Remember when digital cameras first came out? Companies raced to make them as thin and as light as possible. Then came the smartphones. The new iPhone 5, with its eight-megapixel camera and f/2.4 aperture, probably makes your first digital point-and-shoot look like a dinosaur. So what does a smart camera company do when everyone has a digital camera built into their phone? Make point-and-shoots so beautiful that people view them as fashion accessories.
Take Fujifilm's newly released XF1. Its synthetic-leather-wrapped aluminum body has a distinctly vintage vibe, a throwback to the years when cameras looked and felt solid instead of like chintzy pieces of plastic. Not that the camera is all style and no substance. The XF1 is equipped with a 2/3-inch 12-megapixel EXR CMOS sensor and f/1.8 wide-angle lens with 4X optical zoom and an ISO range of 100 to 12,800, plus an unobtrusive flash that pops up whenever you need it. If that sounds like a bunch of jargon to you, just know that it means it can take sharper, more detailed photos than your iPhone 5 ever could, in even lower light.
Fujifilm, which also makes the similarly beautiful X10, doesn't have the entire retro-camera market to itself. Recently, the legendary German optics company Leica teamed up with designer Paul Smith to update the X2, perhaps the most attractive compact camera ever made (pictured below).
If you find the classic black look a little boring, you can now get it with a bright orange top plate, "British racing green" leather trim, and a fluorescent yellow base. It also comes with a calfskin-leather camera protector and camera strap—just in case you really want to show off. Paul Smith, however, didn't touch the camera's fixed 36mm-equivalent f/2.8 lens and 16.2-megapixel CMOS sensor. No matter how much Samsung or Apple beef up the cameras on their phones, there is no way to fit a large sensor or nice lens on a flat phone that fits in your pocket. For those who just want to share photos on Instagram, that's not a big deal. Professional photographers, of course, will continue to rely on bulky DSLRs like the Canon EOS 6D.
For the stylish man who wants to take near-professional photos, however, both the Fujifilm XF1 and Leica X2 are smart buys. Not to mention they'll turn a lot more heads when pulled out of your bag or coat pocket than any smartphone ever will.
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—Keith Wagstaff is a writer and editor based in Brooklyn. Follow him @kwagstaff.