Comeback of an Old Friend
For us long time Fujifilm lovers, Fujifilm manager Toshihisa Iida (the manager who said Fujifilm will NEVER go Full Frame) was arguably the most representative face of the Fujiflm X/GFX series of the last 10 years.
Sadly for us (but congratulations to him), Toshi left the electronic imaging division once he got promoted to President and Managing Director at Fujifilm Europe back in 2020.
I must admit I was a bit worried when the Toshi left, as I felt that the Fujifilm X/GFX series was in safe hands as long as he was in charge.
He did run the business with huge dedication, passion and vision, as can also be seen in this in this brilliant documentary (MUST WATCH !!!), that gives an intimate look into his life and work as imaging director.
I honestly thought it would be hard to replace a manager like Toshihisa Iida.
But if I look at all the crazy stuff Fujifilm has released in 2022, all my worries dissipate.
Under the new management, Fujifilm has not only continued to work hard and believe in its imaging division, but they also gave us the most release intense year I can remember, with three higher end cameras, four XF lenses and one GF lens. Plus some accessories, such as the legendary cooling fan and the TG-BT1 Tripod Grip.
- Fujifilm 2023: Can it Beat the Amazing 2022? A Look at What’s Coming (for sure) and What we Hope for
The Future Seen Through Fujifilm Managers Statements
But the questions that burns inside many of us is: is there a future for the Fujifilm X and GFX system, considering the overall market conditions and strong competition?
I know, Fujifilm CEO Mr. Goto said back in 2021 that Fujifilm won’t stop the photography business, as camera is part of their culture and legacy.
To me it did sound like a solid commitment, but others perceived it as a set phrase rather than something they truly believe in.
- Fujifilm’s New CEO Mr. Goto: “Camera is Culture and Contribution to Society, We Won’t Stop Photography Business”
During the year of Fuji’s 10th X series anniversary, various Fujifilm managers said in several interviews that they look forward to the next 10 years of X series, which they work hard on.
- Fujifilm Talks Future of X/GFX, Why First 10 Years were Very Difficult, Lens Design vs Production, Fujinon vs Third Party and More
The Present in Numbers
Words are nice and good, but if the numbers don’t allow it, there is no future for Fujifilm digital cameras.
And this is where Toshihisa Iida makes his comeback and gives us something to be optimistic about.
During the presentation of the Wonder Expo in Barcelona, Toshihisa Iida shared a few slides and comments, that the Spanish website fujistas summed up and we share in English below.
- Toshi said “the only way to succeed is permanent and constant investment and research over time“
- Toshi put great emphasis on the great recovery of sales in photography
- Fujistas says that “unlike in previous appointments, in which I had an aftertaste of survival instinct in the speech, I liked to see the enthusiasm and pride shown by the good performance of the X Series and GFX“
- Toshi said “there is a feeling that the photographic business is decreasing due to the rise of smartphones but this is not the case with Fujifilm“
- Fujifilm sees the mobile phone not as an enemy for Fujifilm, but as an ally
- Imaging’s global sales in the last 10 years have improved by 37%
- profit in the imaging division go from losses in 2012 to 67 billion yen of positive balance in 2022
- at European level, the imaging division represented 16% of the company’s profits in 2021 and 27% of the profits in 2022
- this gives the impression that the imaging division is in good health
- in Spain, 40% of Fujifilm’s business has to do with Imaging
- the exceptional vitality of Fujifilm’s Imaging division has to do a lot with Instax
Fujistas left the meeting with a very positive feeling about Fujifilm’s future.
With this article I try to answer the doubt of those, who have repeatedly asked me if I sincerely see a future in the Fujifilm X Series. I genuinely believe that we will have X Series and GFX for a while and not only because of a commitment to the photographic legacy of Fujifilm’s top managers, but because of a belief in a viability and growth of the business.
So taken as a whole (Instax plus electronic imaging), the imaging division is prospering and going strong. Not only in Europe but as we can see in Fuji’s latest financial results also worldwide.
And consider this: Instax does not need lots of R&D. It’s mostly just about designing a plastic box that takes Instax film. So it’s minimal R&D with massive profits. And most of the profit is done with Instax film anyway, which require zero R&D at this point.
Fujifilm can draw on the massive Instax profits to fuel the development of their X and GFX series.
Also, since the basic technology in the X and GFX series is identical (as managers recently said here) every investment that Fujifilm made for example to develop the 5th generation X series products (X-H2, X-H2s and X-T5) can be transfered over to the GFX series realitvely easily and cheaply (or the other way around: techonlogy developed for the GFX series can be used for X series).
So from this point of view, Fujifilm is well set for the future.
The Future Challenges
But just because things go well today, it does not mean that we can be sure the next 10 years will be flourishing years for Fujifilm, too.
There are several issues Fujifilm has to face.
I have no idea how big the Fujifilm team dedicated to X and GFX development is, but I doubt it grew as strong as their camera sales did. If Fujifilm wants to keep prospering, then they should continue to expand their team, so that they can work simultaneously on new firmware, new products and new lenses.
A great example for this is the new X-App, which Fujifilm internally presented to the press already a long time ago, but it’s evidently pushed back in the priority list in favor of the new 5th generation camera and firmware development. With a bigger team, I am sure the X-App would have been already out.
Another issue is competition, but it’s the one that worries me less, because I believe that the stronger the competition is, the more it will push Fujifilm to work harder. So at the end it is a good thing and we should just be happy when other camera companies release new powerful gear.
In fact, I am very disappointed that Hasselblad is not going all too serious with their medium format X2D and that other cameras companies don’t join this format. I believe the GFX system would hugely profit from stronger competition.
Manufacturing & Supply
Fujifilm is having massive struggles with manufacturing gear, which is currently mainly manufactured in Japan, the Philippines and China. I am not sure if they still make cameras in Thailand, though (they certainly did in the past, for example this camera was made in Thailand).
For a long time the zero Covid policy of China continuously disrupted their production (as for every brand that produces in China). Now that’s no longer an issue, but China remains a relative gamble in terms of investment looking at the future geopolitical challenges.
Supply is another thing Fujifilm was very bad at and they must improve.
They’ve made creative steps into trying to improve that (as announced in 2022), but we don’t really see the fruits of that system until now. As we reported already, there are still lots of cameras that Fujifilm has huge troubles to deliver.
And what about you? How do you see Fujifilm’s future?
And which system do you think is more future proof, the X or GFX system?
Feel free to drop your thoughts in the comments.