Once the upcoming GFX100 II is announced tomorrow, seven of the last 10 Fujifilm models will have been PASM cameras. First was the X-S10 in fall 2020, then the GFX100S in early 2021, followed by the GFX 50S II in mid-2021, then the X-H2s in mid-2022, followed closely by the X-H2, then the X-S20 back in May, and now the GFX100 II. The three non-PASM cameras released during that time are the X-E4 (which has since been discontinued despite more demand than supply), the X-T30 II (which was mostly just a firmware update to the X-T30, and has also been discontinued), and the X-T5, which has been out for a little over nine months now.
PASM cameras have a shooting-mode dial on top for Program, Aperture-Priority, Shutter-Priority, and Manual modes—most cameras by other brands have this dial. Traditionally, most Fujifilm cameras don’t have a PASM dial because the retro tactile controls found on most Fujifilm models make it unnecessary. It used to be that only the low-end entry-level models had PASM, and the rest did not. Beginning with the X-S20, Fujifilm began placing PASM dials (in lieu of the traditional knobs) on cameras that weren’t entry-level. Now, the highest-end models all have PASM.
When Fujifilm began to do this, a lot of the long-time loyal customers sensed a philosophy shift within the brand. Others insisted that, by offering more options, Fujifilm could attract new users, which would only be good, and those who prefer non-PASM had nothing to be concerned about. Well, actions speak louder than words, and it is clear that the shift has happened, even if it hasn’t been publicly spoken by Fujifilm (although I do believe that they have hinted at it several times).
What does all this mean? What exactly is this shift? What’s Fujifilm’s new focus?
Canikony brands—Canon, Nikon, and Sony—are focusing less on APS-C and more on full-frame. They haven’t abandoned APS-C, but are clearly spending much more R&D time and money on their higher-end products. I believe that Fujifilm sees an opportunity to position themselves as the clear leader and king of APS-C. While Canikony brands are aiming their attention towards full-frame, Fujifilm is putting their attention towards higher-end APS-C, along with the GFX line.
A camera like the X-H2 can compete not just against the competition’s top APS-C models, but pretty well against their low-end full-frame and arguably even against mid-range full-frame models. A camera like the GFX100 II can compete well not only against other medium-format models, but also against high-end full-frame models. Fujifilm is clearly trying to gain market share by competing against the full-frame options from Canikony brands, both from below and above. In order to do this, Fujifilm clearly believes that they need to become more like those brands, instead of embracing what has made them successful in the past. In my opinion, Fujifilm should double-down on what is unique about their brand, and focus on better communicating why those unique characteristics are desirable. Instead, Fujifilm seems to be moving towards becoming a part of Canikony… Canikonyfilm?
I personally don’t care that GFX has gone fully PASM, as I’m not in that system. I have no skin in the game. I don’t think as many X-series photographers jumped into the GFX line as Fujifilm first thought would; the majority of those who have bought into the new system are first-time Fujifilm photographers—in other words, photographers largely coming from Canon, Nikon, and Sony. They’re used to PASM—many of them prefer it, actually—so it made sense for Fujifilm to make that change. Those hoping for a GFX 50R successor might be waiting a really long time.
I do care about X-series cameras, since I’m deeply invested into that system (more than most, I assume). Traditional tactile dial models have taken a backseat to PASM cameras. Yes, there’s the X-T5, but Fujifilm “cheapened” it just a little by not offering the battery grip like all the previous iterations of that series. The X100V replacement is supposed to be announced early next year, once the X100V is four-years-old. The X-Pro4 isn’t even visible on the horizon, despite that line being due for a successor. The X-T00 and X-E series are both in limbo, with their current versions being discontinued while the new ones are possibly far off, if they come at all (the X-T40 has been long anticipated—some people thought for sure it would come out sometime in 2022). If you want one of the two flagship models that offer the best-of-the-best, you’d better be happy with PASM. If you want IBIS but not PASM, the X-T5 is your only options (…for brand new, the X-T4 and X-H1 can be purchased used), while currently there are four PASM options with IBIS: X-S10, X-S20, X-H2, and X-H2s. Yes, the X-S10 hasn’t been discontinued, even though the two models released afterwards—one of which had a long backorder list—are no longer available.
A rumor has floated around for months that Fujifilm will announce a new X-series model sometime before the end of the year, probably in November. There’s been a lot of speculation that it will be an X-Pro4, since the X-Pro line is overdue for a new iteration, but there have been zero X-Pro leaks, so either Fujifilm is being historically tight-lipped about it, or it’s not coming until summer 2024 or sometime beyond. What, then, could this upcoming camera be? Whatever it is, it’s either inconsequential enough that it’s not worth leaking, or Fujifilm is keeping the lid on super tightly. My guess is the former. I think it will be an X-T30 III, which will be the same exact thing as the X-T30 II (which is basically the same thing as the X-T30), except with the X-Trans V processor (but still the X-Trans IV sensor), allowing for some autofocus and video spec improvements (plus Nostalgic Neg., and maybe Reala, but probably not), yet still keeping it under $1,000. Like the X-T30 II, it will probably just say “X-T30” on the body, skipping the roman numerals, because it’s basically the same camera.
2024 might be the year of the traditional dials. I suspect we’ll see an X100V and X-Pro4. It could be that the X-T0, X100, and X-Pro series are the last remaining without PASM. If, in fact, Fujifilm releases an X-T30 III in November, that will probably be the very last iteration of that series. If an X-E5 is ever made, it won’t likely be until 2025 sometime. I’ve heard that the X-T5 has been a smashing sales success, which I’m relieved about. I think if sales had sputtered, Fujifilm would have considered putting that series on the chopping block, too. So we’ll definitely get an X-T6 at some point. I don’t think Fujifilm will keep both the X-T00 and X-E lines, or, if they do, they won’t be available simultaneously. By the time we get to “20 years of X mount” there’s a strong possibility that only three lines remain with retro dials and styling.
Markets change. Goals change. Leadership changes. Vision changes. There are some (mostly those who own a PASM model) who will argue that Fujifilm had to pivot to survive. Maybe so. There are some (mostly those who have been in the system for less than three years) who say that no such pivot has happened, that all this is much ado about nothing. Perhaps. There are some (mostly those with PASM and who have been in the system only a short time) who will say I’m just too old and I complain too much, and that Fujifilm camera’s are now for a whole new generation of photographers with different wants and needs. That could be true, too. I’m just saying that I’ve noticed a shift, and I’m personally less excited and optimistic about Fujifilm’s direction. It’s the elephant in the room that I’ll be criticized for mentioning, but literally everyone who has been shooting with Fujifilm cameras for a long time notices.
The good news is that I already own the cameras that I need. As long as they’re operational, I don’t have a need for anything brand new. If Fujifilm releases something exciting, I’ll eagerly buy it, I’m sure. But if they never do, it’s not the end of the world. I can happily play with the toys I already have.
Interestingly, Nikon is supposedly announcing a retro-designed camera in about a week and a half. Maybe Nikon will position themselves as the next Fujifilm? I doubt it, but if they play their cards right and Fujifilm plays them wrong, it could happen. Either way, the more cameras with tactile controls the better. Unfortunately, the Nikon Zf will likely still have PASM, as Nikon won’t play their cards right. This is all, of course, my personal opinions. You might disagree with all of them, and that’s ok. I’m sure that most of us—and all of the regular readers of this website—can agree that Fujifilm cameras produce wonderful straight-out-of-camera JPEGs. Fujifilm has that right, no doubt about it! I just highly doubt that seven out of 10 Fujifilm photographers prefer PASM cameras, but maybe the user demographics have shifted by that much? I think it’s more of a reflection of who Fujifilm wants their customers to be rather than who their customers actually are, but in doing this they’ve created a self-fulfilling prophecy—if you build it, they will come. They have come and will continue to come, which is great. But I will remember when Fujifilm—back before they were a part of Canikonyfilm—made some exciting cameras that were much different and more beautiful than those from other brands—in fact, I’ll be reminded each time I open my camera case.