Medium format cameras, with their price tags starting at $20,000 or £20,000 and going up from there, have been the exclusive domain of professional photographers and hobbyists with bottomless pockets.
There have been some notable exceptions; for example, in 2010, Pentax released the 645D, which, while having a price tag that was much more affordable than its predecessor, made medium format photography accessible to a considerably larger audience.
Since then, Pentax has pretty much had its way, succeeding the 645D with the 645Z in 2014. However, both Hasselblad and Fujifilm entered the fray in 2017, which was a turning point for the industry.
The Hasselblad X1D was the first released in June, followed by the Fujifilm GFX 50S. The Fujifilm GFX 50S was the talk of the industry when it was unveiled at the Photokina trade show in Cologne, Germany, in September of last year. Since then, we have been eagerly awaiting the final production samples.
Fujifilm GFX 50S Features
If you’re thinking, “If I can acquire a full-frame Canon EOS 5DS DSLR with 50.6 megapixels, then why should I bother with Fujifilm’s new GFX 50S?” then you’re not alone. The solution can be summed up in one word: sensor size.
If you have a sensor that is approximately 1.7 times larger than a full-frame chip and measures 43.8 mm by 32.9 mm (generating pictures with a 4:3 aspect ratio), you will have far larger photosites (pixels). Because of this, the device has improved light-gathering capabilities, which suggests that we should anticipate improved low-light performance and dynamic range.
That’s only half the story, though, because the bigger sensor also produces a distinct look with a narrower depth of focus at whatever focal length you choose.
Because the GFX 50S utilizes a traditional focal plane shutter and not an electronic one like the X1D, you are limited to a slightly more conservative limit of 1/125 second when using the GFX 50S for flash-sync purposes. This is in contrast to the Hasselblad, which offers the luxury of flash-sync at any desired shutter speed.
Fujifilm decided to go with a mirrorless design for the GFX 50S, just as they did with the X1D. This means that the viewfinder used for a composition is an electronic one rather than an optical one. The eye-level viewfinder has a massive magnification of 0.85x and an excellent resolution of 3.69 million dots, producing a clear and brilliant vision.
Fujifilm GFX 50S Image Quality
Despite having a mirrorless design, the Fujifilm GFX 50S’s body is pretty significant since it contains a mechanical shutter and a mirrorless design. It is also much larger and heavier than full-frame DSLRs like the Canon EOS 5DS and the Nikon D810, in addition to being noticeably thicker than the X1D.
However, it is not so much that it poses a problem for us; on a few occasions, we were able to fit the GFX 50S, along with the 63mm and 120mm lenses, into a shoulder bag of a more modest size and stroll around pretty contentedly with it.
It doesn’t feel too heavy to take up and carry around, either, which is a plus. In general, you get a comfortable hold, and the camera seems beautifully balanced with the 63mm lens on the front. The grip is a generous size.
You would be excused for thinking that using a medium format camera may be a bit more intimidating than using a DSLR or mirrorless camera; however, the fact is that if you’ve used a camera comparable to the Fujifilm X-T2 or another model like it, you’ll feel entirely at home with the GFX 50S.
Fujifilm GFX 50S Autofocus
Contrast-detection autofocus is the only method utilized by the GFX 50S. This is in contrast to other mirrorless cameras, including Fujifilm’s own X-T2, which offer on-sensor phase-detection autofocus. This allows for a hybrid system that combines the accuracy of contrast-detection AF with the speed of phase-detection AF.
It shouldn’t be surprising that this is the case because the GFX 50S isn’t designed to be an action camera. Instead, it’s meant to be a more deliberate photography tool for studio and outdoor shooting.
The autofocus mechanism of the GFX 50S provides a default configuration of 13 × 9 (117 AF points), which can be increased to a grid that is 25 x 17 if desired. Despite this, you are still well-catered regarding coverage across the frame (425 points).
Additionally, the size of the autofocus (AF) frame may be modified. There are six different sizes available, ranging from one end to 25 points, and the one you choose will depend on how accurate the focus has to be.
Fujifilm GFX 50S Performance
Because the power switch is situated around the shutter release, a simple flick to the “on” position has the camera ready to take a picture in around one second.
The GFX 50S is not a camera designed for those looking for out-and-out speed, as we have mentioned, so the tentative 3fps burst shooting speed is hardly a surprise. It is possibly fast enough to capture a subtle change of expression in a portrait if you hold the shutter down, but it is not fast enough to rattle off a burst of frames to capture anything more dynamic.
Fujifilm GFX 50S Image Quality
Here is when the GFX 50S truly comes into its own. The degree of information that can be captured with a sensor that has 51 megapixels is astounding. This is made possible by the big and densely packed sensor, which works in tandem with Fujinon lenses with exceptional sharpness levels.
That degree of detail would be astounding in and of itself, but when you throw in the width of the camera’s dynamic range, you can appreciate exactly how fantastic the sensor is.
When you bring a raw image into Lightroom that is underexposed, the amount of freedom you have to work with will blow your mind. It is not difficult to retrieve significant portions of lost material in the shadows and, if required, in the highlights, without the quality of the image being adversely affected.
The ISO performance of the GFX 50S is also quite robust, as seen by the fact that even the lowest ISO settings produce photos that are astonishingly free of noise.
At an ISO of 1600, a hint of luminance (grain-like) noise starts to show, but to perceive it, you will need to look at photographs exceptionally closely. Even when shot at an ISO of 6400, the results are still highly respectable; the luminance noise is somewhat more apparent but still very well-regulated and looks pretty natural. Although there is a slight loss in saturation, there is very little evidence of chroma (color) noise, and if it were required, we would have no problem shooting at this level of sensitivity.
Fujifilm GFX 50S Specs
|Body type||SLR-style mirrorless|
|Body material||Magnesium alloy|
|Max resolution||8256 x 6192|
|Image ratio w:h||1:1, 5:4, 4:3, 3:2|
|Effective pixels||51 megapixels|
|Sensor size||Medium format (44 x 33 mm)|
|Processor||X Processor Pro|
|Color space||sRGB, Adobe RGB|
|Color filter array||Primary color filter|
|ISO||Auto, 100-12800 (expands up to 102400)|
|Boosted ISO (maximum)||102400|
|White balance presets||7|
|Custom white balance||Yes|
|Uncompressed format||RAW + TIFF|
|JPEG quality levels||Super fine, fine, normal|
|File format||JPEG (Exif v2.3)Raw (14-bit RAF)TIFF (via Raw conversion)|
|Optics & Focus|
|Autofocus||Contrast Detect (sensor)Multi-areaCenterSelective single-pointTrackingSingleContinuousTouchFace DetectionLive View|
|Number of focus points||425|
|Lens mount||Fujifilm G|
|Focal length multiplier||0.79×|
|Screen / viewfinder|
|Viewfinder magnification||0.67× (0.85× 35mm equiv.)|
|Minimum shutter speed||360 sec|
|Maximum shutter speed||1/4000 sec|
|Maximum shutter speed (electronic)||1/16000 sec|
|Exposure modes||ProgramAperture priorityShutter priorityManual|
|External flash||Yes (via hot shoe or flash sync terminal)|
|Flash modes||Auto, standard, slow sync, manual, off|
|Flash X sync speed||1/125 sec|
|Continuous drive||3.0 fps|
|Self-timer||Yes (2 or 10 sec)|
|Exposure compensation||±5 (at 1/3 EV steps)|
|AE Bracketing||±5 (2, 3, 5, 7 frames at 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV, 2/3 EV, 1 EV, 2 EV steps)|
|Storage types||SD/SDHC/SDXC (dual slots, UHS-II supported)|
|USB||USB 3.0 (5 GBit/sec)|
|Remote control||Yes (via cable or smartphone)|
|Battery description||NP-T125 lithium-ion battery & charger|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||400|
|Weight (inc. batteries)||920 g (2.03 lb / 32.45 oz)|
|Dimensions||148 x 94 x 91 mm (5.83 x 3.7 x 3.58″)|
Fujifilm GFX 50S Verdict
If you are willing to shoot in a somewhat more systematic approach, as the Fujifilm GFX 50S requires, you will be rewarded with some spectacular pictures. However, this camera is not built for speed addicts. Speed fanatics should go elsewhere for their photography needs. The steep price tag will convince many people that they are better suited to staying with their full-frame camera, but those who want the best image quality should go for the GFX 50S.