Not ready for prime time.
I have been reading David Pogue, the New York Times’s technology columnist, for ages. What he lacks in sheer technical knowhow he more than makes up for in his ability to get to the point of the real world user. Sort of like Consumer Reports. Neither may know exactly how fuel injection works, say, but both will tell you straight whether the car can be guaranteed to start when the ignition key is turned. That’s what users need.
So while his review of the Fuji X100 is replete with a howler or two which will make ‘experts’ cringe (he describes it as a great portrait camera, despite the short lens, etc.) he does hit the nail on the head in disclosing what is now a worryingly frequent complaint on chat boards from those lucky enough to have got an example of this rare beast. And as I am more likely to believe Pogue than I am the average chat board aficionado, here it is, plain and simple:
It does have an autofocus assist lamp that comes on in dim rooms,
briefly providing enough illumination for it to focus,
but time is going by meanwhile.”
First, forget using an autofocus lamp. This camera is meant to be stealthy, not a walking advertisement. Next, with my jarring experience with the 20mm Panasonic for the G1, which I returned almost as soon as I bought it, I am super sensitive about fast autofocus. The Panny was simply unable to focus fast enough for street snapping, delivering a 30% focus failure rate in the almost 500 exposures I made with it, and I don’t propose to relive the experience with the X100. I suppose you could use the camera for landscapes or whatever, but fail to see what it adds compared to the regular DSLR in that regard. The fact that the X100 is small, has a real optical finder and is quiet and unobtrusive, is what turns my crank, and street snaps are what I mostly do.
Yes, there are several other quirks in the design which can be cured by Fuji tweaking the software (button assignments, menu layout and the like), but speeding up the focus operation is not, I would guess, one of them. Your focus motor is either fast or not. In this case, it increasingly seems not.
This is not the low risk prospect that buying the iPad on Day One of availability was. Apple had several years of touchscreen development under its belt with the iPhone so screwing up the iPad was not a big risk. By contrast, what we have in the Fuji is a camera with a massively complex EVF/OVF eye level finder from a low volume manufacturer not known for making like products. That’s high risk in my book. The X100 Mark II will likely get it right, and I’m also hoping that the likes of Panasonic come out with something as good or better by then, at a saner price.
So, for now, I will either cancel my X100 order or flip the camera on eBay if it still commands today’s 50-100% black market premium at my date of purchase. Free money is never a bad thing. The latter option will, at least, allow me to try it for myself.