Saturday, March 05, 2011

Fujifilm FinePix X100 Random Thoughts

Fujifilm FinePix X100 Open Discussion

The X100 – What’s all the hype about?

For months thousands of photographers have been thinking about and commenting on the upcoming release of the FinePix X100. Since I’ve been lucky enough to test the camera early on I thought I’d comment on the question some ask – “why all the hype?”

I do not claim to have THE answer.  Just an opinion like anyone else.  Here are my personal thoughts on what makes the X100 such a unique camera:

The X100 fits a niche we’ve been waiting for for years.  How does it do this?  For those of us who have grown up on film cameras we love a viewfinder.  Something changes when you hold the camera up to your eye versus 18 inches out in front of you with an LCD on a point ‘n shoot camera.  If you don’t agree or get this  - that’s ok.

When I do my casual shooting I’m using a decent point ‘n shoot.  From the days of the classic Ricoh GR-1, Contax T2, T4 or G2, Nikon Ti, and many other similar cameras – the joy of a compact was mastered in these type of film cameras.   Digital came on the scene and many lens shutter cameras morphed into pure consumer pieces.  There were a few standouts and I used the FinePix line-up from F700, F10, F30, etc.  During the past 10 years I tried many others including the Canon G series (arguably the best selling advanced digital in the world) and others by Sony (I have the NEX3), Nikon P series, and Olympus.  The problem always was that feeling of it’s almost the one I love – but not quite.  Didn’t you feel like the cameras were always a step away from great?   Too many mega-pixels crammed in or too small a viewfinder or no RAW file etc.  If you don’t agree – that’s ok.

So a few years ago I decided to pretty much give up on the point ‘n shoots and carry my 5D with a 28 1.8 – which is now a 5D II with the 28 1.8.  Why not a 35 1.4 or 2.0 – that’s just my choice since I do a lot of party/street shots and thus I’m usually 3-6 feet from the action.  And with the 5D II we all know cropping down isn’t an issue.  It’s a great camera and I would say something similar would be the D700 in the same configuration.  If you think it’s overkill – that’s ok.

The issue I faced was on a Friday night when I wanted to hit the town.  I was dealing with extra weight and the look of the guy with a DSLR all the time.  It’s not a compact thing to carry around a 5DII to every event, bar, date or walk to the post office.  I wasn’t ready to jump on the Leica M8 or M9 bandwagon since we all know that’s another category of financial commitment.  If you bought an M9 and love it – that’s ok.

In the past couple years we saw with excitement many great compact DSLR’s from Panasonic, Olympus, Samsung and Sony.  Canon and Nikon make a few smaller DSLR’s but we know they are gearing down their DSLR’s rather than the new breed of mirrorless cameras.  The GF1 was the first camera to make me excited for what I needed to fill the gap.  I just didn’t want to start over with more lenses and such when I’m so deep into Canon.  I did that once and it’s not fun we all know.  In the midst of the excitement of the Olympus and Panasonic cameras word of the X100 began to leak in late 2010 and I knew if the camera and (my) company get it right – this is the perfect model for my style of shooting.  Compact size with uncompromised performance.  No it is not a DSLR in performance.  For the folks who have asked me about low light AF – no it won’t focus as well or fast as a 5DII in low light.  You just can’t compete (yet) with the type of AF on an X100 (mirrorless off the chip) versus a full DSLR.  I am sure like all tech things AF speed will catch up.  It does slow down a bit when in the Macro mode since the lens has more focus range to choose from.  But getting down to a 4” close up is a nice feature – so I can live with loss of speed since my close ups are usually not moving subjects.  I don’t always need the higher level of DSLR performance.  This is my compromise for a compact pro camera which delivers in so many other areas. If you don’t agree with the loss of a bit of AF performance in exchange for so many other benefits offered almost nowhere else – that’s ok.

So why the hype?  I think it is because the camera gets it all right.  Best I can tell Fujifilm (USA) has never run an ad on it in the USA. I’m not sure what goes on beyond our shores.  Fujifilm (USA) hasn’t done much to promote the camera at all.  To me the hype some folks seem to resent is from the market and I think it is all part of a healthy discussion and love for a camera any of the manufacturers could have delivered, but to date only one or two have even come close.  You probably have looked at some of the cameras I mentioned and even the Sigma DP2 and Leica X1 are excellent units but lack a viewfinder as a standard option.  Price for the red dot is another story most can’t swallow.  A GF2, an NX100, EPL2, LX5, S95, and many other excellent units all lack a viewfinder.  This is what changes your photography.  If you don’t agree – that’s ok.

The X100 is photography in the form we grew up on.  You are in the moment and time stands still around you as you concentrate with your eye on the subject feeling the camera do as you like.  The near silent shutter is a huge bonus as well.  For all the hype, I'm thrilled to see a camera like this finally hit the shelves and by the end of the month the boxes will be in the hands of many others and the debate will rage on.  I hope you are all as excited as I am about the possibilities the X100 brings to our art and industry.  If you don't agree - that's ok.

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  1. hello

    thanks very much for this article !

    I've got a Canon G10, I really like its ergonomy but I never use the viewfinder, I prefer take shots with screen, 40 cm in front of my head.

    I'm very interested by the X100 (large sensor) but if I don't need a viewfinder, do you think NEX5 could be a better choice for me ?


  2. I've been waiting for this camera for a long time and blogged about it long before Fuji thought about it...I think?

    My compact is a G9 and I do use the viewfinder, but it's not a great experience. I carry a camera with me at all times and most of the time it's one of my Nikon DSLR's.

    I have pre-ordered an X100 and this will now be the camera that I carry with me at all times. I'd love a Leica M8.2 or M9, but I need to keep my Nikon gear up to date, and I'm waiting for the D700 replacement.

    I think the X100 is a game-changer and will be the first of a new generation of cameras like this. If you don't agree - that's ok:-)

  3. It's sad but true that on the internet, you have to have that caveat at the end of each paragraph just to avoid raging flame wars..

  4. Anonymous10:49 PM

    Thanks for posting. BTW, great way to put it--if you don't agree, that's okay. More than one way to skin a cat, as the saying goes.

  5. Why not really portable, like the Canon S95, something truly pocketable. You end up with a 28mm equivalent F2 that you can pretty much carry with you even when photography is not the main purpose of what you're doing.

  6. Anonymous1:54 PM

    Being of a certain older age...and growing up with film and viewfinders, I find myself in complete agreement with you. To me the X100 is just about the perfect camera. Although, if I'm honest, I would prefer a true manual rangefinder focusing system and a Leica lens. But at £7,000 for a Leica M9 and Summicron 35mm, I guess I can compromise a little. If you disagree, that's ok :)


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