Cameras

Fujifilm GFX 50S Review

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For a long time, medium format digital cameras have been big, heavy and incredibly expensive. Now we have not one but two lower-cost cameras that could, at last, bring the medium format to the masses: the Hasselblad X1D and the long-awaited Fujifilm GFX 50S.

We found the Hasselblad X1D’s minimal design effective and attractive, and its results superb. Now it’s the turn of the GFX 50S. The ‘50S’ refers to the GFX’s 50MP sensor, which is the same size and resolution as the one in the X1D.

These are not actually medium file format in the old film camera sense; digital moderate format cameras break down into two main camps: full-frame 645-film equivalent models like the PhaseOne XF100, and smaller-sensor versions just like the GFX 50S, the X1D and the Pentax 645Z.

Check Fujifilm GFX 50S Price 

Features

  • Sensor: 51.4MP medium format Bayer sensor (43.8 x 32.9mm)
  • Crop factor: 0.8x
  • Memory: 2x SD/SDHC/SDXC UHS I/II
  • Viewfinder: OLED, 3,690k dots
  • Max video resolution: 1,920 x 1,080 (Full HD)
  • ISO range: 100-12,800 (50-102,400 expanded)
  • Autofocus points: Contrast-detect AF, 117 points
  • Max burst rate: 3fps
  • LCD screen: 3.2in tilting LCD, 2,360k dots
  • Shutter speeds: 60-1/4,000 sec, Bulb, Time (electronic shutter, up to 1/16,000 sec)
  • Weight: 825g (body only, with battery and memory card)
  • Dimensions: 148 x 94 x 91mm
  • Power supply: NP-T125 lithium-ion battery, 400 shots

If you’re waiting for an affordable full-frame 645 models with the same sensor as the 100MP PhaseOne XF100, you could be waiting a while yet. In the meantime, the GFX and X1D still offer a sensor area 68% larger than a full-frame camera like the Canon EOS 5DS.

Let’s start with that sensor. This is a regular Bayer RGBG sensor, rather than the X-Trans CMOS type that’s used in most of the company’s X-series models, and it measures roughly 44 x 33mm, compared to 36 x 24mm for 35mm full-frame cameras. Although the 50MP resolution sounds high, the pixels are packed in no more tightly than they are on the 36MP Nikon D810, so you can still expect low noise and good dynamic range.

Unlike the Hasselblad X1D, the GFX 50S uses a regular focal plane shutter. This makes the body a good deal thicker, though it’s little heavier or larger than a pro-level 35mm full-frame DSLR like the Nikon D810 or the Canon EOS 5DS.

It’s based on a mirrorless design, which means the viewfinder is electronic rather than optical. You get a regular eye-degree viewfinder with the camera, which slides into an accessory slot on the top of the digital camera, although you can also get a tilting viewfinder as an optional extra, a sign that the GFX may develop into a true system camera.

The EVF is complemented by a tilting LCD display on the rear and an always-on monochrome OLED screen at the top plate. The latter shows battery status and shots remaining when the camera is switched off, and shooting settings when the digital camera is on.
Fujifilm has so far launched seven lenses for the GFX G mount, following its recent announcement of the Fujinon GF250mm F4 R LM OIS WR telephoto with matching 1.4x teleconverter, and more are planned. Third-party makers are joining in too, as Chinese maker Venus Optics has announced its Laowa 17mm f/4 GFX Zero-D prime lens, claimed to be the widest native GFX lens yet.

We were supplied with the Fujinon GF 63mm f/2.8 R WR equivalent to roughly 50mm in 35mm full-frame terms. It’s the smallest lens on offer, but this is, of course, relative; it’s still a chunky bit of glass. Other lenses in the range, such as the Fujinon GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR zoom are usually much larger, an inevitable result of the sensor size.

The camera’s autofocus system is primitive by full-frame and APS-C standards. It relies on contrast-detect AF (no on-sensor phase-identify AF). Similarly, although the GFX 50S’s shutter speed range is sound, its continuous shooting speed is capped at 3fps. Of course, this isn’t designed to be an action camera; rather, it’s designed for ultra-high-quality photography in a package far more portable, robust and easy to use than anything the medium format market has seen before (though the Pentax 645Z arguably started this trend).

Performance

By full-frame or APS-C standards, the GFX 50S’s operational performance is pretty pedestrian. The contrast AF system is effective and versatile and covers nearly all of the framework, but it’s not especially fast. That said, the GFX 50S is made for considered photography, and in these situations the AF is fine. It might take a second to adjust to a big change in focus distance, but smaller adjustments are faster.

Image quality, however, quickly makes you forget any of these foibles. The level of detail the GFX 50S captures is simply stunning. Part of this can be attributed to the 50MP resolution, part to the larger sensor size, and component – we suspect – to the G-mount Fujifilm lens we were using.

We’ve seen with cameras like the Nikon D810 and Canon EOS 5DS that high-resolution sensors need the best-high-quality lenses since they show up any edge softness or fringing mercilessly, but the aforementioned 63mm f/2.8 lens supplied with our camera showed none of these. It was sharp and clean to an almost uncanny degree.
The dynamic range results were only average in the lab, but it was a different story in real-world use. To keep the playing field level, we don’t use in-camera dynamic range enhancement options in the lab tests, but we did make use of Fujifilm’s Dynamic Range expansion mode in the field, and this adds substantially to the tonal variety it can capture. In Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw, the camera’s Natural files reveal substantial reserves of shadow and highlight fine detail.

It would take a long time to test the Fujifilm GFX 50S in every possible set of conditions, but our period with it reveals a camera that delivers superb image quality and handles brilliantly. It might not have the responsiveness of a smaller-format camera, but that’s both a by-product of the bigger sensor and an acceptable compromise in a camera that can do what this one can.

Check Out: Best Fujifilm GFX 50S Lenses

Verdict

It’s unrealistic to expect a large-sensor camera to match the autofocus and continuous shooting performance of a full-frame or APS-C camera, but the GFX 50S takes a massive step towards that, bringing with it the beautiful fluidity of big-sensor images and superb resolution.

Check Fujifilm GFX 50S Price and Bundles 

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