Good in-depth interviews with camera company decision-makers, product designers and engineers are all too rare and very welcome when they appear, especially when from those companies with histories of listening to professional customers expressing their needs. Fujifilm has a reputation for being one such good listener.
Three senior Fujifilm camera division figures such as Yuji Igarashi, GM of the Electronic Imaging Division, Makoto Oishi, Manager of Sales and Marketing Group and Billy Luong, Manager for Technical Marketing and Product Specialist Group were interviewed on new directions and past achievements by Amazon.com publication DPReview shortly before Fujifilm’s recent announcement of its latest cameras and lenses, most notably the Fujifilm GFX 50S, X100F, X-T20 and the XF 50mm f/2.0 R WR.
The interview was also a reminder that there are Fujfilm cameras I currently don’t have hands-on experience with and that are worth further thought and investigation, the X-En series and the X-Tn0 series, n standing for product version number thus the recently announced X-T20, successor to the X-T10.
Fujifilm GFX 50S and its successors
For whom is the GFX 50S medium format digital camera intended?
‘Fashion, commercial and landscape photographers are the main targets,’ says Oishi. …
‘The tonality and dynamic range also mean it’ll appeal to wedding photographers,’ adds Luong. ‘And architecture,’ says Oishi.
The GFX 50S’ 50MP sensor will also prove useful for fine art and portrait photographers many of whom produce large-format prints for exhibition and for clients. For example, British photographer Brian Griffin shows his fine art portrait medium format photographs as large full-colour prints to great effect.
Architectural photography was traditionally made with 4″x5″ sheet film cameras during the analog era using camera movements for perspective correction.
Tilt/shift lenses for 35mm DSLRs are expensive and similar lenses in medium format would be even more costly, so perspective correction is more often done in software using products like DxO ViewPoint or similar features built into raw processors and image editors.
Fujifilm has taken a different direction by providing adapters so GFX series cameras can be used as sensors attached to the rear of view cameras.
Fujifilm X100F and the X100 Series
What place does Fujfilm have for the X100 series now represented by the X100F?
‘… the X100 is often photographers’ first foray into the Fujifilm system. The size, the weight, the image quality. A good proportion of our customers are saying the X100 brought back their passion for photography. That type of person is very much part of the equation,’ says Luong.
The Fujifilm Finepix X100 was a revolutionary camera bringing a precision digital rangefinder within reach of the masses. It was the digital stills camera I had been waiting for after finding DSLRs just as irritating for their mirror slap, shutter shake and lack of deep space window vision as analog SLRs had been.
I was immediately sold on Fujifilm digital cameras but they lost me temporarily when the X-Pro1 proved to be something of a promising dud, especially for spectacle-wearers and those of use needing high-speed focussing in fast-moving situations.
The X-Pro2 and X-T2 are a welcome return to cameras with traits reminiscent of Fujifilm’s analog glory days under the Fujica brand name, especially its big range of 120 roll film rangefinder masterpieces and the incredible GX680 series of technical studio cameras that combined medium format SLR technology with sheet film cameras’ tilt, swing and shift movements.
Might a medium format rangefinder camera be in the works?
‘It depends on demand and the market. The GFX 50S is one style: the ‘S’ means ‘SLR-style.’ Another way to do it would be a rangefinder style camera. Maybe an ‘R’ could be a rangefinder,’ says Oishi.
Then there is the possibility of a medium format digital rangefinder camera evolving from Fujifilm’s own many fixed lens medium format roll film cameras produced in formats from 6×4.5cm through 6x7cm, 6x8cm and 6x9cm.
‘If mirrorless interchangeable lens camera is too big as a rangefinder style, a fixed lens camera could be smaller, like the GF670.’
Fujfilm X-T20 and the X-Tn0 Series
Fujifilm’s smaller, more affordable spin-off DSLR-style camera series currently represented by the X-T20 is one with which I am entirely unfamiliar yet bears serious consideration as a second or backup camera to the flagship X-Tn series currently represented by the X-T2.
Luong explains: ‘The SLR style targets a wider audience. We find pro and enthusiast photographers gravitate towards the SLR-style camera. Back to the GFX camera, that’s why we went with the SLR style.’
Fujifilm X-E2S and the X-En Series
Like the X-Tn0 series cameras, I have to try out the latest representative of the X-En series, the X-E2S. Now that the X-T20 has gained X-Pro2 and X-T2 traits like the 24.3MP X-Trans sensor and speedier autofocus, I can see why X-En series enthusiasts have been agitating for similarly updated features and functionalities.
Given a choice between the DSLR-style of the X-T20 and the non-OVF rangefinder-style of the X-E2S, I would tend towards the latter. Although I prefer optical viewfinder cameras for certain tasks, electronic viewfinder cameras (EVF) have many virtues and bring a different way of seeing and depicting into play.
Luckily, ‘XE is an important series for us,’ Oishi says: ‘There are so many XE1, 2 and 2S users in the world…. Obviously we can’t confirm anything at this point but we are aware there are many requests for this type of camera.’
Although Fujifilm’s two current flagship cameras have considerably improved video capabilities compared to their predecessors, there is still some way to go with the firmware in both.
In his letter to Fujifilm, published here as How to Make the X-T2 a Credible Filmmaking Camera, A Letter to Fujifilm from Paul Leeming, the Australian director/cinematographer responsible for Leeming LUT One as well as a number of feature films shot on RED Super 35 and Panasonic Lumix GH4 Super 16 cameras lays out a range of firmware and hardware improvements that would help Fujifilm “blow the industry wide open”.
As a GH4 owner myself, I can attest that this and related Lumix cameras like the GX8 and GX80/85 possess a videocentric feature list and ease-of-use that have yet to be beaten by any other current hybrid camera including the Fujifilm X-T2.
‘Video is a big growth area for us,’ acknowledges Luong: ‘Our latest cameras such as the X-Pro2 and X-T2 show there’s a lot we’ve learned.’
Excellent news, but as evidenced by Mr Leeming’s letter about the X-T2 and my own asking Fujifilm to improve the X-Pro2’s video firmware features at How to Make the X-Pro2 a Credible Filmmaking Camera, A Request to Fujifilm by Karin Gottschalk, there is more for Fujifilm to learn and put into practice.
Paul Leeming and I both want to see Fujifilm bring its current and future flagship cameras’ video capabilities up to par or surpass those of the GH4 and the soon-to-be-released GH5 is that we will have excellent Super 35 alternatives to Panasonic’s Super 16 cameras.
Then there is the question of more video-capable Fujinon lenses, both primes and zooms.
‘We already have cinema lenses that are Super 35,’ Luong reminds us. ‘We’re continuing to develop video features, so we’ll continue to investigate.’
Listening to Customer Feedback
While there does not appear to be a direct channel into Fujifilm for user feedback, Fujifilm staff members are known to read certain online publications, and articles published here are passed on up the system hopefully to end up in front of Fujifilm staffers like Messers Yuji Igarashi, Makoto Oishi and Billy Luong.
‘Our X Photographers: professionals who use the camera day in, day out, that’s the first line of feedback,’ says Luong: ‘It’s quite a large group. With the GFX we had something like 50 photographers around the world using pre-production cameras.’
That figure of 5o GFX 50S pre-production camera users is impressive. I hope that Fujifilm will seek feedback like Mr Leeming’s from plenty of well-qualified video professionals and improve the firmware in the X-Pro2 and X-T2 as soon as possible while planning major video-centred hardware and firmware improvements in the X-T2’s and X-Pro2’s successors.
Header aka featured image created for this website in Photoshop by Carmel D. Morris. Product photographs kindly supplied by Fujifilm.
Product photographs in the body of this article have been processed in Macphun Luminar using the Majestic Dreams preset from the premium Photo Essentials Pack. Portrait of Brad Latta made as 3-bracket HDR on Fujifilm X-T2 with XF 56mm f/1.2 lens then processed in Macphun Aurora HDR 2017 and Luminar.