This is an article about how Fujifilm became my absolute number one favourite brand, surpassing my previous favourite: Apple. It’s my thoughts about my personal experience with the brand, and about the inspiring story of the company and it’s belief, based on the video “Inside The Storm” from Media Corp. You can find the video embedded at the end of this article too.
Love at Second Sight
My first digital camera was a Fujifilm point-and-shoot. That was the time when Fuji also started their venture into the digital world. But about the same time I had my first DSLR camera about 9 years ago, Fujifilm paused their professional digital camera efforts and there was only Canon and Nikon. And a smaller 3rd player called Pentax.
So my first DSLR was a Pentax rebadged Samsung DSLR (yeah, there is such a thing). I was pretty happy with it and progressed to get a Pentax k-5, a really great DSLR. But Pentax had very big problems that I could not get over, which primarily was their lack lens updates (most lenses were either rebadge of Tamrons or “refresh” of decade(s) year old lens formulas). Also the fact they have had a lot of trouble standing on their own, being sold around to Hoya and then to Ricoh. And finally, not listening to their users for more than 10 years to bring on a full frame DSLR (yes, they did finally last year).
Then about 4 years ago, I noticed some new Fujifilm cameras in a little camera exhibition. It was Fujifilm’s comeback. One look at the X100 and XPro1 and I was smitten by the looks, but unfortunately turned off by the rather high prices (was still an amateur at that time). However, that sparked something off in me. Then I chanced upon a free photography outing sponsored by Fujifilm and met their very down to earth marketing manager Kelvin Ooi. Then not long after, the X20 came out and I decided to give Fujifilm a try. And it did not disappoint me at all, and I soon upgraded to an X-M1. Fast forward 3 years later, I have in total bought (and sold some) six Fujifilm X cameras including the X-T2 I’m using now and have a total of six Fujifilm XF lenses in my arsenal. Why I love Fujifilm is basically because:
- They look fantastic. Retro, beautiful but extremely functional, made by photographers for photographers
- Excellent support. Firmware upgrades continually added functionality to the camera instead of just bug fixes
- Superb lenses. All Fujifilm lenses are optically excellent and really well made. Even their kit lens is far better than the competitor’s
- The brand. There is just something behind the name, that stood for photography unlike Sony or Panasonic. There is a legacy in the name
Fuji Apple of the East
I never thought of a Japanese company as innovative. Perhaps it’s because I’ve worked for one in my very first job as a lowly engineer in TV R&D in Shah Alam (ahem, Sharp, ahem), and I can tell you I did not like the culture at all. I found them rigid, hierarchical and extremely boring. Japanese products to me have always been of excellent quality and functional, but seldom appealing. But there’s something different about Fujifilm, and I found out why from this 45 minutes documentary that surprisingly, has not a single reference of the X cameras in the video! Here’s my takeaway from it, though if you are a true Fuji fan, you should watch it too. I promise you it’s worth your time.
Fujifilm is actually very much like Apple in many ways. Even the names of the companies have connections to the crispy red fruit. Their CEO, Shigetaka Komori has very similar traits to Steve Jobs such as:
- his belief that a company should be a “Dictatorship” instead of democracy
- the sheer boldness in entering totally new industries that no one would expect their company to go into (Fujifilm in healthcare and cosmetics, Apple in music and phones)
- steering a company from the brink of collapse to new heights
- surviving (nay, embracing) the digital/internet age while their Goliath competitors fell (think Nokia and Kodak)
- opening up experiential stores (Fujifilm Wonder Photo Shops vs Apple Stores)
- a passionate love for his products and his company
I especially love the fact that even though Fujifilm’s profit from imaging has dropped from 70% to a mere 1% (note: I checked Fuji’s annual report and it seems that imaging contributes 14%, so I think the video was comparing the profit of actual physical film related sales) they are still dedicated to the customers they first served, photographers. Komori assured us that even if they lose money, they are committed in preserving the “Culture of Photography”. Wow, that is a strong statement and I can see they are walking the talk.
Just a month ago, Fujifilm launched their GFX mirrorless medium format camera and it’s amazing. It’s not a camera for the mass market, and I’m sure Fujifilm pour quite a bit of money to develop it. It may not even be profitable, but because of their commitment to professional photographers needs, they went ahead with it anyway.
What Makes Fujifilm Tick?
“Who” is Fujifilm anyway and what fuels the company? At first glance, one may think they are a imaging company, but when you see the leadership and how they look at themselves, you’ll realise that they are actually a technology company first. Just look at their corporate philosophy/mission below:
We will use leading-edge, proprietary technologies to provide top-quality products and services that contribute to the advancement of culture, science, technology and industry, as well as improved health and environmental protection in society. Our overarching aim is to help enhance the quality of life of people worldwide.
Compare this with Canon (I could not find their mission statement anywhere in their corporate website) and Nikon’s “Trustworthiness and Creativity”, Fujifilm’s mission statement is clear and decisive (at least to me especially after watching the documentary).
A Happy Customer is the Best Brand Ambassador
Unlike Canon or Nikon, I have not seen Fujifilm splurge in major above-the-line ads in Malaysia. However, they don’t need to because their customers are their best marketing. I have so far “converted” three friends from their DSLR to Fujifilm and they are very happy about it. It is probably because Fujifilm has actually made me a better photographer because they made great tools for me. But beyond that, they now inspire me because of their commitment to making me better at my work and their belief in the culture of photography. And one of my greatest aspiration as a photographer, is one day, to become an official X-Photographer.
Disclaimer: I’m not paid by or connected in anyway to Fujifilm (though I wish!). This article was written purely from my standpoint as a photographer who loves and use their products personally and professionally.