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

Professional Photography - - The Business - Emma-Lily Pendle­ton

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.

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