The Future of X

Fujifilm has just released a new addition to the X-series line of cameras – the X-H1. This is not going to be a review of this camera as I haven’t had a chance to shoot with it yet. Instead, I would like to discuss some of my highly biased and unfiltered thoughts on the future of the X-series.

It all started with the original X100. I was one of the first shooters of this quirky little camera, which for the first year of its release (2011) was almost impossible to buy. Interestingly, it was not amateur photographers who got excited about it at first, quite the contrary. I remember the reaction of some people: “Why would you pay so much for such a tiny camera?” “Why don’t you get an SLR?” Back then, SLR was king and was perceived as a professional tool and everyone wanted to look like a pro.

How come the X100 became so popular, then? It was because after years of shooting with heavy, complicated, boring SLRs, professionals got their hands on the X100 and couldn’t let it go. It was a new way of approaching photography – it was a highway to creative freedom. We would leave our SLRs for the boring stuff and for fun we would venture out with the X100. Then, of course, as more and more professional photographers started to shoot with the X100, amateurs took notice. Really? How come my favourite photographer is shooting with this little thing instead of the latest FF Nikon or Canon?

Then the X-Pro1 came up with three original lenses. It was roughly the same time as Nikon released their mega-pixel D800 series. The rangefinder-like cameras got into the hands of many great innovative shooters, spreading the news and trouncing the common conviction that serious photography equals SLR.

Then, as you know, the SLR-like small, mirrorless X-T1 showed up and became a huge success for Fuji. It was very different from the X100 and X-Pro1/2. It was high-tech and packed with SLR-like features. The success of the X-T1 surprised Fuji, who quickly realized that the X-T line was going to be their bread-and-butter product. With this week’s release of the X-H1, Fuji continues to recognize this technophile market.

What’s the future of the X-series?

I see two parallel but distinctive lines of cameras. First, the X-T, X-H group of products aimed at the SLR-world, high-tech, video, more-features-the-better type of photographers. In an excellent review of the X-H1, Jonas Rask said it so eloquently: “Technicalitus Maximus.” There is no question that there is a growing market for such cameras with strong video capability and the latest features.

Courtesy of Jonas Rask.

I really like the IBIS addition which allows you to move away from the tripod and throw yourself into creative, hands-on photography (pun intended). What I don’t like is that Fujifilm took away the essential, at least for me, exposure compensation dial. This is one of the most important controls in photography! How could you Fuji, how could you?!

Second, there is the X-Pro2 and the X100. I view those cameras as being based on a design philosophy aimed at different photographers. This is where my heart belongs. A few years ago, I wrote about this un-technical and subjective distinction in the article: “Is the X-Pro for the heart and the X-T2 for the head?” I quickly got into trouble with some of you 🙂

Indeed, I love shooting with the X100F. For me this is the most important camera of the entire X-series line. I am not going to repeat my reasons – you will find plenty about it on this blog.

In the future, I would like Fujifilm to go in two directions. While the X-T/X-H cameras would be for the high-tech video crowd, the X100/X-Pro should be purely for photography. These cameras should be premium-priced, superbly made (premium materials), simplified-to-the-core seeing machines with a minimal number of features but retaining an amazing viewfinder and easy handling (fewer buttons!). The cameras should have a minimalist design and be stripped of everything that is not related to photography: no video, no panoramas, no multitude of autofocus settings, no boosts. This should be Leica-like simplicity but with a modern twist – autofocus and EVF. I realize that the cameras won’t sell in such numbers as the please-everyone X-T/X-H line but I am confident that a pure-photography approach will find its audience. In addition, such beautifully crafted machines will act as ambassadors for the brand. Yes, I will pay extra for fewer features, simple design and to-the-point operations! I want photography at its core. But maybe that’s just me.

 

P.S. You must see this innovative and brilliant X-H1 promo video shot by Jonas Rask. In my view, this is the best promo video for any camera ever. I must admit I have become tired of all the same promos of people walking around with their cameras and talking about how great they are. This promo is bold, fresh and captivating. Seeing at its best.

 

Here is my latest work, in fact shot yesterday, with the X-E3, X-T2 paired with the XF 35mm F1.4 and XF 80mm F2.8.

next time…

 

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24 thoughts on “The Future of X

  1. Although I totally agree regarding premium Made in Japan quality, I do need video. I’m still a prolific film shooter and prefer the RF style and simplistic controls. My M3 doesn’t even have a meter. But because its such a simple camera and I don’t have a smart phone. (well for clarification I have a work iPhone, Pad and Lap Top work only app, camera disabled). I need my Fuji to cover the rest. I don’t want a 3rd camera and when it comes to young family my wife and kids want some video. And when i shoot bands I like to capture their sound. I guess if your other camera is a XT,H then the XP is your simple camera, but if the XP is you advanced camera then you appreciate some of the toys!.

  2. This camera with the booster is as big and as heavy ( maybe bigger ) than a canon dslr and it looks like a VOLVO 🙂 As good as it seems to be ( video is quite impressive ) when you add the price on the top of this ” russian cargo ” i do not see the point … + the sony a7III is coming out, with full frame, great low light etc etc. all in all what stops me to buy this fuji is the WEIGHT.

    thanks for your photos Olaf ! always good to come around

  3. Gosh I hope you are right, Olaf. I am squarely in the Xpro/X100 body camp and couldn’t care less about so many new features that many deem critical to making a photo (touch screen, 4K et al)
    Maybe the GFX sensor in an Xpro-ish style body perhaps? One can only dream.

  4. “What I don’t like is that Fujifilm took away the essential, at least for me, exposure compensation dial. This is one of the most important controls in photography!”
    Yes, same here. I use this virtually *all* the time, as far as I understand one can put the functionality on one of the thumb wheels which is not such a big difference then, but the philosophy behind is questionable. I do NOT rely – for good reason – on the automatic metering, Shooting with +/- zero EV will not lead to good shots.
    Maybe only the hybrid X-H1 will be like that, but Fuji must pay attention not to become just another “me too” tech toy manufacturer.
    And yes, I want the IBIS too. But very unsure if the X-H1 will be it.

    1. Oh forgot one thing – (Quote): “X-H1 promo video shot by Jonas Rask. In my view, this is the best promo video for any camera ever. I must admit I have become tired of all the same promos of people walking around with their cameras and talking about how great they are. ”

      I do agree that all this corporate/ marketing speech has flooded the internet, it sounds all the same, however the linked video of J.R. is just the reason I haven’t been interested in video so far. VIrtually 99,9% of all amateur video productions simply have nothing to say. At all. They kind of wallow in cool looking/ moving images, some b&w, some close- ups, the inevitable slo-mo (mainly because the camera can do it!), a nice or not so nice soundtrack, a vague mood, that’s all. A nice empty shell. Not worth all the hassle.

      I think it is uncomparably harder to make 5 good minutes of video than to make a good photo. The linked video prooves it again. But people love complicated tech toys, so the X-H1 will sell for sure.

      Obviously all just in my very personal opinion 🙂

      1. I respect your opinion even thought I strongly disagree with it. I stand by my position that Jonas’ video is innovative and visually stunning. When you stop the frames you will find hundreds of amazing images. The content which requires some attention, visual focus and vast imagination. The visual provocation at its best!

    2. Great point about the exposure compensation dial! Having said that, I understand that there is a large market for the X-H1 – video, sport etc.. and Fujifilm is much better informed than us about the gear market. I only hope that this high-tech philosophy won’t be applied to all X-series cameras. Thank you for commenting.

  5. Lovely post guys.
    Cameras with a souls, that’s exactly what they are. Iv tried most of the brands and one could , probably, put me in a category “ gear collectors “.
    I like to shoot almost anything but my favourites are street scape, landscape and architecture. I was developing b&w on an Orwo film back in 70’s and ever since I’ve been trying to recapture-create myself with a new digital technology. Recently I was going a zic-zac path with my cameras like Olympus E-30 — Fuji X-Pro1—Sony a7—-another XPro1—Pentax K3II—-Fuji X100S—-Pentax K1—-Fuji X-Pro2 + X100F +X30. As you can see I was wandering elsewhere and coming back to Fuji. There was always something that I wanted to find that Fuji didn’t have just to realise that others didn’t have what Fuji have. A soul, a feeling that I had with my old Zenit, or my old Yashica. Only with Fuji I find myself watching a movie on TV and just holding my Fuji in my hands and playing with a settings or taking occasional low light test shot. Of course it’s important to have a decent AF, high ISO ability, good DR, OIS and so on , blouse without those an average amateur won’t be able to get a half dece shots . But in the same tame all that is pointless if yo don’t crave to take a camera in your hands and caress it, make love to it. And that’s the effect that Fuji X-Pro, X100 have on me.
    So Fuji, keep on giving us that love.

    1. Zeljko,

      Thank you so much for sharing your story and thoughts. I am sure many readers could relate to it. “Cameras with souls” – so true!

      Looking forward to your future comments.

      All the best,

      Olaf

  6. Really interesting points. I would also add the X-E line into your X-Pro/X100 line of cameras as Fuji already started simplifing it by removing the d-pad. I’m personally glad I got out of the “new camera hype” and it was thanks to Fuji. It took me 8 years and bunch of Canons, but my old X-T10, and now X-T1 got me all I need for my photography, and now I’m just observing what’s new with Fuji, with no intention of buying it.

    1. David,

      Thank you for your note. It is amazing how a pause button in acquiring new gear could help us with seeing!

      All the best,

      Olaf

  7. Olaf – my thoughts too. Thank you for your passion, it’s contagious. The original X100 & XPro1 rekindled my passion for photography and prefer these styled cameras for my craft as well. Your photography is beautiful, especially the pool shot. That one needs to be in print.

  8. First of all Olaf. Thank you so much for the kind words, and inclusion of links.

    Second, let me take this chance to express my concerns. I don’t like all this feature rich hyper-camera-technical-stuff that seems to be needed to keep interest alive from the Fuji crowd. I feel as if they have taken Kaizen way too far. They listen to everyone, and try to put every feature imaginable into a single camerabody. This screws up EVERYTHING! – Hence the Technicalitus Maximus title.

    I have the same hope as you Olaf, that they will continue the X100/XPro series into an even more stripped down photographic tool. I want the basics. The bare necessities. The things that makes me get off my lazy ass and shoot in creative and fun ways. And I will go down trying to affect every possible contact I have in Japan for that to happen. You can count on it!!

    1. Jonas,

      You are one of the most outspoken X-Photographers with a very clear vision and bold, innovative seeing. You are not afraid to take visual risks and share your seeing experiments with us. This is such a unique quality in today’s highly “staged” and “calculated” world. There is no question in my mind that your voice and influence will make an impact on the future of X.

      Thank you for sharing this with me.

      Take care my friend,

      Olaf

  9. Olaf, I hope that you are correct. I believe that the executives in Tokyo have a love for the type of camera and photography embodied by the X-Pro and X100 series. Hopefully, that will keep this line of X-cameras alive.

    It is good business for Fujifilm to pursue a larger market share with the X-T/H line up.

    As someone who uses both types of cameras, I do hope that the company continues to develop both streams. The X-T/H cameras will continue to be good for my work and the X-Pro/X100 will always be good for my soul.

    Don

    1. Don,

      There is no question that the X-T/H line is a huge success and Fuji needs to make money! I understand this direction. Let’s hope that the X-Pro/X100 line will continue to evolve and grow.

      I think I will quote you. You put it so well.

      Take care my friend,

      Olaf

  10. I’m an X100F and X-Pro2 shooter and agree with you about the two different directions. It may be the best camera in the world, but if it’s too heavy it’s no good to me. The whole lure for Fuji X for me was the wonderful IQ in a camera size that was comfortable. However, I’m not going to lay on the street in public in my good clothes and would very much like an articulating screen on one of them!

  11. Wow, really enjoy this post, superb!

    1. The Jonas Rask video.
    2. The link with the review of the X-H1 in his site; what an amazing images he got!
    3. Your imagery: all excelent. A fantastic serie, for me. I enjoy especially 1, 4, 5, 7 and 9. This last one is special, abstract poetry for me.

    Congratulations!

  12. Great article! I too love the X-series cameras having owned the X-T2 for a year now. I really want to try out the X100 series. Love the photos!

  13. Very nice piece Olaf and credit where credit is due to Jonas, great video. Olaf you know I love all your stuff but I must say that I truly love your fourth photo down with the gentleman walking down the road and your focused on the faces of a poster on what I believe is a bus stop shelter. Sometimes a photo grabs you and you can’t explain why but with your photos I believe it’s down to the fact we pass the same things without seeing them and you have a way of showing us what’s in front of us but never see.

    Lyn Evans

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