Photokina 2014: Fujifilm interview - 'Over the past few months I’ve been getting more confident'
|Toshihisa Iida, Senior Manager of Sales & Marketing in Fujifilm's Optical Device & Electronic Imaging products division. Pictured at Photokina 2014.|
DPReview attended the Photokina trade show last week in Cologne Germany, and as well as stand reports and hands-on looks at the major new products we also sat down with executives from several of the major camera manufacturers.
In this interview, we speak to Toshihisa Iida, Senior Manager of Sales & Marketing in Fujifilm's Optical Device & Electronic Imaging products division.
Last time we spoke you had just released the X-T1. How have people reacted to it?
Very well, not only in Japan but also in the rest of Asia and all over the world. Demand was twice as high as we expected, so we’re very pleased. A lot of people have told me that they consider the product to be a game-changer.
You had to increase manufacturing capacity - is that correct?
Yes. Our colleagues in Germany especially were asking us to increase capacity, but we’re catching up now, which is why we’ve introduced the new graphite silver edition of the X-T1 at Photokina. In terms of hardware, the main difference is the coating of the body material, which is in three layers. The finished product has a premium look, and the finish and all the dials have been carefully designed to match the body.
|Mechanically, the 'graphite silver' edition X-T1 is the same as the conventional black version but it is coated differently for added durability (and of course a different, silver finish).|
At the same time we’re releasing new firmware including electronic shutter, the new ‘natural view’ mode and classic chrome film emulation. And that firmware will also be available for the existing X-T1 from December. We’re also adding several other improvements, including manual exposure in video mode, customization of the ‘Q’ button and direct autofocus area selection and so on.
What is your strategy for developing the X-series?
In the X30 and X100T products which we announced for this show our main focus is improvements to the viewfinder and to usability. We didn’t change the lens or sensor of either camera but we did make changes to usability including additional custom options, dial refinements and so on.
Is the AF system in the X100T changed compared to the X100S?
It’s basically the same, but the algorithms have been a little changed.
Do you get much feedback from X100 customers that they want different focal lengths?
Yes, and that’s why we introduced the wide-angle and teleconverter lenses. There is some demand but there’s always a balance between quality and size. I think at the moment we’re doing the right thing by keeping the same lens but offering the converters.
Were the new features in the X30 and X100T based on customer feedback?
Yes. We’re not playing for numbers anymore. Real usability is very important - it’s a key focus. In terms of battery life, we’ve changed the battery in the X30, almost doubling the number of shots. Plus we’ve introduced USB charging. With the X100T, although the battery is unchanged and the battery life is the same, the indicator is more consistent, and should show a more accurate indication of charge level.
In terms of mirrorless, our focus is on high-end. We want to lead the market for high-end mirrorless and in order to do that, a key factor is the lens lineup. We’re constantly doing our best to deliver and develop best-in-class lenses.
Your roadmap for lenses through to the end of 2015 - does this represent lenses that your X-series customers have been asking for?
Yes. We’ve had some consistent feedback from many customers, especially professionals. Globally we now have more than 300 of what we call ‘X Photographers’ who have been invested in the X-series from the beginning and advise us constantly. For example the 90mm F2 was not in our previous roadmap but we got a lot of requests. So we listened and we added it based on that feedback.
|Among the lenses on Fujifilm's roadmap for 2015 is a weatherproof 16-55mm F2.8 standard zoom, which should make a good companion to the company's X-T1.|
Was that also the case for the 56mm F1.2 APD?
The APD was actually suggested by our technical R&D team, who had this 'magical' filter, so we added it.
You’ve talked about the X30 and X100T, and how you haven’t changed the sensors. What comes next for X-Trans? 16MP has been a constant now for several years.
Of course we are committed to the APS-C format, and we’re still investing it. In terms of resolution, our lenses are so sharp, there’s scope for higher resolution to maximize the capabilities of the lenses. We could also improve sensitivity, which is already good, but there’s some room for improvement. Also speed - we can definitely look at this.
One thing we’ve found with X-Trans sensors is that while they’re very capable for stills, they’re not good for video.
Yes, sure, we recognize that. Our customers have pointed it out.
Is video getting more important for Fujifilm?
Yes, for everybody. Of course the still image is still of primary importance but we can’t ignore video, which is getting more and more important.
How important is it to you to have a Fujifilm X-Trans sensor inside your cameras?
It’s very important to maximize quality, especially in still images. I think we do need X-Trans. There’s no low-pass filter and moire is minimized.
|Fujfilm's new X100T features the same 16MP sensor as its predecessor but in a redesigned body and with an improved hybrid viewfinder.|
A lot of our readers would love a full-frame X100-type camera with any sensor inside it, X-Trans or not. Could this ever be a possibility?
Bayer or X-Trans, the format is very important and at the moment I think that APS-C is the best format in terms of size, speed, quality and price. A full-frame camera would be bigger, more expensive and maybe slower too.
Fujifilm is evidently focused on the high end of the market, but how do you attract new photographers to the X system?
We don’t ignore anyone. Our cameras aren’t just for high-end users, and we keep trying to find the best way to communicate that.
Is it still difficult to sell mirrorless cameras in the USA?
The X-T1 is selling well, even in the USA which is very encouraging. There are customers who have been using big Canon and Nikon DSLRs with lots of lenses and they’ve been looking for something small and light without compromising quality.
Small, entry-level mirrorless cameras are hard to sell in the US, but in terms of high-end mirrorless there are a lot of enthusiast photographers in the USA and all over the world. Those customers are waiting for something small and compact which doesn’t comprise on quality. To be honest we’re pretty clear about what we need to do, and I think we’re moving in the right direction.
Last time we spoke you expressed the opinion that if Canon and Nikon got into mirrorless more seriously it would help everybody - has that situation changed in the past 6 months?
A lot has happened over the past few months. If you look at CIPA statistics for the first seven months of this year, the mirrorless market increased by more than 40% by value. SLRs were down by around 20%. The biggest reason is that we introduced cameras like the X-E2 and X-T1, Sony introduced the Alpha 7 and Olympus introduced the E-M1. All high-end mirrorless. That changes the perception of mirrorless in the market. Of course if Canon and Nikon get more serious about mirrorless the market will benefit, but whether they do or not…
Over the past three or four months I’ve been getting more and more confident about the future of mirrorless. At a recent internal conference I made the point that 100 years have now passed since the first rangefinder and sixty years since the first SLR. So what is the next revolution? The evolution from DSLR to mirrorless is our main message at Photokina.
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