Monday, January 20, 2014

FujiFilm to release a 1970s style mirror-less camera X-T1, like the ST801 or ST901?

I saw this rumor today that Fuji will release a mirror-less model that resembles the 1970s Fujica ST-series SLRs.  More images here.

This hits home with me as much as Olympus with their OM-D line, as my first SLR was a Fujica ST-series body.  In the photo shown, it seems that they're using the ST801 as inspiration, my favorite.  There were others: ST601, ST605, ST901.  All used the Pentax screw mount for lenses.  With the AZ-1 (first Fujica with auto exposure), they switched to the Pentax K-mount that is still used in some fashion today.

As I've been saying, FujiFilm has been designing and bringing new and improved technology to market lately that is compelling to me.  As far as I'm concerned, and you're welcome to disagree, they belong at the top of the interesting heap, along with Panasonic and Olympus, because they've made interesting usable.

Their X-Trans sensor, whichever version, has quite a bit more to offer than those made by Sony, Canon, or Panasonic.  If they can bring down the cost of the sensor, they could inundate the market with something better.  I'd also like to see if Panasonic and FujiFilm can work together to bring similar sensors to micro Four-Thirds.

In any case, creating an SLR-like body is what I want and using the ST801 as a template is great, as it fit me well.  They need to offer more of a grip (the electrical contacts on the base are evidently there for a portrait grip) because, like anything from the 1970s, the ST-series was a bit slippery.  (They show a bit of a grip, but I don't think that's enough and charging US$150 for an enhanced grip is just evil.  They just did that for the X-Pro1 and X-E2.)

If the pricing is reasonable, I will likely stop using micro Four-Thirds before I really use it much (Do several hundred sports photos count as much?).  Other things must be handled, though, such as the ability to use raw files at any ISO sensitivity.  The current models only allow raw files to be used in the Normal range.

The company seems to be making excellent progress in bringing excellent equipment to the market but with a few quirks that hopefully, they'll eliminate.

Update 2014.01.24: The more I think about this, the more I'm interested.  We'll find out January 28th, if we're not all frozen here.

The 56mm f/1.2 (especially after seeing the price of Panasonic's Leica-designed lens, no matter how good) and 10-24mm f/4.0 lenses have made a switch compelling, and this body make complete that feeling.  I really, really want some lenses I can use for sports photography, and those aren't it.  As most people are more concerned about casual or artistic photography, they're talking about the 18-135mm that will also be introduced.  It has a good range and if it's weather-sealed, it's likely better than the Canon lens, but it's probably not for me.  I'm skeptical of image quality in lenses with more than 4x zoom.  I'm fairly sure than 18-135mm is longer range than 18-72mm.

The available long zooms have rather small (read consumer) maximum apertures, which won't give the performance I need.  They have a 70-200mm (50-140mm, weather-sealed) f/2.8 equivalent on the road map but that just means that my current Four-Thirds and micro Four-Thirds equipment will have to keep going.  Of course, this gives more time for FujiFilm to work out their firmware for raw files, and it gives developers of raw development software, namely the Phase One Capture One I use, more time to get the most from the images.

Update 2014.01.28: The X-T1 seems very reasonable, although hardly different than something in-between the X-E2 and X-Pro1.  Being weather-sealed is important to me, so I'm glad to see that it's there, like the Olympus E-M1.  It's also freeze-proof, like the E-M1, and the electronic viewfinder is apparently similar, but with a portrait orientation that thoughtfully rearranges the information for easy viewing.  The information display reminds me more of the ST901 than the ST801 which used LEDs to signal the light meter reading.  It also adds a sliding rear display.

The company is claiming a greater extended ISO sensitivity, up to 51,200--useful with JPEG images.  Yes, the raw file range is still limited from ISO 200- 6400.   I find this disagreeable.  Do I work past ISO 6400?  No.  Might I need to do that?  Maybe.  Prior to Phase One Capture One, the ability to process raw files was limited.  I  could use the free software that came with the camera (if I had all day, since it was slow), or hope that Adobe Camera Raw wasn't nearly as buggy as Photoshop, but neither was a good solution.  I suppose using a JPEG to get a low light photo wouldn't be the worst thing, if I really need the photo.  They have supposedly re-worked the circuitry around the sensor for less interference and therefore, a cleaner image.

There is a clip-on flash, and two grip accessories.  One is a portrait battery grip that allows the use of one extra battery.

The body is a bit small, comparable to the Olympus E-M1.  It remains to be seen if the XF-series (higher quality) lenses will be much of a burden.  Since my problem with the E-M1 is that it was meant to be used with the full sized lenses for Four-Thirds bodies, it isn't well-balanced most of the time.

Since the X-T1 won't be using similar lenses (FujiFilm doesn't have a K-mount adapter listed), there shouldn't be a huge imbalance.  The only official adapter was for Leica M-mount lenses.  I don't remember when the Fujica-series equipment went away, so I don't know if anyone would want to use their old K-mount (or for that matter, their Pentax screw mount) lenses with it, though Pentax makes a good range of weather-resistant K-mount lenses.

The lenses I would want are yet to be available, and all are in the XF-series and weather-sealed, so I have time to think about my direction.

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