Well, yes, they technically are, in the sense that they are not reflex cameras. But I have to confess, it bothers me every time I hear or read about them and they are referred to as ‘mirror-less.’*
Why? Well, it seems to me that currently the term ‘mirror-less’ has come to mean, by and large, micro four thirds cameras (aka M43, M4/3, etc.). The X-Series cameras as a whole are certainly not this. As far as the X-Pro1, X100s, and X-E1 go, not only are their sensors larger, but also decidedly different. The X20 also sits in the decidedly different camp.
Further, in a wider sense, mirror-less could mean any camera that is not a reflex camera, and this would include point and shoots. The X-Series cameras are certainly not this either, with the exception of the XF1 of course.
So, I find the term misleading. Not only for the above mentioned points, but also because the X-series cameras, in particular the top four (X-Pro1, X100s, X-E1 & X20), are quite different in operation from M3/4 mirror-less cameras (let’s exclude for a moment the XF1 and X-S1). Most notably they all have built in viewfinders and, with the exception of the X-E1, they all have an optical option. As well as this, they are also all far more “manual film camera-like” than any of the M4/3 offerings. Basically, their whole gestalt is different. In fact, to be more linguistically accurate, they actually have a gestalt.
I feel the same applies to Leica digital M series cameras. Not many people refer to these as mirror-less, but some do. I suspect it seems really wrong for many to conflate M4/3 cameras and Leica digital Ms with this term, and for me it seems no less wrong with the Fujifilm cameras in question.
So, what term to use instead? That indeed is the question. Perhaps something like “rangefinder-like cameras” or “rangefinder style cameras.” They all seem a bit awkward though.
Personally, I’m all for following the Leica tradition here. Just as we talk about “Leica Ms,” “digital Ms,” “digital Leia M cameras,” etc., why can’t we just refer to these cameras as “Fujifilm X-Series cameras,” or more simply, “X Cameras,” “X-Series cameras,” “Fuji Xs,” etc.?
Surely, these cameras are unique enough, distinct enough and, not the least, stylish enough to have not only their own class but their own class defining name. There is a kind of zeitgeist here, and as I mentioned above, their sum is more than their parts – they have a gestalt.**
Typed with a little help from Radiohead (this song incidentally, is about exactly the same age as the second hand camera I am awaiting delivery of this morning)
* my computer and my education insist that ‘mirrorless’ is wrong and that ‘mirror-less’ is correct
** having said all that, I do think Fujifilm muddies the water somewhat with the inclusion of the XF1 and X-S1 in the X-Series. These cameras don’t really seem to belong here. Not only are they externally / operationally different, they don’t even really share the internal defining features