Why Can’t Fuji put the Buttons in the Same Place?

The focus clutch. That’s where it started for me. Back around 2012 when I opted into the Fuji X series of cameras, I orderd all of the initial wave of lenses along with the X-E1. By the time I traveled to Europe that summer, I had the 18 f/2, 23 f/1.4, 35 f/1.4, and the 60 f/2.4. In that initial collection I was puzzled by certain things, all having come from the same maker.

One of these lenses uses a clutch to engage manual focusing and the other three are more typical modern drive by wire electronic systems. So in my initial lens inventory it split on manual focus method. Now in 2018 when I line up my fleshed out system of lenses, I still miss the logic. The fast prime series (the Fujilux) split between clutch manual focus mechanisms, typical drive by wire focusing. What is the vision here? Are competing departments designing these lenses? They completely failing to articulate a plan. A user like me would like to understand where they were going with this system. It was a leap of faith at the time 2012.

Looking at the Fuji cameras is a different but same beast. My particular focus is on the X-Pro2, X100F, and X-E3. I’ve been using the X100F exclusively for a few months now and have been really grooving the camera to my needs. It’s a shock to pick up the X-E3. Where’s the ISO dial? Where’s that button on the front of the camera by the lens that I’ve assigned to AF lock? And the D-pad, where has the D-pad gone?

There is the possibility of learning and adapting, which is a fine suggestion for other people. I’m not even against it, I’ve been a life-long learner, but there must be a point to effort. Does “adapting” to two completely different camera physical control schemes make me a better photographer? I don’t think so. I believe it makes me worse by never having a home and thrashing around with the camera controls for basic shooting functions; AE/EF lock, WB, ISO, and more when I change cameras.

There are many dimensions to the photography hobby. Some people are in it for the gear and the technology. They enjoy playing with cameras and imaging is secondary. I’m probably almost as far to the opposite extreme as you’d ever want to find. Imaging is primary and everything else supports imaging. I don’t need a perfect camera, just one that doesn’t get in the way and that I can pick up and use without having to remember anything in particular. It comes back round to the control scheme on Fuji cameras. If I say the X100F is my primary and anything else is a secondary system, then I want things to line up with the X100F. It’s a matter of prospective, right? If you’re primary is X-E3 then everything should line up with that system.

Camera companies will update cameras, add or remove controls, relocate them and perform all kinds of engineering that might not really enhance the creative process. And isn’t that what it’s all about, the creative process? My X100F exclusive experience has really helped me refine what is essential from what is noise in image making. Just eliminating lens choice is such a dramatic effect that everything else quickly bubbles to the surface. I get to the image quicker. At the same time I find no tolerance for anything that slows down the image. There is nothing worse than to raise the viewfinder to the eye and see a menu that has been summoned by an accidental button press. It feels even worse than one of those ads that invades your internet browser. The ad that always pop up as you scroll down to continue reading an article. We know the motive for the internet ad. What is the motive for the camera menu? Hopefully camera makers have not adopted the philosophy of the internet wishing to keep and direct your attention something that isn’t always your choosing.

When I go to the interchangeable lens camera (X-E3) to play with the great XF 23 f/1.4 I am annoyed. The camera is in the way again. Gotta remember the button configuration. Not helpful. Slow. Not valuable to image creation. Shouldn’t I be able to pick up what is essentially the same tool and use it? I don’t have to relearn to use a hammer, screwdriver or saw each time I pick up a different one. Even though screwdrivers can have differing properties, phillips, flat-blade, torx, the use remains the same and no relearning is required. The camera has become a more complex tool, but the basics: focus, depth of field, shutter speed, are not complicated. These should be obvious and easy for an experienced photographer. Experience should not be a hinderance to using the camera.

Sports photography is one of those clear instances where things can and do change very quickly. To only reference that as a quick changing environment trivializes the effort of the wedding photographer, the prom photographer, the landscape shooter, the art photographer, … Everything in the world is constantly in motion; for the landscapest wind, clouds and sun move relentlessly. The street shooter deals with an ever-changing human landscape where a gesture or a different glance can change a photo from “good” to something really exceptional. Anything in the camera that pulls you away from the scene in front of you is a distraction and you risk missing the moment. I never want to look down at the LCD to setup a shot. I never want to have the camera at my eye then need to feel around for a button, or to remember which button is the AE lock. Read Ansel Adams’ discussion of Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico. It is clear that he needed everything to work and even with his tremendous skill and familiar gear it was a chaotic scene. Is it not the same for each of us? We need no obstacles in the way of the image. It is difficult enough to visualize and execute without intrusions from the camera.

The modern camera has greatly simplified things for many photographers. AF, AE are huge conveniences and ones that I enjoy. We have near instant access to the equivalent of the 1980s Nikon MD-4 motor drive mounted to a F3. With just a menu selection, and no bank of 8 AA batteries required, we get 4, 6, 8 or more frames per second. But readying the camera can be an entirely different story.

There are justifications for sure. Fuji can talk about market strategies, engineering constraints, cost targets, upgrade paths. To me this is all non-sense. I think as photographers, we should become a little more unreasonable. These things that companies hold dear often have little benefit for us image makers. Strangely enough, it is Fuji’s own creation that has engendered such outrage from me. The X100F as the camera elemental outrages me. Not because it is flawed, but because it reveals the flaws in other systems so starkly.

So I now make a choice. I’ve put my X-E1 up sale and it’ll be long gone by time you read this. My almost brand new X-E3 will follow it to the auction block. Then, I buy the X-Pro2. I can see from pictures that the controls will be the most similar between XP2 and X100F. I think I can make this work. I’ve invested heavily in Fuji XF glass over the years. I would like to make it work.

Valet Parking

X100F w/TCL-X100II 50mm convertor f2 1/40 ISO 400

This couple waiting for the valet to bring their car back caught my eye from 1/2 block away. I was worried that I’d miss the shot, so I rushed to get in position. At the same time I didn’t want to spook them from the revery. I walked quickly preping the X100F on the move. A group passed in front of the couple as I reached the my spot. As soon as the group passed; you see the result.

The woman holding a smart phone would normally be off limits for an image. People holding phones are doing just that; and it isn’t interesting to observe. Perhaps if occasionally you’d see someone holding a fish it would be interesting, but only until everyone was holding a fish. It’s like that with phones. Everyone is holding one so it’s challenging to find an interesting image. You need more. In this case the man is clearly engaged and maybe even a little impatient grasping his watch. His expression, clearly a bit pained, is a pain I’ve felt too.

I’ve been devoted to the X100F for a couple of months now. Devoted means that I always wear a camera and X100F camera only. It changes you to do that. At first it’s a self conscious act. Having a camera all the time; a real camera that looks like a camera. I walk to the train, into work, at lunch, everyplace. It sits on my desk at work. Surprisingly people take no particular notice. I friends and family know that I might have a camera along at any moment anyway. Often people strike up conversations about the camera. The X100F is an opening to that; it looks old school and analog unless you are hip to the Fuji camera line.

Lately X100F has had the TCL-X100II 50mm convertor mounted. That 50mm (full frame) FOV is something I’ve always liked but haven’t used it much in the last few years. I’m finding it a nice prospective again.

This photo taken at a shutter speed of 1/40 is starting to fly in the face of the “rule” for shutter speed. That rule shutter speed = 1/focal length in full frame terms would lead me to worry since the lens is a 50. That would be a 1/50 shutter speed for blur free imaging. I broke that rule, but only slightly. I am find that the X100 does handhold quite well. Without the TCL convertor on I regularly see 1/20 sec shutter speed images that look surprisingly blurr-free. But as we know:

Sharpness is a bourgeois concept.

Just take the image. If it comes out a blurry or out of focus so what? It might still work. It might even work better a little out of focus. Just take the image.

Fuji X100F and the Lens Hood Caper

Suggested best use for the LH-JX100F & FII. Too big for an egg, too small for a watermelon.

When I picked up the X100F I was a little surprised by the fiddly nature of attaching a filter or lens hood. There is a 49 mm trim ring that covers external threads meaning a standard filter will not screw directly on without an adapter. I generally like to have some protection for the front of the lens and the filter threads; especially on cameras that will be spending a lot of time with me.

For a while I just ignored this minor issue and kept the nice Fuji slip over cap in place when I wasn’t shooting. This is an okay solution, but I grew tired of having to be aware of the lens cap; especially since I’m a OVF user and it’s not super-obvious that a cap is on the lens. I had also noticed some occasional lens flare that I didn’t always appreciate in extreme lighting conditions. Of course that flare is also something I can use later now that I know about it.

JJC Bayonet Mount Lens Hood.

Based on a little web-surfing, I picked up the JJC LH-JX10 lens hood and adapter for the X100. This adapts the 49 mm external thread on the camera to an internal thread allow a standard filter to be installed, and the lens hood. I think this hood is probably the same, more or less, as the Fuji OEM option for an X100 lens hood.

Some OVF obstruction, but the slots help a lot.

It worked fine however I felt like the adapter/filter combo just stuck too far out (21mm) from the lens. The whole purpose of the X100 series is compact, at least in my view, so the length of the adapter and filter were just too much for me. One nice thing about the lens hood was that it was a minimal obstruction in the OVF. You could also use a common 49mm pinch style lens cover easily which was a nice option as well. The hood attaches with a bayonet mount making mounting and removal quick. This hood setup is pretty decent if you aren’t too worried about the size

I used this setup for awhile and grew a little tired of the size of the lens hood. I also used it without the hood with a UV filter in the adapter ring for awhile but still found the size to be too large for my taste. Without the hood in place the setup was a little kludgy looking as well. I also felt like the front lens element was a little too exposed with this hood if I was planning to walk around with the camera all the time.

Order all the Hoods on Amazon

I decided to order all the combinations of lens hood for the X100 I could find along with other options for the filter holder. There are five varieties of lens hood available on Amazon. At least that is how many I could find at the time.

The stack of hoods.

Wide open hoods

To get the hoods that are clear failures out of the way first; let’s have a look at the LH-JX100F & FII hoods. Both of these hoods are poorly thought out and I’ve found other uses for them.

They both share the same failures:

  • Protrude WAY too far into the OVF.
  • Way too open from the front providing little flare and impact protection.
How is this large a lens hood gonna protect you from anything?
Blocking 1/4 of the OVF view is a major fail.

Of course, if you aren’t an OVF user, then no need to worry, this might be your style. They both sort of look “photographer-like” if you don’t really have any interest in function.

Haoge and JJC Compact Round Hoods.

The Haoge hood is the most compact (and the one I’ve been using). It protrudes an additional 13 mm above the naked lens. You can also use the original Fuji X100 slip on lens cap with this hood. The down side is there is no room to inside the hood for a filter.

Haoge LH X49B lens hood. My favorite. White tape prevents accidental switching of auto focus modes.
Haoge hood visible in the lower right of the OVF but not an issue for me. I don’t notice at all.

Since I’ve been using the Haoge I haven’t had any issues with keeping the lens clean and free of fingerprints. When transporting the X100 in a bag I put the Fuji slip on cap in place although it probably isn’t necessary.

The JJC round hood is only 5mm longer than the Haoge but it allows room for a filter to fit between the adapter ring and the lens hood. It stands 18mm above the naked lens. If you insist on using a UV filter this is the setup for you. The JJC hood protrudes just a little more into the OVF, however, it wasn’t an issue for me when I was using it.

The Three Picks

Most versatile: JJC LH-X100. This allows a filter inside the hood and a 49mm pinch lens cap. The slots minimize intrusion into the OVF. It also looks photographer-like if that matters. This is also the largest of the three.

Most compact: Haoge LH-X49B. Minimal size, effective protection and minimal OVF obstruction make this one my choice. Use the Fuji OEM slip on lens cover.

Small but mighty: JJC LH-JX100II. Small size but still allows for a filter inside without interfering with hood mounting or size. Use the Fuji OEM slip on lens cover.

The last thing that might be worth worrying about with a lens hood is whether it shadows the built-in flash. Even at extremely close range (minimum focus distance) I didn’t have any issues with flash shadows from the hoods.

I carry my X100F everywhere, all the time with me. Basically, I always wear a camera (yes me too Thorsten). A little lens protection was worth sorting out properly so I can have the camera hanging close by without being concerned about damage, dirt, or mess on the lens.