Monday, June 06, 2011

Fuji X100: Clamoring for Imperfection

Well, the Fuji Finepix X100 is finally a released product, and after a delay in shipping (because of the earthquake/tsunami disaster in Japan), the camera is in the hands of early adopters and getting a real-world shakedown. Sample images and usage reports are appearing in online galleries and forums, and, the highly respected digital camera site recently posted their much anticipated assessment of the camera. All this feedback confirms what a lot of us thought it would; the optical viewfinder, the lens, and the camera ergonomics are excellent. The feedback also confirms what a lot of us hoped it would; the camera image quality (IQ) and high ISO performance are also proving to be exceptional. So that’s it then. The camera appears to be a success.

Well, hold on now. Delving a little deeper into the Dpreview report, we find that the reviewer found a lot of (what I’ll call) "nagging issues". These are seemingly less significant issues (certainly less significant than the bigger issues of IQ, high ISO, lens performance, and ergonomics), but they are issues nonetheless. And as every photographer who has ever had to deal with cryptic menus, fiddly buttons, or buried functions will attest, when it comes to digital cameras, the devil is in the details, or more precisely, it’s the little things that end up impacting the user experience the most. However, most of us usually put up with the few minor nagging inconveniences inherent in every camera, because (again) as every photographer will attest, there is no perfect camera. And, from all accounts the X100 is not a perfect camera, yet, the clamor for the X100 within its target market is nothing short of impressive.

Here is an imperfect camera—and there are a lot of people outside of the target market who will point out its deficiencies—that the projected end-user simply cannot wait to get into their hands. At the time of this writing, the camera is back-ordered at every online outlet. I called one of the big online photo retailers and spoke to an exasperated representative who admitted that the wait list was several hundred deep and that every other call was an inquiry about the X100. Combine this with the buzz the camera is creating at online forums, and it’s obvious that Fuji really nailed this one. They listened to their target market and came up with a winner.

I guess that begs the question: who is the target market? Who is this end-user that is clamoring for an imperfect camera? Well, I won’t attempt to define the market, because if you’re in the target market, you know it. And, if you can find no appeal in what Fuji is offering with the X100, if you find yourself incredulous over $1200 USD for a fixed lens camera, and if your incessant pixel-peeping forces you to bemoan the imperceptible presence of mustache distortion, then you are not part of the target market.

If you’re convinced that you are part of the target market—but your rooting around in spec-sheets cannot allow you to get past the imperfections of the X100—then you need to step away from the in-depth online reviews and come to the realization that the perfect camera does not exist, and, more importantly, it’s not coming—especially if you continue to look at every new camera at the level that doesn’t allow you to see the forest for the trees. At that granular level, no camera will ever be perfect enough. What you need to do is feel this camera, pick it up and look through the viewfinder, because if you’ve chased through the MFT and NEX systems and countless point-and-shoot and compact cameras in search of that one quality, you’ll know you’ve found it when the Fuji X100 lands in your hands.