Will Fujifilm Get the Message This Time?

When Fujifilm previewed the X100 at the 2010 Photokina, the big hype from Fujifilm was the hybrid viewfinder. The customer reaction was mainly to the large sensor and retro controls, though, with the hybrid viewfinder being considered a very nice addition to the retro touch. The press were the ones that got the most excited by the hybrid viewfinder, which was the one "new technology" that seemed different and interesting at the show.

PROD SHOT X100 Viewfinder

 The X100 eventually went into production and was successful. As I noted in my review, the hybrid viewfinder wasn't exactly perfect (note the focus parallax in the photo, above). Most of us tolerated it because we wanted a viewfinder ;~). In other words, we wanted a large sensor compact camera that we held to our eye, not in our hands in front of us. The EVF was good enough for that, the hybrid viewfinder with its optical option was a small plus. 

The X100's success (and more press hype about the hybrid viewfinder in reviews, mostly positive, but some nits from many besides me) begat the X-Pro1. Same retro design. Slightly enhanced hybrid viewfinder. Even better large sensor. Now with removable lenses. Again the hybrid viewfinder got a lot of press play because Fujifilm kept emphasizing it, but again the customers actually were mostly seeking high-end Fujifilm image quality in a reasonable and familiar user interface (retro dials). 

Today, though, Fujifilm is finally getting a bit of news: the X-E1 is going to far outsell the X-Pro1. But it doesn't have that hybrid viewfinder that was all the craze from Photokina 2010 onward, so what gives? Ahhh, you mean people were buying the X cameras for something else than bracketing lines in an optical viewfinder? Doh!

Here are the reasons why an X-E1 will sell well, indeed outsell the X-Pro1 by a very wide margin: small size and weight; lower price; excellent large sensor and Fujifilm image quality; recognizable traditional controls. That plus the fact that the Fujifilm lenses are turning out to be quite good (upping the image quality bar some more). Is there a reason to buy an X-Pro1 any more (assuming that the X-E1 is indeed a smaller X-Pro1 without any new flaws)? Nope, as the only real differences are the X-Pro1 is bigger, heavier, costs more, and has a hybrid viewfinder. Having a choice of an offset optical finder was a nice option every now and then in shooting, but not something I ever found necessary. Just the opposite: I almost always find myself framing with the electronic viewfinder active, simply because it's accurate. It's not as if the I need "no lag" with this camera—it's not a fast camera (even with the revised firmware), and the more you use an EVF the more you adjust to its lag.

There probably is a small group of folk who do value the hybrid viewfinder. The problem is that if you target all your attention on that group, you don't make cameras that sell in larger quantities. The camera companies often get on these "nifty technology" kicks that, in practice for most users tend to be more of a gimmick than a useful item worth paying substantially more for. Fujifilm is today is clearly getting the news that it wasn't the hybrid viewfinder that was the selling point of the X's. Let's hope that they're paying attention. 

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