X Pro 1, legacy glass and evening Street Photography, Chinatown and North Beach

This past Saturday evening I had the opportunity to spend a couple of hours in Chinatown and North Beach.  I decided that it would be a good time to see what my present street photography setup was capable of in low light.  The results were mainly satisfactory with a couple of hiccups, as is to be expected when shooting moving, uncooperative subjects in low light.

I have read and agree with many others’ findings about the X Pro 1 and its prime lenses for street photography – that the 35mm is too slow and its autofocus too inaccurate to be counted on when speed is crucial, particularly at night. Also, 35mm (52mm full frame equivalent) is too long for how I like to shoot, while 18mm is too wide.  I find that the 24mm lens, zone focusing, a generous depth of field and the X Pro 1’s OVF allow me to get many shots I might otherwise miss while the 35mm/1.4 dilly-dallies around trying to focus.  I love that lens and the images it makes, I just don’t love that its autofocus is slow enough in bright light to be noticeable and didn’t want to stake the evening’s results on that lens.

Another gripe is that the refresh rate of the EVF on the X Pro 1 gets awfully choppy and grainy the lower the light levels get.  In some of the brightly lit shots, it’s a non-issue.  In the case of the man on his phone in front of the shadowy sidewalk, it was tough to get the image in focus.  In fairness, that shot is more about the shapes and shadows than it is a portrait, anyway, but I’m a pretty harsh critic of what I create.

So, what’s the verdict?  Well, heck – I love this camera and lens combo at night, too.  Sure, I missed critical focus many times.  Sure, people moving around makes for great backgrounds with extra grainy/blurry people.  At 1/125, though, I think the results are good enough to share.

Post processing is done in LR4.2.  Although I’m a fan of black and white, for this exercise I eschewed black and white as I like several of these in color and feel that the colors contribute significantly to several of the images.

All from X Pro 1, Canon FD 24mm/2.8 SSC at f4.0 or f5.6, 1/60 or 1/125, ISO3200 or 6400.  Image
Shadow stencil

Hops and Hominy.  Green Flash on tap.  Yes.


Bad hat

Collision Course

Obligatory Lantern shot

Flying Books and Pyramid, Broadway and Columbus

This is Lewis, a frisbee spinner and self-styled wordsmith.  He came over and gave me his card, asking for whatever shots I happened to get of him.  I was happy to oblige.  Note the Banksy art above his frisbee on the building behind him.  It reads, ‘If at first you don’t succeed, call an airstrike.’

Calzone’s (I have zero html skills to get this to resize to 580px wide)

Not that one, THAT one.


Green Street

Tea bar


Away from All Trains

11 thoughts on “X Pro 1, legacy glass and evening Street Photography, Chinatown and North Beach”

  1. Picked up the M adapter recently and will be posting shortly on it in combo with some voigtlander lenses. I agree this is the way to go for certain conditions.

  2. I purchased my XP1 yesterday. I had my heart set on using the Zeiss ZM 25 Biogon f/2.8 and the Voigtlander Nokton 35 mm F/1.2 mkii with an M converter. Sadly, from my research, I found that these lenses, especially the 25mm are not a good match for the XP1. In fact, M glass that is wide (35mm or wider) produces a lot of smearing when used on an XP1. I guess 50mm would be the widest I’d use because I saw very nice results with the Zeiss ZM 50mm f/1.5 C Sonnar used on an XP1. But they were wide open. So maybe the bokeh interfered with any possible smearing. I don’t know.

    Other wide lenses such as Nikon AI-S, AI, Minolta MC and MD, Olympus OM, etc, seem to work better.

    For more on why M lenses aren’t that great on the XP1, please check out the provided link.
    The second post has a link to a flickr discussion regarding these issues.

    1. Thanks for the comment!

      I have found similar results to those you reference with my voigtlander color Skopar 21/4. It smears corners which bothers me no end. I’ve seen what you are talking about first hand and have since set aside the 21 in favor of the 24 2.8 FD which doesn’t suffer from the same phenomenon.

      As I understand it, many of the older rangefinder-built lenses have a very short register distance and therefore light strikes the corners of the fuji’s sensor at a severe angle, which results in the corner smearing as I’m sure you already know. Pretty unfortunate as you point out that this terrific wide glass can’t be used with much success on the X Pro 1.

      I have seen reports about and images from users that suggest the 12mm and 25mm voigtlanders of the same vintage are not as prone to smearing as others. Apologies for not having models and so on at hand, I’m at work on break and
      am going on memory.

      Really appreciate your thoughts and the link contributing to the discussion.

  3. Thank you for the reply.

    I’m interested in finding out more about the Voigtlander lenses you mentioned.

    I’d like to note that I too live in the Bay Area (Santa Clara) and I got the XP1 with the intention of taking up street photography. I’ve tried it on a few occasions with my DSLR. I had fun and I liked the results. It’s quickly becoming one of my favorite genres. I hope to shoot a lot in San Francisco once I build some confidence …. and guts!!

    I found your blog by searching for the X-PRO1 on google. I’m glad I found it. I’m enjoying it.

    Have a nice night!

  4. Hi R.J.! Thanks for taking the time to reply. Glad you did. It’s funny, on Saturday afternoon while walking around downtown, I spotted another X Pro 1 user in the city just off Union Square, approached him and had a nice conversation for a few minutes with him about how he liked the camera. What a great hobby.

    The Voigtlander Color Skopar 25mm/f4 is the lens I was thinking of that I’d seen did not suffer from corner smearing like my 21/f4. Below is a link to a fellow X Pro 1 user’s blog who posted some very sharp images using that lens:


    And here is a link to someone using the 15mm which shows corner smearing. The poster acknowledges this and indicates that it is improved as the lens gets stopped down:


    You’ll want to do more research than this quick couple of links prior to making a purchase, obviously, but it’s a start. Perhaps a safer path is to pursue SLR lenses to cut your teeth with manual focus and street photography. Minolta (I have a 55/1.7 that’s pretty nice, but too long for street stuff), Canon (collection grows by the week, it seems), Nikon and Olympus/Zuiko glass is all very good and is, to varying extents, affordable.

    About the street photography thing – Don’t let fear get in your way. Just go out and do it. A suggestion would be to start in the Union Square/Chinatown area where everybody and their mother has a camera around their neck, especially right now with holiday shopping in full swing. You will see all kinds of people doing all kinds of things that range from funny to tragic. You’ll also gain confidence and an air of blending in pretty rapidly. No substitute for doing, so get out and do it!

  5. Denis, R.J I posted a quick look on the voigtländer 28mm/1.9 with the x-pro1. It works quite well but the lack of accuracy in the focus distance scale makes zone focusing tougher than it needs to be.

    1. Glad you enjoyed. Focus peaking now makes using legacy lenses even more fun. I find that keeping harsh light off of the front element of my FL35/2.5 results in great images. Older glass like the FL lenses either are uncoated or have pretty bad coatings by today’s standards and, as such, they’re prone to ghosting and severe contrast loss in bright/harsh light. Good luck with the 50/1.8. 🙂

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