Fujifilm Discovers Niche - Retro Style Cameras with High-Tech Core

The newest models of camera coming out in recent years can really fool some buyers thinking that they are old antique film cameras.  Perhaps, it was intentional for the company to keep "film" as part of its name even in today's high tech digital age.

Fujifilm is the leader in manufacturing old-style rangefinder type of camera that blends its high-tech digital technology inside its cover.  They really do look like products from the 50s or even earlier.

The company in fact still produces film which accounts for less than 1% of its sales revenue. The entire imaging solutions division, which includes the company’s cameras, generates a mere 13% of revenue. Most revenue comes from businesses like pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and office machines, in which Fujifilm has a partnership with Xerox.

Some professional photographers are starting to buy into the new breed of digital cameras such as the one pictured above, proving the company's success and giving a hope that it has finally found a viable future for the company.

Like other camera makers, Fujifilm has seen sales of low-end cameras suffer from the rise of the smartphone, which has put a basic point-and-shoot into every owner’s pocket. Even sales of more expensive DSLRs, a business dominated by Nikon and Canon, have started to weaken this year. Analysts say a maturing of DSLR technology, which makes upgrades less essential, may be to blame.

“Fujifilm once looked a lot like Kodak,” said Christopher Chute, an analyst at the International Data Corporation in Boston. “Based on some different decisions, they have gone in very different directions.”

The Camera and Imaging Products Association, a trade group whose members include Fujifilm, Nikon, Canon and other Japanese camera makers, says overall shipments of digital cameras plunged 39 percent in volume, and 26 percent in value, from January through September.

Camera makers have tried various things to stem the slide. Some have equipped cameras with smartphone-style features, including Wi-Fi and mobile operating systems like Android, so people can share photos more easily. Sony recently introduced a new kind of camera that clips onto a smartphone.

The X series is a different response. These cameras fit into a category called mirrorless, which has been a relative bright spot for the industry. Shipments of “nonreflex interchangeable lens” cameras, which include some of the Fujifilm X-series devices and other mirrorless cameras, declined only 13 percent in volume and 5 percent in value from January through September, the trade association said.

Masazumi Imai, the chief designer of the X series, explained at Fujifilm’s headquarters here that the company interviewed professional photographers about their preferences on everything from the pebbled plastic that covers parts of the cameras to the color of the paint on the bodies. Almost a dozen different shades of silver were considered.

The goal was to give the cameras a certain gravitas, so professionals would give them a try.

The concept is not entirely new. The venerable Leica rangefinder, which predates the SLR, is technically a mirrorless camera — even though it uses mirrors in the viewfinder mechanism.  But products from Leica is priced way out of the reach for the most.

Fujifilm said in its most recent quarterly earnings announcement that sales of “such high-end models as the X series proceeded smoothly.” The company says it has sold more than 700,000 X-series cameras since the first model, the X100, was introduced in 2011.

Fujifilm Discovers Niche - Retro Style Cameras with High-Tech Core Reviewed by Blogs on 11/22/2013 Rating: 5

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