Is the SLR concept dead ?

I am not sure to fully understand that hybrid EVF/OVF viewfinder (*) thing for the upcoming Fujifilm X100, but I am starting to think it could be a real meaningful innovation for future camera design.

And one of the very question could be: will this technology could ultimately kill the (D)SLR concept ?

Actually the very advantage of SLR / retractable mirror cameras is the “through-the-lens” (TTL) viewing (which is necessary for proxy/macro shots), metering (for natural light as well as for flash) and DOF preview. But this is at the expense of an additional and bulky mechanical device, as well as it requires bigger lenses (because the rear lens has to be more distant from the film/sensor), involves additional response lag (mirror flip) and a resulting darker and narrower viewfinder (only high end SLR have clear and 100% viewfinder).

With this new hybrid viewfinder technology – and assuming that further refinements will bring the EVF at the level of an optical SLR mirror system if it is not already the case with the X100 – you have basically all the pros of (D)SLR without the mirror and its cons. At least I can imagine that consumer and semi-pro DSLRs (that have a not-so-good viewfinder, frankly) will be quickly surpassed by this new technology, which I assume is even less costly to implement.

(*) by the way I am not sure about the – only -90% coverage of the X100 OVF that I mentioned in a previous post, though it was stated somewhere in the Fuji marketing documentation.

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New FujiFilm X100

Disclaimer: I am no gear addict and the usual discussions about camera and lens bother me… I just need a good tool I am comfortable with and that gives good results. For information the current camera I use is a Fuji S5 DSLR (basically a Nikon D200 with Fuji sensor) and a Tamron 17-50 f2.8 zoom, most of the time at widest focal (which gives an approximate 26mm width in equiv 35mm film). I like this combo, it is not that bad – although it is not the most appropriate gear for what I am after. My real concern is that the sensor is not FF and cropped sensors (x1.5 or so) really suck for wide angle (you get the distortion of a 20mm for a 35 frame). And for sure I would prefer a RF camera, with 24 or 28 and 35mm primes. But I don’t want to invest on a Leica M9 because frankly it is too expensive and IMO way overpriced.

But yesterday I learned that Fujifilm is about to issue the new Finepix X100, a new 12M digital compact camera which looks like that:

… and it looks really good, isn’t it ?

OK, it looks good, but will it be really good ? The first thing that I find is misleading is that you might think it is a rangefinder camera. But it is not. It is basically a compact camera with both optical (*) and electronic viewfinder. Optical viewfinders differ from RF which are completely different beasts, especially  for (manual) focusing purpose.

The X100 will come with a 23mm f2.0 prime lens which is described as very good. It is a fixed prime, as far as I understood. Together with the cropped sensor x1,5 magnification you come up with 35mm frame. Here I have the same concern that with my Fuji S5, and the focal length is not wide enough for me. But if the lens is good I probably can live with that, at least as a second all-purpose camera.

One thing I wonder is focusing. Does the X100 allows manual focus operation ? It is not quite clear from what I have read so far. But I noticed that 1/ the lens does not seem to have a manual focus ring (I believe the ring is for aperture) and 2/ the lens barrel has no distance/DOF scale (see pic below, view from top).

And that – together with a mere optical viewfinder – is a clue for a not-so comfortable manual focus (assuming that manual focus is possible with the X100). I personally almost always use pre-focusing technique for street shots, and that lack of DOF scale is a real flaw for me.

So… is the X100 just a (probably good) compact camera with vintage Leica/Contax look ? Or is it a valid substitution product for way-too-much-expensive digital RF camera ? Wait and see…

(*) – EDIT – and the Fuji website says the optical viewfinder of the X100 has only 90% coverage, which is disappointing.