PIXEL-ELATED

Camera - - ON TRIAL -

Fu­ji­film aims to re­peat its suc­cess with its ‘APS-C’ mir­ror­less X Mount sys­tem, but in the more chal­leng­ing medium for­mat arena. It’s off to a fly­ing start with the GFX 50S.

To­wards the end of the film era there was a lit­tle flurry of ac­tiv­ity in non-re­flex medium for­mat cam­eras which pro­duced the likes of the Mamiya 6 and 7, the Bron­ica 645RF and a line of fixed-lens mod­els from Fu­ji­film, start­ing with the GA645 and end­ing with the zoom-equipped GA645Zi. Whether this brief re­nais­sance was more about des­per­a­tion than in­no­va­tion is de­bat­able, but the idea was to make medium for­mat pho­tog­ra­phy more ac­ces­si­ble via more com­pact and af­ford­able cam­eras.

Fast for­ward a cou­ple of decades and we could well be hav­ing the des­per­a­tion-ver­sus-- in­no­va­tion de­bate again. The dig­i­tal medium for­mat cam­era mar­ket has been in dire straits – prob­a­bly even more so than 120/220 roll­film – as it’s strug­gled with high devel­op­ment costs and the prospect of com­par­a­tively small re­turns. Ad­di­tion­ally, the squeeze from ul­tra-high res­o­lu­tion ful­l35mm cam­eras – both D-SLRs and mir­ror­less mod­els – has been get­ting steadily tighter. Some­thing had to be done if this sec­tor was to sur­vive… and a non-re­flex de­sign is po­ten­tially again the likely bringer of sal­va­tion.

Both Fu­ji­film and Has­sel­blad have come to the same con­clu­sion at roughly the same time, al­beit with quite dif­fer­ent so­lu­tions. Both have long his­to­ries in medium for­mat pho­tog­ra­phy and have been sig­nif­i­cant in­no­va­tors along the way… in­deed, in the past, both have ac­tu­ally shared prod­ucts (no­tably H1 and XPan). So when both launch a mir­ror­less dig­i­tal medium for­mat cam­era plat­form it’s time to sit up and take no­tice. The ul­ti­mate ob­jec­tive is, again, to the build the dig­i­tal medium for­mat mar­ket via in­creased ac­ces­si­bil­ity and af­ford­abil­ity. Pen­tax, of course, has been of­fer­ing af­ford­abil­ity for a while, but the 645Z is still ‘old school’ medium for­mat in terms

of its re­flex con­fig­u­ra­tion, and just as with the 120/220 RF cam­era re­vival of the 1990s, han­dling and er­gonomics are im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tions in terms of in­creas­ing the ap­peal be­yond the pro­fes­sion­als.

That said, nei­ther the Fu­ji­film GFX 50S nor the Has­sel­blad X1D-50c are ex­actly small, and big sen­sors de­mand big lenses be­cause of the larger imag­ing cir­cle, but both are much more man­age­able in terms of their over­all de­signs and com­par­a­tive sizes. Even in a 6x4.5cm for­mat SLR, the mir­ror box and op­ti­cal eye­level viewfinder took up a lot of space.

CRE­DEN­TIALS

Not sur­pris­ingly, there’s a fair amount of X Mount DNA in the GFX 50S, but it’s worth be­ing re­minded again that Fu­ji­film was the most ad­ven­tur­ous of the medium for­mat film cam­era mak­ers, build­ing ev­ery­thing from su­per-com­pact 6x4.5cm mod­els to 6x17cm panorama cam­eras and, at one time or an­other, cov­er­ing all the ‘main­stream’ roll­film for­mats.

Not all its de­signs were suc­cess­ful, but the point to be made here is that Fu­ji­film’s medium for­mat cre­den­tials are as good as any­one’s – Has­sel­blad, Phase One, Le­ica, Mamiya or Pen­tax.

At first glance, the GFX 50S is a pretty im­pos­ing ma­chine. It looks bulkier than it ac­tu­ally is and that’s mainly be­cause of some ex­tra body depth cre­ated by the big bat­tery com­part­ment… which is needed to house the high­ca­pac­ity bat­tery pack. There’s an op­tional ver­ti­cal bat­tery grip, but even with this fit­ted, the GX 50S is still roughly the same size as the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II or Nikon D5. The ver­ti­cal grip can also be used for recharg­ing and there’s a mon­i­tor­ing fa­cil­ity for the age of both bat­tery packs, scaled from zero (the youngest) to four (the old­est)… based on the fact that lithium-ion cells lose ca­pac­ity over time.

Straight out of the box, the Fu­ji­film cam­era lacks an EVF, but don’t panic, it’s in there and at­taches to the body af­ter the re­moval of slid­ing cover (which also con­ceals a hot­shoe). It might seem this par­tic­u­lar de­sign el­e­ment just adds some ex­tra en­gi­neer­ing in the form of the rails needed for lo­ca­tion and the con­nec­tions – in­side the hot­shoe in a sim­i­lar ar­range­ment to Sony’s ‘Smart Ac­ces­sory Ter­mi­nal’ – but there’s some long-term think­ing at work here. If you’ve in­vested quite a lot in a dig­i­tal medium for­mat cam­era body, you don’t want ob­so­les­cence ar­riv­ing un­ex­pect­edly early via some­thing fairly mi­nor… such as a much bet­ter EVF. Fu­ji­film has fu­ture-proofed the GFX 50S, at least to some ex­tent, in that when a higher res­o­lu­tion finder comes along, you don’t have to dump the cam­era body – which is likely to have a pretty long model life – in or­der to adopt it. There are some more im­me­di­ate ben­e­fits from the in­ter­change­able EVF too… with­out it fit­ted, the cam­era body is a lit­tle more com­pact and much eas­ier to pack. There may well be sit­u­a­tions where you don’t need to use it ei­ther, such as when shoot­ing in a stu­dio sit­u­a­tion or an in­doors lo­ca­tion. In these cases, Fu­ji­film has max­imised the use­ful­ness of the LCD mon­i­tor screen by mak­ing it tiltable in both the hor­i­zon­tal and ver­ti­cal ori­en­ta­tions, just as with the X-T2. You can tilt the EVF too, al­though for this you need a lit­tle op­tional ac­ces­sory called the EVFTL1. The sup­plied EVF unit houses a 3.69 megadots half-inch OLED panel which pro­vides 100 per­cent sub­ject cov­er­age and has a 35mme­quiv­a­lent mag­ni­fi­ca­tion of 0.85x. The eye­piece has a built-in strength ad­just­ment (with a wide -4 to +2

NOT SUR­PRIS­INGLY, THERE’S A FAIR AMOUNT OF X MOUNT DNA IN THE GFX 50S, BUT IT’S WORTH BE­ING RE­MINDED AGAIN THAT FU­JI­FILM WAS THE MOST AD­VEN­TUR­OUS OF THE MEDIUM FOR­MAT FILM CAM­ERA MAK­ERS.

diop­tres range) and a prox­im­ity sen­sor to en­able auto switch­ing be­tween the EVF and the mon­i­tor screen. It also in­cor­po­rates a hot­shoe and, like the rest of the cam­era, is metal bod­ied.

In­ter­est­ingly, even with the de­tach­able EVF, Fu­ji­film is able to main­tain full weather-proof­ing for the GFX 50S which is also in­su­lated to en­able shoot­ing in sub­zero tem­per­a­tures down to -10 de­grees Cel­sius. The ex­ter­nal body cov­ers are all mag­ne­sium al­loy with a to­tal of 58 weather seals, in­clud­ing sub­stan­tial rub­ber gas­kets for the var­i­ous com­part­ments and con­nec­tion bays. In­ci­den­tally, with­out the EVF fit­ted, the GFX 50S body weighs only 825 grams (with the bat­tery and a me­mory card) while, with it at­tached, the to­tal weight is still only 920 grams… which is one of the sur­prises when you first pick it up; you re­ally do ex­pect it to feel a lot heav­ier.

As you’d ex­pect on a cam­era of this cal­i­bre, the me­mory cards have their own home and, yes, there are dual slots which Fu­ji­film has sen­si­bly made for the SD for­mat, both with UHS-II speed sup­port. The re­al­ity is that the SD card is by far the most pop­u­lar for­mat across the board and this doesn’t look likely to change given the mo­men­tum that’s now be­hind it. And, of course, hav­ing both slots ex­actly the same (in for­mat and speed sup­port) is just a whole lot more con­ve­nient than any other ar­range­ment. The card man­age­ment op­tions are Se­quen­tial (i.e. au­to­matic over­flow), Back-Up or, lastly, for­mat spe­cific (RAW, JPEG or movie clips).

HER­ITAGE

The lens mount is all-new, but des­ig­nated the G Mount which pays homage to Fu­ji­film’s medium for­mat film her­itage (for ex­am­ple, the G690 6x9cm RF cam­era from 1968). It’s a stain­less steel three­claw bay­o­net fit­ting (brass on the lenses) with 12 con­tact pins for fully-elec­tronic com­mu­ni­ca­tions. The ex­ter­nal di­am­e­ter is 76.5 mil­lime­tres, and the in­ter­nal is 65.0 mil­lime­tres. The flange back dis­tance is 26.7 mil­lime­tres, en­abling a min­i­mum back fo­cus­ing dis­tance of just 16.7 mil­lime­tres which de­liv­ers con­sid­er­able flex­i­bil­ity when it comes to lens de­sign. On the sub­ject of lenses, the GFX 50S

has launched with three Fu­ji­non GF mod­els and the prom­ise of an­other three by the end of 2017. Given Fu­ji­film’s track record with the XF lenses, there’ll cer­tainly be more in 2018 with a longer tele­photo prob­a­bly head­ing the list. All the GF lenses are all weath­er­proofed, in­clud­ing in­su­la­tion for sub­zero tem­per­a­tures. The cur­rent line-up is a 63mm f2.8 stan­dard prime (equiv­a­lent to 50mm), a 32-64mm f4.0 zoom (25-51mm) and a 120mm f4.0 macro lens (95mm). On the way are a 23mm f4.0 ul­tra-wide (equiv­a­lent to 18mm), a 45mm f2.8 wide-an­gle (36mm) and a 110mm f2.0 fast short tele­photo (87mm). As noted ear­lier, these are big lenses by ei­ther full-35mm or ‘APS-C’ for­mat stan­dards, be­cause they have to be to cover the big­ger sen­sor area, but the three we’ve seen so far cer­tainly aren’t ex­ces­sively bulky and, thanks to mod­ern ma­te­ri­als, are com­par­a­tively light­weight. The 63mm, for ex­am­ple, weighs just 405 grams and the 32-64mm zoom is only 875 grams so the idea of a mir­ror­less dig­i­tal medium for­mat kit be­ing more por­ta­ble is re­al­is­tic, even with a bunch of lenses in the bag.

Big Time

The sen­sor is yet an­other it­er­a­tion of the Sony-made 44x33 mm CMOS de­vice which is do­ing ster­ling ser­vice in a se­lec­tion of dig­i­tal medium for­mat cap­ture de­vices. In terms of imag­ing area, it’s 1.7x larger than a full-35mm sen­sor. The sen­sor has been “cus­tomised” by Fu­ji­film in terms of the de­sign of the mi­crolenses and the han­dling of the data from the photo­di­odes plus, of course, all the down­stream pro­cess­ing is han­dled by Fu­ji­film’s own ‘X Pro­ces­sor Pro’ image en­gine. There’s no op­ti­cal low-pass fil­ter, but the colour fil­ter ar­ray is the con­ven­tional Bayer 2x2 RGB pat­tern rather than Fu­ji­film’s own ‘X Trans’ 6x6 ar­range­ment which it em­ploys on its ‘APS-C’ size im­agers. The ef­fec­tive pixel count of 51.4 mil­lion gives a pixel size of 5.3 mi­crons which is the big deal with mov­ing up to a big­ger sen­sor… you get 50 MP res­o­lu­tion and big pix­els. This big­ger pixel size trans­lates into an en­hanced signalto-noise ra­tio, a wider dy­namic range and in­creased sen­si­tiv­ity. Con­se­quently, the GFX 50S’s sen­si­tiv­ity range is equiv­a­lent to ISO 100 to 12,800 with ex­ten­sions to ISO 50 and ISO 102,400 which is a new high for a dig­i­tal medium for­mat cam­era. RAW cap­ture gives 14 stops of dy­namic range.

While pro-level cam­eras tra­di­tion­ally have an em­pha­sis on RAW cap­ture, Fu­ji­film has recog­nised that the GFX 50S needs wider ap­peal so it of­fers an ex­ten­sive range of JPEG op­tions – three com­pres­sion set­tings, two image sizes and no fewer than seven as­pect ra­tios, in­clud­ing the clas­sic 65:25 for panora­mas (which is a big­gish crop, but the max­i­mum image size is still 8256x3048 pix­els). RAW files are cap­tured with 14bit RGB colour and the op­tion of no com­pres­sion or loss­lessly com­pressed, and you au­to­mat­i­cally get a 12 MP JPEG for ref­er­ence pur­poses. RAW+JPEG cap­ture is avail­able with a full-size JPEG and the choice of the su­perfine, fine or nor­mal com­pres­sion set­tings. The max­i­mum image size for both RAWs and JPEGs is 8256x6192 pix­els which trans­lates into some very big file sizes. This is some­thing any­body head­ing into dig­i­tal medium for­mat for the first time will need to con­sider… there are lo­gis­ti­cal knock-on ef­fects. A JPEG/large/su­perfine file can be up to 40 MB in size de­pend­ing on image con­tent, and an un­com­pressed RAW is likely to top 100 MB so you’ll not only need to up­grade in terms of data stor­age, but pos­si­bly also in terms of your com­puter’s pro­cess­ing power… it’s ei­ther that or spend a long time wait­ing around for things to ac­tu­ally hap­pen.

The GFX 50S can shoot­ing con­tin­u­ously at up to 3.0 fps which might not be all that flash by smaller for­mat stan­dards, but it’s pretty good for dig­i­tal medium for­mat… at 50 MP res­o­lu­tion. Achiev­ing this speed re­lies on us­ing the cam­era’s ‘elec­tronic first cur­tain shut­ter’ – a.k.a. the sen­sor shut­ter – to com­mence the ex­po­sure. As on the X-T2, the medium for­mat cam­era has both a con­ven­tional fo­cal plane shut­ter and a sen­sor shut­ter with the third op­tion be­ing the hy­brid ‘elec­tronic first cur­tain shut­ter’.

In ad­di­tion to elim­i­nat­ing the lag as­so­ci­ated with open­ing a con­ven­tional shut­ter’s me­chan­i­cal blades, the sen­sor shut­ter is also qui­eter and doesn’t have any vi­bra­tion-re­lated is­sues… more im­por­tant at ul­tra-high res­o­lu­tions. It also de­liv­ers a faster top shut­ter speed – in this case, 1/16,000 sec­ond ver­sus the FP shut­ter’s 1/4000 sec­ond while the slow­est timed set­ting with any shut­ter con­fig­u­ra­tion is 60 min­utes.

As an aside, Fu­ji­film says its cre­ated the world’s first fo­cal plane shut­ter specif­i­cally de­signed for a dig­i­tal medium for­mat mir­ror­less

The sen­sor has been ‘cus­Tomised’ by Fu­ji­Film in Terms oF The de­sign oF The mi­crolenses and The han­dling oF The daTa From The phoTo­di­odes.

cam­era which is true, but then the GFX 50S is the world’s first dig­i­tal medium for­mat mir­ror­less cam­era with a fo­cal plane shut­ter… be­cause the Has­sel­blad X1D sys­tem uses leaf shut­ters in the XCD lenses. The Swedes are high­light­ing this as one of the key points-of-difference as leaf shut­ters al­low for flash sync at all speeds (and that’s up to 1/2000 sec­ond with an XCD lens), but a lit­tle cheek­ily, Fu­ji­film is of­fer­ing a mount adap­tor for ’Blad’s own H Sys­tem lenses which also have leaf shut­ters. Flash sync on the GFX cam­era is up to 1/125 sec­ond, but it’s not hard to see Fu­ji­film de­liv­er­ing a few leaf-shut­ter lenses of its own if there’s suf­fi­cient de­mand in the fu­ture. In­ci­den­tally, there’s no built-in flash, but both a hot­shoe and a PC ter­mi­nal are pro­vided for sync­ing ex­ter­nal units.

SIM­U­LA­TION STIMULATION

The in-cam­era pro­cess­ing op­tions for JPEGs are sim­i­lar to those avail­able on the X-T2 mi­nus, per­haps not so sur­pris­ingly, the fil­ter ef­fects. There’s a full com­ple­ment of ‘Film Sim­u­la­tion’ pre­sets – which cur­rently num­ber 15 – in­clud­ing the Ko­dachrome-looka­like Clas­sic Chrome and the ex­tra ACROS mono­chrome set­tings (named af­ter Fu­ji­film’s fine-grained B&W neg­a­tive film).

As with the stan­dard B&W ‘Film Sim­u­la­tion’ pre­sets, there’s a choice of ad­di­tional ACROS set­tings with yel­low, red or green con­trast-con­trol fil­ters. How­ever, com­pared to the stan­dard mono­chrome pre­set, ACROS is de­signed to have a tonal­ity curve which em­pha­sises de­tail in the high­lights and mid-tones, but gives en­hanced smooth­ness in the shadow ar­eas as a bal­ance. The noise re­duc­tion al­go­rithm is also dif­fer­ent as it ac­tu­ally pro­cesses the noise to look like film grain and the ef­fect varies with the ISO set­ting. This can also be done to ‘Film Sim­u­la­tion’ the other pre­sets via the ‘Grain Ef­fect’ func­tion which has a choice of Weak or Strong set­tings. Colour sat­u­ra­tion, sharp­ness, high­light and/or shadow tone (i.e. con­trast) and noise re­duc­tion can be ad­justed glob­ally. Ad­di­tion­ally, the GFX 50S has a ‘Colour Chrome Ef­fect’ ad­just­ment – some­thing that’s not been seen on an X Mount model yet – which also boosts the colour sat­u­ra­tion via a choice of Weak or Strong set­tings. As the func­tion’s ti­tle im­plies, the sat­u­ra­tion in­crease here is more film-like as it doesn’t com­pro­mise tonal­ity (i.e. bright­ness).

There’s a choice of three man­ual set­tings for dy­namic range ex­pan­sion pro­cess­ing – fol­low­ing Fu­ji­film’s con­ven­tion of be­ing la­belled 100%, 200% and 400% – or an au­to­matic cor­rec­tion which as­sesses the bright­ness range in the scene and tweaks both the ex­po­sure and the tone curve ac­cord­ingly. The GFX 50S has Fu­ji­film’s ‘Lens Mo­du­la­tion Op­ti­miser’ (LMO) pro­cess­ing which de­tects and cor­rects for dif­frac­tion blur, an in­ter­val­ome­ter (for up to 999 frames), and a mul­ti­ple ex­po­sure fa­cil­ity (al­though it still ac­tu­ally only al­lows for dou­ble ex­po­sures).

AF, AE AND AWB

By virtue of the sen­sor’s de­sign, the GFX 50S re­lies on con­trast­de­tec­tion for aut­o­fo­cus­ing, but Fu­ji­film’s de­sign and pro­cess­ing en­sure it’s still fast and re­li­able. You can choose be­tween 9x13 or 17x25 point pat­terns (i.e. 117 or 425 points in to­tal), the lat­ter ob­vi­ously giv­ing smaller points. With ei­ther, the frame cov­er­age is im­pres­sively ex­ten­sive.

For man­ual point se­lec­tion, the fo­cus­ing area can be set to one of six sizes, plus there’s a ‘Zone AF’ op­tion which can be set to 3x3, 5x5 or 7x7 when us­ing the 9x13 grid. Point se­lec­tion is made eas­ier via the joy­stick-type con­trol that’s now pro­vided on a num­ber of the smaller for­mat Fu­ji­film cam­eras. Al­ter­na­tively, there’s a touch­screen con­trol for ei­ther AF point se­lec­tion or touch fo­cus­ing. Face/eye

IT DOESN’T TAKE TOO LONG WHEN LOOK­ING AT THE IMAGE FILES FROM THE GFX 50S TO BE CON­VINCED ABOUT WHY YOU MIGHT WANT TO MOVE UP TO A DIG­I­TAL MEDIUM FOR­MAT MIR­ROR­LESS CAM­ERA.

de­tec­tion and auto track­ing are avail­able, the lat­ter us­ing nine-point zones to de­tect sub­ject move­ment. Eye-de­tec­tion can be set to ei­ther left or right eye pri­or­ity. As on the X Mount cam­eras, an ex­ter­nal se­lec­tor is used to set ei­ther the sin­gle-shot or con­tin­u­ous AF modes, or switch to man­ual fo­cus­ing where there’s the choice of a mag­ni­fied image or a fo­cus peak­ing dis­play for as­sis­tance.

Ex­po­sure con­trol is based on a 256-seg­ment TTL me­ter (again us­ing the sen­sor) with the choice of multi-zone, cen­tre-weighted av­er­age, fully av­er­aged or spot mea­sure­ments. The spot me­ter can be linked to the ac­tive fo­cus­ing point (or points clus­ter). There’s the choice of pro­gram, shut­ter- or aper­ture-pri­or­ity auto, and man­ual ex­po­sure modes which are set in the same way that they are on the X-Pro2 and X-T2… so there’s no main mode dial and in­stead the shut­ter speed dial and/or the aper­ture col­lar have an ‘A’ (for auto) po­si­tion. In­ci­den­tally, the aper­ture col­lars on the GF lenses also have a ‘C’ po­si­tion which en­ables aper­tures to be set from the cam­era body. The auto modes are backed by an AE lock, up to +/-5.0 EV of com­pen­sa­tion and brack­et­ing which can be set to se­quences of two, three, five, seven or nine frames with an ad­just­ment of up to +/-3.0 EV. Again like the X Mount mod­els, Fu­ji­film pack­ages up a to­tal of five auto brack­et­ing func­tions in their own sub-menu and which, in ad­di­tion to ex­po­sure, in­clude ISO, dy­namic range, the ‘Film Sim­u­la­tion’ pre­sets and white bal­ance. The lat­ter four op­er­ate over se­quences of three frames.

In ad­di­tion to auto brack­et­ing, the white bal­ance con­trol op­tions com­prise auto cor­rec­tion sup­ple­ment by seven pre­sets and three cus­tom set­tings. Fine-tun­ing (am­ber-to-blue and/or green-toma­genta) is avail­able for all the pre­sets, or a colour tem­per­a­ture can be set man­u­ally over a range of 2500 to 10,000 de­grees Kelvin.

In The hand

The GFX 50S drives very much like a smaller for­mat cam­era so any­body step­ping up from there will have very lit­tle dif­fi­culty ac­cli­ma­tis­ing… even less so if you’ve been weaned on the X-T1 or X-T2. The con­trol lay­out, menus and the ‘Quick Menu’ con­trol screen are all pure X Series which makes sense given Fu­ji­film wants to at­tract ad­vanced en­thu­si­asts to its dig­i­tal medium for­mat sys­tem as well as pro­fes­sion­als. You’ll also be right at home if you’re step­ping up from a high-end full-35mm or ‘APS-C’ D-SLR. That said, there are some ad­di­tional con­sid­er­a­tions re­lated to shoot­ing at 50 megapix­els res­o­lu­tion. It’s not quite as chal­leng­ing as when us­ing the 50 MP Canon full-35mm D-SLRs, be­cause the big­ger sen­sor means big­ger pix­els – 5.3 mi­crons ver­sus 4.14 mi­crons – so the pack­ing den­sity is less, but there’s still a need to eliminate any source of vi­bra­tions, in­ter­nal or ex­ter­nal, to op­ti­mise sharp­ness. The sen­sor-based shut­ter deals with the for­mer and us­ing a faster shut­ter speed when shoot­ing hand-held will help with the lat­ter. The old ‘1/fo­cal length’ rule for the min­i­mum use­able shut­ter speed doesn’t re­ally work so well here, but you can shoot with the GFX 50S hand-held pro­vided you stick with rea­son­ably fast speeds of around 1/250 sec­ond or shorter. And we found that us­ing a mono­pod re­ally helped at lower speeds so you don’t have to com­pro­mise mo­bil­ity which, af­ter all, is partly what mir­ror­less dig­i­tal medium for­mat is all about (and at least there isn’t a whack­ing great mir­ror flap­ping around). Nev­er­the­less, if you’re shoot­ing in low light con­di­tions and you want max­i­mum depth-of-field then a tri­pod is go­ing to be es­sen­tial.

Thanks to its good-sized grip with ex­tends back­wards to in­clude a thum­brest, the GFX 50S feels very com­fort­able in the hand and it’s par­tic­u­larly well bal­anced with the both the 63mm stan­dard lens and the 32-64mm zoom which, we sus­pect, will be the first lens of choice for most non-pro­fes­sional buy­ers. Both the main di­als are big and beefy com­po­nents with the op­tion of locked-off set­tings, but un­like the X Mount cam­eras, there’s a mono­chrome info read­out panel – with back­light­ing – and it’s here, for ex­am­ple, that you set ex­po­sure com­pen­sa­tion. As there’s plenty of space on the GFX 50S’s top deck, it’s a pretty big panel and dis­plays all ex­po­sure-re­lated set­tings in­clud­ing the con­trol mode, plus the ‘Film Sim­u­la­tion’ pre­set, white bal­ance, AF and AE locks, and the se­lected image quality. The bat­tery power level and re­main­ing me­mory card ca­pac­ity are dis­played when the cam­era is switched off. Fur­ther­more, this panel can be switched be­tween still image and video dis­plays, and the lay­out can be cus­tomised.

...the idea of a mir­ror­less dig­i­tal medium for­mat kit be­ing more por­ta­ble is re­al­is­tic, even with a bunch of lenses in the bag.

You’ll save a lot of bat­tery power run­ning this rather than the main mon­i­tor screen which is pre­sum­ably the main rea­son Fu­ji­film has pro­vided it. How­ever, the handy ‘Quick Menu’ does need the big screen and pro­vides di­rect ac­cess to 15 de­fault func­tions with the op­tion of con­fig­ur­ing an ad­di­tional seven screens so a wide va­ri­ety of cam­era set-ups are avail­able at the push of a but­ton. Each QM screen is also cus­tomis­able from a to­tal bank of 27 func­tions and the func­tion panes can be se­lected by touch – as can the sub­se­quent set­tings – so, in fact, the GFX 50S has bet­ter touch­screen func­tion­al­ity than any of the X Mount mod­els with the fea­ture. It can be also used to in­put copy­right in­for­ma­tion via an on-screen key­board (al­beit with an ABC lay­out rather than QWERTY).

Al­ter­na­tively, there’s the ‘My Menu’ op­tion which al­lows the cre­ation of a cus­tomised menu which can con­tain up to 16 items which cov­ers pretty well ev­ery­thing you’re likely to need on a reg­u­lar ba­sis.

As on the X Mount cam­eras there’s also ex­ten­sive scope for cus­tomis­ing the ex­ter­nal con­trols and the dis­plays. A to­tal of ten con­trols (nine ‘Fn’ but­tons – which in­clude the nav­i­ga­tor’s four-way keys – and the rear in­put wheel’s push-in ac­tion) can be re-as­signed from a list of 36 op­er­a­tions. You can also switch the roles of the front and rear in­put wheels be­tween man­u­ally set­ting aper­tures or shut­ter speeds.

The EVF and mon­i­tor screen can be cy­cled through var­i­ous dis­plays, five for the for­mer and four for the lat­ter. They share the main or ‘Stan­dard In­di­ca­tor’s screen which can be ex­ten­sively cus­tomised in terms of sta­tus icons and read-outs plus there’s the op­tions of a level dis­play, guide grids (3x3 or 6x4), real-time his­togram, high­light warn­ing, fo­cus­ing dis­tance scale, ex­po­sure com­pen­sa­tion scale and au­dio chan­nel level me­ters. The level in­di­ca­tor can be switched be­tween a sim­ple hori­zon line or a more so­phis­ti­cated dual-axis dis­play for show­ing pitch and roll.

You can check up to 28 items in all and even with them all switched on the screen doesn’t seem to be all that clut­tered. A nice touch – lit­er­ally – is that swip­ing the mon­i­tor screen ver­ti­cally quickly switches the dis­play be­tween the dual-axis level in­di­ca­tor and the RGB/bright­ness his­tograms or back to the stan­dard lay­out.

Both the EVF and mon­i­tor have an ad­di­tional dis­play screen when man­ual fo­cus­ing is se­lected and, as on the X-T2, this adds a small ad­di­tional image panel which pro­vides the man­ual fo­cus as­sists – a mag­ni­fied image and a fo­cus-peak­ing dis­play (if pre­s­e­lected) – sep­a­rately from the main image frame. It works off the fo­cus­ing zone which can be set to one of six sizes and, again as on the X-T2, is quickly and eas­ily moved around the screen via a joy­stick type con­trol. The LCD mon­i­tor has an info-only panel which in­cludes a real-time his­togram and a fo­cus point grid and a bank of var­i­ous func­tion indi­ca­tors… you’re never go­ing to die won­der­ing with the GFX 50S. Both the EVF and the mon­i­tor screen can be ad­justed for bright­ness and colour bal­ance.

The image replay/re­view screens in­clude an RGB/bright­ness his­tograms over­lay, and thumb­nails ac­com­pa­nied by cap­ture data, a high­light warn­ing, a bright­ness his­togram and, very use­fully, the fo­cus point(s) used. Press­ing the rear com­mand dial in­stantly zooms in on this point for check­ing the fo­cus and you can then scroll around the image very eas­ily us­ing the joy­stick con­trol. Al­ter­na­tively, con­ven­tional zoom play­back is avail­able at up to 16.7x and as­sisted by a nav­i­ga­tional pane. There are pages of nine or 100 thumb­nails and here frames can be se­lected for view­ing by sim­ply tap­ping on them. In fact, it’s in the replay mode that the touch­screen con­trols are most ex­ten­sive – swipe for brows­ing, pinch-out to zoom, pinch-in to make the image smaller or se­lect the thumb­nail pages or drag to nav­i­gate a mag­ni­fied image.

The in-cam­era edit­ing func­tions in­clude RAW con­ver­sion to ei­ther JPEG or 8-bit TIFF (with 17 ad­justable pa­ram­e­ters), red- eye re­moval, crop­ping, re­siz­ing, Fu­ji­film’s ‘Pho­toBook As­sist’ fea­ture and di­rect print­ing to an In­stax in­stant print de­vice via WiFi. It’s hard to see too many GFX users ac­tu­ally want­ing to do this, al­though it could be a nice idea at a party or wed­ding.

As well as wire­less file shar­ing, WiFi al­lows for re­mote cam­era op­er­a­tion via Fu­ji­film’s Cam­era Re­mote app, but there’s also pro­vi­sion for tethered shoot­ing from a PC which is an ap­pli­ca­tion many stu­dio-based pros will find use­ful.

SPEED AND PERFORMANCE

With our ref­er­ence me­mory card – Lexar’s 128 GB SDXC UHS-II/ U3 (Speed Class 3) Pro­fes­sional – aboard, the GFX 50S (us­ing the fo­cal plane shut­ter) cap­tured a burst of 40 JPEG/large/su­perfine files in 13.289 sec­onds, giv­ing a shoot­ing speed of 3.01 fps. This con­firms Fu­ji­film’s quoted spec, and the burst length is very good for a dig­i­tal medium for­mat cam­era al­though it’s un­der­stand­ably much shorter when shoot­ing RAW. The buf­fer emp­tied very quickly which is im­pres­sive given there was 1.18 GB of data to trans­fer… the av­er­age test file size be­ing 30.5 MB. How­ever, dur­ing reg­u­lar shoot­ing we reg­u­larly cap­tured best-quality JPEGs sized at 40 MB or even big­ger.

It doesn’t take too long when look­ing at the image files from the GFX 50S to be con­vinced about why you might want to move up to a dig­i­tal medium for­mat cam­era. Fu­ji­film’s ex­per­tise at pro­cess­ing JPEGs – es­pe­cially the ‘Film Sim­u­la­tion’ pro­files – is al­ready well-proven with the X Mount cam­eras, but it steps up a notch or two here when there’s 51.4 mil­lion nicely-sized pix­els to play with. Con­se­quently, we’ve had to dip a bit deeper into the su­perla­tives bag when it comes to de­scrib­ing the de­tail­ing, def­i­ni­tion and dy­namic range. The level of de­tail­ing is truly stun­ning with the finest of edges beau­ti­fully re­solved to the ex­tent that, once you’ve seen what’s pos­si­ble, you won’t want to go back to any­thing less. The over­all crisp­ness is sim­ply ad­dic­tive, but con­se­quently there is the added pres­sure to make sure cam­era shake is completely elim­i­nated and you get the fo­cus­ing right. The big­ger sen­sor means in­her­ently

less depth-of-field so ac­cu­rate fo­cus­ing is very im­por­tant es­pe­cially if you’re us­ing a larger aper­ture or a longer fo­cal length. The good news is that us­ing a quite small aper­ture to op­ti­mise depth-of-field – and all three of the GF lenses cur­rently avail­able stop down to f32 – doesn’t cause any dif­frac­tion-re­lated soft­en­ing be­cause of the size of the sen­sor.

For­tu­nately too, the aut­o­fo­cus­ing al­lows for very pre­cise po­si­tion­ing of the fo­cus area so you can be as se­lec­tive as you like even with very small sub­jects. The GFX’s aut­o­fo­cus­ing is far su­pe­rior to any­thing we’ve seen in a medium for­mat D-SLR, par­tic­u­larly in terms of its cov­er­age, and speed cer­tainly isn’t an is­sue com­pared to these phased­if­fer­ence de­tec­tion sys­tems.

With all this sharp­ness to play with, there’s plenty of scope for crop­ping too. Tonal gra­da­tions are seam­lessly smooth and while the colour re­pro­duc­tion can be tuned for film-like pal­ettes – Fu­ji­film does this bet­ter than any­body – the over­all re­pro­duc­tion is beau­ti­fully bal­anced and nat­u­ral across the spectrum. View­ing a 6x4.5cm Fu­jichrome Velvia trans­parency on a light­box was al­ways an eye­pop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence in terms of sat­u­ra­tion, sharp­ness and con­trast; and the GFX 50S de­liv­ers the same punch with the epony­mous ‘Film Sim­u­la­tion’ pre­set, but can be equally sub­tle if you switch to the As­tia soft op­tion.

The dy­namic range is ex­cep­tion­ally wide, par­tic­u­larly hold­ing de­tail in the brighter high­lights which you’d nor­mally ex­pect to be de­void of any tonal­ity. Con­se­quently, there’s huge ex­po­sure lat­i­tude. And the dy­namic range stays good when shoot­ing at higher sen­si­tiv­ity set­tings too, as does the re­solv­ing of fine de­tails. Su­pe­rior high ISO performance is an­other ben­e­fit of a big­ger sen­sor with big­ger pix­els, but again Fu­ji­film pushes the en­ve­lope as it has done with its ‘APS-C’ for­mat cam­eras. The noise re­duc­tion al­go­rithms work ef­fec­tively with­out com­pro­mis­ing de­tail­ing or def­i­ni­tion so ev­ery­thing holds to­gether well up to ISO 6400. Not sur­pris­ingly, the GFX 50S’s image quality at this speed is markedly su­pe­rior to that of any full-35mm sen­sor. What’s more, there are still a cou­ple of stops of use­able speed even if both def­i­ni­tion and sat­u­ra­tion start to di­min­ish be­cause there’s con­sid­er­ably more flex­i­bil­ity in terms of us­ing smaller re­pro­duc­tion sizes.

In all ar­eas then, truly a com­mand performance.

THE VER­DICT

For many non-pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­phers the step up to the Fu­ji­film GFX 50S is still a big one, not just fi­nan­cially, but also lo­gis­ti­cally. When you also con­sider the cost of ad­di­tional lenses (well, you’re go­ing to want more than one aren’t you?) and the pos­si­ble need for a sys­tem up­grade to more ef­fi­ciently han­dle the big­ger files, you’re look­ing at a sig­nif­i­cant out­lay.

But… there are some com­pelling ar­gu­ments for mak­ing the in­vest­ment. For starters, it’s not as sub­stan­tial as get­ting into any 50 MP medium for­mat D-SLR sys­tem (check out the price of Phase One’s XF/IQ350 combo). Next, the GFX 50S has the er­gonomics and ef­fi­cien­cies of a smaller for­mat cam­era so, oper­a­tionally, there’s no dra­matic learn­ing curve. As noted pre­vi­ously, there are some con­sid­er­a­tions re­lated to the ul­tra­high res­o­lu­tion, but this is re­ally noth­ing more than well-dis­ci­plined tech­ni­cal prac­tices that should be used with any cam­era, re­gard­less of sen­sor size. Ad­di­tion­ally, the mir­ror­less de­sign con­fig­u­ra­tion means a more com­pact and lighter kit – com­par­a­tively speak­ing – with the as­so­ci­ated phys­i­cal ben­e­fits es­pe­cially when shoot­ing in lo­ca­tions you have to reach by foot.

But the un­doubted clincher is the image quality which is sim­ply bril­liant from ISO 100 to 6400. Here, Fu­ji­film demon­strates, quite con­vinc­ingly, that all 50 MP cam­eras are not ac­tu­ally cre­ated equal, ei­ther full-35mm or medium for­mat.

So the ques­tion is not whether you can af­ford the Fu­ji­film GFX 50S, but rather whether you can af­ford not to have one. Sim­ple re­ally.

The EVF adds a small amount of bulk and weight. Fu­ji­film’s de­sign makes it easy to adopt a bet­ter viewfinder in the fu­ture, giv­ing the GFX 50S body a longer life cy­cle. Menu de­sign and lay­out is bor­rowed straight from the X Mount cam­eras. EVF eye­piece has built-in strength ad­just­ment and a prox­im­ity sen­sor for auto switch­ing be­tween the viewfinder and the mon­i­tor screen. Dual SD me­mory card slots are both com­pat­i­ble with UHS-II speed de­vices. LCD mon­i­tor screen is tiltable re­gard­less of the cam­era’s ori­en­ta­tion. Touch­screen con­trols are more ex­ten­sive than has been pre­vi­ously seen from Fu­ji­film. Mag­ne­sium al­loy bodyshell is fully sealed against wet weather, dust and sub-zero tem­per­a­tures. Note the cover which pro­tects the EVF’s hot­shoe cou­pling.

As on the X Mount cam­eras, fo­cus modes are se­lected man­u­ally via an ex­ter­nal switch… which is at the rear of the GFX 50S. ISO dial is also lock­able. The auto range can be pre­pro­grammed with se­lected high­est and low­est set­tings. Shut­ter speed dial can be locked by push­ing down the cen­tral but­ton. ‘T’ po­si­tion gives ac­cess to longer shut­ter speeds. Top panel info dis­play is cus­tomis­able and has built-in back­light­ing.

All-new lens mount is called the G Mount and is fully elec­tronic. Main con­nec­tion bay in­cludes mi­cro-USB, Type D HDMI and wired re­mote trig­ger ter­mi­nals. Stereo au­dio in/out are along­side.

Live view screen can be highly cus­tomised. The il­lus­tra­tion at left shows the 9x9 point AF zone (lower left). At right is the dual-axis level in­di­ca­tor. Swip­ing the mon­i­tor screen ver­ti­cally quickly switches be­tween this dis­play and real-time his­tograms (RGB and bright­ness).

Replay screens in­clude an over­lay of bright­ness and RGB his­tograms.

With a suit­able range of lenses avail­able at launch, Fu­ji­film has slated fur­ther lens re­leases through­out 2017 with a long tele­photo promised for 2018.

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