On Trial – Fujifilm GFX 50S

Will mirrorless cam­era de­signs have as much im­pact on the dig­i­tal medium for­mat mar­ket as they have else­where? The GFX 50S rep­re­sents an em­phatic yes.

ProPhoto - - CONTENTS - re­port by paul bur­rows

It’s here! And it’s just as good as we an­tic­i­pated. Mirrorless de­signs are go­ing to rev­o­lu­tionise dig­i­tal medium for­mat pho­tog­ra­phy just as they have with the smaller for­mats. Fujifilm’s GFX 50S shows why.

Dig­i­tal meDium for­mat has been thrown a life­line… and maybe just in the nick of time. It’s called the mirrorless cam­era and here – ar­guably more so then with the smaller for­mats – this con­fig­u­ra­tion de­liv­ers ben­e­fits which ef­fec­tively over­come the com­monly cited im­ped­i­ments to in­vest­ing in a big sen­sor sys­tem.

Both the Has­sel­blad X1D-50c and Fujifilm GFX 50S il­lus­trate the dra­matic re­duc­tion in size and weight that’s achieved when you take the mir­ror box and op­ti­cal eye­level viewfinder out of a dig­i­tal medium for­mat cam­era. Both are also sig­nif­i­cantly cheaper than a com­pa­ra­ble re­flex de­sign, but the Fujifilm model’s price dif­fer­ence is rather more dra­matic. It’s a com­bi­na­tion that moves dig­i­tal medium for­mat pho­tog­ra­phy into the range of many more pro­fes­sion­als and even ad­vanced am­a­teurs. The GFX 50S comes within cooee of the top-of-the-line full-35mm D-SLRs as far as pric­ing is con­cerned, but there’s very lit­tle dif­fer­ence as far as size and weight is con­cerned. So the fo­cus is on im­age qual­ity and here Fujifilm also demon­strates fairly con­vinc­ingly that a big­ger sen­sor beats a smaller one ev­ery time (more about per­for­mance later on). Ad­di­tion­ally – and more so than the Has­sel­blad – Fujifilm has made sure the GFX 50S works just like one of its X Mount cam­eras… which means a largely tra­di­tional dial-based ex­ter­nal con­trol lay­out com­bined with the mod­ern-era con­ve­niences of a ‘Quick Menu’ screen and even touch con­trols. Im­por­tantly too, JPEG isn’t a dirty word.

It’s per­haps easy to for­get that Fujifilm has a long his­tory of build­ing pro­fes­sional medium for­mat cam­eras and it cer­tainly wasn’t afraid to ex­per­i­ment with out­side-the-square for­mats and con­fig­u­ra­tions… hence the numer­ous 6x4.5cm, 6x7cm and 6x9 cm rangefinder de­signs (both in­ter­change­able lens and fixed lens mod­els), the 6x8cm SLRs and the 6x17cm panorama cam­eras. With the GFX sys­tem Fujifilm is re­turn­ing to medium for­mat pho­tog­ra­phy and it’s re­ally no sur­prise that it’s do­ing so in an un­con­ven­tional way with a mirrorless cam­era. In the light of the X Mount

suc­cesses, it’s also not sur­pris­ing that Fujifilm has the courage to start from scratch and then plough bucket-loads of re­sources into the rapid ex­pan­sion of the sys­tem.

Finder Keeper

There’s a fair amount of X Mount DNA in the GFX 50S which, at first glance looks a lot bulkier than it ac­tu­ally is. This is mainly be­cause of some ex­tra body depth cre­ated by the big bat­tery com­part­ment… which is needed to house the high-ca­pac­ity 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 nifty mon­i­tor­ing fa­cil­ity for the age of both bat­tery packs, scaled from zero (the youngest) to four (the old­est)… based on the fact that lithi­u­mion 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 on the X-T2. You can tilt the EVF too, al­though for this you need a lit­tle op­tional ac­ces­sory called the EVF-TL1. The sup­plied EVF unit houses a 3.69 megadots halfinch OLED panel which pro­vides 100 per­cent sub­ject cov­er­age and has a 35mm-equiv­a­lent mag­ni­fi­ca­tion of 0.85x. The eye­piece has a built-in strength ad­just­ment (with a wide -4 to +2 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 SD cards, both with UHS-II speed sup­port. The re­al­ity is that the SD for­mat is by far the most pop­u­lar 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 (not just in terms of for­mat,

Fujifilm demon­strates fairly con­vinc­ingly that a big­ger sen­sor beats a smaller one ev­ery time.

but also 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 for­mat spe­cific (RAW, JPEG or movie clips).


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 three-claw 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 al­lows for 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 weather-proofed, 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 in or­der 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 sig­nal-tonoise 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 have tra­di­tion­ally had 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

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.

are cap­tured with 14-bit 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.

The GFX 50S can shoot 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 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 al­ready high­light­ing this as one of the key points-ofd­if­fer­ence as leaf shut­ters al­low for flash sync at all speeds (and that’s up to 1/2000 sec­ond with an XCD lens) which is an im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tion for some ap­pli­ca­tions. A lit­tle cheek­ily, how­ever, Fujifilm is of­fer­ing a mount adap­tor for ’Blad’s

own H Sys­tem leaf-shut­ter lenses (which, of course, it makes), al­though aut­o­fo­cus­ing isn’t sup­ported. 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).


By virtue of the sen­sor’s de­sign, the GFX 50S re­lies on con­trast-de­tec­tion 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 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 aper­turepri­or­ity 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

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.

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 sup­ple­mented by seven pre­sets and three cus­tom set­tings. Fine­tun­ing (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

As noted at the start, the GFX 50S drives very much like a smaller for­mat cam­era so any­body step­ping up 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 essen­tially pure X Se­ries… par­tic­u­larly X-T2 and X-Pro2. You’ll also be right at home if you’re step­ping up from a high­end 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 non­pro­fes­sional 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 read-out 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. 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 We’ve al­ways asked whether any video-maker is re­ally go­ing to want a dig­i­tal medium for­mat cam­era when there are so many more work­able al­ter­na­tives. Cheaper too. How­ever, size and weight are less of an is­sue with the mirrorless mod­els so Fujifilm’s GFX 50S has some po­ten­tial here.

The de­tach­able EVF is a plus… you just don’t need it if you’re us­ing an ex­ter­nal mon­i­tor. In this con­fig­u­ra­tion, the GFX fits com­fort­ably into any rig or you have an even more com­pact (and lighter weight) hand-held ‘run-and-gun’ cam­era.

It’s a bit sur­pris­ing there’s no 4K op­tion – par­tic­u­larly as you could shoot 8K video with this sen­sor – and this is likely to put off the video pros. How­ever, for pho­tog­ra­phers who want to shoot video, the GFX 50S has a bit to of­fer. It records Full HD or HD clip at 25 fps or 24 fps (PAL stan­dard, but the NTSC speeds are avail­able too) with stereo sound and a bit rate of 36 Mbps which, to be frank, isn’t much to write home about these days. Movie mode is se­lected via the drive menu and then start/ stop is via the shut­ter but­ton. The max­i­mum clip length is 29 min­utes and 59 sec­onds.

Both a stereo au­dio in­put and out­put are pro­vided, and both are stan­dard 3.5 mm mini­jack ter­mi­nals. Stream­ing to the cam­era’s HDMI con­nec­tor is avail­able (8-bit, 4:2:2 colour) with a ‘HDMI Rec Con­trol’ which sends start/ stop com­mands to the ex­ter­nal recorder when the shut­ter but­ton is pressed. Au­dio lev­els can be ad­justed man­u­ally and left/right level me­ters are dis­played in the mon­i­tor. The ‘Film Sim­u­la­tion’ pre­sets are avail­able, plus the ad­just­ments for colour sat­u­ra­tion, sharp­ness, high­light tone and shadow tone. Cu­ri­ously, the touch AF con­trol is dis­abled in the movie mode, but con­tin­u­ous aut­o­fo­cus­ing with face de­tec­tion and track­ing is pro­vided. Man­ual fo­cus is as­sisted by a mag­ni­fied im­age and a fo­cus peak­ing dis­play. Ex­po­sure con­trol is fully au­to­matic (and the max­i­mum sen­si­tiv­ity set­ting is ISO 6400) with +/-2.0 EV of com­pen­sa­tion avail­able for mak­ing any ad­just­ments.

This is pretty ba­sic fare in terms of func­tion­al­ity, but the GFX 50S re­deems it­self – at least a lit­tle – with the qual­ity of its video footage which is ac­tu­ally very good in terms of sharp­ness, dy­namic range and low light per­for­mance. As with Fujifilm’s ‘APS-C’ cam­eras, there isn’t a flat F-Log colour pro­file (which makes for eas­ier colour grad­ing in post-pro­duc­tion), but the in­creased dy­namic range of the big­ger sen­sor makes this less of an is­sue.

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 in­foonly 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 add-on at an event 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 pho­tog­ra­phers 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 nicely­sized 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 phase-dif­fer­ence 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 Fuji chrome Velvia trans­parency on a light­box was al­ways an eye-pop­ping 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 ful­l35mm sen­sor. What’s more, there’s 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, a com­mand per­for­mance.

The Ver­dict

For many 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 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 and it’s more suited to a wider va­ri­ety of ap­pli­ca­tions.

As noted pre­vi­ously, there are some con­sid­er­a­tions re­lated to the ul­tra-high 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 ac­tu­ally means a more com­pact and lighter kit – com­par­a­tively speak­ing – with all the as­so­ci­ated phys­i­cal ben­e­fits. 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 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 re­ally af­ford to have one.

...we’ve had to dip a bit deeper into the su­perla­tives bag when it comes to de­scrib­ing the GFX 50S’s de­tail­ing, def­i­ni­tion and dy­namic range.

Mag­ne­sium al­loy bodyshell is fully sealed against wet weather, dust and sub-zero tem­per­a­tures. Note the cover which pro­tects the EVF’s hot­shoe cou­pling.

LCD mon­i­tor screen is tiltable re­gard­less of the cam­era’s ori­en­ta­tion. Touch­screen con­trols are more ex­ten­sive than has been pre­vi­ously seen from Fujifilm.

EVF eye­piece has built-in strength ad­just­ment and a prox­im­ity sen­sor for auto switch­ing be­tween the viewfinder and the mon­i­tor screen.

TEST IM­AGES Test im­ages cap­tured as JPEG/ large/su­perfine files with the Fu­ji­non GF 63mm f2.8 R WR lens (equiv­a­lent to 50mm). Shut­ter­pri­or­ity auto ex­po­sure con­trol, multi-zone me­ter­ing, Vivid/Velvia ‘Film Sim­u­la­tion’ pre­set and auto white bal­ance correction. The im­age qual­ity is su­perla­tive, par­tic­u­larly the dy­namic range and the high ISO per­for­mance which is ex­em­plary up to ISO 6400. Def­i­ni­tion and de­tail­ing are truly su­perb.

Shut­ter speed dial can be locked by push­ing down the cen­tral but­ton. ‘T’ po­si­tion gives ac­cess to longer shut­ter speeds. ISO dial is also lock­able. The auto range can be pre­pro­grammed with se­lected high­est and low­est set­tings. Top panel info dis­play is cus­tomis­able and has built-in back­light­ing.

The GFX 50S launched with three Fu­ji­non GF mount lenses while an­other three are sched­uled by the end of 2017. A longer tele­photo of­fer­ing is said to come in 2018.

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