I think Fujifilm is full of crap.

I read the transcripts of a recent interview with what are said to be the top management for Fujifilm’s camera division. I read a couple different iterations, just to be sure of consistency. As far as I can tell the transcripts are consistent across the board.

You can read the transcript “cliff notes” version here at Fujiaddict.com, and the site also offers the full video interview as well. My calling BS on Fuji really concerns the second and third points listed in the excerpts of the Fujiaddict.com article/interview translation:

  • Traditionally camera companies create a pyramid for their camera lineup but Fujifilm has a different approach the center of photography is the photographer, not the camera and Fujifilm is looking to provide all types of photographers with the style camera they want.

  • Fujifilm makes rangefinder style and SLR style because the photographers’ preferences are what’s most important

Early on when they marketed their first pro grade camera, Fujifilm did create something very unique at the time. It was a modern camera with modern touches but it was designed to look and be operated like a camera that photographer’s have traditionally used. It looked like a film rangefinder camera but it was fully digital. It sported a quality fixed prime lens and leaf shutter. It provided both an optical viewfinder and electronic viewfinder - all very modern and very retro at the same time. It was called the X100 and it was a risky move then, but it caught on with the public in a big way. I still own my X100. Fujifilm followed with other cameras, each designed and built the Fuji way, which is stated in the first bullet item above. They built cameras for photographers. And these cameras, made photography fun again. For me at least, they made it enjoyable to work with a camera and it didn’t hurt that the resulting images were startlingly good. Fuji again owning up to being there for the photographer’s, used their film experience to create images that closely resembled their film stocks of the past. They totally marched to a different beat, developing and using a different sensor array called X-Trans, sticking it in a line of professional grade rangefinder-esque cameras using interchangeable lenses, and a pro grade mirrorless camera system that mimicked older film SLR’s. What I mean are all their cameras to this point, shared a control interface using good old timey dials to set shutter speed, ISO and shooting modes. They made lenses with aperture rings! They provided customizable buttons in a nod to the modern age but the layouts were mostly human friendly. They made cameras that look like cameras. Not a bad thing.

Fujifilm decided their next camera system would be closer to medium format. This is the GFX system. That was when I made my jump and went totally Fuji, dropping the trusty Nikon 35mm format cameras and lenses. I’ve outlined my reasons for wanting medium format, or at least Fuji’s reasonably priced version of it, in other posts found on this site. I was so happy to see prototypes of the GFX following the Fuji doctrine of camera’s for photographers because it continued with the dials, buttons and aperture rings as their now heritage camera systems all did. Their only real competitor in this medium format battle was the Hasselblad XD1. It was built like a smart phone. Touch screen, one dial and a very modern look. It did not sell. All along, I had figured on that as my medium format camera since it was announced before Fuji’s intentions. However, in testing it, I found it was largely not for prime time and to be honest, I hated the touch screen and handling. It did produce really good images though. But I also thought Fuji’s GFX 50S produced better. Lens for the XD1 were coming along very slowly. Fujifilm produced lenses and a camera together.

That was then. Now, Fujifilm has been talking up the next medium format camera they hope to have out in June. It’s a 100 MP sensor based camera, it has updated 14 or 16 bit color (TBD), of course the new sensor with top quality IQ/Dynamic range/high ISO, and the first phase detect AF ever for a MF camera, which covers the entire sensor. This isn’t a first, it’s an only. Plus the overall size is a major win in that its no larger than a full frame pro DSLR like a Nikon D5. It’s price is not crazy expensive at a rumored $10k given its neighbors in the medium format field cost like cars. I actually planned to buy this beast of a camera. I was signed up. Then I saw the prototype and the spec sheets and advert spin on the camera.

Fujifilm had completely abandoned it’s heritage design esthetic. They developed an overgrown touchscreen centric XD1 replica. They claimed it was because photographers asked for it. I do not know every photographer in the world, but I know many and many of them like the GFX 50s. None of those users liked the new camera. None asked for it. If you read between the lines in their marketing material, Fujifilm readily admits, they had to eliminate the dials and buttons found on all the other camera’s because it made the camera too big. To engineer the camera to weight and size desired, they resorted to building a camera which resembles most mainstream camera’s in use today. This camera wasn’t built to satisfy photographer’s, it was built to engineering specs. Engineer’s assigned a task of making it meet paper specs and goals with no real concerns about making it a photographer’s tool. I was shocked, a bit hurt and bewildered that Fujifilm abandoned their heritage and trademark design principles to copy a Hasselblad instilled design.

I bought into the Fujifilm GFX system knowing the 100 MP camera was coming. I planned to upgrade to it. I bought lenses, four of them so far plus the 50s which total a fair investment. The GFX 50s produces wonderful images. No complaints there but the 100 MP sensor, the upgraded AF and the advanced color science of these RAW files were all very promising. The GFX100 could very well be the mother of all camera’s and the best thing ever built, but what good is it if its a pain in the ass to shoot with? If it doesn’t spark or motivate you to pick it up and go shoot with it? When I shot Nikon and Fuji side by side prior to me switching, one of the compelling factors was when it came time to go to work or go play and shoot for me, I always chose the Fuji camera. It was fun. It was intuitive. Because it handled like the camera’s I grew up using, the controls felt right and in place. I’m a photographer and it was a photographer’s tool.

Given the design of the GFX100 and their lack of design investment in lenses to match the GFX system, I call total BS on Fujifilm in terms of their statements in the two bullet points above. They are not really designing and manufacturing cameras and lenses for photographer’s. The 80mm 2.8 has been a staple focal length in the MF world. Such a lens is not even on their roadmap. Another Fuji exec admitted they have no fast MF lenses planned and said that’s something they just heard as a requirement. Really? Fast lens were requested when the GFX was released! Talk about head in the sand…As for the second bullet item stated, how does the GFX100 fit as a rangefinder or DSLR design their photographers are asking for? The GFX looks like a Holga reject. I guess since they incorporated a battery grip into the body, they consider that DSLR like. They may want to seek photographer input moving forward versus letting their favorite engineers design things because they can. The 100-200mm lens they recently made seems to be the perfect “look what we can do!” instead of “what can we build for our photographers”. Add the GFX100 to that list.

I’m not investing in the GFX100, as you probably can tell. I’m not sure if I’m going to continue to invest in Fujifilm at all. I stayed with Nikon for too long when they got complacent and pursued a direction that Fujifilm is taking. Nikon quit building for photographers long ago and until Fujifilm came along possibly only Olympus was trying to. Now, Panasonic might be trying although I find them to look like Sony copycats and to me that’s not a good thing. Sony camera’s lack any sort of character and are shells with a “sensor de jour” mentality. I will stick with my Fuji GFX 50s and my stable of X system camera’s and glass for now. It’s more than adequate and I plan for no new Fuji purchases in the future. I will not invest in a company that I feel has turned their back on customers. Not any more. You fooled me once Fujifilm.