With the 102-million-pixel GFX100, Fujifilm has made the most practical ultra-high-resolution camera yet. Andy Westlake explores what this means.
Fujifilm GFX100 – Build and handling
In terms of design, the GFX100 resembles a pro-level full-frame SDLR, with an integrated vertical grip to accommodate a pair of hefty MP-T125 batteries, and 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. With two separate magnesium alloy shells, one for the outer body and another to protect the core imaging components inside, it’s also built to withstand tough conditions, being dust- and water-resistant and freeze-proof to -10 °C. This all makes it much more robust and easier to handle than conventional medium-format DSLRs.
Strikingly, the GFX 100 does away with the analogue shutter speed and exposure compensation 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. There’s no conventional exposure mode dial: when the aperture ring is set to its A position, a button beside the top LCD cycles between shutter priority and program modes; otherwise it toggles between aperture priority and manual. Holding this button down for a couple of seconds also locks the shutter speed. A large dial on the top-plate switches between stills and video modes, allowing optimised settings to be retained for each.
The rear LCD is touch-sensitive, which can be useful for setting the focus point and browsing through images, and in particular for operating the onscreen Q menu. However it’s a touch laggy, and can’t be used to navigate the main menus. So while it’s nice to have, it’s not as useful as those we’ve seen on recent high-resolution full-frame models such as the Panasonic S1R and Nikon Z7.
Fujifilm has, however, made some uncharacteristic errors with regards to the handling. The control dials, buttons and joysticks are all tiny, and 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. The control layout is also inconsistent between the two grips, with the exposure compensation and AE-L buttons in different places; this is compounded by the fact that so many of the buttons are unlabelled. Meanwhile the portrait grip AF-selection joystick is difficult to locate as it’s recessed behind a ridge on the back. This really shouldn’t be the case on a professional camera costing £10k.
However there’s plenty of customisation on offer, and with a little tweaking the camera’s most egregious handling flaws can be mitigated. Most importantly, setting the exposure compensation button mode to Switch means that the rear dial continues to operate this setting until you disable it again, regardless of whether you turn the camera on or off. Even at its best, though, the GFX100 doesn’t really handle how a professional camera should. This stands in stark contrast to the similarly-shaped Olympus OM-D E-M1X, which works like a dream, with large easy-to-use controls and a vertical grip that closely mirrors the main one. But the GFX100 has a sensor that’s more than six times as large, so the image quality is incomparable.