Just who is Fuji's target market?

Categories: FujiX-Series

Fuji are making some extraordinary new cameras - but just who are they selling to?

I was wondering the other day about the Fujifim market. 

Let's face it, Fuji X series cameras aren't cheap and you have to wonder if most potential buyers already have a DSLR. And if they do, how invested are they in their current systems as far as lenses, bodies and accessories are concerned? I can certainly see people getting an X series compact as a carry around camera, but I wonder what prompts people to buy an entirely new system when they already have a DSLR system. It probably ranks alongside a switch from Nikon to Canon or vice versa.

The reason I pondered was to try and see where Fuji's market sits. As digital arrived and I stopped being a full time pro I switched from Nikon film cameras to Canon APS-C models - I have a few bodies, a number of L-series lenses and a couple of crop lenses. I bought an X20 to replace my old Leica Minilux as a carry around camera. I do my remaining contract work with the Canons and shot almost an entire book with an old 20D.

Then the brilliant looking XT-1 arrives, flashing it beautiful smile and drop dead gorgeous retro style. The bigger sibling of the original X series machines has an allure that's hard to avoid. Until you look at the price. To buy an XT-1 kit equivalent to my Canon gear would cost $4000 to $5000 - assuming there are truly equivalent items available. I would save maybe a kilo in weight and I'm sure it would feel 'cool' but I'm not convinced it would be 'better'. 

I have an instinctual scepticism about an electronic viewfinder view of the world and that was confirmed when I went to a store and took a look. It was OK but it didn't have me reaching for superlatives. It just lacks that optical clarity - there's something very direct about an SLR viewfinder and I think I'd always fall back to the Canon when it REALLY counts (paid work). The XT-1 can no doubt shoot quality photos but so too can the Canons.

The greatest consideration though would still be cost - for half of that 4 or 5 grand I could buy a full frame Canon body (6D) and arguably be better off than with an XT-1 (given that I already own some great lenses).

I guess what I'm saying is it's hard to see Fuji winning lots of existing DSLR users to the XT-1, regardless of how good it is. The cost of supplanting an entire kit is so high that only people with a less frugal view of life need apply. That's not to say that's a bad thing - there are many companies that trade on the perception of high quality, low marketshare users at a premium price. Look at Mac users, Breitling wearers, Mercedes drivers and Hasselblad owners. 

So if someone has a decent DSLR most would be better off going full frame and keeping their existing lenses. If it's their first foray beyond phone photography then maybe they'd consider something like an XT-1 but the price would be daunting compared to the low-level consumer DSLRs (which are similar sized to the Fuji and cost about half as much). There are of course the other Fuji  bodies (some might say so many as to be confusing) but the total cost will still be more than simply adding a full frame body to a DSLR.

I really like the look of the XT-1 and could easily be tempted;  perhaps the Fuji market is for the  devilishly handsome, discerning user with high disposable income and a desire to have nice 'toys'. The reality though, is I'll remain a non-purchaser. The elephant in the room is the lack of a full frame sensor. Many will say it's not necessary and it's hard to argue when the APS-C cameras give such great results, but if you truly want the experience of previous film cameras and their particular quirks of depth of field and bokeh then you will, as I do, crave a full frame device.

I also think it's inevitable. Fuji can keep releasing small updates to their compact sensor lines but there's no real incentive to update because the current models are already close to 'feature saturated'. Releasing a full frame gives all those existing Fuji zealots a reason to crack open their wallets again.

The change from Nikon to Canon was a big step requiring a large investment. If I was to contemplate a move to Fuji, particularly given my apathy towards the viewfinder, it wouldn't be to remain with an APS-C sensor. C'mon Fuji, roll out a full frame and let's see what you can really do - I might well be at the front of the queue.