Gear Reviews

GFX – My Perfect Companion. Well, Almost!

· 15.December.2017

Pixel peeping has never been my thing, however, focusing on the aesthetics, rendition and the look of the image has always been priority for me. I have used Hasselblad (CCD version of 50MP) for many years and always have been pleased with the images. From my understanding, both the Hasselblad X1D and the Pentax 645 use the same Sony sensor. This is where Fujifilm really shines. The stunning details, light quality and sharpness of the images coming from the GFX are just wonderful. So this review is not going to be based on how many megapixel etc.

I have been a long time Hasselblad user until a year ago, when I developed carpal tunnel syndrome, which as a result prompted my change over to a complete line up of Fujifilm mirrorless cameras. My only disappointment with this camera is that it’s a Medium Format crop sensor sized at 43.8mm x 32.9mm. I wish it was a full size medium sensor, but I can’t complain, especially given its price point.

With the 63mm attached, the camera was lighter and smaller than I had expected. The styling of the GFX somewhat resembles the other lineup of Fujifilm cameras, but is mostly simplistic, functional looking, and pleasing to the eye. It’s definitely not as retro or sexy as my X-Pro2, especially with its cool leather strap. But at the end of the day, do we really buy cameras that look cool or that do the job, allowing us to make wonderful art work?

The dual card slots is a must for me and I couldn’t be happier with this feature. The accessibility for the battery compartment from the side is just fantastic, as even with the battery grip on you still have access to both the grip and camera body batteries.

I want to be honest here in saying I was looking into buying the Hasselblad at the same time I was looking at the GFX. As I tested both cameras, the biggest issue I had was with the EVF on the X1D. In terms of the refresh rate, shooting in low light conditions it felt very jumpy and I noticed the effect of the rolling shutter. I don’t know if this was on the earlier version only and has since been fixed. The 3.69 mill dots OLED display EVF on the GFX however, was just incredible! With a magnification of 0.85X with crisp images and a fast refresh-rate, it’s a fantastic viewfinder. In addition, although a little bit expensive, the tilt adapter for the EVF is very useful. Autofocus points cover a big portion of the large image area and is very practical when shooting portraits and the type of subjects I photograph as I don’t need to recompose the image.

Minimalistic design gave the beautiful looks to the Hasselblad but for me failed in usability. I was forced to rely on a touchscreen for most of the functions or get used to pressing different buttons to navigate the camera menu which was definitely frustrating. Also the other big drawback for me with the X1D, was the lack of being able to quickly change a focus point. This was critical for me as I need the ability to quickly change the focus point while shooting.

This is were the GFX was very practical. The user experience was just exceptional. There are more function assignment buttons and I love the fact they left the function and custom buttons blank meaning you can assign them to your liking with shortcut options for almost all your needs. Plus the joystick is just God sent.

The user interface of the GFX falls inline with the rest of the Fujifilm cameras and I couldn’t be more pleased as it shares the shortcuts and menu with its high-end X Series siblings. I loved the organic images from the Fuji X Trans sensor, so my first questionable worry was the images coming out of this camera as GFX uses a more traditional Bayer sensor array. Rest assured that was overcome in my very first shoot, and partially that may be due to the Fuji Profile magic. From the first shoot I noticed the images coming form this larger sensor in terms of dynamic range, with better high ISO performance and clarity of fine details had great benefits. Furthermore, the shadow recovery on this camera is just mind-blowing.

As one would expect the Fuji lenses are well designed and specific to this GFX system to give the immaculate image quality. At the time of the release only three lenses were available so I bought the GF63mm f/2.8 R WR and the GF120mm f/4 R WR Macro. Both lenses are razor sharp and fast to focus. It was wonderful to keep my eye to the viewfinder and move the AF point with the joystick. With its larger size batteries, I was able to shoot for a full day with just a single change over and the addition of the grip solved that problem. As a side note I had some decent Mamiya lenses including the legendary 80mm f1.9. The images with these lenses are still nice, but no where near as the native GFX lenses.

The GFX 50S uses a contrast-detect only AF system, with a total of 425 focus points and one can pick between six different sizes of focus points. The face and eye recognition built-in is very useful for my needs and one can customize and fine-tune the focusing behaviour of the camera.

There are full-frame DSLR cameras on the market that have similar resolution and little cheaper options, so why not use these DSLRs? As I have mentioned, I’ve used Hasselblad which was full size medium format and in my humble experience it is not the resolution, but the sensor size that plays a huge role in the overall image quality. When we speak of “That Medium Format Look” – there you go I said it – Yes, Medium format does have this look where the skin texture just comes alive and the tones and texture details are just gorgeous. And this is due to larger sensors having a better handling of noise, potentially greater dynamic range, better colours rendering and producing beautiful images. Sensor size certainly does matter, and there is a difference between medium format and full-frame sensors. Why else would you buy them? To really realize this you do need to print large and you will notice a difference between these formats.

I love the fact GFX has an aspect ratio of 4:3, which is quite different in comparison the 3:2 of full frame. For me, shooting with a 4:3 aspect ratio yields pleasing results that are ideal for my type of photography. It brings me closer to my 6×7 format of my old Mamiya RB67.

During the processing of the RAW images, right off the bat the difference in performance of this sensor was incredible. The ability to recover shadow details, even at such high ISO as 3200 was very pleasing with very little noise while retaining incredible colours. The sensor on this beast demonstrated incredible dynamic range that overall exceeded the performance of any of the full-frame cameras I have been using for the past few years. This includes Sony and Canon. I usually develop my X-T2 and X-Pro2 files in Capture Pro so you could imagine my disappointment of CP not supporting the GFX. There are workarounds, but it doesn’t really fit in my workflow. So Lightroom is currently my go to RAW converter, with Provia and Classic Chrome being my favourite.

For a medium format mirrorless camera, the GFX certainly grabbed my attention, along with the attention of many other serious photographers who were interested in moving up from a full-frame system.