Photography Article by Richard Unwin
Mirrorless cameras, smaller than digital SLRs (DSLRs) but with better image quality and greater creative control than point and shoot compacts, have been the photographic breakthrough of recent years. Utilizing both fixed lens and interchangeable systems, the models now available from most major brands share a minimalist aesthetic, realised with varying degrees of integrity, married with a form factor intended for easy portability and unobtrusive snapping. Able to cope with many of the creatively engaged photographer’s needs, the new mirrorless offerings seek to address some of the holes in an industry that has arguably lacked design innovation for decades.
Released in 2011, the Fuji X100 made an immediate impact as one of the best looking cameras on the market, with a premium image quality to match. Built around a 12MP APS-C sensor, the same size as most non-professional DSLRs, the X100 essentially offers a high-quality digital reproduction of the film-era’s classic rangefinders. Now available in both the original silver top version and a new, all black limited edition model, the camera is a tactile blend of rough leatherette and smooth metal with retro dials and a sharp, wide aperture lens equivalent in range to 35mm. Chief amongst the X100’s digital innovations is the inclusion of an inbuilt, hybrid viewfinder able to switch between optical and digital perspectives. Often missing on compact digital cameras, the incorporation of an effective viewfinder allows for a more natural shooting technique, as well as bypassing the struggle to use the rear LCD in bright sunlight. What continues to make the X100 stand out, though, is the way it blends modern technology and attractive, practical design in one desirable product.
The first of Fuji’s now expanding X series, the X100’s success has seen it used as a blueprint for the subsequent release of the smaller X10 and the more flexible X-Pro1. Similar in looks to the famed, Soviet designed Lomo LC-A, the X10 drops down to a smaller, point and shoot sized sensor, and an optical-only viewfinder, but adds an in built 28mm-112mm zoom. The combination of smaller sensor and 4x zoom make the X10 a souped-up version of an everyday camera, with an image quality below that of the X100. The smaller offspring retains the X100’s build-quality, though, as well as much of its design practicality, making it a neat option for anyone seeking a premium product in relatively miniature proportions. Discreet in its all black garb, with a reassuringly solid metal lens cap, the X10 is the X series take anywhere, throw it in a bag model, well suited to general, everyday use.
For those wanting serious image quality with the flexibility of interchangeable lenses, Fuji’s spring 2012 release of the X-Pro1 system has further raised the X series bar. Outperforming the already competent X100, the X-Pro1 offers a 16MP APS-C sensor, one of the best rear LCDs on the market, and the current option of three wide aperture prime lenses covering effective ranges of 27mm, 53mm and 91mm. Stylistically, the all black camera looks very much the X100’s older brother, but with the addition of signature angular lines that give it a more individual, but arguably less satisfying aesthetic. In hand, though, the X-Pro1 has a premium feel, with a well balanced weight and an overriding sense of grown-up seriousness. Not really geared up for fast shooting or ambivalent snapping, this is a camera for a pro or enthusiast to use slowly, taking the time to adapt to its old school style. Thankfully, the resulting images are first-rate, combining a striking palette of sharpness, colour, contrast and tone.
By combining DSLR sized sensors with effective in-built viewfinders in the X100’s and X-Pro1’s relatively portable bodies, Fuji have managed to offer the kind of camera many have craved since the dawn of the digital era but have been unable to find save for in Leica’s eye-wateringly expensive photographic jewels. The company have also followed through to provide comprehensive systems, with quality metal accessories and neatly-designed leather cases; adds-ons that are often a disappointing after-thought from other manufacturers, but that prove a boon for practical, real-world photography. In a nod to Leica, Fuji have released a limited edition X-Pro1 package housed in a luxury Globe-Trotter briefcase available through Harrods for over £5,000. If you were to chose one X series offering, at a more accessible price-level, though, the limited edition black X100 is perhaps the best of the bunch, providing understated, svelte elegance for the modern photographer about town.
Current approximate online prices as of 26 May 2012:
Fujifilm X10 – £370.20
Fujifilm FinePix X100 – £750.99
Fujifilm FinePix X100 Limited Edition Black – £1179.00
Fujifilm X-Pro1 (body only) – £1303.99
Photography Article by Richard Unwin
- Win an ASUS N Series Laptop & Video Competition Vote on the video competition and win a stylish and...
- Win classic films on Blu-Ray! Control, Amelie and Lost in Translation If you are looking for those last minute Christmas presents...