The Online Photographer: Shooting with a Fuji X100

The Online Photographer has a guest post by Robert Plotkin: Shooting with a Fuji X100.

Plotkin has a lots of gripes against the focusing system:

The imprecise focusing takes an unusually long time. It is like waiting for a cashier to incorrectly manipulate an abacus and hand you the wrong change.

He also have issues with the usability. But in the end:

Shooting the Fuji X100 is like driving a vintage Ferrari: bugs in your teeth, pebbles ricocheting off your goggles, double-clutching straight cut gears, applying opposite lock to correct a slide—and coming out of the corner neck-and-neck with a soccer mom in a black Escalade of an SLR.

Read it thoroughly. I still want to get one.

Fuji FinePix X100 – some reviews

Previously I was wondering if there was a camera renouveau. The highly anticipated Fuji FinePix X100 could be one of the contenders with its innovative viewfinder. The problem is that following the earthquake in Sendai, the Japanese production of cameras in Japan has suffered, making the X100 harder to find. This does not seem to stop the enthusiasm.

Nonetheless, people still start getting their hands on it. No later than last week I saw one at a local camera store, unfortunately no demo model. Here is a couple of recent reviews:

Steve Huff ask “Does it live up to the Hype?”. Steve Huff is a Leica M9 shooter but will compare the X100 to the Leica X1 which is must closer.

[…] those who want the X100 are looking for something fresh, new, exciting, small and classic. As I recently found out for myself, the X100 is all of that and more.

His perspective is from the photographer taking pictures, and the result. He answered the question positively.

DCResource with their usual format will go through all the usual details and review all the features in the camera. You can compare images between their other tests, and doing this between the X100 and the Olympus E-P1 is making me drool even more.
Their conclusion:

All things considered, the Fuji FinePix X100 is a very impressive fixed lens camera, and I imagine that they’ll sell a boatload of them, despite the price. It offers superb photo quality, good performance (in most respects), a rangefinder-style body with a one-of-a-kind viewfinder, and plenty of manual controls. The camera does have its issues, mostly related to buffer memory and the user interface, but for a first generation camera, Fuji has done a great job.

Previously, in case you missed these:

12 film cameras to watch

Popphoto has an article about 12 film cameras worth buying right now.

The tragedy in Japan has made the current DSLR market a scary place, making this a perfect opportunity to get (back) into film.

Their list (in alphabetical order):

  • Bronica SQ/SQ-A
  • Canon EOS 1N
  • Canon AE-1
  • Fujifilm GA645
  • Hasselblad 500c/500cm
  • Leica R-series
  • Mamiya 645 Pro
  • Nikon FM10
  • Nikon N80
  • Pentax 67
  • Pentax K1000
  • Ricoh GR-1

It seems to cover all the bases from medium format, compact to reusing lenses from your DSLR. But the most awkward in the list is the FM10 as I think they should have recommended an older model instead, one solidly built. Also notably absent are TLR or 35mm rangefinders like a Bessa.

What is interesting to see is that Ricoh is still in the same line of products with their Ricoh GR-Digital: highly praised compact camera.

Is there a camera renouveau?

The world of digital cameras has been a bit boring lately. Not much innovation seen from the outside. Just a convergence of still and movie, and the mash-up of technologies, every increasing high ISO and image quality.

But is there a camera renouveau? Something that would reinvent the camera as we know it? Let’s see.

Convergence of still and movie is the added capability to shoot movies with a still camera. This feature has been around for a while on point and shoot cameras. Most of them have been shooting movies, low-res mostly, but increasing every now and then.

But the real break was when, after addressing the technical limitations, Nikon, then Canon, release DLSRs, the Nikon D90 and the Canon 5DMkII able to shoot video in HD. In 720p for the Nikon and 1080p for the Canon.

A lot of professional filmmakers got their hands on the 5DMkII, for good, as it represented an unprecedented image quality for a price point that was lower than dedicated video cameras. Second units, TV series, reporting were main consumers of this technology. Even after Canon released firmware updates to address most of the issues found the movie mode.

Nikon was first, Canon was best. This seem to have opened the gate for a flow of new DLSRs capable of video; now even the low end Canon Digital Rebel shoot at least 720p.

The mash-up of technologies came by way of the micro Four Third standard (m-43 for short). Not to be confused with Four-third. The 4/3 is IMHO doomed: a smaller sensor than the current line of DLSRs, marginally smaller camera size, as the low-end Canon Digital Rebel and Nikon have been getting getting smaller does not seem to make it a good alternative. Also it now seems to get less developments now from Olympus, and Panasonic seems to have stopped ; and this is probably because of its limited success. I’m purely speculating, but I do believe that 4/3 is gonna be phased out. I could be wrong.

On the other hand the m-43 seems to be taking speed. Take a point and shoot camera design, put a interchangeable lens mount, make it a standard, cook it with another manufacturer (or more) that will make lenses and body, and you have the micro Four Third standard. Olympus initiated it, as a spin-off of the 4/3, with the help of Panasonic. It represents a good trade-off between size and image quality: bigger sensor than in (almost every) point and shoot, interchangeable lens like a DSLR, it makes the almost perfect system in-between pocket cameras and DLSRs.

It even inspired Samsung with their own lens mount, and Sony with the NEX (featuring a bigger sensor, APS-C size and a slightly smaller body than Olympus or Panasonic) and the E-mount. Even more, Panasonic and Sony both have video cameras using their respective mounts ; same lenses as the still cameras but dedicated to video.

So what about the renouveau? I think it could be coming from a known player that, sometime, just come with very innovative products. And that would be FujiFilm, with the Fuji FinePix X100.

The Fuji FinePix X100 is a compact camera with a 23mm f/2 prime lens and an APS-C sensor. The photographyblog has a complete review with samples. You can also read Luminous Landscape review.

The originality for the X100 comes in the viewfinder. The trend in the recent years has been to remove the viewfinders, including on micro-4/3 cameras, to replace them with the back LCD. This has been bugging me personally and I still feel uncomfortable when using the back LCD. The alternative is the DSLR, which does not make for a pocket camera. That’s not the case of the X-100 that features a unique hybrid optical-electronic viewfinder. On paper it looks like the best innovation in viewfinders in recent times.

We’ll see if that’s the renouveau, the innovation that will invert the trend.