The allure of the Fuji X system

The Fuji X-system is probably the best all round mirror-less camera system out there at the moment. The size of the system has grown quite a bit since its original inception (X100 followed by the X-Pro1 and 3 lenses 18mm, 35mm and the 60mm Macro).

The system now comprises the following:

  • X100 (still available)
  • X100s
  • X-Pro1
  • X-E1 (still available)
  • X-E2
  • X-T1 (coming mid/late February)
  • X-M1
  • X-A1 (I don’t consider this an “X” camera as it lacks the X-Trans censor that is one of most, if not the most important defining feature of the X-System).
  • XF 14mm f2.8 R Fujinon Lens
  • XF 18mm f2.0 R Fujinon Lens
  • XF 23mm f1.4 R Fujinon Lens
  • XF 27mm f2.8 Fujinon Lens (Black and Silver options)
  • XF 35mm f1.4 R Fujinon Lens
  • XF 56mm f1.2 R Fujinon Lens (available Feb)
  • XF 60mm f2.8 R Macro Fujinon Lens
  • XF 10-24mm f4 R OIS Fujinon Lens (available Feb)
  • XF F18-55 f2.8-4 R LM OIS Fujinon Lens
  • XF F55-200 f3.5-4.8 R LM OIS Fujinon Lens
  • XC 16-50mm f3.5-5.6 OIS Lens
  • XC 50-230mm f4.5-6.7 OIS Lens
  • Zeiss 12mm f2.8 E Touit Lens
  • Zeiss 32mm f1.8 Touit Lens
  • Samyang 8mm f2.8 Aspherical ED UMC Fisheye Lens (Black and Silver options)
  • Samyang 16mm f2 ED AS UMC Lens
  • Samyang 300mm f6.3 Reflex ED UMC CS Lens

Note: This is not an exhaustive list but just what is shown on WEX’s website and only shows the APS-C sized sensor based cameras.

Edit: I have been reminded by my friend Richard that the X-100 did not have an X-Trans sensor either but this model did introduce the dual optical/LCD viewfinder also used in the X-Pro1 and the X-100s. He also says that some photographers have held onto the X-100 as its black-and-white photos look better.

That’s 5 current X-System bodies, 12 Fuji lenses, 2 Zeiss lenses and 3 Samyang lenses. This does not include the 5 new Fuji lenses now announced on the Fuji Lens Road Map:

Fujinon Lens Rroadmap 2014-2015 UK-v2.1

As you can see that this is also an additional Zeiss lens coming too; I think that the most interesting lenses are the two f2.8 zooms, the 16-55 and the 50-150 as these are Fuji’s equivalents of the 24-70 and 70-200 lenses which are the stalwarts of any system. The 18-135 lens is perfect when you need a single lens that covers a wide range of focal lengths, this is perfect for light-weight travel. All 3 of theses lenses will be weather-resistant (hence the WR designation in their name). I’m also happy to see that Fuji have added a tripod foot to the larger of the f2.8 lenses, my only concern is that the f2.8 zoom lenses won’t be cheap, we’ll have to wait until later in the year.

Fuji XT-1 (front)

Now that the X-T1 camera has been announced (should be available later in February for £1050 body only or £1399 with the XF 18-55mm f2.8-4 OIS lens). Fuji now shows Nikon how you do a “retro” style body right! The new model is positioned between the X-E and the X-Pro ranges. At first I thought that this would replace the X-Pro1 as Fuji’s top-end model but there a few interesting omissions that make me think that they are being held back for the X-Pro2. The X-Pro2 is probably going to get a new (X-TRANs III?) sensor and won’t be out until later in the year. All this is total conjecture on my part from and is taken from what I have heard from various rumour sites; Fuji have lots of patents out for all sorts of sensor designs so which one is used for their next sensor remains to be seen.

I’m not sure why but there are some fantastic deals out there on the Fuji X gear at the moment, there are four that I find interesting.

If you buy the Fuji X-Pro1 it now comes with the 18mm for only £899 and if purchased before 31st January you can also get a free lens from Fuji. You have to choose one from the 27mm, 35mm or 60mm. If you get the X-Pro1 from one of the London Camera Exchange stores you also get a second battery for free too.

X-Pro1-free-case-promo

Note: Some retailers (LCE and Park Cameras) are stating that this promotion has been extended to the end of March but the Fuji site does not say this yet, we’ll see once we get into February.

Fuji also have an up to £300 cash-back offer on most of the lens range too (the 56mm, 10-24mm and the two XC zooms are excluded). If you purchase one lens you can apply for a £100 cash-back, if you purchase two then you can apply for £300 cash-back (that’s £100 per lens and a bonus £100). However, you can only get £300 cash-back so purchasing more lenses does not get you anymore.

lens-cashback-jan14

If you buy and X-E1 with XF 18-55mm kit or X-M1 with XC 16-50mm kit, you can also have direct from Fuji the XC50-230mm lens for free.

xm1-xe1-free-lens

The final offer is on PRE-orders for the X-T1, order before it is released to receive a free leather half-case and 128GB UHS-I memory card. Unfortunately the free memory card whilst much larger than my Sandisk’s (16GB) is also half the speed. I wish that Fuji included one of the new UHS-II cards that the X-T1 is capable of using as these promise much faster speeds (100’s of MB per second, my Sandisks top out at 95MB per second). However free is free.

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So what else does Fuji offer? It’s back to support. They now have a fairly comprehensive system and the remaining gaps in the system should be filled by the end of this year / beginning of next. Their glass is exceptional and reasonably priced too, look at the 56mm f1.2 that was released at £900; this is £400 less than the equivalent Panasonic/Leica lens. Because of sensor size, the equivalent depth of field to a 35mm sensor is f1.8 for the Fuji and f2.4 for the Panasonic lens!

They publish a free iPad (and android) based X magazine (available to anyone) and there is usually a number of cash-backs, free lenses offer and vouchers available most all of the time. As one retailer has told me, he doesn’t know how Fuji makes any money.

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And they are the only firm to continually offer firmware upgrades for older models so that not only are bug-fixes are resolved new features are added too.

The community who are shooting with the X-System cameras (X-Pro1, X-E1, X-E2, X100 and X100s) are very vocal and there is a ton of support and ideas out there. I must admit that my creative juices have been renewed. I like the idea of out going out and shooting with a selection of glass that weighs less than my 70D with 400 lens all in a much smaller and less conspicuous bag.

So is there anything missing? The only weak areas for Fuji are the Flash system and the video/audio capabilities.

ef-x20_2

Whilst there are 3 Fuji speed lights available, 2 of these are re-badged Sunpaks and the third (EF-X20) is not really future rich either. Whilst we have TTL, second-curtain sync and variable power output (automatic and manual) we have no high-speed sync and the wireless (optical system) is quite basic too. If you use studio strobes and/or manual flash this isn’t too bad but Fuji should look to invest in a new improved flash system. We need the missing features adding preferably with built in radio based wireless too. The build quality of the re-badged Sunpaks leaves a lot to be desired so having Fuji design and build their replacements will be a prerequisite to ensure that they can survive the turmoil’s that speed-lighters put them through. Features such as metal hot-shoes with reinforcement around the hot-shoe area, quick locking/unlocking like on the the EF-X20 flash, full tilt and swivel, supply of a dome diffuser in box with a good quality bag to hold gear, etc. If Fuji can pull this off and supply a dedicated radio controller (like the Canon ST-E3-RT) they will bring a lot of fence-sitters over from their DSLR systems.

Canon ST-E3 (Back)

The second area is video and most of this could be fixed in software, Fuji only need to look at the Canon EOS 5D-MarkIII or the Panasonic Lumix GH3 to see how to do this properly; i.e. lots of different options, various codecs and full manual support. They also need to work on their hardware so that they can output full res HD video on their HDMI port and also need to offer 3.5mm Headphone AND Microphone ports too.

Lumix GH3-Front

There are a few other niggles but these are all things that can be fixed in firmware, a good example of this is the EV auto-bracketing mode, the current EV range and number of frames in the EV auto-bracketing mode for example, I would like the range to be +/- 3EV and offer 3,5 or 7 frames too).

So there is a lot to like in this system, it’s not perfect but no system is and when you are looking into a mirror-less system (mainly for size and weight) Fuji have a good combination of bodies, glass and back-end support which won’t break the bank. This combined with the X-Trans based APS-C sized sensor is why I (and many other photographers, Amateur to Pro) think this is probably the best one out there.

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