Chapter Four: Exploring new ground in mechanical design.

1The design process: Solving a puzzle that didn’t have a “right answer”.

  • The complex internal structure and the sleek outer shell of the camera posed our team with twin challenges: ensuring maximum performance from the main components (sensor, lens, LCD, viewfinder, battery, etc.) whilst not compromising the camera’s shape, size and looks. When you are designing a high precision instrument, it is not simply a matter of assembling components into a unit. Mechanical design requires you to address a multitude of issues including the optimisation of electrical circuit paths and component arrangements whilst ensuring maximum performance as well as preserving operational integrity by considering how to insulate components from external shocks and changes in the environment.
  • In the case of the X100, our engineers had to overcome the challenge of achieving uncompromising performance and maintaining a compact design. The X100 development process constantly demanded high levels of creativity to meet the challenges of incorporating brand new devices such as the Hybrid Viewfinder, and fitting the complex wiring and circuit boards into the restricted space available. The project required study and repeated prototyping on an unprecedented scale.

2First mock-up: A lot larger than the final model.

  • The Hybrid Viewfinder, which occupies most of the upper right-hand side of the body (when viewed from the front), and the large APS size sensor both posed major problems that had to be overcome in order to reach our goal of designing the compact slim camera.
  • The initial prototype camera created by the engineers ended up roughly twice their target size. Work immediately begin to reduce the size of the camera. First, the orthodox components were assembled and the required clearance between them was specified in units of tenths of millimetres. Where the clearance for wiring and circuit boards is tight, there is the risk of short circuits. To prevent this, insulating sheets were used more extensively than in conventional models.
  • The 3D design was created on a PC and a variety of simulation were undertaken including the analysis of structural strength and temperature increases. Using FUJIFILM’s own prototyping facilities, samples were rapidly produced and evaluated, facilitating the refinement of the design in a very short time.
  • As a result of intensive design studies and countless partial prototypes over a period of several months, the mechanical designers finally achieved their vision.

3Dial mechanics - Unique design behind the “torque” or pressure required to operate each dial.

  • In order to produce the pleasurable “click” sensation of the shutter speed dial and exposure compensation dial on the control deck, our engineers came up with fresh ideas. Conventionally the click sensation is produced by a ball and a pressure spring working with the E-shape ring that is secured on the underside of the dial. In the X100, these dials are each supported by an independent base and incorporate a combination of 2 types of plastic washers made of different materials.
  • This approach does not simply secure the dial, but also contributes to the balance of torque and smoothness, as well as the click sensation when the user turns the dial. During the development of this mechanism, considered by our designers as the optimum configuration, actual testing of a variety of materials and shapes was undertaken.
  • In addition, each of the 4 rotating rings and dials incorporate a spring with the corresponding ideal strength to provide the user with click feedback in synch with the different circumferences and angles of rotation of each rotating part.

4Aperture ring design – Study began with the manufacturing process.

  • The placement of the aperture and focus rings around the circumference of the lens enabled the incorporation of two control dials (aperture and focus) in this compact body and demanded engineering that facilitates high precision movement. In the beginning, our designers examined and explored a variety of factors, including changing the diameter (size) of each ring to achieve a minimum difference between them, and fabricating and adding a lever for ring control.
  • The design of the aperture ring was an especially tough challenge, requiring satisfaction of both superb operability and a sense of premium quality. This led to the proposal of fabricating the main ring part and finger rest by machining them as a single piece. This consisted of turning the rim part from cylindrical material on a lathe followed by milling. A precision tool path (CNC programme) from drill cutting geometry to the faithful reproduction of the finest detail was developed.
  • The resulting ring boasts curved lines of unprecedented beauty, the aesthetic appeal of quality metal (silver sheen) and precision machining, and most importantly, excellent operability.

5Step intervals of the aperture ring – Another subject for examination.

  • Eight grooves have been cut in the inner circumference of the X100 aperture ring. By turning the ring, switches corresponding to the grooves are turned ON/OFF, and the signal is read, enabling aperture settings from F2 to F16.
  • In response to the feedback received from professional photographers during the development process, the original aperture step rotation interval of 12° (total: 84°) was changed to 10.5° (total: 73.5°). In this way, the X100 provides a precise operational experience that responds to and reflects the expectations of the professional.