In 1986, Fujifilm launched FUJICOLOR QuickSnap, the single-use camera it developed to allow anyone to easily take beautiful photographs. In the product’s very first year, Fujifilm sold over 1 million units, and the product became a worldwide hit. So how did this innovative camera come into being?
Back in the 1980s, even a compact and relatively inexpensive camera cost ¥40,000 or more (about USD 240*) making it a major purchase for the average consumer. Nor were the cameras of the time particularly easy to operate: the user had to select the right film for the camera, load it properly, and typically press the shutter button halfway down in order to focus. A truly easy-to-use high-quality camera just wasn’t available.
Before it began development of QuickSnap, Fujifilm performed market research that indicated 70 percent of consumers had at some time experienced the frustration of failing to take an important photograph because they didn’t have a camera on hand. Fujifilm determined that a camera that cost ¥1,000 (about USD 6*) could be purchased anywhere, and allowed anyone to easily take good photographs would sell extremely well. Thus began the development of QuickSnap.
Yet how would it be possible to turn a USD 240* camera in a USD 6* camera? Simply reducing the cost of manufacturing the standard camera of the time was out of the question. After much debate, the development team came up with an idea that turned conventional wisdom on its head: Why not just put a lens on the film itself? This radical approach led to a massive simplification of the camera design: whereas a standard camera had some 1,000 parts, QuickSnap has about 30.
The goal of the product was to make it possible for as many people as possible to easily experience the fun and satisfaction of taking photographs without an expensive camera. The development concept was a camera that was as easy to use as possible and could be purchased anytime, anywhere.
*At 168.5 yen per dollar, an approximate exchange rate for 1986.
The very simplicity of the design for the QuickSnap’s shutter, lens, and winding mechanism required Fujifilm to develop numerous innovative technologies. For example, Fujifilm created a plastic lens that was high-performance yet inexpensive and selected the ideal flexible plastic for the camera body. Although taking pictures with QuickSnap required nothing more than pointing the camera and pressing the shutter button, its simple structure had to deliver outstanding photographic results in a wide range of situations. Since it required such a high degree of innovative thought in each of its parts, in many ways the QuickSnap was the hit camera of its time.
Fujifilm designed QuickSnap not primarily as a camera but as photographic film. Beyond camera stores, consumers could buy QuickSnap via channels previously unavailable to standard cameras, including convenience stores, train station kiosks, souvenir stores catering to tourists, and vending machines. After using up the film inside, instead of removing it, the consumer gave the entire camera to the camera store or photo shop, which developed the film and gave the consumer his or her prints and negatives.
Fujifilm rapidly added improvements to the product, such as strobe functionality and water resistance, while higher- and higher-performance film delivered enhanced image quality. As a result, QuickSnap became a worldwide hit and a product that helped create new lifestyles by bringing photographic culture to everyone. Still enjoyed by people around the world today, QuickSnap currently boasts cumulative sales of more than 1.7 billion units.
Leveraging the fact that each QuickSnap had to be given to a camera store or photo shop in order for the prints to be made, Fujifilm created its own QuickSnap recycling system to minimize environmental impact. Establishing a recycling center in 1990, Fujifilm developed a sustainable production system that ensures 100 percent of QuickSnap units are reused or recycled. QuickSnap has therefore been recognized as a leading-edge product in the fight to combat environmental problems with sustainable production methods.
The FUJICOLOR QuickSnap “Inverse Manufacturing System”
Even in our current era of digital cameras and smartphones, there are still many uses for QuickSnap —an inexpensive, light, and easy-to-use camera. QuickSnap is ready to take pictures where electricity is not available, and it can be used with peace of mind on the beach and other environments where digital cameras can be easily damaged. Because of its value in so many photographic environments, market demand for QuickSnap remains strong to this day.