How to Launch a Camera: The Fuji X100

Posted in Equipment, Photography by Nathan Lee Bush on January 6, 2011
Fuji X100 – The Slow Reveal

Fuji X100 – The Slow Reveal

I never pegged Fuji as masters of the slow reveal, but watching how many barrels of virtual ink are spilled covering its upcoming APS-C compact, the FinePix X100, even media maestros like Apple must be taking notes on this buzz-generating monster the Japanese company has spawned.

Photo blogs dutifully catalogue each point-and-shoot and memory card release, but the hearts and minds of the photo blogosphere belong to enthusiast and pro cameras. These cameras have much smaller market-share, but die-hard followers willing to devote countless hours pixel-peeping and dissecting signal-to-noise ratios.

I’m one of these people with that peculiar illness of gadget lust (It’s in the genes, my dad would apparently need the latest calculators and watches when those were on the cutting-edge. He’s mostly reformed, though recently sprung for the iPhone 4 in a moment of weakness). I’m not especially fluent in tech-speak, but lights dim and 80s ballads play in the background when I feel a sleek new camera in my hands, and I’ve ruined many a keyboard drooling while inspecting the feature set of the latest DSLR announcement. So I speak from personal experience when I say the X100 is successful at sending gadget-coveting hearts aflutter.

Fuji first deftly announced the X100 in the media stillness leading up to Photokina in September. The classical rangefinder stylings and analogue controls, combined with forward-thinking high-tech touches, like a hybrid optical and electronic viewfinder, immediately prompted lengthy valentines from around the blogosphere.

Fuji smartly kept details (including price) sketchy, shrouding the camera in an aura of mystery. Many speculated a $2000 or higher. Then came the actual price: $1000 (adjusted this week to $1200) leading to copious ‘looks like a thousand bucks’ headlines.

What followed was nothing short of PR genius. After showing a non-working model on the floor at Photokina, the company went silent, before reemerging in November with a dedicated website. Every couple of weeks since, Fuji has unveiled a different ‘chapter’ of the X100 ‘story,’ detailing a different area of its conception. The lens design team explained the thinking behind each decision of its f2 fixed lens, while the engineers explain the hybrid viewfinder. Such behind-the-scenes transparency is what die-hard camera nerds live for, so each release sends the blogosphere into a new round of chatter. Fast forward to today: Fuji has created fever-pitch anticipation two months ahead of launch.

This fits into the larger picture. Smaller players in the camera market are deftly playing to the weaknesses of the big boys, long-since indomitable in the high-end DSLR market, but with no offerings in the gold-rush of mirrorless compacts, which combine large sensors and interchangeable lenses with compact bodies, practically pocketable, in some cases. It’s exciting to see Fuji, which bowed out of the high-end race years ago, wrestle its way back into serious photographers’ hearts. In offering a reasonably-priced alternative to the M9, Fuji has exploited a head-slappingly obvious niche, and been duly rewarded for it with press coverage to die for (including this meta-post).

All that remains to be seen is whether the camera can actually match the massive hype. I, for one, hope so.


Nathan Lee Bush is a photographer and filmmaker in New York City. His work is on his blog and site, and on Vimeo. He’s also on Twitter.


4 Responses

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  1. […] will help you keep your New Year’s resolutions longer than January 2nd; I wrote about the brilliant marketing strategy of the Fuji X100, the classically styled but high-tech camera that is winning the hearts and minds […]

  2. V. Roma said, on January 7, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    “Fuji has exploited a head-slappingly obvious niche, and been duly rewarded for it with press coverage to die for”

    Couldn’t agree more. Can’t wait.

  3. Kevin said, on January 24, 2011 at 8:37 am

    I agree with most of your words, accept I wouldn’t call the Hybrid viewfinder head slappingly obvious in any way… And this feature alone, in my opinion, is driving a lot of the momentum of pre release excitement.
    Without this part of the design, i wonder how much interest the camera would be creating with its other (still very nice), features.
    Let’s hope it delivers :-p
    Regardless, the promo website is very enticing if you ignore the sound effects lol.

  4. […] cameras in recent years is the Fuji X100 (we examined the hype machine surrounding the camera before). With its innovative hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder and classic rangefinder stylings, […]

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