I expect Fujifilm GFX50s product pictures and specifications are all over the internet by the time you read this so I’ve kept this post for my ‘in camera’ jpegs and to share with you my experience and thoughts of using a second generation prototype GFX camera.
GFX has set the hearts racing of so many photographers looking for a change, but is this really the camera to elevate your photography to a higher level? It’s not going to win any beauty pageants; the troubled Hasselblad X1D will be doing that but at a premium price. The Fujifilm GFX has more practical tricks up its sleeve and is unlike any other camera in so many ways. The GFX 50s defies the logic of what came before it and rewrites the large sensor rule book at the same time.
Speed of operation
GFX is a box of surprises. Some things we didn’t see coming like the really fast shooting rate of 3 frames per second for a burst of 13 frames (compressed RAW) that sets this system apart from the rest. It gets it’s performance heritage from its smaller cousin the X-T2. The MK1 GFX prototypes shown at Photokina were slow enough not to worry the competition. They masked the reality of a camera with a blistering performance. When I was testing the Mk2 prototype in early January I could shoot as fast as I would ever want to. The assumption that large sensor cameras are slow has been blown out of the water. The EVF has a super fast refresh rate too so there’s no lag. The double axis tilt screen works brilliantly and so does the touch screen function of the capacitive LCD. Used to set focus point, pinch to zoom and swipe to bring up histograms etc.
GFX feels like a mid size SLR in terms of size and weight yet packs an image quality that blows full frame SLRs into touch. The focus locks on anywhere in the frame, not just in the central portion of the image but right into the edges too. There are more focus points than you can poke a stick at and this is just what’s needed for tripod shooting. Focusing is accurate as you would expect from a mirrorless camera and can be relied upon without feeling the need to check every frame. Hand held shooting is fine too as long as you take care to use a fast enough shutter speed to avoid camera shake. At this kind of resolution I expect 1/(5*focal length) will be needed as a minimum shutter speed to achieve the maximum image quality for hand held work except when using the 120mm lens with OIS.
The tilting EVF is fabulous. It puts the camera just where I like it when shooting portraits; below eye level and above waist level. Just like the fabulous portraits of the 20th-century shot on waist level finder cameras this camera is destined to revive the optimal portrait shooting height.
It seems that once I pin my camera to a tripod other forces come into play; fine tweaking of the set, subtle direction of the sitter and bijou adjustment to the lighting. It is as if the camera on a tripod is leading the creative process, setting the pace and the way I work. I find shooting on a monopod gives me the happy blend of care, control and freedom. The Fujifilm GFX is a camera that will love my monopod.
I just had a float around the websites of medium format camera makers and articles by reviewers. It’s as if in the quest for technical perfection some folk forgot why the shot was being taken. That’s the risk with old school medium format. It is slow. When shooting at that pace, waiting for a tethered picture to be rendered etc it is hard to keep the shoot energy up. I once had a Phase One P25+ back on a Hasselblad H2. I had the combination as my principal camera for 3 years. It was hard to document spontaneity because I had to wait 1 second after every shot before I could take another. I then had to check the focus because the mirror slap often introduced blur and the focussing accuracy wasn’t that great. Although the H2P25+ was portable, the images I created with it lacked the verve and fun of my current work. The GFX is so different to use; lighter, faster, and with that mirrorless preview, one forgets that it is a big sensor camera. Swapping between X-T2 and GFX seems completely natural. The menus are the same, the film simulations are the same and the button layout is familiar too. GFX has Fuji X-T2 DNA right through it. I remember first using the X-Pro1, it was fun and it gave me a renewed energy in my photography in the days after SLR. When comparing large sensor system users I expect GFX users will have more fun at shoots too and maybe their pictures will have more oomph as a result. The feel good factor really does transfer into the final image.
Noise, what noise?
The jpegs in the viewfinder of the pre production camera I was testing seemed really noisy on playback and this got me a bit worried. However when I uploaded the images from my first shoot to Lightroom my worries soon dissipated. The image noise is negligible and at a level you would expect from a large pixel CMOS sensor. The pixel sites are twice the size of those on the X-Pro2 and X-T2 cameras. This in turn gives more dynamic range. I just love the shadow detail in the images I’ve been shooting with GFX.
Lenses are at the heart of any system
What no leaf shutter lenses? Well according to a tech source I was talking to at Photokina electronic blanking of the sensor is almost upon us and in no time leaf shutter lenses will become obsolete. Anyway, there are ND filters, or if you are happy to loose a stop or two you can use HSS. The H series lens adapter also ensures other Fuji made lenses with integral shutters are available. Albeit with manual focussing. This is a really well written article discussing Fuji GFX and leaf shutter lenses and is well worth a read.
Spectacular lenses are in Fujifilm’s heritage. From large box lenses for broadcast costing £80,000+ to the X series lenses, Fujifilm are the company that set the standard others strive to reach. When Hasselblad developed the H series camera they turned to Fujifilm to design and build their complete range of lenses. Now the GFX sets new challenges for the lens design team with a potential optical resolution the same as the X series but with an image circle of 4x the area. Luckily Fujifilm has been developing lightweight optical materials and this really shows when you pick up the GFX. The lenses are lightweight and the pictures are sublime.
I’ve used just two of the lenses but the image quality right into the corners is fabulous as you would expect.
GFX images deserve to be printed. The fine prints will be admired for their technical excellence, aesthetic beauty and hopefully for the image content too. I remember the first time I saw an Ansel Adams print. I was amazed by the subtle tones and clarity. It was only after admiring the print quality that the subject caught my attention. A solitary tree in a canyon. Not the most gripping of subjects but the print was something to behold.
GFX is a fusion of dare I say it, ‘run and gun’ ease of use and supreme image quality. I will reserve my final judgement of the image quality until I have Lightroom to process my RAW files. All the shots here were taken as jpegs in camera on a mark 2 prototype camera. Having said that, the potential image quality is wonderful.
GAS – Gear acquisition syndrome
The GFX ticks all the boxes for GAS. Once the Fuji design team get underway on further developing the GFX series there will probably be cameras coming to market every two or three years, just like the X series. There has already been speculation of a 100mp follow up camera and the good news is the lens system has been developed to resolve detail at that resolution should the 100mp camera materialise. I’m pretty sure that Fujifilm will develop the GFX system all the way. In 5 years time we might see 20+ lenses and a range of body styles just like we see in the X series. Demand will dictate development for sure but at the launch price for the body and lens of just £7598 including VAT and delivery this is set to become a leading system if not the leading system.
Will I use GFX?
Yes, but I’ll not be getting a free sample or a complimentary camera with my name on it. If I want GFX I will have to buy it. With that in mind I will choose my lenses carefully. My initial line up will be just the body with the 63mm lens. That’s it! I’ll look to hire the wide zoom and the 120mm prime for the spectacular USA adventure that I’m running in June and then I’ll add the 23mm, 45mm and 110mm to my solitary 63mm later in the year when they become available. I probably won’t be buying a grip, but the tilting mechanism for the viewfinder looks great. I want to keep the camera bag light. I’ll buy a spare battery or two though as I find each battery lasts about 4 to 5 hours of shooting at my pace. When a 32mm prime becomes available that will become my 5th lens.
Do I need a Fujifilm GFX50s?
No. The X series has been fine for me so far and if GFX wasn’t here I wouldn’t be looking elsewhere to replace my X series system. I’ll still be using my X-T2 and the newly announced X-T20 alongside the GFX. By the way the X-T20 is going to become my second camera for video productions and my main camera for travel assignments but that’s for another post.
Do I want GFX?
Yes. What’s not to love? For those spectacular figure in the landscape shots and the book projects that I have in mind the GFX is going to be perfect. As a working professional photographer, 2 to 3 years of solid use before an upgrade of the body will justify any depreciation in a camera of this surprisingly low price, while the lenses will be set to deliver a far longer return on investment. There really exciting times ahead.
Join me in June for this trip of a lifetime. No GFX required but an X-Pro2, X-T2 or X-T20 are recommended. YOLO
Sub note: Medium format is a phrase to conjure with. It’s all but obsolete in this modern age. It once referred to pictures made on roll film, but even then the image size of Medium Format varied. 6×4.5, 6×6, 6×7, 6×8, 6×9, 6×12, 6×17 and even 6×24 were all ‘medium formats’. As an aside the 6 in the name was a lie. The image size on the film roll width was actually between 55 and 56mm. The GFX sensor is not as big as any true ‘medium format’ image area but it is significantly bigger than full frame 35mm and exactly 4 times the size of APSC.
Please feel free to comment below. Will you be buying into GFX?