When the mirror-less cameras started coming out a couple years ago, most serious photographers said, “Meh, interesting, but no thanks”. The idea was sound, but the features just weren’t there. The smaller sensor size, and resulting crop factor kept most people sceptical, and the lack of viewfinder scared the rest away. Panasonic made some progress with their G series, but it still wasn’t a serious workhorse; at best the Micro 4/3rds cameras were considered nice snapshot tools to take on vacation when you didn’t want to lug around your Canon or Nikon gear.
The one place they did make friends was in the rangefinder community; Leica fans everywhere had been waiting for a cheap alternative to the M8 or M9 that we could use our vintage glass on but didn’t have to mortgage the house to buy. Again, though, the lack of viewfinder and crop factor was still an issue. Then along came Sony with their Nex line-up. I picked one up to complement my Leica film gear on vacation, and ended up falling in love with it. It’s small, has the same size sensor as my Canon DSLR, handles high-ISO noise very well and has great software focusing aids for when I’m using my manual focus lenses… but it was still just the lesser of evils when it came to a real companion for my rangefinder lenses. Too many of the controls where menu driven, instead of button or dial controlled, and the lack of viewfinder was still a big complaint. Yes, Sony does make a ridiculously expensive electronic viewfinder for some of the NEX cameras (not mine) but it really adds bulk to the camera and looks like it could break off very easily.
Last year Fuji introduced the Fuji X100 and really made photographers take a second look at the company. For years Fuji has been relegated to producing film and P&S cameras no one took very seriously, having abandoned its DSLR line quite a while ago. For once it looked like a camera company really listened to what photographers wanted instead of catering to the consumer “More mega-pixels is always better” mentality that a lot of companies seems to have adopted. The X100 is a large sensor camera with a fixed, fast lens and a great viewfinder. It’s got lots of nice buttons and knobs instead of putting everything in software menus and the vintage styling really sets it apart from the all-plastic cameras that look like they’ll last a year before falling apart. The only real problem was the fixed lens, we all wanted an X100 we could put our own lenses on. And Fuji listened. This week they announced the Fuji X-Pro1, and interchangeable, APS-C sensor camera with a nice line up of fast all metal auto-focus lenses to go with it.
So far the only competitor is the Sony Nex 7, which due to production difficulties is almost impossible to come by right now. Spec wise the Nex 7 beats the Fuji in almost every way as well as being almost half the price; although the Fuji looks to have the edge in styling, ease of use and of course lens line up. Fuji’s initial offering of what look to be affordable and fast primes is somethings a lot of professional photographers have been looking for in a mirrorless system. It’s really going to come down to how Fuji handles the manual focus of 3rd party lenses, and how well their hybrid optical/EVF viewfinder works for me.
Personally, I’m drooling. I’m already trying to figure out what equipment I can sell off to finance one. I don’t think it will replace my Canon set-up for many jobs, but you never know. I’ll probably hold out for a month or so after release to see what the reviews say, but frankly I’m pretty much sold. As long as the auto-focus is reasonably fast and however they’re going to handle manual focusing works well I’ll be queuing up for mine in February.