Finding the Fuji that fits

Fuji's X100. Gorgeous, but actually I'm not convinced

Those of us who’ve been around cameras for a while pretty much know what we want out of our magical lightbox machines when we come to upgrading or getting a new toy. But if you’re new to photography, or not surgically attached to your camera, buying one is a tricky business. There’s more choice out there than Imelda Marcos faced on a daily basis selecting a pair of shoes, from price, to spec, to how they look and feel. It’s headache-inducing. Small wonder, then, that I love things that can make choosing a camera easier for people, and I got a bit excited when I trundled over to the Fuji website and saw its new-fangled camera comparison widget.

I was all set to find the right Fuji camera for me, or more likely my camera-phobic mother. I was expecting a few simple check box questions, asking about my camera needs, my proficiency levels, and my budget. And then, whizz-bang, it’d spew out a few suggestions. But no, that was a bit too much to hope for.

Instead, you get to compare the specs side-by-side of three different cameras. You can filter your selections by series, zoom, how wide the lens is, pixel count, stabilisation, and even heaven love us, by colour. Once you’ve made your choices, you can see how your three cameras’ of choice resolutions, lenses, sensor types and size, sensitvities, screens, video capbility, and about 15 million other specifications match up against each other.

The Z90 against the JZ500 against the F600

Now that is, in itself, a fairly useful feature. But it assumes that you’ve already a good idea of what you’re looking for. Different types of camera aren’t explained. It doesn’t take into account that people might not know the difference between the X100 and the F600. It doesn’t accommodate people who aren’t sure if a bog-standard point-and-shoot is what they need, or if something a bit more zoomy will suit them better. And price doesn’t even come into it. I can imagine a first-time camera buyer taking a look at it and exclaiming something along the lines of ‘Wuh?’

Seeing as I’m being a bit picky, too, it’s usually a good idea to standardise units of comparison. So I wasn’t thrilled seeing some sensor sizes given in imperial and some in metric.

It’s hard to say that Fuji has missold this widget entirely. The tagline is ‘Find the right camera for you, review camera specifications at a glance.’ It compares camera specs, dead on. But it doesn’t really help people to find the right camera for them. Still it’s a shame. With a bit more thought, Fuji could have a developed something actually useful for its consumers, instead they’ve produced a gimmick that’s vaguely useful for some of us, and doutless overwhelming for a whole lot more.

Pity. You can go judge for yourself on the Fuji website.

Adding a protective UV filter to your Fuji X100

Nobody will ever be able to straight-facedly claim that Fujifilm's X100 is without its flaws, but by jove, is it turning it into one of my fave cameras nonetheless. One problem with this little peach is that the lens is exposed, and non-interchangeable - so if you, like me, tend to throw your camera over your shoulder, there's danger abound if you knock it into something.

20111012_img_0089_1000px.jpgAs a double bonus hazard, the camera doesn't have a filter thread, so it's impossible to put an UV filter on the lens for protection. Or is it? It turns out that it does, indeed, have a filter thread, but it's 'backwards' - instead of having the threads facing inwards, like on most cameras, on the X100, the threading is facing out.

"Ah, but that's no problem", I hear you say - "Filters have threading both ways, you can just mount it on the camera backwards!". Well, that's true, but there's a second snag with the X100: Because the inner lens barrel comes quite far out of the camera body, if you simply mount a filter, the lens is liable to get stuck (if you're lucky), or be damaged (if you're less lucky).

So, how to solve this conundrum?

Easy, if a little convoluted.

You need to buy two 49-mm filters, and be prepared to sacrifice one of them to The Cause. What we're going to do, is to stack a couple of 49mm filters, in reverse, on the lens.

Step by step:

Step 1

Take off the ornamental ring


Step 2

This image shows the problem we are facing: See how far that lens extends? Just attaching a filter would cause trouble...


Step 3

Now, the easiest way to take the glass out of a filter would be to unscrew the retaining ring in the filter. However, these can often be extremely well-attached; if you don't have a special tool, they can be very difficult to loosen. I got frustrated with my filter, and took a violent approach.


Step 4

By giving the filter a sharp blow with a screwdriver, and then carefully removing the shards, I was able to take most of the glass out


Step 5

Of course, with most of the glass removed, it was possible to take the retaining ring out. I took out the rest of the glass, and made sure there weren't any fragments left.


Step 6

Mount the empty filter threading on your lens


Step 7

Loosely attach the second filter to the first filter. Then, operate the camera. See how close the lens gets to the filter. Slowly tighten the filter little by little, and keep experimenting with your lens. Be aware that some low-profile filters may not be thick enough to give you enough distance, so being careful at this step is a very good idea indeed.


Step 8

Remember the ornamental ring we took off in step 1? Put it back on, if you like!


That's it!

So, that's how you can mount a filter on your X100 camera. Easy once you know how!

My Focus on Imaging round-up


I spent a lot of time wandering around halls 9 and 10 of the NEC yesterday. A lot. Partly this was because there was plenty to see, but also because I managed to get myself well and truly disoriented on a couple of occasions. (My legs are doing okay this morning; thanks for asking.) But apart from my cartographical vagaries, what were highlights, and what are my tips for anyone planning on going between today and Wednesday?

Fuji's X100. Gorgeous, but actually I'm not convinced


I admit it, the first place that I headed to (and this one couldn’t be missed because of its massive green and white banners) was the Fuji stand where they had some X100s for us to play and fiddle with. I say ‘some’ because the queues were quite extensive so it didn’t really feel enough. Did I love it as much as I thought I would? Well, I wasn’t sobbing that I’m not on the pre-order list. The hybrid viewfinder is great; I liked the aperture ring; but I couldn’t see myself using it.

Kudos to Pentax who had knowledgeable staff manning their stand, unlike at least one other big name (I’m looking at you, Nikon). They also had a couple of 645Ds out for public delectation, in addition to a bank of K-r and K-5s. I did really like the 645, but I doubt I’ll be taking the plunge with a medium format for quite some time.

Sony still had the NEX-3 on display, even though it has been pulled.

To my surprise, Sony still had the NEX-3 on display. So I called them on it. Production has ceased, but they want to get rid of what they’ve got. I’m not sure that I would still have been displaying them, it’s not as if they’re cutting edge and all shiny and new, is it? But that’s me. Ah well.

As to why they’ve called time on it, I was told that the NEX-5 came down in price significantly and people realised just what more they could get for their money with it. Let that be a lesson to you, Sony: better product differentiation. Oh, and my thoughts on the NEX-5? Far too fiddly. I’d probably get used to it in time, but far too fiddly.

The general impression

Focus is always full of people selling photobooks and albums and frames, so unless someone is selling something that is outstandingly different (or their stand looks like a circus bigtop) it very much feels as if seeing one means that you’ve seen them all.

Was Canon missed? By me, yes. By others, no. As someone pointed out: it’s not as if they’ve released anything new at the top end for a while, but that’s not necessarily the point as there are new Canon products about to hit the shops. It’s just not a 1D mkV. Still, they’ve managed to generate publicity for themselves by not attending.

Top tips

It got very warm. Really warm. And I’m someone who usually complains about being too cold. Dress in layers.

Work out where you want to go and what you want to see. When you’ve done those bits, let yourself wander to soak up the atmosphere and find the stands you’d otherwise have missed.

I had one of the worst coffees ever there. Avoid. Please.