Chapter Three: Designers tell their X100 story.

1Design concept: The camera as a metaphor.

  • The word metaphor originates from the Greek word 'metapherein', which means 'transfer', and describes a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them. In designing the X100, we wanted to make a camera that evoked certain associations such as 'at a glance, anyone knows it’s a tool for taking photos' and 'anyone who sees it, immediately associates it with capturing high-quality photos.' The transformation of impressions such as these into a concrete form is where the design team started.
  • For many the image of a camera is formed from their original encounter with a camera as a child. For example, for some people, the camera could be something that, in their childhood, they often saw adorning their father’s room – a precious device that they were never permitted to touch, but have always yearned to hold. Also for today’s young generation, the trend is the near-futuristic designs of the latest cell phones and digital cameras may not look new. In contrary, they sense a newness in analogue craftsmanship and precision that embodies the essence of tools. This is the image that X100 is designed to express.

2Day after day of rethinking and refining the design. One of the first things to come out of this process was a renewed awareness of the 'power of colour'.

  • In the mockup stage, the design team actually studied a variety of forms from a cutting-edge look that exemplified the contemporary digital camera to more orthodox styling. However, as long as the X100 is a camera equipped with a lens of exceptionally high image quality, manual operation and the large easy-to-view viewfinder, it was believed that the most suitable appearance should evoke memories of a camera seen sometime in the past.
  • The epitome of the camera of yesteryear had a black body sandwiched between the base part and the upper control deck, and integrated a silver lens. The combination of silver and black somehow instantly communicates that 'this is a camera.'
  • While this choice creates a huge gap with the state-of-the-art technology packed inside the camera, the use of the orthodox colour scheme makes a large contribution to expressing the X100 concept.

3The first challenge: Positioning of the aperture ring on the same axis as the lens.

  • Throughout the X100 design process right up to its completion, the design team received input from many professional photographers. The objective was to not only create a camera with a beautiful exterior appearance, but also realise operability that would measure up to the work demands of pro photographers.
  • About the time that the overall form and the positioning of dials were decided, several pro photographers strongly urged the inclusion of a 'lens aperture ring.' Without doubt, enabling the user to control exposure – the most important factor in photography, while looking through the viewfinder, is an indispensable function.
  • However, in the case of the X100 with its large sensor, compact body and 'bright' large-aperture lens, the incorporation of an aperture lens ring without changing the size posed an extremely difficult challenge. From a design perspective, the team was initially ready to omit a lens aperture ring, but after carefully listening to the photographers who opened the team’s eyes to why this specification was necessary, they revisited the design with renewed enthusiasm. The result of the design and refinements is the realisation of the current form.

4Design encompassing a tactile experience, the amount of force (torque) required for the controls, and even the sound of camera operation.

  • In order for the design to evoke the image of luxury items such as a classic fountain pen or a wristwatch and bring out the quality of its materials while leaving a tactile impression when touching the smallest details, each part is precision milled from metal.
  • Unlike the more generally used method of press fabrication, the milling of metal block material makes it possible to create parts that are free from pressure deformation and processed with high precision to exact measurements.
  • The knurled finish on the sides of the 2 dials on the upper control deck are a good example. Here minute square pyramids have been systematically arranged in 5 rows for a splendid fingertip grip and tactile feel that enables rotation of the dials from any angle with just the right amount of force. It is this milling precision that made possible the design of a dial that produces a satisfying click sensation and is operated with just the right amount of force as envisioned. The gripping and turning of the shutter speed dial by the thumb and index finger and the ability to operate the exposure compensation dial with just the thumb while looking through the viewfinder – the force (torque) to operate each was carefully adjusted based on the size for each dial.

5Die-cast magnesium top cover part is silver in colour and coated with a special compound.

  • Strong and lightweight, die-cast magnesium was adopted for the top cover part because of the ease of using this process and material to express detailed curves and shapes.
  • However, this material is usually employed for structural parts inside precision devices. In order to bring out its metallic quality as an exterior part, the processing is extremely difficult. Also there is a risk that even a small error in the silver colour finish will result in a cheap appearance.
  • On the other hand, the top cover part of the X100 should not have a shiny metal finish, but rather evoke a profound sense of steel consistent with its rich historic legacy. As a result of recent advances in coating technology, various compounds can be used to achieve a cosmetic finish for magnesium as well. Until a colour that precisely matched the desired image was found, a wide variety of compounds of coating materials were tried. Starting with systematic combination of materials such 1-1, 1-2, and so on, the team finally found exactly the desired colour in combination No. 8-8.
  • This special compound that creates the distinctive silver sheen finish of the X100 is the product of the uncompromising tenacity and unceasing efforts of the designers and cosmetic treatment technology staff since the development announcement in September 2010.

6Lens markings designed with a specific intent.

  • Evoking the look and atmosphere of a classic camera of yesteryear, the front of the X100, of course, does not display the product name or brand name. Instead, this information is engraved on the upper deck and the method of filling in the engraved space letter by letter with enamel is completed by skilled hands.
  • The application of this same method for the lens markings simultaneously reinforces the sense of nostalgia and communicates the high performance of the lens.
  • In order to design these lens markings, various combinations with the X100 lens configuration as well as expressing the universal quality of the markings themselves were considered. As a result, the team arrived at the current design, which is elegantly simple while clearly a polished design statement. Though quite simple in form, the design symbolises the FUJINON LENS SYSTEM and the importance FUJINON places on the fundamentals.