hands-on: fujifilm gfx 50s
Fujifilm disrupts the medium-format market with the GFX 50S: a SLR-sized mirrorless camera with modular features, a growing lens family, and an accessible price tag
Mirrorless camera / £6,199 / $6,499 /fujifilm.com
The last year has seen the introduction of two mirrorless, medium-format cameras: the Hasselblad X1D and then Fujifilm, with its first digital mediumformat camera. With a £6,199 price tag newly announced and hands-on reviews of pre-production models to place alongside the specs, professionals are starting to recognise the potential. At £6,199 for a 51.4MP sensor in the diminutive (small SLR -sized) and weatherproof body, is this the camera that will prompt an SLR exodus to medium format? Going on appearances, the Fujifilm GFX 50S has a lot in common with an SLR, with a viewfinder directly behind the lens, a sizable right hand-grip and even a top-mounted LCD displaying settings. This mirrorless medium format camera is remarkably small. That said, weighing in at 800g, the GFX 50S is noticeably heavier than the Hasselblad X1D. It’s also larger, thanks to the sizeable rump on the back, whereas the Hasselblad X1D’s body is essentially a thick tablet with an EVF and large grip attached. But the GFX 50S feels comfortable and balanced in the hand, and inherits some of the best features from Fujifilm’s X-series cameras, including weatherproofing and a tilting display. Shutter speed and ISO sensitivity adjustments are both in easy reach, adjustable using Fujifilm’s classic physical controls, while an aperture ring will appear on most of Fujifilm’s new G-series lenses. The camera isn’t exactly bristling with dials, but those that are there are in accessible positions, making it easy to manoeuvre without hesitation.
With only preproduction lenses and cameras available, to comment on the autofocus speed would be premature. However, Fujifilm has stated the GFX 50S features a 117-point contrast-detect autofocus system. The real star of the GFX 50S is Fujifilm’s new medium format sensor, which is not only 1.7 times larger than a full-frame sensor, but also its highest-resolution chip yet at 51.4MP (8,256 x 6,192) that physically measures 43.8 x 32.9mm. This isn’t an X-Trans sensor, but a new AA filter-less bayer chip engineered and built by Fujifilm. The EVF on most Fujifilm cameras is amazing, but looking through the viewfinder on the GFX 50S is a whole other level. Fujifilm is also introducing some modularity here: the 2.36K-dot electronic viewfinder is attached to the camera through a hotshoe connection. With an added attachment, the EVF can also pivot up and swivel to the sides like the rear LCD, and beyond this, Fujifilm has plans to introduce a large video monitor accessory that could be mounted in the same hotshoe. There will also be an optional grip accessory that adds longevity and additional camera controls. To reduce the size of both the camera and lenses, Fujifilm has opted for a focal-plane shutter, which supports a maximum shutter speed of 1/4000 of a second. Typically, medium format lenses have come with a built-in leaf shutter mechanism, but the focal plane shutter removes the need for this. The GFX 50S will initially launch with three lenses, including the GF 63mm f/2.8, GF 32- 64mm f/4 and the GF 120mm f/4. On the horizon, the family of lenses will grow with a GF 45mm f/2.8 and GF 23mm f/4 primes, plus a 110mm f/2 rounding out the new family. Before the digital age, medium-format cameras were very popular with working pros owing to their ease of use and, importantly, incredible image quality. With the GFX 50S, Fujifilm is attempting to recapture some of that spirit by introducing a camera with more physical controls, and offering image quality that’s claimed to rival that of Pentax and Hasselblad cameras. If the image quality lives up to the task, many professional photographers will happily pay the £6,199 price for this camera. That’s no small amount, but it’s considerably less than the traditional outlay for stepping up to medium format. So far the Fujifilm GFX 50S is lining up to be a truly amazing camera that could well herald a shift in professional users who hadn’t seriously considered the advantages of shooting medium format.