Out-of-focus thoughts about a new Fujifilm medium-format GFX 50S

Processed with Snapseed.

I decided to join the “hands-on” craze – from Vancouver!

I should have seen it coming. After all, we knew Fujifilm has been working on it for years (thanks to Zack Arias for pushing for it and Patrick of Fujirumors for such a great job providing us with all the pieces). And we knew it would be announced at this year’s Photokina. Despite these clues, titbits and mental preparation, it still hit me hard. In fact even the day after I still feel dizzy, sapped and out-of-focus – typical side effects of a G.A.S.* attack.

Today, I can gather my thoughts and I am finally able to hit the right keys on my keyboard. So here is my rant.

I am glad Fujifilm didn’t jump into the crowded and mostly boring full-frame (FF) market. Each time I visit my local photo store I see pricing wars on the full-frame cameras eating into already thin margins.

Over the last few years I have tried out different full-frame cameras and found the margin of difference in image quality between FF and the X-series line is so thin, if any in some cases, that I had zero interest in buying into the FF market. I am not even mentioning the fun factor while shooting with the X-Pro2 in comparison to the boring and uninspiring DSLR-me-too from Canikon.

In the meantime, the medium-format market was wide open for disruption. Pricing from Leica or Hasselblad has been sky-high (or as I like to view it – the pricing was right – it was just me that couldn’t afford it!).

Pentax’s attempts to disrupt the medium-format market failed miserably for two reasons: (1) they failed in design and, most importantly, (2) they didn’t or couldn’t deliver adequate glass to match the resolving power of the sensor.

That brings us back to Fujifilm. While we are all excited about the new GFX 50S medium-format camera, its appeal and success will depend on its lenses. The medium format’s sensor puts so much demand on lenses that there is no room for imperfection (it’s already a problem with the Nikon D810). The resolving power of the sensor requires almost perfect glass, which is not easy or cheap to deliver. Fujifilm said that their GF lenses were designed with a 100MP sensor in mind so I assume they will deliver on this front (after all Fujifilm produced lenses for Hasselblad). Also, with six lenses available in the first year, including a rare (and difficult to design and make) wide-angle, for many people this may well be the sealed deal.   

The second factor is the mechanics of the camera. The key reason why we shoot with the X-series line is its photographer-friendly design. Many photographers feel connected to their X-Pros1/2, X-T1/2 in a way they couldn’t with other cameras. Let’s see if this new camera also fits into this “fun” category.

The third factor is the price. Given the Leicas and Hasselblads of this world, the suggested price tag for the new Fujifilm sounds promising. For those who go after the ultimate image quality, top SLRs along with a couple of top-notch lenses (Zeiss Otus line) would approach the price of a new GFX 50S camera plus one or two lenses – and that in itself is a huge temptation.

However, there is more. Please remember that Fujifilm usually starts with perceived-to-be premium pricing (X-series) and then offers discounts to get people in. Eventually such discounts will arrive for the GFX 50S camera and lenses. This is when the full-frame crowd will start getting curious and itchy.

Finally, I wouldn’t be surprised if Sony, and others, jumped on the bandwagon and put further pressure on the pricing. While I am not a big fan of Sony’s design choices (I find their cameras generic and cell-phone like) I commend them for trying new things.

In short:

I give kudos to Fujifilm for not being afraid to step into the medium-format market. While at the start some people may put their medium-format aspirations on hold due to out-of-reach pricing, in time I see professionals as well as dedicated semi-professionals jumping ship from top-of-the-line full frame to a medium format. 

For those of you displeased and offended by this gear-manic post, I assure you that this episode of G.A.S. is almost over. I have taken some TUMS and I should be fine soon. To ease your concerns about my wellbeing, I would like to share with you a few images from our ongoing project R-A-I-N, all shot with the X-Pro2. 

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osztaba_street_van_20160917__dsf9213-edit

osztaba_street_van_20160917__dsf9208-edit

osztaba_street_van_20160917__dsf9189-edit

 * Gear-acquisition syndrome    

 

 

2016 © Kasia & Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.

18 thoughts on “Out-of-focus thoughts about a new Fujifilm medium-format GFX 50S

  1. Fully agree on the design aspect: since I started using Fuji with the X100s a few years back, I can’t even start to consider any camera that hasn’t an aperture ting and SS dial… it’s so natural that it seems completely crazy that so few cameras propose them!!
    On the MF aspect, I am so far away from that level of photography that I won’t comment…

  2. I disagree with you. To my mind Fuji should join to FF market. It is really good idea. I love Fuji cameras but I hate Fuji’s propaganda. They are very clever but they don’t say the truth. They insisted that their APS-C sensors are as good as FF sensors or even medium format (🙂 they are sometimes crazy). Finally they created medium formt camera. What for ? I would buy Fuji X-100F Full Frame plus Fujinon 35/2.0 (XT-2 AF system plus fast motor) – sounds excellent :)))))).

    All the best,

    Jarek

  3. Prelude: I own 3 Fujis (X-E1, X-T10 and X-PRO2) and have owned most all of the XF lenses.

    Agree and am glad that Fuji entered the Medium Format market which needs another player. I thought very, very seriously about dabbling with a Mamiya Series 6 camera and film earlier in the year… and even the old Fuji MF cameras. At the time I passed on that option as an amateur as just too much diversion, diffusion and distraction of concentration needed to push “my photography” through to a new level and instead went the adapted lens / manual focus route.

    As a negative however, my view is that Fuji’s desire for higher quality adversely affected their lens strategy as their lenses got bigger and bigger – before reversing course in the smaller F2 35mm and now 23mm. I see Fuji’s XF strategy as bifurcated and losing direction – until this announcement. Panasonic has filled in the smaller mirrorless MFT quite nicely and to push for High Quality (see Scott Bourne’s high profile defection from Fuji), I think that Fuji frankly had to go bigger to deliver the punch they wanted. Now that they have, perhaps the XF line will renew it’s emphasis in delivering quality in a smaller package. The X-PRO2 with the 16-55mm, 50-140mm and 100-400mm lenses are easily larger than many competing Full Frame packages with similar system lenses – when you look at the lens-camera combination together. So MF could free Fuji to make the XF line better, deeper and more appealing if they can figure its market better by specializing each.

    As for me, I’m moving on to FF mirrorless with IBIS to better shoot the smaller, “better” (for me, my taste and style of shooting) Zeiss lenses with manual focus engineered in a way I’ve come to prefer.

    • James,

      I appreciate your perspective.

      Regarding the Medium Format – I think this is a great move by Fuji – the FF space is overcrowded and mostly “boring.” Also the margin of difference between FF and the X-series line is almost non-existent.
      Regarding Fuji’s XF lenses – I strongly disagree with your assessment – 3 zoom lenses you mentioned were added to ‘complete’ a very impressive prime lens lineup and satisfy a certain segment of the market. Most X-photographers I know shoot primes only, which almost all of them, are superb optically, fast and very compact. I personally shoot most of my work with the XF 35mm F1.4 (very light and compact), the XF 14mm F2.8 (light and compact) and the XF 56mm F1.2 (light and relatively compact). Occasionally when I travel by car I take the XF 50-140mm zoom with me (yes, it is heavy!). I cannot imagine that any photographer could have a problem with finding the lens/lenses for his purpose among the XF line. And there is the X100S//T – the best solution of them all. In fact, this is the camera that is always with me. If I had to choose only one camera/lens, that would be it (I try many cameras every year and I still don’t see a viable competitor for the X100S/T/).

      Having said that, I am glad you found the solution that suites your needs. After all, this is all about creating stunning imagery with tools that work for YOU and are “better” for YOU.

      Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

      • Just so we’re clear: Fuji is a love affair… and I have loved it, but Sony is a practical matter, workable to facilitate a greater love of a particular family of lenses – Zeiss, where it’s the subtleties in handling and intangibles in image color and contrast that appeal. If Fuji had chosen IBIS… I doubt I’d ever felt compelled to look elsewhere. JPEGs from Fuji…. give you creative choices others don’t. And I’m with you on FF arguments in terms of image quality in practical terms; engineering doesn’t work that way, but print your image, you see none of the issues the FF junkies claim. And yes, some of my best images came from the 50-140mm. As a prime shooter almost exclusively now, I think the clutch versions of the XF 16mm and 23mm are Fuji’s best – everything I like in a lens! But take that as criticism if you will, it’s more a matter of preference, and it’s one made with great reluctance, a degree of remorse, and at some pain. Yet there are engineering decisions that differ as well in construction, and Fuji’s choices optimize particular choices consistent with their priorities that won’t work in every case for everyone. Sic Transit, Gloria Mundi!

  4. @olafphoto I disagree with you. With the X series, Fuji has appealed to many pro photographers as it really is a camera designed by people who love photos, not just engineers. So many pro photographers now have a very emotional link to this brand and use those cameras for personal and professional work. However, for some very demanding professional projects, typically in advertising or fashion, the excellent IQ of the X series is not enough. That’s where the GFX comes in… Being able to work in your studio and on demanding projects with this beast and switch to the X-series for reportage, street-photos or wedding is a killer combination for photographers.

      • My questions about the suitability of this body for studio work centered around the slow sync speed and the lack of a leaf shutter. Rico Pfirstinger has stated in his coverage (after my post) that third party adapters will allow the use of leaf shutter lenses and that some form of HSS will be available. At the press conference it was claimed that tethering support from day one from multiple third party software vendors will be available. We will see how this all shakes out. Third party support and HSS have been a weak points for the x series. Personally I can’t justify the investment on a 1.0 product at launch but I’m anxious to see how the camera evolves.

  5. Interesting times indeed. $10K for camera and lens is being bandied about as the price point. This is beyond the reach of all but the most well healed hobbyists. As a pro studio camera the lack of a leaf shutter and the slow 125 sync speed will hold back its adaption. Though Fuji claims this is an all new sensor it certainly seems very similar to the sony sensor in the new ‘Blad. A great part of Fuji’s success can be attributed to the size of the x-series cameras, at 800 grams for the body only plus the larger glass this isn’t going to be something you will want to carry around casually. I hope Fuji is successful and the proof will be in the pudding IQ wise, but it seems they have missed the target if they are going after.

    • You are right – for now the system is out of reach for most amateurs. However, it may change in the future as more companies enter the market. Let’s wait and see. Cannot wait for an opportunity to test this new camera.

      I appreciate your perspective,

      Olaf

  6. First off, I love these R-A-I-N images. Really like this series. Secondly I agree with pretty much all of your thoughts about the GFX50 including having a serious case of G.A.S. over this. I’ve been good keeping my GAS in check. I am sticking with my XT1 for now but this has unsettled my will power temporarily even though its not available yet. Great thoughts and images as always.

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