The Future of X

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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