Fujifilm GFX 50R
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.)
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.