This is a Preview of the Fuji’s GFX 50S Medium Format Mirrorless System
Fujifilm started work on the GFX two and half years ago. At least one Fuji Guy I spoke with has pretty much bitten a hole through his tongue, successfully keeping quiet during all the cries for full frame.
35 photographers helped with the development of the camera, so they got a pretty good spread of actual photographer feedback on the process.
Before we get into it, we have an initialism to go over:
G = Medium Format
F = Film
X = Fujifilm X-Series Fluff
50 = Megapixel count
S = DSLR style
That last one is the most interesting. Fuji says they tried a bunch of different styles; rangefinder, fully modular like you get from Phase and strict DSLR. They settled on what they call a “hybrid” style of DSLR with some modularity built in (the viewfinder and grip). What’s interesting is that they have decided to denote this body as S for DSLR. Given Fuji’s pattern of maintaining both DSLR and rangefinder-style bodies with their APS-C line of cameras, are we to believe a “GFX 50R” could be released some day?
The GFX is a bit of a monster compared to other Fuji cameras—weighing in at 825g, it’s more than twice as heavy as as X-E2S—but really doesn’t feel much larger than a DSLR body. In fact, it’s actually lighter than my last DSLR, the D700. Those lenses though, thanks to the larger mount, are big. Not something I’d want to walk around the street with when I’m trying to be discreet, but I’d be ok taking this system with me on a hike in a backpack. I don’t relish the idea of going back to the DSLR size bodies I escaped from when I moved to Fuji, but given the exponential jump in image quality,1 I’d be happy to pack my bag full of GFX when I’m after some serious fine art landscape goodness.
At 43.8mm × 32.9mm, the Bayer GFX sensor is 1.7× larger that even 35mm full frame. It has been optimized to deliver 14-stop dynamic range rendered to 14-bit RAW data. Because the sensor is Bayer and not X-Trans,2 the larger files from this camera should tax our CPUs a little bit than if they were X-Trans. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see performance in Lightroom that is about as good as we are getting when demosaicing X-Trans III files.
Fuji calls this processor X-Processor Pro as well, although I’m told it’s not identical to the Processor found in X-Series cameras, which makes sense given the different sensor technology. The usual Film Simulations are included (and a new “Colour Chrome Effect” which looks like varying degrees of Clarity is added to the image), and can be written to JPEG and TIFF, although the TIFFs are 8-bit. For the most part, this is probably a sensor you’re going to want to capture RAW files with alongside your JPEGs.
A 65mm mount, the short back focus distance by virtue of being mirrorless helps keep lens sizes down. Good thing, because they still aren’t tiny compared to X-mount lenses.
There’s a ton more to say about the GFX, but rather than regurgitate specs, here are some things that stood out to me:
Viewfinder: The detachable viewfinder and tilting adapter (EVF-TL1) is big and beautiful.
Grip: The GFX is easy to hold. The thumb grip makes one-handed operation with small lenses like the GF 63mm F2.8 WR possible.
RGB Histogram: The GFX can display brightness, as well as Red Green and Blue channels with or without highlight warnings. I want this on the X-T2 and X-Pro2, badly. It makes nailing your exposure, and exposing to the right, much easier.
RAF Capture with Film Simulation Mode Bracketing: One of my biggest beefs with Film Simulation Bracketing with other Fujifilm cameras is it limits me to JPEG. With the GFX, RAFs can also be captured alongside three Film Simulations. This is another feature I’d really like to see make its way to X-Series cameras.
3D Electronic Level: Covers Pitch and Roll to make levelling easier. I wasn’t able to confirm whether the sensitivity was any better than X-mount bodies.
Touch Screen: I’m less interested in setting my focus point with the touch screen than I am being able to quickly swipe through Display mode that the two mentioned above.
Sub Monitor: Fuji calls the second monochrome LCD a “Sub Monitor,” it’s customizable, reversible for easy viewing in bright and dark scenes, and stays on even with the camera powered off with an extremely low power draw.
Command Position (C/T): The GFX system offers full manual control, but for the DSLR users out there, they can set the aperture ring to the C position, the Shutter Speed dial to T, and then adjust them on the fly with the front and rear command dials which are great.
Vertical Battery Grip: An ingenious design makes the handling virtually identical in both portrait and landscape shooting.
I spent most of my time with the GF 63mm F2.8 R WR and GF 120mm F4 R LM OIS WR Macro.3 The former is a fairly small 50mm equivalent, relatively speaking, and the front element moves in and out during focus.
The latter is big, and I guess we know what happened to that rumoured XF 120mm f/2.8 Macro. I’m told that lens was getting close to the size of this one, counter to the goal of X Series, but perfectly acceptable in Medium Format.
The GF32-64mm F4 R LM WR is between the two in terms of size, and rounds out the launch lens selection as a standard zoom.
Three more lenses have been promised in 2017, the GF 23mm F4 LM WR, a wide angle 18mm equivalent, the GF 45mm F2.8 WR 35mm equivalent, and GF 110mm F2 LM WR 87mm equivalent portrait lens.
Finally, if MTF charts are to be believed, these lenses are going to be optically stellar.
Adobe will apparently have support for the GFX with their next update to Creative Cloud, which should be out sometime in Spring.
Final Thoughts (For Now)
I look forward to having a GFX on hand for more time to do a more in depth review. This is a camera I am pretty excited to shoot, and I would love to own, there’s just one thing that gives me pause, the price. In my native currency I’d be looking at $10 Grand just to get started. The only way I’d be able to swing that right now would be to sell off almost the entirety of my X Series gear, and I have no interest in doing that. I’ll have to start saving my nickels.4
- A 12MP FX sensor vs. a 51.4 megapixel medium or “G Format” sensor ought to be a giant leap. ↩︎
- I asked if X-Trans was even considered for this camera, and I’m told it wasn’t. X-Trans’ sole purpose is to deliver full frame quality images from an APS-C sensor/smaller body. With medium format, full frame is significantly less of a comparison. ↩︎
- I think we need a few more initials in these lens names. Cripes. ↩︎
- Since pennies no longer exists here. ↩︎