Fujifilm’s latest medium-format model provides 100MP resolution for £10,000. Andy Westlake reports
Fujifilm GFX 100 at a glance:
- £9999 body-only
- 102MP medium-format BSI-CMOS
- ISO 100-12,800 standard, 50-102,400 extended
- 5 frames per second shooting
- 5.76-million-dot EVF
- 2.36-million-dot tilting touchscreen
Having first teased it at Photokina in September 2018, Fujifilm has officially launched its flagship medium-format GFX100. This camera’s standout feature is its 102-million-pixel sensor that measures 43.8 x 32.9mm, making it some 70% larger in area than full-frame. It also boasts 5-axis in-body stabilisation and 4K video recording. I was lucky enough to attend its launch in Japan and spend some time shooting with a production camera, and it’s an impressive beast indeed.
Of course, I doubt many of our readers are likely to buy a 102MP camera that will cost £10,000 body-only when it goes on sale the end of June. But it’s a really exciting demonstration of what’s currently possible at the cutting edge of camera technology. Also, for one-off special occasions, it won’t necessarily be out of the question to hire one.
Fujifilm GFX100 – Features
While the GFX100 isn’t the first 100MP medium-format camera ever made, it is the first that’s been specifically designed for hand-held shooting under demanding outdoor conditions. It uses two magnesium alloy shells, one for the outer body and another to house the core imaging components inside, is dust- and water-resistant, and freeze-proof to -10 °C. Crucially, it’s a third of the price of its high-resolution rivals from the likes of Phase One and Hasselblad.
In terms of core photographic specifications, the sensitivity range covers ISO 100-12,800 (expandable to ISO 50 – 102,400), while continuous shooting is available at 5 frames per second. Fujifilm claims that the new back-illuminated sensor can record up to 14 stops of dynamic range, with a 16-bit raw option available to make the most of this. Meanwhile autofocus employs 3.76-million phase detection pixels spread across the entire sensor area, and promises enhanced face- and eye-detection AF.
With such a high-resolution sensor, even the slightest handshake or operational vibration risks blurring fine detail. To combat this, Fujifilm has included 5-axis in-body image stabilisation, that’s claimed to deliver up to 5.5 stops of shake reduction. The sensor, IS unit and lens mount are also isolated from the shutter and the rest of the body to minimise the transmission of any external shocks, while a vibration-free electronic first curtain shutter is used by default, although a mechanical first curtain is required at fast shutter speeds.
Like the GFX 50S, the camera employs a removable electronic viewfinder, with a huge 5.76-million-dot resolution and 0.86x magnification. It’s simply stunning, providing a vast, detailed preview image. On the back, there’s a 2.36-million-dot 3.2in tilting touchscreen that enables waist-level shooting in both portrait and landscape formats. A large top-plate LCD screen can show detailed exposure information, a virtual ISO / shutter speed dial display or a live histogram, with a button alongside cycling through these display modes. An additional small status displays is found on the lower back.
The body has an integrated vertical grip, with a duplicate set of controls for portrait-format shooting. At 156.2 x 163.6mm x 102.9mm and 1400g in weight (including both batteries), it’s very similar in size to the full-frame Nikon D5 or Canon EOS-1D X Mark II. This makes it much easier to handle than any medium-format DSLR.
Unfortunately, while the vertical grip replicates the general arrangement of controls of the main grip, the positioning and feel of certain controls is very different the two, most obviously the exposure compensation, AF-ON and AEL buttons. This makes switching between the two grips less straightforward than it really should be.
In operational terms, the GFX 100 strikingly does away with the analogue dials that are a hallmark of Fujifilm’s other cameras. Instead it employs pairs of electronic dials on each grip to control shutter speed, ISO and exposure compensation, with the aperture set using a ring on the lens. A large dial on the top-plate switches between stills and video modes, allowing optimised settings to be retained for each.
As befits a professional camera, the GFX100 has dual high-speed UHS-II SD card slots. It’s possible to use them simultaneously or sequentially, or record JPEGs to one and raw files to the other. The integrated grip has als0 allowed Fujifilm to include two NP-T125 batteries, as previously used in the GFX 50S and 50R, promising a combined endurance of 800 shots. Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth allow connection to a smartphone or tablet, while tethered shooting is available via the USB-C port, using Fujifilm X Acquire or Capture One Pro software.
The GFX100 also features an impressive video specification. 4K recording is available at 30fps using the full width of the sensor, with each frame downsampled from 50MP, which promises exceptional levels of detail. Footage is recorded at 10bit 4:2:2 externally and 10bit 4:2:0 internally, using the H.265/HEVC codec. Fujifilm has included its cine-optimised Eterna Film Simulation mode, while F-log allows greater flexibility for grading in post-production. Hybrid Log Gamma is also available for recording HDR footage, and microphone and headphone sockets are built in.
Upcoming GFX lenses
Fujifilm has also given a further glimpse at its upcoming GF lenses. The GF50mmF3.5 R LM WR is a compact prime that will, in concert with the rangefinder-style GFX 50R, form the world’s lightest medium format digital camera setup. With a field of view equivalent to a 40mm lens on full-frame, it should provide a very natural perspective to images, and be ideal for subjects such as street photography.
Fujifilm is promising high image quality, with resolution to match the GFX100’s sensor, along with high-speed AF thanks to an inner focusing mechanism. Like the rest of the GFX system, the lens will be both weather-resistant and freeze-proof to -10°C. It’s scheduled to go on sale later this year.
Also on its way is the GF45-100mmF4 R LM OIS WR, an image-stabilised standard zoom with a 36-79mm equivalent range. It’ll complement the existing GF32-64mmF4 R LM WR and GF100-200mmF5.6 R LM OIS WR lenses to provide a three-zoom setup covering 25mm wideangle to 160mm telephoto.
This new zoom promises much the same features as the 50mm, with sufficient resolution to match a 100MP sensor, internal focusing for high-speed AF, and weather-sealing. Expect this one to appear in early 2020. Pricing for both lenses is still to be determined.
Fujifilm GFX 100: First Impressions
Having spent a day shooting with the GFX100, what impressed me most is how little it feels like a medium-format camera. It’s not excessively large or heavy and is easy to shoot hand-held, while the autofocus is strikingly quicker than the current GFX 50R and 50S models.
Fujifilm has, however, made some uncharacteristic errors with regards to the handling. The control dials, buttons and joysticks are all tiny, and I suspect will be very difficult to operate with gloves. The main grip is nicely sculpted with a thick rubber coating, but the vertical grip is just a slim slab of bare metal, making it distinctly uncomfortable to hold. And if you want to shoot with the LCD tilted upwards as a waist-level finder, you’ll first need to remove the EVF, as it overhangs the back of the camera so far that it blocks much of the screen.
These flaws become forgivable, though, when you look at the output. Thanks to the high-res sensor and superb GF lenses, the image quality is truly extraordinary, with a phenomenal amount of detail resolved from corner to corner. The image of Mount Fuji above was shot with the GF110mmF2 R LM WR, and to get an idea of just how much detail is recorded in the foreground trees, here’s a 100% crop.
This may not look like anything much different to other cameras, until you realise that when viewed on a standard monitor, this is akin to staring up-close at a print somewhere around 3 metres wide. Oh and it’s taken from the extreme bottom right corner of the frame.
As for the image stabilisation, it appears to work very well. I shot the example above hand-held using the 110mm lens at 0.4sec, and while it’s not perfectly sharp at the pixel level, it would still stand up to printing perhaps a metre wide.
Overall, the Fujifilm GFX100 is a niche camera for sure, but even at first glance, it’s clearly capable of remarkable results.