Although the GFX 50S impressed me when it was announced back in September 2016, I’m more excited about the Fujifilm GFX 50S II. Granted, a camera that costs over £3,000 has niche appeal, but Fujifilm has parred back some of the features to make a less complicated and more affordable camera that will make it attractive to a larger audience.
It also handles well, benefits from a solid, weatherproof build and is capable of producing very attractive, high-quality images.
Suddenly, digital medium format photography is looking like a viable alternative to full-frame-shooting for more of us.
43.8 x 32.9mm sensor
Compact for medium format
Contrast detection AF
Laggy (but high-resolution) viewfinder
What is the Fujifilm GFX 50S II?
Announced in September 2016, the Fujifilm GFX 50S was Fuji’s first medium format mirrorless camera. Since then we’ve seen the GFX50R, GFX100 and GFX100S. Now Fujifilm has introduced an update to the GFX 50S, the GFX50S II, which takes another step towards its goal of making medium format cameras accessible to enthusiast photographers.
With affordability in mind, Fujifilm has pared back some aspects for the GFX 50S II in comparison with the original camera, but there are also several upgrades, and it has a suggested retail price of £3,499 body-only or £3,899 with the new 35-70mm kit lens.
Fujifilm is aiming the GFX 50S Mark II at landscape and studio-based photographers.
Camera type: Medium format mirrorless
Announced: 2nd September 2021
Sensor: 51.4Mp Medium format (43.8 x 32.9mm) CMOS with Bayer colour filter array
Maximum image size: 8256 x 6192
Processor: X Processor 4
Lens mount: Fujifilm G
Autofocusing: Contrast detection with Contrast Rapid AF and up to 425 user-selectable points
Viewfinder: Fixed 0.5-inch 3.69million-dot EVF with 0.77x magnifications 50fps
Max video resolution: Full-HD (1920 x 1080) 4:2:0 8-bit
Film Simulation Modes: 19 modes: Provia/Standard, Velvia/Vivid, Astia/Soft, Classic Chrome, Pro Neg.Hi, Pro Neg.Std Classic Neg., Nostalgic Neg., Eterna/Cinema, Eterna Beach Bypass, Acros, Acros + Ye Filter, Acros + R Filter, Acros + G Filter, Black & White, Black & White + Ye Filter, Black & White + R Filter, Black & White + G Filter, Sepia
Storage: Dual SD/SDHC/SDXC UHS-II
Battery: NP-W325, life of455 images
Dimensions: 150 x 104 x 44mm
While the Fujifilm GFX50S has the same 51.4Mp (43.8 x 32.9mm) sensor as the GFX50S, it’s paired with a more modern processing engine, the X Processor 4. This enables improved low light performance, boosted dynamic range, in-body image stabilisation (IBIS) that gives up to 6.5EV of shutter speed compensation and high-resolution Pixel Shift Multi Shot mode.
In Pixel Shift Multi Shot mode the camera shoots 16 images in short succession with the sensor moving by a tiny amount between each capture. The images can then be composited on a computer running Fujifilm’s Pixel Shift Combiner software to create a 205Mp image. The interval between each of the 16 shots can be set to the ‘shortest possible’ or 1, 2, 5 or 15 seconds.
Using the original GFX50S sensor means that the GFX 50S II has contrast detection autofocusing rather than a hybrid system with phase detection, but when Contrast Rapid AF is activated, focus acquisition takes as little as 0.272sec with the GF35-70mm lens. That’s down to the more powerful sensor and a completely reworked algorithm.
Naturally, Fujifilm’s Film Simulation modes are available to tailor the appearance of Jpegs at the shooting stages. The GFX50S II has 19 of these modes including Nostalgic Neg that was introduced with the GFX100S.
While the new processing engine enables several improvements above the original GFX50S, the sensor limits the video capability to Full-HD. The maximum continuous shooting speed is also a rather underwhelming 3fps – but let’s not forget we’re talking about a 50Mp sub £3.5K medium format camera.
While the GFX50S has a modular design and a removable electronic viewfinder, the Fuji GFX 50S II has a fixed viewfinder. Fujifilm has opted for a 0.5-inch 3.69million dot EVF with 0.77x magnification, just like the GFX100S, but the refresh rate is 50fps rather than 85fps.
Also like the GFX100S, the GFX50S has a 3.2-inch 3-way tilting touchscreen. This is ideal for low or high-level photography in landscape or portrait orientation.
As usual, the GFX50SII has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity built-in to enable the camera to be connected wirelessly to a smartphone or tablet running the Fujifilm Camera Remote app. This is useful for controlling the camera remotely, sharing images via the phone or tagging images with GPS data.
Build and handling
In a move driven by efficiency of manufacturing but that also helps keep the price of the GFX50S II down, Fujifilm has used the same body as the GFX100S. This means that it doesn’t have the traditional exposure controls of the GFX50S or Fujifilm’s X-Series cameras like the Fuji X-T4, but instead has an exposure mode dial. Given that the majority of full-frame and smaller format cameras that photographers may upgrade from have a mode dial, this is probably a wise move from Fuji, even if it won’t sit comfortably with some of its X-Series camera users.
With dimensions of 150 x 104 x 44mm, the GFX 50S II can hide amongst full-frame DSLRs like the Canon 5D Mark IV. Its front and rear grips are also extremely well shaped, so the camera feels very comfortable in your hand and paired with the new 35-70mm kit lens, it doesn’t feel like a medium format camera.
As on the GFX100S, there’s a mini joystick on the back of the Fuji GFX 50S for selecting the AF point and making menu selections. This is perfectly positioned for my right thumb and its textured surface provides excellent grip.
When I first used the GFX100S, I was worried that I would press the Q button accidentally on a frequent basis as it’s on the top of thumb rest on the back of the camera. However, after shooting with that camera extensively, I’m happy to say that I didn’t press it accidentally at all, and the same is true with GFX50S II. However, there were a couple of occasions when I had to remind myself where the Q button was as it’s often hidden by my thumb when I’m using the camera. Once you know, you know, but it can be a little frustrating at the outset.
As it has dual control dials, one on the front below the shutter release and the other on the rear above the thumb rest, you can adjust the GFX50S II’s exposure settings quickly. However, by default exposure compensation is adjusted by pressing a small button next to the shutter button while rotating a dial. That button is hard to locate when you’re looking through the viewfinder and I either failed to find it or pressed the wrong button on several occasions when I tried to press it without taking my eye away from the viewfinder.
It’s possible to customise the front and rear controls so that one or both of them adjusts exposure compensation directly by pressing and rotating, but it’s quite awkward to press either dial while you rotate it. I also found the camera sometimes doesn’t respond to the rotation.
Viewfinder and touchscreen
Fujifilm has given the GFX50S II a 0.5-inch 5.76-million-dot electronic viewfinder – just like the GFX100S, and it gives a nice clear view with plenty of detail visible (especially with the magnified view) should you need to focus manually. However, its lower refresh rate is noticeable when the camera or the subject is moving. I particularly noticed the lagginess as I lifted the camera to my and moved the camera to compose the shot. There’s also a slight shimmer around some edges within the scene.
It’s great to see that Fujifilm hasn’t cut corners with the screen on the back of the GFX50S II. It could have opted for a fixed screen or one that only tilts around one axis, but it opted for a 3-way tilt, making it useful in portrait and landscape orientation. That’s a nice bonus for both hand-held and tripod-mounted photography.
This type of mechanism is especially appropriate to a camera that’s unlikely to be used for shooting selfies or vlogging to camera.
The main screen is also touch-sensitive and although the main menu options can’t be selected with taps on the screen, the Quick menu options can. It’s also possible to use gesture control to access key features via a swipes on the screen. Generally, the screen is responsive to touch, but while the gesture control brings up the main options quickly, I find it easier to use the joystick on the back of the camera to select the specific setting I want.
In addition to the main screen on the back of the camera, the GFX50S II has a small screen on its top plate to display key settings. Like the Quick Menu, this display is customisable so it can display the settings you want to see most quickly.
It would be easy to assume that the Fujifilm GFX50S will produce the same image quality as the original GFX50S, but the presence of a new processing engine has an impact.
Checking images at 100% on a computer screen reveals that it’s capable of capturing a high level of detail and noise is controlled very well up to around ISO 6,400. Stepping up to ISO 12,800 sees the amount of chroma noise increase in the shadows of raw files and you may see some false colour while simultaneously capture Jpegs have a hint of smoothing, but generally, the results look decent.
By ISO 102,400, the maximum expansion setting, there’s a lot of chroma noise in the raw files, with banding in some shadows, while parts of simultaneously captured Jpegs look smudged. The subject remains recognisable, and although it might be handy to have the option to use such a high ISO setting occasionally, it’s not really why most people buy a medium format camera. I’d aim to avoid the expansions settings.
While the Fujifilm GFX100S has a hybrid AF system with access to phase detection, the Fuji GFX50S II relies purely on contrast detection. With the GF35-70mm F4.5-5.6 WR mounted, the GFX50SII’s focusing is snappy enough for generally, everyday photography. It even manages to keep pace with moving subjects provided they move at a steady, un-rushed pace but it can become indecisive in low light.
There’s a Rapid AF feature which is designed to speed up the focusing but it also chomps through the battery power a bit quicker than normal. I found it has a slight impact when using the GF35-70mm F4.5-5.6 WR but it’s subtle.
While the face detection system is fairly responsive, I found the Eye detection less so and I’d be inclined to use a small AF area to ensure I’m targeting the right spot for focusing a portrait.
With the new Fujifilm GF35-70mm F4.5-5.6 WR kit lens mounted and at the 70mm end (that’s 55mm in 35mm terms), I was able to get around 60-70% of my images sharp at 1/15sec when shooting a close subject. I’d expect my hit rate would be improved with a more distant subject. Dropping to 1/10sec, my hit rate was around 50% and at 1/4sec it was around 20%.
I shot with the GFX50S II set to its default Multi-metering mode apart from when Face/Eye detection was activated and it proved reliable with exposure compensation only being required in situations when you might expect it to.
The GFX50S II’s dynamic range is also very good so you won’t loose highlight or shadow detail quickly and there’s a natural-looking balance to images. Should you need to underexposure to capture more detail in very bright areas, the images can withstand significant shadow-brightening at the lower ISO settings. Increasing the exposure by as much as 5EV, the maximum possible using Adobe Camera Raw’s exposure slider, only sees a slight increase in the level of luminance noise.
As Fujifilm’s most affordable medium format camera, the GFX50S II has to make some compromises upon the GFX100S and GFX100 above it in the line up. However, it doesn’t feel built to a price or especially limiting, you get the full medium format experience without excessive weight or hassle.
It feels great in your hand and, with the exception of the exposure compensation button and minor niggle with the Q button in the early days, the control arrangement is very good. It’s also pretty responsive, and while it’s not the right choice of camera for sport or action photography, it’s great for landscape, still life and generally photography. It’s also a very capable portrait camera, but don’t expect the Eye detection to play a key role.
With the GF35-70mm F4.5-5.6 WR lens mounted, it also takes up a fraction of the space that you might expect to need to dedicate to a medium format camera. It’s also a weight that you can carry all day on your shoulder without complaint.
There are some significant changes in comparison with the original GFX50S, but I think that Fujifilm has made the right move. It may not be quite so flexible or versatile as the GFX50 in some ways, but it’s likely to appeal to a wider audience.
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