I had heard a little about the new Fuji X100 and it does seem to be a keenly anticipated camera
The last manufacturer to try this route, other than Leica with it's fast selling M9, was Epson with it's quirky RD1. It even had interchangable lens's and could take Leica M mount and Voigtlander lenses.A camera which was ahead of it's time in many ways, but in other ways too different to succeed in the mainstream.
So before the show opened, I went along to the Fuji stand to see why the X100 is so keenly anticipated.
The first thing that strikes you are its look and it does look the part, reminiscent aesthetically of a Leica M3.
On handling it also feels solid as, very substantial. The design team on this project clearly have a passion for Camera's and photography. It fits nicely in your hand and even though I'm not familiar with Fuji camera controls I found the layout to be intuitive in the short time I got hands on time with it.
It is packed with new and innovative features too, most notable of all is the hybrid electronic/optical finder which you can select with a button on the front of the camera.
This set up works better than I anticipated, with the electronic viewfinder even having a line which turns green when you are holding it level.
I suppose I ideally would have liked an autofocus point in the optical finder, not just the electronic finder, but perhaps that's me just being too picky.
On random shooting around the stand it seemed to be very responsive with lag not an issue, though I have to reserve judgement on this as you never can tell until you use it in the field.
The camera has a fixed Fujinon 23mm F2.0 lens which is compact and will suit most people needs for general use.
The 12mp sensor may raise eyebrows amongst some.
Can 12mp be enough? Almost certainly if you don't crop.....but Cartier Bresson we are not, so we will end up cropping. Bear in mind too you can't change lenses either which makes the possibility of a crop even more likely, so as with any camera, to get the best from it fill that frame.
I cannot comment on the final image quality but the test prints which the representatives from Fuji showed me at varying ISO ratings were impressive.
So that would have been that had I decided not to wander over to the impressively confident Sony stand where I decided to check out the mirrorless Sony NEX-5 which first appeared last year at Photokina.
The representative from Sony described the NEX range to be a DSLR in a compact body which I was initially sceptical about until he told me that it had a 14.2 megapixel APS C sensor in the body.
Big sensor, small body really got my attention.
Now in the past Sony have been nothing if not innovative witness their latest DSLR offering with a fixed mirror which allows AF while shooting HD video.
The NEX is anything but conventional in form, and if you are as old as I am you will recall previous attempts by other manufacturers to reinvent the form of cameras have not always been successful and when I hear of a new form camera I get nervous and wonder how the shareholders will feel about such a brave experiment.
Sony have taken a smart path though with the NEX range as it is a camera which is based around a lens instead of lens stuck on a camera.
Why is this such a big deal? Shake baby shake.
Or should I say lack of it
Anyone who comes on one of my workshops will know about this all too well.
Hold a camera properly by cradling the lens in your left hand and the road to sharp images is open to you.
With the NEX you cannot help but hold it by one of it's interchangable E mount lens's (there is even an adaptor to let it take the legendary Carl Zeiss lenses.
It ships with an 18-55 F3.5/5.6 and fits so snuggly in ones hand, it feels fantastic.
So we know the design route is unconventional, but the net result of this is a stable and beautifully built package, which ought to make other manufacturers sit up and take notice.
The feature set is no less outstanding.
I enjoyed the flip out LCD, which as with the rest of the camera felt very robust.
Carrying out the same shooting random people doing stuff on the stand test it seemed extremely responsive, with no discernible lag, but once again one would need to shoot for real to find out
I even got to try out the rapid fire 'sweep' stitch mode for shooting panorama's which worked very well in camera.
I did not get to see any images from the NEX but would expect them to be very good.
I said a couple of different ways of doing things and they really could not be more different.
But they are I feel competing for similar ground.
Both are beautifully built.
But any similarities end there
One company is looking at past glories with retro styling and a clever feature set the other is trying a new road with it's avant-garde approach in all areas.
Which is best?
I have used neither so I cannot say, but that is down to the individual user and their shooting style.
If you shoot nothing but street photography at close quarters then the Fuji may be the one for you.
If you want a camera with a versatile camera with depth of capabilities thanks to it's interchangeable lenses, then the Sony could be the one for you.
Accepting the 'horses for courses' argument, and that both cameras are beautifully built, like many things in life price will inevitably come into play.
The Sony NEX-5 costs roughly half the price of the X100.