Can a camera company make an app that doesn’t suck? Fujifilm tries again

At some point a few weeks ago, I decided I couldn’t deal with Fujifilm’s Camera Remote app anymore. So I threw in the towel and bought an SD-to-Lightning adapter, which lets me reliably get photos from my Fujifilm cameras onto my iPhone without any fuss. But it also makes me feel like a damn caveman. It’s supposed to be better than this in 2023.

I’ve been using Fujifilm’s mirrorless cameras since the days of the X-T1. But like many others, I’ve had mixed experiences with the company’s mobile app. Just look at those reviews on the App Store and Google Play.

In theory, this software is intended to make syncing photos between camera and smartphone very convenient. Sometimes that actually happens, and despite its rudimentary interface, Fujifilm’s app can be a useful tool in those cases. Opening an app and wirelessly snagging a few images directly from the camera is unquestionably more seamless than having to pull the SD card and plopping it into a dongle. But just as often as it fulfills its purpose, Camera Remote fails to connect to the camera and fails miserably at getting the job done. This problem isn’t unique to Fujifilm; Becca just covered the lackluster showings from Canon, Nikon, and Sony in the latest Full Frame.

Today, Fujifilm is wiping the slate clean and giving it another go.

The new Fujifilm XApp will be released on May 25th for both iOS and Android. Earlier this week, Fujifilm offered press an early glimpse at the software. Fujifilm’s Justin Stailey emphasized that the company’s engineers focused on stability and establishing a more robust link between its cameras and the overhauled companion app. Bluetooth is playing a role in that, so XApp is only compatible with Fujifilm cameras that include Bluetooth connectivity. Those models are:

X-T5, X-T4, XT-3, X-T30 II, X-T30X-H2S, X-H2X-S20, X-S10X-Pro3X100VX-E4GFX100, GFX100S, GFX50S II, GFX50R

That might sting a bit for owners of older but by no means ancient Fujifilm cameras like the X-H1, X-Pro2, and X100F. But it’s a cutoff that Fujifilm made to ensure more stable performance.

Like before, you can use the app as a remote viewfinder and shutter button.Image: Fujifilm

As with the prior Camera Remote app, when in wireless communication mode, your camera still forms an ad-hoc Wi-Fi network that your phone then joins so that XApp can retrieve images. Stailey said every part of this process has been sped up and made smoother, and a brief demo of XApp pairing with the just-announced X-S20 gave me reason to be somewhat optimistic.

Aside from the core functionality of transferring photos and videos, XApp lets you remotely operate your camera using your phone. The previous software could do this, but Fujifilm says it has taken new steps to give users control over practically every function without requiring them to touch the camera.

Fujifilm now provides the option of backing up and restoring your camera’s settings. So if you need to factory reset your body or want to load your go-to settings onto a secondary camera for a shoot, this app can do that; Camera Remote could not.

The new app can show detailed statistics about your lens and film simulation usage.Image: Fujifilm

Activity and Timeline

There are two new sections in XApp that were never part of Camera Remote, and they’re tailor made for Fujifilm’s biggest advocates. For the first time, you can set up a user profile in XApp. And when you do, Fujifilm will sync a lot of your camera’s history to the cloud and show you statistics like the number of shots you’ve taken, how much video you’ve recorded, and the geolocation (pulled from your phone’s GPS) of your transferred content.

But it goes deeper than that. XApp can also show how frequently you’ve snapped shots with each of Fujifilm’s signature film simulations. I’m guessing I’ll see a lot of Classic Chrome and Astia in my own summary when I start using the app. It will also break down which lenses you’ve used. This data is available for both stills and video. Timeline also displays snapshots of your transferred media and serves as a scrapbook of sorts.

You don’t have to create an account to use Fujifilm XApp. It can control your camera or pull images without one. But you’ll need to make a profile if you want to use the Activity and Timeline tabs and get that deep dive on your camera’s history. The company offers granular control over which activities you allow the app to collect.

I only saw a short demo and haven’t gotten to use Fujifilm XApp firsthand yet. But if Activity and Timeline are executed well, they could make for a fun addition that Fujifilm shooters will geek out on and compare with one another.

During Fujifilm’s runthrough, I still spotted some rough patches in XApp like awkward translations; there’s got to be a better way of describing the “Image Acquisition/Photography” label in the Connect tab. Still, I’m very eager to kick the tires on this new app and hit the sweet, sweet “delete” icon for Camera Remote once and for all. Maybe this will mark Fujifilm turning the page and we’ll start seeing an average review score that’s above 1.5 stars.

You can expect a wave of firmware updates this week for many of the above cameras to introduce support for Fujifilm XApp — you know, since this software didn’t exist back when they were released. In the case of the X-T5 and X-H2, those updates will also include substantial autofocus enhancements that originally came to the X-H2S via a firmware upgrade several months ago.