Fujifilm’s medium format assault continues. For years there has been a discussion about what Fujifilm should do next after establishing itself in the APS-C segment with the X-series. Many people advocated for the need of a full frame line-up. I have always thought that would be a major mistake for several reasons. First, after shooting with X-series cameras and lenses and then full frame cameras, the difference in quality vs. size was barely noticeable. When you incorporate the price difference into the equation, the X-series becomes a clear winner here. Second, the full frame mirrorless segment is being ruled by Sony and they are aggressively marketing their products. Third, the recent entries from Nikon, Canon and the announcement from Panasonic makes the entire space crowded and suffocating. There is only one outcome – a price war!
Therefore, I (and many other photographers) saw the medium format market as the most logical and strategic direction for Fujifilm. Not only has this segment been waiting for a disruption but it has always been the envy of most serious photographers. Of course, for years the price of entry was way too high. With the GFX50s and now the brand new GFX50R, the price of medium format has been cut almost in half and reached a level when the fully committed pros or even serious amateurs could sell their line-up of expensive lenses, cameras and all other gear and actually enter the up to now elusive medium format world. This is a huge development!
The brand new GFX50R starts a new chapter in the medium format saga and opens the world of medium format photography to new genres such as street photography. I haven’t had a chance to work with the pre-production model but Jonas Rask and Patrick La Roque, who have their own editorial columns in the upcoming Medium Format Magazine, have published their reviews.
Also, my friend Spencer Wynn wrote his “first impressions” piece, which I am sharing below. Look for Spencer’s in-depth piece about the GFX50R in the first issue of the Medium Format Magazine on October 10th. Special pre-launch pricing is still available for a few more days.
First Impressions by Spencer Wynn
© Spencer Wynn, GFX50R
The shiny white box was a bit smaller than the original GFX box I remember, and lighter. Inside were the usual bits and pieces including cables, strap, charger and the camera body itself, which was smaller than I imagined! It lacked the bulk of the first GFX. Indeed, in my hand, it was a perfect fit!
After testing the pre-production model of the X-Pro2 for months and now owning two of them, I am very familiar with their look and feel. So when I held the GFX 50R for the first time, there was an instant familiarity. This new GFX has the same look and feel as the X-Pro2, only a little larger.
The back of the camera is pretty similar to what we are used to with Fujifilm cameras apart from the absence of the circular function/selector buttons. This reduces the buttons to only a few, still within easy reach of my thumb and my muscle-memory.
The 51.4 MP sensor is the same as its predecessor so I knew the files would be large, highly detailed and with a beautifully wide dynamic range. The earlier GFX lenses are also designed to be used with this camera. Working on GFX files is a joy because there’s so much sharpness and detail. If you need to retouch any images, then there is a ton of information with which to work.
As for going out and using the GFX 50R, it is less bulky and more discrete, no larger than your average DSLR. You can certainly use it for street photography without feeling you are lugging something obtrusive around. I did not have the new 40mm pancake lens at the time of testing, so I can only imagine that that would be a perfect lens for street photography, making the camera even smaller and lighter.
Being mirrorless, it is quiet, save for the soft sound of the shutter. When shooting in quiet situations, you won’t give yourself away as you would with a DSLR. Together with the understated styling and quiet operation, it is a great combination when you want to shoot indoors at a wedding ceremony or other occasion where discretion is required!
© Spencer Wynn, GFX50R
Wandering about at 2:30 am in a farm field with only a sliver of moonlight, the GFX is easy to operate in the dark with only a few buttons to feel for. Once my 2-minute exposure was dialled in, it was pretty quick to set up, level off and shoot again before moving on, flashlight in hand, to compose many scenes under the stars.
Returning to Toronto in the early morning, hunting for shadows and little pockets of light, the GFX was light enough to easily hold up to my eye and remain there until a cyclist or pedestrian passed through the scene. Being discrete, the camera looks to the average passerby to be nothing special. One of its greatest features is that it looks plain and not very “shouty” like a busy DSLR which may draw attention to itself.
Over the years, I have photographed in areas where larger cameras often drew unwanted attention, so having a small black box with few features is perfect for me. People won’t notice it and that’s a good thing in my opinion. What they also won’t see are the large and beautiful images that this camera creates.
I am not sure how much this camera will cost in stores, but I know it will be priced lower than the first GFX due to some of the refinements and new styling. This will put a medium format camera in the hands of a lot more people who will appreciate the larger files for creating highly detailed and rich prints for commercial and other client work where large files are needed and when enlargements will be printed.
The big question for me after spending a bit of time with the new GFX is will I purchase one? The answer is an unquestioning, hell yes! The look, feel, ease of operation and of course the files all come together to make a camera that ergonomically fits both my hand and the way I shoot.
© Spencer Wynn, GFX50R
Also make sure to check out Spencer Wynn’s incredible workshop “Horses of inner Mongolia and China’s backroads.” If my schedule allows, I will be signing up for this trip myself.
Stay tuned for imagery and stories from my recent trip to Paris.
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