Here's why Fujifilm X100VI preorders are off the charts – and there's a lesson for other camera companies

 Fujifilm X100VI in the hand.
Fujifilm X100VI in the hand.

This year’s hotly anticipated camera is here – and it isn't a photo/video hybrid mirrorless from Sony or Canon; it’s the Fujifilm X100VI. The photography-centric premium compact camera is dominating camera headlines, and while we knew it would be popular, no one predicted what has come – it has garnered a response on a scale we’ve never seen before.

According to reports, preorder numbers are off the charts, with customers potentially facing a lengthy wait to get their hands on this premium $1,600 / £1,600 compact. We asked Fujifilm UK’s General Manager, Theo Georghiades, about the company's experience. “Sales have been unprecedented, and it has been by far the most successful launch of any camera we’ve ever seen. Our task now is to try to fulfil the demand as quickly as possible!”

It’s a great moment for Fujifilm, and indeed photography itself, because of what the X100-series represents. Like its predecessors, the X100VI is one of best compact cameras available and, despite being a proficient video camera too, it’s an unadulterated photographic tool. But the question remains: just how did we get here, and why is the X100VI so popular?

Fujifilm X100VI in the hand with top plate in view
Fujifilm X100VI in the hand with top plate in view

A perfect storm

There are indirect factors that have led to the X100VI pre-order frenzy, which has reportedly escalated to well above half a million units worldwide. The previous model, the X100V, became a TikTok sensation and consequently remained on back order until Fujifilm recently confirmed that it had stopped making this fifth-generation model.

These retro cameras also tap into the resurgent analog photography market, where Gen Z is adopting old-school cameras in favor of their mobile screens. Fujifilm X-series cameras provide photo looks inspired by 35mm film, known as film simulations, and people can’t get enough of them.

So, we have huge demand and backorders for a four-year-old camera that's no longer available, a new-found popularity of film photography and interest in this part of the retro digital camera market, after which a new and improved successor is announced (plus, those with X100V backorders could transfer to the new model). It all adds up, but still...

Photographic joys

We can’t wholly attribute this moment to TikTok, however. After all, TechRadar rated the X100V the best premium compact camera long before its new-found admirers (and it will be superceded by this latest model once our full review is in).

What's so special about the X100 series, now in its sixth iteration, that's dawning on people 13 years since its inception? The models resonate with keen photographers and especially with the renewed interest in film photography, despite being digital cameras. The social media hype in 2023 was primarily around Fujifilm’s film simulations and recipes, which recreate 35mm film looks. Recipes are custom variations of in-camera film simulations, and people have shared their own recipes online for you to achieve their look, or you can make your own.

Street photo of ladies in traditional Japanese attire
Street photo of ladies in traditional Japanese attire

The truth, however, is that all Fujifilm X-series cameras have Fujifilm film simulations on board, not only X100-series models. Beyond what is arguably a social media-influenced herd mentality, it’s also possible that the retro charm and fixed lens of X100 models further widens their appeal. We asked Fujifilm's Theo what he thinks is special about the X100-series:

“Since the launch of X series, we’ve had one mission – and that was to make photography fun, easy, and give the photographer the confidence that they'll get the best result straight out of a camera. As a long-standing film manufacturer, we understand color science better than any other brand, so we’d like to see more people spend time taking pictures and less time editing pictures! The X100-series has always been the epitome of this, and the latest version just cements this in every way. The following and attention it’s attracting from all types of people is amazing and really exciting to see.”

Your one imperfect everyday camera

I had extended time with the Fujifilm X100VI in the lead up to Fujifilm’s X-Summit in Tokyo where the camera was officially announced, and have already written my X100VI hands-on review. It isn't a perfect camera, by any means – and for me it isn't my favorite camera, either. However, there is something about it that can’t be explained by features and specification alone.

I’ve used the X100VI as an everyday camera for a couple of weeks, and its appeal is more to do with how it makes you feel as you go about taking photos. I love the hybrid viewfinder and retro dials. I also like the film simulations, even if I shoot in raw and JPEG to give myself the choice to edit post capture if I prefer a different look.

Person holding the Fujifilm X100VI camera up to their eye with a bustling Tokyo city background
Person holding the Fujifilm X100VI camera up to their eye with a bustling Tokyo city background

Following a week of almost exclusively using the X100VI, I picked up the Sony A9 III – an altogether different camera for pro sports and wildlife photography that I am reviewing at the same time – and didn’t feel nearly the same connection. The X100VI isn’t designed for pro sports, but what it does do is become your everyday photography tool. Snapshots of the family; street photography; daily life. You want it around.

You also develop a way of seeing when shooting with the fixed 23mm f/2 lens (though not unique to the X100 series), a film look that you like, and you want the X100VI – warts and all – in your hand. The X100VI has its flaws, many too nitpick-y to mention here (read about them in my review of the camera). Nevertheless, the X100-series strikes a chord where so few rival digital camera brands have been able – it lets you escape into photography.

Fujifilm X100VI preorders are available here

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