Fu­ji­film GFX 50R

£3,999/$4,499

Digital Camera World - - CONTENTS - Rod Law­ton

It’s the most af­ford­able medium-for­mat model ever, but how does it per­form?

It’s the most af­ford­able medium-for­mat dig­i­tal cam­era ever – but there’s no com­pro­mise in im­age qual­ity Spec­i­fi­ca­tions

Sen­sor: 51.4MP medium-for­mat CMOS, 43.8 x 32.9mm Im­age pro­ces­sor: X-Pro­ces­sor Pro AF points: TTL con­trast AF, 425 points ISO range: 100 to 51,200 (exp. 50-204,800) Max im­age size: 8,256 x 6,192px Me­ter­ing zones: 256 Video: 1,920 x 1,080 at 30p, 25p, 24p Viewfinder: EVF, 3,690k dots OLED, 100% cover­age, 0.77x mag­ni­fi­ca­tion Mem­ory card: 2 x SD/SDHC/SDXC, UHS II com­pat­i­ble LCD: 3.2-inch tilt­ing touch­screen, 2,360k dots Max burst: 3fps, un­lim­ited JPEGs, 13 loss­less com­pressed raw Con­nec­tiv­ity: Blue­tooth, Wi-Fi Size: 161 x 97 x 67mm (body only) Weight: 775g (body only, with battery and mem­ory card)

The Fu­ji­film GFX 50R is the most af­ford­able medium-for­mat dig­i­tal cam­era cam­era yet to hit the mar­ket – it’s a full £1,000/$1,000 cheaper than the DSLR-style Fu­ji­film GFX 50S, the pre­vi­ous record-set­ter.

With the GFX 50R, Fu­ji­film has es­sen­tially re­leased a cheaper ‘rangefinder’ ver­sion of its GFX 50S medium-for­mat cam­era. The dif­fer­ences are phys­i­cal rather than tech­ni­cal: the GFX 50R is de­signed for a dif­fer­ent style of pho­tog­ra­phy.

It’s much slim­mer than the GFX 50S, for a start (al­though it’s wider, in­ter­est­ingly). The grip is smaller, so it’s bet­ter suited for use with Fu­ji­film’s smaller prime lenses. That’s in keep­ing with its rangefinder cam­era style, where the elec­tronic viewfinder is moved to a rear corner rather than be­ing mounted on the cam­era’s op­ti­cal axis.

With the 50S you can re­move the viewfinder and re­place it with an an­gled ’fin­der – but not here. Other dif­fer­ences in the GFX 50R are the lack of a top-mounted sta­tus dis­play and a rear screen that only tilts up and down, not side to side.

If you used old 6 x 6cm film cam­eras, you prob­a­bly thought the

cut-down 6 x 4.5cm for­mat was a bit of a step down. Well, this is the new ‘full-frame’ medium-for­mat size, and you still pay a lot of money for these cam­eras.

The GFX 50R, 50S and other af­ford­able ‘medium-for­mat’ cam­eras use a smaller sen­sor size, some­where be­tween full-frame and full-size medium-for­mat. If you think of the re­la­tion­ship of APS-C cam­eras to full-frame cam­eras, that’s what you’ve got here with the GFX 50R ver­sus ‘full-size’ medium-for­mat.

So it’s not a mas­sive step up in sen­sor size com­pared with full-frame, but the sen­sor in the GFX 50R still brings a sub­stan­tial ad­van­tage over the smaller for­mat.

The big sen­sor means, of course, that you need to ap­ply a fo­cal fac­tor, or ‘crop fac­tor’, to work out the equiv­a­lent fo­cal length of its lenses. Tak­ing into ac­count its slightly taller 4:3 na­tive as­pect ra­tio, com­pared with the nar­rower 3:2 ra­tio of full-frame sen­sors, this gives the GFX 50R a crop fac­tor of ap­prox­i­mately 0.8x.

The GFX 50R’s 50.1-megapixel res­o­lu­tion will be a big draw for

qual­ity-con­scious pho­tog­ra­phers, and its sen­si­tiv­ity range is pretty good at ISO 100-12,800, ex­pand­able to ISO 50-102,400.

Right now, how­ever, you do have to ac­cept some tech­ni­cal com­pro­mises when you move be­yond full-frame cam­eras into medium-for­mat ter­ri­tory. For a start, the GFX 50R is lim­ited to 3fps in con­tin­u­ous shooting mode; and while it can cap­ture un­lim­ited JPEGs, it has buf­fer ca­pac­ity for only 13 com­pressed raw files (or eight un­com­pressed).

It also re­lies on a pre­cise but slow con­trast-based aut­o­fo­cus sys­tem, as hy­brid on-sen­sor phase-de­tec­tion AF has yet to make it on to these big­ger sen­sors. How­ever, with up to 425 se­lectable AF points cov­er­ing most of the frame, to­gether with face de­tec­tion, eye de­tec­tion, sin­gle-point AF, zone AF and wide/track­ing AF, it doesn’t lack so­phis­ti­ca­tion.

The GFX 50R doesn’t have in-body sta­bil­i­sa­tion (al­though Fu­ji­film’s promised GFX 100, due in 2019, will), and so far the spe­cial­ist 250mm tele­photo is the only GF lens to fea­ture an op­ti­cal sta­biliser.

Else­where, the fea­tures are clas­sic Fu­ji­film, with ex­ter­nal phys­i­cal di­als for lens aper­ture and shut­ter speed con­trol; multi, spot, av­er­age and cen­tre-weighted me­ter­ing op­tions; fur­ther con­trol over ex­po­sure and tonal range via dy­namic range ex­pan­sion (up to 400%); and sep­a­rate shadow and high­light tone con­trol.

This is on top of Fu­ji­film’s reg­u­lar ar­ray of Film Sim­u­la­tion modes, now to­talling 15 dif­fer­ent op­tions, from su­per-sat­u­rated Velvia through to its rich Acros black-and-white mode.

Build and han­dling

Fu­ji­film says the GFX 50R is com­pact and light. On pa­per, maybe, but in re­al­ity it’s a bit of a beast. It does have a slim­mer body than the GFX 50S, but it’s wider too, which seems to more than off­set any ad­van­tage.

But while the 50R is a good deal cheaper, Fu­ji­film doesn’t ap­pear to have cut any con­struc­tion cor­ners. Its mag­ne­sium al­loy body is dus­tre­sis­tant, weather-re­sis­tant and freeze-proof down to -10 de­grees.

The con­trols will take a lit­tle get­ting used to for any­one swap­ping

“There’s an un­de­fin­able spa­tial qual­ity and depth in the raw files

from an­other dig­i­tal cam­era brand. It does of­fer Pro­gram AE, Aper­ture Pri­or­ity, Shut­ter Pri­or­ity and Man­ual modes, but there’s no mode dial. In­stead, there’s just an aper­ture ring on the lens and a shut­ter speed dial on the cam­era. Each has an ‘A’ set­ting, so be­tween them these di­als of­fer the reg­u­lar PASM op­tions.

But there is some­thing vaguely odd about the GFX 50R’s con­trols: it’s a big cam­era, but many of the con­trols feel as if they’ve sim­ply been swapped over from a smaller model. The front con­trol dial around the shut­ter re­lease but­ton works fine, but feels as if it could be big­ger; the rear dial isn’t quite big enough to give you a proper pur­chase with your thumb; and the rear fo­cus lever just feels too small.

The touch­screen dis­play is ef­fec­tive, though the 3.2-inch screen feels slightly swamped on the large back sur­face of this cam­era; and a cou­ple of times the touch-fo­cus failed to fo­cus prop­erly. (A bit­ing De­cem­ber gale was prob­a­bly not the best time to be test­ing the sub­tleties of touch­screen con­trol.)

Per­for­mance

To get the kind of re­sults the GFX 50R is ca­pa­ble of, it de­mands a cer­tain amount of time and at­ten­tion. The aut­o­fo­cus sys­tem is per­fectly us­able, but not fast, and the ex­tra­or­di­nary res­o­lu­tion of the sen­sor and Fu­ji­film’s GF lenses means you might want to think twice about what con­sti­tutes a ‘safe’ hand­held shut­ter speed.

The say­ing goes that you should use a shut­ter speed that cor­re­sponds to your lens’s ef­fec­tive fo­cal length; so for a 30mm lens, say, you should not

use a shut­ter speed slower than 1/30 sec. With the GFX 50R you should at least dou­ble or triple that fig­ure, or risk los­ing that ul­tra-sharp fine de­tail you’ve paid so much to get.

It’s also dif­fi­cult to get a sense of the shut­ter speed from how the cam­era sounds, be­cause the fo­cal plane shut­ter has a drawn-out me­chan­i­cal ac­tion that makes it hard to tell if it just shot at 1/25sec or 1/125 sec. You need to watch the shut­ter speeds.

The GFX 50R is fine for hand­held use if you keep this in mind, but it will re­ally ben­e­fit from be­ing on a tri­pod. De­spite its ‘rangefinder’ de­sign, this is not re­ally a quick-fire street cam­era.

The pay­back for this ex­tra care when shooting is sim­ply stun­ning im­age qual­ity. It’s not just the 50.1-megapixel sen­sor at work here, but Fu­ji­film’s ex­cel­lent GF lenses, which are not only aber­ra­tion-free, but sharp from edge to edge. It’s worth in­creas­ing the ISO to get faster shut­ter speeds just to make sure of this. Bumping up the ISO to 800 for some post-sun­set shots in fad­ing light yielded im­ages where the knife-edge sharpness eas­ily out­weighed any slight in­crease in grain.

And if you shoot raw files rather than JPEGs, you’ll dis­cover ter­rific re­serves of high­light and shadow in­for­ma­tion when you reach the edit­ing stage, es­pe­cially if you use the cam­era’s ex­tended dy­namic range mode. This re­duces the ex­po­sure and ap­plies a mod­i­fied tone curve to of­fer up to two stops of ex­tra dy­namic range.

Even af­ter us­ing cam­eras like the Nikon D850, Z 7 and Sony Al­pha 7R III, there’s still an un­de­fin­able ex­tra spa­tial qual­ity and depth in this cam­era’s raw files that we’ve only ever seen in other medium-for­mat cam­eras.

1 The 50R’s large sen­sor brings a 0.8x crop fac­tor, so this 63mm f/2.8 lens is ef­fec­tively a 50mm.2 So far Fu­ji­film has re­leased seven na­tive GF lenses, rang­ing in fo­cal length from 23mm to 250mm.3 The mag­ne­sium al­loy body is much thin­ner than that of the GFX 50S, but it makes up for it by be­ing wider.

4 The elec­tronic viewfinder is mounted way off to the left and not in the cen­tral po­si­tion used by the GFX 50S. 5 The rear touch­screen dis­play tilts up and down but not from side to side, so ver­ti­cal-for­mat shots are trick­ier. 6 The GFX uses a tra­di­tional shut­ter speed ring and lens aper­ture rings for ex­po­sure ad­just­ments. 7 The power switch near the shut­ter re­lease is oddly small, like some of the other con­trols on this cam­era.

You can de­ploy an ex­panded dy­namic range set­ting for high-con­trast scenes.

8 The GFX 50R’s sen­sor is not the big­gest dig­i­tal medium-for­mat size, but still 67% larger than full-frame. 9 The GF lens mount is a mas­sive 65mm wide – 10mm wider than the Nikon Z mount. 10 This small rear fo­cus lever is also used for menu and set­tings nav­i­ga­tion – there is no sep­a­rate four-way pad. 11 The front con­trol dial could do with be­ing a lit­tle larger – ours also had a lit­tle play in its move­ment.

The Acros Film Sim­u­la­tion pro­duces strong blackand‑white im­ages.

The GFX 50R shows its true qual­ity in this tripod­mounted long ex­po­sure.

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