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Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Comments

Henning,
I agree completely--the best-looking car of the entire post-bumper-regulation era. However, vastly too expensive for mortals and, as your writer points out, rumored to be not very good to drive by many drivers who actually got to try it. Curious, for BMW. Maybe their mojo only extends to sports sedans.

But a beauty. I saw one in the sheet metal, but the guy practically laughed at me when I inquired about a test drive.

Mike

Nothing wrong with retro as a design concept. The Renaissance was all about the retro, and where would we be without the Renaissance? There is a modern tendency to think of good design as being strictly derived from function, but that's a matter of taste and fashion.

"the M9 is NOT modeled after M3 and it is NOT retro at all."

Uh, yes it is, and yes it is.

Mike

"Challenging question: if you could only have one, which would it be: DMD or retro?"

Not challenging for me: DMD, for sure. The X100's viewfinder is one important step closer to it.

Mike

The train example might still be a form follows function in both cases. The first train goes alot faster than then second so it requires a more aerodynamic shape and shell. The second train rarely breaks 80 kph why put an effort into aerodynamics?

"Whilst I like the look of the X100, I prefer real retro. i.e. actual old equipment being used."

Steve,
That's a bit disingenuous, I think, because, while you could easily use what you refer to as "real retro" in the film era--I could name several photographers whose regular user cameras were made the year they themselves were born or earlier--the same isn't possible in the digital era. How far can you go back in the digital era? 2000? 1996? Not further, surely, and still have a functional camera by today's standards. A film camera can easily be "retro" today, but what it can't be is...a contemporary camera. And that sort of defeats the whole point.

Mike

whew. Guess my kidneys are safe for a while longer.

This comparison is not good for my love of the X100.

A Mini Cooper once crashed into me while I was cycling. I am wondering what would have happened if the driver also had a X100.

I agree with Thom Hogan. I want the manual-controls-type-retro in a digital camera but I really don't care about making things appear retro. It seems lazy and a cop out to me. What I want in a car is retro in that I want lightweight, manual and no add-ons that I never use. Don't need nav and many other things since I have a smart phone for that. Just save the weight and I get more back in mpg, acceleration and agility. But don't make it look like a past car. I want the safety and fuel efficiency of a modern car. So it's the concept of simplicity but with the latest in technology. Isn't that what good industrial design is- simplicity? Sure you have tons of tech available but look what happens when you decide to give it to everyone. You get the BMW interface that every car writer hates.

My idea of a "retro" camera is like a Pentax MX. I can only adjust aperature, shutter speed, iso, and focus and that's all I really need. But it can look like anything as long as it is intuitive and holds up for many years. In fact, I love the act of taking pictures (composing and manual focusing). So I wanted to buy an old film camera and standard lens. I made a spreadsheet of what I wanted and it came down to a Konica T4 with 40mm lens or Pentax MX with 50mm lens. I'm going with the Pentax because the viewfinder has aperature, shutter speed and meter readout- all I need to know to learn to get the proper exposure and very easy to use at a glance. The Konica does aperture only in the viewfinder and it just seems less intuitive than the Pentax. Plus the MX camera is easier to find and replace in case it breaks.

@Mike: I believe that form follows function, but I also believe that form can be part of the function. If the aesthetics aren't right, and an object is not pleasant to use, look at or be around, then it's form is is actually hindering it's function.

I think a lot of the appeal of retro comes from an era when object were simply better made. I love things which genuinely have a solid construction, snappy buttons, etc. I don't like things which just imitate the look. Similarly, a modern object which has the same solid construction as older object had is just as nice, usually better than the retro object. Camera's are a prime example of this.

I'm with Michael Reichmann.

This is a Frankenstein camera. An attempt to resuscitate a Canon P rangefinder by grafting on the back of a Powershot.

Five control dials and a four way? That's not simplification or usability, that's just poor design. They should have either used modern ergonomics and modern levels of functionality, or traditional ergonomics and pared back the functionality to what matters.

Instead we have something akin to a Mazda Miata, but with an automatic gearbox, aircon, satnav, massaging seats and a BMW price tag. Whoever compared it to a Z8 had a point ;)

Sorry Fuji, A- for the styling department, B+ for the image pipeline engineers and F for everything else. I am not sufficiently seduced by it's cutesie looks to even consider buying one.

A Pentax K5 with a 21mm pancake is a much more convincing alternative and a Pen EPL2 a much better value one.


Rpx writes:
Nothing wrong with retro as a design concept. The Renaissance was all about the retro...

Yes, there is an awful lot that's wrong with retro as a design concept. So much so that I find even Thom Hogan's stance on it over-generous, given his own commendable desing principles.
And no, the Renaissance was emphatically n o t about retro. This statement is so wrong that even the exact opposite wouldn't be right.

The Renaissance was about discovery: first of the past, of the Classical. Languages, ideas, forms: what was seen as the glory of Antiquity, and deemed of eternal value for the present and future. Then the re-discovery of self; of the mind; the re-establishment of reason, quest and inquiry as the core of humanism. Thus, anything classical was not merely copied or adapted, in 'retro' mood; it was re-created and re-interpreted. This is what gave the Renaissance its tremendous creative force. The last vestiges of this creative force are still capable of irritating the Conservative and infuriating the Reactionary.

I shot severe weather for over a decade with a pair of Koni Omega Rapids - big, bright viewfinders, leaf shutters, built like tanks. I carried a old Nikkormat and a pair of Spotmatics with fastish primes as backups and for the time crunched/low light shots.

I went to digital with a Nikon D40x and have not regretted it, but have been looking to upgrade for the last few years. I never did upgrade - I don't need autofocus and half the other bells and whistles, and while sensors improved, it seemed incremental...I coudn't afford the first FX cameras, though I nearly got a D700, but fell into the "wait 6 months and something better will arrive" trap, and now I'm waiting for a D800, maybe. I can wait, the D40x still takes nice images. The micro 4/3rds 3ith EVF's caught my eye, but I couldn't choose one, so I waited there, too.

OTOH, I pre-ordered the X100 months ago and got mine from the second batch of US shipments - easy decision. The OVF is great. The lens is fast and sharp, the leaf shutter is a leaf shutter ). I can make good images with it, the controls feel right, the camera feels right in my hand. I really like it.

Sure, I'd love it if they'd written the firmware right, and I hope the uproar makes them fix it, but it didn't stop me from getting some great storm pictures already. I expect I'll get a lot more storm images with it, and probably a lot of decent indoor low light people shots as well. Plus, as opposed my other cameras I have it with me right now.

If I were to pursue a certain style of camera ... I would like it to be either totally unremarkable or totally underived.

Design for me a camera that, visually, wouldn't have looked out of place in any decade in the last 40 years or so. Or, instead, design a camera in which I can see no style influences from other cameras.

One more thing that just occured to me regarding the X100: my whole decision making process is so much more time consuming in the age of the internet than it would have been in the good old 'retro' days.
I would have gone to my favourite shop, where I would know the salespersons and they would know me. They would have actually phoned me to tell the camera had arrived.
I would have had the camera shown and explained to me, I would have seen and felt it in my hands, I would have looked through the viewfinder. They would have let me alone with the camera for maybe half an hour just to try it out, and then (helped by maybe one review in a photography journal, and some actual prints of negatives shot by the salesperson) I would have decided whether to buy it or not. This whole process, including the going into town and so on and so forth, would at most have taken me an hour or two.
Of course I would have spend a few evenings reading and thinking about it as well - but it would be absolutely nothing in comparison to the ages and ages I have spent now, browsing the internet: looking for sensible observations and judgements amidst all the silly, stupid or non-relevant ones - while I still haven't touched the camera at all! Honestly, I wouldn't mind to stop this kind of progress, if I only knew how.

It's nice to lean back and not chase the latest fads.

The Retro Man

@Paul Van,

90%, so optimistic Paul....as an ex-software tester I view the list at dpreview in horror. Not that it's a paticulary long buglist, but if these bugs creep out of a product test (be it a thourough one) experience tells me (loud and clear) that something was finished in a hurry. I see long evenings compiling firmware and uploads. I see stressed men and women. I see dispair.....and with what result, meeting the time to market.....only to find that the buglist hampers the market introduction and possibly ruins the brand (at least the product). Now I know where I'm writing this and I'm sorry to say so, but this is what I expect from a product deviced under Prince II project management (where the supposed Controled Environment never seems to exist in the first place) but not from a Kaizen driven Japanese manufacturer. Something must have gone haywire in Japan (and it's not just a quake and a tsunami), so Fuji engineers kick some you know whats attached to you know whos and grab control of the pudding and hit back with a all singing all dancing version 2.0 of the user interface.....

Greatings, Ed

The thing that got me excited about the X100: optical viewfinder and dials.

The things that disappointed me the most about it (excluding the ugly rear) : the optical viewfinder and the dials.

There's absolutely no point in using the optical viewfinder in manual mode since there is no focus confirmation. You can use it in autofocus mode, which means you have the equivalent of a Pentax Espio or any other mid-1990s 35mm AF compact. Exciting. Or you can go Real Old School(tm) and zone focus.

It's great to have dials to select aperture and shutter speed. But then, if that's the case, why do we need all the stupid "modes" and wrongly positioned buttons? Even the Leica M9 is a failure in this respect: your hands will eventually fall on one of these damn buttons. But at least the lens and shutter controls on the M9 make sense and have some heft, since they're the exact same analog controls you find on the film Leicas. With the X100, the focus ring takes miles to focus from infinity to subject distance, and the aperture ring "ears" get in the way.

So where do I stand on retro? I hate it. I buy old stuff when I want to do things the old-fashioned way. I buy new stuff when I want to do it the modern way. But I'll never buy new stuff to do it the old way because the old way is gone anyway.

If you removed the yellow paint from that locomotive, it would look like an industrial air conditioner.

Steve,
That's a bit disingenuous, I think, because, while you could easily use what you refer to as "real retro" in the film era--I could name several photographers whose regular user cameras were made the year they themselves were born or earlier--the same isn't possible in the digital era.

I'm not sure what you mean. Most of my cameras are older than me and I use them in what you are calling 'the digital era'.

I think what I meant was rather than use something trying to be something else, use the original. An example of this is to do with the recording industry (as was the example in my original post). As a sideline, I build valve (tube) based audio equipment for recording. A work colleague was discussing ways of using semiconductors to emulate the sound of a valve pre-amplification stage. I couldn't really see his point as his circuitry was quite complex. My method for gettting a valve sound is to use a valve - much easier!

Looking at it I find myself wishing it was a film camera.

I know digital is cleverer and better in many ways, but digital has got chips and sensors and bits of wire - and this camera is too pretty to have those.

The IQ got great reviews, and IQ always trumps a camera's appearance.

I know a professional who uses a Sony NEX on his days off, and gets amazing pictures. He knows how to work the camera, and works around the limitations.

If you don't like quirky cameras, don't buy it.

Retro seems to come about when a product line evolves so far from any company's zenith moment and they realise they need to take a step back and see what went wrong.

Done right, a company can take elements of past successes and feed them into modern, relevant products. There's clearly some aesthetic design inspiration from the Pentax LX in the K5, but it's not trying to be a clone.

What for me is so great about the X100 is not its retro visual appeal (appealing though it certainly is), it's the controls. The handling on the X100 is rightly retro - like a Pentax MX (okay, so the manual focussing needs some work).

Where it all goes horribly wrong is when a company tries to wholly recreate an iconic product within the constraints of modern markets: regulation, globalisation and technology. This is where the horrors of the car industry step in: the BMW "Mini" (more of a Maxi (and for the Americans here, it ain't pretty)), the new Beetle, the recent Jaguar S-Type (with toilet seat grille) and even the Fiat 500.

In their own right, most people will think these cars look cute, funky and retro, but put one next to the original and it will just look like a soggy, bloated pastiche.

Take the key elements of the user experience that made the original great and there's nothing wrong with retro.

I think the point is missed that "retro" is not the underlying appeal, but rather the simplicity and hence the photographer's sense of control and involvement with the process. It isn't the attachment to a recycled fashion but to an experiential event. That experiential quality cannot be provided by newer technology. Delving into the psychological and emotional motivations in photography is an understated reality of the analysis. Knowledge of ourselves is taboo in modern cultures.

Ah, love my Ricoh GRD3, and now my Fuji X100. Simply, love both of them.

Everything good about this camera is copied from Leica.

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