The Fujifilm x70 just feels right

I’ve been around long enough that I’ve picked up a thing or two about user experience. It’s more than just giving someone the best experience or the easiest. It’s also about reducing the friction between the user and the actions they take in any given process, while increasing the perceived value of those actions.

In fact, sometimes it’s not the friction you remove, but how you color that part of the activity that makes the experience better. I also know that user experience isn’t just how you interact with an item or software or process—but how the design of those things makes you feel, before, during and after your engagement with it.

For me, the Fujifilm x70 just feels right and has me falling in love with photography all over again. So in this post, my first about photography since 2011, I will cover why Fujifilm twists all the right dials for me.

The x70 has a retro aesthetic that pulls on the heart strings of many photographers.

The x70 has a retro aesthetic that pulls on the heart strings of many photographers.

The Looks

I started shooting in the late 1980’s on my Dad’s Paktica (one of the L series), with buttons and dials, film advance levers. It was a metal clad body with the lower portion wrapped in black tolex. The lettering of the brand and model were recessed into the chassis and filled black. It was fairly retro looking, hearkening a 60’s aesthetic despite its late 70’s heritage. You can see where I am going with this.

With the design the Fujifilm x70, an extension or continuation of the X-Pro and x100, it immediately grabbed my attention and captured my imagination. Of course I was attracted to the “retro” style, but Fujifilm hadn’t just made a camera system “look” retro, they made the operation of the x70 camera as optionally manual as any user desired. With shutter speed and exposure compensation dials, aperture and manual focus rings, the whole Fujifilm X line carries a design language that capitalizes on the feelings and familiarity of many generations of photographers.

Clad in a leather half-case, the Fujifilm x70 the cameras of yesteryear.

Clad in a leather half-case, the Fujifilm x70 looks like the cameras of yesteryear.

The Feel

The form factor of the Fujifilm is the smallest of the X series of cameras. It is lightweight and compact and though considerably thicker than a phone, it is still capable of fitting into your back pocket if need be.

Despite its small size it is surprisingly comfortable to shoot with. When held at eye level it rests naturally in a typical photographers grip. Being light helps here as there is not a lot of camera to grab hold of. The shooting position I have found myself using is waist-level, made possible with the articulating screen. I am able to comfortably invert my grip, using my thumb to depress the shutter button, or using my finger to tap the screen.

Being small and highly maneuverable in many grips lends itself well to being less conspicuous in any shooting situation. When held at waist-level, you look more like someone who is reviewing your last few images than someone who is composing the next shot.

couple in Las Vegas

When shooting at waist-level, the Fujifilm x70 — combined with its small size, becomes a formidable street camera that it adequately inconspicuous. I find its pancake lens gives it harmless look.

The Experience

The experience of using the x70 is a joy with so many discrete buttons and dials to explore, touch and turn. None of them are overly labeled because you can change any button (even the main focus ring) to perform any function you find convenient for that location. Only the shutter speed and aperture dials cannot be programmed. This sort of exploration leads to many hidden features being discovered over time.

On the other side of the spectrum, however, if you put aside all exploration of various features, the Fujifilm x70 can be configured with a reasonable number of presets, making it quick and easy to use the x70 in a wide variety of settings. There is a quick-select menu and a toggle on the back of the camera that does a great job of allowing you to select the right preset and see what the settings are, from ISO, to film effect, dynamic range and more. If you go from shooting indoors with poor lighting, to outdoors in the sun, a quick flip of the dial and you’re ready to go.

The best camera is the one you have with you

I’ve had all kinds of SLR’s and DSLR’s and lenses that allowed me to take pictures of the moon, but do you think I ever carried that gear around without forethought and planning? Fully clad in a leather case, the Fujifilm x70 fits into pockets of any pair of cargo pants, the side pocket of a knapsack, my wife’s purse, or just comfortably over my shoulder.

Without the case, however, the x70 slides into the back pocket of my favorite pair of jeans. This portability makes the x70 nearly as convenient to carry around with you as a mobile phone. I have this camera stashed away with me nearly everywhere I go which means the best camera I have with me is going to be considerably better than the phone in my pocket.

Going for a walk in the woods can be more about the walk, less about lugging bags of heavy gear with you.

Going for a walk in the woods can be more about the walk, less about lugging bags of heavy gear with you.

The Friction

And finally, no experience would be complete without some carefully placed friction in the workflow to make your experience that much more authentic. That’s where all of the dials allowing for manual mode come in. It’s been a long time since I have played with a “physical” aperture dial. Even the dedicated shutter speed dial is a rare thing on cameras in the last couple decades. But the very tangible result is a manual mode that feels every bit the part.

It’s easy to imagine that you are stepping down the aperture and tuning the leaf shutter to just the right sync speed when in fact these dials are just simulating this experience by adding completely unnecessary friction to the flow. And it is fantastic.

The other friction point is the single focus length. I love being constrained in this way. I used to do exactly this in my SLR/DSLR days, taking only a fixed focal length lens with me to places where I knew another focal length would do better. This forced me to be creative about my shots instead of zooming in for just the right angle.

The Fujifilm x70, with its Fujinon 18.5mm f/2.8 lens, — a 28mm-equivalent focal length — lends itself well to street and landscape photography, but the 16.3-megapixel APS-C X-Trans CMOS II sensor allows for decent cropping after the fact. Because of this, I’ve had great success taking portraits with this little beast as well.

Despite its 18mm focal length, the x70, with a little cropping, can take great portraits as well.

Despite its 18mm focal length, the x70, with a little cropping, can take great portraits as well.

Summary

It’s been a long time since I’ve been this happy to take pictures and have been completely happy with the results. The Fujifilm x70 has made me fall in love with photography all over again. It’s easy to use, easy to get complete control over, and easy to get fantastic results every time. I’m just as happy with the results on full auto as I am on full manual modes. The x70 has just been a complete joy of a camera to carry around in my back pocket.

For more of my recent images, visit my Flickr page.

 

Adam Merrifield

 

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