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Fujifilm Talks Future of X/GFX, Why First 10 Years were Very Difficult, Lens Design vs Production, Fujinon vs Third Party and More


A couple of days ago, Fujifilm managers and engineers have published an almost 20 minutes interview in Japanese.

The whole talk is in Japanese and a real pain to watch using the automatic youtube translator tool.

A pain FujiRumors readers should not go through, so I did what nobody else did: I rolled up my sleeves and put 1.5 hours of my time into making sense of the talk and summing it up for you guys with the greatest care and highest accuracy.

You’re welcome guys ;).

Fujifilm Mangers & Engineers Talk

Lens Design vs Lens Production

  • The various teams inside Fujifilm work closer together than in the past
  • For example, they must think not only at performance of a lens, but also at productivity
  • a lens designer said he once designed a lens just as he liked it
  • but talking to the production team, he realized that manufacturing that lens would have required adjusting the assembling of the parts a lot compared to other lenses
  • so he designed a lens that was not very productive
  • hence, when designing a lens, he has also to keep in mind the production part of it
  • sometimes optical design can become a disadvantage for production
  • Fujifilm has to balance between the needs of lens design and lens producibility
  • designing a lens is a continuous back and forth between the lens design team and the production team
  • the lens design team has also pushed the production team to introduce various improvements in the factory, to make more complex parts assembly more productive

I guess this is why Fujifilm went with such a similar design with the XF18mmF1.4 R WR, XF23mmF1.4 R WR and XF33mmF1.4 R WR. They can set up one great design, and apply that as much as possible across several lenses. Seen from this perspective, ditching the focus clutch on the XF23mmF1.4 R WR improves producibility of lens itself, and hence reduces costs for Fujifilm.

Fujinon vs Third Party

  • it’s better to increase the number of choices of customers
  • Fuji’s superzoom lens stopped at “XF18-135mm”, but Tamron made “18-300mm”
  • with more lens options, the number of customers will increase
  • from a customers point of view, third party lenses are a great option
  • from a sales perspective, it is more complicated, because they are direct rivals to Fujinon’s own lenses
  • the solution is simply to make lenses better than other companies :)
  • third party lens manufacturers make the same lens for various mounts, which allows them to sell them a lot cheaper than Fuji can do with Fujinon lenses, which are not sold for other mounts
  • Fujinon lenses can’t beat third party lenses in terms of price, that’s why they have overall improved performance

And indeed, if you look at all the latest Fujinon lenses (for example the XF18mmF1.4 R LM, XF23mmF1.4 R LM, XF33mmF1.4 R LM but also the upcoming XF56mmF1.2 MKII), they are way ahead of anything else you can buy from third parties around that range.

The Future of the X System

  • the first 10 years were very difficult
  • Sony teamed up with Minolta to go mirrorless
  • Panasonic teamed up with Olympus to go mirrorless
  • even big manufacturers, when making such a big move, can’t do it without having a lot of know-how in many different areas
  • Fujifilm went alone, without any partnership
  • Fujifilm made SLR’s until mid 1980
  • when they decided to go mirrorless, they looked in the house for the proper know-how to make this step
  • the first lenses were slow and noisy and needed lots of improvements in several areas
  • over the first 10 years Fuji suffered from several things
  • lots of improvements have been made in these 10 years
  • now they are pursuing “performance that will not fade even 10 years from now
  • lenses have a relatively long life compared to cameras, hence they see them as “treasures
  • Fujifilm has learned to design lenses that don’t become obsolete quickly and therefore lose value fast
  • now Fujifilm wants to make lenses that’ won’t fade out in performance during the next 10 years

Fujifilm GFX system – Characteristics and Future

  • GFX sensor is about 4 times as big as APS-C
  • even though they started with 50MP sensor, they designed lenses good for 100+ megapixels
  • there was no full frame 100MP camera out there when they started developing 100MP capable G mount lenses (and still there is not)
  • no full frame lens can apparently resolve 100 megapixel
  • as for Fujifilm, they had a 26MP sensor and all APS-C lenses could resolve that
  • so was it enough just to take the APS-C design and quadruple it?
  • nope, manufacturing GFX lenses required more than double the lens assembly accuracy over ASP-C lenses
  • Fuji has currently 17 G mount lenses (including the teleconverter and the three lenses announced in the latest G mount roadmap
  • compared to the X lens offering, there are still quite some missing parts in the G mount lens offering
  • Fujifilm must strengthen G mount lens offering
  • X and GFX system will continue
  • the market for medium format is smaller
  • Fujifilm can’t develop something that does not sell [admin note: they imply that having pushed the GFX system to 17 lenses and continuing to push the system means they are happy with the sales]
  • they have great customer feedback
  • GFX cameras are becoming quite small for what they are
  • they design also keeping miniaturization of the system in mind

Developers Dreams

  • Prototypes for wide angle G mount zoom are already quite advanced [admin note: mock-ups can be seen here]
  • APS-C has to take advantage of its size, especially in the telephoto range
  • if the angle of view is the same, APS-C lenses can be definitely smaller than full frame. 600mm on FF is 400mm on APS-C or 900mm on FF is 600mm on APS-C
  • small, light and nice to handle lenses
  • Fujifilm thinks they made a good decision to skip full frame and offer overwhelming image quality with GFX and high image quality and performance with a compact APS-C system

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