Here's our in-depth review of Fuji's new GFX 50S mirrorless medium-format camera...
Fujifilm seems to be on quite the mission lately, having refreshed the majority of its mirrorless camera range in the past 12 months. Now it’s turning its attention towards an even bigger prize. The GFX 50S is Fuji’s first medium-format release since 2008’s GF670. It’s also the world’s first mirrorless medium-format. This hotly anticipated camera won’t stand alone for long though, as it will shortly go toe-to-toe with the Hasselblad X1D. So how does it stack up?
Fuji's GFX 50S features a 14-stop dynamic range and 15 film simulation modes
The GFX 50S houses a massive 43.8x32.9mm 51.4MP sensor and costs under £6200 body-only, which makes it extremely attainable for medium-format. Under the hood, an X-Processor Pro processor works overtime to capture the mammoth 116MB RAW files, packed with an astonishing 14-stop dynamic range. The camera sports Fuji’s trademark retro styling, though the angular body is more evocative of an ’80s sports car and not quite as pretty or refined as its contemporaries. The ISO, which has its own dedicated dial, ranges from 100-12,800 and images appear very useable right up to the highest settings. The vast array of customisable function buttons are welcome, and the controls are well laid out. It has the same applauded thumb stick as the X-T2, which can be used to select focus points for quick and intuitive control.
While many comparisons may be made to the similarly priced Pentax 645Z, it’s the finer details which really set this Fuji apart. The GFX 50S uses what Fujifilm calls an ‘exclusive’ 51.4MP sensor. Yes, it’s been manufactured by a third-party sensor specialist – the same company that produces all the medium-format sensors on the market – but Fuji has engineered some very clever behind-the-scenes tweaks to get the most from it. These subtle changes give it significantly better image quality than similarly specced competitors around the same price point.
The high megapixel count, as well as the 1.7x increase in sensor size over a 35mm camera, means the 50S is capable of capturing some extremely impressive detail. Aided by the exclusion of an anti-aliasing filter, the images display exceptional sharpness, even zoomed in at 100%, capturing fine hairs and pores with pin-sharp precision. The increased sensor size also offers a much shallower depth-of-field when compared to full-frame and APS-C cameras, with the out-of-focus areas producing some breathtakingly beautiful bokeh.
A Full HD movie mode is present, although the GFX 50S isn’t really designed as a video camera and there are better offerings out there for those who take their videography seriously. The touchscreen allows the usual push-to-focus and swipe-to-view functions, as well as allowing you to swipe up to check your histograms, and it’s very responsive.
Fuji’s famous film simulation modes have also made the step up to medium-format, with the usual suspects in the 15 options available (such as Velvia, Astia and Provia), but now with the addition of a black & white Acros mode.
Handling & build
Current Fuji users will find everything instantly familiar, as the camera has similar ergonomics to the rest of the Fuji range. Equally, anyone used to operating a DSLR will feel at home very quickly. The camera’s angular body hides a magnesium alloy re-enforced chassis, with 58 weather-sealed points, and a classic textured plastic finish.
The GFX weighs in at a very light 825g body-only (or 920g with the included EVF attached to the hotshoe), which is about the same as a Canon 5D MkIV. The pronounced handgrip is perfectly moulded and makes it feel extremely secure to hold.
The rear monitor is a 3.2in, 2360k-dot three-way tilting LCD touchscreen, and is one of the best displays on the market. The detail and colour rendition is super, and the inclusion of the touch compatibility makes focusing via the rear screen very simple.
The 10 user-definable Fn buttons are laid out across the camera and give you the level of customisation you’d expect from a Fuji body. The top-plate contains the 1.28in, monochrome Sub Monitor LCD, which is customisable and displays eight items, including shutter speed, battery life and ISO.
The 63mm f/2.8 lens, one of the three optics currently in the G series, is a beautiful companion. It’s a 50mm equivalent by full-frame standards, with pin-sharp optics, and is rated to easily capture resolution up to 100MP, meaning it should support future generations of Fuji medium-format.
A great addition to the GFX 50S are the C/T controls, which make it easier to change key settings. Turning the lens aperture or ISO dial to C, or the shutter speed dial to T, allows you full control from the thumb dials, meaning you can alter the settings quickly and without having to adjust in full stops.
The 51.4MP resolution is exceptional, capturing fine details even when cropped in at the EVF’s maximum 16.7x zoom. And the ISO is absolutely phenomenal, with ISO 12,800 being incredibly workable and suffering surprisingly little in colour degradation. Stepping up to the expanded range, ISO 25,600 is still useable, with minimal colour issues and very impressive detail retained. Even the noise pattern is refined. At ISO 51,200, there is some image degradation present, with sharpness suffering and colours beginning to lose their vibrancy. Reach ISO 102,400 and the clarity drops, rendering images much less useable.
Compared to a DSLR, the possible 425 contrast AF points aren’t the quickest, suffering most in bad light, although they do perform well against other medium-format cameras. The manual focus assist and peaking mode have never looked better, thanks to the 100% coverage of the detachable 0.85x magnified, 0.69m-dot EVF.
The battery life is rated at 400 shots per charge. This isn’t a massive improvement over other mirrorless cameras on paper, but in testing it managed over 500 shots. The mechanical shutter retains Fuij’s 1/4000sec limit, but the electronic shutter is lower, with a top speed of 1/16,000sec, compared to Fuji’s usual 1/32,000sec maximum. The mechanical shutter works well, though there’s noticeable shutter-lag, which makes it a challenge to shoot moving subjects. However, the electronic shutter is prone to severe rolling shutter distortion, showing up quite badly with the slightest movement. Hopefully, since it’s a sensor issue, it will be an easy firmware fix. Fortunately, the electronic sensor issues won’t bother most users, as very few will be using this camera for fast action shooting. Where the electronic sensor can be useful is for silent shooting, especially given that there’s no leaf shutter built into the lens.
The button layout is mostly logical and ergonomic, although the playback and delete buttons, and the focus selector switch, are all awkwardly placed. Though accessible, they are fiddly to use at the same time as shooting and we would definitely like to see these changed in a future release.
Sporting absolutely astounding image quality, a phenomenally lightweight and portable body, and exceptional ISO range, the GFX 50S excels and sets an extremely high standard for mirrorless medium-format cameras to follow. The current range of three G series lenses all offer fantastic quality and pin-sharp results, and the 3.2in touchscreen displays images with exceptional quality. While there is no doubt that the GFX 50S marks a turning point in medium-format photography, the electronic shutter currently causes severe distortions, though hopefully this is a simple firmware fix. The AF, though on a par with other digital medium-format cameras, is still a long way from DSLR and CSC offerings.
However, despite a couple of minor flaws, it’s hard to argue with results, and the images speak for themselves. At £6199 for the GFX 50S body, it’s still cheaper than the older Pentax 645Z and over £1500 less than the upcoming Hasselblad X1D. If you’re looking to make the step up to medium-format, the Fuji GFX 50S is easily our current market favourite.
Electronic shutter distortion
- Kit lens: GF63mm f/2.8 R W
- Effective resolution: 51.4MP
- Sensor: 43.8x32.9mm
- Processor: X-Processor Pro
- LCD: 3.2in 2360k-dot tilting touchscreen
- Shutter: 1/4000sec-60min
- Autofocus: 425-point
- ISO: 100-12,800 (expands to 50-102,400)
- Shooting speed: 3fps for 13 RAWs or unlimited JPEGs (electronic), 1.8fps for 8 RAWs or unlimited JPEGs (mechanical)
- Video: Full HD at 30fps
- Pop-up flash: No
- Other features: 15 film simulation modes, grain simulation, interval timer
- Battery life: 400 shots
- Card type: SD, SDHC, SDXC
- Size (WxHxD): 148x94x91mm
- Weight: 1325g
- Find out more on the Fujifilm website