Fujifilm Announces X-M1 Mirrorless Camera, Fujinon XC 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS Lens and XF 27mm f/2.8 Lens

Fujifilm X-M1 in Brown, Black and Silver with 27mm f/2.8 and 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6mm lenses.

Fujfilm probably thought that they needed to compete with the small camera crowd like the Panasonic GF cameras or the Sony NEX cameras, so they have gone ahead and released the X-M1. At first glance, it seems to be more of an extreme version of the X-E1; where the X-E1 reduced the size by getting rid of the bulky optical hybrid viewfinder mechanism, the X-M1 in turn excises the EVF completely and makes the photographer rely solely on the 3″ VGA screen. It’s not all bad news, as the screen now tilts, and there’s also Wi-Fi for wireless sharing. There is also focus peaking (which is also coming to the X-Pro1 and X-E1 via a firmware update, in some good news for existing users). The camera retains the same 16 megapixel X-trans array sensor found in the X-Pro1 and X-E1.

It’ll be simple enough, if that was the end of it, but the X-M1 actually introduces a new paradigm, a schism in the design language of the XF-mount cameras. Whereas the earlier cameras (along with the camera that started it all, the X100), had dedicated aperture rings on the lenses, and shutter dials on the camera like a traditional camera, the X-M1 introduces two mode-less control dials and a mode dial, similar to that of a modern DSLR. This is partly because the two new lenses, the 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS and the 27mm f/2.8 pancake, lack the aperture ring. I also suspect the other reason is to keep newcomers to the X-system be in more familiar territory, but if so, keeping the original unique selling point away from what should be the larger volume seller betrays a lack of confidence from Fujifilm. It’s a real shame Fujifilm were not able to keep a consistent UI throughout their X-mount cameras, and I hope Fujifilm backs away from this design policy eventually. Also, I find the location of the dials inferior to those found on many other cameras. Two rear dials generally mean exposure settings cannot be changed simultaneously, and having the rear-most dial to be a vertical-style that is meant to be operated by the index finger strikes me as awkward. Take a look:

Fujifilm X-M1 rear showing new control system

CK: Looks like they’ve followed the footsteps of Nikon in removing the aperture ring from their “G” lenses and relegating the controls to the camera’s dials instead. This might not have been a bad thing actually. Traditionalists will still prefer the aperture ring on the lens itself, but I think most users will not find this to be an issue. The market for the X-M1 is a different from the more pro/enthusiast one anyway. In fact, I don’t have problems using a camera like this (e.g. the Nikon 1 V1 has a rocker for one exposure control and a rotary dial for the other, the Panasonic LX3 has a little joystick for exposure control.)

YS: As for the lenses, the very typical specifications of the Fujinon XC 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 is not surprising. It has always been easier to make lenses if they feature a smaller aperture, and the 16-50mm’s plastic lens mount is an indication of where the priorities for this lens lies. It’s not entirely a a loss, as kit lens can be really good nowadays, but it is another step towards a more generic formula. The 27mm f/2.8 is the small compact lens that might have been popular with existing users, but not having the aperture ring might dampen enthusiasm a bit.

The X-M1 is expected to be available with the 16-50mm in July or August 2013 for US$800,  or US$700 for just the camera, and the 27mm f/2.8 will be available in July for US$450.

CK: Ok, this sure looks like a way better deal than the overpriced, under-performing Leica X Vario. On a more serious note, this does provide a lower cost of entry to the people who wants to get into the X system but find the XE-1 and X-Pro 1 too expensive. The flip-screen is a very useful addition – whether it makes up for the lack of an EVF/OVF is a personal call.

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