Photography Industry Strategy – Film Simulation Dial

I was recently asked by a reader for my reaction to the just launched Fujifilm X-T50, specifically regarding the new feature announced at the X-Summit, the Film Simulation dial. There’s been a lot of heated discussion about this controversial dial. Being a strategist in my day job, I thought it would be fun to dissect the thinking that may have gone into the decision to introduce this dial.

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Blue Ocean Strategy

To answer that question, I’ll turn to a strategist’s best friend, W. Chan Kim’s and Renée Mauborgne’s methodology from their excellent book, Blue Ocean Strategy. I use this methodology in my work (albeit without referencing the methodology), and I also recommend it to my mentees as they develop their personal identify in the corporate world.

Blue Ocean Strategy teaches us that a company wants to compete in a space that others are not occupying. To compete directly in a space that others occupy will result in a blood bath or a “Red Ocean”. By finding space where others are not yet competing, companies can enjoy a “Blue Ocean”. This is also known as a “Differentiating Strategy”.

“To compete directly in a space that others occupy will result in a blood bath or a ‘Red Ocean’”

To visualize this, I use what Blue Ocean Strategy’s authors call the “Strategy Canvas”. It’s a good way to think about how to create a differentiating strategy, for a company, a product or even for a person. Let’s try to answer that question.

Is the Film Simulation dial a good idea on the Fujifilm X-T50?

Imagine we’re Fujifilm senior management and we’re having a brainstorming session near Fujifilm Square in Roppongi Hills. We want to understand what attributes our cameras have that others don’t so that we can find Blue Ocean to flourish in, where we have less competition and more pricing power.

To visualize this, we need to first ask what customers care about in an APS-C camera. The attributes could be things like: Price, Size, Autofocus, Resolution, Video, IBIS, and User Interface. There can be many more attributes, but I think this is sufficient for the purposes of this article.   

Let’s visualize this using the Blue Ocean Strategy Canvas

I’ve mapped this out on the Strategy Canvas for the two competitors I’m familiar with: Sony A6700 and Canon EOS R7. In this Strategy Canvas, the scores are relative with 5 being High Capability and 1 being Low Capability. In some attributes like resolution, these are easy to map as they’re more objective, while in others, it can be subjective.

Strategy Canvas for Blue Ocean for APSC Camera

Laying it out like this makes things very clear. When it comes to Price, IBIS, Video, Size and Resolution, there isn’t much differentiation between the cameras. However, when it comes to Autofocus, Physical Dials and Film Simulations, you can see the space between the camera models.

Once mapped out, the strategists need to ask themselves the following questions:

  1. Which attributes should we maintain?
  2. Which attributes should we increase (improve/add)?
  3. Which attributes should we decrease (reduce/eliminate)?

If we were to put ourselves in Fujifilm’s position, we would want to emphasize our Resolution, Physical Dials and Film Simulations. It therefore makes a lot of sense to add a Film Simulation dial to the X-T50 from a purely strategic perspective. 

We would also be pushing our engineers to improve Autofocus since that large gap will concede ground to our competitors who are well ahead at this point. It should be a priority at Fujifilm to revamp or quickly iterate the autofocus system to close that gap. 

What should other camera companies do to catch up to Fujifilm?

A strategic mistake I believe other camera manufacturers are making is to concede so much ground to Fujifilm on film simulations. It behooves me that Sony or Panasonic haven’t licensed Kodak’s name to add film simulations to their cameras. This would work especially well for Panasonic given their camera’s video capabilities.

I can appreciate Canon and Nikon being too proud to tap into Kodak or Agfa, but Sony and Panasonic shouldn’t have any issue in leveraging a film brand to develop true-to-life film simulations. Imagine a Sony A7R5 with built-in Kodachrome, or a beautiful sunset taken with Kodak Gold. 

Imagine a Panasonic S5II with built-in Agfa or Ilford black & white simulations. It would bring a whole new level of previsualization to the artists using those cameras.  Leica understands this and have recently released a mobile phone app targeting to capitalize on their “Leica Look”. It will be interesting to see how the app does.

Beyond film simulations, there’s a huge gap between what users can expect on other platforms such as smartphones and what you get on hardware cameras regarding software and user interface. There’s so much potential in this space to create a Blue Ocean but it seems that none of the Japanese camera manufacturers want to take the leap. Sony is ideally placed to do it with their PlayStation and smartphone software experience. I wonder why they haven’t yet.  


Fujifilm really knows their client base and target market. They understand what makes their cameras unique and have tapped into that by further expanding the space they’ve created with Film Simulations. The longer the competition takes to catch up, the more Fujifilm can profit from this space. 

“It’s my opinion that Fujifilm made the right decision to have the Film Simulation dial on the X-T50.”

Therefore, to answer the original question posed by the reader, it’s my opinion that Fujifilm made the right decision to have the Film Simulation dial on the X-T50. Only time will tell whether it’s a commercial success, but from a strategic perspective, it appears to be a wise decision. 

If this kind of post interests you, let me know in the comments below. I love pontificating on strategy for industries, especially when I’m an outsider to that industry. When there’s less skin in the game, it becomes easier to see things with clarity.

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