Fujifilm’s rangefinder-style medium-format mirrorless camera offers addictively high image quality in surprisingly portable package, as Andy Westlake finds out
Fujifilm GFX 50R: Features
To all intents and purposes, the GFX 50R inherits most of its feature set from its larger sibling, with the same 51.4MP CMOS sensor and X Processor Pro used by the GFX 50S. It also includes the older model’s ISO 100-12,800 standard sensitivity range, which is expandable to ISO 50-102,400 with a risk of compromised image quality. At ISO 50 highlights will be more prone to clipping irretrievably to pure white, while at extended high ISOs image noise becomes troublesome.
Continuous shooting tops out at 3 frames per second, which by current standards counts as very pedestrian indeed. This is the first indicator that the GFX 50R isn’t the kind of all-rounder we’ve become accustomed to seeing recently, and can’t come close to matching the speed of the latest high-resolution full-frame cameras such as the Nikon D850 and Z 7, or Sony Alpha 7R III. Instead it’ll reward slower, more considered shooting.
Also like the GFX 50R, the camera uses a mechanical focal-plane shutter that offers speeds as fast as 1/4000sec. It includes an electronic first-curtain option to eliminate any risk of image blurring due to shutter shock, with a top speed of 1/640sec. There’s also a silent electronic shutter that offers speeds up to 1/16,000sec, which is potentially useful for shooting at large apertures on a bright day. However this risks significant distortion due to rolling shutter effects, and for some reason locks you out from using extended ISO settings.
Thankfully Fujifilm allows you to choose between various hybrid options that use intelligent combinations of mechanical, electronic first curtain and fully-electronic shutter, so you can access the desired range of speeds in the most sensible possible way. I used the electronic first curtain option, which switches automatically across to using the mechanical first curtain for speeds from 1/800sec to 1/4000sec.
When it comes to autofocus, on paper the 50R employs a system that doesn’t look too different to those on Fujifilm’s APS-C cameras. You can choose between using 117 or 425 AF points arranged across almost the entire image area, with the latter providing extremely granular control of focus point positioning. Area modes that group 9, 25 or 49 of these points can also be selected, along with a Wide/Tracking option that attempts to follow a subject as it moves around the frame. As is the modern way, face and eye detection options are on hand for portrait shooters. The catch though is that there’s no on-sensor phase detection system, meaning the camera has to fall back on contrast detection for focusing, which is inevitably slow by current standards.
Fujifilm has included a solid set of additional photographic features, with a highly flexible exposure bracketing option, an intervalometer, and even a basic double-exposure mode. Most importantly, though, it’s carried across all of the image-processing settings that help make its APS-C X-series cameras so attractive. So you get the same set of Film Simulation modes which are designed to give an array of different colour looks to the camera’s JPEG output, based on Fujifilm’s decades of colour-science experience. These can also be tuned in terms of shadow and highlight tone, sharpness and saturation, while dynamic range expansion settings are on hand to help prevent highlight clipping in high-contrast scenes. In-camera raw conversion allows you to adjust or re-interpret your images after shooting.
A door on the side of the handgrip conceals twin SD card slots, both of which support the fast UHS-II standard. It’s possible to use the two cards either simultaneously or sequentially, or alternatively record JPEGs on one and raws on the other. On the camera’s top-plate you’ll find a hot-shoe for external flash units such as the high-spec EF-X500, along with a PC sync socket on the front for use with studio lighting. On the left side of the camera is a 2.5mm socket that will accept a wired remote release, which is also compatible with a wide range of remote control accessories for Pentax or Canon E3-type. You’ll find the HDMI connector on the other side.
The large sensor requires a monster of a battery, which somewhat unusually slots into the left side of the body, beneath the viewfinder. The NP-T125 packs 1250mAh at 10.8V and is rated for 400 shots. It charges externally, but not over USB. The GFX 50R’s high-speed USB-C connector is also unconventionally placed beneath a base-plate cover, alongside a 15V DC power input socket.
Video isn’t the GFX 50R’s strong point, however. It’ll record in Full HD at 30 fps if you really want it to, and it’s possible to connect a microphone to the 2.5mm remote-release port for better sound quality. But there’s not much point, given that you can now get high-quality video from many cameras that are considerably cheaper. This is unashamedly a photographer’s camera.
The GFX 50R has both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth built-in, with the latter enabling an always-on, low-power connection to your smartphone. Using the Fujifilm Camera Remote app for Android and iOS, you can then use your phone as a basic Bluetooth remote release. Alternatively it’s possible to instruct the camera to fire up its Wi-Fi for full wireless remote control, complete with a live view display and the ability to change most exposure settings. Naturally, you can browse your images and copy your favourites across to your phone, or even set up the camera to copy across automatically every image you shoot, should you so wish. It’s also possible to shoot tethered to computer via the USB-C port, using Fujifilm’s Hyper-Utility software or Tether Shooting plug-ins for Adobe Lightroom.