Sunday, January 13, 2013

Fuji Is Looking Increasingly Attractive

I recently posted about my disillusionment with Sony. I have been one of Sony's biggest boosters for the last two years. Sony essentially obivated every other sensor company on the planet with the release of their new sensors starting in 2009. They up and ripped the mirrorless market from Micro 4/3 in a six-month time frame with the release of the mega-successful NEX-5 and then 5n.1 Then they did the same thing to the high-end P&S market with the one-two punch of the RX100 then the RX1.

But for each of these glimmering points of innovation, they have been average-to-poor in other areas. Obviously, from an enthusiast's perspective, their lack of work in lenses has been depressing. Both Canon and Nikon have refused to produce APS-C lenses of quality, even after they both released promising pro-thusiast cameras in the form of the EOS 7D and the D7000. Sony seemed content in following the same path.

But where Cankon have massive extant systems, Sony's lens system is small. The aftermarket is equally anemic. One could almost understand this inaction, seeing as despite Sony's best efforts,2 they have made little headway in the SLR market against the entrenched duopoly. But they made immediate and significant headway into the pro-thusiast market with the NEX series, especially with the NEX-7.

And yet, we have one lens. one. The Zeiss 24mm. Yes, there are rumors that Zeiss has three more lenses in the pipes, but I will believe that when I see it, and I will also believe that they are indeed worth it when I see it. Zeiss lenses have a tendency to be overpriced for their performance, and combined with Sony's equal penchant to try and trade on their "brand," I do not expect amazing performance for the price. I will not be surprised if they are good -- after all, both companies know what they are doing -- but I don't expect it.

If the three Zeiss lenses are good, I will bite my tongue. The NEX-7 will finally get the lenses that it deserves... a year and a half after it was released. This will fix the material problem, but it doesn't fix the philosophical problem that the actions evinced; it appears that Sony is infected with some of the same germs that currently surge through the corpus of Cankon.

It is that slow speed and pathological desire to only sell lenses of real quality for ultra-premiums prices to the pro market, and thus refusal to make anything for the entry and enthusiast market that may take away from those sales, that makes me seek out another company.3 I think that I see that company in Fuji.

Obviously, the X Pro 1 had many faults, as did the X100 before it. The X10 was laughable in my opinion. But what is important is that Fuji is noticeably evolving with every generation. The X100 had many problems, and the X100S is a big upgrade in many ways. Compare this to the "upgrades" that Cankon produces, where they grind out the same fucking camera year after year.

Even among their disparate models, and not just direct successors, we see fast evolution. The X Pro 1 was released with fixes from the X100, then the X-E1 was released with fixes from the X Pro 1, now the X100S is released with big fixes from all of the previous models. This degree of every year, significant changes is the type of business model that Apple uses. It's the type that I want to see.

The photographic business had grown accustomed to releasing a product and then being able to milk that product for profit for years. In the world of solid-state technology, that no longer works. Iterations and development need to be annual and significant. Moreover, as this happens, prices for everything are going to come down. What was once the high-end will become mid-range, and what was once mid-range will be inside cell phones. Fighting this is not only suicidal from a business perspective, it is infuriating from a consumer perspective because the idiocy of large companies can hold back exciting innovation.

Fuji seems more interested in doing than any other company, and this was only apparent with the announcement of the X100S. Even if it still has tons of problems, it is progress -- progress worth rewarding. 

I am waiting to see what Olympus' next release is, since they've only had one camera since they switched over to Sony sensors: the E-M5. It, along with the stellar 75mm lens, was enough to keep my invested in m4/3, and if the follow-up to the E-M5 is a significant development, it may be worthy of genuine excitement.

Still, as it stands, Fuji needs to be recognized as the only company continually progressing in every way.


1: Obviously, Micro 4/3 continues to do very well in Japan, but nowhere else. In both Europe and North America, the NEX 5 and 5n are far-and-away the most popular mirrorless cameras.

2: Really, it hasn't been Sony's best effort. Sony still thinks they have some super-valuable brand for which people will pay extra, and as such, when they could undercut the market and really make some sales, they charge a premium and shoot themselves in the foot.

3: This is a pathology that is in every camera company to a degree. They grow so fat on the profits of professional photographers that they are cripplingly terrified of selling anything good to lower markets. Why do you think Olympus refuses to translate any of their good, Zuiko lenses over to Micro 4/3? Greed and stupidity.

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