Cameras

Fujifilm GFX 100 Review

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When Fujifilm announced the development of its new 100-megapixel medium format camera at Photokina 2018, it listed specifications and features that sounded like a fantasy wish-list for a medium format camera, not a product that could actually be made. But now the GFX 100 is here, and it does everything that Fujifilm said it would. It’s big and it’s expensive (though not by moderate format standards), but it’s so much more than just a Fujifilm GFX 50S with a backside-illuminated sensor with twice as many pixels.

Specifications

Sensor: 102MP medium format CMOS, 43.8mm x 32.9mm
Image processor: X-Processor 4
AF points: 3.67m phase AF points, single point, zone,  wide-area AF
ISO range: 100 to 12,800 (exp. 50-102,400)
Max image size: 11,648 x 8.736
Metering modes: Multi-segment, centre-weighted, spot, average
Video: 4K UHD/DCI4K at 30p, 25p, 24p
Viewfinder: EVF, 5.76m dots
Memory card: 2x SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS II)
LCD: 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen, 2.36m dots
Max burst: 5fps
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Size: 156.2 x 163.6 x 102.9mm
Weight: 1,400g (body only, with 2 batteries and SD card)

Features

The GFX 100 is a big camera – and tall too. But thanks to its mirrorless construction, it is actually a similar size to a flagship professional DSLR such as the Nikon D5 or Canon EOS -1Dx Mark II. It doesn’t have the same top motor drive speed as these pro sports models, of course, but with a 5 frame per second capability and a 41-shot JPEG buffer, this camera can move uncharacteristically fast for a camera of this type.

What makes the camera noticeably larger than the GFX 50S is the inclusion of the in-body image stabilizer (IBIS). Having vibration reduction built-in as standard is new territory for a medium format – and with that extra bulk has the potential to rewrite the way people use this type of camera.

Fujifilm says the IBIS system in the GFX 100 offers 5.5 stops of stabilization across five axes, which suggests that you could utilize this camera handheld in many occasions where you wouldn’t dare with other medium format cameras.

Creating a stabilization program for a sensor this dimension, had meant the complete rethink of usual chassis building. In addition to the usual front plate, backplate and best plate, there is a fourth piece for the lens mount that is independent of the other pieces in this engineering jigsaw.
The extended height of the backplate for the vertical shooting controls and twin batteries means that Fujifilm has found the room to add an additional long thin information panel a the bottom. This can be used to show key camera settings (particularly handy when shooting tethered, perhaps) – or, say, showing the histogram display without it impinging on the LCD screen. There is no button to cycle through these options, however, so the choice needs to be set in the main menu.

The rear LCD is really a big 3.2in display with three directions of movement. The eye-level viewfinder is a beautiful 5.76 million dot screen which is a joy to use – and as this is interchangeable you can use the older EVF-TL1 tiltable version as with the 50R.

As ever with a camera, much of its capability is decided by the power of its processor… and in this regard, the GFX 100 offers blistering velocity. It is four times the rate of that in the GFX 50S and offers a data rate of 1 GB/s.

It needs this in order to provide brawn needed for the picture stabilisation and to provide the ability to shoot 100-megapixel pictures at up to five frames per second. But you also see the speed in simple things like replaying images – there is no lag as you period between shots, allowing to whizz through your shots at speed.

Autofocus acceleration also benefits, with the adoption of a hybrid autofocus system as we have already seen on Fujifilm’s smaller format mirrorless models like the X-T3, and a firmware update released just in time for our review brings updated autofocus performance.
Processing power is also behind the video capability of this digital camera. Not only can the GFX 100 shoot uncropped 4K, but the ability to switch aspect ratio also implies that this delivers a sensor image area that’s larger than practically any cinema digital camera out there. In fact, only the Arri Alexa 65 – which costs around 15x more than the GFX 100 – has a bigger sensor area. This fact alone is almost certain to make the fresh Fujifilm be a popular choice for serious cinematographers. There are LOG and HLG choices too, giving pro editors complete control over contrast and grading.

The camera can shoot 4K video 30p 10bit 4:2:0 internally, but can up the game to 10-bit 4:2:2 when hooked up to an external recorder.

Bit depth can be impressive when shooting stills – with a 16-bit RAW option in addition to a more usual 14-bit one. Unbelievably the camera allows you to convert these 16-bit RAW files to 16-little bit TIFF documents in the digital camera itself, should you feel the urge (you can see what these look like here), but be warned this conversion increases the image file size from a chunky 200MB up to a whopping 600MB).

The speed of the camera is particularly impressive given that Fujifilm as chosen to stick with dual SD cards with this camera. One wonders what might have been if the company had taken the brave step of moving up to faster emerging memory card standards of the existing XQD and its backwards-compatible successor CFexpress (as Nikon and Panasonic have done with their full-frame mirrorless models).

  • 102MP BSI-CMOS 44 x 33mm sensor
  • On-sensor Phase Detection
  • 5-axis image stabilization
  • Continuous shooting at up to 5 fps
  • 4K video with 4:2:2 10-bit HDMI output
  • 5.76M-dot removable OLED viewfinder
  • 16 or 14-bit Raw capture

Build and Handling

It is the top plate where things get rather different from other cameras we have seen before from Fujifilm. There is a three-way control on the left, that lets you switch between video and stills at speed – something that Fujifilm says that users have asked for. It certainly makes a lot of sense for hybrid shooters. A central Multi-position on the dial gives you access to facilities that are neither stills nor movies – multiple exposure features such as the different bracketing options.

With the traditional shutter speed and ISO dials gone from the top plate, Fujifilm provides an option to display virtual dials to show these things on the large data screen on the top – which looks neat, even if obviously not serving the same function as old-fashioned dials. You can switch to more usual information panel information on this 1.8in screen – or display a large monochromatic histogram.

This might be slightly disappointing to exist Fujifilm fans who like having external shutter speed and aperture dials, and it is different to the layout on the GFX 50S and 50R, but Fujifilm says this new layout is more in line with how studio photographers use and control their cameras.

It doesn’t take long to get used the handle design of the GFX 100, but some of the buttons and dials do seem a little small for a camera of this size. It’s probably not so bad if you have the camera mounted on a tripod in the studio, but out in the field, the small controls feel at odds with the strength and effort you need to use this camera handheld for any length of time. This is something we noticed with the GFX 50S and GFX 50R, though it is, of course, a matter of personal preference and some users may not notice this at all.

The substantial grip, both in horizontal and vertical shooting and the presence of in-body stabilisation, might tempt you into shooting handheld with the GFX 100. That is fine in short bursts, but its weight and size do make it tiring to handle for long periods of time. It’s not just the excess weight of the body that’s a factor, but the lenses too. We’ve remarked before that bigger sensor inevitably means larger lenses – a factor which can undermine any dimension advantages offered by mirrorless cameras, and it’s especially true of medium-format models. We tested the GFX 100 with the Fujinon 32-64mm f/4 zoom, the closest thing to a ‘kit lens’ for this camera, and they are a big, heavy combination.

Performance

We were keen to test this camera’s in-body stabilisation system and its advanced hybrid phase-detection autofocus – two ‘firsts’ in a medium format camera.

The in-body-stabilisation will certainly be appealing for handheld photographers. This camera’s key selling point is its resolution, and you won’t want to sacrifice any of that to camera shake.

In our tests, however, we didn’t get very close to Fujifilm’s claimed 5.5-stop shutter speed advantage. These figures always come with very precise qualifications, and in this case, that figure is measured for the stabilizer’s pitch/yaw shake axes only and with the Fujinon GF63mmF2.8 R WR lens mounted. In our tests with a variety of lenses in real-world shooting situations, the advantage felt more like 2-3 stops. Even here, there were some variations in sharpness, so the stabilizer is best thought of as being extra insurance rather than any kind of guarantee. You might be glad you’ve got it, but you’d be unwise to rely on it.

That’s because the quality this camera is capable of is quite extraordinary, and you also wouldn’t desire to waste an ounce of it! Our lab tests confirm our real-world impressions – that this digital camera raises the resolution bar, and not just by a small amount but by a big step. See below for some real-world image samples.

The autofocus is extremely impressive too. Generally, the bigger the camera format, the slower the AF, but the GFX/32-64mm f/4 zoom lens combination proved very fast and responsive. It felt like using a full-frame mirrorless camera, in fact, rather than medium format. The speed will ultimately depend on the lens, its AF actuators and the size of its focus groups; the Fujinon 32-64mm experienced fast, the GF 120mm f4 R LM OIS WR Macro we had for testing at the same time was a little slower – though this lens is designed for close focusing ahead of velocity. The GFX 100 makes seismic improvements over the features of the GFX 50R and GFX50S – and most notably with its unique built-in image stabilization system, sufficient reason for its vastly improved processing power.

The eye-tracking AF function feels genuinely useful, if not essential, for a camera that offers so much detail and for one likely to be used for high-end social, fashion and portrait photography.

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It’s equally impressive as a movie-making tool. Much has been made of the ‘cinematic’ potential of the larger sensor, though the Fujinon GF lenses have smaller maximum apertures than full-frame rivals, so in practice, you may end up with slightly more depth of field with the GFX 100 than with a full-frame digital camera and a fast f/2 or f/1.4 prime lens.

On the other hand, the continuous AF is fast and smooth and produces nice focus transitions. This isn’t a run-and-gun camera for fast movements, but it copes very well with slow pans and gently moving subjects.

Check Out: Best Fujifilm GFX 100 Lenses 

Verdict

The GFX 100 is larger than its 50MP predecessors, in part due to the inclusion of a portrait-orientation grip. The portrait grip itself is disappointing, apparently designed for hands a different shape from those of people who use the camera in landscape format. The advantage, though, it that it provides space for a second battery. This further expands the camera’s ‘beyond the studio’ credentials.

And it’s certainly true that the GFX 100 is much more adaptable than most cameras with sensors of the same size or larger. This doesn’t suddenly mean that the GFX is going to be seen on the sidelines of major sporting events or even become the camera of choice for the majority of wedding photographers. But its ability to support you when you find yourself shooting outside the familiar surroundings of the studio and of a tripod reduces the need for another camera. In turn, this could extend the range of jobs you can practically undertake, which could help see the digital camera pay for itself.

Check Fujifilm GFX 100 Price and Bundles 

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