The camera market in the 1980s and 1990s was vastly different from what we know today. Back then, analog devices, rolls and photographic paper to print postcards were common, but as digital cameras gained ground, the pillars that supported the paper photo for a decade were disappearing from the market.
For the Japanese manufacturer of film, camera and photographic paper, Fujifilm , this change meant the opportunity to strengthen other businesses in which they already had a presence, although they were less well known than that of cameras and photographic film.
Enrique Giraud, general director of Fujifilm Mexico, says that although it was traditional for film manufacturers to participate equally in the film industry, they also did so in segments that had nothing to do with cameras, such as the doctor. The radiographs are printed on a paper similar to that of the photos. This led the company to experiment with technological developments in other business areas in order to cope with changes in the photography business.
“Fujifilm has always been a company that has been trying to innovate, even looking at technologies that may have played against our own products at some point (the company also sold digital cameras even though that technology threatened the survival of film )”, says Giraud. “As a result of all this market growth, which Fujifilm had with film paper in the medical sector, it did not stop there, but rather we began to do some research and were already developing digital radiology equipment”, he adds.
Analog devices in general did not have much of a market then, to which was added the high cost and the fact that they were large, so the company saw a business opportunity by digitizing them, which had an impact on one of the key objectives: there was greater clarity in the image in the results.
The company, which began operations in 1930, now has laser-printed film on the market, a technology that has opened doors for it in other industries, such as the development of cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and even regenerative medicine. In this area, says the CEO, they are already cultivating human cells to develop artificial corneas that are used to carry out cosmetic tests, or synthetic skin to care for patients with burns.
“Most of Fujifilm’s products have been oriented towards industries (which indirectly reaches the final consumer). Every day we come into contact with technologies developed by Fujifilm, not only from the point of view of print advertising in commercials, but every time we see a television screen, that any brand uses our technologies, or even on cell phones” , bill. “By manufacturing this type of technology, sometimes we don’t see the brand on the products, but we are definitely moving the world,” he says.
The company had a last restructuring a year ago. Fujifilm now has four business divisions, from the three it had, to encompass its work in the area of photography and optics, another focused on health care, the materials division -responsible for, for example, , manufacture membranes to separate natural gas–, and the printer division, which arrived in Mexico at the end of April and represents 7,450 million dollars in the total turnover of Fujifilm Holdings , only with sales in Asia and Oceania.
“In results we cannot complain. In this time of pandemic we have a very important diversification of products, although some divisions had significant drops, for example, photofinishing (photo printing). But there were also some opportunities to help help hospitals deal with the pandemic through the health division. Normally we have healthy inventory levels and obviously (the demand registered by the health division during the pandemic) contributed to our growth and we have been adopting new lines of business”, explains the manager.
During the pandemic , the company’s products that had the greatest boom were X-ray film , as well as endoscopes , which allow blood tests to detect certain diseases. Added to this are devices to detect pneumonia.
For this year, the manager expects to close with double-digit sales, in line with last year’s results, with a view to growing at an even faster rate, after the arrival of the office printer business last April.
“We have many isolated divisions, but (the Mexican subsidiary) we have always been representative of a large market share for Fujifilm in the world and that positions us as the largest distributor and the only one in the world that distributes all its products in one place. same market,” he declares.
What happened to the cameras?
Fujifilm lived through the transition from analog to digital cameras, but never completely removed photographic paper from the market, including instant print. And with the commitment to the nostalgia market that many companies have joined, Fujifilm repositioned itself with its Instax cameras, which first hit the market in 1998.
Between 2002 and 2004, the models that followed were the Mini 30 to 50 versions that added new features to the classic Instax Mini model, such as manual and automatic exposures, and lightened the weight. The Mini 50 already weighed 320 grams. And it was in 2008 when the Mini 7s model came out, but in 2012 this line began to have a new boom with the arrival of the Mini 8, which led to a worldwide boom.
With Instax, the company has also had the opportunity to combine technology, by combining analog with digital, since in some cases, in addition to printing, photos can also be shared digitally. And competitors have also chosen to enter this segment, after turning to photo automation.
“What we have been seeing is that products are reviving and something we have found is that for the generations that were born with digital, photography has not lost this magical issue. So this analog photography has once again generated a passion for the traditional, for the analog. It is a market that even when it came back into fashion, we thought it was something more temporary, but it has been shown that it is back to stay,” says Giraud.