The last argument for enthusiast and professional level APS-C bodies has been about the balance between size and performance. The best APS-C cameras have been able to provide 95% of the image quality and speed while taking up only 66% of the size and weight of a 35mm “full frame” body. With the introduction of Sony’s α7C, has that argument now been mooted? Has Fujifilm been left alone on the dance floor?
Let’s be realistic: like megapixel counts, sensor size has become the latest dick matching spec. And just like the desire to compare dicks side by side, even if you win, you’re still in the closet. There are some tangible benefits to a larger sensor, no doubt, but does the beginner photographer actually benefit? There are also situations where the crop factor of the smaller sensor can benefit a potential owner and there’s also lens size to contend with. However, the former can be added as a software feature and the latter has been addressed long ago with simpler, more compact optical formulas.
There are still benefits to APS-C when it comes to video, with faster readout speeds being chief among them. Most full frame cameras suffer from extreme levels of warping when panning, caused by the slower total readout speeds from a larger sensor surface area. It’s probably the reason why Fujifilm has made such a hard push into hybrid video cameras, often on the leading edge in both features and output quality.
Lastly, there’s one thing Fujifilm has that no one else does: style. They’ve managed to combine classic styling with modern controls so users aren’t forced to choose style over substance; they can have both. Their sense of style has created designs buyers lust after, a trait no other brand other than Leica can claim. The “back to basics” feel and old school controls may be dated and slow, but it’s attracted a lot of converts in recent years, managing to appeal emotionally to buyers. It may not be the first choice for most working photographers but it’s become their second. Chances are, any professional photographer you name and they probably own a Fujifilm camera. Not only that, but it’s highly likely they carry it with them more than they do their workhorse body. Fujifilm cameras have become the camera more pros PREFER to shoot with due to its design, how it makes them feel, excellent image quality and superior color rendition.
While a brand such as Leica survives today as an aspirational marque with rich history, using manufactured scarcity to increase value and make their low volume, high margin business model work, Fujifilm is still just a commodity player, relying on high volume, low margins and repeat business to stay in the market. Their products may have more emotional than rational appeal, but their prices and brand aren’t what you could call “aspirational.” Will they be able to survive with a product catalogue that is primarily based on a sensor size that’s quickly going out of vogue with “influencers,” and a roadmap that still stubbornly avoids any possibility of integrating full frame sized sensors?
Are hybrids with superior video output enough to guarantee Fujifilm’s continued relevance in the photography space?