Over the last 9 or so years I’ve been working with different camera manufacturers to give them feedback and review some of their cameras. One of these manufactures has been Fujifilm. It has been quite interesting to see Fujifilm grow over that time from someone who made kind of cool and retro looking cameras that were pretty decent to now quietly starting to dominate the APS-C market, skipping the all out war between Canon, Nikon, Sony and a few other brands over the full-frame / 35mm market.

In May last year I was approached by Fujifilm to run a giveaway of their new entry level camera the X-T100, they also wanted to offer me a few different loan cameras. Late September came around and they offered me an extended loan of their mirrorless medium format camera the Fujifilm GFX50S, a 51 megapixel beast of a camera. I jumped at the chance to shoot with a medium format camera.

A medium format camera has a larger sensor size than what “regular” cameras use, in this case the GFX-50S sensor (43.8×32.9mm) is 167% larger than the size of a full-frame sensor (36x24mm). Generally speaking a larger sensor means larger pixels and a larger overall pixel count, with larger pixels, more light is recorded.

Fujifilm sent me the Fujifilm GFX50S with the battery grip, some spare batteries, a charger and 3 lenses: the wide angle GF23mm F4 R, the all rounder GF32-64mm F4 and the huge telephoto lens, the GF250mm F4 to try out for close to two months. I wasn’t paid to review it, instead Fujifilm said just use it, let us and your blog readers know what you think. I don’t do paid reviews as I’d rather approach them in an independent and unbiased way.

The camera gear arrived in mid-October last year, just as I was about to start several commercial photography projects for The Amazing South Coast, a regional tourism organisation on the South Coast of Western Australia. I decided to take the Fujifilm gear with me along side my usual Canon DSLR, it would be an interesting comparison to see how a 51 megapixel photo from the Fujifilm medium format would compare to the 50 megapixel photos from the Canon 5DS I was using, as well as seeing if the Fujifilm would stand the rigours of outdoor commercial photography.

I’ve been using the Canon 5D mark 3 and the Canon 5DS as my main cameras for the last few years (the 5D3 since 2013) and they are solid work horses, they have been very reliable and tough, I certainly put them through their paces. The first thing you notice about the Fujifilm GFX 50S is the size, it is a bit bigger than your standard DSLR, yet not as big as you would think for a medium format camera.

I’ve previously used other medium format digital cameras and they are incredibly bulky and just not something I would use in my regular travel photography. The 50S with the battery grip, 250mm lens and lens hood wasn’t all that much bigger than my 5DS with the 70-200mm on it (sans-hood as I can’t currently find it, I was in the middle of moving house at the time).

I’ve used many mirrorless cameras over the last few years, at one point I owned a Sony A7R and one of the major complaints I’ve had is that they just feel too small in my hands. I’ve got fairly large hands and some of the Sony (and Fujifilm X-series for that matter) mirrorless cameras just feel like toys in my hands. Probably not a major complaint, but when you pretty much live with a camera in your hands, it is important that it feels right. The GFX-50S is one of the most comfortable cameras to have in my hands.

With the battery grip the 50S felt perfect, all the buttons were with in easy reach and placed fairly intuitively, there wasn’t all that much hunting through the menus to change most settings as they are nearly all on knobs or buttons on the camera. I’d ideally change the location of the “Q” button though as I constantly bumped it, with it being on the grip, I somehow managed to constantly change the focus point with the directional joystick as well.

My first proper outing with the GFX 50S was to my local jetty, Busselton Jetty for a sunrise shoot. I wanted to test it out with a scene that has a huge variation in light, from super bright to quite dark. The shoot went quite well, I used my Formatt Hitech graduated filters on the front to tame the bright sky and I came away with some images that I was super happy with straight away!

I got home and pulled the files straight into my preferred processing software, Adobe Lightroom. Fujifilm recommend using CaptureOne to process their RAW files, but I’m unable to justify the expense of CaptureOne at this point in time and I’m already invested in the Adobe Creative Suite, using several of their products on a daily basis. Eventually I will purchase and learn CaptureOne properly, but for now Lightroom is doing a pretty awesome job.

The unprocessed RAW files (RAF actually) are approximately 115 megabytes in size, so you’ll need some decent storage capacity if you are going to use this camera. My Canon 5DS files vary between 65 and 85 megabytes each, so there is definitely more data in the unprocessed files. If you are converting these files to .TIFF you’ll find they are approximately 3-350Mb each or about 50 Megabytes each in a full resolution jpeg. I used two 128GB CF cards in the camera and it still filled them up fairly quickly.

The medium format sensor has approximately 14 stops of light gathering range vs approximately 12 stops on my Canon, this means that there was far more latitude for recovering highlights and lifting detail out of shadows. This flexibility took me a little while to get accustomed to, as much of what I photograph is in bracketed sets to extend the dynamic range of my images.

Over October, November and December I worked on projects right across the Southern Coast of Western Australia, exploring nearly every bit of coastline and sandy track that I could! At the start of the first project I was using the Fujifilm a little sparingly as I wasn’t immediately confident with it but by the last project I was barely touching my Canon camera. I photograph quite a few 360 degree photos with my DSLR equipment and at this stage I wouldn’t be able to do that easily with the Fujifilm.

Over the two months I used the Fujifilm GFX-50S I became quite “attached” to it, it always takes you a little while to become accustomed to any new camera, but the up take with the GFX was very quick.

Some of what I do is photographing large panoramic images and photo libraries for tourism boards and companies that require outdoor and adventure style photography. I found the GFX actually made my job easier as there was less bracketing involved. For panoramic images, I still tend to photograph multiple images and stitch together, although with the 51 megapixel images you have got quite a bit of room to crop them to panoramic ration rather stitching multiple images. I photographed and stitched some huge panoramic images and the detail in them is just incredible.

For the two months the GFX-50S did not put a foot wrong, I found it to be incredible, I mostly used it for landscapes, cityscapes and outdoor photography requiring great depth of field. The lenses that came with the GFX worked perfectly in that regard. The extra battery life provided by having the battery grip was absolutely essential as I was camping with minimal power for the most part, so couldn’t readily recharge the batteries… which leads to one of my few other complaints.

This camera *needs* the ability to be charged via USB, I carried a power inverter in my 4x4, so I ran the battery charger while I was driving during the day, but it would be so much easier if I could have just plugged the camera in directly to one of the many USB charging ports I’ve installed in my car. To be fair, my Canon DSLR can not charge like this, but I regularly get 2500+ photos out of a single charge as the DSLR has a mirror and isn’t running an electronic viewfinder.

Lenses

As I mentioned before, Fujifilm sent me the 23mm, 32-64mm and the 250mm lenses

The 23mm was, by far, my favourite lens to work with. I mostly photograph wide scenes, so my go to lens on my Canon is either my ultra-wide 11-24mm lens or the 16-35mm lens. At 23mm with the larger sensor it is roughly the equivalent to 18mm wide on a full-frame sensor. I’ve been told that the aperture is closer to being f3 on a full-frame as well, I’m not quite sure how that works, I’m assuming that has more to do with the depth of field than anything else though. This lens is very sharp and clean, I used it for a photo shoot with Nick “The Honey Badger” Cummins and Scotty Connell from Kimberley Spirit in Hamelin Bay, Western Australia, the resulting images were perfect.

Out of the three lenses the 32-64mm probably got the least amount of use, mostly because of the type of photography I was doing at the time, but it was a good all rounder lens, I mostly used it for the larger stitched panoramic images.
The 250mm lens was perfect for some of the wildlife photos I took, as well as being able to be used for some of the bigger stitched panoramic images I captured. This lens would be the one I’d most likely leave at home if travelling though as it is quite massive and heavy, it was fine in my camera bag, but I’m not sure how kindly airlines would take to it going in my carry on luggage.
At the end of the two months I really did not want to hand this camera back, it is the first time I’ve reviewed a camera where I’ve thought to myself “I *need* this camera”. The combination of the incredible lenses and next level image quality from the sensor are just beyond what I’ve experienced in such a pleasing to use body. I also had the Fujifilm GFX-50R for two weeks. The Fujifilm GFX-50R is a range finder style body with the same sensor as the 50S in it, I’ll post a review of that soon. 

I wrote an email to Fujifilm Australia with a very brief summary of my thoughts, I also said that I didn’t want to write an incomplete review, that I wanted to push this camera further to see if it is actually as good as I thought. I asked them if they would send me the camera again for a humanitarian trip I was leading with The Giving Lens to Cambodia, they readily agreed and offered to send me the same body, but different lenses. 

Rather than make this the longest blog post and review that I’ve ever written, I’ve decided to break this into two parts. The next post will be about the same body, but with the other lenses and talking about it from a street and travel point of view, rather than a landscape and outdoor point of view. I’ll also have a summary of my views and experience with the GFX-50S 

In the mean time here is a gallery of images I’ve photographed with the Fujifilm GFX-50S, if you click on the images they’ll go to full view and the captions will have the settings used for each image. 

Thanks for reading, feel free to drop any comments or questions you may have below, I’ll answer as many as I can!

Part 2 is here: https://paulpichugin.com/201905/fujifilm-gfx-50s-in-cambodia/

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