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The Buzz of the Fuji X100

When Fuji announced that they would be making a 35mm equivalent fixed lens compact camera with retro looks, no-one could have anticipated just how much buzz this camera would attract. However, the Sigma DP1 had a good buzz when it was announced, but sort of failed somewhat in the sales department side of things.

What made the Sigma DP1 so interesting was that it used an APS-C Foveon sensor. The sensor produced excellent colours outdoors. The problem with the DP-1 is that the sensor is not very sensitive in low light and the fact it was only of low resolution. The main problem with the camera though was that it had a  f4 lens.The focal length 28mm which would have been fine, except for that f4 lens.

Sigma later released the DP-2. This camera had the same sensor but now introduced a more “normal” lens with an equivalent focal length of 41mm and an f2.8 lens. This was better, but it wasn’t great.

Enter the Fuji X100. Fujifilm announces the FinePix X100 in a retro looking body.  The  X100 is equipped with a Hybrid Viewfinder that combines the window-type optical viewfinder found in film cameras with the electronic viewfinder system incorporated in fixed single lens or mirrorless digital cameras.

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Importantly, the X100has a 23mm F2 Fujinon Aspherical lens which gives an equivalent view of 35mm.

The X100 also has a 12 Megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, internally optimized and developed exclusively for this model, and a 23mm F2 Fujinon Aspherical lens.

Unsurprisingly, the X100 just won the Photokina STAR Award 2010. I’m pretty sure you can guess what this award is for.

The timing of the X100 seems to have been perfect. The forums were begging for his type of camera. However, had Fuji released this earlier it probably would not have achieved the level of hype that it is now getting. It seems people have gone a little crazy for the Fuji X100, with some saying that if the camera costs US$1700 they would buy it on the spot. Luckily for them, it poised to cost about US$1000.

The statement below is a common statement from various forums:

“Beautiful camera! I love my E-P1, but this looks awesome. Don’t think I can justify one, but it does look awesome. Well done, Fuji!”

There is however some dissenting opinion out there.

“there are numerous design flaws I see in just looking at the prototype. Indeed, the front looks overly retro, but the back looks like a very busy and poorly thought out kludge between digital and retro rangefinder. Little touches, like the tripod socket and flash shoe being offset from the center of the lens shows that the engineers who designed it don’t actually shoot much or think about what users might be interested in.

35mm f/2 is also a relatively conservative choice that isn’t exactly where the sweet spot of the market would be, either (either wider or 50mm would do better). But the big problem is that the bar is set high for these fixed-lens, large-sensor compacts: the m4/3 and the Sony NEX bodies do quite well and are much more flexible.”

The view of us at Creative Mayhem is that this camera looks like a winner. The retro design looks fantastic and the 35mm f2 lens is EXACTLY what this market has been looking for. When we say market, of course we mean niche market. The X100 is going to be sold to the average mum and dad shooters. I can hear the cries now, “what do you mean no zoom?”

Interestingly, we’ve noticed a bit a a trend in store towards the Olympus EP-1/EPL-1 cameras or the Canon G11 and Panasonic LX-3 cameras from the younger age groups. Here we are talking of the 16-21 year age group.  Three years ago, very few cameras in the high end compact market were sold to this market. We’ve also seen a trend to 35mm cameras like the Olympus 35 SP, Nikon FE, Canon AE-1 by this group.

Cameras like the Leica M9 are simply out of reach to young photographers. They are just too costly.Speakng of Olympus cameras, a reader sent me an interview by with Miguel Garcia , Marketing Managing Director of Olympus Europe, h that Olympus will no longer be developing 4/3rds lenses and instead will concentrate on developing the Micro 4/3rds lenses.

This is not surprising since in Japan, mirrorless cameras have over 40% of the market, and he emphasized that Olympus has a big lead over some of its competitors in the development of these systems.

The X100 does have some good competition though in the form of the Leica X1. The X1 is smaller than the Fuji, but hte Fuji also has an F2 lens. In fact, in terms of size, it’s as big as the Leica M9 camera. This means that it will handle very nicely ratherthan being fiddly. The downside to that is that it won’t be a pocket camera.

The fixed lens of the X100 has had some discussion around the traps about it. The fact you can’t change lenses means that some people will not consider this camera. But there are upsides. Here’s one thought:

“an advantage of a fixed lens is that the sensor can be optimized for the lens, which is what Fuji is doing here. Since they know exactly what angle the light rays will be hitting the sensor at, they use offset microlenses away from the center of the sensor, optimizing sensitivity and reducing vignetting.

Also, a fixed lens allows them to seal the body and better protect from environmental factors, and allows them to get the viewfinder as close to the lens as possible (where some larger or longer lens might obscure it).

A final advantage I’ll mention is that there is no wait time for the lens to expand or contract when powering the camera up or down, it’s ready to shoot immediately. That’s also true of prime lenses on an interchangeable lens system, but not of zooms mounted on either type of system.”

The other upside is that it will make a photographer out of you. You know, where you have to actually think about your composition more. The camera has three very important and easy to access functions; the shutter speed, the aperture and the EV compensation dial. This really is a photographers camera. This is what important. I would have liked to have seen a PASM dial and an ISO but then again you can’t have everything.

The X100 should be available next year in about March 2011. That will be a long wait for me.

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