“We are working on WOW product development.” —Jun Watanabe, Product Planning Group Manager, Imaging Solutions Division, Fujifilm
Fujirumors reported on an article by Digital Camera Life that translated and summarized a video by Map Camera, which featured an interview with Fujifilm Product Planning Manager Jun Watanabe. In addition to the quote above, Jun also said, “I would like to continue working to create ‘WOW’ products with the development team, including me, so that we can meet everyone’s expectations and say, ‘I definitely want to buy this.'”
Before we go any further, I must point out that this seems a little like the “Telephone Game” where one person whispers something into someone’s ear, and that person whispers what they heard into the next person’s ear, and so on, until the last person speaks what they heard, which doesn’t much resemble what the first person whispered. Now add to that a translation of a translation, and we get these quotes by Jun Watanabe, which may or may not be what he actually said. However, for the purpose of this article, we’ll assume that Fujifilm is indeed currently working on products that will make people say “wow”—or at least products that the Product Planning Group thinks will make people say that—and they want to “meet everyone’s expectations” somehow.
There’s a lot to digest, of course. Sometime in the 1400’s, monk and poet John Lydgate stated, “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” No one product will “meet everyone’s expectations” but perhaps he simply means that between all of the projects that they’re working on, once they all come out, that there will be a “wow product” for everyone.
I’m in a unique position here at Fuji X Weekly, because I hear from a lot of Fujifilm photographers—granted, mostly those who shoot with Film Simulation Recipes, which is certainly not everyone with a Fujifilm camera, but a large number nonetheless. I have a pretty good pulse on a large segment of Fujifilm’s customers. I know what would make a lot of their customers say, “I definitely want to buy this!” But Fujifilm has never asked me. I have a lot of valuable feedback that I would be more than happy to give to them, if they’re ever interested.
I think the top two things that would make the Fujifilm photographers in this audience say “wow” are 1) a recommitment to Kaizen updates, and 2) more JPEG options (film simulations and such). For example, the Classic Negative film simulation has more of a wow factor for many of the tens of thousands of people shooting with recipes than the autofocus speed of the X-H2s, and giving that film simulation to the X-T3—the all-time top selling model—via a firmware update is a no-brainer for making your customers happy. I assume, however, that the Product Planning Group is not involved with those things—it’s different departments altogether—so Jun and his gang might completely agree, but it wouldn’t make any difference.
What I thought I’d do with this article, on the off-chance that someone from Fujifilm reads it (maybe even Mr. Watanabe himself), is provide some ideas for “wow” products that Fujifilm photographers would want to buy. These are things that would make people take notice. I don’t think becoming more like another brand is a good way to make people say “wow” (except, perhaps, sarcastically). These are ideas for products that would set Fujifilm apart from the crowd, and not blend in. Ordered from least exciting to most (in my opinion anyway), here’s my list of the 10 “WOW” products that Fujifilm should be making right now!
10. Minimalist Model
The Fujifilm X-E4 is already a “minimalist” camera that people either love or hate, and in some ways Fujifilm wen’t too far, removing too many dials and switches and such. But, what if Fujifilm went even further?
Here’s my idea: no rear screen—just a hybrid viewfinder (maybe like the one in the X-Pro2?). Maybe include the little “box tab” screen of the X-Pro3? No video mode. Incorporate the dual shutter/ISO knob of the X100V. Add back the M/C/S switch. Maybe include a C1-C7 knob (or switch of some kind)? Otherwise, clean and simple. Small and lightweight. This wouldn’t be the X-E5, but a new model altogether, made for the experience of shooting with it.
I’m sure this would not sell like hotcakes, and a lot of people wouldn’t like it, but it would certainly grab headlines. Every camera reviewer would want to get their hands on one, just to try it. A lot of people would want to try it. I would want to try it, and most likely own it. Crazy? Yes. Great? Probably, depending on the design choices—it will be a tough balancing act, though, and making it “just right” won’t be easy.
9. 135mm Lens
Fujifilm has a 90mm prime and a (really large and expensive) 200mm prime, but nothing in-between. I found a vintage Vivitar 135mm lens that I just love using, and it made me wonder why doesn’t Fujifilm have a 135mm prime? They should.
This isn’t something to get carried away with. Should it have OIS (stabilization)? It could, but it definitely doesn’t have to. Should it have a wide maximum aperture? F/2.8 is plenty wide enough. Should it be weather-sealed? Probably, I think that’s more-or-less expected nowadays. This shouldn’t be a $6,000 lens or even a $1,200 lens, but sub-$1,000—maybe around $800-$900.
8. Another Pancake Lens
One obvious advantage of APS-C over full-frame is size and weight. A big draw to Fujifilm cameras, from those who in the past shot Canon or Sony or Nikon, is the smaller package. It can be such a pain to lug around big and heavy gear, and after doing that for awhile it’s refreshing to have something less intrusive around your neck. Not only are the cameras smaller and lighter, but the lenses can be, too.
Fujifilm has a number of small and lightweight primes, but only two pancakes: the 18mm f/2 and 27mm f/2.8. The 18mm is long overdue for an update (keep the optics, give it a faster and quieter motor). The 27mm, which was recently updated (but is hard to find because it sells out even before hitting the store shelves), is my personal favorite lens. Why not add another pancake option?
I think there are three potential focal-lengths for the new pancake, but I’m not certain which would be best. My personal top-choice is something longer than the 27mm, perhaps a 40mm f/2.8. This short-telephoto would be good for portraits and walk-around photography. Another option would be something wider than the 18mm, perhaps 14mm (or 15mm) f/3.5. The third option would be something in-between 18mm and 27mm, like maybe 23mm f/2.8. I don’t know which one should be made, but I know that one of them should, because size and weight are a big draw to the system, and having a serious series of pancake lenses would do a lot to emphasis that advantage.
I don’t own a GFX camera, but if I did, it would definitely be a rangefinder-styled model. So far, the GFX 50R is the only rangefinder-styled camera in the GFX lineup, and it’s old—almost four years old now. It’s the cheapest GFX model—you can pick one up for $2,850 right now—but maybe it hasn’t sold well, I don’t know (perhaps that’s why it’s the only one). If it has sold at least somewhat well, I think it makes a lot of sense to offer a 100-megapixel updated model with the same sensor as the GFX100S. That for sure would make people say wow!
This isn’t so much a product as it is a technology. Samsung partnered with Fujifilm to develop the ISOCELL technology that is used in a number of cellphone cameras now. If Fujifilm used a Samsung-made ISOCELL sensor with “Tetra” pixel-binning for X-Trans, that would grab headlines. Imagine a 112-megapixel X-Trans VI sensor that produced 28-megapixel images for high-ISO or extended dynamic range, and otherwise delivered medium-format-like high-resolution pictures. People would take notice!
5. Infrared Camera
A number of people want to do IR photography, but the conversion process is invasive and expensive. The only camera-line that makes infrared photography easy is the Sigma SD models, which include a removable IR filter—take the filter off and shoot IR photography, put it back on and shoot normal. I don’t know if that’s particularly practical for Fujifilm, but they could make an already-IR camera model. In fact, Fujifilm did this with the X-T1; however, it was only available for medical purposes, and not sold to the general public.
I don’t think an IR model would need to be the X-T4 (or future X-T5), but something more affordable, like the X-T30 II or future X-T40. Obviously not everyone would go out and buy one, but I think there’d be enough interest to make it worthwhile for Fujifilm to produce. It would certainly be a wow-camera for some photographers.
4. Digital XPan
The XPan cameras were a joint venture between Fujifilm and Hasselblad, beginning in 1998, that used 35mm film to capture panoramic pictures in the 65×24 aspect ratio. While XPan cameras weren’t huge commercial successes, they gained a cult-following—so much so that Fujifilm has included the XPan aspect ratio as an option on the latest GFX models.
My idea is not for a 65×24 crop, but for a camera with a 65×24-shaped sensor. This would require a special-built sensor, which might be both difficult and expensive to procure. I think it would need to be in an X-Pro-like body, and probably should have a fixed-lens… maybe 30mm f/2.8? If it were interchangeable-lens, perhaps it would require two or three special lenses to use the full sensor (for the XPan ratio), or use any other X-mount lens and the camera automatically produces a 3:2 aspect ratio image. To me, the fixed-lens option makes the most sense.
I don’t think a digital XPan camera is especially practical, but it would be a huge headliner. Without a doubt it would make people’s jaws drop, and maybe even their wallets open.
3. X200 (Full-Frame X100)
I do not see Fujifilm jumping into the full-frame market. It’s crowded, and between X and GFX, Fujifilm can already basically indirectly compete well against it. Still, a lot of people have asked Fujifilm to produce a full-frame line; however, that’s like starting over from scratch, since most of their current X lenses won’t cover the sensor, and the GFX lenses are large and expensive compared to many full-frame options. It would be a huge financial risk that probably wouldn’t pay off. With that said, I do think there’s one full-frame camera that Fujifilm could produce that would be much less risky: the X200, a full-frame version of the X100-series.
It would obviously be bigger, heavier, and more expensive than the X100V. I think the focal-length of the lens should be different, too, so that it is not just the sensor size that separates the X100 line from the X200. Perhaps 50mm? Maybe 30mm? 35mm could be perfect, so it might not be a good idea to mess with it. There should be something more to differentiate the APS-C version from the full-frame, and Fujifilm would have to figure that out.
If Fujifilm did produce this camera, it would for certain have a big wow-factor, and I have zero doubts that people would line up to buy it.
The Fujifilm X70 was doomed from the start. It was announced just three months before the first X-Trans III camera, right when Sony announced that they were not going to produce anymore 16-megapixel APS-C sensors. Fujifilm used their last X-Trans II sensors in this camera (plus the X-E2S), and when supplies ran out, so did this camera. When people asked when they were going to release a successor, Fujifilm stated that the X-Trans III sensor was “too hot” to place inside the tiny X70 body. The closest thing to a successor was the XF10, an inexpensive Bayer model with a PASM dial. But the X70 is much beloved by those who own them—to this day they can be tough to find, and they’re not cheap (don’t expect to find a bargain just because it’s old).
If Fujifilm were to release a real successor to the X70 (which would likely be called X80), it would no doubt be a hit. Smaller, lighter, and more-wide-angle than the X100 series, with the latest technology and JPEG options, would make people look. And buy! I’m confident that this would be a top-seller.
1. X100 and/or X-Pro “Acros Edition”
My top recommendation to Fujifilm for a “WOW” product is a monochrome-only camera based on either the X100 or X-Pro line, and called “Acros Edition.” It would basically be Fujifilm’s version of the Leica’s black-and-white-only cameras, like the M Monochrom, M10 Monochrome, and Q2 Monochrom.
What advantages do monochrome-only cameras have over color sensors? For one, all of the pixels are used for luminosity information (not just half, or in the case of X-Trans, 55%), which means more apparent resolution (more detailed image), less digital noise, improved high-ISO performance, and increased dynamic range. You can use color filters with it just like with black-and-white film. And it’s fun and cool. I’d be first in line to buy one, and I’m sure many reading this would be right beside me, as this would be the wow camera of all wow cameras.
I don’t know if any of these 10 product ideas are currently being considered by Fujifilm or not. Their idea of what would make people say “wow” and mine might be two completely different things. Fujifilm’s idea of what might make people say, “I definitely want to buy this,” could be 180º from mine. If Fujifilm should happen to read this, I want to make sure that my ideas were stated, because maybe—just maybe—this could impact future designs in some way. Probably not; however, it’s still fun to dream.
Now it’s your turn! Which of these 10 ideas would you be most excited for? What products would make you go “wow” that I didn’t include in this list? Let me know in the comments!