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: Performance
Long gone are the days when medium format digital was clunky and awkward. Indeed, the GFX 50R is on the whole every bit as slick and polished as its APS-C cousins. It has almost exactly the same onscreen interface, including Fujifilm’s well designed Q Menu and logical menu structure, and in most respects is just as snappy in operation. Its relatively light weight and excellent ergonomics mean that you can shoot with it hand-held for extended periods, just as if you were using a full-frame DSLR. It’s also remarkably quiet and unobtrusive, especially with electronic first-curtain shutter enabled. Indeed the only clue that you’re dealing with something out of the ordinary is the slightly sluggish autofocus and continuous shooting, which for many users and applications won’t matter a jot.
As we’ve come to expect from Fujifilm, metering and auto white balance both work really well. Combined with the firm’s peerless colour reproduction and excellent image processing, the camera churns out lovely-looking files shot after shot. I particularly like the Astia film simulation mode for colour images, and Acros for black & white shooting. The in-camera raw processing also makes it easy to adjust or re-interpret your images later, if you want to apply a different look. So while I’d fully expect users to be processing raw by default, it’s entirely plausible to use the camera’s JPEG files for many purposes.
You still have to work hard to make full use of the GFX 50R’s abilities, though. With no image stabilisation on anything but the two longest telephoto lenses, you’ll need to make a point of using fast shutter speeds to be sure of getting pixel-sharp results from that 50MP sensor when shooting hand-held. At these resolutions, the old ‘1/focal length’ rule isn’t going to work, and I’d recommend shutter speeds at least a stop faster to be sure of getting really sharp results, for example 1/125sec with the 63mm f/2.8.
With good technique, though, the GFX 50R will repay you with absolutely breathtaking image quality. The level of detail it’s able to record is exceptional, due to the combination of its medium-format sensor and excellent lenses. Dynamic range is phenomenal, with a huge amount of additional detail recoverable in shadow regions when processing raw files. In the image below, I exposed to maintain the sky detail, and the rest of the image was practically black in the camera’s JPEG file.
Image quality also holds up very well at higher sensitivities: I was quite happy with the output right up to ISO 6,400. Here the stunning lenses also play their part, with the exceptional micro-contrast and detail rendition giving noise reduction algorithms plenty of real image data to work with.
Even ISO 12,800 is just about usable if necessary, although at this stage shadow detail blocks up substantially (which to be fair isn’t necessarily a problem in night-time scenes). However I wouldn’t generally go any higher.
The Fujinon GF lens range
Fujifilm currently offers eight G-mounts lenses from 23mm to 250mm, with seven primes including a 120mm f/4 macro alongside a 32-64mm f/4 wideangle zoom. The ‘crop factor’ relative to full-frame is 0.8x, which means the lenses cover a 35mm-equivalent range from 18mm wideangle to 200mm telephoto. Only the 120mm f/4 macro and 250mm f/4 telephoto include optical image stabilisation.
In terms of maximum apertures, the fastest is a 110mm f/2 portrait lens, which should give similar results in terms of depth of field and background blur to an 85mm f/1.6 full-frame optic. The others are f/2.8 or f/4, which will behave like f/2.2 or f/3.2 full-frame lenses with the same angles of view. As a result, if you’re after the shallowest possible depth of field for selective-focus shooting, in principle you’ll be better off with a full-frame system, due to the widespread availability of fast, high-quality f/1.4 primes. But what you can’t argue with is the optical quality: all three of the lenses I used (shown above) are absolutely superb.
Fujifilm has also revealed three upcoming lenses on its GF roadmap. Alongside a compact 50mm f/3.5 prime, it’s planning on making image-stabilised 45-100mm F4 and 100-200mm f/5.6 zooms. These should complement the 32-64mm f/4 nicely.