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 – Viewfinder and screen
If there’s one area where the GFX100 can’t be criticised, it’s when it comes to viewing your images. The camera employs a simply stunning electronic viewfinder, with a huge 5.76-million-dot resolution and 0.86x magnification that provides a vast, detailed preview image. Multiple viewing modes are available (which Fujifilm confusingly calls Boost modes), depending on whether you want to prioritise resolution, frame-rate, or autofocus speed. The differences may not be easy to see at first, but they genuinely make a difference to how the camera and viewfinder perform. As on the GFX 50S, the EVF unit is removable, with an optional hinged adapter that can be placed between it and the body if you wish to shoot at different angles.
A huge array of exposure information can be overlaid on the live view feed, including gridlines, an electronic level, a live histogram and a focus-distance scale. The exposure is always previewed live, which helps you judge exposure and avoid clipping highlights, while a half-press of the shutter previews depth-of-field. By default the in-camera processing is also previewed, but if you’re shooting in high-contrast light this can cause the shadows to block up excessively, hindering composition. In such situations I generally preferred to use the Natural Live View setting, which aims to replicate the look of an optical viewfinder by lowering the contrast and displaying more neutral colours.
On the back, there’s a 2.36-million-dot 3.2in touchscreen with a 3-way tilt mechanism that enables waist-level shooting in both portrait and landscape formats. However if you want to shoot with the LCD tilted upwards as a waist-level finder in landscape format, you’ll need to remove the EVF, as it overhangs the back of the camera so far that it blocks most of the screen. This isn’t necessarily a problem if you’re shooting static subjects such as landscapes, but it’s infuriating when you’re trying to work quickly. Swiping up or down on the touchscreen overlays a large YRGB histogram or a larger and more precise dual-axis electronic level. These displays can be particularly handy when you’re setting-up shots precisely on a tripod.
Additional monochrome status displays are found on the top and back. The large top-plate LCD screen can show detailed exposure information, a virtual ISO / shutter speed dial display or a live histogram, which can be handy for judging exposure when the camera is on a tripod. Meanwhile the small rear sub-monitor screen below the main LCD can show a brief summary of camera settings, exposure information, or a live histogram. But while it’s easy to cycle through display modes on the top screen by pressing a small button alongside, you have to dive into the menus to change the rear display, which makes it less useful than it should be. It would be nice to be able to access this from a function button or the Q Menu.
Fujifilm GFX100 – Autofocus
Until now, medium format cameras have always been known for sluggish autofocus performance. But the GFX100 is different, because it’s the first to employ on-sensor phase detection, using 3.76-million PDAF pixels that are spread across the entire image area. The improvement this brings over its 50MP siblings that use contrast detection is huge, with dramatically faster AF along with enhanced face- and eye-detection.
While it would be an exaggeration to claim that the GFX100 can match the very best AF systems around, it’s certainly quick enough to keep up with the camera’s likely uses. One word of warning for existing Fujifilm GFX users, though: all GF lenses require a firmware update to work with PDAF, and it increases their speed significantly.
For static subjects the GFX100 behaves like any modern mirrorless, focusing near-instantly, quietly, and unerringly accurately, no matter where the subject is placed within the frame. With moving subjects it works surprisingly well too, thanks to the use of tracking algorithms borrowed from the firm’s top-end X-system cameras. Again, this isn’t a sports camera, but it’s perfectly capable of keeping focus on models walking towards you, for example. Face and eye detection works pretty well too, and I got good results using it at a vintage portrait shoot organised by Timeline Events. But it’s far too easy to turn off by accident, as the buttons that activate it are very exposed on the corners of the camera.