Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Fuji STILL doesn't GET IT

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/readflat.asp?forum=1020&thread=16250436 and also a follow-up post to this at

Have a look at what Fuji S3 Pro shooters have to deal with, as the FujiFilm Professional division dilly-dallies around with users who desperately want to have their S3's retrofitted with increased buffer memory. Let's face the truth,which is that the vast majority of current Fuji S3 users have been sold a D-SLR with a very small RAW buffer and glacially SLOW card write times.The slowest write times in the D-SLR industry. The S3 also has the crudest and most screwed-up image review "system" of any D-SLR today. The S3's design shortcuts and low-budget engineering decisions are laughably bad for a camera that began its life priced at $2,499. Thom Hogan's initial review of the S3 called for the camera to be "redesigned",and THAT my friends is a bad review point.

It's almost impossible to describe what it is like to sit there and WAIT for a D-SLR to write a handful of images to the card more SLOWLY than a digicam can do the job.It's almost impossible to describe the feeling of running into an image buffer limit after spending half of an afternoon getting into position to make a wildlife shot from close range,and MISSING THE BEST SHOTS because the designers of your camera took the cheapest way out. I've suffered through both situations with my Fuji S2 Pro. The S3 Pro is even s-l-o-w-e-r at writing files and even slower to review files on the LCD than the S2 Pro is. Slow writes are not bad if your camera has enough of a BUFFER to shoot the occasional extended sequence of photos which span, say, two minutes of continuous time passing.Two minutes of a day, with say 20 photos taken. Not six photos, but 20 photos,over two minutes. Can't make 20 pics in two minutes as needed to cover an event? Unacceptable.

Fuji annouced a buffer upgrade program--for its customers in Japan. But nothing for its United States customers. Months ago,Fuji was shamed into admitting it had released entire serial number batches of S2 Pro digital SLR bodies fitted with BAD CCD's, thanks to pro-active customers, and people like "Karbo" who created a well-publicized,on-line database where owners of defective S2s posted their serial numbers and the fault their cameras suffered from. Karbo's S2 Failure Database,and the world wide web's many public forums, brought powerful and tangible benefits to S2 customers across the globe.The squeaky wheel got the grease!! There's a neat book available entitled The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business As Usual. It describes how the modern,internet/web culture allows consumers to go on-line and to SHARE their experiences,and to share their actual,true feelings about products and services. Let me explain...

In this, the internet age, wired consumers SHARE their experiences, and by COMPLAINING about badly-made or badly-designed products, or products which are just sub-par, consumers warn other consumers about lousy products, shoddy workmanship,and bad customer sales practices.The Cluetrain Manifesto is a really important book. It tells those who are unfamiliar with the new world dynamics that there IS A WAY for consumers to avoid being mistreated by large corporations. You know, the large companies that tell buyers, "Why NO, we've NEVER heard of a problem with that part failing so,your next step is to send the product to us,and we'll issue an estimate,and then you can decide if you'd like to go ahead with the repair or not." That's the OLD-world order of things, where customers are kept in the dark,and ripped off by companies which have made bad products--sometimes thousands of them. In the new, wired world, potential customers can go online and within an hour or so,can uncover the hidden flaws and weak areas of almost any product. AND, if you buy the book, you'll find out that COMPANIES can also have an impact, by making contact with these on-line forums and their members. And,as Karbo's S2 Failure Database proved, public discussion and criticism can bring consumer-favorable response from companies. Following the database's publication,I think Fuji got great free PR for their low-cost or free repairs on 32-series (and other series) S2 sensors which had failed.

Nikon has no worldwide or even European web person or presence.Nikon has no ombusdsman, no factory face that we in the US are aware of. But Canon, USA has Chuck Westphall...a real person...he answers questions about Canon's D-SLR products at user-based participation sites all over the web. Nikon has nobody. Fuji has nobody. Kodak is out of the D-SLR business.Nikon and Fuji give customers the cold shoulder,and little more than form e-mails.Is it any wonder that Canon is the number one seller of D-SLR cameras? Fuji executives need to read The Cluetrain Manifesto,because they are doing business "as usual", and unless they improve their treatment of customers, it will be the END of their D-SLR business. The Fuji user base has spoken--they want the buffer upgrade, and they want it NOW, and they don't want to be reamed. They already paid a premium price for a product that has just about the worst sub-systems of any modern D-SLR body, but which has expanded dynamic range in the HIGHLIGHTS. C'mon Fuji, give your loyal customers access to the buffer upgrade, and do it at a FAIR price. FujiFilm have already charged a $1,000 price premium over the comparably spec'd EOS 20D and $1,500 more than the Nikon D70 (another 6 megapixel D-SLR)--and now it is time for them to step up and do the right thing,just like they did with the defective CCD's installed in so many 32-series S2 Pro bodies.

If all you do is meekly accept what manufacturers sell you,and you don't complain when you get the shaft, then you get exactly what you deserve. Problem is,in this instance,FujiFilm has customers complaining, but those customers are getting the shaft from FujiFilm. Oh well, more customers for Nikon and Canon I guess!

In the new age, the wired age, consumers get together on-line and SHARE INFORMATION amongst themselves,and that is a key point of The Cluetrain Manifesto:The End of Business As Usual. Why so many manufacturers are not reacting to the new reality of the marketplace is beyond me,especially when the products they make are targeting PRECISELY the type of consumer who has an internet connection and a sense of community. Continuing to crank out sub-par products,which legions of actual owners complain about,strikes me as a very stupid business practice. Of course, the Japanese have always seemed somewhat inscrutable to westerners, but now that the market is global,it might pay to act like it,and to offer customers in New York and New Delhi the same courtesy that is offered to customers in Japan.Even if that "courtesy" involves paying hundreds and hundreds of dollars to upgrade a camera so that it's almost up to a the point where it should have been had it had decent engineering in the first place. Will it soon be Kodak Curtains for FujiFilm's Professional division? That would be a crying shame, since Fuji sensors yield lovely image quality and very deep,beautiful image files in both JPEG and raw capture modes.I want to see FujiFilm succeed in the D-SLR business,but they need to get their act together and start treating customers right,world-wide.

Addendum, Dec. 30,2005: see a Fuji e-mail notifying European customers how much money they expect to charge for what SHOULD have been installed into the S3 at the stage of original design and manufacturing. http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/readflat.asp?forum=1020&thread=16489666

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