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Fujifilm X-Pro1 Launch & Interview with Product Manager: Hiroshi Kawahara

Interview with Product Manager: Hiroshi Kawahara

Interview with X-Pro1 Product Manager: Hiroshi Kawahara

We sat down with Hiroshi Kawahara, operations manager of the products planning division at Fujifilm. Kawahara was one of the designers of the X100 and has played a major role in the X-Pro1's product design. We quizzed him about what Fujifilm has learned from the X100, why there isn't any image stabilization in the X-Pro1 and whether the sluggish auto-focus we experienced with the X100 and X10 has been improved.

You mentioned during your presentation that the X-Pro1 has been in development for three years, earlier than the X100. Why was the X100 then released first, ahead of the X-Pro1?

Kawahara: One reason was that we took a lot of time to develop the interchangeable lens mount for the X-Pro1. The other reason is a marketing issue, if we had suddenly launched the X-Pro1 first; we didn't have the confidence that it would be accepted by our customers. So we launched the X100 first, and even then we didn't have the confidence that our customers would accept the camera. But fortunately many customers did and the X100 has sold very well. Now, we have the confidence that a high quality camera like the X-Pro1 can be accepted by our customers.

You also said that changes were made to the X-Pro1 based on feedback from photographers who used the X100. Could you give us some specific examples of those changes?

Kawahara: The X100's shutter speed dial didn't have a lock button, and some photographers requested for one on the X-Pro1. The X100 had a button on the back right of the camera, and some photographers said that when holding the camera they would accidentally hit the button, so it has been removed on the X-Pro1. The X100's had a scroll wheel on the back, but the X-Pro1 has a d-pad, which many photographers said was easier to use.

Wasn't the inclusion of a RAW button a little strange?

Kawahara: You think so? RAW development was a feature of the X100 - users could develop RAW images in-camera, without having to use software on a PC. I wanted to appeal to this feature with the RAW button. Photographers could develop RAW images conveniently with the X100 while on the move. The RAW button has been removed from the X-Pro1, but users can program the Function button (on the top plate) for the same command if they want.

Why isn't image stabilization included in the camera or in the three prime lenses being launched?

Kawahara: The size of the lens was of utmost importance to us. The three prime lenses being launched are very bright lenses with single focal lengths. We asked many professional photographers, they told us they didn't need image stabilization and that smaller-sized lenses was of higher priority. But they also said that they want image stabilization in zoom lenses, on that we agreed. 

Editor's note: A 18-72mm F4 IS (27-108mm in 35mm equivalent) is in development and is scheduled to launch later in 2012. The lens will come with image stabilization (IS). Two more lenses, a telephoto 70-200mm F4 OIS (105-300mm in 35mm) and a wide zoom 12-24mm F4 OIS (18-36mm in 35mm), will come with optical image stabilization (OIS).

Has anything been done to improve the speed and accuracy of the auto-focus system in the X-Pro1?

Kawahara: We believe that the accuracy of the auto-focus on both the X100 and X10 is quite good, and we believe that AF speeds on the X-Pro1 should be the best among the three cameras.

Editor's note: At this point, our time was up and we couldn't clarify further. To Fujifilm's credit, the auto-focus on the X100 and X10 is quite fast and accurate as long as you manually dictate the AF point. But once you switch to Multi-area AF, the two cameras seem to struggle with finding the correct subject to focus on, which was the point we wanted to make. We will have to seek our answer with the camera itself, look for our review of the X-Pro1, coming soon.