30 second Fuji GFX 50S review…
It looks like a bigger version of the Fuji X-T2 with a similar control arrangement and menu, an electronic viewfinder in the middle of the top-plate and dual-tilting mechanism on the 3.2inch touch-screen. One significant departure, however, is the lack of an exposure compensation dial. Instead there’s a secondary LCD screen on the top-plate that shows key information including battery power.
If you’ve used an X-T2 you’ll find the GFX 50S easy to get to grips with but a little slower to start up and focus. The maximum shooting rate is also a more pedestrian 3fps.
Fuji’s Film Simulation modes are available ensuring attractive, high quality jpegs while the raw files have phenomenal level of detail.
|Camera Name||Fujifilm GFX 50S|
|Date announced||19th Sept 2016|
|Price at launch||£6,199/$6,499.95 (body only)|
|Sensor size||43.8 x 32.9mm (medium format)|
|Effective pixel count||51.4 million|
|Processor||X Processor Pro|
|Viewfinder||Electronic: 0.5 inch 3.69 million-dot OLED Color Viewfinder with approx 100% coverage|
|Sensitivity range||ISO 100-12,800 expandable to ISO 50-102,400|
|Reflex AF system||N/A|
|Live View AF system||Contrast detection with up to 425 points in a 25x17 grid|
|Monitor||3.2 inch 2,360,000-dot dual-tilting, touch-screen LCD|
|Max shooting rate||3fps for unlimited jpegs or 13 compressed raw files or 8 uncompressed raw files|
|Max video resolution||Full HD (1920x1080) at 29.97p / 25p / 24p / 23.98p and 36Mbps|
|Storage||2 SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS-I / UHS-II)|
|Dimensions||147.5 x 94.2 x 91.4mm / 5.81 x 3.71 x 3.60in|
|Weight||825g / 29.1 oz (inc battery and card), 920g / 32.5 oz. (inc EVF), 740g / 26.1 oz. (excluding accessories, battery and card)|
There was a time when medium format cameras were commonly seen in the hands of amateur photographers. Because of the large imaging area the switch to digital technology, however, put their prices through the roof and they became the preserve of professional photographers. And while film medium format cameras were once popular with a wide variety of photographers, including wedding photographers, digital models were more likely to be seen in a studio.
With a street price of around £6000/$6500 (body only) the Fuji GFX 50 announced at Photokina in September 2016 isn’t likely to be an ‘everyman’ camera, but it’s attracted a lot of attention from high-end enthusiasts as well as professional photographers in a variety of genres. So let’s take a look at what all the fuss is about.
Fuji GFX 50S Review: Features
It’s the sensor size which makes the Fuji GFX 50S a medium format camera and although it doesn’t have quite the proportions of a 645 film camera’s negatives (around 60x45mm but sometimes closer to 56×44mm), it measures 43.8x32.9mm. That’s 1.7x larger than the small format full-frame (approximately 36 x 24mm) sensors found in the likes of the Canon 5DS and Nikon D810.
This larger size means that the 51.4million effective pixels on the GFX 50S’s sensor are significantly larger than those on the 50Mp Canon 5DS sensor. Consequently the photodiodes receive more light, helping to keep noise levels down and enabling them to detect a wider range light levels so that dynamic range is extended. In fact Fuji claims that the GFX 50S’ 14-bit raw files have a dynamic range of 14EV.
With the sensor size in mind, Fuji has given the GFX 50S a standard sensitivity range of ISO100-12800 and extended settings of ISO 50, 25600, 51200 and 102,400.
Fuji has opted for the more common Bayer pattern type sensor for the GFX 50S rather than the X-Trans CMOS sensor that it uses in most of its X-Series compact system cameras. According to Fuji this is because the size and pixel density of the GFX 50S sensor negates the need for a low-pass filter (a benefit of the X-Trans CMOS design is that it doesn’t need one either). Also, it would be much more expensive to produce an X-Trans CMOS sensor at the size and volume required for the GFX.
Another major difference between the Fuji GFX 50S and Canon and Nikon DSLRs is that, like the Hasselblad X1D, it’s a mirrorless system camera. This is partly what has enabled Fuji to keep the camera’s size down.
A natural consequence of the mirrorless design is that the GFX 50S has an electronic rather than an optical viewfinder. This is a 0.5-inch OLED device with 3.69 millions dots and 0.85x magnification. It can also be removed from the camera and the connection port covered to make the camera smaller and lighter, with the rear screen being used to compose images.
In addition, an optional tilting adapter can be be fitted between the viewfinder and camera to allow the finder to be tipped and twisted for more convenient viewing – especially from above.
On the back of the camera is a 3.2-inch touch-sensitive screen with 2,300,000 dots. This is mounted on a tilting bracket similar to the one on the Fuji X-T2 and it enables landscape or portrait format images to be composed comfortably on screen when shooting from high or low angles.
One difference between the GFX and Hasselblad X1D has been a source of discussion amongst potential buyers; the GFX has a focal plane shutter while the X1D uses a leaf shutter in the lens. The main issue is that using focal plane shutter means that the GFX has a maximum flash sync speed of just 1/125 sec, a leaf shutter would enable flash use at much higher settings. However, a focal plane shutter also enables faster shutter speeds to be used without flash than a leaf shutter usually does. The GFX has a maximum shutter speed of 1/400sec with the mechanical shutter and 1/16000 sec with the electronic shutter. In contrast the Hasselblad X1D has a maximum setting of 1/2000sec and there’s no electronic shutter.
Another consideration is that a leaf shutter has be in every lens, so using a focal plane shutter in the design helps keep lens prices down.
Fuji GFX 50S review: Build and handling
As well as being small for a medium format camera, the GFX 50S is very comfortable to hold. Its front grip and rear thumb-ridge are similar in shape if a bit bigger than those on the Fuji X-T2 and this in combination with the textured coating makes it feel very secure in your hand. It’s also light enough to use handheld during a long shoot. I wandered around very happily for a few hours at a time with the GFX either in my hand or hanging on a strap over my shoulder.
Like Fuji’s X-T2 and X-Pro2, the GFX has a nice solid feel and has dust and moisture seals so it can survive some serious use outside, although it’s important to point out that its not actually waterproof.
Fuji has given the GFX 50S lockable shutter speed and sensitivity dials on the top-plate while the GR lenses have an aperture ring. The shutter speed dial has settings running from 1-1/4000 second while the sensitivity (ISO) dial has settings running from ISO 100-12,800.
If the sensitivity dial is set to ‘C’, the ISO value can be set via the front command dial – including the expansion settings if that option has been allowed via the menu.
The front command dial needs to be pressed to access sensitivity change mode and I found it little hit and miss. Sometimes I would activate it no problem whereas on other occasions it took a couple of presses – and no, it wasn’t already activated.
Even without that issue, my preference is to either set a value via the sensitivity dial, or to use the Automatic option. The GFX allows you to specify three different Auto ISO arrangements and set default and maximum ISO values along with a minimum shutter speed. It’s perfect on many occasions.
The GR optics also feature a button to lock the aperture ring and prevent it from adjusting accidentally. And next to the usual ‘A’ for automatic option, is a ‘C” for command dial mode. When this is selected aperture can be adjusted via either the front or rear command dial on the camera body.
Fuji has experience of putting high quality electronic viewfinders on its cameras and the unit on the GFX doesn’t disappoint. The view reflects the final image very well and there’s a high level of detail visible that makes focusing manually feasible should you need to do so. Focus peaking is on hand to help-out by revealing the sharp areas.
That said, there were occasions, for example when I was photographing a bluebell wood when some areas seemed to shimmer a little, giving the scene a digital appearance. It’s not a major issue, just something to note.
The 3.2-inch 2,300,000-dot screen also displays a clear view and is responsive to touch, allowing you to set AF point in live view mode and to zoom in quickly to check images at 100%. It’s a shame that it’s not possible to make more use of the touch-control, perhaps to select and adjust features within the Quick Menu as it would speed operation of the camera.
Unlike many cameras with a screen that can be tilted for landscape or portrait shooting, the GFX has two hinges rather than a single articulating joint. At first this seems a bit more fiddly, but once you’ve got used to locating the catch, it’s easy to flip the screen in either direction. An advantage to this mechanism is that the screen doesn’t have to be flipped out to the side of the camera before it can be tilted upwards in landscape format. The two hinges also seem nice and tough.
Fuji has given the GFX the mini-joystick controller that we first saw with the Fuji X-Pro2 and then the X-T2. This allows the AF point to be set quickly and easily. Pressing it also highlights the point ready for resizing via a dial if you need a larger or (conversely) more precise target.
I found I quickly got to grips with the GFX controls, and that’s just as well as several of the shooting scenarios I shot in were very dimly lit making it hard to see the buttons and dials. The only control I struggled to find initially was the playback button as this is located on the top edge above the main screen on the back of the camera. After a short while I got used to reaching for it there.
As time went on I found the location of the exposure compensation button increasingly annoying. It’s very small and although it’s right next to the shutter release button, it’s awkward to press. Fortunately it’s possible to set it so that the button doesn’t need to be held down while the command dial is rotated. Nevertheless, I found myself missing the compensation dial that’s found other Fuji X-Series cameras like the X-T2 and X-Pro2. The secondary LCD screen is in the dial’s logical location. Perhaps Fuji will use a firmware update add an extra customisation option that allows one of the command dials to be used for exposure compensation directly.
It’s easy to connect the GFX to a smartphone running Fuji’s Camera Remote app and it provides a good level of control over exposure, drive mode and focus point. I found the connection became a bit unstable when the camera and phone were more than about 3m apart, but it proved useful for shooting a few self portraits. Can you call a self portrait shot with a medium format camera on a tripod a selfie? Small versions of images also transferred to the phone promptly.
The GFX start-up time is a little on the slow side at around a second.
Fuji GFX 50S review: Performance
During my time shooting with the Fuji GFX50S there were numerous opportunities to check the sharpness of images on the screen on the back of the camera and each time it came as a pleasant surprise. The level of detail is very impressive.
The larger size of the sensor over that of a small format camera also gives plenty of scope to restrict depth of field. Using an aperture of f/2.8 with the 63mm lens or f/4 with the 120mm lens isolates the subject more than you may be used to with smaller format cameras. The high level of detail at the focus point also emphasises the fall-off in sharpness and the bokeh is attractive.
While I suspect that the GFX will predominantly be used at low sensitivity (ISO) settings, it’s small and light enough to be used in a wide range of shooting situations and the high ISO values could come in handy for some photographers. The good news is that the results look good at ISO 12,800, the uppermost native setting. The jpegs have slight evidence of noise reduction, but it’s not excessive and A3 or larger prints would be feasible in many situations.
Comparing ISO 12,800 raw files with simultaneously captured jpegs at 100% reveals that there’s more noise but it’s fine-grained and evenly distributed. As you’d expect, there’s more detail visible but it’s only when you compare the files that you notice it’s lack in jpegs. If you look carefully, the difference is just visible when images are sized to make A3 prints.
Images taken at ISO 1600 have a hint of luminance noise visible in even-toned areas at 100% on screen, but there’s also a lot of detail on show. Images taken at ISO 200 have a level of detail that may worry some portrait models and could signal lots of retouching for some photographers.
Medium format cameras generally have big, heavy lenses and this usually means that the autofocusing is slow. The GFX 50S’s AF system is actually pretty nippy for a medium format camera. I shot with it in quite low light and I found that provided the AF area was sized to include a box of 9 of the smallest AF points, it got the subject sharp fairly quickly. If just one point was selected it began to struggle significantly, but it was also hard to find an area with sufficient contrast for it to act on.
In more average lighting conditions it’s reasonably fast but it’s not going to see regular use at football matches. But that’s not really the point of a medium format camera – not yet anyway.
The type of person who buys the GFX is likely to be well versed in processing raw files to get the results they want, but we hear of an increasing number of professional photographers who like to tweak and use Fuji’s Simulation modes to produce jpeg files that require little or no processing before printing. Given the size of the GFX raw files (in excess of 110MB), it’s possible that the same will become true of the GFX as it produces great jpegs which take up around 20-25MB in storage.
I found the GFX 50S’ automatic white balance setting performed well in many situations, producing images that reflect the scene accurately. Similarly, in multi mode the 256-zone metering system handles exposures well and it isn’t excessively skewed by large bright areas of sky. However, there were a few occasions when I reduced the exposure to protect the highlights or simply to produce a slightly darker image.
That brings me to dynamic range. The GFX’s raw files have good scope for adjustment. The results you achieve will depend upon the contrast across the scene, but I found I could recover a good level of detail the shadows. When shooting a clump of bluebells in a woodland with bright overcast sky beyond I reduced the exposure by 1.33EV to retain the last scrap of highlight detail and was able to recover the shadows successfully. In another location I had success recovering a 2Ev exposure reduction. Brightening the deep shadows under a bridge in and ISO 100 image by 3EV revealed a good level of detail and colour. This was accompanied by more noise visible at 100%, and while it’s acceptable at more normal printing sizes, an adjustment of 2.5EV looks better.
One issue to be aware of is that when the electronic shutter is in use you need to be careful with camera or subject movement, even at quite fast shutter speeds. I had a few distorted images at 1/500sec.
It’s unlikely to be a significant selling point of the GFX but its Full HD video footage looks good.
Fuji GFX 50S review: Verdict
Although the Fujifilm GFX 50S isn’t designed to appeal to novice photographers, if you’ve used an X-Series model like the Fuji X-T2 or X-Pro2 you’ll find yourself at home quickly with the medium format model – save for the missing exposure compensation dial. And while the focusing speed isn’t up to that of Fuji’s APS-C format cameras, it’s still fast enough in many situations and it allows a high level of precision with AF placement in good lighting conditions.
The Fuji GFX 50S is the first digital medium format camera I have used that didn’t make me acutely aware of the fact that it was a medium format model. It’s small and light enough to be used handheld comfortably even if you don’t have gym-developed biceps and most of the controls are within easy reach. The tilting touch-screen is a nice touch and the customisable Quick Menu makes adjusting other settings quick and for many, the traditional exposure controls an intuitive way of working. It’s a real pleasure to use.
When you look at the images from the GFX 50S it becomes clear that you’re using a camera with a larger than average sensor. The results are superb with lots of sharp detail, noise is controlled very well throughout the native sensitivity range and subjects can be isolated very precisely through shallow depth of field.
That said, there are a few tweaks I’d like to see made for future GFX models. The ability to use the touch-screen with the Quick Menu for example, an alternative solution to the awkwardly placed exposure compensation button, a higher flash sync speed and faster readout speed to make the electronic shutter a safer option.
However, Fuji is onto a winner with the GFX 50S and backed by the new Fujifilm Professional Service, I think it will become a popular choice amongst professional photographers looking for a medium format camera or who want an edge over small format camera users. I’m sure that there will be a fair few enthusiast photographer fans too – and with hire companies like Hire A Camera you can use it for important shoots without having to buy.