Before you misunderstand the meaning of the title above, when I say leading I’m not referring to sales figures or popularity. I’m simply referring to innovation, creativity and, fundamentally, design — which in my opinion no other brand is doing as good a job as Fuji.
The so-called mirrorless revolution started over 10 years ago when Olympus and Panasonic joined forces for Micro Four Thirds (MFT). A series of very interesting cameras rolled out over this period, pushing the boundaries of available technology to new limits. Design-wise, it also started a trend of classically inspired cameras and gear.
But it all feels like history now — what’s left?
Olympus ceased their photo business recently, an unfortunate decision that sent shock waves around the world. It’s been documented by every camera reviewer, blogger and photo site to the point of exhaustion now — with the common factor being no one really positive about the future in the hands of the company that took over Olympus’ photo business.
With this, I think MFT is dead. Since the very beginning till now, it was very much Olympus and Panasonic rowing the MFT boat by themselves. Yes, every now and then we would read news about some brand like Blackmagic or Xioami showing interest on MFT, but nothing really to be taken too seriously.
With full-frame mirrorless gaining momentum and a megapixel race, it was already a difficult climate for MFT to survive. And now without Olympus, I simply don’t see Panasonic rowing the boat alone.
Similarly, I don’t see any other brand interested in sharing the load with Panasonic. In fact, what I see is Panasonic jumping out of the MFT boat sooner or later to focus solely on their full-frame system instead.
We have Sony developing their products as usual, taking full advantage of their technological muscle power to launch crazy auto-focus modes and whatever other stuff they do, updating their A7 full-frame series with higher and higher megapixel counts.
Sony products are technically competent and cutting-edge, but are they interesting from the design standpoint, would you consider them objects of desire? Nope.
Then we have Canon and Nikon that frankly are the most boring guys around. I mean, if they were real life persons, I would never go to the pub with them. It’s 2020 and they’ve been wearing the same clothes since the early 90’s.
How can people not change when everything else is changing is something I fail to understand. Canon and Nikon DSLRs look horrible, period. And, amazingly, after both went mirrorless with their R and Z systems, their cameras now are fundamentally the same ugly black objects with disconcerting button and protrusions — now with faux pentaprisms.
Finally, we have Leica. In short: Leica is not for everyone. So let’s not count them in. By the same token, let’s not consider Hasselblad.
And oh, the usual snipers like Sigma, Zeiss or any other brand occasionally shooting from behind the bushes with their vapour gear — those don’t count as well.
Overweight Mirrorless Club
And even though we went mirrorless supposedly to gain a size and weight advantage, for some reason we have an Overweight Mirrorless Club now.
Members include the aforementioned Canon, Nikon, Leica and Panasonic — all went full-frame with super large and heavy systems.
I don’t have any numbers here, but I bet some of those cameras and lenses are as heavy or even heavier than DSLRs. Their super-light-sucking prime lenses are crazy large and back-breaking. Why they ever feel the need for such large f-stop lenses while nowadays acceptable ISO numbers are sky high is a mystery to me.
This, my friends, is the current state of affairs. Nothing interesting is coming out from most camera manufacturers. Not even Leica — as a true fan of the German marque, they left me disappointed with the recent M10-R. I mean, an M10 with a higher megapixel count? That’s hardly exciting.
The only exception to me is Fuji. Sometime ago I wrote this post here on why I love Fuji and why I think they deserve their popularity. Everything I wrote in that post is still valid to this day.
In the current mirrorless world, Fuji is the only one producing interesting products while everybody else seems to be focused on upgrading specs in a stupid race that is hardly interesting or necessary.
Digital photography had long gone beyond the point of sufficiency for mere mortals like us, and frankly perhaps even for some pros. So why keep putting emphasis on higher megapixel counts, high ISO, faster fps numbers and AF features?
Why not spend the same resources on developing interesting cameras like Fuji? Look at the X-Pro3 or the X-100V: Canon, Nikon, Sony, Panasonic, whoever — can you do something similar, something as interesting and desirable?
Let’s be clear: it’s not that Fuji is leaving technology and specs aside. They have all the advanced features you need, they are even leading the megapixel race with their GFX 100.
But they have more interesting features to sell, like their film simulations, Duratec coating or the hidden screen from their X-Pro3. Or even the legacy of their 8 year-old XF 35mm f/1.4 prime lens, for which they surprisingly decided to release a tribute video just recently.
Yes, a tribute video for a lens released 8 years ago — this is Fuji and Fuji’s got attitude. You want to go to the pub with Fuji — not with Canon, Nikon or whoever.
You all heard by now the economic slowdown and crisis talks in every segment of society and our lives triggered by Covid-19, so I don’t need to further elaborate — you know what I’m referring to.
Under the current climate, with sales coming down and the market shrinking, I wonder what will happen next in the camera industry. Right now I can only see boredom and irritatingly uninteresting camera launches.
I miss the days of the mirrorless revolution, when innovation and creativity was around the corner in every new product launch.
I just hope the boring camera manufacturers takes a look at what Fuji is doing and try to emulate their attitude.
More is not necessarily more, so let’s forget the spec race and all this nonsense. Let’s focus on innovation and interesting products — again.