The X100 series is one of Fujifilm’s most popular and important product lines. Over the course of almost ten years, the company has built the X100 series into an iconic line of cameras, which established Fujifilm as a serious brand with enthusiasts, and continue to be best-sellers.
Ever since its introduction, some photographers have been asking Fujifilm to develop a full-frame version of the X100. And on the face of it, that’s an appealing thought. Who doesn’t like the idea of greater depth of field control and a boost in potential image quality? But we strongly suspect that Fujifilm will never do it. Read on for the five main reasons why not, and why we doubt that a full-frame version is on the cards, either.
Size and weight
The Sony Cyber-shot RX1R II is a very small compact camera with a 35mm F2 lens, but in order to make it so compact, compromises were made on ergonomics and battery life.
The X100V is a little bigger than previous iterations of the X100 series, but it’s still a relatively small camera, considering everything that Fujifilm has packed into it. One of the reasons for that is its APS-C sensor. A larger sensor would mean a larger imaging circle (which means a larger lens to achieve the same F stop), a larger shutter mechanism, and probably a deeper body, to accommodate the additional circuitry hardware, and to keep it cool.
Genuinely small full-frame cameras exist (the Sigma fp and Sony Cyber-shot RX1R II spring to mind) but with both, their small size comes with compromises. The fp lacks a viewfinder and even a mechanical shutter. In fact, the fp is better thought of as a module inside a camera system rather than as a wholly complete camera in and of itself. Meanwhile the RX1R II has a fairly cramped control layout and a tiny battery, rated for a pitiable 220 shots, and not infrequently capable of rather less than that, depending on how you use it.
It’s impossible to know exactly what a full-frame X100 might end up looking like, but you can bet it would be larger and heavier than the cameras that we know and love.
Development cost of full-frame
The Sigma fp is even smaller than the RX1R II, and one of the ways in which Sigma ensured the smallest possible body is by eliminating both a viewfinder and a mechanical shutter. An X100-type camera without either of those things would probably be a non-starter.
And then there’s cost. The 26MP sensor in the X100V is used in multiple other Fujifilm cameras, which means that they can be purchased from Sony in bulk, keeping the per-unit cost down.
Economies of scale mean that it would probably be very expensive for Fujifilm to procure a relatively small number of totally different sensors for only a single product line, aimed at a relatively small group of customers.
On top of that, a new, larger sensor would probably mean developing a new shutter mechanism: either a conventional mechanical shutter in-camera, or a scaled-up in-lens shutter, of a type similar to the current X100 line. Either way, Fujfilm would need to make it from scratch, likely with associated development and production costs.
Bigger sensors also draw more power, and create more heat. One way or another, it all costs money.
Add all of these costs together, and developing a niche product like a full-frame X100 would probably be very expensive for Fujfilm. And what would that mean?
Literal cost to consumer
The Leica Q2 is a good example of a fantastic camera, with a built-in finder and a great lens, that makes the most out of its high-resolution full-frame sensor. But it’s priced beyond the reach of most of us.
You guessed right: it means that a hypothetical full-frame X100 would cost you more. One of the major reasons for the success of the X100 line over the past decade has been the cost of the cameras, at a sweet spot of around $1,200 at point of launch, usually dropping a little over their lifetime. Obviously, $1,200 is still a considerable chunk of change, but compared to the likes of the Sony RX1R II or the Leica Q2, it’s a relative bargain.
Imagine if Fujfilm had to double the cost of the X100 in a full-frame version. Would you buy one? Even if you’re one of those people who would answer “yes”, it’s only logical that you’d be counting yourself among a minority, compared to the potential audience for the traditional APS-C bodies.
Loss of brand identity, and customer trust
For customers who have made large investments in Fujifilm’s APS-C products, the announcement of a full-frame camera may look like a vote of no confidence in the smaller format.
Customers really like it when companies play to their strengths, talk frankly to them, and don’t try to fix something that isn’t broken. Fujifilm has said so often – and for so long – that it has no interest in developing full-frame cameras, that such an abrupt change of direction would risk damaging the brand in the eyes of some of its most loyal customers.
In short, Fujifilm is not a full-frame brand. It’s arguably the only company (R.I.P. Samsung) that has really made a full-throated case for the benefits of APS-C over full-frame, and has spent the past decade doubling-down on that approach, creating the most convincing dedicated APS-C lens lineup on the market.
If Fujifilm introduced a full-frame version of the X100 concept, there’s no doubt that the company would attract a certain number of new customers. But several other, much less positive things would happen: For starters, a lot of loyal X100 series fans would feel betrayed, and worried that such a move might spell the end for a range of cameras they’ve come to love.
Photographers with an investment in the APS-C interchangeable lens X-series would also get spooked. To a Fujifilm shooter who has spent thousands of dollars on XF lenses, the announcement of a full-frame camera – any full-frame camera– could look like a massive vote of no confidence in APS-C.
Finally it’s not hard to imagine the feelings of someone who has just dropped thousands on one of Fujifilm’s medium-format GFX cameras, if the company suddenly announced it was developing a compact full-frame camera. Which leads us on to…
Risk of cannibalization
How many GFX 50Rs would Fujifilm sell if a similarly-sized, fixed-lens alternative were available? Such a product would risk cannibalizing Fujifilm’s existing lineups.
I’ve explained the likely potential costs (both real and in terms of potential damage to the brand) to Fujifilm of adding a full-frame X100 lineup, but there are always costs associated with doing something new, and costs are acceptable if there’s a major long-term benefit.
There’s no doubt that by putting a full-frame sensor behind a fixed 35mm F2 lens, Fujifilm would be providing photographers with a more powerful tool than any of the previous X100 series models, but that might actually end up being a problem. Why? Because it would risk ‘cannibalization’.
In this context, ‘cannibalization’ describes a situation where sales of a new model come at the expense of sales lost in other parts in the lineup. Would Fujifilm want to risk a large number of sales of the (at this point presumably quite profitable) X100-series in favor of a new, costlier full-frame model? It seems unlikely, and it’s even less likely that the company would risk sales of the nascent GFX range by inserting a full-frame model into the lineup, aimed at the exact same type of users.
Summing up – arguments against
Every one of Fujifilm’s medium format cameras so far has used the same NP-T125 battery. It’s physically big, because it has to be. That means the cameras have to large enough to accommodate this kind of battery.
To sum up, it’s highly unlikely that Fujifilm will develop a full-frame X100 series camera for the following reasons:
- A larger sensor would add size and weight, mitigating a major X100 selling point
- Such a product would cost a lot to develop and manufacture
- The result would be a very expensive camera – reducing its potential audience
- A move to full-frame would annoy and worry existing loyal Fujifilm APS-C customers
- The risk of cannibalization within existing lineups is too great
At a technical level, the imaging potential of full-frame is undeniably greater than APS-C, and only slightly less than medium-format. But the additional development cost, and the size and weight penalty involved in making full-frame work in a compact X100-type form factor, would be considerable. It’s lovely to imagine a full-frame X100 with a 35mm F1.4 lens, but less lovely to picture how much larger, heavier, and costlier that camera would have to be, compared to an X100V.
But what about medium format?
Fujifilm has a long track record of making fixed-lens medium format cameras, from the days of film. Could it repeat the trick with digital?
Fujifilm has said repeatedly that it has no interest in full-frame. Instead, it has developed a medium format lineup, offering far superior image quality potential and differentiated from both its own APS-C line, and the growing crop of full-frame mirrorless cameras now on the market.
The sensor in Fujifilm’s flagship $10,000 GFX 100 can be thought of essentially as four X-T3 sensors, in a single piece of silicon. With four times the surface area, and current-generation chip design, the GFX 100’s sensor is capable of astonishing resolution and dynamic range, putting it in a different league to even the best APS-C cameras.
So might Fujifilm build a medium-format X100? There’s an argument to be made that it makes sense in a way that full-frame just doesn’t. Medium format would offer an increase in potential image quality over full-frame (albeit relatively modest – about 2/3EV), a significant leap in image quality over APS-C, it’s a major part of Fujifilm’s brand identity, and the larger format is a key differentiator for Fujifilm compared to competitive manufacturers.
For all of the appeal to Fujifilm of burnishing the company’s credentials in the medium format marketplace, an MF X100-type camera still seems very unlikely, for all of the same reasons why a full-frame X100 is probably a non-starter.
The difference in image quality between full-frame and what Fujifilm calls medium format is relatively modest. In fact, in our testing we found that the 50MP sensors used in the GFX 50S and 50R don’t offer significantly better performance than the best current full-frame sensors. The more advanced 100MP sensor in the GFX 100 is a slightly different matter, but its cost (larger sensors are significantly harder to produce, and their ‘yield’ is much smaller) probably makes it impractical for use in such a different type of camera.
Meanwhile, remember how a full-frame X100 would have to be bigger and heavier? Well that’s even more true with a hypothetical medium format version.
The GFX 50R provides a convenient point of comparison here. It’s not huge, compared to (say) the GFX100, but it’s definitely not a camera you can slip into your pocket. Imagine a fixed version of the compact 50mm f3.5 on the front, and it might be possible to shave off a few mm here and there. But either way, you’re likely still looking at a very expensive product, which probably won’t deliver much better image quality than a current full-frame model from Nikon or Sony.
Of course, that doesn’t mean we don’t still want one.
What do you think? Let us know in the poll below.
Author: Go to Source