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Piling on...
Practical accessories for the X-Pro1

May 13, 2012. Well, you finally got an X-Pro1. Sure, you still can't convert raw files easily and are probably still getting used to the focusing - but there is no better time to junk up accessorize than the present.

1. Eyepiece correction.

There has been some discussion about the eyepiece correction on the X-Pro1. This camera is shipped at -2, which is one diopter stronger than most cameras. Unlike the X100, the X-Pro1 has no built-in adjustment. Compounding this is an overlay of information that is not in the same plane of focus as the subject. This is not specific to Fuji; on virtually any camera with framelines, those are not in the same plane of focus as the subject. Your RF spot is in the same apparent focus plane because it - like the viewfinder - is a look-through exercise.

Neither the X-Pro1 nor the X100 will be fun for older people whose eyes don't focus as quickly or flexibly anymore. If you are young, you claim to bathe your precious bits in icy water, and your photographic life is dominated by nude pictures of your 25-year-old girlfriend, this viewfinder will not bother you a bit. In fact, by the time it* begins to hurt your eyes, the camera will be in a landfill. For everyone else, yes, your eye is going to do some focusing and refocusing in OVF mode. No diopter applied to the back side of the finder assembly is really going to solve the imbalance (one attached to the front would...), but you can mitigate things by picking a compromise correction lens that makes things a little easier at near and far.

* Camera's viewfinder? Her creeping tattoo habit? Hard to say.

The easiest solution may not be to search high and low for Cosina diopters - the X-Pro1 uses exactly the same 19mm thread that the Nikon F (round), F2, F3 (DE2, not high eyepoint), F3AF, FM, FM2, FE, FE2, FM3a, and FA use.

  • The FMx/FEx/FA eyepiece (thin rubber ring) is exactly what the X-Pro1 ships with. The same eyepiece shipped on the GS645, GS645s, GS645W, GA645, GA645w, and the -i versions of these cameras, as well as the GF670/Bessa III. Not surprisingly, these also show up on the Bessa R series cameras and the Epson RD-1 and 1s.
  • Outside of the Nikon world, this thin-rubber-ring eyepiece is available with correction ($20-30 for the Cosina version). There are a few examples floating around with Nikon labels, but they oddly lack the rubber part.
  • Nikon 19mm diopters for the F, F2 and F3 have a wider metal ring (they are actually in the same rings as the Nikon F2 and F3 standard eyepieces). If you keep your eyes open on Ebay or at KEH, you can find these eyepieces in -5 to +3 (and also in +0.5). You absolutely need to protect your plastic eyeglasses or sunglasses from this metal ring. It has serrated edges and will tear things up.
  • The F2, F3 and F3AF 19mm eyepiece is like the diopter, though with no correction and a fat rubber ring around it. This will still fit on the X-Pro1 (the rubber will rest on the black frame of the screen. But the rubber rings have a tendency of coming off, they push your eye away from the camera, and they tend to cut off the very corners of the finder. Sometimes it is worth buying one of these to get the rubber ring, which you can then transfer to the diopter. I would use rubber cement to glue it to the ring. Fuji used this kind of eyepiece (though without the rubber) on the GL690 and GM670.
  • The nuclear solution is the Nikon DG-2 magnifier, which has infinitely variable dioptric correction and is guaranteed to show only the central section of the finder (possibly but not likely usable for the 60mm Fujinon...).

Unlike Cosina diopters, which are labeled relative to the native correction of the eyepiece (i.e., a +1 is a +1), Nikon diopters are a touch more tricky. If you think you need a plus, pull out your cheapo closeup set (+1, +2 and +4) and use them sequentially over the rear eyepiece and see which one makes the OVF overlay look best. THEN subtract one from that number. That gives you the Nikon eyepiece correction. Nikon correctors show the resulting correction on a system with a native -1 correction. In other words,

  • A "zero" eyepiece (marked "0") is really +1
  • A +1 is really a +2
  • A +2 is really a +3
  • And likewise, a "-2" is really a -1, a "-3" is a -2, etc.

It is a little harder to choose nearsighted diopters, since no one has a bunch of labeled negative-powered lenses sitting around the house. Think about your prescription and then ask your eye doctor whether, given your astigmatism, you would increase the negative power or reduce it if you could only have a spherical correction (you don't get astigmatism corrections in camera diopters, sorry!). Be sure to point out that the viewing distance is near. Something an optometrist pointed out to me is that as you go negative, if things are getting sharper, keep going. If they start to look smaller, then you are past the point at which extra correction helps. So if you are choosing by trial and error with several eyepieces at once, this might be a way to attack it (and at least have a better chance of getting it right). Always check the OVF overlay and the EVF!

2. Batteries

Unfortunately, when you finally get a clear view of the viewfinder, you'll see that the battery is low. The reality is that the X-Pro1 consumes a ton of power. Its battery is three times the size and weight of the X100 battery yet lasts the same number of frames (about 250). How many spare batteries do you need? Given that when the battery warning comes up (red), you get about 10-20 shots, keep at least one spare charged at all times. How many more depends on your disposition. If you shoot 2 Gb cards and get about 60 frames per, you will go through four cards to one battery. If you go the other way and go for big cards, you need more batteries. To fill a 32gb card, you would need at least five batteries.

If you need only one battery, get a Fuji. It may cost more, but you'll sleep better at night. If you need many batteries, a good substitute is the Power2000 battery (2/$30 on eBay) sold by SnapItDigital in Brooklyn (where else?). You can go cheaper, but you want a seller in your country who will be can be taken to task if the battery grenades in a charger and burns your house down. Lithium-ion battery packs are universally built with commodity cells and commodity chips - and for that reason, manufacturers' claims that your camera will be damaged by aftermarket batteries seems a little overblown. On the other hand, the quality of the insulation and connections is a big issue. If you've ever seen a no-name Leica M battery melt in its charger, it's ugly.

As for chargers, there is the Fuji (which is a known quantity) as well as the one-size fits-all Chinese generic charger (brick-shaped, different permanently-mounted top plate for different cameras). If you want a really cool charger, lobby Delkin to make NP-W126 plates for its Dual Universal charger (which can also charge batteries for the M8, X100, D700, etc.).

3. Flashes

Digital photography wants more fill light. Period. There is no direct translation from film's latitude in the midtones and skintones to digital. Color film is not quite linear; digital is. Nor does digital capture the same range as film. The solutions to this are (1) put up with bad facial shadows and clipped shadows/highlights; (2) spend endless hours in post or (3) take control when you take the picture. Flash, if handled correctly, can be nearly invisible. Embrace it. Because if you don't, "idiots" with point-and-shoot cameras will take better pictures than you will.

Daylight fill. All of that said, for the X-Pro1, your choices are somewhat more constrained than with the X100. Although both use the same TTL flash protocol, the 1/180 top synch speed (1/125 with non-Fuji flashes) and ISO 200 bottom sensitivity of the X-Pro1 call for much more powerful flash units for daylight fill. This is due to the fact that on a sunny day, your background exposure (at that top synch speed) will require f/11 or f/16. This requires the Fuji EF-42 - and not the smaller flashes first marketed with the X100. You would not have this problem with the X100 because it can easily synch at 1/1000 sec, allowing a wider aperture for the ambient picture - and extending the effective power of a small flash. For the more adventurous, it is difficult to beat the Metz 45 handle-mount flashes. They are about a stop more powerful than the EF-42 (and at the 35mm position), have a wonderful light color, take the light well off the lens axis, and provide a substantial grip. Alternatively, any powerful flash with a low synch voltage and a hot shoe or PC connection should work. Directions for doing so are found here. A more comprehensive guide to flashes in general is here.

Small and cheap. For situations where you do not need bounce or TTL, you can use any small automatic flash (you set the aperture, flash computes the exposure using its own sensor). The Nikon SB-30 is a great candidate; it has multiple auto and manual modes, as well as an infrared diffuser that allows it to set off slave flashes (it also has its own built-in slave sensor). The Vivitar 2800 is a very simple flash with bounce capabilities (though no swivel - so all bounce will be where the camera is in "landscape" position).

Off-camera. For better or worse, Fuji adopted the pin arrangement of the Canon EOS. This means that the EOS off-camera cords work fine. The caveat is that with the exit points for the cord going forward from the module, you have a good chance of dropping a loop of off-camera flash cord in front of the optical viewfinder. This is very annoying, and the workaround (if you use a neck strap) is to attach the cord through a loop in the strap, thereby raising the cord out of the way (right-handed shooters will hold the camera in the right hand and the flash in the left).

4. Cases, Straps and LCD Covers

Cases? Two words: China and Korea. There is nothing really wrong with the Fuji-supplied case except that it is expensive and somewhat plain. As elegant as any case is, though, it will get in the way. Eschew any all-leather (or pleather) case that requires a tripod screw to attach and has no way to access the card/battery without removing the case. These cases are the textbook "neverready"products. They are a complete pain to remove when you suddenly run out of battery power or card space (both of which conditions wait until an absolutely critical moment to occur). In the cheaper cases, look for something that attaches to the cameras by looping over the strap lugs. Once one of these cases is broken in, you can get it off the camera in two seconds with no tools. At the other end of the scale, Zelenpol and Gariz cases allow card/battery access but raise the height of the camera. The happy medium is the Ciesta-style case, which has a solid leather base but has a nice strip of leather to protect the top edge of the screen. Similar cases are available from Rainbow Imaging and will be available from Mr. Zhou.

Straps. Straps are fairly taste-specific. Suffice it to say that you should be looking for straps that have no metal hardware that will scratch the paint on your camera. You can use the split rings and protectors that come with the camera - or, better yet, use the oversize protectors and circular rings that you can get anywhere. The X-Pro1 is a light camera, so you don't need a bulky padded strap with quick-release connectors (nor do you want the Domke swivel-equipped Gripper strap - get the one without the swivel). BlackRapid and similar straps are an option; however, the placement of the tripod socket on the X-Pro1 means that you will be unscrewing and then retorquing a BlackRapid connector every single time the battery or card needs to be changed. This threatens damage to the camera, not the least of which is failing to sufficiently tighten the connector to the bottom of the camera.

LCD covers. Go for the glass. The glass covers are fixed by a very thin strip of 3M adhesive tape (likely the same one used for auto emblems and nameplates) around the perimeter. Rainbow Imaging sells a decent one for $8. These covers have AR coating and are supposedly fingerprint resistant. Too bad they aren't noseprint resistant for left-eyed shooters. Giottos has a similar product that has a larger size and costs a bit more. Film LCD covers are not much cheaper and tend to peel off and get nasty over time. Plastic has all of the scratchability of the original screen and more glare. Although it may not be clear why you would want a separate cover, the buttons on your shirt and the metal zipper on your jacket are good clues.

5. Filters

Lens caps are a pain, and they don't do a very good job at keeping things like abrasive dust away from the front elements of your lenses. If you are looking for a filter for lens protection, B&H sells the B+W 52mm 010 MRC for $25. Done. MRC repels everything and it is almost impossible to make flare. If you use any other skylight or UV, get ready to use your factory lens shade every time.

An oft-neglected but critical filter for use in artificial light is the 80A (deep blue). This is a deep blue filter that corrects tungsten light to look like daylight. Although you might be tempted to lean on auto white balance, all this will do is crank up the blue channel - which on every camera is the noisiest channel. The better solution is to use a color correction filter to bring the light back into balance on all channels. This drops your effective ISO but it makes indoor shots much less noisy. Just remember to get out your Roscolux swatch book and tape the 85 gel over your flash. Voilà - perfect balanced fill with no weird color casts. Just stay away from the windows - actual daylight will look blue outside (bet you've seen this effect in a couple of films). Get a cheap one first, try it out, and then get the B+W KB12 or KB20.

Polarizers are so 1980s - but so necessary. These will make clouds pop out of the sky (in color) and kill reflections on non-metallic surfaces (like glass and water). Because this camera does not meter through a semisilvered mirror like an SLR would, you can use cheap linear polarizers. A Hoya blue label will be fine for all but the most demanding purposes (they are all made by Tokina; the blue label ones are made of optical glass in Japan). Coated polarizers are nice, but given what a polarizer does, the advantages are purely theoretical. And if you are at high altitude, use these filters judiciously; they are unnecessary where the sky self-polarizes. In any application, use the EVF to see what the polarizer is doing.

Other types of filters (many inapplicable to digital) are discussed here.

6. Doodads

Just say no. Please. Since the days of film SLRs, photographers have been assailed by useless minor accessories. These used to be things like rubber eyecups that only sucked out contact lenses, bandolier straps holding the camera plus a Chewbacca-style assortment of film canisters, and uncomfortable vinyl camera bags. More recently, they are things like hot shoe spirit levels, simulated windng levers, "soft release" buttons, double hot shoes, accessory viewfinders, silk camera straps and special camera bags. The X-Pro1 has a built-in level, humans have had (for some time) opposable thumbs that allow gripping a camera without a winding lever, shutter releases are all now electronic switches, and the X-Pro1 can accommodate a 14mm (20mm-equivalent) lens with its built-in finder. With a 35mm lens that focuses to about eight inches, there is no need for close-up filters. And we know that straps and bags don't make better pictures, no matter what the camera.