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Categorized | Articles, Gear, Jason DiMichele

Gear — Fujifilm GFX 50S (full review)

Review by Jason DiMichele

Most of the new cameras being introduced these days are one of the three main sensor sizes, these being full-frame, cropped, and Micro Four Thirds. Fuji carries a line of cropped sensor mirrorless cameras, the X Series, which have a great reputation for all-around quality. Earlier this year Fujifilm made quite a bold move by skipping the 35mm full-frame sensor size and introducing the GFX 50S, a medium format mirrorless camera. This is very exciting, but does it deliver?

The Fujifilm GFX 50S ($~8,000 CAD) is a medium format mirrorless camera that incorporates a 51.4MP CMOS sensor that measures 43.8 mm x 32.9 mm. It’s built with a magnesium alloy body that is dust/weather-resistant and freeze-proof to -10 C. The dimensions are 147.5 mm (W) x 94.2 mm (H) x 91.4 mm (D), and it weighs approximately 920g with battery, memory card and EVF.

The GFX 50S sensor is about 1.7 times larger than a 35mm full-frame sensor. Technically speaking, traditional film photography medium format started with a film size of 6 x 4.5 cm. Although close, there are currently no medium format digital cameras with sensors that large. Therefore, medium format digital refers to sensor sizes significantly larger than 35mm full frame.

The GFX 50S is fully loaded with features, and some of the most notable ones include 14-stop dynamic range, dual high-speed UHS-II card slots, a detachable 3.69M dot organic EL EVF with 100 percent coverage using five lens elements, a tiltable rear 2.36 m dot LCD 3.2” touchscreen, a shutter speed up to 1/6000, a voice memo function, ISO 50-102,400, Wi-Fi, geotagging, 10 customizable function buttons, USB 3 port and a focus point selection joystick. The Fujifilm camera remote mobile application allows remote control, viewing and transferring of in-camera images. The battery life is rated at 400 shots per charge, which is more or less what I experienced. With all of the technology in current cameras, it’s important to update to the latest camera firmware, as new features are often introduced in addition to bug fixes.

The ergonomics of the GFX 50S are magic. Buttons and dials are placed in very logical locations, allowing me to operate a lot of the camera with one hand. There’s a lot of customization possible with the assignable function keys. I was surprised the body wasn’t as large or heavy as a medium format camera could be. The lenses I used during my time with the camera had an excellent lens/body balance. I truly enjoyed using the camera, being one of the best I’ve ever used.

Fujifilm has introduced the G lens mount for the new GF lenses. Fujifilm glass is second to none. There are currently six lenses ranging in focal length (35mm equivalent) from 18mm to 95mm, many of them with apertures of 2.8, all with good build quality, very sharp and quite light. However, because of the larger sensor sizes, medium format camera systems don’t have 35mm equivalent super telephoto lenses with equivalent apertures, as the lenses would be enormous, weigh a ton and cost a fortune.

The GFX 50S price of admission isn’t cheap, although it’s cheaper than one of the current flagship DSLR cameras at the time of writing. Medium format camera systems are about quality and not speed, so it’s important not to compare them to smaller sensor cameras feature-for-feature. For example, the GFX 50S uses contrast detection auto focus (up to 425 auto focus points) and up to three frames per second shooting. Although the auto focus is more than fast enough for many photographic subjects, you won’t be photographing fast moving wildlife. For outdoor photographers, the GFX 50S is best for landscape, some wildlife and abstract subjects.

Fujifilm sells a variety of accessories for the GFX 50S, including the standard vertical grip, remote release and flashes. However, there are also some pretty unique accessories available such as a stereo microphone, an H mount adaptor for using older Fujifilm medium format lenses, an EVF tilt adaptor (which I found incredibly useful) and even a view camera adaptor!

Technology and ergonomics aside, the real test of any camera is the quality of the images it produces. The GFX 50S is nothing short of spectacular. The amount of detail, dynamic range and colour accuracy is breathtaking. Whether using low or high ISO, the lack of noise was unbelievable. I’ve made many large fine art prints from the images I’ve taken with the GFX 50S and they’re just gorgeous. Before going digital, I spent years shooting medium and large format film, and I’ve never seen quality this good. Consider my mind blown!

With most products, there’s something that can be improved, but without serious nickel and diming, I found the GFX 50S to be pretty much flawless. Even with its large feature set, it always just worked, and never interfered with the creative process. It was a complete thrill to use! If the GFX 50S suits your style of photography and is within your budget, it’s a camera system you should seriously consider. It’s highly recommended for both user experience and fantastic image quality. It was disappointing to return it after the review!

To read more of this not-to-miss issue please pick up the Winter 2018 issue today online or at your local newsstand. To never miss an issue you can subscribe here

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  1. Bruce Ott says:

    Interested in a comparison with the Pentax 645Z which is significantly less expensive

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