Mirrorless Interchangeable - Where does it go in 2015? Part 2 - Fuji X

The Mirrorless Interchangeable lens sector of the camera market is without doubt the most dynamic, the most innovative and the most changeable. 2014 saw a lot of new products (Thanks to Photokina) but will 2015 be just as interesting or is this a year for consolidation?

The big players here are Sony, Fuji and the m4/3 dynamic duo, Panasonic and Olympus, They each deserve their own article, and today it's the turn of Fuji. So this is my take on what the state of play is at the moment and what might (or might not happen)

FUJI X

We already have some clue as to what Fuji might be doing in 2015 from this, 

http://www.fujirumors.com/fujifilm-wont-have-a-booth-at-ces-2015-my-guess-big-announcements-in-late-2015-dpr-moderator-chris/

and this.

http://www.fujirumors.com/fuji-manager-interview-full-frame-medium-format-global-shutter-x-trans-sensor-organic-sensor-and-more/

I do like some of Patrick's comments on the latter post.

I think from the tone of the second post in particular, that Fuji fans shouldn't expect too much in 2015. The 16-55mm f/2.8 zoom is apparently officially announced in a couple of days time, but apart from that ???

This does of cause lead to speculation on one of the 'mystery' cameras of recent times and the questions "When / Will / In what form will an X-Pro 2 appear? And in fact, will there ever be an X-Pro 2? And if there is, will it sell?" The reason I pose the last question is that the X-T1 has apparently proved a popular camera and a good seller for Fuji. In fact they have indicated that it has helped their financial situation significantly. So, in the light of the popularity of this SLR type design, are Fuji having second (or third? fourth?) thoughts about an X-Pro2? Certainly the hybrid viewfinder got a lot of attention when it was announced, but is it something that lots of people want and will encourage people to buy Fuji as opposed to another brand? And any new model will surely have to move on from the original. I doubt people will get all hot and bothered about a camera that still uses the 16MP X-Trans sensor and just imports the revised viewfinder from the X-T1. 

So will this happen? Well there seems to be little information either way and what there is indicates that nothing is imminent. And in fact on the camera front Fuji have been relatively quiet. Personally I see this as no bad thing. Too many manufacturers release too much, too often and despite my reservations about the last X-T1 firmware update and the fact it was somewhat underwhelming and full of features that could / should? have been there when the camera was announced, updating can be a way to go. If Fuji are genuinely working on how to improve their current range and have made sure that their cameras are upgradeable, then that is a better option for many customers than constantly buying new models. If!!!. 

There is some indication in the above interview that indicates a longer product cycle may be Fuji's game plan. Plus with the heavily trailed firmware updates, this could be seen as a way of rekindling interest in cameras and therefore promoting and maintaining healthy long term sales. Certainly manufacturers of all products like items that sell consistently well over a long period of time, with all the advantages of keeping the same lines running in the factories. Plus in the light of the scenario that the global economy shows no signs of picking up that significantly yet, it might be a prudent policy. 

Plus Fuji can concentrate on their lens range. There are 16mm f/1.4 and 90mm f/2 lenses coming in the relatively near future, both of which sound tempting and should generate a lot of interest. The Fuji X lens range is a fine one and I think we can assume that both of theses will be top notch optically. But while this is a positive sign, there are still some questions to be asked of Fuji.

  • Are they intending to stick with the X-Trans sensor?
  • Will they / Can they raise the pixel count of that sensor to 24MP, while still maintaining excellent high ISO performance?
  • Will they ever equip their cameras with decent video quality?
  • Can they find a way to get better battery life from their cameras?
  • Will the X-Trans sensor raw files ever look as good when processed in Lightroom or Photoshop as other manufacturers files?
  • Will the electronic shutter become universal?
  • Can they get AF performance to the levels of other manufacturers cameras?
  • Can they produce a camera that truly has a 'pro' specification?
  • Do they even want to produce such a camera?
  • Have they abandoned the retro 'lookaleica' styling of the X-Pro 1, X-E1 and 2 for their interchangeable lens cameras?

My perspective is well known by now. Better battery life, better video, new sensor (not X-Trans?) would be what I would want to see. And some indication that Fuji X cameras are capable of better results away from their 'comfort zone' which as far as I can see, is portrait, wedding, social and fashion photography, where that slightly softer look can be just what's required. 

Despite the enthusiasm of the fanboys, no Fuji X is yet a realistic replacement for a Pro spec. Canon or Nikon DSLR and there really isn't going to be large scale switching by Professional photographers. There are too many missing features with Fuji X currently. But it is obvious that a great many serious amateurs / enthusiasts / pro. aspirants find a great deal to like in the Fuji X range of cameras and lenses. And despite all my reservations, I do too. The look, the handling the retro styling and the trappings of a retro styled philosophy and brand identity have all contributed to this, as has the fact that for the most part, Fuji X products look good, are made well and decent value for money, compared to their competitors. The question is however, where do they go from here?

What they could do.

Address all the issues to make their camera offer second to none. Get the raw files right, get the video right, increase the MP's and battery life, speed up the AF. Go seriously into making 'pro' spec. cameras while still retaining that 'old school' sensibility.

What they will probably do.

This is a question I have no clues for in order to come up with a prediction. I could play it safe and say that Fuji will do the same. i.e. pretty much carry on as they are are currently. But then Fuji have produced surprises in the past and they may well do that again. It seems we aren't getting 'full-frame' or MF, but there really isn't any headline news in that. They have gone with APS-C and I doubt they will move from that. And ultimately it may be that smaller sensor that prevents them from even contemplating some attempt to crossover into 'pro' / high end territory. And to be honest, who can blame them. They have their niche and with the X-T1 they have come up with a camera that a lot of people like. So is there any reason to change what is a successful formula?

There is no doubt that for many of us, Fuji X is an attractive system. Attractive enough for those of us who feel that there are still unresolved issues to put up with what's missing and live with it. For me, that might be about to come to an end, but then I'm happy to concede that others are perfectly happy with what's available currently. And there is no doubt that many, again including myself, who have found and still find using Fuji X cameras and lenses inspirational in that they make us want to go out, use them and attempt to create images we are proud of. And if Fuji can keep on achieving that, then they will surely, if not prosper, at least keep their head well above the water.