Has Fujifilm lost its Kaizen mojo?

August 30, 2022

recent from fujifilm lack of important camera firmware updates has pundits speculating and hobbyists fearing the company will abandon its ‘Kaizen’ reputation, while Canon and Nikon have instead taken this approach.

The Fujifilm X-Pro2, released in March 2016, could shoot 1080p HD video, and Fujifilm upped that to 4K video in December 2017.

Fujifilm built a strong reputation for its X-series cameras by working on some sweet spots that set it apart from other camera brands. This includes the retro-style lightweight body and ergonomics, small size, quirks like movie simulation modes, and better firmware updates to add new functions and features. Heck, some people even love the APS-C format.

These factors, along with others, have earned Fujifilm a legion of fans who will happily overlook several shortcomings. Especially those important firmware updates, often cited as making Fujifilm stand out from the crowd, as the new software adds features that other camera makers would reserve for next-generation models.

Fujifilm’s reputation was built before the full-frame mirrorless race when, since no one makes them anymore, DSLR technology came of age. At the time, Canon was frustratingly stalling in announcing lukewarm updates to entry-level DSLRs. Fujifilm’s firmware updates, on the other hand, improved the X100’s AE and AF performance, added 4K video to the X-Pro2 and 120fps to the X-T2, to name just a few.

One term to describe Fujifilm that caught on was that the brand adopted the Japanese ‘Kaizen’ approach. Kaizen is a broader Japanese business philosophy that focuses on gradual and continuous improvements to produce a better work environment. It was adapted to delineate Fujifilm’s free ‘incremental continual improvements’ through firmware updates to produce better cameras.

But since about 2019, there has been speculation that Fujifilm has abandoned the lauded Kaizen approach. New Fujifilm cameras rarely come with the innovative upgrades that users have come to expect.

Five pretty merry minutes DPReview The video from January 2020 notes that while Fujifilm has issued minor updates via firmware, there haven’t been any major new features for new and legacy cameras. According to the boys DPReviewFujifilm claims that it is careful not to overload the camera’s processor with new updates.

“It looks like Fuji is missing out a bit,” he said. DPReview TV co-host, Jordan Drake. “It almost feels like there’s that camera segmentation going on that we always complain about.”

“You could certainly say they’re trying to protect sales of the X-Pro3 for a little longer, because it has these unique features right now,” replies co-host Chris Nichols. ‘But at the same time, I really think we should focus on the fact that Fuji is doing something negative. They really aren’t doing anything that the other manufacturers haven’t done for years. I think the most surprising thing about this year is that everyone else [other camera manufacturers] they stepped up their game in a huge way.

“Yeah, Fujifilm really inspired everyone else to do it,” agreed Jordan.

Canon, regularly criticized for releasing routine updates to maximize sales, has taken over Kaizen from Fujifilm. Various R5 firmware updates have worked to improve the disastrous 8K overheating issue; the R3’s frame rate increased from 30fps to 195fps; while Nikon also upped the ante with new features like Eye AF for the Z6 and Z7.

It seems that the full-frame mirrorless race has kick-started the relevant camera manufacturers with the issuance of quality firmware updates.

Meanwhile, Paris-based wedding photographer Alex-Michel Ngningha recently published an article on the photographer out of sheer frustration that your X-T4 hasn’t gotten a decent firmware update.

‘I have to say I’m not impressed. We’ve had one to improve compatibility with the SDXC memory card format, one to fix Bluetooth pairing errors, and one to add an “AUTO SHUTDOWN TEMPERATURE”. option in the “ENERGY MANAGEMENT” menu. It’s much more like fixing problems that shouldn’t have been there to begin with than giving something extra to the user. It can be argued that those bodies already give us a lot of bang for our buck, but autofocus has been Fujifilm’s Achilles’ heel for far too long, especially when compared to other offerings.’

His conclusion is that with the full-frame mirrorless revolution, Fujifilm has lost its size and weight advantage. So what’s left?

“We want Fujifilm to be strong enough to bring meaningful tools to help bring our creativity to life in the real world. If Kaizen is gone, one may wonder if they’re still bringing enough to the table to entice people to jump in instead of out.

Perhaps the Kaizen party is over at Fujifilm headquarters.

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