Thursday, 30 January 2014

Retro Done Right

The Fujifilm X-T1

Fujifilm has announced the X-T1, the camera the Nikon Df could have been if Nikon had thought about it for more than 10 minutes (the Df was 4 years in the making, believe it or not). How far the X-system has come in such little time...
Yes, people call it a "retro" design, but in my book it's functional rather than a superficial throwback. Where the Nikon Df's top plate is purely cosmetic, the X-T1's features sensible controls and markings like an ISO dial with 'auto' and no mode dial. Like on the other Fuji X-series cameras, aperture priority can be activated by setting the aperture ring to A, shutter priority by setting the shutter speed dial to A.

Top plates (and lots of dials) of the Nikon Df and Fujifilm X-T1

This is all eminently sensible, design sense that was so clearly ignored by Nikon.

Contax RTS III (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Is it retro? Well, it's certainly not radical, but I wouldn't call it "retro". Oxford defines 'retro' as "imitative of a style or fashion from the recent past". There's a certain dose of superficiality in that definition that I don't think Fuji has used in the X-T1's design.

The X-T1's goal is not imitative, it is to create a practical and usable camera, although it has a passing resemblance to the SLRs of yore; its high front 'pentaprism' recalls Kyocera's Contax 35mm SLR line. The X-T1's design is far more reflective of its function, the Nikon Df is not.

I know which camera I'd prefer in my hand. Full frame or not, Nikon can go jump.

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