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Fujifilm Medium Format Exerting Intense Market Pressure: Is PhaseOne Going to Survive?

Readers might recall that I praised the image quality of the PhaseOne IQ4 150 as the best I have ever seen. Truly impeccable, flawless. See also Phase One IQ4 Medium Format: the Summit of Image Quality in my Medium Format Magazine articles.

But the competitive ressure on an ultra high-end-low-unit-volume almost bespoke company like PhaseOne is intense. In particular, Fujjifilm with its groundbreaking Fujifilm GFX100S.

Viable minimum sales

PhaseOne digital back

Tiny even before Fujifilm’s medium arrival, the market niche for ultra-high-end medium format might have had unit sales of a few thousand systems a year, that with lenses comes to $60K or more per system (somewhat less for lower-res digital backs).

PhaseOne never stepped away from its digital back approach, for understandable reasons (financial, technical, time to market, etc).

With Fujifilm surely selling ten times or more that unit count for roughly 1/5 the price, the intense pressure exerted by the “more than good enough” Fujifilm medium format system is impossible to withstand. Very few photographers can/could afford a PhaseOne system, let alone justify one. So if you get 85% of the value at 1/5 the price, the results are not pretty for PhaseOne.

I could be wrong. I hope I have missed something. But that seems very unlikely.

RAW and studio workflow: PhaseOne CaptureOne Pro

Investing your time and experience into a workflow for software with uncertain future prospects should give pause to anyone thinking to be processing images for years to come. OTOH, a system that works well might as well stay in production use. Heck, my mountain bikes are 10 years old now, and work as well as the day I bought them.

Fujifilm GFX100S

However, software is different. With Apple scewing up macOS more and more with every release, software doesn’t just keep working—Apple breaks it. So you are 100% dependent on a company constantly updating its software.

And so...

I cannot afford a PhaseOne system, and even a Fujifilm medium format system with 3/4 lenses I could not manage except over time. But if $70K were fun money for me, and I were shooting for myself, I’d want the PhaseOne XT system for landscape work, because its quality is unbeatable (and 150MP).

I wish PhaseOne the very best. It would be a damn shame if the best image quality on the market was shunted aside forever. But the tech industry is replete with the demise of once-strong software and hardware companies.

Fujifilm has no serious competition and that’s bad for everyone except Fujifilm. Sony would be doing us a huge favor by getting into the medium format market.


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