In an interview with DPReview, Fujifilm executives reiterated that they are sticking to their existing strategy for the forseeable future, with perhaps some small tweaks thrown in to satisfy customers who want better movie features and online communication.
What it means is that Fujifilm will continue to design and manufacture APS-C mirrorless cameras (X-T series) for the enthusiast market, and medium-frame mirrorless cameras (GFX series) for the professional market. The GFX 100S was specifically developed to be smaller and more matched in price to compete with its full-frame mirrorless competitors and attract more professional photographers.
Price is very, very important, but it’s not the top priority in the GFX system. Of course we recognize that if we matched our prices to full-frame, probably the demand for our products would be greater… That’s our strategy.
Then, Mr. Yamamoto (General Manager of the Optical Device & Electronic Imaging Products Division) said the following: “We are not just a camera company, we are an imaging company.” Good sound bite, and pressed on what he means and what opportunities he sees for Fujifilm as an “imaging company,” he mentions attracting customers who shoots with smartphones (the X-S10 is their step-up camera) … and the Instax system.
There is an epic battle brewing at the top end of the full-frame mirrorless camera market, and so far only three (four?) camera companies (Sony, Nikon and Canon, and perhaps Panasonic) have staked a claim. Fujifilm hopes to play in that market with their GFX 100S medium-frame mirrorless camera.
However, as Mr. Udono (Senior Manager) mentioned, “[T]o achieve high quality we need things like a more accurate IBIS unit, bigger shutter and bigger sensors. These things all cost more. So in order to maintain quality in our GFX line, the price needs to be probably a little higher than full-frame.” Fujifilm quality is tops, and so designing and building for a bigger medium-frame sensor makes everything more complicated and more expensive, and hence less competitive.
The number of professional photographers who are asking for a sensor bigger than full-frame has always been a niche market, even in the days of film. The vast majority of professional photographers will never even consider a medium-frame camera when thinking of which mirrorless camera system to standardize on as they switch from DSLRs.
Fujifilm’s existing strategy of avoiding to design a full-frame mirrorless camera and instead rely on its medium-frame mirrorless camera to lure professional photographers to its brand looks like a very risky gamble. The danger here is that if Fujifilm cannot keep up with the features, AF speed, shooting performance and price of the flagship full-frame mirrorless cameras, it risks becoming an irrelevant brand for the majority of professional photographers. Does Fujifilm still have time to enter the full-frame mirrorless market? Nikon and Canon just entered, in hot pursuit of Sony. Fujifilm just might still have time to throw their hat into the ring.
Their full-frame mirrorless models won’t have to beat Nikon, Canon or Sony — just provide the best value for money, like what the X-T4 does currently. But AF speed and precision, and IBIS are two big things for consumers now, and must be improved. Consumers are looking for smaller, more affordable and easier to use mirrorless cameras. Instead of refreshing the “old” line-up of APS-C lenses, why not design a brand new line of weather-proof, fast AF full-frame lenses? Right now, Fujifilm has too many different models (X-S10, X-T4, GFX 100S, GFX 100), using different parts and sensors. It’s difficult to innovate when all you are doing is trying to keep up. Learn from the others: one mount, one line of lenses, different sensor sizes.
The future of mirrorless is… full-frame.