Forbes: Fujifilm is the "Apple of the digital photography world"

If you read anything into Mike Sparrow's recent Forbes article beside what commenter, Fuzzy Optics, describes thusly: 

...Fuji is the Apple of digital photography because they’re very meticulous about design and get widespread acclaim from critics and hardcore enthusiasts, but don’t have widespread market share, then I guess Fuji is like Apple in that respect.

You have read in between the wrong lines. But it is easy to get off the path when summoning Apple, or Jobs, or the other guy in the digital camera world. In fact, the camera world is far more entrenched than the Windows/Mac/Linux world is. It is older, more storied, devoid of cross-platform standards, and rife with proprietary technology.

Mark Sparrow's quip that Fujifilm is the 'Apple of the digital photography world' is apt only as it pertains to part of the X system. Apple is a brand builder. Fujifilm, too, is a brand builder insofar as is has designed a few cameras and lenses that attract enthusiast attention, and that are instantly recognisable as part of the X system.

Unlike Apple, Fujifilm does not protect the prices of its products. I bought my X-Pro 1 for 800$ USD a year ago. That camera debuted at over 1600$ USD less than a year earlier. While that was good news for me, it is very bad news for resale value, and for the brand's premium leanings. One could argue that the market dictated the price fluctuation, but by the same reasoning, why are Nikon and Canon with similar MSRPs able to retain relatively high selling prices over the course of their market lives? 

Within the X world, Fujifilm has duplicated focal lengths, produced scaled-down cameras, and removed the aperture rings (one of the X-brand's key defining points), etc., and so on, in order to appeal to budget-conscious consumers. This is decidedly an un-Apple thing to do. Apple economise on size. There is no such thing as a non-premium Apple product. And Apple neither design nor manufacture products based on what the competition is doing.

Post-Forstall Apple is rapidly distancing itself from GUI skeuomorphism. Fuijfilm's X-brand is not. Its high-end XF R line of lenses attracts attention for sporting both focus and aperture rings. But neither is coupled to the lens itself. Instead, changes to focus and aperture are managed electronically. Versus true manual lenses with coupled apertures and focus helicoids, there is a physical disconnect. Part of this disconnect manifests itself in delay, part of it in feel. Focus rings grind unfamiliarly on stop-less and uncoupled tracks that squeak and jerk in and out when adjustmented. The aperture lacks the same tactile feedback and subtle inconsistencies inherent in true mechanical designs. While XF lenses perform well, they feel ordinary at best, sluggish at worst. An Apple-like Fujifilm would not economise on feel.

It isn't necessary for Fujifilm to be Apple-like. Fujifilm has a longer, richer history than Apple. But  unlike Apple, Fujifilm caters to market conditions rather than re-fashioning the market in which it competes.

I love what Fujifilm have accomplished, but I see severe problems in the way Fujifilm approach their brand. Some of these problems attack the brand itself; some of them merely weaken the aesthetic schtick Fujifilm were aiming for in designing the X brand. 

All of these problems are very unlike Apple. But in the current small-format digital camera atmosphere, Fujifilm expresses some similarities to the brand that Mike Sparrow offhandedly summons and which Fuzzy Optics qualifies. Like Apple, Fujifilm is "very meticulous about design and get widespread acclaim from critics and hardcore enthusiasts". And love the X series or hate, it, it is a polarising element in the digital camera world. But then again, so is any digital camera brand. Quite honestly, the single largest contribution hitherto Fujifilm X cameras have made to the mirrorless world is a slew of design conceits and skeuomorphisms. How future Fujifilm products are able to turn those conceits into marketable must-haves will determine their success in a post-dSLR world. 

And it will be done in a Fujifilm, not Apple way.