X-Pro2 was probably the ultimate camera in 2016

The X-Pro2 was probably the ultimate camera in the X Series lineup, back in 2016.

The X-Pro2 was probably the ultimate camera in the X Series lineup back in 2016. Some may disagree, but it was packed with the newest features, including the latest X-Trans CMOS sensor and the processor. Which model is the most lovable X? This may be a more challenging question to answer. For me, it is currently the X-Pro3. And perhaps there is no end to the discussion, but FujiFilm feels that one of the four X100 models perhaps is the most loved X of all.

© Fujifilm

Fujifilm often set up meetings with the X-Photographers to get feedback on the products. I’d love to be involved. I did send Fujifilm a detailed list of suggestions, and feedback, but didn’t get a reply. Fujifilm prepares a proposal of improvements, but the demand from the X-Photographers is always one step ahead of their proposal.

But a strange things happen with the X100 series. The photographers all demand to “keep the camera the same and not change a thing.” This is not to say that Fujifilm should not change it at all; they are also expecting something new to the camera. To make the successor, Fujifilm had to be careful about picking parts for improvement and parts to keep unchanged. Thankfully, features such as electronic rangefinder and CLASSIC CHROME were positively received, probably because the things that they loved about the camera remained unchanged.

The 23mmF2 prime lens is one of the main reasons I love the camera so much – that at the 16mm F2.8. The lens remained unchanged in all X100 models. It renders soft images at maximum aperture and in close-up, but the photos get really sharp once stopped down. The lens is a hybrid. You can enjoy both sharp and soft images. The 35mm equivalent angle of view also makes it really easy to use the camera. There are photographers who take all their photos with this camera alone.

Per-Anders Jörgensen from Sweden created a book called “Eating with the Chefs”, with the X100 only. When you look at the pictures, you will be surprised how eclectic the images are and that they are, in fact, taken by a single fixed lens camera. “Mastering the camera” is not a thing they say often. But when you read the book, you can sense that the camera has become an eye and a hand of the photographer. It is as if the photographer has liberated himself from the typical use of a camera.

© Per-Anders Jörgensen

Another reason why so many professional love the camera is the lens shutter.
Zack Arias, a street photography master and a lighting pioneer, quickly saw the benefit of it, and created numerous works that only lens shutter can create with the high-speed sync flash.

© Per-Anders Jörgensen

There is more reasons to love the lens shutter: it’s so quiet. There is no focal plane shutter that can get as quiet as the X100. X100 makes minimal noise when releasing the shutter. Many appreciate this quietness, especially in reportage, documentary and family events photography. X-Photographer Gianluca Colla from Italy often talks about the importance of “Getting close”. He says the distance is the deciding factor in making the photos good or bad. There are things that cannot be captured from a distance away. To get close with the inner side of the subject, camera needs to be unassuming, and you need to act natural.

© Per-Anders Jörgensen

There are countless other reasons why people love about the X100 series. With 100 photographers, we would have 100 different reasons. But in the beginning, the camera was criticized as much as it was praised. “Why APS?”, “Why prime lens?”, “Why rangefinder style?” So many critics question the significance. However, as it turned out, the product planner was not so concerned about the negative response that the camera was getting back then. Because much more heated discussions had already taken place repeatedly within Fujifilm. His name is Hiroshi Kawahara. He is the person who gave birth to the X100 Series. He departed to a different path, away from the product planning of the X Series. His last word was, “Love the camera that you are involved with.” The camera he loved is still loved by so many still today.

© Fujifilm

Using a Fujifilm X-Pro3

The Fujifilm X-Series have a stunning range of lenses, giving me high-quality images that can be printed without concern.

MY FIRST FUJIFILM CAMERA WAS the X-Pro1, which I purchased back in 2012. Until then, I’d been a Canon user. However, I never felt a connection with my Canon’s; it was like holding just another electronic device. Don’t get me wrong, they are great cameras, but the X-Pro range instantly felt like an extension of my hand. The X-Pro range has a soul and a great analogue classic design too. Another advantage is the X-Pro3, and most of my lenses, is they are weather-resistant, avoiding extra stress when working!

Fujifilm X-Pro3 – © Narrating Images

I usually, when we’re not in lock-down due to Coronavirus, travel a lot for work. My Fujifilm cameras, touch wood, have never let me down. They are some light and small; I don’t need to lug a heavy backpack around.

The Fujifilm X-Series have a stunning range of lenses, giving me high-quality images that can be printed without concern. While most of my work is in black and white, I do love with colours my X-Pro3 can produce. The ability to create different colour recipes and simulate the look of the traditional film is indispensable.

Fujifilm X-Pro3 – © Narrating Images

I’ve also recently purchased the tiny Fujifilm XF10, its a camera packed with amazing functionality. It is my everyday camera that I take everywhere, as it fits unnoticed in my pocket. People never look at me when I’m photographing them with my XF10. However, my X-Pro3 does sometimes gain attention – despite it being small. When people don’t think they are being photographed, they act more relaxed and natural.

Fujifilm X-Pro3 – © Narrating Images

Using Fujifilm equipment really enhances the joy of photography. When I was in Miami a couple of months ago, I had so many people spot my X-Pro3 when I was relaxing in a cafe or restaurant and ask me questions about it. I felt almost like a sale representative, the way I was reeling off details about it. Just in case you’re wondering, nope, I’m not a Fujifilm salesperson, and nope they don’t pay me to say nice things!

Fujifilm X-Pro3 – © Narrating Images

Don’t get me wrong; there are always things that can be improved. The more I use it, the more features I’d like added or design features I’d change. I have written to Fujifum with a list; I’ll write them up and post them here soon.

A photographic film producer develops the world’s first fully digital camera

Did you know that Fujifilm developed the world’s first digital camera?

DID YOU KNOW THAT FUJIFILM developed the world’s first digital camera? In 1988 at the Photokina trade fair in Germany, Fujifilm announced the FUJIX DS-1P, the world’s first camera to save data to a semiconductor memory card. Taken for granted today, this method of storage was revolutionary for its time and was a Fujifilm original. With its then-impressive 2 megabytes of SRAM, the semiconductor memory card could hold 5 to 10 photographs’ worth of data.

© Fujifilm

So how did a company known for its photographic film come to develop an advanced digital camera, including all of the original technologies that made it possible? This article explores the background of this amazing world’s-first achievement.

Anticipating the digital era
Fujifilm was one of the first companies to envision the digital era, and to engage in digital camera R&D. In the 1970s, Fujifilm began developing CCD (charge-coupled device) technology, which a digital camera requires to convert visible light into an electric signal. In the 1980s, Fujifilm was already researching and developing digital imaging technologies. In 1988, Fujifilm developed the FUJIX DS-1P, the world’s first fully digital camera, and in 1989, it began sales of the FUJIX DS-X, the world’s first commercially produced digital camera.

© Fujifilm

Analog technology and its limitations
Before the development of the FUJIX DS-1P, still, video cameras using an analogue format were the main type of electronic camera. They stored frames to a magnetic medium called a video floppy. Back then, semiconductor memory was extremely expensive, and the idea of saving photographs in a digital format and viewing them on the low-performance personal computers of the time did not seem viable. Although video floppies were inexpensive, their data capacity was poor, and imperfect rotation could negatively impact image quality.

Taking on the digital challenge
Although it was recognized that saving photographs to a semiconductor memory card could offer low noise and outstanding colour reproduction, the extreme cost of this memory remained a barrier. Fujifilm, however, saw much more affordable semiconductor memory and much higher-performance image sensors and image compression technology on the not-so-distant horizon. So in defiance of the conventional wisdom, Fujifilm took on the challenge of developing a digital camera that stored still photographs on a semiconductor memory card. The result was the world’s first fully digital camera, the FUJIX DS-1P.

Fujifilm launched the world’s first fully digital consumer camera FUJIX DS-1P in 1988.

Corporate DNA that allows no fear of product cannibalism
Fujifilm was a photographic film manufacturer. So why was it enthusiastic about developing a camera that used no film at all? Fujifilm has always had a corporate atmosphere and environment that encourages creative destruction and allows no fear of leaving behind old technologies or cannibalizing current products. Fujifilm’s engineers are passionate about developing technologies and products that have a positive impact on society. So they dived straight into digital camera R&D and created several world’s firsts in the process.

© Fujifilm

Leading-edge products via original technologies
It’s in Fujifilm’s DNA to take on the challenge of developing its own technologies and create amazing, leading-edge products. The world’s first fully digital camera, the FUJIX DS-1P, is one key example. That DNA is just as alive today, finding its latest expression in the Fujifilm X series of advanced digital cameras.

© Fujifilm

ACROS Film Simulation

IT HAS BEEN OVER 15 YEARS since the introduction of the ACROS film simulation. Its history began with the model FinePix F700 back in 2003. The monochrome was called ‘B&W’ back then, and the image quality it produced was highly regarded.

Old Lives – Cirencester, UK – Fujifilm X-Pro3 – “ACROS” – © Narrating Images

At the same time Fujifilm were asked what film is the ‘B&W’ simulating? The answer to the question was, ‘B&W’ is based on PROVIA, and it is not based on Monochrome film. This fact also reflected the sentiment of the Image Design team at Fujifilm, that “It is too early to name a simulation mode after any monochrome films, which are all legendary.” So now we have a film simulation mode named after the monochrome film. To have ACROS mode, it had to meet a certain standard.

What does it take to be ACROS? What kind of monochrome expression does it need to have? First, it needed to be capable of expressing details like the ACROS film, which was often praised as ‘world’s finest grain’ Secondly, it needed to achieve print-like texture, like how a photo would appear when taken by a monochrome film and printed on a photographic paper. In order to become the digital ACROS, the mode needed to achieve both subject’s detail and texture.

This tonality curve, specifically designed for ACROS, has a distinguishable characteristic compared to the existing ‘B&W’. First, from the middle to the highest, the tonality curve is rather hard. By doing so, the detail stands out, and therefore the image appears clean and sharp. It doesn’t not mean, however, that it gets overexposed easily. The highest input and output remains at the same level. The dynamic range stays the same. We should now look at the shadow part.

Here is a link to my monochrome film simulator recipe for the Fujifilm XF10.

The tonality curve becomes rather soft, unlike the hard tonality curve from the middle to the highest. It means that we do not lose the detail as much as possible on the shadow range. The essence of monochrome expression exists in the shadow area. If it is too soft, then the image becomes too loose, and if it becomes too hard, then the picture loses its depth. The optimal balance in the shadow area determines the quality of the monochrome.

Residents Only – Cirencester, UK – Fujifilm X-Pro3 – “ACROS” – © Narrating Images

It is not only about the tonality curve.
To achieve the ACROS like texture, the film-like “graininess” is another important element. To be specific, ACROS mode has a completely different noise reduction algorithm from other modes. The “graininess” of the silver-halide films are what we see as ‘noise’ in the digital data. For colour images, they are the unwanted noise, but in the monochrome images, it becomes an important texture. Turning the noise into a grain-like texture is what makes ACROS unique and different.

Other manufacturers are also implementing the idea of creating ‘graininess’ to enhance the texture. Fujifilm is not the only brand doing this. You can find ‘Grain’ filter in the readily available photo processing software, and many monochrome photographers add ‘grain’ to achieve the monochrome film-like effect. Most of them try to achieve this by adding a grain-like element to the original image. They simply add another layer of ‘dotted graininess’ on top without changing the original photo composition. So something becomes unnatural in the process.

Church Shadows – Cirencester, UK – Fujifilm X-Pro3 – “ACROS” – © Narrating Images

ACROS is different.
Fujifilm developed it from the core of the image file to achieve a very complex and natural like grain expression. Optimal and different grain expressions are added to highlight and low light areas. You would not find unnatural dotted graininess in the highlight areas just like how the monochrome film behaves. In the low light area, you would see the graininess just like how it would appear with the monochrome film. There is undulating grain within the picture. And it adds depth like no other.

ACROS also changes the output of graininess depending on the sensitivity setting. As the sensitivity gets higher, stronger grain effect becomes visible, just like the film. Fujifilm had seen the advancement of high S/N ratio of digital cameras, but people generally wanted to take photos with the lowest sensitivity possible. But with ACROS, it may be a different story.

The unique grain effect, which becomes apparent at the higher ISO sensitivity. You can intentionally set the sensitivity high to enjoy the effect. Fujifilm had so much positive feedback on ACROS since the announcement, even before getting into explaining the technical aspect. “Add ACROS to X-T1 and X100T”, “Make it happen on the next firmware update!” Fujifilm had lots of requests. But unfortunately, this is very unlikely to happen. The image design of ACROS is only achievable with the resolution of X-Trans CMOS III and the processing power of X-Processor Pro.

Church – Cirencester, UK – Fujifilm X-Pro3 – “ACROS” – © Narrating Images

The fine detail that ACROS achieves is only possible with the resolution power of 24MP. And the complex grain effect is only possible with the powerful X-Processor Pro engine. It may be possible that the same concept can be achieved without the two new devices, but they can not say that to be ACROS? The answer is “No.” Fujifilm would not release a quality that does not meet a high standard.
Fujifilm also think that it is very unlikely that any RAW conversion software would achieve what ACROS achieves. Fujifilm all know that there is excellent RAW conversion software in the market, but we also believe that the magic of X-Processor Pro is not so easily solved.

Below is the ACROS recipe I used for the photos on this page.

Film Sim : ACROS
ISO: Auto
Dynamic Range: 200%
Sharpening: -1
Highlight: +1
Shadow: +2
Noise Reduction: -4
Exposure Compensation: 0

The Crown – Cirencester, UK – Fujifilm X-Pro3 – “ACROS” – © Narrating Images

Using filters in black & white

THE FUJIFILM XF10 HAS A MONOCHROME black & white film simulation mode. My Fujifilm X-Pro3 has both Monochrome and ACROS film simulators. These modes have a Red, Green and Yellow variation, giving your monochrome photos a different look and feel.

These sub-options are more convenient than having to physically put the optical filter in front of the lens and can be used for similar purposes.

ACROS +R and ACROS +Ye – © Narrating Images

Many photographers use Monochrome+Ye and ACROS+Ye yellow filter modes to darken blue skies a little to help clouds to stand out.

Monochrome+R and ACROS+R red filter modes are used to darken blue skies even more and lend landscape shot a more dramatic look and feel.

Monochrome +Gr and Monochrome +Ye – © Narrating Images

Monochrome+Gr and ACROS+Gr yellow filter modes are used to lighten foliage and look great for portraits.

When shooting portraits in black & white, less is definitely more. Without the distraction of colour, we are free to concentrate on the subject’s face and expression – including any striking features they might have, like freckles, wrinkles, or piercings. Keep the rest of the frame simple and don’t let anything get in the way of this.

Create contrast with side lighting from a single light source and try to place light-toned subjects against a dark background, and darker subjects against a light background.

ACROS and ACROS +Ye – © Narrating Images

In landscape photography, look for scenes that contain bold shapes, like the curve of a wooden fence in the sand dunes, or the lead-in line created by a road snaking its way through the foreground.

Monochrome and Monochrome +Ye – © Narrating Images

Contrast is important, too, and can help you create minimalist compositions that are beautiful because of their simplicity, such as a lone tree in the snow or the white spray of a waterfall in front of black rocks.

ACROS + Gr and ACROS +R – © Narrating Images

Fujifilm’s first twin-lens reflex camera!

In 1954, Fujifilm introduced the Fujicaflex, which it developed to be the finest TLR produced in Japan.

IN A TWIN-LENS REFLEX CAMERA (TLR), one of two vertically arrayed lenses is for the viewfinder, and the other is for taking the actual photograph. In the 1950s in Japan, the demand for twin-lens reflex cameras (TLRs) suddenly took off for several reasons: they typically offered good image quality, were sturdy and durable, and were available at a reasonable price.

In 1954, Fujifilm introduced the Fujicaflex

But using two lenses meant that what the photographer saw in the viewfinder wasn’t exactly what appeared in the shot. In particular, it was difficult to capture the same relationship between the subject and the background that one saw in the viewfinder. Moreover, the closer the camera was to the subject, the harder it was to achieve an accurate focus, making it difficult to shoot anything closer than a meter or so. 

In 1954, Fujifilm introduced the Fujicaflex, which it developed to be the finest TLR produced in Japan. Distinguishing itself from the many cheap TLRs then on the market, the Fujicaflex incorporated a cutting-edge lens that delivered beautiful, high-resolution photos. A single mechanism altered the position of the front lens element of both the taking lens and the viewfinder lens to achieve simultaneous focus, making possible in-focus shots at the short distance of 70cm. The camera embodied several other clever and advanced ideas as well. For example, the nob on the side smoothly adjusted the point of focus; when pulled outward from the camera body, this same knob wound the film forward. It was a nice detail that made taking pictures just a little more speedy and convenient.

The Fujicaflex was very favorably received by photographers who at the time credited it as a new height in Japanese camera technology. It was a product that greatly enhanced the brand image of Fujifilm cameras and paved the way for future innovations.

The world’s first autoflash point-and-shoot camera

In the 1970s, point-and-shoot cameras became quite popular among amateur photographers. The film came in a cartridge and was easy to load, while shooting was as simple as locating the subject in the viewfinder and pressing the shutter button. When Fujifilm decided to enter this segment of the camera market, the company partnered with Kodak, signing a licensing agreement. Then, in 1975, Fujifilm launched the Pocket FUJICA lineup of point-and-shoot cameras, five models ranging from basic to high-end.

After introducing the Pocket FUJICA in Japan, Fujifilm expanded sales to overseas markets. In order to make the camera easier to hold and help prevent bad shots due to camera shake, in later models Fujifilm changed the positioning of the film inside from horizontal to vertical. These and other innovations encouraged more people to take up photography and spurred sales to even greater heights.

Fujifilm continued to look for new ways to enhance the Pocket FUJICA line. Market research conducted by the company indicated that 75% of point-and-shoot camera users found flash photography difficult and inconvenient. So, in 1978, Fujifilm introduced the high-end Pocket FUJICA 550 Auto, which featured an integrated pop-up flash. The flash was automatic and light output even adjusted to match lighting conditions. In combination with the camera’s autoexposure function, the autoflash made it easy to take beautiful photographs and avoid mistakes that wasted valuable film. This feature was a world’s first for a point-and-shoot camera and made the Pocket FUJICA 550 Auto yet another milestone product for Fujifilm.