The man behind X-series design

As the head of design for the Fujifilm X-series we have a lot to thank Masasumi Imai for.

He’s overseen the design development of all models including the original X100, the X-E2 and, his own personal favourite, the X-T1. During the very busy photokina 2014 show we were able to grab 15 minutes with Imai-san to ask him about his inspiration, the current range and what we can hope to see in the future.

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On a day-to-day basis what does your job involve?
Every day I think about design. I am in charge of the exterior design team, comprising five product designers and three GUI designers.

When an X-series camera is designed, what comes first, the interior design or the exterior?
Normally, designers will start by sketching the design of a camera, but Fujifilm is completely different to other companies. All three teams will meet; the brand team, the design team and the development team and all aspects of the camera are discussed all the way through the process. All aspects of the camera complement each other.

How long before a model comes to market would you start talking about it?
That depends on the model, but typically one year. An upgrade will be quicker – from the X100 to the X100S, for example – but that’s only because a great deal of time was spent on the original concept.

Is the design of the X-series what is making it so popular?
I think so. Although I am the design manager, many people decided that we should go for this traditional design style. It has always been a team effort.

Where did your original inspiration come from?
My father had a film camera and he used to tell me not to touch it. He would say: ‘This is very important and very expensive.’ But I wanted to touch it and this helped me realise the importance of creating a camera that users wanted to pick up and use. When I discussed this with my colleagues, they confirmed similar experiences. This wasn’t purely my Japanese colleagues, but also those in the USA, the UK and many other countries. They all said the same thing. I thought this was a great reason to create a camera that evoked these feelings.

Where do you get your ideas now?
Everywhere! I love to listen to music, drive cars, drink, eat and go to the movies – all these things give me ideas that can be put into camera design.

Do you have a favourite X-series camera?
That is a difficult question, but I think I like the X-T1 Graphite Silver edition the most.

One of very few criticisms of the X-T1’s design was that the buttons on the rear quadrant were too recessed. How do you feel about those comments?
When the X-T1 was designed we were aware that, due to the small size of the camera body, it was possible to press the buttons accidentally, so we made them more convex to prevent this. This is the reason for them being more recessed into the body. We didn’t change the design on the Graphite Silver version, but we did improve the operability of the buttons, making them easier to press. We are always looking to optimise and improve our manufacturing processes in this way.

One thing that Fujifilm does very well is listen to customers. How does that process of listening and then implementing the ideas work?
We get lots of feedback from customers. We split all the opinions into different categories, such as operation, image quality and design so we can consider each set individually. It’s very important to do this as customers sometimes suggest changes that we have either dismissed or not considered. The grip we launched for the X100 series is a good example. We didn’t think it was needed, we initially felt it would make the camera too much like a digital SLR and not like a rangefinder. But many people asked for this so we went ahead and produced it.

How will X-series cameras develop in the future?
There are many possibilities. One option would be to modernise the existing camera styles, another would be to go for an even more traditional style. Internally, we are going to concentrate on our APS-C X-Trans sensor and make sure there are many lenses and accessories that complement it. There could be a full-frame model in the future, I don’t know, but we started as a film company and this means we’re used to working with different formats.
Viewfinder resolution will undoubtedly increase going forward, as well as the speed – the current scanning frame rate is 54 frames per scan, but we want it to be over 100. This will help it look even more like an optical viewfinder and, in fact, exceed it.
We do intend to keep producing models at the current rate, so there will be plenty more to come from Fujifilm – our teams are very busy!

What focal length should I use and why?

w360_6415757_tutorialbannerfordotmailerHere’s a quick, hopefully informative snippet as to why you might choose one focal length over another, and why.

The idea for this blog came about when I was asked recently “Why don’t you just zoom-out to get the person in the frame?”. This is a very good question and I felt it needed a mini demonstration to really help answer it. All one needs to conduct this experiment is the following:

  • A willing volunteer – I had a Marc
  • A zoom lens of any kind – In my case, the XF18-135mm lens
  • Oh, and a camera!

The experiment is simple; frame your subject (Marc) the same each time and take a picture at different focal lengths. I chose four focal lengths along the barrel of the lens to best demonstrate. With this, we had the ever-helpful Terry to hand with a camera to capture the experiment from the third person perspective.

Hopefully what you will notice is that the wider the angle, (18mm) the more clutter there is in the image whereas at the 135mm setting, pretty much all clutter has ‘disappeared’.

Why does this happen?

Without going into huge mathematical detail (that I don’t even fully understand) it is because wide angle shots will achieve a larger angle of view and long zooms won’t. This is how much ‘fits’ into the shot – peripheral vision if you like.

As a rule of thumb, wider angle lenses work great for landscape photography and indoors (where you don’t have a lot of room to manoeuvre) as they can fit more in. Wider angles, however, are not great for portrait shots as they will pull the centre of the frame forwards creating distortion in perspective – example image below.

Longer zooms on the other hand work great for de-cluttering a frame to create stunning portraits. This is because the angle of view is smaller, and more importantly, they have a compressing effect. In essence, a long zoom pulls the background closer to the foreground and can give a more natural, slim looking head shape whilst also helping aid the bokeh effect – increasing the focal length of a lens decreases the depth of field.

Here are two example shots I took that hopefully help demonstrate the difference:

The image on the left (135mm) shows Marc’s head in proper perspective. However, the right shot (18mm) shows the nose being ‘pulled’ forward towards the lens and his head being turned into a rugby ball! You will also notice there is more of Marc’s surroundings in the wider angle shot – this diverts some attention away from his face, which, in a portrait shot we don’t want to do.

I hope this post gets you thinking more about which focal length to use rather than just zooming in and out for convenience.

Having a zoom lens is incredibly helpful at times, but it would best to think of your zoom lens as a series of prime lenses. Most photographers, if not all, use specific focal lengths for specific purposes; this is due to the individual optical effects each focal length provides. It really does make a difference to the end result – as (hopefully) shown above 😉

If you can, please go and try this yourself to get a real feel for it. It will help with your own understanding as to what focal length you might want to use, and for which subjects

 

The camera really does matter – Philip Ewing shares his experience with the X100s


About the author

Philip Ewing has been an enthusiastic amateur photographer since his 35mm days on the university student newspaper. Today he works as a journalist in Washington, D.C. You can find more photos at
http://metrocommutr.tumblr.com/

Photographers love to insist the camera doesn’t matter – our creative vision is what truly makes a picture, as the old bromide goes – but inside the family, we know a camera can make a huge difference.

When I decided to make a serious go at a photo project documenting my daily life on Washington, D.C.’s Metro underground system, I did not begin with a clear sense for what the images should be. Sometimes you can imagine a photo beforehand and getting it is just a matter of execution. Sometimes you sense there’s a picture out there … you almost smell it … but you don’t know exactly what it is or how to capture it. This was one of those.

madness
1/30 – f/2 – ISO1600

So starting last year, I began taking a camera with me every day on trips to work and around town. There were — and are — many more failures than successes. Plus my DSLR, along with the fast prime lenses I needed for dimly lit subterranean stations, was killing my back and shoulders. The files from my compact point-and-shoot didn’t have the detail or depth I wanted. Fortunately, there was a huge wave of anticipation about the then-new X100S, and I got on board. It has turned out to be an investment that has paid many unexpected dividends by enabling me to create pictures I didn’t know were there until the moment they presented themselves.

unamused
1/30 – f/2 – ISO1600

The unobtrusive little camera is light enough to carry all day, so you’ll actually take it with you, but it doesn’t force you to sacrifice sharp optics or a good sensor. It’s effectively silent, preserving your discretion in quiet train cars where an SLR shutter sounds like a gunshot. True, the X100S has a few quirks and faults and it isn’t the only tool I use to capture images. But the X100S is the one I carry 90 percent of the time, and it more than any other has helped translate the “sense” of a picture into an actual image.

crowded
1/30 – f/2.8 – ISO1250

As it turned out, the other keys to the Metro project were the two most basic things in photography: People and light. If any of the pictures have been successful, it has been because good light hit an interesting person at just the right time. The trick was figuring out those places and moments and just being there to try to catch them.

passenger
1/1000 – f/5.6 – ISO400

When a woman in a big woolen scarf emerged from a field of silhouettes as she stepped into a sunlit escalator — click. When a sunbeam inside a train car made a circuit over the passengers as we went around a bend, I set the camera to underexpose the scene and make a certain rider pop against the shadows. Dialing up 1/60th, f/2.8 and ISO 1250 with the Velvia film simulation mode can make the harsh-lit interior of a train car into a miniature stage for our human comedy.

escalator
1/1000 – f/4 – ISO400

There’s another aspect of using the X100S that has taken me by surprise: Its effect on others. Strangers stop you to ask about it — “It’s been years since I’ve seen somebody out using an old film camera!” they say. Once, I was photographing outside a Metro station and a D.C. police officer walked over. My heart began to race as I silently rehearsed a speech about my rights to take pictures in a public place. But there was no summons that day. “Hey,” he asked — “what kind of camera is that?”

museum
1/1000 – f5.6 – ISO400

See more of Philip’s photography here.

Switching Systems – Interview with Michelle Williams

Interview with Michelle Williams – professional photographer that recently made the switch to the world of Fujifilm X

Michelle is a professional photographer from North Wales. She has been photographing weddings, newborns and animals as her full time job on a Canon camera for the last ten years. She recently discovered the Fujifilm X series of cameras so we got in touch to ask her a bit about her rite of discovery.

So what made you decide to try a Fujifilm camera?

I’m a Canon user and have been for ten years. I never thought I would want to change to another make of camera, ever. Recently however, I’ve seen a lot of feedback online about the Fuji cameras so last week I sold some bits and bought a used X-E1 and a 35mm lens.

I wasn’t expecting much as these things are usually prone to hype. I’d tried the Olympus pen for a walk around camera and it was good but more of a fun camera than one I would seriously use. From the very first image I took with the X-E1 I was nothing short of gobsmacked. I was so excited to see what it was capable of.

ISO 100 1500 F1.4

How has the X-E1 changed how you shoot?

I’ve not been out of the house without it since I bought it. This weekend I had a wedding and packed my usual kit of a 5D2 and a 7D with all my lenses. I also took along the little Fuji to play with if I got a chance.

To my surprise, I shot the majority of the day with the Fuji alone! The images are brilliant straight from camera which on a wedding means saving tons of time for me so again I’m taken aback by its capabilities…especially in low light!

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I truly am blown away with the colour, clarity and functionality of this camera.

Once again, thank you to you all for making photography fun and exciting for me again. Keep up the great work!

See more of Michelle’s work by following her on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/michellewilliamsphotographyuk