Digital Cameras Thoughts on Cameras

The X100f – Have Fuji lost sight of the elegant original concept?

Fuji x100f

The Fuji X100f is the fourth iteration in the series. I had the original X100, but since then we’ve seen the a number of changes and additions to the design, first through an ‘s’ model, a ‘t’ model and now the ‘f’. The series of cameras has been consistently and quite strongly representative of Fuji’s reputation for listening to their users, I just can’t help wondering if they have listened a bit too much…

I remember my experiences with the original X100 with a mixture of fondness and huge frustration. My main issue with it was the autofocus – it was slow and quite stunningly unreliable. It did get slightly better throughout the process of Fuji’s iterative firmware updates, but ultimately never really felt that satisfactory. There were a couple of other issues I remember with the original X100 too – they messed with the digital depth of field scale part way through its lifecycle and it had fairly limited auto-iso functionality.

A circle of confusion

When Fuji released the X100 the digital depth of field scale was based on the standard 0.03mm circle of confusion that film camera lenses have their depth of field scales based upon. If you don’t know what I’m talking about here, have a read of the last few paragraphs of this piece of content I wrote for Ilford’s Learning Zone on their website. I actually got on just fine with this 0.03mm CoC based scale, unfortunately at some point in the process of firmware updates Fuji changed the scale to be based off a smaller circle of confusion – probably 0.015mm.

The impact of this is a digital readout that illustrates a much more narrow band of focus. With high resolution digital sensors where the camera users might have the temptation to zoom to 100% in their software packages, this smaller circle of confusion makes a certain amount of sense. But to those of us who tend to view our images as a whole from an appropriate viewing distance, this change made no sense and rendered the scale an entirely useless feature.

I actually talked to the folks on the Fuji stand at the photography show about this. It didn’t really go how I’d have liked – they had no idea what I was talking about, mocked me a bit for being a geek, and attempted to placate me by giving an X shaped key ring. I’m not even joking. They probably had a point about me being a geek.

I can’t entirely remember what my issue with the auto-iso feature was, but I suspect it didn’t let me set a lower limit to the shutter speed. Whatever, it was these issues that eventually saw me move on the original X100 – and despite all the talk of massively improved autofocus etc on newer models, I’ve never been tempted back. Until I had a go with the X100f at the photography show earlier this year – though even then I didn’t bite the bullet; as awesome as it seemed there was something about it that just didn’t sit well with me.

A camera loan

I recently spoke to Fuji about loaning me a camera for review. They agreed too, then subsequently ignored me – I did link them to my Sony A7Rii review, so I do wonder if it’s cynical nature put them off talking to me. What’s possibly more likely is that they didn’t read it, and I’m just background noise in a sea of people wanting to borrow cameras. Either way, the camera I’m basing this post on was in fact loaned to me by a chap called Adam. Thanks again Adam! Of course, my intention when borrowing the camera was to write a full review – unfortunately I’ve not felt inspired to do so, largely because in use I’ve found that this latest addition to the series just doesn’t have enough of the ethos I found and enjoyed in the original X100 concept. Instead it’s inspired my to write a few words on a bit of a paradox I find in the nature of progression with regard to digital cameras.

Albert dock

Hive

Looking back at the basic X100 concept

The basic concept of the Fuji x100 series is sound. It’s a small body with a low profile 35mm f/2 lens. The mk1 version was the first digital Fuji to adopt the idea of having a dedicated aperture dial on the barrel of the lens and a shutter speed dial on the top of the camera. It also had a brilliant viewfinder that could be switched from digital to a real viewfinder with superimposed parallax correcting digital frame lines. With the success of the x-pro, x-e, x-t etc series cameras it’s hard to imagine that before the X100 Fuji were known for shoehorning their market disrupting sensors in to Nikon mount SLRs, and little point and shoot cameras like the excellent F30. But whilst these cameras were very nice, the X100 really took Fuji in a new direction and arguably catapulted their reputation upwards.

Simplicity was key

The beauty of the original X100 was its simplicity. In a world where Leica were the only players in the digital rangefinder game, as well as being the only company to offer a digital camera that offered a very simple user experience, the Fuji X100 felt like a really positive step in the right direction. In fact, at the time, Fuji were were often compared to Leica – or at very least, lines of similarity were drawn in their approaches to product design. Say what you like about Leica, but this definitely didn’t do Fuji any harm.

Regular readers will perhaps see why I bought the X100. I wasn’t quite as obsessed with simple gear as I am now, but the desire for kit that gets out of my way as a photographer has always been there. Cameras back then weren’t even as complicated as they are now – in those days (7 years ago), largely speaking buttons on cameras had specific features assigned to them. These days it’s rare to find a camera that doesn’t have a whole series of customisable unlabelled buttons – tech “progresses” fast!

Not quite perfect

Of course, when Fuji released the original X100, whilst there was a lot of rave reviews, there were also cries from most directions about the slow autofocusing, limited auto-iso functionality and the depth of field scale. I remember there being all sorts of other complaints about it too – though none beyond my own have stuck in my mind. Regardless of the specifics, Fuji had complaints… And you know what, they actually listened to them. To kick off, as mentioned above, firmware updates saw the depth of field scale being updated, they even managed to improve the autofocus (a bit) too.

In time they eventually brought out the X100s, and then the X100t. Each model “fixing” more of people’s issues and complaints. I don’t have any motivation whatsoever to go back and scout through feature lists and upgrade specs to work out what happened when, but a lot did happen. In fact, so much has happened, that when I pick up the X100f – whilst the family line is of course very evident – I feel like something very key to the success of the original version has been lost.

Rob Draper

Pershore college

Too much listening

To me, it’s seems as though Fuji might just have listened too much. I wanted better autofocus, I wanted better auto-iso features and I wanted quite specifically the option to be able to set the circle of confusion to 0.03mm so the depth of field scale made sense in my world. And you know what, the X100f provides me with all of those things. The option for switching between the two different DOF scales is exactly what I suggested to the bewildered folks on the Fuji stand – if I had even half a suspicion that they understood what I was saying I might have tried to take some credit. But they really didn’t, so I guess I wasn’t the only one who had that frustration.

The problem is, some other people also wanted auto-iso presets, and the ability to be able to select those presets via a wheel under their forefinger on the front of the camera. Someone else wanted an extra wheel on the back of the camera, and an additional directional joystick to add to the direction pad too – I could go on.

None of these requests are that unreasonable by themselves, but combined together they make for a camera that’s so profoundly more complex than the original X100 that it’s somehow lost a whole chunk of its charm. It’s a better camera, but somehow simultaneously, it’s also worse. I even read a rumour that Fuji’s next direction is to start adding more high end video features to their cameras.

 

Too many solutions

Credit to Fuji, they have tried to keep hold of the core values of a camera that works in a logical easy to understand way – it still has the proper shutter and aperture controls – but in adding every feature under the sun I can’t help feeling that they’ve muddied the waters. Functionally the X100f feels similar to the original, but thanks to the overwhelming sense that its design has just tried to solve too many user issues, the X100f feels too complex, and in some ways it’s abundance of features prevent it from getting out of the way as a camera in use. Without wanting to sound like a stuck record, there are just too many buttons, controls and dials for it to feel as intuitive and fluent as the original camera did.

“Just switch off the controls”

Of course, the logical response to this complaint is to suggest that I disable the controls I don’t wish to use – this was suggested to me by a lot of people in response to my A7rii review. In highly customisable camera like these, this is an option! But, as I talk about in my post about the lure of the uncomplicated camera, for me there is an inherent lack of satisfaction in this.

Not everyone will feel the same as me here, as my opinion comes down my personal desires from cameras combined with other strong feeling I have toward Industrial Design. But rest assured, at least in the case of the latter, I’m not alone in these feelings, in fact there are entire product design ideologies that revolve around my desires.

Flower

Norah

Keep it simple, stupid

Just to go off on a small but relevant tangent for a moment – If you are unaware of Dieter Rams famous “10 principles of design” or the “KISS principle”, they are well worth looking up and reading about. Rams’ most famous Design principle is “as little design as possible”, and the KISS principle “Keep It Simple, Stupid”, both come from the same place. I have my own terminology around these principles too – I call it “simple up” design.

I’ve talked about this many times on this blog, but the basic premise of these ideas and principles is that good design involves “just enough” features and functions; the minimal required for something to function well. The opposite of this is what I call “complicated down”. A complicated down approach to design involves packing every possible feature or function in to something through the desire to give every possible user a path to their individual ideal user experience. A sort of “chuck enough shit at a wall and some of it will stick” approach.

Neither approach is wrong, both just come from different design ideologies. I suspect it’s clear that my preference is for “the simple” up approach! I do have one strong argument for this too, and fundamentally I feel that it explains the mess that camera manufacturers are getting into by so heavily over-specifying their cameras. You see, if you add more features to a camera, for every feature you add, you’re opening another can of worms. Any new feature in effect provides a tantilasing look at what could be if they’d have just added that bit more to that feature.

Take the concept of the built in light meter as an example. These meters started out as tools for judging the light by pointing the camera at the subject. Given the many years of progress since that initial invovation, and we now have intelligent multi segment metering that makes decisions based what it perceives the subject mater to be… … and three auto-iso presets built into the Fuji X100f. Each iteration from that initial simple solution to the very complex solutions we now see today have been driven by by people – either product designers, or users – saying “that’s great what you’ve done, but what if it also did this, and that, and this, and that”. The beauty of this design ideology in a capitalist world is that it continues to add more to the offer, it continues to dangle more carrots in front of the noses of the consumer, and therefore drives more sales and more tantalising looks at what could have been if only those ten new features all did ten other new other things. This leads naturally on more “progression”, more features, and more tantalising possibility, ad infinitum.

But of course, if you were to ask a Leica M9 user if they feel the meter in their camera would be better if it intelligently knew the subject matter the camera was pointing at, they’d probably give you a funny look. Yet I’d bet £10 someone in some review somewhere is raving about how useful having three auto-iso presets in the X100f is. Neither person is wrong, they just have very different priorities and very different desires for their gear. Neither M9 or Fuji X10f is a better camera, it simply comes down to the fact that some people embrace the endless possibilities of “progression”, whilst others prefer the limitations and elegance of simplicity.

Sofas

Norah beebie

My disappointment

All this is a slightly long way round my trying to explain why for some of us – myself included – manufacturers adding more and more features to a camera like the Fuji X100 is frustrating – especially as someone who actually wished for some of those features myself. I suppose I wanted Fuji to only listen to people like me who wanted simple cameras. As it turns out, it would seem they didn’t find a big enough niche in that market. I am, I guess, one person in a minority of people who have similar desires.

I think I just had different hopes for Fuji. I hoped that was another company alongside Leica that could design and bring to market cameras designed for photographers who’s minds are are a little more keyed into 1950-80’s film cameras. That was after all what the original X100 felt like it offered – it looked like one for a start! Long term, it seems it wasn’t to be.

Of course none of this means that the Fuji X100f is a bad camera. It is in fact quite excellent. It’s much easier to understand and use than my Sony A7Rii, takes great photos, and as I said, at its core still remains the same features that I loved in the original. I still love the way the viewfinder works in these things – especially now they’ve added a little superimposed digital screen inside the real viewfinder to aid focus…

My dissatisfaction in progression

…but don’t worry, I am aware that what I’ve just said contradicts all my previous ranting – but that in itself is my point. It really does seem that there is no pleasing me when it comes to “progression” in digital cameras! As far as I can see into the future, I will never be satisfied by the consistent addition of more features. There will be some features that I like perhaps, but there will be a lot more that I don’t need, many that don’t like and even more that will feel like they get in my way as a photographer. Progression in camera tech just doesn’t feel like a positive thing to me – the Fuji X100f being a perfect example of how elegant concept can be jeopardised.

But, actually, the funny thing is, the dissatisfaction I find in progression translates to even those who revel in all the new features the latest gadget-camera brings. Even they are never entirely satisfied – there’s always something missing, or something that can be improved or built upon…

Thanks for the loan Adam… Now where did I put my Leica M9…

Some more photos I took with the X100f can be found here

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60 Comments

  • Reply
    Christos Theofilogiannakos
    October 14, 2017 at 10:01 am

    Hehehe… There is an obvious answer to your (logical) woes, Hamish: Stick to film cameras!

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      October 15, 2017 at 7:07 am

      Indeed… but I do like to have my rants 😉

  • Reply
    Stig
    October 14, 2017 at 10:13 am

    Interesting piece Hamish, nice to see my home city included in the photos too ! I’ve owned sequentially the X100, XT10, XPro1 and now XPro2, and understand what you are saying in both frustrations with X100 and wishing the XPro2 was a bit more ‘pure’ in design, as I think the XPro2 and X100F share many of the same features apart from the fixed lens. In fact I have considered selling the XPro2 and going back to XPro1, and I might still do that, but I have learned to not switch off functions so much as to just set them to basic function and then ignore them. And with time I have found it to grow on me, but as I shoot so little digital these days I may still do the ‘simple-up’ thing by going back to the XPro1.

  • Reply
    Richard
    October 14, 2017 at 11:02 am

    Great post Hamish.

    I work in a design-based industry and simplicity in design is a subject close to my heart. It drives me nuts that car manufacturers, for instance, keep adding features to vehicles that no one ever said they wanted. I think that it’s just to have some other gimmick to advertise, thereby making the new model “better” than your current model. Seems to be the exact same situation in the camera world.

    For ages I shot using only a tiny, pocket-sized Nikon digital camera. But then I convinced myself that I needed a better (read more richly featured) model. Above all I wanted full PASM control. So I bought one and still find myself shooting 99% of the time in P mode. But hey, y’know, GAS, right?

    I do like the X100 series. For the retro looks, simplicity of a fixed focal length lens and large sensor. For similar reasons I like the Ricoh GR series too (obviously not the retro looks there though). But I’ve made a pact with myself that until I’ve shot with my current Nikon to the limit of its capabilities, and that it is affecting my creativity as a photographer, I’m not going to upgrade. And then as and when I do, it’ll be for the creative capability of the new camera, not because it is rich with features I don’t need.

    A noble sentiment for sure, but it isn’t stopping me from window shopping on the internet all the time!

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      October 15, 2017 at 7:29 am

      100% it’s driven by selling new products. But we as consumers buy into it; in fact more than that, we feed it. There are so many arguments for and against it – it would daft to completely deny technological developments altogether, it’s just a shame the markets for less developed, simple, high quality products is apparently so small. Less features seems to just be associated with less good, which does not need to be a reality

  • Reply
    Steve Wales
    October 14, 2017 at 11:30 am

    Interesting review, Hamish.
    It seems to me that the majority of the digital ‘computer’ cameras’ on the market are designed by the marketing people and/or computer programmers working for the company, who haven’t got a clue what photographers want and need in a camera. And there seems to be this false belief that more is better – maybe learnt from the washing powder companies of old proclaiming the updated washing powder washes whiter than the stuff they sold you previously. Cameras should perform a simple act of regulating the amount of light hitting the sensor, coupled with the ability to focus or not the light patterns through by way of a lens, and to regulate the DoF. This is why I choose the Leica M, both digital and analogue; they are simple to use, and even the digital M is intuitive having a fairly simple menu system that can be mastered in a short period of time.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      October 15, 2017 at 7:34 am

      Yep, I completely agree – though interestingly, with the M9, I found something in the menu the other day that I didn’t know was there. It’s designed in a way that I’d barely even looked in the menu. It’s so simple to operate, I didn’t need to

  • Reply
    Aivaras
    October 14, 2017 at 12:16 pm

    Interesting. After I finished an article here about how I managed to simplify shooting Sony A7RII, I still had frustrations with the camera – I even was thinking about to get rid of the system and to go to fuji x system again.
    So I bought fuji X100F together with teleconverter and was thinking that this small combination could work as main kit for me (I’m hobbyist, not pro, so don’t have to specialise to much, so theoretically it could work out).
    And guess what? It appeared to me that my Sony A7RII / manual lens / workflow solution was is fact “simpler camera” in Hamish terms to live with…

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      October 15, 2017 at 7:35 am

      So you’re back on the Sony then?

      • Reply
        Aivaras
        October 15, 2017 at 8:24 am

        I wasn’t really out. 🙂 I put all kit on sale, tested X100f understood that Sony kit is still better for me, and canceled sale… Anyway – my long love is film. 🙂

  • Reply
    Steven
    October 14, 2017 at 12:25 pm

    A different post, and much different from the ‘Fuji Fan-Boy’ posts that is awash on the internet. That said, I am not that sure that I agree it’s [the x100] too complicated. Speaking from previously owning the original X100, now sold, and now an X-Pro2, the camera is as simple, or complicated as the user desires. You can have everything on auto, but these cameras are aimed at more advanced users/enthusiasts and dare I say it, Pros, so why would they remove all the options?

    I do get the sentiment though, and I think the idea of the Fuji-X photographers is to actually provide feedback so that Fuji actually develop a camera that has the features and usability that photographers want. The idea is a good one, at my place of work I am constantly having to use badly designed systems and processes that have been developed by people who would never use them, otherwise they would see how ridiculous they are. Maybe their implementation of adding what ‘photographers’ wants needs some refining, but it is a welcome change in a development process.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      October 15, 2017 at 7:41 am

      It’s not about removing – its just about not adding so many layers and iterations of the features. How many people really need 3 auto-iso presets? How much less could the Fuji have and still offer all a pro needs. I shoot professionally, and actually I find less is much more. I use 1/100th of the function of my Sony a7rii for example and find all the extra stuff cumbersome. I would have found the same with this camera had I shot it for work.
      I get your point about fuji listening too. I also think it’s a good thing. But I also feel like I know the what the outcome of a “design by committee” process looks like, and I do feel a little like that’s what I see here

  • Reply
    dtbsz
    October 14, 2017 at 1:25 pm

    I keep waiting for someone to make this camera: https://youtu.be/cfCacNZCsqw but nobody listens or the market share would be quite small… Leica-s are still out of reach for me…

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      October 15, 2017 at 7:47 am

      Yes, a few good points made there!

  • Reply
    Neil
    October 14, 2017 at 7:23 pm

    I enjoyed reading this and have been anxiously waiting for your review if the X100F, I confess I thought you’d love it, whoops, got that wrong. One thing I didn’t really get from the article is what is the image look and feel like compared to the X100? Is it worth upgrading as I thought the original X100 was something of a flawed masterpiece. If it’s not that much different a cheaper original x100 beckons.

    I do applaud Fuji for making these cameras, essentially affordable rangefinder-ethos type cameras. You’ll no doubt get loads if responses, yourself included I see, stating why they prefer a digital m or film m over the x100 but not everyone can afford a Leica or the film/Dev+scan costs addocated with shooting a rangefinder.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      October 15, 2017 at 7:05 am

      I can’t remember enough about the original files to comment tbh – it was 5-6 years ago I had one. My main observations about the x100f files are that they have great colour, but are a little smeary. Though I am told the smeary is down to me using LR on the raw files.

      I do too – I just wish they had retained a bit more of that early ethos

  • Reply
    George Appletree
    October 14, 2017 at 8:42 pm

    The other day I met a man with a Leica M10. That time I had a camera with me, my last acquisition: a Fuji Xpro1 that I got rather like new as having been a demo store unit.
    The thing is we changed some words. And the camera too. So I shot with it and he with mine.
    Pleased to meet that man and glad to have that opportunity.
    Perhaps it sounds presumptuous, but I wouldn’t exchange my camera for that jewel. Not even without the 100% leather case it had. It is too bulky, too elegant, too really very too something.
    Fuji’s doing good

  • Reply
    giuseppe pagnoni
    October 15, 2017 at 6:49 am

    Well said, I agree with most of the critique. I wish too that Fuji would have carried on the original x100 idea with the following changes:

    1) a much more responsive user interface (hated the slow/temperamental wake up times). Solution: pack a latest-generation processor (which should also be less-power hungry and thus improve battery life), and/or hire better firmware programmer
    2) use a full frame sensor with 24-36 megapixels: that will also allow more cropping power, which is at times necessary with a fixed 35mm lens
    3) develop a new full-frame 35mm lens. I understand that Fuji is invested in APS-C lenses, but this would be a one-time effort and a well-worthy one
    4) improve the fly-by-wire manual focusing mode, so that it is more responsive
    5) get rid of the simulation modes, but give Adobe access to the demosaicing algorithm (for God’s sake, it would be about time!), so that RAW conversion in Lightroom becomes flawless (alternative: just use a Bayer layering)
    6) include a RAW histogram, or at least blinkies for over/under exposure (that should signal, although, the real recoverability limits of the sensor)
    7) not sure about the real usefulness of the OVF: maybe just use a really good EVF and be done with it
    7) price it aggressively within $2000-$2500 price

    It is obvious I don’t understand marketing strategies, as it seems to me that a product like this would literally fly off the shelves. For one, it would draw the legions of street/documentary/travel photographers who love the idea of the analog M6+summicron 35 combo, but are unwilling or unable to pay the absurd Leica boutique sticker price for the digital version. Leica had a good product with the Q (in 28mm): I don’t see why Fuji couldn’t make a 35mm version of the same idea, with a much more affordable price.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      October 15, 2017 at 7:01 am

      Interesting. I am currently wondering how close the interface on the Sony Rx1 is to the 5100 – I recently wrote about the 5100 after finding I could make the interface work really well for me… The Sony would answer a lot of your questions… Though I fear – being a Sony – would come with plenty of issues of its own

    • Reply
      Ed
      October 15, 2017 at 8:03 am

      Haha! This really goes to show that you can’t please all of the people all of the time!

      What lots of people love about the X100 line is the in-camera JPEGs and film simulations from the x-trans sensor, relatively dinky (APSC) size, and the OVF!

      I really like the APSC size and format, and the JPEGs and film simulations, but I never ever use the OVF, and I’ve always thought that the x-trans idea probably loses as much as it gains unless you take lots of photos of fabric – especially as megapixels climb.

      I also have an X-T2, and to me, the focus point joystick seems like such an obvious and neat bit of design, I feel like it should have been there all along. Indeed, when I use my old x100s, I feel very lost having to use the old direction pad to first enter focus-moving mode and then move the focus point up, down, left, right.

      Interestingly, the new XE3 does away with the direction pad entirely and just has the little joystick and a pretty sparse back.

      I mean, lots of people don’t like having an aperture ring! Can you imagine?

      And then there’s my Olympus AF-1 Super for when I’m just not in the mood for all that…

      • Reply
        Hamish Gill
        October 15, 2017 at 8:15 am

        You certainly can’t – I guess it’s just a shame that fuji have chosen to try and please more of the same people as the likes of Sony do.
        You’re the second to mention the xe3 this morning – I shall be keep an eye out for it!
        We all need an AF-1 super in our lives – though I prefer the af10 super, as it goes 😉

  • Reply
    DJ.
    October 15, 2017 at 7:45 am

    The X-E3 has a beautiful empty surface across the back of the chassis, and may be the camera that Fuji is targeting your ilk with. It’s also being sold with an XF 23mm f/2 lens (though, I’d pair it with the XF 27mm f/2.8 or VM 35mm f/2.5 if I were to use one.)

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      October 15, 2017 at 7:49 am

      A few people have mentioned this to me – I am going to have a look at one when they land in my local camera shop. It does look as though they were targeting Leica again. I’m looking forward to trying one!

  • Reply
    Alan Connelly
    October 15, 2017 at 3:01 pm

    Sad how this author coming about the X100 wishing for change yet in a two faced like manor complains when improvements take are made. Almost like the author is mad at Fuji for not lending him the latest camera, and made that the depth of field improvements, and both useful were added. The fact is the X100 is a great camera, and the latest version includes and fixes about improvements that address his concerns, and again very two faced reaction. Sad that thus author does not embrace change yet comas abut the 1st camera version a very two faced article, glad that Fuji did not lend him a camera, this author writing Co flicks exist within himself and do not belong as camera reviewer. Those that do not embrace change get left behind, and true with this article.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      October 15, 2017 at 8:47 pm

      Hi Alan, I’m not mad at fuji, I’m quite pragmatic, I know I am a small fish in a big pond, and don’t really care at all about that…
      I also agree that the fuji x100f is a great camera – I say that at the end, I also say how much I like what it does. My overriding point is simply that I think it is a shame that they couldn’t have stuck with the original concept that I thought was a better one than this very much more complicated one. I also embrace change, what I don’t embrace is change for change’s sake, which is what I see here… change for the sake of selling more, not for the sake of a better experience.
      Thanks for the comment, but please talk directly too me. There is also no need to attack my view – I am entitled to not like a camera or a direction in industrial design just as much as the next person.

  • Reply
    Richard Taylor
    October 15, 2017 at 6:24 pm

    Great article, its exactly how I felt about mine in weeks four and five of ownership once the wow factor of the new had worn off.
    I do love my x100f, but have learn’t to stick to what I can dial in directly on the classic controls and one assignable having gone down too many rabbit holes following various popular users street and more general settings and control guides. After the first few weeks of experimentation the only setting I was confident of getting to quickly was ‘Factory Reset’. I want to spend my time looking through my camera taking images, not looking at the back wondering which button got me to this menu I didn’t mean to be in.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      October 15, 2017 at 8:42 pm

      “I want to spend my time looking through my camera taking images, not looking at the back wondering which button got me to this menu I didn’t mean to be in.”

      I should have saved my time and just wrote that – that’s a great summary!

  • Reply
    Andrew
    October 15, 2017 at 8:00 pm

    You should really try the Leica Q, i think you would really enjoy shooting with it.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      October 15, 2017 at 8:41 pm

      *Puts fingers in ears, goes lalalalalaaaaaaa*

  • Reply
    Peter
    October 16, 2017 at 7:37 am

    We have to remember that Fujifilm is a business and, to survive, innovation and features that compete are essential to survive in a fast-moving world of technology.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      October 16, 2017 at 8:24 pm

      True, but running in a similar direction to every other brand isn’t the only way to succeed! There is a lot of true innovation here, focusing on that rather than just piking on all the extras is where I see fault here.

  • Reply
    walker
    October 16, 2017 at 11:33 am

    agree, that’s why I keep holding my X-E2 tight

  • Reply
    Jon herr
    October 16, 2017 at 4:19 pm

    Totally get where you are coming from on this one. I took a dip into the Fuji waters with an X-E1 a little while back. Shot the heck out of it, enjoyed it, and it made a great companion for my CL. I decided that I enjoyed the form factor and a lot of things about the camera, so I looked into upgrading the body. The sad thing was that while i would be gaining some improved features that i wanted, I would also have got a lot of things that I wouldn’t need or even want. At that point, when my simple camera system wasnt so simple anymore, I realized I might as well stick with my DSLR

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      October 16, 2017 at 8:21 pm

      Thanks Jon – it’s good to hear from people who specifically get it from experience!

  • Reply
    john canavan
    October 18, 2017 at 11:41 am

    Hamish i don’t wish to be impertinent but i think the article here is the biggest amount of tosh i have ever read in a camera review , you wanted improvements you got them and you still moan? i don’t think you would be happy with anything ha! You really just like a moan isn’t that the truth? i know because i like a good old rant myself being a Scot it just comes in my nature , but that article really is a load of words that just amount to tripe and the fact that paper and the net never refuses any thoughts (including mine ) is well demonstrated here , you are obviously a very intelligent man but put it to some better articles please as this is nothing but tiresome .

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      October 18, 2017 at 11:52 am

      Hi John, It’s not really supposed to be a camera review as such, more a comment about an overall frustration that something that I once liked the idea of has been somewhat jeopardised by something I don’t like. That being said, I appreciate your frustration at my wanting improvements, and then not being happy when I got them… but if it’s frustrating to read, you should try being me!
      I also accept that not everyone will agree with me, and that hopefully some people do (see comments above), but I’m not going to stop publishing my personal brand of ranting. Like it, great, hate it, rant back – I’m always happy to read peoples thoughts – or just don’t waste your time reading it! That’s the beauty of the internet, it don’t refuse me, but it also don’t force you! 😉

  • Reply
    john canavan
    October 18, 2017 at 12:56 pm

    Hi Hamish we need to discuss this over a pint!

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      October 21, 2017 at 6:44 pm

      I suspect you are right John!

  • Reply
    Andy
    October 18, 2017 at 7:48 pm

    I prefer the classic aesthetic of the older Fuji cameras…I always pick up my X-pro 1 more than my X-T1 solely on its simplicity and layout and the classic design. Yes the newer Fuji cameras for sure are improved with faster AF etc but for me with the X100f & the X-e3 the look and feel of them dont appeal. They’re starting to look cheap and morphing into those ugly Sony cameras.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      October 21, 2017 at 6:44 pm

      Yep…

  • Reply
    Graham Ashton
    October 19, 2017 at 10:26 am

    I quite agree with you Hamish. I felt this way when I picked up one of the earlier X100’s, probably the X100T.

    With the v2 firmware the original X100’s autofocus speed is really quite acceptable, and whenever I’m shooting fast moving targets I pre-focus (with the rear button) and let depth of field do the job (I’m not shooting kids at close range). So I have no focus issues at all, and it’s streets ahead of the auto focus performance on some (still very popular) film compacts.

    As for autofocus accuracy, I don’t find it misses the target at all. I did learn that it’s best at focusing on horizontal lines, and can struggle with vertical, but once you know about that it’s easy to persuade it to pick up whatever you’re aiming at.

    The original X100 menus are a little slow to navigate, which discourages me from diving into them and changing stuff. As a result I’ve found I tend to use it much more simply than other digital cameras, only tweaking the settings that I’ve got mapped to the Fn and RAW buttons (ISO and film simulation, respectively).

    I find the only issue with it setup like this is that I can’t toggle auto ISO on and off at the press of a button. Usually that isn’t a problem though, as I’m usually using it in aperture priority and am happy to let it ramp the ISO up to 3200.

    So in use, it feels like a wonderfully simple camera. It genuinely reminds me of using a film camera. I only think about framing, focus/dof and exposure when I’m using it. It’s my joint-favourite digital camera (the other competitor being the Ricoh GR).

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      October 21, 2017 at 6:46 pm

      Broadly, this is how I remember my time with the first version – good to hear from someone who still shoots one and enjoys it for the reasons I did

  • Reply
    Gray
    October 21, 2017 at 11:19 am

    Hey Hamish, great article. I get why camera manufacturers are heading down the tech route. The bulk of their sales and profits probably come from the amatuer consumer market and all these new featutes are how they differentiate and market their product. And yet, I would pay good money for a no compromise, high quality stripped back manual camera. I want a great sensor, great lens, simple and intuitive tactile controls for iso, aperture and shutter speed and sensible manual focus assistance if I choose not to use autofocus. For a while I thought Fujifilm were heading in the right direction. But my Xt-2 now has more features than you can wave a stick; they’ve not improved my photography at all – quite the opposite, they frustrate me and distract me. My call to Fuji is simple – don’t lose the magic that started your revival with the X100. Bring photography back to the basics that make photography an engaging and satisfying hobby or profession. Give us the very best quality cameras and lens in the most simple package! Make that your differentiator. So an option of a stripped back version of each top-end model, please. Appreciate I have a Qmenu and can set up menu options for my most used functions. But I’d rather be paying for optimum quality rather than functions I will rarely if ever use. Was hoping the GFX would head in that direction but sadly it too is looking to be heading down the ‘cram in as many featues as possible’ route. I’m not against progress, I love digital and unlike many purists don’t want to go back to film. Am I alone…?

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      October 21, 2017 at 6:49 pm

      Not at all – I enjoy shooting film, but as far as this conversation goes, that’s sort of irrelevant. The media shouldn’t be a factor. SOme of us simply want cameras that offer a simplistic user experience. We should have to spend thousands on a leica or shoot a film camera to have that!

  • Reply
    ANDREW CHESTERMAN
    October 22, 2017 at 9:29 am

    Like this? Haha..oh dear Yashica dropped the ball somewhat…could of been tempting. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1940283777/expect-the-unexpected-digifilmtm-camera-by-yashica

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      October 22, 2017 at 11:31 am

      Best not get me started on that one………….

  • Reply
    Alan Houghton
    October 22, 2017 at 9:57 pm

    I love fuji’s kaisan philosophy, but I think putting 4k video in the next firmware update of the x-pro2 is ridiculous, I would much rather see the processer power be used for still photography and giving more options to streamline the menu’s and customising the camera to the specific users wishes.

  • Reply
    c0ldc0ne
    October 23, 2017 at 4:43 pm

    Not quite sure I understand where you’re coming from when claiming that “there are just too many buttons, controls and dials”.

    On the back of the original X100, I count 7 push buttons, a D-pad, a control wheel and a diopter adjustment). The X100F has 6 push buttons, and the same D-pad, control wheel and diopter adjustment.

    The number of controls on the top plate is the same between the two models (unless you want to count the F’s combined shutter speed / ISO dial as an extra control) and on the front, the F gained a second control wheel. The AF mode selector is the same on both cameras.

    So the F gained a control wheel, and lost a push button. How does that translate to “too many buttons, controls and dials”?

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      October 24, 2017 at 9:50 pm

      A fair point – but look at the buttons on the x100, they pretty much all have dedicated functions. This removes a layer of confusion that has been introduced through this spiralling need for cameras to be customisable

  • Reply
    Valdo
    October 24, 2017 at 6:53 am

    …“Keep it simple, stupid”….

    Fuji or other japanese camera manufacturer will newer accept the
    thesis “Simplicity is the Genius”.

  • Reply
    Steve Boykin
    October 24, 2017 at 4:41 pm

    Hi,

    Steve from the RPF. Really nice article!!! However, I find the X100F really simple. I turn off the backscreen. I can control all three parts of the exposure triangle with dials on the outside of the camera. I have always felt if you are spending time looking at screen reviewing what you have taken you probably didn’t spend the time you should have spent originally looking at what you were photographing. The only thing I have displayed in the viewfinder is the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. I couldn’t tell someone how to read a histogram if my life depended on it. I’m probably 50% EVF and 50% OVF depending on how far away I am from the subject. I don’t really ever have to dive into the menus because everything I need can be controlled manually. Would it be better if it was manual focus only- absolutely, but that would inevitably make it cost more because it wouldn’t sell as many units. It would probably cost more to manufacture too. I think it’s unfortunate because there are probably a number of working class people like me who enjoy photography as a hobby that would like a fully manual digital camera but don’t have $6,000+ to spend on a body and $1500 per lens. Sadly, the reality is there probably wouldn’t be enough of us to make a profit on it if it was priced where I could afford it. So for me something like the X100 is the next best thing.

    Also- I thought Voigtlander stopped making the 40mm in K mount. Is that wrong?

    That Yashica clone looks interesting. I just had an Electro restored and am on frame 26 of a 36 Tri-X. I got the camera for $20 and spent $65 on new light seals, some pad thing being replace, a battery adapter, and a general CLA. It’s actually a pretty nifty camera. The veiwfinder is very nice. I do wish the lens was a bit wider.

    Nice web site. This aricle was the first time I have seen this.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      October 24, 2017 at 9:57 pm

      Hi Steve, nice to see you over here – did I never direct you this way! I know exactly what you are saying about it being the next best thing!
      I don’t know about the PK mount, but I don’t think they do – I can find out if you like?
      Don’t talk to me about that Yashica thing – you’ll get me all ranty again! 😉

      • Reply
        Steve Boykin
        October 25, 2017 at 10:39 am

        I actually read the Yashica thing as opposed to just looking at the photos. It’s silly. I guess I am having so much fun with the Electro that eyes got ahead of my brain (small and addled as it is…..). I still have to wonder if there wouldn’t be a market for a say $2,000-$2,500 rangefinder digital camera that would be fully manual. Probably not but one can always dream. Even if it had a fixed lens somewhere between 35-45mm, they would at least have one customer! 🙂

        I am really considering a 40mm for my thrift store MX. That Voigtlander would be OK with me since I’m almost always between F4-F8. THANKS!!!!!

        Really great site!

        • Reply
          Hamish Gill
          October 27, 2017 at 6:56 am

          Yeah… not great is it…
          I spoke to the UK importer of voigtlander – no joy on the PK 40mm – if you want one you’ll have to buy second hand as they don’t make them any more…

  • Reply
    Michael Kelley
    October 24, 2017 at 9:39 pm

    I find this article more about patting yourself on the back for your aesthetic sensibilities than a very useful review of the X100F. 3 Auto ISO presets!! Oh the extravagance! Too bad Fuji sold out, unlike blessed Leica.
    The X100F is a very simple to understand camera. You can look at the top plate with the camera off and see everything you need to know. Unlike the original X100, you can now see your ISO setting without having the camera on. There’s also a joystick for moving the AF point, which is a very intuitive and simplified improvement. Remember having to press the down directional button before you could move the AF point? There was nothing intuitive about that. The rear dial is also a vast improvement over the original sort-of-a-wheel thingy. The buttons have been moved from the left of the screen to the right where they can be accessed more easily with the right thumb. For photography, there is zero need to delve into the menus. The X100F is an affordable ergonomic masterpiece unmatched by anything near this price point. It’s a simpler camera to use than the X100. What you are expressing, though, is nostalgia for the authentic X100, perhaps because you hope to seem more authentic as well.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      October 24, 2017 at 10:02 pm

      It is about my personal aesthetic sensibilities, yes, but I’m not the only one with these views! You know, I get your perspective – I know that many people don’t find confusion in what I see as over the top functionality. I am also aware that I am in a minority (as I say in the post). What I don’t understand is why me having a different set of ideals to you with regard to camera functionality would make you want to attack me on a personal level? What I am expressing is an opinion, it’s as simple as that.

  • Reply
    Michael Kelley
    October 24, 2017 at 11:17 pm

    I see advertisements on the this page. I see reviews and discussions about gear. This page is generating revenue for you personally and is in the public sphere; it is not some personal webpage dedicated solely to your musings. As a “customer” on this site, and as a Fuji user, I disagree with your primary premise about the X100F straying from the simple camera ethos. A direct side by side comparison would easily disprove that the X100 was a simpler to use camera. If you gave both cameras to an experienced photographer who had never used a Fuji, the joystick and the ISO dial alone would clearly be more intuitive and simple. The button layout is also far more logical and simple. So I’m not one of the people that disagree with your sentiment that simpler is better. Simpler is better, but the X100F is in fact simpler to use. I’m sorry if I’ve offended you personally.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      October 25, 2017 at 8:19 am

      This is up there with the most odd conversations I’ve had in the comments here.

      Yes I have implemented adverts to pay for the upkeep of this website, but I can’t see how that denies me the right to talk about what I like how I like on my own website. I have a whole category dedicated to “musings” its even called “musings”. Within it I post my musings, quite often around the way cameras are designed to work. Many of my reviews in fact also talk about their industrial design and feature musings as such. I can’t see how me monetising my website should stop my writing in the way I choose to write.

      Also, I’m not offended. More disappointed. It sounds as though you have some interesting things to say about the comparison between the two cameras in question. Unfortunately you’ve shrouded your opinions – which you are both entitled to and invited to share here by the merit of the comments facility – by belittling my opinions through your assumptions that they are based on nostalgia, and not simply a differing sense of what makes good user experience…

      So anyway, outside of this nonsense… I completely get where you are coming from. I really love how you can instantly see how the camera is set at a glance. Where my issue lies is with the more hidden complexity and what I see as superfluous features. My point about the 3 auto-iso settings was intended as an illustration of the point. What I see in this camera is a million and one features that I don’t need that feel like the muddy the features that I really like. In use, I find the hidden complexity is born out in the unlabelled buttons. As is pointed out in another comment, the original has roughly the same amount of buttons. It never occurred to me to check, as I feel the unlabelled buttons give a sense of a more complex interface than one that is designed to help. To my mind, the necessity for unlabelled buttons to provide unlimited levels of customisation is where my tipping point between simplicity and complexity sits – it’s a simple user interface difference that just doesn’t work for me… But I do acknowledge – as I say – that I am possibly a minority in this. That’s why I posed this article as a question, and made my argument for the case…

  • Reply
    Michael Kelley
    October 25, 2017 at 12:11 pm

    The original X100 had 7 labeled buttons on the back of the camera. the X100F has 6 labeled buttons. They both feature an Fn button in the exact same place on the top plate. The original X100 had an unlabeled sort-of-a-wheel that IMO didn’t work well. The X100F has replaced that with a clickable command dial that is much better IMO. It also has a command dial on the front. So, one less button on the back, and one more command dial on the front. Perhaps you’re referring to the 4 way controller? On the original, all 4 directions were labeled with functions whereas on the X100F, only the Drive top button is labelled and the other 3 are able to be customized. In use, however, the fact that each of these directional buttons on the X100 had dual uses was maddening and unnecessarily complicated. You had to press the AF button on the left side of the rear screen to turn the 4 way controller into AF point controllers. I can’t tell you how many times when quickly trying to change the AF point, I accidentally ended up in Macro mode and couldn’t figure out why the camera wouldn’t focus on anything beyond a foot or so. The dedicated AF joystick is a massive simplicity improvement that more than makes up for the unlabeled directional buttons. As soon as Fuji made a firmware available to permanently switch the 4 way controller to AF placement, that’s how all my later Fuji cameras were set up. In fact, Fuji did away with the macro button altogether as it was unnecessarily complicated. The exasperated tone of my original comments was born of frustration at what seems like a cursory and incomplete comparison to an original that you no longer had in hand, and with a headline that could be perceived as clickbait. The answer is no, Fuji has not lost sight of its elegant design. the X100F is worthy continuation of the original vision.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      October 25, 2017 at 9:15 pm

      I wonder if this comes down to a difference in how I use cameras on the whole. For example, I very rarely use focusing spots outside the centre. All of my favourite cameras are so profoundly more simple than the likes of the x100f. The original x100 had more features than I needed, but it still felt as though the features were presented to me in a more simplistic way. Also bare in mind that I find some of the features of my Leica m9 to be superfluous…
      Have a read of this post if you are interested – The Lure of the uncomplicated camera. It’s an interesting topic for me – as you might have guessed.
      Funnily enough, I did joke with some mates about the title of this post being a bit clickbaity – it wasn’t really my intention, and certainly wasn’t my intention to wind people up. I do like to hear perspectives though – and am pleased to now have a slightly less “exasperated” version of yours.
      Cheers,
      Hamish

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