Why I believe that Fuji Will Eventually Release a Full Frame Camera
If there has been one company more outspoken than any other on the subject of APS-C sensors vs Full Frame it has been Fujifilm. Because of the insistence of company executives that their X-Trans technology makes their smaller sensor superior to full frame, many fans of the company’s products have been active and vocal supporters of this viewpoint. It has reignited an argument that many had previously considered settled: the merits of full frame vs cropped sensor.
Fuji’s position on the superiority of APS-C sized sensors was almost certainly mostly a marketing decision. The reason I suspect this is because after spending years claiming that cropped sensors were all you need, the company then went on to release a medium format camera. Now they claim that because their offer is superior to full frame, which it should be, then full frame is the only sensor size that you shouldn’t consider. Conveniently this is also the only sensor size for which the company doesn’t make a camera.
I love my Fuji camera, and I have nothing against the company, but I do think that some of the company's PR statements and marketing have been unfortunate. I never understood their stance on bashing full frame. They could just have said that it’s not a market they wish to peruse and leave it at that, but the bashing of full frame just never made any sense to me.
There are indeed merits to the argument that modern cropped sensor cameras are capable of holding their own against full frame when it comes down to image quality. This is the area where most proponents of this argument like to focus. Sensors have gotten so good that there’s often not much between them, and when it comes to noise performance, most modern tests show that cropped sensor cameras are about a stop in the difference between sensor sizes when comparing sensors of the same generation. For many people, the performance is more than good enough. However, anyone who prefers a full frame camera will tell you, that there is more to it than image quality.
The combination of sensor size and various focal lengths combine to produce a particular “look” to images that is down due to the depth of field produced when combined with full frame lenses that is almost impossible to match with a cropped sensor. There’s nothing wrong with cropped sensors, and they certainly are capable, but while they may have some advantages, they’re not superior to full frame cameras and dismissing full frame as being irrelevant, is disingenuous.
However, that’s all beside the point. Fuji saw an opening in the market and went for it, and it worked for them. They have been successful by going after a specific corner of the market. However, it should be noted that while Fuji has some very active users, its market share is relatively low. The company’s PR department has kind of backed them into a corner by being so vocally against full frame. I think this is going to come back to bite them.
The reason for this isn’t anything to do with image quality or the look of full frame. It’s purely down to the market. The mirrorless market is about to be hit by two huge juggernauts. If the rumours are true and both Canon and Nikon are about to launch full frame pro mirrorless cameras, then this is going to cause a significant shift in the mirrorless market. As much as fans of other manufacturers like to claim that Canon and Nikon are out of touch and on the way out, the level of brand loyalty both of these companies command should not be underestimated. For example, despite being declared dead, over and over by mirrorless proponents, Canon is still the number one manufacturer by market share, and its DSLRs still outsell most mirrorless cameras. Even within the mirrorless category, where the company has been continuously criticised for its lacklustre efforts, it has the number one spot in many market share studies.
So the entry of Canon and Nikon into the serious side of the mirrorless market will have a dramatic effect on the rest of the players in the space. The most obvious competitor for them is Sony. Canon and Nikon undoubtedly both see Sony as the target of their efforts and likewise Sony considers Canon and Nikon its chief competitors. I hate to say this, but I doubt Fuji even registers as the primary competition for any of these companies.
So, while currently, only one manufacturer is making full frame mirrorless cameras, soon there will be three and Fuji will be left trying to convince everyone that Full frame doesn’t matter while the market is consumed by the other three. Micro Four Thirds has its own distinctive and loyal market, basing its success on either small cameras or specialist areas like the GH5. Fuji, on the other hand, has two choices. It can let itself be relegated to being a niche player, and try and convince people that you should only really use a cropped sensor or medium format, or they can just bite the bullet and release a full frame camera. In the end, I think this is what will ultimately happen.
One could argue that the company is trying to sidestep this battle by going into the medium format space and avoiding the full frame market altogether. It is certainly possible that this is what the company is thinking, but that’s never going to work because medium format is just too expensive. Even though Fuji’s medium format offering is cheaper than most of its competitors, it’s still expensive. It’s not just the price of the camera you have to consider. The lenses are costly, and so the cost of a whole system adds up, and so that alone will have a limiting factor. Even if they could manage to get the price of the cameras down, it’s unlikely that the lenses will get cheaper any time soon. Also, while the image quality may be superior to full frame, for the people who want full frame, full frame is good enough. Most full frame shooters are happy with medium format being superior without having to trash the whole notion of medium format to make their point.
I may be completely wrong. However, I find it hard to believe that Fujifilm can continue to deny the merits of the full frame mirrorless market when three other manufacturers are fighting for control of it, and Fuji is left out on its own.
Then again, maybe that is their strategy.
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