For most photographers, digital medium format cameras have been completely out of reach. With setups costing between $20,000-$50,000 its easy to see why. The Pentax 645z was the first camera to break into the sub $10,000 medium format territory and now we have another option, the mirrorless Fujifilm GFX-50S.
In our other blog post on the GFX-50S we covered the basics of what that camera offers. Here we’ll look at how this camera stacks up against a traditional digital medium format system. Specifically a Hasselblad H5X / Leaf Credo 60MP back. Just keep in mind this isn't an apples to apples comparison since these cameras use vastly different sensors. The Fuji GFX-50S shares its sensor with the Phase One IQ350, Hasselblad H6D-50c, Hasselblad X1D, and Pentax 645z. Our goal today is to look at how the Fujifilm GFX-50S opens up medium format photography to a wide range of shooters through its smaller form factor and price.
To help us with the comparison, we worked with our friend Douglas Levy. Doug was kind enough to supply his personal H5X/Leaf setup. He shoots a mixture of corporate, editorial and wedding work with both Medium Format & DSLR cameras. It was great getting to watch him simply use the GFX-50S to see how its layout and features worked in comparison to a full blown medium format setup. Here’s what we observed during a full day of testing the cameras side by side.
Behind the Scenes | Fuji GFX-50S w/GF 120mm f/4 Macro | f/11 | 1/100 sec | ISO 100
Before we even started shooting, the most obvious difference is size and weight. The GFX-50S’s mirrorless design gives it a weight distinct advantage here. Even with the large 120mm Macro on the Fuji it still weighed less than the Hasselblad with a 80mm lens.
The other striking difference between the two cameras was the menu systems. There is so much more you can configure with the GFX-50S. Its feels much more like a DSLR than the H5X and Leaf back. It’s very similar to the Pentax 645z in that way.
The Fuji also has a clear advantage in the autofocus customizeability department. The Hasselblad H5X is pretty much a focus and recompose setup with the "true focus" feature. The Fuji offers 117 variable focus points and a variety of contrast detect AF modes including face tracking.
The Fuji GFX-50S has Wi-Fi and the ability to create a JPEG or TIFF file in camera--this is something that a DSLR shooter will appreciate if they are making the switch because most digital backs are RAW file only machines. Meanwhile, there is Wi-Fi in the Leaf back, but it relies on a computer and software like Capture One to be present to do wireless image transfer or remote control. That’s great in the studio, but not super convenient in the field.
The Fujifilm GFX-50S uses the “Fujifilm Camera Remote” app for iOS and Android to make wireless image transfer easy. The app offers wireless control. Doug found this feature really exciting because it makes posting to social media while on the job or at play possible. The workflow for this with a traditional medium format camera is non-existent.
Our first shoot of the day was with our friend and fellow photographer Emily who stepped in for a quick color test. Here is a quick edit of both cameras from Lightroom. Granted its not perfect comparison due Lightroom not having the Leaf profiles and Capture One not supporting the Fuji.
These two images were as close of a match color wise as I could get them in Lightroom. Feel free to download the Raw files via the link below and check them out in your editor of choice. Both delivered plenty of detail and great dynamic range.
Fujifilm GFX-50S - Left (RAW File Download) | Leaf Credo 60 - Right (RAW File Download)
Portrait | Fuji GFX-50S w/GF 120mm f/4 Macro | f/11 | 1/100 sec | ISO 100 | - (RAW File Download)
Our second shoot consisted of some basic one-light head shots and some office lifestyle images in Boston. Because we were taking both systems on location, we opted for the Profoto B1 to simplify our lighting setup and keep things light. This was a conscious trade-off because we knew we’d need to use the B1 near full power to get the smaller apertures needed for sufficient depth of field.
At base ISO, we ended up with an exposure in the f/10-f/11 range for both cameras. We brought an extra battery which made it a workable solution.
Fabric detail (no sharpening) | Fujifilm GFX-50S w/GF 120mm f/4 Macro | f/10 | 1/125 sec | ISO 100
Lighting Setup | Fujifilm GFX-50S w/GF 120mm f/4 Macro | f/4 | 1/160 sec | ISO 3200
Office Pug | Fujifilm GFX-50S w/GF 120mm f/4 Macro | f/13 | 1/100 sec | ISO 100
Working with lower output strobes is where the high ISO performance of the GFX-50S sensor gives you more options than the Credo 60. With the Leaf sensor, you need to shoot near the base ISO to avoid noise. By bumping the Fuji up to 800-1600 ISO you can get away with using far less power on your strobes for bigger setups.
With the Credo 60, basically any work you do indoors needs to be lit. In contrast, the Fuji's high ISO performance means you can work available light when the situation calls for it like in the shots below.
Availible Light Portrait | Fujifilm GFX-50S w/GF 32-64mm f/4 | f/4 | 1/200 sec | ISO 2000
IN THE KITCHEN
Our final shoot of the day was for a private chef. We wanted to test the macro capabilities of the 120mm GF lens. If there is a shoot where these two cameras seemed most closely matched it was this lit table top setup. Both were shot at 50 ISO and f/11.
The Leaf Credo was using the Hasselblad HC Macro 120mm f/4 while the Fujifilm GFX-50S had the GF 120mm f/4 Macro. Pricing wise, the Hassy lens is $5700 while the Fuji comes in at $2700. You could buy the Fuji 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR zoom and still have money left over with that price difference.
Both cameras did exceptionally well in this setup as seen below.
Fujifilm GFX-50S w/GF 120mm f/4 Macro | f/11 | 1/125 sec | ISO 50
Fujifilm GFX-50S w/GF 120mm f/4 Macro | f/11 | 1/125 sec | ISO 50
Hasselblad H5X w/Leaf Credo 60 | 120mm f/4 Macro | f/11 | 1/350 sec | ISO 100
Fujifilm GFX-50S w/GF 120mm f/4 Macro | f/11 | 1/125 sec | ISO 100
In conclusion, this new Fuji will certainly open the medium format door for some photographers who couldn't quite stomach the typical price range of medium format digital backs--and in addition there are some really fun aspects that the Fuji brings to the table. The low light functionality, it's smaller and lighter form factor, and the ability to share images socially while on the job are some of my favorite perks. If this came at a huge deficit image wise I might look past it, but it was able to stand up for itself in detail/color/quality.
Are you thinking of giving medium format a try for your next big trip or shoot? Give the Fujifilm GFX-50S a try and let us know what you think about this new camera when you rent it!