Cover Fujifilm design manager Masazumi Imai

We hear from Masazumi Imai, design manager at Fujifilm, on how a camera should awaken all our five senses with its creative form and innovative function

Masazumi imai forges a close bond with the cameras he creates. Seeing them as more than just instruments for taking photographs, the celebrated design manager at Fujifilm describes cameras as tools for self‑expression and “works of art with textures and details that we can enjoy looking closely at, and that appeal to our tactile senses with the turn of a dial or press of a button”. The man is behind Fujifilm’s award‑winning X-Series range of high-end compact and mirrorless digital cameras, which balances advanced technologies with classic designs.    

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Imai, who studied product design at Tokyo’s Tama Art University, has been with the renowned Japanese photography and imaging company since 2002, and remains driven by a passion for building things with his hands, a skill he honed as a child. He decided to specialise in designing cameras after his university professor told him that “camera design is the most difficult form of product design to master. If you master it, you’d have developed a solid foundation for other fields of product design”.

These words stuck with Imai, who went on to spearhead the design of Fujifilm’s X-Series cameras, including the debut X100 model as well as the X-T2 and the GFX 50S. The designer recently saw the launch of brand’s latest creation: the X-H1, a flagship model of the range designed for more heavy-duty professional photography, such as shooting in rougher climates or high-speed conditions. He tells us more. 

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What are the exciting new innovations in the Fujifilm X-H1?
Masazumi Imai (MI)
The X-H1 is a camera of many firsts. It’s the first X-Series camera with an in-body image stabilisation (IBIS), a flicker reduction mode, and an Eterna mode, which is the new film simulation technology that creates understated colours and rich shadow tones, ideal for making movies. Its robust and durable body allows for shooting in rough conditions.

What is the design process for the X-Series?
MI My team and I first consider ourselves as users of our own products and project the feelings of our target audience upon ourselves. Then, we do a series of repeated tests of the camera, learn from the mistakes and fine-tune the design until we’re satisfied. As a result, we tackle design challenges with the idea that our actual users will be satisfied with the camera if we’re satisfied with our own design first.

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If you had the new X-H1 for a day, what would you capture?
MI I’d capture moments such as children and dogs frolicking and playing together from morning to dusk on a tropical island using the camera’s IBIS and film simulation functions.

What does the future of digital cameras look like at Fujifilm?
MI We’ll continue to improve and grow the X-Series because it represents our pursuit of the true nature of photography. By true nature, I don’t just mean image quality and performance. It’s also the ease and versatility of use. A camera’s function must be incorporated into a form that features some analogue elements, which stimulates its user’s five senses. The act of photography is a sensory experience after all. Ultimately, we want to create cameras that embody our company’s design concepts and that can be cherished for a long time.  

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Scroll through the gallery below for more pictures shot by three local photographers using X-Series cameras.

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