Fujifilm has a strategy problem they need to fix

The latest release of the X-T3 is a good and bad problem to have for Fujifilm.

On one hand they have released a camera that is likely to restore Fujifilm’s reputation after the X-H1’s release was overshadowed by Sony’s release of the A7iii. With this release, Fujifilm did a good enough job on the X-T3 to ensure that not even the release of two prominent full frame cameras from Nikon and canon could overshadow their announcement. It’s a damn good camera with very little to complain about.

This being the case, what exactly is the problem?

The X-H1…

If you have a look at the forums, there is a consistent issue arising. With the X-T3 being so good, where exactly does the X-H1 fit it. Despite what people think, it wasn’t a video camera, it was Fujifilm’s attempt at a professional camera. The X-T3 on the other hand is a better stills AND video camera so their “high-end” camera just got overshadowed by a lower model and that is raising some heads.

The consensus from most people is simple: Fujifilm should have waited 6 months and put the new sensor in! Fujifilm knew the new sensor was coming, they wouldn’t have been developing the X-T3 blindly so I would be questioning who made the call to put that sensor in and whether there was any actual thought behind it because it could turn out to be a death nail in the X-H1 coffin.

Past decisions aside, Fujifilm have a problem to fix and they need to do it quickly. Those looking for IBIS and the new sensor won’t find it in the X-T3 and for potential switchers that may be a problem. If I was sitting on with Nikon or Canon, disappointed with the current releases, and trying to decide which way to go, Sony still has an advantage with IBIS and far better battery life and even Nikon has put IBIS in their new mirrorless. For potential switchers, this offers compelling reasons to switch and the Sony glass in the equivalent apertures (i.e. 24-70 f4 vs 16-55 f/2.8) isn’t actually much bigger than Fujifilm so the size argument is mute.

But its not only potential switchers that are confused. It’s current X-H1 owners who are scratching their heads at Fujifilm’s strategy and asking “where to now?”.

If Fujifilm continue their previous trend of releasing the X-H2 18 months after the X-T3, I won’t be a buyer of it and neither will 50% of the X-H1 buyers, so the line is essentially dead.

Artisan & Artist ACAM-77 Soft Leather Pouch Review

Introduction

As usual, I tend to incorporate a long introduction to explain my buying process and why I picked something specifically over the 100,000 alternatives on the market. If you’re not into longwinded introductions and don’t care why I picked this specifically, feel free to skip over this section.

The challenge with the X-E3 is that if you want to carry it around in your laptop bag, there isn’t the availability of hard cases you can find for the X100. Even the X100 series is not without its problems the moment you add a hood, thumb rest or grip as this has the potential to complicate the options. Continue reading Artisan & Artist ACAM-77 Soft Leather Pouch Review

Is Eye-AF the solution to Fujifilm’s problems?

Introduction

I’ve toyed with the title of this article. Technically, this isn’t about eye-AF, it’s about a simplification of Fujifilm’s autofocus. The reason for this is I don’t think eye-AF is the complete solution to user problems, at least not entirely. It’s a great feature, and Sony’s facial preference technology (which gives preference to specific people) is the kind of technology that is helpful for some scenarios, but the real reason for the – popularity of eye-AF is the ability of the AF to decide the appropriate starting point for autofocus. In essence it’s the simplification of the AF system, and by simplification, I mean dumb it down to get better results without losing performance.

The current Fujifilm AF system is great but it requires constant customisation to get the best out of it, and most users don’t know how to do it, nor do they want to. You could argue that cameras are technical pieces of equipment, but in the land of iPads and Google, technical devices are becoming increasingly simple. For that reason, AF needs to be incredibly powerful and simple at the same time like ABS, traction control and similar technologies that are both powerful and simple.

Continue reading Is Eye-AF the solution to Fujifilm’s problems?

The dilemma of the overpriced OEM batteries

I’m going to write a generic article for this, it’s not a targeted attack on Fujifilm because I don’t believe this is something that only Fujifilm customers suffer as a result of. This is something that all the vendors do, Nikon, Canon, Fujifilm, etc. The challenge with mirrorless users is that we feel the pain a little more, because we need about 3 batteries for every one DSLR users require.

Please don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the cost of developing technology. I appreciate there are development cycles. But lets be realistic here, a battery shouldn’t cost $120. A Nikon battery shouldn’t cost that, a Fujifilm battery shouldn’t cost that and a Canon battery shouldn’t cost that. If one of the manufacturers came up with the same size battery with 3 times the capacity, I’d pay that, it’s worthwhile, it’s innovative, but there is nothing innovative about the same capacity battery that gives 320 shots on a mirrorless camera, with the same stuff rolled out year after year and only minor improvements. I understand that third party vendors are providing batteries without having to bear to cost of development, but when I can buy 4 or in some cases 5 batteries for the same price, I have to start calling it what it is, extortion, and they also wouldn’t have to pay for development because the OEM’s aren’t innovating to start with.

As I mentioned, this becomes more noticeable with mirrorless because while you can get away buying one or two extra batteries for DSLR, when you are talking about 10, it’s jut not feasible to look at OEM in it’s current form. To put it into perspective, you could spend half the amount on third party batteries, get twice as many batteries and still cover the risk over something going wrong.

For a wedding photographer shooting, it could be the problem of having 16 batteries with two cameras, at $100 a pop, you’re talking about $1,400 worth of extra batteries, which is nearly the cost of an X-T2 on batteries. Compare that to third party batteries and you’re talking about $300 vs $1400, and that’s decent branded third party batteries. Again, for $600 I could buy twice as many batteries for half the price, be able to do two events in a row, and on the odd chance a battery fails completely, I could simply call on one of my backups.

So if the OEM’s are out there listening to this, you need to rethink your strategy. The market for non-OEM batties has been created solely by you, like the market for illegal music was created in the early days by the lack of electronic downloads, or selling albums when people only wanted a song. You can try reduce the use third party batteries through firmware, warning messages, but ultimately you’re just putting a bandaid on a problem, not solving it.

When you bring that pricing down to reasonable levels, the market for OEM batteries will increase. Alternatively, show us you’re producing much higher capacity batteries and we may rethink our strategy.

The real cost of switching

Introduction

After the 763rd post about the A7iii vs X-H1 on Facebook, dpreview and every other conceivable location on the web, I’m going to give my thoughts on it, and I’m not calling it a A7iii vs X-H1 comparison. I’ve called it “The real cost of changing systems” because that is the only thing that matters. I have no issue with healthy debates about camera brands and where they are headed. Argue about whether Fujifilm is making the right decisions and it’s constructive. Comparing camera bodies is like standing in the locker room comparing…yeah, you get the idea.

For some obscure reason we have been immune from a lot of the Interbrand rivalry prior to the A7iii, but the A7iii caused some stirs with users. Maybe it was the lack of sensor competition with not many competitors in APSC, or maybe Fujifilm lost its shine a bit with an X-H1 release that was overshadowed by the A7iii. As Fujifilm users, we’re not used to having outdated camera technology on the day the camera was released. Canon users having been living that life for 5 years.

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Competition is good

I don’t have an issue with competition, it’s good for the market, it keeps everyone on their toes and ensures manufacturers stay competitive. I also don’t mind being honest, the A7iii is a better camera. There are two things that Fujifilm should have got right for the X-H1, battery life and improved AF. Do I have camera envy? Damn right I do, but camera envy is something you have to get used to in the photography world, because for at least half your camera’s life, it is going to be outdated by something else.

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What I don’t understand is how people can sell their entire glass collection, and change systems for something like eye-AF, a piece of technology they have somehow lived without for the last 20 years but suddenly seems so critical, it can’t wait a year or two until Fujifilm gets it.

The oddity is if the X-H1 was released 12 months ago, people would have been happy. Because the A7 was released along side, it’s suddenly a terrible camera, when in reality it’s a damn good camera…it’s just not as good as the A7iii in certain areas.

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The “reasons” for switching

Over the past 3 months I have heard some ludicrous reasons for switching, in fact, although calling them “reasons” is probably giving them too much credit. They are reasons, they’re excuses.

People change systems all the time. The DSLR to mirrorless or mirrorless to DSLR switch is one many people go through; lack of suitable glass might be another if you’re a wildlife photographer looking for a 400mm f/2.8; sub standard service or reliability from a manufacturer might be important if you have had ongoing issues with your current camera, you might even outgrow a system. The point is there are valid reasons for changing systems.

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It is however important to realize that switching comes with a big price. You can get away with minimal impact moving from full frame to APSC because the cost of APSC glass is generally cheaper, but if you are doing the reverse and going from APSC to full frame, it’s not going to be a pocket friendly exercise.

For that reason, any switch should come with a healthy dose of caution because a change of system can put you a couple of years from a glass perspective . In previous years, we saw similar switching between brands, although it was mainly Canon and Nikon. Canon would bring out a new body with a higher frame rate or larger sensor and people would jump ship. Nikon would bring out a sensor with better high ISO performance and suddenly they’d be back. If these were ground breaking boundary pushing photographers, I could understand it, but 90% of the time they were taking unpaid photos of their cats.

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Now, if you want to go out and change brand every couple of years and you have an endless supply of money, that’s your prerogative. It’s your decision. When you do it with a limited budget, and the decision is such that you’re stuck with second rate glass, I’m sorry, you’re an idiot. It may seem brutal, but as you sit trying to tell me how awesome the AF is on your new camera, I’m looking at your glass knowing that the money you spent would have been better invested in better lenses.

I watched in amusement in the Fujifilm group on dpreview while someone was telling me how he switched from Canon to Nikon Full Frame to Fujifilm and then to Sony. The final switch was as a result of his need to move to full frame because APSC wasn’t cutting it for him. That in itself would have been fine if it wasn’t for two minor issues:

1. The quality of glass he had was terrible, and I don’t mean that in a camera snob “I have better glass way”. I mean that in the way that it was clear his camera choices had impacted his glass budget substantially and it was impacting the quality of his photos. His entire 5 lens glass collection cost far less than half the value of his new Sony A7iii and one has to ask, would his investment in switching systems 3 times have been better spent on glass because he was putting his focus on bodies instead of glass and probably wondering why his cameras were taking decent pictures.

2. The quality of his photos gave no hint that APSC imposed any limitations, not in the slightest. Again, I don’t mean that in the “I’m better” way. I mean that in the way that everyone one of his photos could probably have been achieved by a relatively inexperienced photographer with a kit lens he wasn’t pushing the boundaries of APSC to any degree that it enforced switching.

Now you may think I’m being judgmental here, but when you’ve done the above and you walk into a forum post about the X-H1 vs A7iii and try to tell people how it was the best decision you made, you do put yourself in the firing line, and frankly speaking, if you get offended, you probably deserve it because you made a bad decision.

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The problem

This in part is where the problem seems to lie. In the days of DSLR’s, bodies were released every 5 years so even the people with GAS had 5 years to build up lenses, but these days bodies are coming out every 18-24 months and people have forgotten about the importance of glass, which is ultimately where the quality of photos come from and why you are invested in a system.

The challenge is every time you change systems, you’re halving your glass investment to sell your current glass and buy new glass, not to mention the cost of speedlights, and other brand specific investments. A 5 year old speedlights that works perfect might be worth $100 but cost $500 new.

Whilst some say that it’s those who are heavy invested in a system that can’t afford to move, I would argue that if you aren’t invested in a system, you aren’t testing the system to a limit that allows you to understand whether you should stay.

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Now this isn’t an attempt to defend Fujifilm. This is an attempt to say think before you leap, whether you are on Sony, Fujifilm, Nikon or Canon. We all have GAS, I get it, I love the smell of a new lens when you open it, but at least use some common sense before you dump a brand chasing photographic utopia, especially if you are doing it at the expense of glass which is where the real quality lies. If you get GAS, buy a lens, whether it’s Fujifilm, Sony or a third party, but be smart about it and buy it in the same system

Fujifilm X-H1 Review

Updates – 18 April 2018

I’ve updated the article on the 18th April to incorporate some feedback from a shoot I did in Warburton. All positive, so no need for concern. This is primarily surrounding IBIS.

Preface

I’ll be adding more photos as I spend more time with the camera. Unfortunately the last couple of photo shoots I have had to test the camera were children’s birthday parties and I can’t post up the results due to other children being at the event.

I’ll continue to update this review as I spend more time with the camera, along with updating it based on any firmware updates that may improve performance considerably.

Continue reading Fujifilm X-H1 Review