With some landscapes and low light shots in the metaphorical ‘can’, we turned our attention to portraiture. First up, we shot some headshots with nothing but natural light and a reflector, using the maximum aperture on the Nikon 105mm f/1.4 and the GF 110mm f/2 (85mm equivalent).
With both lenses close to their respective minimum focus distances, you can see the depth-of-field is broadly the same, with sharp focus only extending a few millimetres behind the focus point. So actually the GFX’s larger medium format sensor is capable of a more pronounced shallow depth-of-field effect, as we were able to achieve the same background blur at f/2, compared to f/1.4 on the D850.
The GFX file is noticeably sharper on the eyes, with clearly defined individual eyelashes that are razor sharp. Focus is fractionally off on the D850, which isn’t hard to do when you’re shooting f/1.4 at such close distances. The GFX’s contrast detection autofocus system is pretty useful here, as you can set the size of the focus point and position anywhere in the frame, enabling easy composition and perfect focusing for portraits.
Whilst the D850 has a total of 153 autofocus – so loads! – only 55 of them are selectable (yeah, only 55!), so if there isn’t one that’s perfectly aligned with an eye on your portrait composition you’re going to have to ‘focus lock and recompose’ (or focus manually). It doesn’t take much camera movement to throw the focus a little.
Another advantage the GFX offers for portraiture is the image playback in the EVF after capture. While we find this feature a little irritating in fast-paced environments (it can of course) be disabled, but it’s especially useful for portraits to see if your subject has nailed the expression.
Next up, we set up some Godox flash heads to see how both cameras faired shooting TTL high-speed sync. Using their respective maximum apertures for background blur, a fast shutter speed to accurately expose the highlights in the background, and positioning the subject in the shadows, the flash worked flawlessly on both cameras, accurately exposing the model.
The depth-of-field effect produced by the short telephoto focal lengths is again broadly similar, despite the GFX lens using a narrower f/2 aperture, and the result is very pleasing on both. Skin tones are slightly pinker and more accurate on the GFX file, with good saturation in the background, but overall the colour rendition is pleasant on both shots.
FujiFilm GFX 50S
Viewing images at 1:1 on-screen, the GFX is again noticeably sharper.
Finally, we headed into the studio to shoot some portraits using conventional flash.
Flash sync speed on the GFX is limited to 1/125th of a second and whilst it’s possible to get a leaf-shutter lens adapter enabling faster shutter speeds with conventional flash, it increases the ‘faff’ and expense.
With the D850 you can get away 1/250th with many flash heads, although 1/200th is often a little safer. That faster shutter speed will potentially give you a sharper portrait, if you’re mixing flash with ambient light. If you’re planning on getting the GFX principally for portraiture, a high-speed sync flash set up is definitely recommended, even just to enable a 1/250th shutter.
With lots of ambient light in the natural light studio we were using, we shot a 1/125th shutter on both cameras to match the exposure. The GFX file is again slightly sharper overall, but a little motion blur is evident on both shots.