Friday, June 24, 2011

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X100: Firmware v1.10 has arrived!

Fujifilm Global: X100 Firmware Update Page

The long awaited major firmware update has arrived! A link to the appropriate page is below the above image, a photo of my own X100 that I took just before initiating the update. After a few minutes of playing around, I have to congratulate Fujifilm for carefully listening to user feedback with a responsiveness that I have rarely, if ever, seen from any other camera company. This is no subtle update: major changes to the operation of the camera have been made, and all this after a few months of end-user and reviewer feedback!

In particular, I want to mention image playback, which has been changed so dramatically that it has gone from being one of the most frustrating cameras I have ever used used in that regard, to very nearly the best! Not only can one still very quickly zoom in with a single button press, but also switch between info screens, to a blank "image only" view, also zoom in from the histogram/full-info view, switch to previous and next images in almost every possible mode and finally, the current mode you are in now sticks for good, until you go and change it yourself. Anyone who has spent any time with an X100 will be astonished at how dramatic and effective the changes are to image review and playback. Well done!

When it comes to shooting, all the annoying "automatic" mode changes, ISO changes etc. when switching between P/A/S/M modes, turning the power off, initiating playback, all those "...what the hell did the camera just do without me asking it to?!" quirks seem to be pretty much gone for good now. Hooray!

The new "Corrected AF Frame" mode is also a welcome addition, offering some very useful feedback when using the OVF with respect to where the focus point actually is in relation to a closer subject, when focus is at anything less than infinity. I have to say, this is a step in the right direction but it could still be improved. For example, when in MF mode with the rear AFL/AEL button set to initiate AF, there is no parallax view at all. It only appears in AF-S mode. Also, the corrected AF frame display does not seem to vary in size visually when you change the actual size of the frame, which is a little disappointing to say the least. I seem to recall it doing so in the previous firmware in OVF mode, although I might be wrong about that. Lastly, I wish the new minimum-focus "ghost frame" would be a little dimmer or have a slightly thinner outline than the main focus rectangle as to be a little less distracting. Still, it is a major improvement from before, regardless of my minor complaints here.

At least one major bug still exists and one major request has so far been ignored. The RAW button still cannot be redefined to something other than the (in my opinion useless) factory functionality which is very disappointing. For example, ideally I would have to top Fn button as ISO and the RAW button set to activate and deactivate the built-in ND filter. Alas, the only concession Fuji has made to that is now a long-press (3 seconds) of the Fn button brings up the Fn customize menu, but since the ISO and ND filters are far apart in the list, it is still a pain to access both of these. I know the button says "RAW" and not "Fn2" but please listen to those raw-only shooters, like myself, that are clamouring for this button to finally do something useful!

As far as the major bug I am referring to, when you set the rear button to single-press lock-on/lock-off, the hardware control dials are ignored. In other words, let's say your aperture ring is at f/2.8, you focus and press the AFL/AEL button to lock focus. Now you can freely recompose and shoot several frames with worrying about the camera refocusing. However, let's say you decide you now want f/5.6, so you turn the aperture ring to f/5.6. Well, the camera stays at f/2.8, despite the fact that the physical ring says f/5.6! That is just plain wrong and a major bug in my opinion. When you press the button to unlock again, then suddenly the aperture changes to the actual selected f-stop. I suspect most people never even noticed this, which is why it was not fixed. I reported it to Fujifilm, but sadly I suppose I was either not taken seriously since I am not a "famous" reviewer or review site, or maybe the feedback never made it to right people...

Lastly, and unsurprisingly really, another request of mine was ignored (at least I can't see how to do it)... the ability to zoom in on an image in playback and then while staying zoomed in, being able to quickly switch to the next or previous images while maintaining the zoom on the same spot. This is very handy to check for critical sharpness between several frames when, for example, you are shooting at the ragged edge of being able to handhold, say at 1/2 or 1/4 of a second. Almost every higher-end P&S or DLSR has this feature, although when I mentioned it to Fuji, the response was "Other cameras do that?" The jog switch could easily be used for this back and forth image switching, since toggling it left and right does not do anything while zoomed in. Oh well, maybe the next update will have this feature...

Anyway, I need to spend a lot more time with this new firmware than the ten minutes it took me to quickly run through these obvious changes, to discover what else is new and what else hasn't been addressed. Obviously a lot more has changed and I only wrote about the really welcome and substantial fixes I came across - see Fujifilm's firmware update page for a concise list of all the changes.

In any case, despite my remaining criticisms, I still want to say "Kudos Fulfilm!" You really have responded in an exceptionally prompt manner to all the feedback and to many of the requests. The X100 has gone from being a superb camera that was somewhat hampered by overly quirky firmware, to a truly exceptional and generally well thought out photographic tool. I can't wait to go out and shoot with the new firmware and give it a really thorough test!


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