The crowning achievement of Fujifilm's X series isn't its X Trans technology. It isn't its lenses. It isn't its film simulations. It isn't even the quality of the images its cameras and lenses produce. Each of those, while important, is ancillary to brand cohesiveness.
Brand cohesiveness comprises many small things that combine to form a gestalt. Having lived in Japan since the end of 2011, I have noticed a distinct lack, or rejection of, gestalt. This lack pervades almost every market-successful Japanese company. In the world of Japanese cars, a specific model is recognisable as a Toyota, or a Honda, or a Suzuki by its badge, not by the look or feel of a car, or by the people who choose to purchase it. Without the badge, you'd be damned to guess which car belongs to which company. For the most part, the camera world is the same.
What is unique about Canon? Nikon? Pentax? Who are their customers? The same could be asked of Sony, Olympus, Panasonic, etc. Each one is tackling one thing: gaining market share. And in order to gain market share, they must carefully hone a single benchmark: price/performance. While there are many levels in which price/performance is important, in the long run, it creates an incestuous market.
A fixation on price/performance thrusts one's attention away from one's customers. If your competition is doing X, in order for you to maintain competitiveness in a price/performance market, you must do the same thing. If your competition has penetrated further into a certain market, you must follow. Failing to follow, or to meet the competition, results in loss of market share, loss of brand awareness, and ultimately, loss of revenue.
Ultimately, the creation of unique items for a unique customer base is unimportant. Company expansion is all that matters. And in order to expand properly, you must catch attention at all price points, in all market segments. Eventually, you are selling 65 different car models, or 5 dSLR lines, a languishing mirrorless system, and still trying to coax life out of the compact camera division. And every one of your products has an equivalent from your competitor.
You have stopped creating. You have stopped designing. Your brand has ceased to be anything but a metro bus. Customers hop on when you build something great, and hop off when someone else does. You have competition, not customers.
You are the victim of the incestuous, competition-aware market you helped create.
What I appreciate about Fujifilm's X series is cohesiveness. There isn't another camera manufacturer in Japan that cares as much about operational design, about physical layout, or about culling specific users from the larger customer base. Their cameras polarise. That is how it should be.
Of course, it is facile to claim that no other Japanese camera manufacturer cares about the their customers. But even under heavy review, it isn't hard to see the detrimental outcome of the price-is-everything market- a market that Japanese camera makers created, and have nursed, for decades.
With the X100 and X-Pro, Fujifilm have built something different. On either side of the lens, interacting with each camera is unique. They require less hands-on than the rangefinder cameras they emulate, but boast the same approachable-ness, timeless, and haptic simplicity. They are not sports cameras. They are not wildlife cameras. Neither one is a still life camera.
But neither one is pretending to be any of the above. Both cameras were purpose built for specific tasks and with specific customers in mind.
Fujifilm's camera division now rests in the hands of the X series. Unfortunately, even the X series is full of listless cameras and lenses. It isn't as tight of a system as it once was, or should be. Fujifilm lack the focus, the history, the brand awareness, and the customer loyalty of Leica. But I believe that Fujifilm possess the introspective fortitude to be the leader that the Japanese camera market needs. No, I don't mean market leader, or best-seller. Those outcomes are the icing, not the cake.
If Fujifilm can foster a specific, loyal customer base by the creation of unique, purpose-built, and stringently pruned camera systems, they will be the first camera maker in Japan to shed the image of the Japanese camera as the cost-effective alternative.