Out-of-focus thoughts about a new Fujifilm medium-format GFX 50S
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.
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.
* Gear-acquisition syndrome
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