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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.