What Does Fujifilm Have to Do to Compete in the West

What Does Fujifilm Have to Do to Compete in the West

An undeniable and long-standing staple in the photography world, Fujifilm's market share in the West is still fractional. With all of its innovation and strong reviews, one must ask, what more can Fujifilm do to increase influence in the Western market?

As more information surfaces on Fujifilm's 100-megapixel medium format camera, the announcement of a sequel to their best selling camera, and rumors of a GFX modular system, I can't help but wonder what Fujifilm have to do to compete in the West. You only need look at Digital Camera World's summary of Fujifilm's 2018 to realize they are putting in the hours. Their relentless innovation and production has raised eyebrows and garnered positive reception from the photography community at large, but one fact can't be overlooked: their market share in the West renders them almost irrelevant.

Allow me to take a step back briefly. I like Fujifilm cameras and I like their history in industry. I have used several Fujifilm cameras (one more if you'll let me include the brilliant Instax! No? Fine.) albeit not for any of my commercial work, and I'm always impressed. The build quality is high-end, the specs are strong, and they feel good to use. But when push comes to shove, would I buy one?

Alex Cooke and I were discussing the new 100 megapixel medium format monster Fujifilm are preparing. He was fighting the urge to get one when he can, whereas I essentially scoffed at the idea. Yes, its spec is brilliant and its selling points are alluring. Here's the summary from Cooke's article:

  • DP Review says the body feels like a Nikon D5 or Canon 1D X II with a fast prime
  • Highly improved EVF performance
  • Secondary OLED display under the back LCD
  • Tilting rear touchscreen
  • Dual SD card slots
  • 4K at 30p
  • Improved autofocus performance
  • Likely coming in late spring or early summer 
  • In the past, Fujifilm has said that the camera will be priced under $10,000

A lot of what the camera offers isn't unique, however high-end it may be. However, it has two huge attractions: brand new, modern spec medium format for under $10,000, and 100 megapixels. The former is far more intriguing than the latter for me. Honestly, I'm not sure what I'd need 100 megapixels for, and I do extremely long macro stacks for commercial use, including billboard printing. The fact is — as Fstoppers showed last year — megapixels are overrated for printing, no matter how large. The generous spec on a medium format camera, for a price closer to a top of the range full-frame body is far more interesting.

Whether you would buy it or not, it's an impressive piece of kit, well priced, and yet the only place Fuji are dominant is Thailand. Every 2018 report of market shares for cameras and lenses are utterly dominated by Canon, Nikon, and Sony, usually in that order. For video, Panasonic are a heavy hitter, admittedly, but if you want Fuji's market strengths, you'll have to depart from cameras and look at medical use picture archiving systems and film for polarizers.

From the 2018 Fujifilm Holdings investors report.

So, why the deficit? Admittedly, there's always the concern over lenses, with favorites like the Sigma Art series only being made to fit either Nikon, Canon, Sony, or Sigma mounts. But having used adapters on Sony bodies for Canon lenses and vice versa, I can confidently say that adapters are not much of a worry anymore.

So I put this question to you readers, both Fujifilm and non-Fujifilm users, why are they not better represented in the Western camera market, given they are arguably working harder and innovating more than their rivals? What would it take for you to switch to Fuji?

Lead image courtesy of Lina Kivaka via Pexels

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44 Comments

Ken Savage's picture

"However, it has two huge attractions: brand new, modern spec medium format for under $10,000, and 100 megapixels". - Don't forget a good "here today" medium format lense line-up that is becoming more and more robust.

I made the switch from Nikon to Fuji and have no regrets whatsoever. For anyone like me who started photography way back with Asahi Pentax, Minolta and other camera's alike, it's really FujiFilm camera's that bring the joy back in using camera's that make sense to operate. It's an utterly joy to have a camera to act as it should without having to delve into manuals or menu-settings. And then, yes those big sensor size camera's are great for pro's in studios, but for me the DX or TX camera's do the job/joy just fine. Why carry the size and weight of fullframe if FujiFilm's lightweight camera's can out-perform them any way.

Wouter J. van Duin

Couldn't agree with you more. I was a SONY shooter back in the late 90's, early 00's and then moved to Canon DLSR's. In 2013 an X100S changed all that and I learned to love photography all over again. Now, in 2019, I only have Fuji gear because the weight, size and sheer joy of shooting with the camera system keeps me coming back. I think that if they could "workshop" a camera into more people's hands they would start to gain a major foot hold here in the West!

Mihir Shah's picture

Couldn't agree more. For someone who's first camera was Canon A1, the x100 series was a perfect fit for street and now I just got the Xt3 and I feel very comfortable using it. I used to shoot only Canon but now Fuji seems to be doing a great job. If there are any specific jobs for which I need different tool, I can always rent it.

I would go full Fuji if they did one of these things:
1. Make a cinema camera that has 10-bit 422 All-I 4K codec with a Super35mm sensor (Basically an XT-3 in a smaller Sony FS5-like body with XLRs and internal NDs.
OR
2. Made a slightly larger X-H2 with a bigger battery and internal NDs with the X-T3's features.

That's it. Using EF cinema cameras (C100/200/300, EVA-1) is annoying because they don't really have good APS-C lenses for them, but Fuji has the best Super35/APC-S lens lineup in the business.

My main gig is shooting video obviously and would LOVE to go fuji, but like to have a higher end cinema camera for most of my work and then a smaller mirrorless for gimbal and personal work and photos. Fuji's mirrorless cameras are my favorite by a large margin, but using the EOS R for now since all the cinema cameras I use are Canon.

Tate Dominguez's picture

I made the switch from Canon to Fuji almost a year ago. Absolutely no regrets whatsoever, love my xh1! I too was waiting for them to announce a cinemalike camera with internal nds, xlr inputs and robust codecs. I think and hope they will, I dont own those cinema style mk lenses they've produced but I figure they will put them to good use soon. If they manage to put that camera out I'll finally be able to depend on a single ecosystem for most of my work. I mean they already got world renowned ASC Cinematographer current Academy Award nominee Mathew Libatique to endorse and shoot a short film promoting the Xt3 that showcases how great an image can be achieved with such a cheap little camera, yet for some reason they barely made the short or bts accessible.

Man I love the X-H1 especially. I've almost bought it about 10 times (especially at the new price with the vertical grip). I assume with all their updated video specs and the MKX lenses, that we would see a cinema camera from them soon (NAB 2019?!). If they do, I'm going full Fuji as soon as it happens. Their lenses are just so much better for Super35 work than all of Canon's lenses (their APS-C lenses aren't good and even the OK ones (the 17-5mm f2.8) don't cover a DCI 4K image - blergh.

I'm tired of having 2-3 mounts and 2-3 lens types across cameras I frequently use (EF, RF, MFT, adapters, speedboosters, crop factor calculations).

Sticking with Canon until Fuji goes for it in the cinema world - but hoping that's sooner rather than later...

It’s simple.

Medium Format is considered the apex of IQ but it’s expense prevents mass adoption.

APS-C is a great middle ground for enthusiasts but for the general public APS-C doesn’t bring enough size/weight savings to justify over FF as m43 and 1” cameras do.

The reality is, the general public buys APS-C because typically it has a clear upgrade path to FF from one of the big brands, Canon or Nikon. They feel more ready to spend the money if the camera has Canon or Nikon on it even if it’s not FF.

Fuji needs FF, not for the IQ benefits (as MF is superior) but to gain that mindshare in both the general public and more importantly camera store sales staff. It’s just easier and more “sexy” to sell a FF camera using buzzwords than it is a middle child sensor size.

Fuji seems pretty hard headed when it comes to FF. It's too big a leap from APS-C to medium format. I don't need, and couldn't afford, MF, but I might spring for FF.

Wasim Ahmad's picture

I think a lot of it is inertia - Canon and Nikon have been around and have a huge installed base. It's also a lot easier to tell a newbie to go "Pick up a Canon Rebel" that they can go to the store and hold. It's a lot less common to see Fuji in that type of situation.

Calling the entry level line something slick like "Rebel" was a brilliant marketing move over the the rest of the industry's alphabet soup.

Note, I say this as a Canon, Nikon and Fujifilm user. (Much love to my X-T1).

Xander Cesari's picture

For their medium format stuff, I dunno that's a very different marketing target. I think with full frame getting better and better first they have to convince digital photographers that there's even much to be gained from going to medium format.

Their APS-C stuff is a little simpler and maybe controversial on this site; they need to get trendier. They already have the awesome vintage aesthetic (both their physical cameras and the images they produce). I think they just need to hit the Instagram crowd harder. Kendall Jenner posted a photo on Instagram with a Polaroid SX-70 and sent teenagers scurrying to eBay and film camera stores to snap up that exact model (see: B&H Podcast interview with the Brooklyn Film Camera guys). I think they kind of have to be that in the digital world.

The Zeiss ZX1 is a confusing camera but what it's perfect for is the simplest and highest quality shoot-to-Instagram transfer possible. A great quality P&S with really in-depth built in editing and a WiFi link right to your phone for instant upload. Fujifilm could do something like that but keep the interchangeable lens and clarify the marketing message. Zeiss has left that camera a little too ambiguous and limited but I think they might be on to something.

Aran Y's picture

Why is she holding the camera like that? 😂

Really, really weird

Ludwig Heinrich's picture

Probably because she finds the Fuji XT series as awkward to hold as I do :-)

I switched from Nikon to Sony after using Nikon since 1991. Before making the decision to switch to Sony I was very interested in Fuji and actually met a Fuji rep in 2018 at an event and asked about the x-t3 after it was released. I don't want to get into the details but the difference between how the Sony rep treated me was night and day. Sony rep not only treated me like a human being but like a valued customer even though I had not bought anything. I am not an instagramer with 3 billion followers, I am not an influencer, an ambassader, a celebrity fashion photographer, an adventure photographer who is on a diffreent peak every other week . I am just one of countless pros who put their head down every day and produce work that pays the bills and feeds their families. I will never forget the way the Fuji rep treated me. If they want to focus on more market share they should treat the countless, unnamed pros out there with more dignity.

Dana Goldstein's picture

GFX shooter for over a year. Amazing, wonderful camera and great lenses FOR MY PURPOSE (editorial portraiture). Incredible detail. Same size and weight of D750 which is what I switched from. Robust feel, intuitive menus, total customization. Not for sports, not for events (Nikon’s high ISO still the best IMHO). But perfect for me.

I think Fuji has focused too much on street shooters and landscape in their social media, and have not chosen ambassadors carefully or wisely in that respect (ie too many talented amateurs, not enough serious pros in a variety of genres). More event & portrait shooters would have helped. Also, more women photographers overall. We are definitely underrepresented in their marketing.

I also have the X-T3 which is fast and great in low light. Between the two lines, they have everything to compete in terms of quality products. They need to rethink their presentation, and to some extent, I think they permanently missed the boat. They could have gone head to head with Sony and grabbed more of that market, had they chosen to go after it. It’s a shame, bc I think a lot of people would be very happy with Fuji if they came with an open mind.

Simple for me, they either need to stabilize the sensor for the XT3, or they need to stabilize more of their primes. I shoot just as much video as photos, and I am not interested in lugging around a gimble.

Daris Fox's picture

Grass roots marketing like Sony does, or at least counter a lot of the Sony shills you see popping up everything there is a camera that's a potential threat.

I'll get a tinfoil hat. In all seriousness, better marketing to photographers, that's their weakness and address many perceived issues with their cameras because of **** software (looking at you Adobe).

This is a really interesting question. First, I don't think Fuji's market share is nothing. I think it's not bad for a brand new system. The X-System is what? Seven years old, I think. GFX is even more recent. It's profitable. But what is keeping them from doing better?

1) Lack of distribution. I live in a relatively affluent community of 100,000+ and I don't think there is any place in town where I can look at, touch, or be recommended a Fujifilm camera. Instax, maybe.

2) No full frame option. Their APS-C system is excellent but it lacks the cachet of full frame. Meanwhile, their medium format system is disproportionately more expensive than the value it adds for most users. I suspect the dramatic drop in the cost of full frame bodies was not anticipated when they committed to an APS-C only strategy.

3) As already suggested, they're competing against the momentum, the established base, and the mindshare of Canon and Nikon products. Until it reaches the point where Canon is no longer able to throw any old crap body out there and have people buy it because it says "Canon" I'm not sure how Fuji can overcome this.

4) Sony. They are a technological juggernaut. They're not perfect and neither are their products—but they are excellent. And they're sucking all the oxygen out of the room for anyone who isn't Canon or Nikon.

I agree that Fuji has done a poor job of choosing their X-photographers but I'm not sure that's a big factor—though I do think that an increased presence with influencers on social media would help. I also agree that X-Trans is as much of a negative as a positive among enthusiasts but I'm not sure that matters either. To really succeed they have to extend their reach beyond the enthusiasts to the folks who buy their cameras at Costco and Target and have never heard of dpreview or fujirumors. That will take time. To Fuji's credit, they are doing everything they can to innovate and compete so that when someone does pick up one of their products it should leave a good first impression both on its own and relative to its competitors.

Next question: How long can Canon continue to get away with selling crap bodies with missing or crippled features before they start to lose their dominance? Anyone?

This is simply Coke vs Pepsi. Coke was first. Try convincing a Coke diehard drinker to switch to Pepsi.

Fuji is competing in the enthusiast space.
Note that Nikon and Canon have a giant presence in the consumer space.
They sell at WalMart, Costco, Target, Best Buy and so on. Fuji only sells its down market models in mass outlets and their brand is unfamiliar to most consumers.
Photo enthusiasts forget that the world doesn't care about what they care about. The consumer wants a low price and a trusted name. Buying a Fuji is like buying a Subaru. Many have heard the name but aren't sure that they should get one even though they really like it.

JetCity Ninja's picture

this is the most sensible response i’ve read of all the comments. i’d also like to add a lack of sales incentives has partly fueled Sony’s mindshare growth. Sony has grabbed mindshare from Canon due to dealers pushing Sony so hard by way of sales incentives.

the day i went to my local camera store to buy an X-T2 after shooting Nikon for over a decade, the sales staff all tried to push me into an already outdated (at the time) a7 II that met few of my needs before they’d even pull the requested X-T2 out of the case for me. it always began with, “check this out first...”

olivier borgognon's picture

I believe the only thing they need and that nobody speaks about is TIME.

When you put in the hours, the work, the technology, the vision, you reap the results. Fujifilm has and still is in the film, print, sensors industry. It is the only company cross segmenting from sensors to film, optics and their knowledge is growing expansively.

When i hear canon ceo stating his concerns, he is calling for his fate. And when i hear fuji ceo clearly stating NO FULL FRAME, he is positioning his brand, with a clear vision. And whatever the time, vision rules the game.

Is fujifilm in need of a larger market ? Do they want that ? Is expansive growth vital ? Or are they seeking raising the bar, offering new segments to early adopters who are looking for that product. To me the latter makes much more sense.

Dont try to be a commodity for the masses, just be yourself and develop what you feel is truly you, and i feel that fujifilm is doing just that.

So... in my humble opinion, TIME is the answer, and they are not missing or lacking time, they are just taking it.

Penny Fan's picture

I made full switch to Fuji just before Xmas, came from long time Sony user and had all the best Sony cameras including A99, A7Rii and Riii.

I love Fuji X system for what they are, small & light, intuitive controls, great lenses, retro design, film simulation and Kaisen updates.

IMO Fuji has no need to compete head to head to rivals entering FF, even if they do, they only gonna lost money with the shrinking camera market.
They only need to keep doing what they’ve been doing which made them unique and different to other rivals, that is the best strategy.

Rob Mitchell's picture

They're doing a ton more than the others already here in Europe. Ambassador programmes, lots of visibility. Not sure they're picking up the markets they want though, I see mainly enthusiastic amateurs, wedding people, lifestyle photographers passing my view. Less of the full on commercial types that are already entrenched in either Nikon or Canon or the more traditional MF cameras. Sony seem to be making steam, lost of people dumping the DSLR and going Sony.

I've dabbled with Sony, Canon and have been a Fujifilm Ambassador. Nikon is still pulling me though for my bread'n'butter system. Must say though, I do like the X100F for out and about.

I have used Fuji in the past and for me two things I did not like: aps-c sized sensor, and base of ISO 200 for RAW. Also I personally don’t care for all the analog dials. As far as medium format (Fuji or any brand), no interest whatsoever. Too expensive, bulky, with slow, heavy and also expensive lenses, hampered usability and no real discernible difference in image quality - at least not enough to justify that price for what I see as a diminishing point of return on image quality.

My journey was from Sony -> Canon -> Fuji (namely apsc - full frame - apsc + medium format).

I have settled on Fuji for now. It's amazing and keeps my enthusiasm going.

michaeljin's picture

Realistically speaking, the only way for them to increase their market share is to either put out a full frame camera or do a better job convincing people that APS-C is all they really need.

Their medium format, while affordable for medium format, is still out of the range of most people just like full frame "halo" cameras are out of their range. The bulk of high end shooters are using cameras in the $1500-$3500 range and these tend to be the most vocal crowd. So if you're coming into the market, you're far more likely to just emulate what you see most professionals doing rather than shop around. By the time you have the knowledge to shop around, you're already bought into a system, creating another barrier.

It's a real shame because Fuji makes awesome cameras and APS-C is all most people will realistically need. However, they're fighting against years of that sensor size being treated and marketed by major manufacturers as unprofessional consumer grade gear.

All of the stuff about Xtrans raw files and Lightroom not playing well together doesn't help their cause either even if the situation might have changed since those early days.

Rob Davis's picture

I’ve been thinking about this lately and the biggest thing holding me back is focus-by-wire lenses. I really hate them. If i have to use adapters that’s just one more annoyance.

They could start by teaching their models how to hold a camera. :)

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