What's Old is New Again
One of the most storied names in photographic history, Fujifilm has an undeniably deep and diverse résumé. While the majority of consumers at this point might know the brand best for its popular 35mm film stock, throughout the years the company has also made M42 screwmount and bayonet-mount SLR cameras, 35mm rangefinders, numerous lines of lenses, and a huge variety of medium format bodies. In the early 2000s, Fuji entered the digital SLR market with their FinePix S-series cameras, which borrowed the Nikon F-mount but employed Fuji's own proprietary sensor technology. Like most other manufacturers, they also maintain a staggeringly large range of compact digital cameras.
Despite this broad range of products, until very recently Fuji remained an also-ran in the world of digital photography. Like Pentax or Sony, they were a brand looking for a direction. While a small cult developed around the S-series dSLRs, and while their rangefinder-style medium format film cameras remain classics in their field, the company had done very little to capture the attention or the imagination of the vast and diverse enthusiast market.
Then the FinePix X100 was unveiled, and in a single bold stroke, Fuji was relevant again.
The X100 brought together a combination of features that both obsessive gearheads and casual photographers had been demanding for quite some time—a combination that practically screamed, "Why has nobody tried this before!?" A large, high-quality sensor? Check. A sharp, fast, small fixed lens? Check again. A retro-cool rangefinder aesthetic? You betcha. A MSRP that handily undercut the Leica X1's exorbitant price tag? Oh yeah. But Fuji didn’t just rest on this solid platform—they added a potentially revolutionary hybrid viewfinder that purported to offer the best of both optical rangefinder-style focusing and cutting-edge EVF technology.
While anticipation for the X100 was off the charts, the reality proved to be a letdown in some ways. The camera was certainly a beautiful piece of engineering, but it wasn’t without its problems. Autofocus was bad and manual focus was worse. Short battery life, random lockups, and generally slow operation added up to a decidedly mixed shooting experience for many. Even so, the ergonomics and superior image quality won the camera a lot of die-hard admirers.
Inevitably, even before the X100 was on shelves, the gearheads of the world began to pine for an X100 with interchangeable lenses. Leica fans wanted a low(er)-cost body for their M-mount lenses. X100 fans wanted flexibility of focal length. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Fuji soon announced the next evolution in the X-series: the X-Pro1. Alongside, the company announced a new line of X-mount lenses beginning with an 18mm f/2, a 35mm f/1.4, and a 60mm f/2.4 macro. Anticipation once again went through the roof.
So, how does reality hold up this time? Is the second time the charm? Has Fuji perfected a formula that seems to hold so much promise? Join us as we take an in-depth look at one of the most anticipated cameras of the year.