibility in changing focal length.

    (I may still pick up an X100 someday. They’re just so COOL!)

  3. Nice shots. I am with you on the shooting experience. Although I use Nikon gear extensively it is never quite as enjoyable as using the X-Pro1 or my Lecia. As you say so eloquently it connects you to the past. I have not gone for the legacy glass option yet, but who knows what Christmas will bring.

    1. Hi George – thanks so much for visiting and for taking the time to comment. I’m glad someone’s reading this stuff! If you’ve already a Leica then the legacy glass is but an adapter away. I think you’ll be pleased with the results. I know I am constantly impressed by images from the X Pro 1 shot through Leica glass. Cheers.

  4. Hi there — I’ve really been enjoying your photos.

    Apologies for the overly-techy question, but — do you feel like the 24mm FD lens can match the resolution of the Fuji’s sensor as well as the Fuji lenses do, or are you willing to take a drop in resolution because you like the lens for other reasons?

    I ask because I’m thinking about getting a used X-E1 to go with the 24mm FD that I already have. That’s about the only way I could remotely afford to try the X-Trans sensor. (And the closest I could get with a digital camera to the Fuji GW690 that I used to use for landscapes). Right now I’m using Panasonic G5s, and it’s hard to tell how much improvement in image quality (however you measure that….) I’d get with a Fuji.

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Scott,

      Thanks for asking and not too techy (I stay away from gear/tech stuff here for the most part just so I don’t drive off the small readership I have :P).

      I’d say the Fuji sensor outresolves the 24. On the other hand, you’d probably pick up more dynamic range with the Fuji over an micro-4/3 sensor. I own an OM-D and find that (compared to the X100 I just sold and the X-Pro 1 I was shooting with) the Fuji has better dynamic range and depending on the lens better micro contrast. I have a 24×36 print of a night shot from December of the Golden Gate from a RAW file processed in Lightroom prior to the last improvements that looks gorgeous. See the flickr file here:

      23 December 2012 Golden Gate Bridge at twilight

      As RAW software for the X-Trans sensor improves, there’ll likely be a distinct advantage to going with the Fuji. Micro 4/3 is a great platform and I enjoy the hell out of my OM-D when it comes to nailing autofocus shooting street photography.

      When it comes to landscapes the choice is less clear. I love the look of the Fuji’s files. I’d say the XE-1 is a good call. Get a cheap adapter and stop the 24 down to f5.6 or f8 and let her rip. It’s good glass. Corners are soft at most apertures, however. I don’t think the softness ever went away regardless of how far I stopped down.

      Hope that helps, please feel free to follow up with more questions and thanks for reading!

      Denis

  5. Thanks, Denis–that’s very helpful. And that’s a really nice photo of the bridge–it’s nice when you can plan something and it works. 🙂

    Whatever else I do, I’ll definitely be sticking with Micro 4/3 for my nature and travel stuff. It makes for a nice, lightweight kit, and I’ve been happy with the image quality. Also, I need the wider ranges of focal lengths (current kit is: 7.5 fisheye, 9-18, 20/1.7, 45 macro, 100-300). Most APS-C DSLRs don’t seem to be enough better to justify the higher price or the weight. Full frame is entirely out of the budget.

    So the Fuji, if I manage to get one, would be only for landscapes (once my main thing before the Panasonics led me to take all those pictures of critters! 🙂 ) and some travel stuff. I wish I could rent an X-E1 so I could see what the difference would be without spending hundreds of dollars. The G5 and the 20/1.7 are great for landscapes, but the idea of better dynamic range, lower noise, and more film-like rendering is hard to resist. 🙂

    –scott

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