Upcoming Fujifilm X-T5 Ramblings
If you didn’t know, Fujifilm is on the cusp of announcing the X-T5 (you can find all of the latest details at Fujirumors). I’ve been asked by a number of people to give my opinions on this upcoming camera. I hadn’t yet commented about it because a camera retailer reached out to me about the possibility of testing a preproduction X-T5, which comes with a promise not to talk about it until after it’s been officially announced; however, it didn’t work out, so I am free to say whatever I want. And just to be clear, I have no inside information on anything—I find out about things the same exact way that you do.
The X-T5 will be a pivotal camera, in my opinion. The X-H2 and X-H2S are pivotal cameras, too. I’m getting a little ahead of myself here—let’s back this bus up a little bit, and start over from the beginning.
Fujifilm launched the X-A7 in September of 2019, and the X-T200 in January of 2020. These were Fujifilm’s budget entry-level models. The X-A line had always been a good seller, especially in the Asian markets, and the X-T100 had done quite well; however, the X-A7 and X-T200 flopped pretty hard—not because they weren’t good cameras, but because that budget entry-level segment of the market suddenly dried up. Those who would normally purchase those cameras were using their cellphones instead. I think this is the origins of a big shift at Fujifilm, and what we’re seeing today is a result of that shift.
One big change is that Fujifilm pulled back on Kaizen (updating the firmware of older models to improve the cameras for no reason other than to have happy customers that will hopefully be repeat customers). This is something that they were renown for. Some at Fujifilm seem to believe that improving older models hinders the sales of newer models, which is likely true to an extent, but it also builds a very loyal customer base who are less likely to jump ship on the brand, which is good for long-term sales. Fujifilm stated recently that Kaizen isn’t necessary anymore, and to expect even less of it. This is a shame, and I believe a big misstep.
Another change is the models that one might think of as mid-range are now the new entry-level. The X-T30 II, X-S10, and X-E4 are the current options. I don’t see Fujifilm continuing with three entry-level models, and I think the X-T00 or X-E line will become defunct. The X-E line might seem most logical, as it’s discontinuation is often discussed, but the X-T00 and X-S lines are basically competing against each other, so it could be that the X-T00 line is first to go. It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next two or three years.
Fujifilm finds themselves as, more-or-less, the top dog in the APS-C market. Canon and Sony are only half-heartedly in it, as it’s clear they’re primarily focused on full-frame. Nikon is in a similar boat, but with perhaps slightly more heart. Pentax… they’ve got the GR line, but beyond that, they’re only half-heartedly making cameras anymore, period. Fujifilm is not only setting themselves up as the king of APS-C, they’re making it known that they’re the most premium APS-C brand in the market.
Which brings me to the X-H2 and X-H2S. These two cameras—the flagship models—are intended to compete against full-frame Canikony cameras—maybe not high-end full-frame, but certainly bottom-end and mid-range. These cameras are a statement that APS-C is still relevant, and is just as good as, or perhaps in some ways better than, many full-frame options. The X-H2 and X-H2S are made/marketed for three groups of people: 1) those with full-frame Canikony cameras who aren’t completely satisfied with their system and are considering a change, 2) those with a GFX model who otherwise don’t own a Fujifilm X camera (but, because of their GFX, think they might want to try it), and 3) those who came into the Fujifilm system via the X-S10 and want to upgrade to a higher-end model but want PASM and not the traditional dials found on most Fujifilm cameras. Those people are who these two cameras are for.
It should come as no surprise that those who have been in the system for a long time aren’t thrilled about this. Maybe they started with the original X100, later purchased an X-Pro1, upgraded to the X100T, upgraded to the X-Pro2, purchased an X-H1, purchased an X-T3, and upgraded to an X100V. They’ve faithfully been with Fujifilm for a decade, purchasing a number of cameras and lenses. They’re eager to upgrade to the best that Fujifilm has to offer, and yet the new top-of-the-line flagship models aren’t for them, but for someone else. They’ll have to settle for second best (or is it third best?). I’ve had a dozen or more people tell me that the above is essentially their story, and how they feel. That shouldn’t be so easily brushed off as a “get off my lawn” mentality, because their feelings are valid whether you agree with it or not—just as valid as your feelings. In fact, I would suggest that the long-time loyal customers’ feelings should be more valuable than anyone else’s. Should is the keyword, because obviously that’s not the case here—Fujifilm has made that clear, and that’s another misstep, in my opinion.
Fujifilm took a significant risk with the X-H2 and X-H2S. They placed a pretty big bet on their decisions and design. If the bet pays off—and early indications are that it is—I have no doubts that Fujifilm will double-down on it. Why wouldn’t they? If you find gold, you don’t stop panning. The direction of the brand, which has been altering course due to fluctuating philosophies, will be determined, in part, by the success of these two cameras. That’s why I said that they are pivotal models.
The X-T5 will also be a pivotal model because it, too, could have a significant effect on the trajectory of the brand. If it does very well, Fujifilm will likely continue to produce this model (and others) that appeal to the long-time base, spending lots of R&D time and money on these types of cameras. If it doesn’t sell well, Fujifilm might pivot away from it, and it will be the beginning of the end of the X-T0 line. I think a lot more is at stake than many realize, and I’m sure that I will receive plenty of criticism for stating this.
The question is: will the X-T5 sell well or not? Will it convince people to upgrade from their X-T3 or X-T4. The X-T3 is Fujifilm’s all-time best selling model. I think the X-T4, while it did in fact sell well, wasn’t quite as big of a success as Fujifilm hoped it would be. I think they wanted it to be the flagship model that the X-H2 and X-H2S are now, but it didn’t work out because it wasn’t Goldilocks for either the X-T0 camp or the X-H camp—the compromises weren’t appreciated by either group. Will those who purchased an X-T3 or X-T4 be ready to upgrade to a new model? That’s the million dollar question.
Overall, I believe that the X-T5 will be better appreciated than the X-T4 because Fujifilm (apparently) walked back some of the changes introduced on the X-T4, and the X-T5 will be more similar to the X-T3 (except with IBIS and the new sensor and processor). I think this is very good. Bravo! However, the issue that I think could potentially derail the success of the X-T5 is that we’ve reached a point of diminishing returns. Does it matter that the X-T5 has 40-megapixels when the 26-megapixels of the X-T3 and X-T4 are more than enough for 99% of photographers? More megapixels can also mean more required memory, and you’ll have to upgrade your SD cards and external hard drives and/or cloud storage… sometimes less is more. Does it matter that the X-T5 has faster autofocus when the autofocus speed of the X-T3 and X-T4 is already fast enough for 99% of photographers? Sure, there are those who actually do need more resolution or faster autofocus (it’s a small group, and they know who they are), and there are those who think they need it but in reality don’t (better to learn the gear you’ve already got…), and that will generate some sales, too. But otherwise, is there enough to convince those who spent over a grand—maybe nearly two—on a camera body within the last two years—a camera that’s been working quite well for them—to drop $1,700 on a new body that they don’t really need? Time will tell.
I think the two new cameras that Fujifilm just introduced could potentially be a problem for the X-T5. You see, there were eager photographers who had money burning a hole in their pockets (a nice problem to have, I suppose) who wanted to get their hands on the latest-and-greatest and got caught up in the hype. They weren’t thrilled that it was a PASM camera, but they didn’t let that stop them, and they dropped $2,000 or more just recently. If they had known that the X-T5 was right around the corner, they would have waited and purchased that instead because they would have preferred it; however, they cannot justify owning both an X-H2 model and an X-T5, so they won’t buy the X-T5, at least not right away.
The other thing, which is a result of Fujifilm’s Kaizen retreat, is that new JPEG features introduced on later models won’t trickle to earlier models. The X-T3 doesn’t have Classic Negative, Eterna Bleach Bypass, Clarity, Color Chrome FX Blue, Grain size, half-step Highlight/Shadow adjustments, or the ability to save White Balance Shifts in the C1-C7 presets. The X-Pro3 doesn’t have Eterna Bleach Bypass or half-step Highlight/Shadow adjustments. The X-S10, X-E4, and X-T30 II have all of it, despite not being premium models, because they were introduced later. Whatever new features Fujifilm has up their sleeves that they will introduce on some later model won’t likely make it onto the X-T5, so if you want it, it’s better to wait towards the end of the X-Trans V lifecycle. The early bird gets …hosed, while the patient bird is rewarded.
Will I buy an X-T5? Maybe. Probably not, simply because I don’t need it. There’s no void in my camera lineup that the X-T5 would fill. All of my current Fujifilm models fulfill my photographic needs, so dropping so much money on something that I don’t need doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Still, I’m intrigued by it, so I won’t say absolutely not; maybe I’ll put in a preorder on November 2—I’d definitely have to part ways with some other gear to fund it, and I have no ideas what that would be right now.
I could be very wrong, and I’ve been wrong in the past and I freely admit it, so take all of this with a grain of salt. I do think the X-T5 will sell well. Those who purchased an X-T3 maybe two or more years ago will take a very long look at the X-T5. Those who purchased an X-T4 but weren’t thrilled with the flippy screen will also consider upgrading to an X-T5. But I’m not convinced it will sell well enough (in Fujifilm’s eyes), which (if so) will result in some deep discussions at Fujifilm’s headquarters over the direction of the digital camera division. Again, time will tell if that happens, and, if so, what it even means.
This has been a whole lot of rambling about nothing. I have no real insights to offer. I’ve not seen or touched a Fujifilm X-T5. I’ve never spoken with anyone within the Japan office of Fujifilm about anything. I have talked with a number of Fujifilm photographers—I get nearly 50 messages a day—and I think I have a pretty good pulse on the community… at least those who primarily shoot JPEGs. I think the X-T5 will be a wonderful camera that many of you will purchase and love. I truly hope it far exceeds Fujifilm’s wildest sales expectations, because I believe this camera is a pivotal model. Will it? I have no idea—it’s as much my guess as anyone else’s.