It was 1982 and I was 14 at the time. What a year that was. Take-off of Space Shuttle Columbia left us speechless. Duran Duran and Depeche Mode and crazy hair rocked the pop charts. Home computers became reality and slowly made their ways into the living rooms of many households.The craze of home computing did not spare me either and I managed to persuade my father to buy me Sinclair ZX Spectrum. It changed my life entirely. I was absolutely hooked on sci-fi and horror movies and 1982 was one amazing year for the fans of the genre; Disney released ‘Tron’ that year. It was first movie ever to use CGI enhanced effects and the story was all about the mankind’s fascination with computers laced with fear of unknown future they would bring. Then there was E.T. Star Trek II. The Thing. Poltergeist.
But there was one movie that year that set my imagination ablaze more than any. It was Ridley Scott’s ‘Blade Runner’ and it was set in Los Angeles in the year of 2019. It was the boldest, bleakest vision of the future ever put to screen. I’d like to talk about a one scene which got etched into my memory more than any other in which Deckard (Harrison Ford) operated the ‘Esper Machine’. The scene is popularly known as ‘Enhance’. The Esper Machine enabled Deckard to investigate crime by zooming into a photograph with almost infinite power, navigate around it and the image just kept on producing new details. It was fantastically envisioned piece of futuristic technology and it blew my mind.
Fast forward 15 years into 1997; I bought my first digital camera. It was Sony Mavica MVC-FD5 and it stored the images directly onto the built-in floppy disk drive. I thought it was the coolest gadget I’ve seen since ‘Esper Machine’, until I’ve seen the images this camera produced on my computer monitor. They were whopping 640×480 pixels. At that point I realized that the “Enhance” moment may still be some time away.
It’s 2019, and we’re officially in the future. We still don’t have the flying cars, or the ‘Replicants’ that look, walk and talk just like us. Still no colonies off the shoulder of Orion and our cities look at lot better than the gloomy Los Angeles did in the movie. But we have the smartphones, computers and flat TV panels which look far better than any piece of technology featured in the Blade Runner.
What we also have in 2019 is Fujifilm’s GFX 100 and in my opinion, this camera wipes the floor with the ‘Esper Machine’!
GFX 100. The Form and New Features
First impression is the most important one. For me, GFX 100 was an instant love. The body had just the right weight and size in my large hands. With GF32-64mm lens, the balance was perfect. I loved the minimal, uncluttered look with plenty of plain, clean surfaces and well thought out layout of buttons an dials. The old school ISO/Mode knobs are gone and replaced with contemporary, virtual ones. I think Fujifilm made the right call with the way GFX 100 looks; this is a breakthrough camera. It needs to become a new benchmark of superior, next-gen technical specifications with a matching, fresh looking design. The body is made entirely out of Magnesium and I believe it’s the first camera where even the ports are fit directly into Magnesium shell. The finishes feel premium with a very good hand grip texture.
Integrated vertical grip is welcome though not as comfortable as some chunky add-on battery grips I’ve used in the past.
The camera is weatherproof and fully sealed so obviously, it’s meant for outdoor action, cold, hot, dry or wet environment. It will take the beating for you. This isn’t your typical Medium Format Studio kitten. That alone makes the GFX 100 a very different breed of camera.
IBIS is something unique for GFX 100. It is the world’s first medium format with 5-axis in-body image stabilization system and it’s an absolute technological marvel. Does it work? Absolutely. Yes. It does!
I remember turning the camera on for the first time. I looked at the display and I saw an image which wasn’t moving. My first instinct was that the camera was in Playback mode, so I pressed the Play button to turn it off. This is when I realized that I was looking at a Live View with IBIS turned on! It’s crazy. I’ve used IBIS during my aerial shoot with a helicopter over Dubai and it helped me to shoot with longer lenses in very low light. The camera I haven’t done any video shoots yet but those who have are saying it works brilliantly well.
There are 4 displays on this camera, inclusive of the EVF. Top display features electronic ink and it shows information even when the camera is turned off! You’ll see your current camera settings such as shutter speed, aperture, operation mode, EV compensation, ISO, remaining frames, film simulation mode, power status of each battery and many other things, depending on how you set it. It’s got a backlight if you need it. It is a fully customizable display and I found it to be very useful.
Main rear display is a work of art; 5.76 million dots isn’t just a number. It’s a super sharp, bright, vivid, touchscreen display which is extremely responsive. You won’t experience any kind of stickiness or lag when you’re pinching, zooming and panning your photos. It literally feels like working with a high-end smartphone, which is a good, familiar thing. You can tilt it in horizontal or vertical axis and once you try it, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it. Unlike high-end DSLR cameras which feature dedicated buttons for the most used operations or actions, GFX 100 features a single (Q button) quick access button which opens a fully customizable menu with the most used commands. Display is touch sensitive so there’s no need to navigate commands with a joystick. You’re one press away from every command you need. This feature is on the reasons why the GFX 100 doesn’t have as many buttons as you’d expect on a high-end camera.
The small monochromatic OLED sub-display (right below the main LCD) surprised me with its usefulness. It is fully customizable and it lets you see all the major camera settings. This is great because it allows you to turn off the same settings from the main display, liberating Live View image for composition, without any clutter on top of it.
OLED EVF on the GFX 100 is simply spectacular. It feels like gazing through the window, that’s how bright and sharp the picture looks. You won’t see any pixelation, there’s no lag or image flickering. It displays everything you see on the rear display, inclusive of magnification with focus peaking for manual focusing. You can only dream of such features on a DSLR with an optical viewfinder. With an adapter, the EVF can be tilted and rotated. That’s a lot more useful than I initially thought, especially when with low angle shots in a bright light.
Menu System, Buttons and Dials
Menu system is mainly unchanged which made me happy as an existing GFX 50s shooter. There are a few new selections and settings added, especially in the video section. You have image stabilization and a small number of new features but for the most part, I felt right at home. It is rather remarkable how Fujifilm’s engineers managed to keep the interface simple, yet thorough at the same time. That’s an impressive achievement for a camera as complex as GFX 100.
The biggest change is instantly visible on top of the GFX 100. Dedicated ISO / Shutter dials are gone, replaced by two virtual ones. To be honest, I don’t miss those big chunky dials from GFX 50s. They were annoying IMO because to change their values, you would first have to look away from EVF (or rear LCD), press the button in the center of the dial to unlock it, turn it into desired position and continue shooting. With the new design, you never lose sight of your subject because ISO, Shutter and Aperture are all controlled with front and rear dials of your right hand. It’s direct and intuitive. It was the right move by Fujifilm.
Most buttons and dials on the GFX 100 compare to those on GFX 50s, but they have been re-arranged neatly along the right edge of the main LCD. The new camera is slightly bigger than its smaller sibling, the hand rear hand grip looks and feels uncluttered. You won’t be pressing buttons unintentionally like it often happened with the GFX 50s. There are two joysticks at the back of GFX 100; upper one lets you move the focus point around the screen and to navigate the menu, lower one mirrors the function of the upper one when the camera is in vertical orientation.
I kept the best for last; the sensor. GFX 100 is a cool looking camera with a great ergonomics, intuitive menu system, superbly functional buttons and dials, large and excellent touchscreen display, very good battery life and so on, but what good would all that be if you spent 10,000 dollars for a camera which doesn’t produce great looking images? There’s no question about it; of all the things I enjoyed about this camera, I loved its image quality the most. I can’t explain it to you just how much of a revelation it is to look at 102 megapixel images on your computer screen. This camera seems to resolve an almost infinite amount of details from a scene and be able to see things your eyes didn’t even notice while composing the shot!
For example, I managed to extract multiple high-resolution crops of cityscapes from a 102 megapixel picture taken with an ultrawide lens. Just two stitched shots taken with GFX 100 give you an almost 200 megapixel wide panorama which is good enough for wall sized print!
16-bit RAW files also contain a massive amount of colours with an extremely wide dynamic range which can be pushed very far in Photoshop without visible degradation of image quality. The noise is virtually invisible up to ISO 640 and you can have very nice images even at ISO 12,800 and beyond, not that I would ever shoot stills at such high ISO values. This camera is making me want to re-shoot most of my favourite panoramas. My printers are going to love me!
As a time lapse artist, I truly appreciate 12k frames. Picture this scenario: mount a 23mm (18mm full frame equivalent) lens onto GFX 100, get on the rooftop of a tall skyscraper, and capture a 30 seconds long time lapse of a cityscape beneath you. Then import the time lapse sequence into Lightroom and crop 2k or 4k frames, cropped at various places from this massive 12k master shot. You can easily end up with 6 totally unique, 4k time lapse sequences! The possibilities are endless. I also need to say a thing about the GF lenses; I often get asked if these lenses are good enough to resolve 102 megapixels. The short answer is YES. When Fujifilm engineers designed these lenses 2 years ago, 100 megapixel camera was already on the roadmap and they’ve designed the optics to resolve this resolution with perfection. You’ll be hard pressed to notice any chromatic aberration, vignette, distortion or diffraction. These lenses are top notch.
Some may say that 10,000 US Dollars is a lot to pay for a camera. But I say, for what you’re getting, this camera is a steal. Compare its specs with its Medium Format competitors and you’ll find out it costs 3 to 5 times less, while delivering superior specs, 5-axis IBIS, exceptional 4k video, top notch OLED EVF, high-rez, articulate touchscreen and so on. I’m not saying that GFX 100 camera is for everyone. But for those photographers who are looking for the ultimate camera with an uncompromising image quality, GFX 100 is very hard to beat.