Upcoming Fujifilm X-T5 Ramblings

My wife, Amanda, with her Fujifilm X-T4

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.

Hidden Church – North Salt Lake, UT – Fujifilm X-T200 – “Golden Negative

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.

Suburb Home – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-E4 – “Positive Film

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.

Wood Shack – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-E4 – “Analog Gold

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.

Unrealistic Photographic Expectations

Desert Mountain Rain – Fort McDowell, AZ – Fujifilm X-E4 – “Kodak Tri-X 400

Have you ever embarked on a photographic excursion with high expectations of the pictures you’re about to capture? Perhaps upon returning home you believed that you had some amazing images sitting on your SD card, but, upon reviewing the exposures, you’re left disappointed? I know that I have. Sometimes our expectations of how things will go doesn’t match reality, and it can be discouraging.

It’s easy to believe that I am a better photographer than I am. This is pretty common—I’m certain I’m not the only one—and it’s easy to spot in hindsight: I thought some certain photographs of mine were really good, but reviewing them years later I realize that they were mediocre at best. I’m biased about my own images, and it takes some time to view them through fresh (less-biased) eyes for what they really are. Besides, I hope that I’m constantly improving, so my photographs today should be better than they were years ago. Years from now I’ll look back at my photographs that I think are great today, and I’ll realize they’re not nearly as good as I once perceived them to be.

Still, I have some expectations—prior to even pulling out the camera—of what I will capture. I also have some expectations—before I even have a chance to review them—of the exposures that I did capture. It’s only later, after returning home and viewing the pictures, do I really begin to process what I actually have, and very rarely does it match those expectations. Kyle McDougall talks about this in his video below.

I think sometimes we expect—or at least I do—to have a whole crop of wonderful pictures from each photographic outing. Our social media feeds demand a steady stream of fresh pictures to keep our followers engaged. Our relevancy relies on an abundance of images to showcase our talents. But it’s all unrealistic.

Ansel Adams stated, “Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.” That was the expectation of one of the greatest photographers of all time: one great picture a month, on average. Maybe one month had three, and two months had none—however it worked out, twelve a year was a good year.

How many have I had this year so far? Not 10, I can tell you that. Maybe five or six. I’m no Ansel Adams, so perhaps twelve in a year is an unrealistic goal for me. I think if I captured a half-dozen photographs in one year that I’m really proud of, that’s a good year. I definitely shouldn’t expect any more than one good picture at most from one outing with my camera. More than one would be an extraordinarily successful—and I’m sure exceedingly rare—event.

Oak Autumn – Pine, AZ – Fujifilm X-E4 – “KodaNeg VC

So that brings me to the pictures in this article, which were captured while on a weekend adventure to the Mazatzal Mountains in central Arizona. These three images are my personal favorites from the trip. I don’t consider any of them to be “significant” or “portfolio worthy” pictures. In the moment that I captured them and a number of others from the trip, I thought they were. I thought I had five or six frames that I was going to love, but upon reviewing them, I had maybe close to 50 decent frames, and five or six good pictures, but no great photographs. I was disappointed with myself, because I thought I had done better.

Then I watched that Kyle McDougall video, which was exactly what I needed to see. I had unrealistic expectations for myself, and that led to disappointment. Instead, going forward, I should hope to come away with just one picture that I’m happy with—anymore than that is a bonus—and perhaps if I capture one significant picture within a month, that’s something to be ecstatic about.

I think it’s easy—thanks to social media—to think we need to capture a handful of portfolio-worthy pictures each time we go out with the camera. That’s being completely unfair with ourselves. If you capture one, celebrate that. If you don’t capture any “significant” pictures, don’t fret! That’s normal. That’s to be expected. Just try to learn and grow and become better in some way, so when a potential portfolio-worthy picture opportunity presents itself, you’re fully prepared. That’s the expectation you should have for yourself, and nothing more.

Yellow Cactus – Tonto Natural Bridge SP, AZ – Fujifilm X-E4 – “KodaNeg VC”

Let’s Not Forget How Awesome Our Cameras Are

I think it’s really easy to get caught up in the hype of advancing camera technology. It’s natural to think that we need the latest and greatest new gear. But lately I’ve been thinking that we should not forget just how awesome our current cameras are. Whatever camera gear you have, it’s pretty freakin’ amazing!

I found it interesting that Rob Morgan prefers the X100F over the X100V. He said, “…although the technical specs of the X100V are ‘better’ it lost the mojo of the earlier models.” In other words, he likes the five-year-old model more than the two-year-old one. What about gear that’s even older than that? Can it still be any good?

Captured yesterday on my X-Pro1 + Xuan 30mm using the Color Negative Film recipe

The Fujifilm X-Pro1 is ten years old now. So is the X-E1. If you are using decade-old camera gear, you are certainly behind the curve, right? Everyone else’s pictures are so much greater than yours, right? Those cameras aren’t capable of capturing worthwhile images, right? Of course, the answer is no to all three questions—your gear is not obsolete, your pictures aren’t inherently inferior, and, yes, your gear is plenty capable as long as you are. Photography has been around for 196 years, but only cameras released in the last 12 months are worth owning, some would say—those cameras that evolved after only 186 years aren’t nearly as good as those that have had the full 196 years to be released. That’s nothing but pure nonsense!

The X-Pro1, the X-E1, and every single other Fujifilm X camera is a capable photographic tool. Is the X-T4 better? Maybe. Is the X-H2 better? Maybe. Is the X-T1 better? There are some who think so. Is the X-H1 better? Many X-H1 owners think so. Does any of it matter? No. What matters is how you use your gear, not what gear you use.

One of my favorite pictures (that has hung on my wall for years) is this image captured on a Fujifilm X-E1 with a 50 year old lens.

The fact is that the X-Pro1 and X-E1 are just as capable today as they were in the year that they were released. Actually, that’s wrong. With Fujifilm’s firmware updates (that they used to be known for), the cameras are better today than they were in 2012. A lot of positive things were said about the cameras back then. A lot of wonderful pictures were captured with them back then. 10 years later and it all still applies, and the cameras can still capture amazing pictures today.

I thought it would be a worthwhile exercise to reread the old X-Pro1 reviews, and quote the positive things that were said about it back then. I think this is a good perspective to have, especially if you’re feeling a little camera envy. The X-Pro1 was a highly desirable model when it was released. I remember drooling over it in the pages of a photography magazine, but I couldn’t afford it back then. I’m very happy to own it now, because it’s still a solid camera, and still worth drooling over, even at the decade mark.

“It’s not just a retro look that distinguishes the Fujifilm X-Pro1, but its cutting-edge hybrid optical viewfinder and emphasis on quality prime lenses. Excellent image quality with very clean detail is the extra surprise inside.” Imaging Resource, 04/18/2012

“The Fujifilm X-Pro1 does almost everything right: it’s a beautiful (if enormous) camera, it takes great pictures and video, and once you take the time to learn its controls and systems it’s as capable a shooter as I’ve tested.” The Verge, 05/22/2012

“The X-Pro1 is certainly right up there with the best APS-C sensor cameras on the market, and some full-frame models too.”Photography Blog, 03/15/2012

“The camera’s images are exceptional, delivering on the claims that it can match up to existing full-frame sensor’s abilities.”What Digital Camera, 03/09/2012

“The image quality is stunning, with excellent, and I really mean excellent pixel level detail, with excellent colour reproduction, great dynamic range, excellent high ISO noise results and excellent JPEG output straight from the camera.”ePhotoZine, 03/12/2012

“This is a high ISO street shooters dream. Yes, I said STREET SHOOTERS DREAM.” Steve Huff, 04/04/2012

“This camera is a wave-breaker. May the other companies take note!”Digital Photography School, 03/30/2012

“With the X-Pro1 Fujifilm has built on the platform provided by the X100, and is beginning to look like a very serious contender at the high end of the camera market.”Digital Photography Review, 06/28/2012

Whatever camera you have, don’t worry about it being “good enough” or “new enough” or anything else. What you do with the gear you have is much more important than the gear you have—the limitation is only oneself. Do the best you can with what you have, and in time you’ll surprise even yourself at what you create. Your camera—whatever it is—is awesome, and we shouldn’t so easily forget that.

Fujifilm Interview is Disappointing (But, There is a Silver Lining)

Sigh.

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.

Captured with a Fujifilm X-E1

“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.

Captured with a Fujifilm X-Pro1

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.”

Captured with a Fujifilm X-T1

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.

Captured with a Fujifilm X-E1

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.

The RAW vs JPEG Debate Needs to End… Again

Straight-out-of-camera JPEG from my Fujifilm X-E4 using the Pacific Blues recipe.

I read a couple of articles over the last several days that bothered me, both of which stated that you must shoot RAW. These articles come up often—it’s nothing new. I’ve written about it before, and even before that. The sentiment of “only amateurs shoot JPEG” and “you really should shoot RAW” get old. Those are tired, worn out statements that are largely based on “truths” that are no longer true. My hope with this article is to simply provide a counter-point. This blog and all of you who use Film Simulation Recipes are a strong testament that speaks louder than this article ever could, so I’ll try to keep it brief.

First, I want to make this very clear: do what works for you. If RAW works for you, do that. If JPEGs work for you, do that. If editing JPEGs works for you, do that. If film works for you, do that. Or any combination of those things or anything else, do that. Whatever you have found that works for you, that’s what you should be doing. If what you are doing isn’t really working for you, try something else. There’s no right or wrong way to do things, just different ways, some of which work for some and some of which work for others. Different strokes for different folks, right?

One reason why I think the “RAW vs JPEG” debate keeps coming up is because more-and-more photography consumers (not photographers, but those who view photographs) detest photo manipulation. Photoshop has become a bad word. Whether it’s a photo contest where the winner exceeded the editing allowed by the rules (and so has their title stripped), or the magazine cover where the girl no longer looks like how they really look, or the picture in the news where things were added or subtracted to change the meaning of the image, or the image that’s just been edited so much that it’s no longer believable—whatever the story, sometimes photography consumers feel that photography is dishonest, and the manipulation of an image equals a manipulation of the one viewing it. There appears to be a lack of honesty by photographers, particularly when they edit so much. You might agree or disagree with this sentiment, but the sentiment is real. I know this because I once defended Steve McCurry’s use of Photoshop, and because of this someone accused me in a college paper of wanting little girls to have low self-esteem.

Straight-out-of-camera JPEG from my Fujifilm X100V using the Vintage Color recipe.

I think a lot of these “RAW is better” articles and videos stem from a response to this sentiment, which is fine. I don’t blame anyone for trying to defend what they do when someone criticizes it. Trust me, I get it. Where I do have a problem is that many times in the defense of RAW the JPEG photographer is insulted. The argument is, “I have to shoot RAW because JPEGs suck.” Or, “Only amateurs use JPEG.” It’s as if the JPEG shooter must be put down in order to make the RAW shooter feel superior. That’s just lame. Yes, there was a time early in the development of digital camera technology where the straight-out-of-camera JPEG was no good and so RAW really was the only viable option for quality images, but that day has long passed, especially for (but certainly not limited to) those who use Fujifilm cameras. That argument is old and tired and no longer based in truth. It once was true, but now is a myth. Perpetuating that myth helps no one. Insulting people definitely doesn’t help.

Of course, Ansel Adams is always brought into this. Well, he was the darkroom master, so obviously he manipulated his photos to a significant degree. Usually an Ansel Adams quote is included, which proves the point that you should never rely on straight-out-of-camera pictures. Adams never would have. Except this ignores his work with Polaroids—he loved Polaroids, something a lot of people are unaware of. There’s a whole chapter (entitled One-Step Photography) in one of his books where he discusses the benefits of not having to use a darkroom. Ansel Adams is hugely inspirational, and his words are highly motivating, but I don’t think he would be strictly a RAW shooter and staunchly against straight-out-of-camera JPEGs—it is a disservice to the legendary master to just assume he would be against JPEGs.

The real arguments that should be made to defend the use of RAW are these:
– It’s my art, and as the artist I get to decide how it’s created. I understand that not everyone will like it, but a lot of people seem to, so I’m going to keep doing it my way.
– I capture undeveloped digital images that, like film, must be developed through a process, and I have a specific process for it that works well for me.
– Images have been manipulated to create the final picture since the beginning of photography—over 150 years!—so what I’m doing is nothing new and well within the traditions of the art.
– I enjoy using photo editing software, and adjusting the pictures is half the fun for me.

Straight-out-of-camera JPEG from my Fujifilm X-E4 using the Positive Film recipe.

Notice how all of those arguments are strong, and none of them insults anyone. Unfortunately, there will always be those who disagree, and you’ll never change their minds. Perhaps just being as honest and straightforward as practical will help. If you swapped the sky with another sky, just say so. If you removed people from the frame, don’t hide that fact. Don’t make the manipulations that you did a big secret, which makes people believe that you’re hiding something from them. Or do keep it a secret—it’s not really any of my business what you do or don’t do, and I don’t really care. It’s your art, after all, so you get to decide what you do and what parts of your process you want to keep a mystery.

My process is straightforward. I program Film Simulation Recipes into my cameras, and I use camera-made JPEGs that are unedited (aside from minor cropping and straightening). While I basically don’t edit anymore, I certainly used to. I used to be a RAW photographer. I used to spend up to 30 minutes on each picture in software. That process worked alright for a time, but my current process works for me now. It saves me so much time, it makes creating photographs more enjoyable, it allows me to be more in-tune with my camera and the scene (because I have to get it right in-the-field or else), and I still get the look I want—the aesthetic I would have made if I had edited a RAW image in software. I love it! But I fully understand that it’s not for everyone. If it works for you, great! If it doesn’t work for you, great! If it works for you sometimes but doesn’t other times, great! You’ve got to do what works for you, and ignore those who say that there’s only one “right” way to do things.

The “RAW vs JPEG” debate needs to end. Photography consumers don’t care how you achieved your picture, except in those cases where people feel that they were duped by a heavily manipulated image. I suggest being upfront about how much editing you did, if you did a lot—but that’s up to you, and is between you and your audience. Otherwise, nobody cares if you shot RAW and edited in-software or if it’s a straight-out-of-camera JPEG, or anything else in-between. One process isn’t better or worse than another—they each have advantages and disadvantages, so it is simply a matter of if what you are doing works for you or not. If it works, that’s awesome! If it doesn’t, then try something else. Mic dropped, debate over.

Instagram is Dying — For Photographers

Instagram is a dying platform for photographers.

Still shocking to me, I’ve gotten a lot of followers on the Fuji X Weekly Instagram account over the last two years: over 25K right now! I topped 10K followers on May 11, 2021, and 25K on July 9, 2022—it has grown 150% in roughly 14 months. That’s amazing, and all thanks goes to you! I never thought that was possible.

When I reached 10K followers I signed up for a business account. While it certainly has its benefits, it also has one huge negative: Instagram wants me to pay them money to show you, my followers, my posts. They purposefully hide your content from your own followers—if someone seeks it out they will find it, but it won’t show up in their feed—unless you pay Instagram a fee. My engagement dropped in half the instant I signed up for the business account. You might think that engagement—likes, comments, shares, etc.—would have grown at the same rate as the followers, but not so. The average post at 25K has a similar engagement as a post at 10K prior to signing up for a business account. While my followers have increased by 150%, my engagement has only increased by 100%—back to where it was before Instagram cut it in half.

Instagram is a great place to feed your envy. There are people whose pictures suck that have 100K or more followers and are basically earning an income from Instagram. There are people who capture amazing pictures who have less than two hundred followers. I’ve seen both of those circumstances personally, and maybe you have, too. Now I’m not the world’s greatest photographer by any means. I see many, many photographers who are more talented than I who have fewer followers, and I also see the opposite, too. Nobody’s self-worth should come from Instagram, and the followers and engagement (or lack of it) don’t actually mean anything. Unfortunately, it’s more of a popularity contest than anything else; however, Instagram is a good way to connect with others across the world.

Once upon a time Instagram was the place to see wonderful photographs. You could find a lot of inspiration. It still is, but less so now. Why? Instagram (which is owned by Facebook/Meta) recently claimed that engagement in still photographs is down nearly 50% over the last two years, so that’s why they’re focusing on video. I call B.S. on this.

I know two things: Instagram will hide your content if they want to, and Instagram (Meta, actually) doesn’t like competition. Whenever a new social media app comes along that Meta perceives as a threat, they buy it; if they can’t buy it, they make their own version of it to incorporate into their own apps. Right now that competition is TikTok, and since Meta can’t buy it (I’m sure they tried at one point), they’re becoming “TikTok” in order to win—at the expense of you, the photographer.

I believe that Instagram has put into place algorithms to suppress still photography and simultaneously push video content (Reels, as they call it). Then they say that still photography is dying and video is booming, so they need to be video-centric. They’re paying people money to publish videos. I’m not a video guy myself, but by far my most popular post on Instagram is a Reel, with triple the engagement of my most popular still-photography post. Is it because you all are more interested videos, or because Instagram wants you to be more interested in video? In my opinion they’re trying to transform their app into TikTok, which means that photography needs to take a back seat.

You can still be successful on Instagram as a photographer. Since Instagram is pushing Reels so hard, you might consider using those to show your pictures (instead of a traditional post, or in addition to it). I’m personally not a fan of what Instagram is becoming, but that doesn’t mean it’s not useful. A lot of people have discovered my Film Simulation Recipes through Instagram. I’ve made a lot of connections (I get about 50 DMs on IG each day!), and even made some friends. There are definitely still some positives.

I do think the time is ripe for an Instagram-alternative for photographers. I know that many have tried, and no one has really succeeded. I don’t know what its unique shtick should be, but there has to be something that sets it apart. Money is obviously an obstacle, because everyone wants a free app, but an app like that would be expensive to produce and maintain. I don’t have the solution, but I do know that an opportunity exists right now for someone who thinks that they might have the solution.

Now it’s your turn! Do you like or dislike how Instagram is evolving? Would you try an Instagram alternative if there was a good one? Is there a current app that you prefer to Instagram and why? Let me know in the comments!

Be sure to check out my Apps!

What Future Camera Technology Might Be Like

Barn by the Tetons – Grand Teton NP, WY – Fujifilm X-E1 – Nik Silver Efex edit

What will future cameras be like? More specifically, what do I think they’ll be like? This is an odd topic that has come up a few times recently in various places. I don’t have any inside information. I’ve never laid eyes on any top-secret still-in-development cameras. I only have my own ideas and opinions, which are probably inaccurate. I’ve certainly been wrong before, and I’m probably wrong now. Still, it’s fun to speculate.

I think, in the not-too-distant future, perhaps beginning in roughly five years, we’ll see camera manufacturers team up with software companies to offer more (and better) in-camera filters. We’re going to see more software built into cameras, and with that, I think we’ll start to see VSCO, RNI, Alien Skin, Nik Collection, and others, partner with camera manufacturers to include their popular presets integrated into gear. This will also allow RAW files to match straight-out-of-camera JPEGs (and TIFFs) simply by applying the same preset in-software as in-camera.

Mirrored Mountain – Mirror Lake, UT – Fujifilm X-E1 – Alien Skin Exposure edit

The Zeiss ZX1 camera has Lightroom Mobile built-in. The Pixii camera can be programmed with LUT profiles. It’s not even close to mainstream yet, but you can see the very beginning of this shift start to build. I think it is only a matter of time before you will be able to capture in-camera with (for example) the RNI Kodak Gold v.3 preset. I don’t think Canon, Sony, Nikon, or Fujifilm will be the first company to do this. Maybe Leica. Perhaps a future Panasonic S-series model. I’m not exactly sure, but it will definitely be a marketing strategy for whoever does it first.

I believe that in the beginning it will be collaborations between specific manufactures and software companies. For example, Sony might partner with VSCO, and perhaps Nikon partners with RNI. I personally hope Fujifilm partners with RNI or Alien Skin, but my guess is that Fujifilm will hold onto their film simulations, which, let’s be honest, is a similar concept. Film simulations are kind of like presets, especially since they can be customized with film simulation recipes; however, in its current state film simulations don’t go as far as what I believe is coming. I do think Fujifilm can accomplish in-house their own presets, since they do seem to have a nice head start, but I don’t know if they have the foresight to take it far enough or the R&D resources to keep up once it takes off. We’ll have to wait and see how it all plays out. Currently, Fujifilm’s Film Simulations, with the help of custom JPEG recipes, are the closest thing right now to what I believe is coming.

Eventually I see it morphing into more of an app model, where you can buy any company’s presets and use them on your camera, no matter the brand. Buy a Canon and download the RNI app if you want their presets, or VSCO if you want theirs. If you have a Fujifilm camera, you can use the exact same presets on that camera as you can on your Sony. This might be 10 or more years down the road, but it seems like it is inevitable that it will happen someday.

Whitefish Lake Infrared – Whitefish, MT – Fujifilm X100V – RNI Aero edit

Why do I think all this is the future of photography technology? What I believe is going to happen is a stronger movement towards straight-out-of-camera. Not for bragging rights, but for three reasons: 1) it saves so much time, 2) it can be more fun, and 3) it opens up photography more to those who don’t have the desire, skills, or time to post-process their pictures. Technology will make getting post-processed-like-looks more accessible without the need to actually do it. It’s going to be easier and more automatic. You, the photographer, will have to select which look you want, and the camera will do the work for you and will deliver to you out-of-camera that look without any need for Lightroom, etc., to achieve it. Upload the picture to whatever social media or cloud storage you want right from the camera. No need for a computer, as it’s all handled by the camera. You won’t even need your phone, unless camera companies figure out that they can harness the phone’s computing power to do the work for them, and the phone becomes (wirelessly) integrated into the camera.

I could be completely wrong about all of this. I’ve certainly been wrong many times before. Nobody knows the future. I do see things moving in this direction, and in a very small way, because of my film simulation recipes, I’ve had a hand in moving it.

Sentinel & Merced – Yosemite NP, CA – Fujifilm X100V – SOOC “Vintage Color” unedited

Of Shadow & Light — Be The Light

The Art of Photography – Fujifilm X100V – “Kodak Tri-X 400

The first time that I saw Bruce Barnbaum‘s Chair & Shadow photograph was over 20 years ago in college during Photography 102. Most of those classes began with a look at well-known or really good photographs, with a discussion of why these pictures were special, and Bruce’s photo was one of those. At the time I had no idea who he was. I remember being struck by how this simple image could be so moving. The Zone System was mentioned, as well as dodging and burning and perhaps some other technical stuff.

I didn’t see Chair & Shadow again for more than a decade, when it was featured on the cover of The Art of Photography: An Approach to Personal Expression. I bought the book and read it cover-to-cover. It’s a great resource for those wanting to be more artful with their images. Note that the current edition of the book has a different cover photo.

Bruce’s picture is of a simple folding chair inside a large empty room with a door cracked open. The building looks old. The picture leaves far more questions than answers. Where is this? What is the significance of this place? Why is the chair in this large and otherwise empty room? Who sits in it? Why is the door partially open? What is outside? Is this a good place or bad place? These and other unanswered questions are likely why this image produces an emotional response, and, depending on the answers your mind invents, it might be good feelings or uneasy feelings—either way, you likely had an emotional response to the photo. Ultimately the picture is about shadow and light—more shadow than light, with light piercing the darkness—and utilizes a simple (yet effective) composition to make that point.

Yesterday I visited PetaPixel and saw that they published an article (which apparently first ran in Medium Format Magazine) in which Bruce Barnbaum explains the story behind his famous photo. It was such a fun read for me, because of my own experiences with the image. Many of my unanswered questions were answered in an interesting way. I very much enjoyed it!

Then I read the comments section. Big mistake. It’s amazing how people can be so negative yet full of unsubstantiated pride. You see it everywhere on the internet, including photography websites. I suppose it is easy to do that when you can hide behind anonymity. I learned awhile back not to Google my own name, because people have said some really awful things about me, largely because they simply disagreed with something I said. You can imagine, since I encourage people to shoot JPEGs, that it rocks the boat a little.

What’s great about the Fuji X Weekly community is that you’ll find very little of this nasty negativity here. Yeah, it’s seemingly everywhere else, but not among you. You guys and gals are extraordinarily kind, and it shows. You are like the light shining through the door in Chair & Shadow, illuminating the room. It’s really refreshing, and seemingly uncommon. Thank you for being a light in the “darkness” that is the internet. You are the best community in all of photography—I’m certain of it—and I appreciate you!

Shrinking Camera Market: What Fujifilm Should Do In 2021 & Beyond

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Fujifilm X100V captured by a Fujifilm X-T1

It’s no secret that camera sales have been declining for several years. The global pandemic has unsurprisingly significantly impacted the camera industry. Some companies have had bigger declines than others, and I think over the coming couple of years we’ll see some camera makers restructure, put themselves up for sale, or go out of business altogether. What should Fujifilm do to minimize declines and maximize profits in these tough times?

I’m not an industry insider or business expert. There aren’t any good reasons why Fujifilm should listen to me on this topic (other than I’m one of their customers). Besides, they have a pretty darn good track record for dealing with change within the industry and economy. Fujifilm doesn’t need my help. This article is more for my own enjoyment and perhaps yours. It’s fun to consider and discuss this topic. I don’t expect anything else to come from this.

Camera sales have been declining since the collapse of the compact camera market. Cellphone camera technology has come a long ways, which has rendered point-and-shoot cameras obsolete. The casual amateur snap-shooter uses their phone now to capture pictures, and has no need or interest in another camera. Before cellphone cameras had decent image quality, camera manufacturers were selling cheap automatic cameras to these folks. Lots and lots of them. But now that market is all dried up.

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Captured with a Fujifilm X-T1. This camera is four models old but is still quite capable.

The more serious shooters are still buying cameras, but cameras have reached a point of diminishing returns. Digital technology changes quickly, but if a camera is already really good, these improvements have less of a practical application. For instance, if a photographer finds that his or her camera’s autofocus is already more than good enough for their photography, a quicker autofocus system won’t likely tempt that photographer to upgrade. If a photographer finds that his or her camera already has enough resolution for the size they print, more resolution won’t likely tempt that photographer to upgrade. In other words, photographers by-and-large are keeping and using their gear for longer than they did 10 years ago, or even five. Digital is still disposable, but it is becoming less so, or at least photographers are beginning to realize that they don’t need to “upgrade” as frequently as they used to.

The camera industry isn’t Fujifilm’s main business. After the film collapse, Fujifilm diversified, and now they’re a pharmaceutical and cosmetics company that also happens to sell cameras. Their camera arm, which is just a small part of their business model, is doing better than many other camera makers right now. Still, the current market is impacting Fujifilm, and will continue to do so, which means Fujifilm might need to consider some changes.

Fujifilm has several camera models that are essentially the same, but look different and have only small feature differences. Fujifilm should consider ways to either further differentiate their similar models or combine them into one. The X-T200 and the X-A7 have nearly identical features, and having both models seems redundant. The X-Pro3 was made more unique to further separate it from the X-T3, and that worked out well, I believe. I look at the X-E line, which I love. My first Fujifilm camera was an X-E1. The X-E3 is so similar to the X-T20, aside from camera body design, so what differentiates the two besides shape? Fujifilm should consider discontinuing the X-E line, or do something to the eventual X-T40 or X-E4 to better differentiate the models. For example, if Fujifilm added IBIS to the X-T40 or made the X-E4 a black-and-white only camera (the “X-E Acros” is what I’d call it), that would separate them, and Fujifilm would have unique models. I think, alternatively, the X-T40 could basically be transitioned into a higher-end model, and serve as the (eventual) X-T5 without IBIS. The X-H line, now that the X-T4 has IBIS, is also redundant, so the X-H2 would need something to make it stand out, such as 8K video. Since the X-T4 has been so well received, I’m not sure how much of a market there is for an X-H2, but Fujifilm insists that this camera is in the works. It will be interesting to see it when it comes out, perhaps next year, and how well it does.

Fujifilm has situated itself as the leader in digital medium-format. It seems like overnight they went from not-even-in-that-market to top-dog, thanks to the success of the GFX line. Still, it’s more of a niche market than anything mainstream. I think what’s missing is a “budget” rangefinder-style 100-megapixel camera without IBIS. Essentially a GFX-50R, but with the 100MP sensor of the GFX100 inside. Maybe Fujifilm should consider adding IBIS to whatever camera replaces the GFX-50S. I have no idea how profitable this line has been for Fujifilm, and if it will stand the test of time, but I think it was smart of Fujifilm to jump into a market that they could easily dominate.

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This is a camera-made JPEG from a Fujifilm X100V, but looks more like film.

Something else that I think Fujifilm should consider is replacing cameras less frequently. When they release a camera and then replace it with a new model one year later, that’s too soon. Two years is too soon. Three years should be a minimum between updated cameras, and four to five years is even better. I know this might sound counter to what consumers want, but X-Trans III cameras, such as the X100F, X-T2, X-T20 and X-E3, are still very excellent! The X-E3 hasn’t been replaced yet, and the X100F was only recently replaced after three years, but the X-T2 is three models old now, and there’s already “talk” of an upcoming X-T40, while the X-T30 isn’t even a year-and-a-half old yet. It’s better to get the most out of a model, then replace it with something that’s a significant improvement over the previous edition. There’s a latin phrase festina lente, which means “make haste slowly.” Fujifilm needs to keep pushing the envelope and strive to produce more technologically advanced cameras, but not be too eager to release new models that only have small improvements over previous versions. If Fujifilm were to update the firmware on the X-T3 and X-T30 to breathe new excitement into these models, these cameras could still be sold for another two years easily.

There’s one more important point that I’d like to make, and this relates to Fuji X Weekly. I think Fujifilm needs to focus even more on JPEGs. I’ve discovered that there’s a huge community of photographers who love the camera-made JPEGs produced by Fujifilm cameras, whether straight-out-of-camera or with X RAW Studio. The film simulations—a brilliant idea by Fujifilm—were just the tip of the iceberg, and now film simulation recipes are all the rage. There’s something big here, bigger than I think Fujifilm realizes. Yes, Fujifilm has demonstrated their commitment to the JPEG with the X100V, X-Pro3 and X-T4, but they need to continue their commitment on future models. This is a fairly unique angle that Fujifilm has. While other camera makers do, in fact, have some nice JPEGs, Fujifilm is perhaps the only brand with a cult following based on it. They should absolutely capitalize on that, more so than they have been.

I doubt that Fujifilm will read this article, and I’m even more doubtful that they’ll make any internal changes based on it. I think it’s sound advice, but what do I know? Whether or not Fujifilm does any of the things I suggest, I think they’ll be just fine and will weather this “storm” without too much trouble. The guys running the company seem pretty smart to me, and are doing just fine without my advice. It will be fascinating to see exactly what happens within the camera industry in 2021 and beyond, and what Fujifilm does to find success during these tough times.