Well I’m not sure how to title this article, so I’m giving it two names. Before Photokina last year I wrote an article on the future of the X-Series cameras, most specifically about the replacement to the X100.
As it turns out it appears that someone at Fujifilm in Japan read my article and then pretty much just copied everything I suggested! So… You’re Welcome Fujifilm! I expect the royalties will start rolling in any day!
I joke of course, but the X100S was very close to what I suggested for a revised X100, and what they delivered – including keeping the X100 name! I’m in no way suggesting that Fujifilm simply read my article and thought that they were so wonderful that they updated the camera based on my ideas. No, but this is where I believe Fujifilm stand out from the rest of the crowd. Fujifilm listened to a lot of real photographers who actually use their X100 day to day, put all those voices together, did what we asked for and not what fits into the right market segment to shift the maximum number of boxes. The fact that my suggestions tied up so well with what Fujifilm delivered just shows that other photographers felt the same way about the X100 – so nearly perfect that it only needed tweaking and not redesigning…. Fujifilm Listens. No other camera manufacturer takes so much notice of its photographer customers as closely as Fujifilm do, and that’s one of the big reasons I love their cameras. You feel like they really are built for photographers.
I’ll just run through some of the points I made and see how close Fujifilm got. In blue italic is the text from my original article.
Faster AF is pretty much top of the list for most people! Faster AF is always welcome! Will we get it in a future development? I don’t see why not, but I’m not betting the farm on it. It took both Panasonic and Olympus until their 3rd generation CSCs to get contrast-detect AF right, Sony still isn’t there. It would be the main compelling reason to ‘upgrade’ from an X100 to an “X200” – much as it is for people choosing between the Oly PEN E-P2 and E-P3 upgrade. The X100 is so very good at everything else that if the AF isn’t significantly better I can see a lot of people sticking with their X100’s.
Well they certainly delivered here. Everyone who has reviewed and used one seriously says that it is soooo much better. I’ve had a go with one at Focus, but I’m reserving my judgement until I’ve used one properly in the real world and compared it side-by-side with my X100. I think a lot of people still base their opinion on the original X100 on release and forget what it was like when (or haven’t used one since) it was released and just how much Fujifilm improved it with firmware updates. I’ve grown used to the AF on my X100 and find it fast enough for me. When I get to test one out properly I’ll be interested to see if really will make that much difference to me.
This is closely followed by a lot of people complaining about the manual focus on the X100 – although I wonder how many of these people are just finding something to moan about rather than would really even use MF seriously anyway even if it was good! I know very few people who use MF regularly these days, and if they do it’s generally on a fixed static subject where time isn’t all that crucial. Could it be better? Hell yes! Does it really matter that much day-to-day? Nope
Focus peaking – fine on an interchangeable lens camera such as the X-Pro1 (et al) where you might use older manual focus lenses and want a quick way to be reasonably sure it’s in focus, but not sure about how useful it will really be on a fixed lens camera like the X100. If you can’t tell it’s in focus from the 10x zoom, then I’m not sure what you’re doing wrong! I had it on my Sony NEX cameras, thought it was great at first, but then got annoyed with it getting in the way of the composition and turned it off! Might come to the X-Pro range, I’m not all that convinced about its usefulness on a fixed-lens X-series.
The manual focusing was updated to make it much smoother and quicker on the X100S to start with, and well they certainly did something with the MF mode that should silence the critics, not only did they include focus peaking, but they took it one step further and gave us a totally unique split screen focusing. I still maintain however that only a tiny fraction of X100S owners will ever use that feature, especially with an updated, faster AF. When the X-Pro1 gets around to being updated this will be a much more useful feature for many more people.
Face-detection AF – YES PLEASE!!! I know it’s seen as a bit of a point-and-shoot feature, but when you’ve had it and you no longer do, you suddenly realise just how useful it is/was! Even Nikon have now included it in the top-end D4, that shows real [:-)] photographers are asking for it, not just point-and-shooters. Possible, but I’m not sure if Fuji really feel it is a priority on their X-series. Fundamentally faster AF is needed to start with before adding this though.
As I predicted, albeit really wanted, face detection AF wasn’t and isn’t a priority for Fujifilm in their X-Series cameras.
Full-frame – Just not going to happen! For two reasons. 1. Size – as much as some people want FF, more people want a small camera – if you change to FF, forgetting anything else, the lens has to be physically bigger – no way around that, and consequently the camera has to be bigger. …. This might be a long-term (5+ years) thing…
I never believed they would do this now and as much as I would love Fujifilm to make an RX1 rival, I still don’t think they are working on an imminent release of such a camera. I think it will happen at some point, but it’s probably a long way off for those of us dreaming of a Fujifilm FF compact. Given the reception that the RX1 has received I might revise down my 5+ years prediction (perhaps in hope!) and say that we might hear some rumblings within a couple of years.
Faster lens f/1.4 etc on the “X200″… Great – always useful! We might get f/1.8, but I’m not sure about anything faster than that as it means making the lens that much bigger and the whole point of the X100 is that it is small and compact. Perhaps we’ll see a slightly faster lens, but I’d be surprised if it was that much faster.
1/3 f-stops on the lens aperture ring – yes please, hopefully, fairly likely! The current X100 setup is just weird and generally leads me to just use whole stops.
I never though we’d get the f/1.4 lens some predicted. Fujifilm stuck with the winning formula and gave us the same lens we know and love! I’m a bit disappointed it doesn’t have 1/3rd steps on it, but you can’t have everything.
Image stabilisation – in the fixed-lens X-series I doubt this will happen. IS is great, but it adds bulk, noise, uses more battery power and is also of limited value on a 35mm (equiv) lens.
Weather sealed – not sure on this one. A 10% chance of it happening on some X-series in the future camera I reckon. It’s a nice marketing thing to put in the brochure! I think a lot of people go on about this, but how many of them actually shoot when it’s chucking it down? and by that I mean enough to totally ruin the camera. I took my X-Pro 1 out to shoot the Olympic torch, I got soaked to the skin (literally), the camera got soaked – did it kill it? No! Most cameras can stand to get pretty wet before they die despite not being full weather-sealed. Useful? Yes. Critical? No.
I didn’t expect either of these options and we didn’t get them!
MORE MEGA-PIXELS! Probably going to happen, not really that important. My guess will be 16Mpx like the X-Pro 1, but not necessarily the same sensor.
As I predicted, we got 16Mpx, and it is newer version of the X-Pro1 sensor.
Quick menu a la X-Pro 1 for the X100 replacement – probably going to happen!
Yep – got it! Spot on Fujifilm!
Dedicated ISO dial – I’ve spoken about this before. I like the idea, not sure if it will fit on the X100, might just look a bit too “full”. At the moment the clean design suits the camera – add more buttons and dials and it looses that. Honestly, the ISO setting is pretty easy to change via the menu with the Fn button. If it was done, I hope it would be done well. My guess is that it’s unlikely to happen.
We didn’t get a dedicated ISO dial, and I didn’t think we would, but we did get a better organised ISO menu with better Auto-ISO options and with the Auto-ISO integrated into the standard ISO menu, where it should have been in the first place!
Buttons. If you regularly switch between the X-Pro to the X100 it can be a really frustrating experience. When you’ve used a camera for a while, pressing the buttons without taking your eye from the viewfinder becomes second nature. When you’ve got two cameras with many of the buttons you use in different places it gets confusing and annoying, especially when both cameras are so similar! I’m pretty sure that the X100 successor will have the buttons in the same place as the X-Pro 1. The is probably the only other reason (see improved AF) that would compel me to trade-in the X100.
Fujifilm have fiddled with the buttons on the back of the X100S just enough to make them better. There was no need to go overboard, as I’ve said before, just a few tweaks here and there.
The final thing from me is the name – I’d much rather see an X100 mkII than an X200. X100 somehow just sounds better, stronger! The X100 has almost become a sub-brand of its own, it would be a shame to loose it.
I’m so glad that it wasn’t changed to the X200. Something just sounds right about X100!
These are just my opinions based on my experiences of the cameras. I sincerely hope that when Fuji do replace the X100 they do a proper job of it, and not a half-baked Leica X2 job on it. It would be a huge shame, and I think it would hold back some of the momentum they have built up around the X-series range of cameras amongst pro’s and serious enthusiasts alike.
It looks like they have pulled it off and will have another great success on their hands. It’s not going to make me sell my X100 and jump ship to the X100S, and I don’t expect that Fujifilm thought it would. They haven’t done anything radical, they haven’t gone out to make all X100 owners suddenly want to upgrade just to sell more cameras, they have made just the right improvements so that anyone coming into the X-Series system will get pretty much the perfect digital camera. At some point in the future I’ll probably end up getting one when the timing is right. I’d definitely get one straight away if a black version was released – although I’ve had hopes of that pretty much destroyed – maybe I can find someone to paint one for me!