As you might recall, I wrote a piece back in June entitled Is Fujifilm Losing Its Soul?, and I opened the second paragraph with my answer: Fujifilm has already lost its soul. Some of you disagreed, but the vast majority agreed with my sentiments—it seemed to resonate with a lot of you.
I came across an article (via Fujirumors) published two days ago in which Dave Etchells of Imaging Resource interviewed five Fujifilm managers. You can read the whole thing if you’d like. Some parts of it stood out to me, and so I thought I’d highlight those. I’m going to get a little cynical, so be sure to hold onto your hats. I promise to wrap it up on a positive note.
“Seeing a PASM dial on the X-H2S,” Dave states, “some people have been saying, ‘Oh no, Fuji’s abandoning us! Where are the individual exposure controls?’ <laughter around the table>….”
I guess that’s funny? I mean, seriously, when a large group of your most loyal customers state a concern, your response is to laugh at and mock them? Not cool, not one bit. And this is the problem. Want proof that Fujifilm has already lost its soul? Here it is, right in that laughter.
“Yeah, that’s kind of interesting,” answered Fujifilm Divisional Manger Yuji Igarishi, “because we did not hear that when we introduced it for the GFX.”
“Huh, that is interesting,” answered Dave, “that the issue never came up with the GFX.”
That is interesting, because I heard it. I said it myself. Not sure why Fujifilm didn’t get the memo, other than GFX is financially out of reach for many X shooters, so they’re not as passionate about what Fujifilm does with GFX as they are with X. Trust me, Fujifilm: some people noticed and cared that the latest GFX cameras are PASM, and there are people who won’t buy them for that reason. Maybe it’s not enough photographers for the company to concern themselves with, I don’t know, but people did vocalize the concern. If you don’t care, then you don’t care; if you do care, perhaps broaden where you’re finding feedback (for example, nobody asked me, despite having such a large and passionate Fujifilm audience…). Maybe it wasn’t stated loudly, but the issue certainly did come up.
“…I tend to think of PASM as being more for amateurs,” Dave continued, “but actually it’s the professionals who need it, to be able to change modes quickly.”
Ah, I get it now: PASM is for pros, and the traditional tactile controls of Fujifilm’s other products are for amateurs, and if you prefer them, you’re an amateur. Only the lowly amateur peasants don’t want PASM. If you’re a pro, surely you prefer PASM. Apparently Fujifilm prefers to focus on potential “pro” customers and not their current “amateur” customers. Yes, I’m taking the quote noticeably out of context, but, reading the interview, that’s the sentiment I got, whether or not it was flatly stated.
Look, PASM isn’t any more or less for pros than the traditional controls; it’s simply a preference, largely based on how one learned photography—if you learned on PASM you tend to prefer PASM, and if you learned on traditional controls you tend to prefer traditional controls. Fujifilm was one of the very few camera makers who made products for those who don’t prefer PASM, and that’s a big reason why the majority of their users purchased their first Fujifilm camera, and an important reason why they continue to do so. Everyone makes PASM cameras, but, aside from Fujifilm, who makes non-PASM models? It’s a pretty short (and largely expensive) list. It’s fine that Fujifilm wants to expand their customer base and offer a diversity of products to meet the needs of various customers. Awesome. But don’t do it at the expense of (and while mocking and belittling) those who have purchased your products for years. That’s a good way to make your loyal customers a lot less loyal, which will only bite you in the butt.
“…We’re not moving everything away from the dials,” Yuji reassures, “no need to worry about that.”
Not everything. Some things—yes. But don’t you worry ’bout a thing. Yeah, I mean, a couple models had their traditional controls replaced with PASM (X-H and GFX-50S lines), but it’s not going to happen to the other camera series, you can trust that. Never mind that (once the X-H2 is official announced in a few days) five of the last seven X + GFX cameras have been PASM. And one of those two non-PASM models was basically just a firmware update. To me, it seems like a commitment to “moving… away from the dials” and not the other way around. Actions speak louder than words.
Speaking of GFX…
“I think when we introduced the 50R,” stated Yuji, “that was kind of the first small medium-format camera, so I think there was a value there. Now that we have a smaller body with the GFX100S, I think there’s maybe less need for something even more compact. Of course, we always look at the market to see if there’s a need to introduce something, but I think at the moment, probably because of the GFX100S body size, there’s not as much demand for a smaller model as before.”
In other words, rangefinder styling and traditional controls—forget about it. If that’s what you want, GFX isn’t for you. I guess there’s very little hope of “wow” product #7….
“Fujifilm has a very broad range of APS-C bodies these days,” Dave mentioned, “with no fewer than 6 different product lines. Will all of these lines continue into the future, or do you see some of them going away or merging with each other?”
“Currently,” Yuji answered, “we believe that each product line has its own unique characteristics, so as long as that makes sense for us, we’ll continue with that line. For us, it’s whether we can provide value for the customers. Some of the products take longer to update, because it doesn’t make sense to update them every year. For example with the X-H, it took four years to come up with the next version. You know, we always think about whether a new model makes sense. If we have the technology, when we feel ready, then we’ll introduce a successor.”
I actually strongly agree that “it doesn’t make sense to update [camera models] every year.” Or even every two years. I think three to five years is a sufficient amount of time to update a line. Camera makers often too quickly update their models, in hopes of maximizing sales by always having a “new” version with the “latest” this or that. Yes, people aren’t generally eager to spend a grand or more on five-year-old digital camera technology, but if that technology is good, then it’s still good for years to come, not just for a year or two. By constantly updating models, camera makers are basically admitting that their gear is obsolete quickly, and not something that’s relevant for a significant period of time. Fujifilm is celebrating 10 years of X-mount, and the X-Pro1 is certainly still a capable camera—a testament that their cameras are relevant for many years, not just a couple.
I do think there’s hope in Yuji’s statement for an eventual X80 (the perhaps someday successor to the X70). With any luck, Fujifilm will “feel ready” soon. Probably not, but one can wish. On the flip side, Fujifilm basically stated the fine print: if it doesn’t make sense to them, they’ll change or discontinue something without batting an eye. Will the X-T5 have PASM? Not likely—I’d be pretty shocked—but perhaps the X-T6 will, especially if Fujifilm determines that more “pros” are using that line than “amateur” photographers… or, really, if Fujifilm thinks by doing so it will attract more people from other brands. Will the X-T00 line be discontinued in favor of the X-S00 line? It could happen—I’d be surprised if it did—but as long as Fujifilm believes it makes sense in order to sell more models to the customers that they hope to attract, they’ll do it. Yuji’s statement could essentially be summarized: we don’t have any specific plans that we’re ready to publicly discuss, but nothing is off the table. That could be good or that could be bad, I guess depending on your perspective.
A lot is said in that interview, but I’ll end with one of Yuji’s conclusions: “In general, we’re very appreciative of people’s interest in our products.”
People are very interested in Fujifilm’s products. I think a lot of the long-time customers are a little concerned about the choices Fujfilm has been making, and what those choices mean for the long haul. I think many loyal customers are unsure of the direction that Fujifilm is heading. The Fujifilm at 20 years of X-mount might not much resemble the one at 10 years—something you might celebrate or mourn, probably largely depending on how long you’ve been a customer.
Here’s the silver lining that I promised: the cameras Fujifilm has made over the last number of years are really good—and should last a long time, too—so it doesn’t matter what Fujifilm does, because what they did do was very good. If the X-T5, X-Pro4, or X100VI (or whatever it will be called) isn’t what you hoped it would be, you still have the X-T4, X-Pro3, and X100V—heck, you still have the X-T1, X-Pro1, and X100, and all the models in-between! You might notice that I captured all of the pictures in this article with older models. A good camera is a good camera, and as long as it serves you well, you don’t need to “upgrade” to the latest and greatest just because the reviewers and YouTubers (most of which were given or loaned their gear for free) say that you should. Is that old camera still relevant to you and your photography? If so, then you’re already set, and none of this other stuff even matters.