Updated 27 May , 2031 hours.
It is important to provide a factual point-of-view and after a call today I am now more informed on what Fujifilm has done to engage customers during 2020-2021 and thus I have updated the article to reflect this added information to ensure credit is given where due. No changes were done to the original text to ensure worthiness except to provide additional information in red where applicable.
*disclaimer: This article was actually born due to an unfortunate reason that I came to know that there was word I had somewhat taken a negative tone against Fujifilm with my recent write-ups.
It is unfortunate and my personal take is if any brands are kind enough to engage me (a nobody in the photography world), I will always adopt a humble and appreciative approach in return. If anything matters, it is how I am respected and engaged by the representatives from any brand that is more important.
With that out of the way, here goes.
A random thought that occurred to me while clearing out the photography equipment this week (yeap, it’s another Covid-19 related movement restriction in Singapore again) is despite it being close to 2 months since I last shot the Fujifilm X100V due to working on my reviews of the Sony A7C, Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 S Canon R6 and others, I actually missed shooting the X100V.
It kinda dawned to me that the X100V is indeed a camera I do indeed feel something for and do not treat as just another piece of ‘equipment’ and I spent sometime pondering a bit further and I felt compelled to do a short article on what makes Fujifilm successful as a brand in this crowded market and what Fujifilm can do to ensure its growth in the future.
First off, Fujifilm has managed to successfully advance from its film days into digital through the smart utilisation of its film simulations. In fact, I will say that the name ‘Fujifilm’ nowadays is basically synonymous with its ‘film simulations’. (yeap, Kodak didn’t make it)
Ever since the X-Pro1, I have shot and reviewed every X100 series model and almost every APSC and GFX model and along, experienced how Fujifilm grew from a paltry few simulations mostly dominated by Provia, Velvia and Pro-Neg to now an extensive 19 film simulations with Classic Negative and Eterna so attractive that I have seen users actually buying the camera for it.
In fact I can still remember the moment when we first had ACROS with the X-Pro2’s release, the black and white lovers were so excited back then haha.
Fujifilm is the only brand where its users say: “we are using this system for its straight out of camera images!”
For the digital post-processing fanboys, hold your pitchforks. There’s nothing wrong with post-processing, but my point here is Fujifilm has managed to sell the narrative that it’s straight out of camera output is so beautiful that it can be used immediately. This is nothing to be ashamed of and frankly, I see this as a badge of honour that Fujifilm should market more and which directly contributed to Fujifilm’s growth.
Second, their cameras are really designed to be easy to use but yet, able to satisfy the professional owner who demands more control.
I think its an often mentioned enough love-professed for Fujifilm’s approach to a generally clean menu interface (looks at Sony and Olympus) supported by the use of physical dials that keeps aperture size, ISO and shutter speed all within reach. In fact, the top dials design we have gotten used to seeing is now part of Fujifilm’s design DNA.
I remember this article in 2020 where i wrote about Kei and Lynn’s photography journey. It’s not a surprise that one day I hope one of them will pick up photography as a hobby and of course, it was simply natural that being the owner of the X100, X100T and X100V, i would start the 4 and 5 year olds with a camera that I know will work for their introduction into photography.
Third, I think this may get a bit abstract but Fujifilm is excellent at designing a camera that makes the user yearn to use, to go and create and I feel that is a reason why Fujifilm has managed to grow so much within a decade.
Some brands like Sony do not evoke such feelings in me, to me the Sony cameras are ‘tools’, they are excellent in getting the job done, hardly possible to miss a shot and yes, technically at the forefront and they are frankly value for money performance wise, but if I don’t shoot a Sony, I do not miss it.
It is the feeling where the camera somehow becomes part of one’s life, being there with me for the smallest moments and the X100 series is one camera that I somehow always will want to bring packed along even if for a short trip, similar to the case of a Leica fanboy friend who loves to bring his M camera out even for short supermarket runs (I respect that a lot).
And I can say that in this sense, the Fujifilm X100 series has somehow grown into a part of my life, and not simply part of my collection of cameras. And in this sense where Fujifilm has managed to design a camera that evokes an emotion is pretty darn impressive.
So, then what are the improvement I hope to see Fujifilm work on?
FIRST, Fujifilm needs to work on their autofocus system. Fanboys, don’t get offended. I am saying this as someone who has shot using Fujifilm’s best in autofocus, the X-T4. And I am someone who has been blessed to test the autofocus systems of Nikon’s, Canon’s and Sony’s newest so cut me some slack here.
In fairness, Fujifilm has improved immensely in focusing reliability since the X-Pro1 but then, it is as important to know that for the professional who gets paid for every single shot, every shot missed is a lost opportunity and there is room for Fujifilm to catch up with its competitors here to ensure its survival in the future. I know currently what we have works, but I have seen many users move out of the system in the last 2 years simply because of the auto-focus reliability and they do not return.
Second, Fujifilm has released an excellent quality lens line-up, for which I have little complaints against however there is a need to work on tidying up the camera body models. For example, a single X-Trans IV sensor being used on close to 10 camera models all with varying numbers of available film simulations is a situation we can improve on.
My Fujifilm X-Pro3 friends for example are still waiting for their Eterna Bleach Bypass, while my X-T3 friends have given up waiting for their Classic Negative, and surprise, the Fujifilm X-E4 which sells for around 1/2 the price of the X-T4 has every single film simulation in the X-mount series despite all having the same X-Trans IV sensor. Don’t even get me started on the X-T30.
*I understand the typical explanation is that these camera models despite using the same sensor have different image processors, but I still find this sad and in need of streamlining.
Can I imagine a Fujifilm camera without Velvia? I cannot. The same should go for the other camera models and film simulations as far as possible.
Third. Focusing on the user community. I am from Singapore, one of the richest and yet the smallest countries in S-E Asia so my third point is focused in a local context.
A key point of Fujifilm’s growth in this tiny market of population 7 million (well, the United States market has 330 million, the European Union 447 million so thus we are tiny) is the attention to building a vibrant user community . Other brands which were slow to the game has caught up using the same strategy, Sony (which impressed me the most in this regard) literally delivers and collects the review cameras to your doorstep in a protective Nanuk case because they respect your time so much.
The words of the users in the community easily counts more than any marketing campaign and when this disappears, the next is obviously the user market will diminish and I believe that more can be done to build on the community.
And of course, marketing has to evolve to match the post Covid-19 trends. Don’t be the one that says no one else is doing it so we don’t do it, instead be the innovative one that dares to go ahead and lead the pack, after all isn’t Fujifilm all about evolution and the Kaizen spirit?
Addendum: Despite the Govt mandated closure of shops, Fujifilm Singapore was the only brand who went the extra length to provide delivery-to-doorstep service for equipment bought by consumers during the 2020 Covid-19 circuit breaker in the interest of public health.
And despite the on-going pandemic, they continued to engage users through photography workshops by going online, including later going onto physical workshops in accordance with meeting local Covid-19 social distancing restrictions where applicable.
That’s all I have, 3 points of why Fujifilm has managed to sustain its growth and 3 areas it has to focus on for its future survivability based on my 2 cents.
Thank you for reading, and again, hold your pitchforks.
- Every single sample shot except 1 in this article was shot with the X100 series and randomly picked from my collation of X100 series shots over the years.
- The views here are of the author’s and well, are only worth as much as his 2 cents.
- If you do not see me testing another Fujifilm product again, I guess it means that my concern and care for the brand has been taken as negativity against the brand. 🥲