Sony and Prophesee Develop a Stacked Event-Based Vision Sensor with the Industry’s Smallest Pixels and Highest HDR Performance

This isn’t sensor going to be usd on Sony Alpha camera. But it’s still interesting to see how advanced Sony’s tech is. In that case they managed to create a sensor with Industry’s Smallest Pixels and Highest HDR Performance Press…

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Video: How Lewis Hines’ work helped to shed light on child labor in the US

As part of its ongoing series ‘Darkroom,’ Vox has published a video showing how the work of photographer Lewis Hines helped bring to light the injustice of child labor across the United States.

The roughly seven-minute video not only shows the meticulous work of Hines, but also contextualizes the significance of his photography, which was captured at a time when 1.75 million children aged 10–15 were at work in factories, mines, plantations and other dangerous work environments. In total, more than 5,000 photographs were captured, each of which is accompanied by a detailed caption of its subject(s).

It’s a brilliant breakdown and well worth a watch. You can find more videos from Vox’s ‘Darkroom’ series on Vox’s YouTube channel.

Sony announcements: Tomorrow new XPERIA phones with Alpha features and Zeiss lens. After tomorrow we get the 20mm f/1.8 FE.

The leaked 20mm FE test confirming the launch on Feb 25 Sony will have two announcements this week: Tomorrow (Feb 24) we might get two new XPERIA phones with “Alpha” branded features and Zeiss lens (see images below) After tomorrow…

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NAB Show 2020 Set to Take Place as Planned Despite Coronavirus

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) – the organizer of NAB Show – affirmed that the 2020 NAB Show is set to take place as planned, during April 18th – 22nd in Las Vegas. The association is closely monitoring COVID-19, commonly known as Coronavirus, and is prepared to devote whatever resources necessary to ensure a safe and productive NAB Show experience.

NAB Show 2020 will take place as planned. Source: NAB

Recent months have seen China and many other countries around the world being paralyzed by the COVID-19. The virus was first reported from Wuhan, China, on the 31st December 2019 and China still remains the most seriously affected country. The virus, however, managed to spread to many other countries and as a result, international trade shows started to get cancelled. One of them is related to our industry, the CP+ Show in Japan. (The Mobile Phone World Congress in Barcelona, which was set to take place during February, was also cancelled).

Although there are few confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the USA, NAB show will take place as planned. The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the organizer of NAB Show, has issued a press release recently – here is the full text:

NAB Show is the premier event driving the evolution of media and entertainment. It is an engine for commerce and a critical launchpad for products and services expected to revolutionize the business. The convention’s 1,600 exhibitors and 90,000 attendees rely on the annual NAB Show to raise their profile and meet business goals.

While the NAB stands firm in its commitment to hold the convention as planned, the health and safety of attendees and participants are NAB’s top priority. To that end, NAB is dedicated to providing rapid responses and assistance in support of the global NAB Show community’s participation plans. The event management team has launched a COVID-19 resource page on the NAB Show website, where updates will be provided.

Currently, NAB is:

  • Adhering to all guidance and recommended safety measures issued by the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as state and local health organizations.
  • Working with the Las Vegas Convention Center, the airport authority, and area hotels and resorts to coordinate appropriate safety procedures.
  • Following CDC recommendations and protocols for heightened levels of cleanliness at event facilities.
  • Making accommodations and actively encouraging attendees to take common-sense precautions and follow CDC guidelines to prevent the spread of illness.
  • Ensuring medical care is readily accessible to address immediate health concerns.
  • Working with China-based exhibitors and registered attendees to evaluate options for those unable to attend due to travel restrictions. Of note, NAB Show attendance from China, although growing, represented less than 2 percent of total registered attendees in 2019.

NAB is taking COVID-19 very seriously and is fully invested and prepared to host a successful NAB Show in Las Vegas. The city of Las Vegas is maintaining rigorous cleanliness and safety standards throughout public spaces, resorts and meeting facilities, and hosts successful trade events daily. Meanwhile, NAB Show has experienced an uptick in exhibit sales, attendee registration and hotel bookings in recent weeks, and conference program speakers are confirmed daily.

Like in past years, cinema5D’s team will be present at this year’s NAB show. Stay tuned for news and fresh video content from the show floor!

Are you planning to attend NAB 2020 in Las Vegas? Let us know in the comments below the article.

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10 Great Cyberpunk Movies You’ve Probably Never Seen


With Cyberpunk 2077 in development, the world seems to be once again enamoured with the virtual space of the Neo-Tokyo inspired worlds of cyberpunk. Films like, Blade Runner, Akira, Ghost in the Shell, and The Matrix seem once again in vogue, a testament to their timeless quality.

Cyberpunk goes far beyond the titular classics though; it was a sprawling genre that reflected an atmosphere unique to the ‘80s and ‘90s and offered countless texts to showcase it. After all, the world of the ‘80s was no longer obsessed with space, or distant worlds, instead storytellers wanted to explore cyberspace, virtual space, and the vast future that was promised by the new computer age.

The consumer technology of Japan was a domineering agent of socialisation, a catalyst for a new future, a future that was a cyber-influenced metropolis, a city built from the digital world, and it all seemed linked to the city of the rising sun, Tokyo. A glimmering example of what was next. films and literature often set the future in a pseudo-Asian world, a logical conclusion for the time, and a dazzling new landscape to explore, and rather importantly, a rather cheap vision to create.

Since it was easy to create the cyberpunk worlds of tomorrow, countless straight-to-video and independent features flooded the market, as they always do. films that were saturated with buzzwords like, hacking, virtual reality, data, cyberspace, and other computer inspired words ripe for a William Gibson novel. These films seemed to be everywhere as they no longer required sprawling sequences of space travel, instead all they needed was a neon glow, green tinted computer screens, and crazy body implants with a punk like spin to top it off.

It was the age of the hackers, the cyber-cowboys, the data-minors, but beyond the staple films, beyond the cash grabs, lies some forgotten films of the cyberpunk catalogue, a few hidden gems that are worth revisiting, films that still have things to say and show, and they are still a relevant example of what the genre has to offer.


10. Nemesis (Albert Pyun, 1992)

Albert Pyun is the king of the straight-to-video action film, he carved a career out of bad films that realistically hold no merit other than existing, that is true for all but one of his films, a film that is the culmination of everything ‘90s, that film is Nemesis.

Nemesis is not a good film, it mainly works as a cash grab rip-off, stealing from everything from Blade Runner to The Terminator, and yet, it somehow works. Nemesis has this style to it that exemplifies a ‘90s sense of ‘cool’ and ‘edginess’. The film feels like an advert for a Sega Genesis game, the kind of film that was made for a rental shop shelf, as its cover was enough to tell you it was going to be fun.

The story of Nemesis is rather poorly executed, it involves all the standard cyberpunk tropes, as Alex Raine (Olivier Gruner), traverses a future full of cyborgs, enhanced humans, and backstabbing governments. What Nemesis does do though is stand as an example of the trashy B-movies that flooded the market when cyberpunk was fashionable, and while it does fall into the bargain bucket of cheap genre videos, it’s the best of the bunch, a solid example of a cinema that has all but disappeared.


9. Split Second (Tony Maylam, 1992)

Split Second is often seen as a science fiction horror film, rightly so with its obvious Alien influence, but its cyberpunk markings are everywhere. The style of this film is cyberpunk through and through. The most interesting aspect of it though, the thing that sets it apart, is its setting, because unlike most cyberpunk films that operate in the seedy back streets of Neo-Tokyo, Split Second operates in the flooded back streets of England.

Split second focuses on cop Harley Stone, played by the legendary Rutger Hauer, as he slowly looses sanity over a string of killings that resemble the murder of his old partner. On a diet of coffee and chocolate, Stone slowly unravels the mystery of the killings. The result is a fascinating example of ‘90s science-fiction with a cyberpunk twist. It’s a mashup of genre traits wrapped in a dripping neon London. The aesthetic is a pure cyberpunk haven, yet the tone is a nightmarish noir, it feels like the birth child of Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell, and Alien. A bizarre film that could only have existed in 1992.


8. Crazy Thunder Road (Sogo Ishii, 1980)

Director Sogo Ishii, now known as Gakuryu Ishii, is one of Japan’s most innovative filmmakers who pioneered a punk film ideology for Japan. His approach towards filmmaking and his ‘do-it-yourself’ attitude meant that he had two features under his belt before he even finished university, the latter of the two being Crazy Thunder Road.

Made to be his senior thesis for university, and then picked up by Toei studios, Crazy Thunder Road acts as a precursor to many of the staple attributes that would define the underground cyberpunk films of Japan.

The film is a neon chrome fever dream centred around the Maboroshi biker gang (very similar to the biker gang that would inhabit Akira two years later) and their internal conflicts, as leader Ken chooses a life of normality over the Mad Max-esque life of a gang leader.

The film feels like an extension of the Japanese new wave filmmakers with its playful demeanour and experimentation yet showcases a raw mentality that seems the logical artistic expression of the punk movement. While it may not be the most cyberpunk film on this list, it’s without a doubt a monumental precursor to the genre, and a technical marvel in terms of sheer filmmaking ability. A hyper kinetic film that is frantic and aggressive, all covered in a layer of leather, chrome, and neon. A film that puts the punk in cyberpunk.


7. Burst City (Sogo Ishii, 1982)

Two years later, after Ishii finally gets thrown out of university when it becomes clear that he is just prolonging his time there to have access to filming equipment, he directs Burst City, a tour-de-force of punk filmmaking.

Burst City doubles down on everything achieved in Crazy Thunder Road to the point of exhaustion, but not in a bad way, in a cathartic way. The film is a testament to everything Ishii presented during this period and is his final gift to the coming cyberpunk genre. It acts as a rule book for directing, as the camera is pushed to its limits, and the editing is strained to its breaking point.

This film holds no easy summary, Ishii wanted to represent what the essence of punk was, and with it he envisions a futuristic world inhabited by punks, biker gangs, yakuza, and anyone who got in the way. The result of the film is an almost endless conflict of ideology and philosophy, a formally free film, a film that seems more in tune with the rhythmic harshness of an overdriven guitar than any other piece of film. It is a visionary staple for the genre, and arguably the biggest catalyst for the cyberpunk films of Japan.


6. Adventures of Electric Rod Boy (Shinya Tsukamoto, 1987)

Shinya Tsukamoto directed one of the pinacol films of the genre, Tetsuo: The Iron Man, a visual masterpiece and defining film for the period. Before he created Tetsuo though, Tsukamoto was part of an experimental theatre group called Kaiju Theatre, a reference to his love of monster movies, and together the group created a stage play that would later become Electric Rod Boy. Since they had all the props, and Tsukamoto had a camera, it seemed logical to turn the performance into a film.

Adventures of Electric Rod Boy is born of the same ilk as many of Ishii’s films, after all, Tsukamoto attended the same school as Ishii and was rather jealous of his early success with film. It is to no surprise then that Electric Rod Boy shares the same frantic energy as Burst City and Crazy Thunder Road. The film feels young and formally free, and importantly it uses almost all the camera tricks that would soon be finessed in Tetsuo.

Electric Rod Boy is a manga influenced superhero origin story set to a cyberpunk formula. The stop-motion and kinetic camera begs you to think of Tetsuo, but the realisation that this is in fact the forerunner to the defining masterpiece makes it an essential piece of cinema history. Beyond its formal cinematic achievements, the film is a true inspiration for any independent filmmaker as it was made for nothing and even went on to win the grand prize at the PIA film festival, arguable the exposure that set Tsukamoto on his path to stardom.

IMPORTANT: SDI Vulnerability Discovered

If you’re in a hurry, all you need to know is that you should ALWAYS plug in your camera/accessories power sources before connecting your BNC (SDI) cables, and then remove them before unplugging the power. If you don’t, you’ll run the risk of frying your SDI circuit. If you’d like to know why, keep reading. Otherwise, get back to shooting!

ARRI has learned of this vulnerability and posted a white paper about it, but I’ll distill it for you.

This problem affects all cameras and all accessories with SDI I/O, but specifically with 6G or higher output. If you’re shooting a 4K+ camera, you’ve likely got a 6G or 12G signal coming out of there. For those who don’t know, the “G” number is just the bitrate. 3G is 3gbps, 6G is 6gbps, etc. It’s easier to shield 1.5G or 3G SDI than its higher-bitrate counterparts. Couldn’t tell ya why, but it doesn’t really matter from a practical standpoint anyway.

Again, this problem applies to any camera and accessory, specifically with 6G or higher output. My Canon C500mkII has 12G SDI due to the 6K signal, the ARRI LF has a 6G circuit, the RED Monstro apparently only has 3G outputs which is odd but our friend the Sony VENICE goes up to 12G as well. Monitor/Recorders like my Odyssey 7Q+ or newer products like the Atomos Shogun 4K or something like a PIX E5 are ubiquitous on set, and their 6G circuits are just as vulnerable. This affects all of us.

This issue can be mitigated. In ARRI’s words:

“To prevent this damage to the SDI outputs, ALWAYS make sure to plug in the power cable first and THEN connect the BNC cable. Once power and BNC cables are connected, it is OK to power the camera or accessory on or off. Also, ALWAYS make sure to disconnect the BNC cable first and THEN disconnect the power cable. 

We also recommend using ONLY shielded power cables to power accessories that connect to the camera with a BNC cable. When only the plus pin connects on a shielded power cable, the shield will act as the power return and therefore not damage the SDI output. In addition, it is helpful to use only the highest quality of BNC cables”

They also suggest against using D-Tap power, which is likely a bigger issue for people than ARRI seems to realize, not that they can change anything. D-Tap is used to power so many accessories (and even cameras, like I often use it for) that not using them can almost render certain workflows or accessories useless. Luckily, by following the POWER, THEN BNC protocol you’ll be fine. Just disconnect the cables in the opposite order when you’re done (BNC, then Power). Also, be sure your BNC cables aren’t damaged.

What we’re avoiding here is the possibility of the + terminal of your power source connecting before the – one and having your BNC cable complete the circuit instead, which will burn up the SDI circuit as SDI wasn’t built to handle high currents like that. With D-Tap you can even plug the thing in backwards and that’d virtually guarantee you blow something up, SDI or not. Knowing that, you can intuitively think “Okay well, everything’s powered up, there’s no chance of me frying something by plugging in my monitor/recorder”. Works the same the other way, “Okay, I’ve unplugged all of my SDI cables, there’s no way to fry something by hastily unplugging my power cables”.

So, while this isn’t a “new” problem it was recently discovered and as it affects everyone who uses SDI (so, most of us) I figured it was worth boosting as best I could. I’m sure you’ve been fine so far, so there’s no reason to suddenly panic, but I’ve heard a few folks not knowing what happened to the SDI on their cameras, and this was the cause. Just know there are best practices to follow to ensure you don’t fry something expensive.


Interview: Fujifilm X100V – ‘We decided we could change more in the fifth generation’

From left, Shinichiro Udono, Senior Manager of Fujifilm’s Optical Device & Electronic Imaging Products Division and Maszumi Imai, Design Manager of Fujifilm’s Design Center are pictured here at the launch of the Fujifilm X100V in London earlier this month.

Earlier this month we attended the launch of the Fujifilm X100V in London, where we had the opportunity to sit down with two senior figures within the company: Chief Designer Maszumi Imai and Senior Manager Shinichiro Udono.

In a conversation primarily focused on the X100-Series, we discussed the evolution of the X100 line and the challenges of updating a ‘signature’ model.

Note: This interview is broadly split into two parts: The first part is a strategy-focused conversation with Mr. Udono about the development of the X100V in the context of the continuing evolution of the X100 line. The second part is a discussion with Mr. Imai about the design process of the X100V and previous models in the line, and more broadly, his background and influences as a designer.

This interview has been edited lightly for clarity and length.

How important is the X100 line to Fujifilm?

(S.U.) It was where we started. It was our first high-end camera. In 2010-11 our main camera business was in small-sensor compacts. The X100 established the concept of dial-controlled operation, which is found now across the X-Series. We have the same concept across the X-T1, X-Pro 1, and so on.

So the X100 established the Fujifilm shooting style, and then we extended this concept to the entire X-Series.

So when you’re discussing a new X100, are you more careful about changes to this model because it’s so important?

(S.U.) We’re always careful to maintain the camera concept, the style, and the size. But we also really want to provide the latest technology to our customers. Quicker autofocus, better resolution, better image quality, color reproduction and so on. That’s very important. So while we don’t want to change the camera’s style – how it looks – we’re always thinking about how we can deliver the best performance, and the best functions to our customers.

The X100V is unmistakably a member of the X100 line, but several subtle changes have been made to its physical design and ergonomics.

How have sales of the different X100 models compared over the past few years?

(S.U.) The sales of each generation were fairly similar, however the latest model X100F had the most success. With that in mind and with the new features, I expect the X100V to sell more than the previous four models.

What were your biggest priorities when planning the development of the X100V?

(S.U.) The first and most important point is the hybrid viewfinder. Next, the lens, the single focal length. We knew we had to keep that concept. And then we considered what sensor and processor we should put inside the camera. So we start with the concept, and with the basic form factor, and then we think about what goes inside.

What was the number one request from X100F customers?

(S.U.) Weather resistance. And also image stabilization. After we launched the X-T3, a lot of customers [also] wanted the latest sensor and processor.

We thought it would break the basic concept of the X100V. So we didn’t pursue stabilization in this model

The X100V does not offer image stabilization – why not?

(S.U.) Simply, size. There are two ways we could add stabilization – one is optically, in the lens, and the other is IBIS. We made some rough studies of both possibilities, but in both cases the camera would have become bigger. We thought it would break the basic concept of the X100V. So we didn’t pursue stabilization in this model.

How long does it typically take to develop a new X100 model?

(S.U.) Well with the X100V we redesigned the lens, so it took around two years. A little longer than normal. If we only made changes to the body, it would have been a shorter process.

The X100V’s 23mm F2 lens has the same specifications, and physical dimensions as the lenses used on previous models in the X100 line but it employs an additional aspherical element, for better sharpness at close distances, and in the corners of the frame.

Where do you see most sales of the X100 line, globally?

(S.U.) With the first generation, Japan was the biggest market. Later on, the USA became the biggest. Because it’s not an interchangeable lens model, it can reach a wider market of photo enthusiasts. There’s a big market in the US for photo enthusiasts, especially people who know about the history of film cameras. Those customers really like the X100 line.

How will the X100-series evolve in future?

(S.U.) In terms of technology, maybe we can add image stabilization, if we can develop it. But in the longer term, I don’t think we’ll change the style. We’ll probably keep this style and design even for another ten years. But we may have totally different technology, which I don’t know about at the moment. Different style sensor, or Ai technology. We’ll keep adding new technology into the X100 line but we’ll keep the basic design concept.

If you did add IBIS to the X100, would it require a totally new mechanism?

(S.U.) Probably, yes. We’d have to develop it from scratch. We’d need a very small IBIS unit.

Do you tend to find that these cameras are most popular with a certain age-group, or demographic?

(S.U.) The biggest audience is slightly older people, who remember film cameras. But we also see a lot of young people, especially in Japan, buying X100 models. It’s a fashionable camera. Those people take pictures, of course, but they also like the design.

We felt that a more classic design would be a good fit for our new brand

What was the original idea behind the X100?

(M.I.) In 2009, we started to consider how to make our next high-end digital camera. At that time we only made FinePix small-sensor compacts at that time. Other companies had their own interchangeable lens cameras, but we didn’t. So we were a challenger in that space – we could have done anything. But we wanted to create our own brand.

We designed a lot of concepts for cameras, which were a completely different shape to the original X100. For example we had a square concept, and a vertical style one, and one that was designed for the perfect grip – things like that. And then we decided that we were inspired by classic-styled cameras. We felt that a more classic design would be a good fit for our new brand. So at that time I started designing around the concept of purity – a classic camera design.

The film-era Fujifilm Klasse is cited as one of the design inspirations for the X100 line. Photo by David Narbecki, from an article originally posted on Used with permission.

(S.U.) Some background to why we reached for the classic style design, when Fujifilm made film cameras we made cameras which shared a similar shooting style to the X100. Cameras like the TX-series, the Klasse, and so on. They offered a similar shooting experience. In our digital camera division there were several people who came from the film camera division. We asked ourselves ‘what would be the best camera for the Fujifilm brand?’ At that time there were many good cameras from other brands, but we wanted to show what it meant to be a Fujfilm camera.

(M.I.) The first-generation X100 was created according to a set of tenets: The best quality, a good user experience, and styling that would tell photographers at a glance that this was a serious camera. That was a big reason why we chose this kind of classic style.

From the very beginning of the design process was about two years. We started the X100 project in 2009 and launched in 2011.

The innovative ‘hybrid’ viewfinder introduced in the original X100 was created about halfway through the development process of the camera itself. The X100 was originally envisaged as having a simple optical finder.

Was there any particular model or style of camera that you were particularly inspired by?

(M.I.) During the design planning process, around halfway through the project, our engineering team invented the hybrid viewfinder. So we decided that we should go with a rangefinder-style camera, not DSLR-style. Originally the X100 was intended to just have an optical viewfinder.

We looked at most of the legendary film-era cameras for inspiration. The Leica M3, of course, and others, including our own designs. The X100 was a homage to traditional film cameras.

What was your background as a designer, before you joined Fujifilm?

(M.I.) I worked at Minolta, in Osaka. At that time the main market was film cameras. When I was a student, my professor told me that camera design was one of the most difficult branches of industrial design. So he said if you go to a camera company, you’ll acquire the most useful skills. So I decided to go to Minolta.

What are your biggest design influences outside of photography?

(M.I.) Vehicles. Especially cars, but also airplanes. When I was a child, supercars were very popular in Japan. Lamborghinis, Ferraris, those were our dream cars. Airplanes like the F4 Phantom, the F15, and the F14 too. Very popular and stylish airplanes.

When I was five years old, my dad took to me to the cinema for the first time, to see Star Wars. So cars, planes and science fiction were a big influence.

We’ve talked about the physical engineering challenges of putting stabilization into the X100, and last year we saw some of the early modular GFX concepts – how often do engineering considerations restrict your vision as a designer?

(M.I.) Taking the X100 first, I know the basic size and the basic [details of] construction. First of all, we make an actual-size image-mockup. Sometimes these mockups can lead us to make the camera better. For example if I [deliberately] make a mockup thinner, maybe people will react well to it, and then we’d realize we should aim for this kind of size [in future]. Inspiration, and first impressions are very important when we make a product.

We take are two different approaches to design at Fujifilm. One is just the daily work of knowing ‘OK, we need to make a new X100’, where we consider all the technical limitations, and the R&D side will prepare some rough designs, [based on] of the lens, battery, the LCD, things like that. And these decide the final size of the camera.

That’s the standard approach. But once a year we also conduct a study where we think about the future without considering the current technical limitations. Like a vision exercise. And we create more visionary image mockups. And in a few years, some elements of those image-mockups might end up in final cameras.

Mr. Imai’s team makes ‘image mockups’ for internal discussion, to highlight possible directions for future products. This one, of a proposed medium-format rangefinder-style camera (which eventually evolved into the GFX 50R) features the ‘hidden’ rear LCD that finally made it into the X-Pro 3.

You were the lead designer on the X100, and after that you supervised the teams working on the S, the T and the F, and now you’re lead designer again on the V. Was this because the V is considered to be particularly important, to you or the brand?

(M.I.) Both, actually. The X100F had a great reputation, so it was hard to think about what we could add, to make something new. That was a big concern. With a ‘signature’ model like this it’s hard to make a successor, so I was appointed as the designer of the next model.

This is the fifth generation, and as I’ve already explained we have these tenets about the X100-series. Nine years have passed, the world has changed, and the X100 brand is familiar in the market, and has grown in reputation. So we decided we could change more in the fifth generation, in terms of concept and design. It’s still based on the X100 core concept, but this time I had freedom to explore more possibilities.

How do you balance the concept of simplicity against demands for more control and customization?

(M.I.) It’s very difficult to find a way to do that. We see a lot of comments from people who prefer the simplicity [of the original X100]. At the beginning of this project I made a mockup which looked almost the same as the original X100. I also made a mockup that looked almost the same as the production model of the X100V, which gained everyone’s approval. In the end we were able to make something that satisfied all of our goals.

The original X100 featured a simple twin-dial interface and limited number of external controls. Subsequent X100-Series cameras have become more complex, but immensely more powerful.

If you didn’t have any engineering or technical restraints, or any need to be true to the designs of previous models – if you could do whatever you wanted – what kind of camera would you make?

(M.I.) Right now I want to make the simplest, purest camera. Simple, and sharp in style. The X-Series cameras are based on classic styling, but I think that this kind of classic style, if it were to meet with an extremely modern style, we could create something new. I want to try. Simple, sharp, but solid design.

Could a future X100 camera have a simpler interface?

(M.I.) Maybe. But ‘simple’ doesn’t necessarily mean fewer dials or buttons.

Sometimes I think about musical instruments, versus using software like Garage Band […] It’s the same thing with shooting using a camera

Being intuitive in operation for photographers is the most important thing. A smartphone doesn’t have any buttons or dials, but it’s not necessarily the most intuitive interface for shooting photos. So we need to keep a balance.

When the original X100 was being planned, smartphone photography was in its infancy. How has the development of the smartphone, and changing customer behavior that resulted, influenced how you design cameras?

(M.I.) Maybe in the future we’ll invent brain-controlled cameras! But I wouldn’t want that. This (indicating the interface of the X100V) is the best way to shoot, to create an expression of creativity through photography. And this style of camera is completely different from a smartphone. Sometimes I think about musical instruments, versus using software like Garage Band. I like using Garage Band, but it’s completely different to playing an instrument. Playing something by hand is fun, and comfortable. It’s the same thing with shooting using a camera.

We always look at new technologies, like Ai, and we carefully choose the best way [to implement them]. We could create a haptic touch interface for buttons and dials and things like that, but it wouldn’t be a good fit for the X-series. That’s why we keep the buttons and dials, and the classic style.

Do you have any particular designers or artists that inspire you?

(M.I.) There are a lot of very good designers in the world, and a lot of them have inspired me. Every kind of industry has its masterpieces. It’s difficult to choose one, but I’d like to choose [industrial designer and Blade Runner concept artist] Syd Mead, who passed away recently.

Editor’s note: Barnaby Britton

The launch of the X100V in London recently provided a good opportunity to have an unusually tightly focused conversation with two of the figures most responsible for its development. Mr. Udono and Mr. Imai are key members of the team that has shepherded the X-Series (and later the GF line) from an idea, ten years ago, to the broad lineup of products that are available today.

From previous conversations with Fujifilm executives, we knew that of all the products in the company’s lineup, the X100 line is the one over which the most care is taken to update only the right things, and only in the right way. The X100 line is sometimes referred to by Fujifilm representatives as a ‘signature’ product line and for good reason: as Mr. Udono says, the X100 was ‘where we started’.

This small, quirky, retro-styled camera was a hit with enthusiast photographers almost from the word go, and subsequent generations have been embraced by photographers of all types, and all ages, all over the world. The X100F has proven the most popular iteration of all, which of course means that it was always going to be among the hardest to replace.

The X100 could have been launched (and was apparently originally planned to have been launched) with a simple fixed optical finder

Mr. Imai has been working at Fujifilm for a long time, and before that Minolta. As lead designer on the original X100, he has had a key role in the evolution of the X100 line and took full control over the design of the X100V. It was interesting to speak to him about the process of the original X100’s development, from mockups to a final product.

I didn’t know, for example, that the creation of the signature ‘hybrid’ viewfinder only happened around halfway through the development process of the camera. The X100 could have been launched (and was apparently originally planned to have been launched) with a simple fixed optical finder. Would it still have been a hit? I’m not sure. It’s certainly hard to imagine an X100 without the option for a hybrid finder, but I know a lot of X100-series owners claim that they rarely or never engage the EVF.

The message that came out of my conversation with Mr. Udono and Mr. Imai most clearly is that when it comes to the development of the X100 line, it’s almost more important for photographers to understand what Fujifilm can’t or won’t change than what they will. A lot of X100 fans want some kind of stabilization for example, but the simple fact is that adding it would be impossible without the dimensions of the camera changing.

With the current state of Fujifilm’s technology, Mr. Udono claims that adding an IBIS unit into the camera body would increase the body size, while an optical stabilization system would force (another) redesign of the lens and would inevitably also add bulk. The X100V is slightly larger than the X100F, but only very slightly (which is impressive, considering that it has a tilting screen – another long-standing request from some customers). Notably, the X100V can still use the same hood and filter adapter – and even the same converter lenses – that were released for the original X100.

As a fan of the series, with a drawer full of caps and adapters that I’ve picked up over the years, I personally appreciate this commitment to what Mr. Udono calls the key ‘tenets’ (Mr. Imai also referred to a design ‘law’) of the X100, as laid down almost a decade ago.

I always enjoy talking to artists and designers, partly because of my own background, but mostly because I’m always interested in what – and who – they cite as influences. Mr. Imai was no exception. During our conversation he mentioned such diverse influences as Star Wars and the F4 Phantom, but I shouldn’t have been surprised that as his main inspiration he cited the late Syd Mead.

A lot has happened since the original X100 was launched, and despite looking similar, the X100V is a different beast

Mead was a famed futurist, known for his work on 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Wars, among many others. He is credited for visualizing what George Lucas described as the ‘used future’. This was a concept which arguably evolved into (or at least informed) the emergent retrofuturism of the late 1970s and 1980s, wherein nostalgic styling is melded with modern technology. In the world of digital photography, it’s hard to think of a better example of this aesthetic than the X100.

That being said, a lot has happened since the original X100 was launched, and despite looking similar, the X100V is a different beast. More versatile, sure, and definitely more powerful. But with a total of seven dials, an articulating screen, and the need to support serious video capture, it’s an altogether more complicated, less streamlined camera than its early ancestors. Mr. Imai admits as much, and it was interesting to hear him speak about his ‘dream’ camera: one that melds classic styling with modern simplicity. How this dream ends up being manifested in Fujifilm’s future camera lineup remains to be seen, but it’s something to look forward to.

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