In the third week of January, Fujifilm held three large trade events in Kyoto, New York and London to mark the launch of its new mirrorless medium format camera, the GFX 50S and several other X-series new cameras and lenses.
In itself, this was a Big Statement from Fujifilm. In this writer’s recollection of the industry, it was the largest series of launch events ever hosted by the company, signalling a clear determination to move further into enthusiast/professional photography.
There were several literal big statements within the figurative Big Statement of holding three simultaneous multi-million-dollar events: ‘I am confident that GFX will capture the images that no other camera in the history could have ever taken,’ said Fujifilm CEO Shigetaka Komori (above right). ‘GFX will start a new chapter in the history of photography and the camera industry.’ – So no hiding lights under bushells there!
The Kyoto event included 600 guests, many flown in from Asia-Pacific and Middle East; a mixture of retail staff, store owners and photographers, and a few specially selected media representatives. There were eight Australian retailer guests present.
Photo Review technical editor Margaret Brown attended the function.
‘It was a worthwhile trip as it gave me the opportunity to meet many of the counter staff who deal with Photo Review’s readers on a day-to-day basis. The opinions and experiences they shared will help me with future reviews. They were also a lot of fun to be with.
‘The event also confirmed my belief that mirrorless is the way of the future and Fujifilm is making a bold play to take leadership in this sector. In the GFX 50S they certainly have a great first step into the pro imaging arena, particularly with their commitment to delivering the lenses pro photographers need as soon as possible.’
The GFX 50S launch immediately follows a Fujifilm Europe announcement (reported in ProCounter) that it will launch a dedicated professional photographer’s service and repair centre in the UK and Germany, from March.
The Fujifilm Professional Service will gradually expand to other major European markets To qualify European photographers must own a GFX system, or two professional camera bodies and three XF lenses. So far, Fujifilm Australia is non-commital on its own intentions.
…But back to the Kyoto event. Mr Komori seemed to be saying that the GFX is a replacement technology for 35mm cameras: ‘…Our intent is to declare today in Kyoto a dramatic departure away from a century-old 35mm format system, and around 70 years old SLR system.
‘The highest image quality will no longer mean a big, heavy camera system. The size and weight of GFX is revolutionary. The weight of GFX body is 920 grams only. It is approximately 40 percent lighter than conventional Medium Format camera. When compared to DSLR camera, it is even slightly smaller.’
Turning the Hyperbole Meter to 11, he actually compared the launch of the GFX to the end of the Samurai era and the founding of modern Japan. ‘Like Japan marked a new chapter in its history 150 years ago here in Kyoto, GFX will start a new chapter in the history of photography and the camera industry.’ (!)
In passing, he reminded the audience that Fujifilm in the 21st century, under his watch, hadn’t abandoned the industry like 20th century photo industry leaders like Kodak and Konica: ‘While a number of film manufactures like Kodak and camera manufactures like Konica Minolta withdrew from the photographic business, I committed to continue our photographic business in order to protect “Photo Culture”.
‘I had a deep conviction that protecting and even enhancing “Photo Culture” is one of the most important social duties for us as a photographic company.’
It’s been noted by Australian specialist retailers who travel to North America and Europe that this urge to ‘protect Photo Culture’ is genuinely part of the Fujifilm corporate culture/business strategy elsewhere in the world. It has seen far greater levels of support to, and engagement with the specialist channel in those regions than in Australia and New Zealand over the past decade. (Why is that, Dave?)
Mr Komori identified specialist retailers around the world as crucial to making the GFX a success (something Samsung overlooked when it launched its brilliant failure, the NX1): ‘We will expect the expertise at every photo specialty store across the world to make this a reality. Customers will want to visit your store to understand GFX and try it out.’
The final point made by Mr Komori was that from Fujfifim’s point of view, the future of the camera industry was unequivocally mirrorless.
‘Now Mirrorless is the only growing category within the digital camera business, while the demand for DSLR and compact cameras is steadily shrinking.
‘Rapid technical development of the sensors, processors is making mirrorless a choice for many top photographers. We are 100 percent certain that mirrorless has a very bright future.’