Fujifilm’s Big Bang… The Medium Format Tradition Continues
long history of making historic announcements at Photokina, but 2016 may go down as one of the biggest. It’s not often that a hall full of conference-hardened journalists applaud the features of a new product, but it actually happened on a number of occasions as Fujifilm pulled the wraps off its all-new GFX camera system. GFX is a mirrorless digital medium format camera system to rival Hasselblad’s X1D, but it’s full of neat little design features that have also been the hallmark of its ‘APS-C’ X Mount system.
Why has Fujifilm gone down this route rather than, say, having a full-35mm sensor system? The company has a long tradition of making interesting – but not always loved – 120/220 rollfilm cameras, including the brilliant GX680 6x8cm format SLR. The ‘G’ in the new system’s title pays homage to this heritage, but Fujifilm also thinks the time is right to “re-invent the digital medium format camera system”.
The GFX system is based on a new lens mount – called, logically, the G Mount – and a 43.8x32.9 mm sensor which is more than likely fabricated by Sony, but has been designed by Fujifilm, including the microlenses. Fujifilm says the sensor has been “fully customised” by its engineers. The first camera body is called the GFX 50S – the effective resolution is 51.4 megapixels – which implies that there will eventually be a GFX 100S, using a version of Sony’s 100 MP ‘44x33’ sensor. At first glance, the camera body looks more like a big rangefinder design – there’s a hint of the GW670 – and you dread, for one moment, that it doesn’t have a built-in viewfinder. It doesn’t… but instead it has a detachable EVF which will be supplied with the camera and, once fitted, makes the GFX 50S look just like a D-SLR. The detachable finder earned some applause, but there was more when it was demonstrated that it not only tilts, but rotates… so you can still have a tilt when shooting vertically. Likewise – and as on the X-T2 – the LCD monitor also tilts in both directions (more applause).
Three Fujinon GF lenses will be available when the system launches in early 2017 – a 63mm f2.8 prime (equivalent to 50mm in the 35mm format), a 32-64mm f4.0 zoom (equivalent to 25-51mm) and a 120mm f4.0 1:1 macro (equivalent to 95mm). Following soon after will be a 45mm f2.8 (35mm), 23mm f4.0 (18mm) and 110mm f2.0 (87mm)... and there’s more to come down the track. All the announced lenses are ready, Fujifilm assures us, for 100 MP and beyond. All have fully weatherproofed barrels and, of course, the camera body is also sealed as is the optional vertical battery grip. The GFX borrows quite a bit from the X Mount bodies, including dials for shutter speeds and ISO setting, but new is the inclusion of a top-deck read-out panel. The lenses have traditional aperture collars so, as on the likes of the X-Pro2 and X-T2, the auto exposure modes are selected by turning these and/or the shutter speed dial to their ‘A’ settings.
Only a prototype was on show at Photokina; the likely timetable for the system’s roll-out will be to have production cameras and lenses at next year’s CP+ Show in Japan (Feb 2017) with deliveries starting some time after this. Pricing is likely to be highly competitive… Fujifilm is predicting that the GFX 50S with the detachable EVF and 63mm standard lens will sell for under US$10,000… actually “way under” the company says. The local pricing is still being considered, but it will be less than Hasselblad’s X1D and competitive with the pro-level full-35mm D-SLRs. For more information visit www.fujifilm.com.au