Will with the original Fuji 100.
This week both Fuji and Leica introduced cameras that sound sexy and cool and interesting. But the target they were aiming at when they went into development three or four years ago has evaporated; moved on. Would I like to have one or both of these cameras, along with a group of appropriate lenses? Sure, who wouldn't? But would I pay the asking price for either of them because they represent something so new and different that I feel like I have to have them? Not a chance.
Let's start with Leica's offering: The M10 is a continuation of the rangefinder camera style that debuted in 1954 with the M3. For about $6500 you get a basic rangefinder camera with a 24 megapixel sensor, the option to add an EVF after the fact, and battery life for 210 photographs. Your basic 50mm lens will cost you another $2200. For $8700 you can go out and shoot kinda like Henri Cartier Bresson. While the lenses are probably the best one can get you are paying an awful premium to achieve that last 1.052% of potential image quality. (I say "potential" because you'll need to make sure your rangefinder is correctly calibrated and that your basic handling skills are enough to put the camera and lens in a position to excel). It's basically a camera designed to be handheld with lenses, the real value, can only be realized with the system locked down on a tripod.
I shot with the Leica film rangefinders for decades but they were affordable and amply available used. Leica's new idea of pricing is aimed squarely at a lux market that most working photographers are not part of. If I bought an M10 and a trio of useful lenses I would still have a hard time using this system for the work I do most of the time. The longer and faster the lens you need the less optimal the system becomes. It's a camera for people who are either without the operating constraints of clients or for photographers who do a kind of art that is specific. My hat is off to the second species for finding a paying market for doing exactly what they love.
It's funny. I write this blog as a peek into my life as a working photographer. I don't write from the presumption that my readers are doctors, lawyers and captains of industry (although I know that some are). With this being the case it seems a bit hypocritical of me to join the parade and promote cameras like this, knowing that the vast majority of my readers, and certainly the majority or working professionals, would have no interest in buying one of these cameras. It's almost like buying into mercantile conspiracy to push a market that has no logic of its own.
I have a fantasy that, when I stop paying for college tuition and expenses, sell my Austin home at an extreme profit and finally retire, that I will buy a camera like this along with one perfect lens and spend the rest of my life traveling the world taking glorious images that no one else could match. But doesn't that play right into the worm of feeling inadequate in my own skills/vision and hoping the "magic" equipment (or locations, etc.) will make me a better artist? That way lies madness......and lots of cameras bought and sold.
At any rate, much as I like the design of the M3, as represented for the nth time in the M10. I'll take a pass on buying or reviewing this product because I could never justify the expense or the return. What was supremely useful in the film days has lost most of its relevance in the present.
Now the Fuji GFX is a slightly more alluring enticement of a camera. Behind all the advertising and marketing is the implicit message that this camera is, de facto, medium format and brings along with it all that conveys. The idea that you'll immediately see big differences in making depth of field razor thin. The suggested promise that the "massive" sensor will provide a much richer level of color and detail and so much more. But again, how true is any of this?
While the price of the Fuji GFX is about as good as we've seen (in terms of affordablity) for a "medium format" camera I would suggest that it's just another rangefinder style, digital camera with a slightly bigger sensor (in geometric terms) but with only scant bit more resolution and perhaps color and tonality that's already being delivered by 35mm styled cameras like the Nikon D810, the Canon 5DSR and the (amazing) Sony A7Rii.
I think Fuji will find a fair market amongst those who don't do math well or who really believe there is something magical about a Sony sensor that's just a little bigger than other Sony sensors from the same technology generation. The dimensions of the sensor are barely larger than the 24 x 36mm size of full frame sensors and the range of current lenses is....interesing in its banality.
Perhaps Fuji is reconstituting their introduction philosophy along the lines they pursued with the X-Pro_1. Create a visually covet-worthy camera with great specs and then spend the ensuing years iterating lower and lower priced versions that get better and better (performance wise) with time. So, maybe in a year and a half we'll see the GFX-10 and it will have the same sensor, minus a few features and sell for $4995. Then we'll see the GFX-20 and it will also be a nice, step down model but with an even more attractive price.
The reality is that both of these cameras will likely be good performers and there will be a (smallish) market for them. But equally, if the only difference for the Fuji is the incremental increase in sensor size, and the only difference from Leica is the promise of simple elegance and potential good imaging, I think most people will quickly understand the skewed value propositions presented and continue buying from their current brands of choice. And I think that would be a smart move. We're moving out of an era when we were happily obsessed with our hobby and into a more complex environment for arts producers. And environment that requires constant learning and re-figuring. Getting locked into the specification paradigm of a past nostalgia can be counter-productive. Both for the mind and the wallet.
You get a lot less wear out of an expensive tuxedo that you do from a basic business suit.
Circling back to the Leica for a second... I just flashed on why I loved the film ones so much and never warmed up to the digital Ms. It's because the mechanical bodies promised the ability to shoot anywhere at any time without ever having to worry about being sidelined by a dead battery. It's the switch from mechanical to electronic that sucked the magic out of Leica Ms for me. Never really got that before. Funny what you think about when the world changes... It was all about the self reliance of the camera.
210 exposures? Anxiety in the middle of an event....