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Mar 15, 2017 // 4:57 PM

Fujifilm GFX-50S: Hands-on

Written by Mike Duval

Fujifilm has been a leader in mirrorless camera performance and functionality over the last several years with cameras like the X-Pro2, X-T2, and XE-2S. The Fuji mirrorless system has grown to a wide range of cameras and lenses that span many user’s needs across nearly every type of photography.

This is why we’re excited to be carrying the Fujifilm GFX-50S. At its heart, it's a 51.4 Megapixel, medium format camera without the size and expense of traditional medium format systems. The GFX-50S will open up the benefits of medium format sensors to shooters who wouldn’t traditionally consider them due to their size and expense.

The Sensor 

The most obvious place to start with the GFX-50s is with the 51.4 Megapixel Medium format sensor. While not a full 645 size, it clocks in at 43.8 x 32.9mm. This works out to a crop factor of .79x, making the standard Fujifilm GF 63mm f/2.8 R WR act like a 50mm lens. Compared to a 35mm DSLR, you get a sensor that's roughly 1.7x larger with a 4:3 aspect ratio. This gives you a more square aspect image compared to 35mm as well. Another cool feature is that the cover glass that protects the sensor is 9mm higher than the sensor itself. This makes the visibility of sensor dust almost non-existent.

Fujifilm GFX-50S Camera Body Sensor-1001.jpg

Aside from the size & resolution, there is actually good performance at high ISOs compared to most medium format backs. Traditional digital medium format cameras start struggling with noise in the 200-400 ISO range. The Fuji GFX-50S is completely comfortable shooting at ISO 1600-3200 and ISO 6400 looks great too! This flexibility allows you to use available light in situations where you would have had to break out high powered strobes. 

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1:1 view of the image to the left | 1/100 sec | f/11 | ISO 100 | GF 120MM f/4 R LM OIS WR Macro

Image wise, the sensor captures images in 14-Bit color with 14 stops of dynamic range. This makes the files very responsive to post- processing— in other words, they maintain smooth color gradations and lots of shadow detail. Basically, the GFX-50s will allow you to capture more of your scene and push it further in post. If that weren't enough, you also get the benefits of Fujifilm color science. You can choose a custom image profile that matches the most famous Fuji film stocks, just like in their other cameras.

Fujifilm GFX-50S - Emily Color Chart-1001.jpg

Color Checker Chart | 1/100 sec | f/4.5 | ISO 50 | GF 120MM f/4 R LM OIS WR Macro

The only real downside from a traditional medium format setup is the absence of leaf shutters on the Fuji GF lenses. Leaf shutters offer much higher flash sync speeds than focal plane shutter in the GFX-50S. Because of the size of the sensor, the camera can only sync at 1/125 sec. This decision was obviously made with cost savings in mind as leaf shutters must be built into each lens, vastly increasing complexity and cost. Thankfully, a good set of 77mm ND filters will help mitigate this slight handicap of the camera.

The EVF & LCD

The mirrorless design of the GFX-50S gives us a number of unique features. The first of which is the electronic viewfinder. The EVF is a high-resolution 3.69 million dot display, the best we’ve seen out of a mirrorless camera so far. The image you see through the viewfinder is very responsive and runs at a nearly 60 fps refresh rate. If you’re accustomed to mirrorless cameras already, you’ll feel right at home. If you only have optical viewfinder experience, it can take a bit of getting used to. That said, this is the best photography EVF we’ve seen.

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The 3.69M dot electronic viewfinder is one of the best we've seen on a stills camera to date.

One of the reasons we like this EVF so much is that the viewfinder image is nice and big at 0.85x magnification. This gives you lots of areas to survey and plenty of room for exposure indicators/histograms etc. The only downside of this is if you wear glasses.  Because of the high magnification, you may experience vignetting looking through the viewfinder. You really need your eye right against the eyepiece to see edge to edge. Thankfully there is a -4M to +2M diopter built in so most shooters can ditch their glasses while shooting. 

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 The touch screen LCD tilts up, down and sideways to make low angle live view shooting easier.

To us, the biggest benefit of the mirrorless design of GFX-50S is the body/lens size. You are getting the image quality benefits of medium format in what is essentially a DSLR-sized body. This was the major issue we had with the Pentax 645z. That camera delivered on image quality but it didn’t shed any size or weight compared to traditional medium format systems. The mirrorless form factor makes the GFX-50S so much more manageable. 

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Size comparison of the Fujifilm GFX-50S (left) vs. Pentax 645z (right) - Body only

Focusing

This is another area where the GFX-50S shines over some of the traditional digital medium format systems. The mirrorless design gets you a host of options for managing auto focus. The GFX-50S employs a 117-point TTL contrast-detection AF system with face/eye detection and lots of options for customization. The rear LCD can be used for touch activated focus operation or to move the active AF point. The GFX-50S also has the dedicated mini AF selection joystick from the XT-2 which you analog AF point selection. Granted, none of the lenses exhibit what a DSLR shooter would consider “blazing” fast AF speed, but for the typical subjects the GFX-50S is likely to encounter, the AF gets the job done just fine.

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One interesting thing to note is that during manual focus, the lenses are focus by wire. This means there is no mechanical connection to the focusing elements of the lenses. You do lose that satisfying manual focus feel but you gain a host of benefits to compensate. When in Manual focus mode, you get a virtual depth of field scale that will dynamically expand with your chosen aperture to show you what you can expect to be in focus. If you’re a more visual person, you can use the live view zoom or focus peaking feature which is customizable in a variety of colors.

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The virtual depth of field scale adjusts based on lens & camera settings. 

Ergonomics

There’s no question, the Fujifilm GFX-50S grip feels good in your hand. There is a nice deep channel up front and a prominent ridge on the back to rest your thumb. During shooting the body feels nicely balanced. There are locking manual control dials for ISO and shutter speed on the body, and lenses have aperture selection rings. If you are already shooting a mirrorless Fuji camera, you’ll feel right at home. If you’re coming from a DSLR, you can set the GFX-50S dials to the C/T modes and you can make aperture/shutter speed/ISO adjustments via the front and rear control wheels.

C&T-Dials-Banner.jpg

This isn’t to say the layout of the GFX-50S is perfect. Personally I found the control wheels a bit small & cramped. It was hard trying to make large adjustments with the rear control wheel as your thumb hits the grip ridge.

The only other hiccup I had was with the placement of the image playback & delete buttons. I’ve got no idea who thought placing them on the top righthand edge of the LCD was a good idea. Here’s the problem, if you’re shooting handheld, it's very difficult to reach that playback button to review your images without compromising your grip on the camera. Adding insult to injury, when you bring your left hand around to press the playback button, you end up triggering the eye sensor which shuts off the rear LCD.  Add the slight lag in accessing these huge files and you'd think the camera is losing its mind. 

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The eye sensor can be frustrating during image review due to button placement.

Are either of these deal breakers? No way! Thankfully Fujifilm went to great lengths to make the button functions as customizable as possible. Just take a look at the button configuration screen. You can set the functionality of 9 different buttons plus the rear control wheel to suit your needs. This allowed me to map the playback button to a better position for me to reach with my thumb, avoiding the eye sensor of the EVF. 

Fujifilm GFX-50S Camera Body Details-1004.jpg

The Lenses

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Of course, a camera system is only as good as its lenses. Thankfully, Fujifilm has launched the GFX-50S with 3 lenses designed for the GF mount:

GF 63mm f/2.8 R WR

GF 120mm f/4 Macro R LM OIS

GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR

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Fujifilm also announced three additional lenses planned for release later in 2017:

GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR

GF 23mm f/4 R LM WR

GF 110mm f/2 R LM WR

During my testing, I spent most of my time shooting with the 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR and the 120mm f/4 R LM OIS WR Macro. Both are exceptionally sharp and perform well wide open. I liked the versatility of the 32-64mm for composing landscapes and the 120mm acted as the portrait/macro lens. The 63mm f/2.8 also makes a great purist’s lens with its 50mm equivalent field of view. Right from the start, these three lenses will suit a vast majority of the typical shooters of this camera. Personally, I’m very excited for the 23mm which will be phenomenal for dramatic landscapes and interiors.

Conclusion

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Lower Falls - Albany, NH | 1 sec | f/32 | ISO 50 | GF 32-64MM f/4 R LM WR @32MM

Overall, we’ve been really impressed with the Fujifilm GFX-50S so far. It represents a step up in resolution for mirrorless cameras. We're excited to put it up against the Sony A7rII to see what the extra resolution and larger sensor can do.

Althouth the GFX-50S has some ergonomic minor quirks, image quality is superb. The flexibility of the 51.4MP sensor, the mirrorless form factor and weather sealing, makes this camera ideal for the adventurous landscape shooter. We think this will be the perfect rental for those who want the best possible image quality without sacrificing portability and convenience.  If its a once in a lifetime shooting opportunity, would you want to compromise?

Topics: Photography


Interested in renting gear mentioned in this post?

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Fuji GFX 50S
Fuji GF 63
Fuji GF 32-64
Fuji 120 Macro lens
Pentax 645Z
Pentax 55 f/2.8
Pentax 28-45
Pentax 90 Macro