Fujifilm has announced a new camera in its innovative X-series digital lineup – the Fujifilm X-T1. The X-T1 joins the X-Pro1 and X-E2 at the professional end of Fujifilm’s X-series of mirrorless digital stills cameras.
Lessons learnt from analog
The X-T1, of all X-series cameras, comes closest to the best of late 1980s analog stills cameras’ mechanical user interfaces. A large array of the X-T1’s controls are accessed via dials on top of the camera which can, reportedly, be operated by feel. Other controls must be accessed through the camera’s menu system and Q menu. It looks like Fujifilm’s engineers have been paying attention to professional photographers’ need for precision and speed.
During the analog era many photojournalists habitually carried two rangefinder cameras, each equipped with very different prime lenses. Zoom lenses tended to be of low optical quality and sometimes poorly constructed too so were unsuitable for professional use in the field.
Those rangefinder cameras were often M-system Leicas. I carried two Leica M4-P cameras when working as a magazine photographer, one camera equipped with a 35mm lens and the other alternating between a 28mmm lens and a 90mm lens depending on the subject matter and the nature of the assignment. Sometimes I would swap the 35mm for a fast 50mm lens if the job was mostly portraiture.
A long time evolving
Digital stills cameras have taken quite some time to evolve to the point reached by analog film cameras in the late 1980s. Manufacturers became seduced by electronic multi-level menu systems and forgot speed and precision. Now Fujifilm, at least, has finally caught up with the best of its own past, fusing the lessons it learned as a manufacturer of some of the finest films ever with those of its superb Fujica and Fuji 35mm and 120 rollfilm cameras.
Fujifilm has also long been a manufacturer of some of the best broadcast zoom lenses under the Fujinon brand and it is intriguing to see how zoom lenses are appearing in the X-Series lens roadmap with more to come soon. I am not sure I would choose to use a zoom on an X-Pro1 camera body (or its hopefully soon-to-be-released successor) but I would have little hesitation in attaching a zoom lens or a long telephoto lens to the X-T1.
An ideal camera and lens kit
My current ideal camera and lens kit for movie production stills, multimedia, photojournalism and documentary photography? Still dominated by prime lenses but one zoom lens in there too:
Years of experience in poorly-lit fast-moving situations led to my choice of camera and lenses as outlined above. Nowadays I would carry two cameras in a double-strap set-up like BlackRapid’s Yeti Slim or Double Slim and a single camera in their SnapR 35. During the analog era only regular camera straps were available and they took their toll on neck and spine.
Yes, there is a downside
The one downside to all this Fujifilm innovation? The company does not seem to care much about movies despite having made superb movie film stock. Pity. Fujifilm’s lenses, sensors and ability to translate the best of film into pixels would be a killer combination for independent moviemakers.
So, it looks like documentary moviemakers who also shoot photographs and require the best of both will need to keep packing two separate systems – one best for video and one best for stills. The camera system that does it all well remains elusive and probably always will.
Toshihisa Iida, Senior Manager Sales & Marketing, Optical Device & Electronic Imaging products division at Fujifilm was interviewed by DPReview.com at CP+ trade show in Japan…
Q: What do your worldwide customers ask for most?
A: More lenses, and greater video functionality, also more customization options and a greater range of accessories – especially flashes.
Q: How important is video to your customers?
A: It’s becoming more important. For example we’re speaking to professional photographers who are telling us that their clients are demanding more and more video as well as stills.
If this means we may be getting radically improved video functionality in Fujifilm’s otherwise wonderful cameras then I am all for it.