While I was away last week, Fuji released its latest lens road map for X system cameras (at present that’s just the X-Pro 1). I’m going to take you through that today, and giving you a few points for thought.
There are 3 existing lenses for the X-Pro 1
- 18mm f/2 (27mm eq.)
- 35mm f/1.4 (53mm eq.)
- 60mm f/2.4 Macro (90mm eq.)
These are all prime lenses designed with the idea of the X-Pro 1′s ethos as a street photography camera, and the future prime lens releases continue that theme. To that Fujifilm is also adding some high quality zoom lenses.
- 14mm f/2.8 (21mm eq.)
- 18-55mm f/2.8-4 Stabilized (27-83mm eq.)
The 14mm adds to a nice range of classic prime focal lengths for the X mount. The 18mm is currently Fuji’s weakest lens optically, so I’m waiting with interest to see if they’ve managed to do a bit better with the slightly slower aperture on the 14mm. The wider you get, the more difficult it is to design the optics for a lens. This makes Fuji’s relative troubles with the 18mm a bit worrying for the 14mm. Let’s hope they have learned from the experience of the 18mm.
The 18-55mm will be Fuji’s first zoom for the X mount. When this was first mooted, it was as a constant aperture f/4 lens. Fuji have managed to create a brighter lens at the wide end, presumably because it didn’t compromise anything else in the design. So that’s a welcome gain.
- 27mm f/2.8 Pancake (41mm eq.)
- 23mm f/1.4 (35mm eq.)
- 56mm f/1.4 (85mm eq.)
These primes nicely round off the classic range of prime focal lengths for the X mount. Potentially the most interesting for the future of the system is the 27mm pancake. Releasing both 35mm and 41mm equivalent lenses might seem a bit redundant, however a lower cost pancake lens might be a hint at an upcoming cheaper X camera as a kit lens.
By stripping away complicated technology like the hybrid viewfinder, a cheaper X camera that still embodies the manual controls inherent to the X system could be made. That might well prove to be a very popular camera.
- 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 Stabilized (83-300mm eq.)
- 10-24mm f/4 Stabilized (15-36mm eq.)
It’s nice to see a proper wide-angle zoom being proposed (the 10-24mm). That’s something we haven’t seen from other Compact System Cameras. The 55-200mm will of course give the X-Pro 1 some telephoto range, however I suspect the vast majority of X-Pro 1 users aren’t really looking for zoom range. (The X-Pro 1′s rather pedestrian autofocus doesn’t lend itself to this kind of lens.)
Fuji have released a comprehensive and ambitious plan that would leave them with a basically complete range of lenses for their system by the end of next year. That goes a long way to making the X mount an attractive way to go in the mirrorless market. There are a few points worth noting though.
- Fuji needs to catch up in the autofocus (AF) department
- They need a cheaper (and preferably smaller) camera model without compromised handling
- More positive clicks on lens aperture rings
- Proper lens hoods/caps
Let’s put the AF into context. When Fuji released the X100, its AF was slow compared to its contemporaries. They improved that a little by firmware, and the X-Pro 1 is slightly better than that. Unfortunately, in that time, the micro 4/3 makers and Nikon have introduced extremely fast AF systems in their Compact System Cameras. Fuji are no longer a little behind the curve, they’re massively behind. Even if the X-Pro 1 was as small and cheap as the Olympus OM-D, I’d still pick the Olympus. This is despite its image quality not being as good. The fact is I’d be able to get the shots I wanted with much greater regularity with the OM-D than the X-Pro 1.
If Fuji sorts out the AF, the X-Pro 1 (or its successor) becomes much more attractive. (Which I’m sure Fuji is aware of; the question is can they make the jump?)
The cheaper, smaller, camera is needed to make all the R&D into these new lenses viable. There aren’t enough potential X-Pro 1 users to sustain a proprietary lens mount. Fuji needs something more mainstream, but they can’t afford to cheapen the X brand by making the kind entry level camera that other makers have. What Fuji needs is a high quality mid-range camera, perhaps jettisoning the hybrid viewfinder and swapping the X-Trans sensor for a simple Bayer array.
My third point is a simple manufacturing issue. Lots of X-Pro 1 users have complained that the aperture rings on X mount lenses move too easily. Solution: Make the adjustment. When you’re marketing equipment as premium, you’d better make sure it feels premium.
Ditto for the last point. Make lens hoods that can be reversed for transport, and lens caps that stay on properly. Easy!
All in all, I’m really encouraged by the new road map for the X mount, it should be great news for those using or considering the system.
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