Fuji GFX Field Test Part I

The medium format GFX tries its hand at landscape photography

by Jeremy Gray | Posted 04/06/2017

Fujifilm GFX Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Fujinon GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR at 32mm (25mm eq.), f/13, 7.5s, ISO 100.
This image has been modified. Click for original image.
Introduction

At Photokina 2016, Fujifilm did something many Fuji shooters had been eagerly anticipating: they announced a camera with a sensor larger than APS-C size. What was surprising about this announcement was that Fujifilm opted to skip over the popular full-frame format and dive straight into medium format territory with the Fuji GFX 50S, a 50-megapixel medium format mirrorless camera.

Launching in late February 2017, the Fujifilm GFX 50S hit store shelves with a body-only price tag around US$6,500. This price tag makes it about $2,500 less expensive than the competing Hasselblad X1D mirrorless camera, which also employs a 50-megapixel sensor, albeit in a slimmer, sleeker camera body with many less physical controls than the GFX 50S.

I have been testing the Fujifilm GFX 50S as a landscape camera using the GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR zoom lens, the only zoom lens launched alongside the camera. Let's take a look at how the GFX 50S and zoom lens performs as a landscape photographer's tool.

Key Features and Info

  • Mirrorless camera with a DSLR-inspired camera body
  • 51.4-megapixel medium-format CMOS sensor
  • ISO 100-12800 range
  • 425-point contrast detect autofocus system
  • Detachable OLED EVF
  • 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen display
  • UHS-II support
  • $6,500 body-only price

Camera Body & Handling: Fuji GFX looks and controls like other Fuji cameras

Fujifilm GFX Review: Field Test -- Product Image Beauty
Size and button layout

Size-wise, the Fujifilm GFX 50S is very similar to a full-frame DSLR camera despite having a larger sensor and new, robust G lens mount. It is comparable in size to a Nikon D810, for example, which means that it's larger than many other mirrorless cameras but also surprisingly small for a medium format camera.

What sets the GFX 50S apart physically from a full-frame DSLR camera -- apart from the obvious lack of a mirror and the larger sensor inside -- is the flat top deck of the camera and the large protruding area on the back where the tilting display is. If not for the tilting display assembly, the GFX would be a fairly slim camera. The electronic viewfinder, when attached, gives the camera more of a DSLR look. (More on the electronic viewfinder in a bit.) The grip is quite similar to that of a DSLR. The front grip is deep, but fairly narrow, offering a comfortable holding position and easy access to the front command dial. The rear thumb rest area is nice as well, with protrusion to rest your thumb against for a stronger hold on the camera.

Fujifilm GFX Review: Field Test -- Product Image Size Comparison
The Fuji GFX 50S (right) is not much different in size than a Nikon D800E full-frame DSLR (left).

Despite its size, the GFX 50S proved very user-friendly thanks to generally excellent physical controls and design. This is Fujifilm's largest digital camera, but it borrows a lot of aspects of its design from its X-series mirrorless cameras, such as the dedicated ISO and shutter speed dials. These dials have engraved markings, and they rotate nicely, not requiring too much force but also not being prone to accidental rotation while using the camera. If you want to lock the dials, you can do so by pressing a central locking button, but I never felt it necessary as accidentally moving the dials seemed difficult.

On the topic of the button layout, it's mostly good news all around, albeit with a few issues. The exposure compensation button on the top of the camera is small, and I found that it didn't always register my press. Another minor issue is the location of the playback and delete buttons, which are located on the area that juts out on the rear of the camera; on top of the rear display. They are difficult to press with the right hand; you really need to hold the camera in an unnatural position to press them. It's a similar story with the focus mode switch, which sits at the other top corner of the rear display. There isn't a lot of free space on the camera, but nonetheless, the playback and delete buttons seem to be in an odd spot. On the other hand, the camera's buttons mostly feel great, and the shutter release in particular is nice and responsive.

Display

The Fuji GFX 50S' rear display is a large 3.2-inch touchscreen LCD monitor. The display has 2.36M dots and is sharp. The display is quite reflective, though, and can be difficult to view in bright light; however you can tilt the display to help alleviate this. The touchscreen tilts 90-degrees upwards, 45-degrees downwards and 60-degrees toward the right. The latter tilt is triggered by pressing a release button on the left side of the display and is very useful when shooting the camera in vertical orientation. The tilting mechanism itself is quite robust and feels durable.

Fujifilm GFX Review: Field Test -- Product Image Tilting Display
The Fuji GFX 50S has a tilting display. It can tilt up and even 45 degrees to the side. In this image, the GFX display is tilted 90 degrees up and 45 degrees to the side.

You can use the touchscreen display for many functions, such as navigating the Quick Menu, tapping for focus and tapping to trigger a shot. However, you cannot use the touchscreen to navigate the camera's standard menus.

There is a second display on the top deck of the camera, a "sub monitor" as Fuji calls it, that uses an E-Ink display. By default, it is dark with light text. The text is readable from practically any angle, which is very nice. The display lights up by pressing the illumination button to the left of the sub monitor, which reverses the colors, making the background light and the text dark.

Fujifilm GFX Review: Field Test -- Product Image Sub Display
I really like the GFX 50S' sub display. It is customizable, has a backlight and is easy to read.

You can customize what shows up on the sub monitor for both stills and movie shooting. For shooting stills, you can select shutter speed, aperture, exposure compensation, ISO, movie mode, frames remaining, recording time, shooting mode, photometry, drive mode, focus mode, white balance, image size, image quality, battery level, card slot options, shutter type, film simulation and dynamic range. When the camera is off, the sub monitor displays the card slot info, remaining images and battery level (or levels when using the vertical grip with the additional battery pack).

I want to point out something about the GFX 50S's menus. When you turn the camera off -- or it turns off on its own after a period of idling -- the camera doesn't keep track of where you were in the menus.

Electronic Viewfinder and optional Tilt Adapter work very well in the field

The detachable electronic viewfinder, known officially as the EVF-GFX1, is very good. It's a 0.5-inch 3.69M-dot OLED viewfinder with 100% coverage and a 35mm equivalent magnification of 0.85x. In real-world use, the viewfinder's large size and sharp display proved very good. The circular eyepiece cup around the viewfinder is very comfortable and does an excellent job of blocking out ambient light. I did notice that there is some stuttering of the live view when shooting in low light, but this is not unusual while in auto-exposure modes. When using manual exposure, I didn't experience this stuttering, laggy effect.

The live view feed to the EVF and to the rear monitor sometimes displays an odd "shimmering-like" effect whenever the camera autofocuses. It's as if the video quality of the live view feed drops during the focusing operation. Since your eye is up close, I noticed it more when using the EVF and with scenes with lots of fine detail. It can be a little distracting, but it's not bad.

Fujifilm GFX Review: Field Test -- Product Image EVF Tilt Adapter
The optional tilt adapter may be expensive, but it is also very useful.

There is also an optional adapter for the GFX that lets you tilt and rotate the whole electronic viewfinder. This adapter, the EVF-TL1, costs US$570, which is very high for what amounts to a pretty small piece of plastic. Nonetheless, the adapter offers vertical movement up to 90-degrees and horizontal movement in either direction up to 45-degrees. There is a locking knob toward the front of the adapter to control vertical movement. To move the viewfinder side to side, you have to unlock a tab underneath the EVF. This metal tab requires considerable force to move but works fine. The tilting adapter does add quite a bit of size to the top of the GFX 50S and even some depth as the EVF sticks out quite a bit further when attached to the TL1 than when attached straight to the camera. With that said, it is very useful out in the field, and I use it frequently. If you often work at unusual angles and don't want to rely entirely on the tilting touchscreen -- which doesn't work so well in bright light outdoors -- then the adapter is worth the price.

Optional Vertical Grip looks strange but feels fantastic

Another optional accessory I tried is the vertical grip for the GFX. The VG-GFX1 vertical battery grip, like the tilt adapter, is quite expensive, selling for around $600. The grip is very comfortable but does employ a somewhat unusual design. Rather than have the shutter release and dials near the "top" of the grip, which would place them on the corner of the camera body, the grip has an indented area about two-thirds of the way up that houses the shutter release and buttons. It's an odd-looking design, but it works very well and gives you a similar grip on the camera as if you were holding it in the horizontal orientation.

Fujifilm GFX Review: Field Test -- Product Image Vertical Grip
The vertical grip looks odd, but it's comfortable and offers all the controls you need.

The grip is full-featured, including a joystick for moving the AF point, six function buttons (such as Q and exposure compensation buttons) and a menu/OK button. The two command dials feel exactly like the ones on the camera body itself, which I like as sometimes battery grips have different dials than the camera itself. The grip also has a DC input and a loop for the strap. One of the best reasons to get the grip is to double the camera's battery life from 400 to 800 shots. It's disappointing that the grip doesn't come with a battery, as those are $120 separately, so you're looking at $720 to get the full use of the grip.

Overall

While not the sleekest camera I've seen, the GFX 50S employs a very functional design that can become surprisingly compact with the viewfinder detached, especially for a medium format camera. In real-world use, the GFX 50S feels like a full-frame camera rather than a medium format one, which is something that medium format cameras have rarely been able to accomplish.

Despite being a first-generation product, the design seems very refined. A few small things stand out, such as the battery and memory card compartments being on the sides of the camera, making them easy to access, even when using a tripod. Further, this allows removal of the primary battery with the vertical grip attached. On many cameras I've used with vertical grips, you have to remove the grip to access the primary battery as it's typically on the bottom of the camera. It's not all good news, however, as I've already touched on the odd placement of the playback and delete buttons, but also the neck strap lugs, rugged as they may be, allow the GFX's strap to become easily twisted. It's a small issue, but it's one worth pointing out.

Fujifilm GFX Review: Field Test -- Product Image Vertical Grip
While not exactly a looker, the Fuji GFX is a very functional camera that feels good to use.

Overall, the GFX 50S is very comfortable and user-friendly. It is a thoughtfully-designed camera that puts a lot of controls at your fingertips and offers quick access to all the primary shooting settings. The tilting display is also a highlight here, as its touchscreen functionality is very useful. When you want to instead use a viewfinder, the EVF proved to be very good and one of the best EVFs, if not the best, I have used.

Fujifilm GFX Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Fujinon GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR at 64mm (51mm eq.), f/16, 1.5s, ISO 100.
This image has been modified. Click for original image.

Fujifilm GFX Shooting Features and Experience

Image sensor: Medium format sensor excels in a wide variety of situations

We've already covered First Shots from the GFX, which we called the best we have ever seen. It's going to be hard to expand much on that, so I will keep this section fairly brief. The GFX uses a 51.4-megapixel medium format CMOS sensor (maximum image is 51.1 megapixels). It is not as big as the medium format sensor found in a camera like the Phase One XF 100MP, but rather a smaller medium format sensor, like the one found in the Hasselblad X1D. The sensor size is 43.8 x 32.9 millimeters and has a 4:3 aspect ratio. The focal length multiplier is 0.8x when using the GFX, so the 32-64mm zoom lens I used with the camera is a 25-51mm equivalent in 35mm terms.

Fujifilm GFX Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Fujinon GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR at 64mm (51mm eq.), f/11, 1/25s, ISO 100.
This image has been modified. Click for original image.

Fujifilm GFX Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Fujinon GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR at 64mm (51mm eq.), f/11, 1/25s, ISO 100.
100% crop from the original file above. Click for full-size image.

While full-frame sensors are very impressive, the GFX sensor is outstanding. Its lack of an anti-aliasing filter does make it more susceptible to moiré, but it also allows the sensor to capture a very fine level of detail unlike anything produced by full-frame sensors. Obviously when you are comparing a 50-megapixel medium format sensor to a roughly 40-megapixel full-frame sensor, such as those in the Nikon D810 or Sony A7R II for example, the differences aren't always dramatic nor are they visible when viewing files at smaller sizes or making small prints. But when you print full-size image files, the differences are quickly evident.

Another impressive area for the GFX is its dynamic range performance. I have been able to pull shadow detail out of images unlike anything I've been able to do with full-frame cameras I've used. Highlight detail is easily recovered as well. The files are very flexible, particularly at lower ISOs.

Fujifilm GFX Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Fujinon GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR at 38.2mm (30mm eq.), f/14, 0.7s, ISO 100.
This image has been modified. Click for original image.

Fujifilm GFX Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Fujinon GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR at 38.2mm (30mm eq.), f/14, 0.7s, ISO 100.
This is the JPEG image straight from the camera of the shot above. The GFX allows for the recovery of considerable highlight and shadow detail.

It is not just low ISO performance which impresses, the camera also does surprisingly well at high ISO despite its high megapixel count. The extra sensor size and what Fujifilm has done to the sensor pays big dividends. You can see a variety of high ISO samples here. I was very impressed with the GFX's high ISO performance. I wouldn't hesitate to use this camera at ISO 1600 or even ISO 3200 when planning on making large prints.

Fujifilm GFX Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Fujinon GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR at 32mm (25mm eq.), f/11, 1/340s, ISO 1600.
This image has been modified. Click for original image.

Fujifilm GFX Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Fujinon GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR at 32mm (25mm eq.), f/11, 1/340s, ISO 1600.
100% crop of the image above taken straight from the camera with default noise reduction settings.

As is often the case with high-end photographic gear, the difference in performance compared to the best full-frame cameras can be fairly small, and it is up to the consumer to determine whether or not the difference is worth the sometimes high increase in cost. The GFX's image quality is phenomenal, there is no disputing that, but its advantages over great full-frame cameras aren't easily noticed until you push the files to their limits.

Autofocus is not very fast, but it is very precise

The Fujifilm GFX relies on a contrast detect autofocus system; it has no phase detection autofocus. Further, it is important to keep in mind what the GFX is and who it is designed for. It's a medium format camera aimed at slower-paced shooting, such as landscapes, portraiture and the like. This is not a sports camera, and the limited autofocus speed backs up that sentiment.

Let's get the negatives out of the way first. The Fuji GFX's autofocus system is slow. I haven't previously used a medium format camera, so I cannot comment on how it compares to other MF systems, such as the Pentax 645Z or the recent Hasselblad X1D. However, I can say that compared to APS-C Fujifilm cameras, the GFX is sluggish. The camera has a mode called "Rapid AF," which decreases the display quality but increases autofocus speeds, according to the manual. I used the feature some and didn't find it to offer much of a speed increase.

Fujifilm GFX Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Fujinon GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR at 35.6mm (28mm eq.), f/4.0, 1/35s, ISO 100.
This image has been modified. Click for original image.

The GFX's low light autofocus is also an area of weakness. When shooting in dim morning or evening conditions, which are common lighting conditions for me, the GFX regularly struggled. With a polarizing filter attached, the problem was unsurprisingly exacerbated. I have shot with many cameras in similar conditions and didn't encounter as many issues as I did with the GFX.

Now to the positives. The GFX has 425 autofocus points, which cover a huge portion of the image area. Considering the size of the sensor, this is very impressive. The autofocus point density and coverage is better than most cameras I've used, even those with much smaller sensors to cover.

Autofocus modes include single point, zone and wide/tracking. Moving points around using the dedicated autofocus joystick also works very well and you can adjust the size of the points/zone using the rear command dial. When using zone and wide/tracking AF modes, the number of focus points decreases to 117.

Overall, autofocus is not fast, but it is consistently accurate and works well for the types of photography for which the GFX is designed. I enjoyed the density of autofocus points in the image area, but the low-light autofocus performance was disappointing.

Fujifilm GFX Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Fujinon GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR at 39.6mm (31mm eq.), f/16, 6.5s, ISO 100.
This image has been modified and focus stacked. Click for background focus image and foreground focus image.
Metering is reliable in most situations

The conditions recently have been quite snowy here in Maine, which provided a good opportunity to challenge the GFX's exposure and white balance metering. The camera uses a TTL 256-zone metering system, which proved to be quite good. In scenes with a lot of white areas, the camera tended to underexpose, sometimes considerably, but it was consistent, so exposure compensation worked well. White balance metering was mostly good as well, although it struggled a bit in low light conditions, tending to produce images with a bluish tint.

Metering options include multi, spot, average and center-weighted, with spot metering linked to a single autofocus point. Available exposure compensation is +/- 5 EV in 0.3 EV steps. I regularly used the GFX with a live histogram on the display, which works very well as it can be quite difficult to accurately assess exposure using just the image on the camera's display. The GFX also has a highlight alert option, which while useful, isn't quite as good as using the histogram.

Fujifilm GFX Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Fujinon GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR at 33.2mm (26mm eq.), f/8.0, 8.5s, ISO 100.
The GFX 50S tends toward cooler tones in low light with automatic white balance.
Click for full-size image.
Performance: Shallow buffer and slow speeds

You will want to refer to our lab testing for the Fuji GFX 50S for the full details on its performance, but suffice it to say, it's not a speedy camera. The GFX relies on an X-Processor Pro, which is quick for single shot cycling, but can't handle many of the GFX's large image files. I tested the GFX with a Lexar 64GB 2000x SDXC II card, which is rated with a max read speed of 300 MB/s and a max write speed 260 MB/s. It worked great for my type of photography. Single images were processed quickly, and I could view them almost immediately. The camera worked quickly, menus were snappy and changing settings was fast.

During my own testing with the camera, I was able to shoot a buffer of 7 frames both in RAW and RAW+JPEG modes at 3 frames per second, with the buffer clearing in around 10 seconds in both cases. This buffer depth is obviously small, but it should be sufficient for many types of photography. Another aspect of the camera's overall speed worth pointing out is that when using the mechanical shutter, the viewfinder blackout is fairly long. When you shoot continuously, you don't have a true live view look through the viewfinder, but captured images display in the viewfinder instead.

Another weak area for the GFX is its battery life, which is rated for 400 shots. You can double the battery life by using the optional vertical grip with a second battery, but I was chewing through battery life in fewer shots than that, so your mileage may vary.

Overall, the camera is far from fast, but it never felt sluggish during my landscape work. I think that some portrait photographers could feel hampered by the GFX's buffer depth, but the buffer clears pretty quickly. It will never be an action or sports camera, clearly, but that isn't the design intent.

Fujifilm GFX Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Fujinon GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR at 44.9mm (36mm eq.), f/4.0, 1/160s, ISO 800.
This image has been modified. Click for original image.
Shooting modes
Film Simulation

Film simulations are one of my favorite features on Fujifilm cameras. They are capable of capturing colors, contrast and tones in ways unlike anything found on non-Fuji cameras. The Fujifilm GFX 50S is no different. It includes the same standard suite of Film Simulations you've come to expect in Fuji cameras, except this time with a relatively new one, Acros. You can read more about the film simulation here, but basically it is a new black and white film simulation with a sharp, fine-grained look and rich tonality. I already liked Fujifilm's standard black and white option, but Acros is my new favorite, allowing me to create beautiful black and white images right in the camera.

Fujifilm GFX Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Fujinon GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR at 32mm (25mm eq.), f/13, 3.1s, ISO 100. Acros Film Simulation.
Click for full-size image.

Fujifilm GFX Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Fujinon GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR at 48.2mm (38mm eq.), f/13, 2s, ISO 100. Velvia Film Simulation.
Click for full-size image.

Fujifilm GFX Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Fujinon GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR at 47.3mm (37mm eq.), f/13, 2.1s, ISO 100. Velvia Film Simulation.
Click for full-size image.
Auto ISO

While the Fujifilm GFX 50S offers the standard assortment of exposure settings like other Fujifilm cameras, there is also a good Auto ISO mode I wanted to bring attention to. The user has access to three customizable Auto ISO slots, which let you customize both the ISO range that the camera will utilize and the minimum shutter speed. There isn't a way to adjust for the focal length of the lens being used, but with three slots, you have a lot of flexibility.

Fujifilm GFX Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Fujinon GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR at 59.6mm (47mm eq.), f/11, 1/25s, ISO 1000.
This image has been modified. Click for original image.

Historically, it would seem odd to even consider using Auto ISO with a medium format camera. They've typically required special treatment, such as always using a tripod or keeping the ISO within a narrow range, but the GFX 50S is different. You really can use it as you would other mirrorless cameras or DSLRs. You need to ensure that focus is spot-on, but other than that, you can walk around with the camera and capture good shots in ever-changing situations.

Fujinon GF32-64mm lens is versatile, but the f/4 max aperture is slightly disappointing

As I've mentioned, I used the GFX exclusively with the GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR lens. This lens offers a 25-51mm equivalent focal length and an aperture range of f/4 to f/32. Its optical formula includes three aspherical elements, one Super ED element and one ED element. The lens' front element is fluorine coated as well. These elements are encased in a solid lens barrel, which is dust- and weather-sealed.

Fujifilm GFX Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Fujinon GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR at 46.5mm (37mm eq.), f/11, 120s, ISO 100.
This image has been modified. Click for original image.

It is an internally focusing lens and relies on a linear AF motor. Autofocus speeds are pretty quick, all things considered. What I really like about the lens is how good its zoom, focus and aperture rings feel. The zoom ring, in particular, feels fantastic, rotating smoothly but with purposeful resistance.

The lens balances nicely on the GFX 50S, weighing in at a fairly hefty 1.93 pounds (875 grams). The lens isn't much different in size from a Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G lens, for example, and is considerably smaller and lighter than the newer Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8E lens. No, it's not as fast, but that's the sort of void the lens fills in the GFX system so it feels like a fair comparison.

As I'll discuss further down below, the f/4 aperture of the 32-64mm lens is fine for daytime shooting, typical landscapes-type shots, portraiture and other similar subject matter, but it can be limiting for certain situations, such as astrophotography, which I do quite a bit.

While I couldn't test the lens like our lab would, it proved to be a very sharp lens, offering great performance across the entire frame. It does have some vignetting at maximum aperture, particularly at the wide end, but it offers excellent performance overall, in my opinion.

Fujifilm GFX Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Fujinon GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR at 32mm (25mm eq.), f/16, 10s, ISO 100.
Click for full-size image.

In the Field

Morning landscapes in Acadia

Acadia National Park is one of my favorite places to shoot. While much of the park is closed or simply too dangerous to access during the winter, one of my go-to locations, Duck Brook, is easily accessible no matter the season. The only difficulty in winter is navigating the often icy rocks. Water flow was good when I visited recently, making it a suitable test subject for the GFX 50S.

The GF32-64mm f/4 lens has a 77mm filter thread, meaning I could use the same filters I used with my Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G lens within my Nikon system, which proved convenient. What was also very convenient was the tilting display and tilt adapter for the EVF. I typically like to set my gear up low when shooting landscapes, which often requires getting down on the ground to be able to see through the viewfinder of a camera. Not so with the EVF tilt adapter.

Fujifilm GFX Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Fujinon GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR at 38.9mm (31mm eq.), f/16, 1s, ISO 100.
This image has been modified. Click for original image.
Testing the weather resistance in a blizzard

As winter storm Stella closed in on us here in eastern Maine in mid-March, I decided to take the GFX out and test its weather resistance in hopes of getting some nice black and white images in the blizzard-like conditions.

First things first, the GFX survived fine. Its weather sealing looks good, and the seals around the battery and memory card compartments are strong. There aren't any obvious gaps surrounding any of the buttons. The only area I noted moisture was between the camera body and the rear display, but it was easy to dry and I don't foresee this being a problem. To help prevent any potential water issues with the EVF, I opted to use the included hot shoe mount cover that came with the camera and rely only on the rear display. Despite Fuji's weather resistance claims, the conditions were particularly bad, so I had brought a few cloths with me to dab away snow on the camera and lens as needed.

Fujifilm GFX Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Fujinon GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR at 32mm (25mm eq.), f/16, 1.4s, ISO 100.
This image has been modified. Click for original image.

In addition to dealing well with the elements, the GFX 50S also works well while wearing gloves, something important to me since I spend a lot of time shooting in very cold conditions. The touchscreen worked well with a pair of my gloves designed for touchscreen devices, but regular gloves were a no-go. The dedicated autofocus joystick worked fine for moving the AF point around with gloves on, although I did accidentally press the joystick a few times, which resets the AF point to center. The directional pad and other buttons worked well with gloves with the exception of the small exposure compensation button, which required a very deliberate press. Overall, the GFX 50S handles as well with gloves as any other camera I've used.

Fujifilm GFX Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Fujinon GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR at 50.8mm (40mm eq.), f/4.0, 1/500s, ISO 1600.
This image has been modified. Click for original image.

The dark stormy conditions also gave me a good reason to test out the GFX's high ISO capabilities a bit. I wanted to shoot at around 1/500 of a second to capture the snow as it fell, but with the GF 32-64mm zoom lens having a maximum aperture of f/4, this meant I had to dial the ISO upwards. I like that both shutter speed and ISO have dedicated dials on the GFX 50S body, which made adjusting settings a quick, simple process.

Fujifilm GFX Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Fujinon GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR at 32mm (25mm eq.), f/11, 1/6s, ISO 100.
This image has been modified. Click for original image.
Night shooting in Acadia National Park

Using the Fujinon GF32-64 f/4 is tricky for night shooting. The focal length of the lens requires a fairly short exposure time in order to ensure that the stars are sharp, but the maximum aperture of f/4 on this zoom lens therefore requires a higher ISO to get those shorter exposure time. There are ways around this, such as stacking multiple high ISO images to reduce visible noise, but I instead decided to take advantage of the GFX's long shutter speed options. You can record single images with shutter speeds as long as 60 minutes on the GFX without needing to use an intervalometer or cable release, which is great. (The GFX actually has a built-in intervalometer function, which is both easy to use and convenient.)

Fujifilm GFX Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Fujinon GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR at 32mm (25mm eq.), f/4, 30 minutes (sky) and 15 minutes (foreground), ISO 400 (sky) and ISO 3200 (foreground).
This image has been modified and stacked. Click for sky image and foreground image.

In part due to the f/4 lens, focusing at night can be quite challenging. The GFX's lenses don't include a built-in focus scale, so you need to rely on an electronic focus scale on the display. This method works well and allows for very fine, precise focus adjustments.

Unsurprisingly, making a series of long exposure images can drain the GFX's battery quite quickly. And I'm sure the cold environment I was in didn't help either. I went through one battery in a short few hours, which is far shorter than the battery life I get from my DSLR cameras.

Fujifilm GFX Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Fujinon GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR at 32mm (25mm eq.), f/4, 30 minutes (sky) and 8 minutes (foreground), ISO 400 (sky) and ISO 1600 (foreground).
This image has been modified and stacked. Click for sky image and foreground image.

This is definitely not a strong night photography camera, at least not with the current trio of GF lenses. The ability to shoot star trails with a single frame, or longer ones with only a few files, is very nice, but for shooting photos of the Milky Way, Fuji will need to release faster wide-angle lenses or you will need to adapt other lenses to the GFX. With that said, the sensor is excellent and the camera handles well in the field at night, so the potential is there.

Fujifilm GFX Field Test Part Summary
Fuji GFX delivers an excellent option for landscape photographers

As a landscape camera, the Fujifilm GFX 50S is excellent. The Fujinon GF32-64 f/4 lens is fantastic and offers great performance across the frame throughout its 25-51mm equivalent focal length range.

With the addition of the vertical battery grip and tilt adapter, the GFX becomes a very flexible, usable camera in a variety of situations. Its tilting touchscreen display works well, and the control layout is generally good. The camera is rugged with dependable weather sealing, which makes it well-suited for landscape and nature photography.

Fujifilm GFX Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Fujinon GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR at 32mm (25mm eq.), f/11, 0.6s, ISO 100.
This image has been modified. Click for original image.

Autofocus speed is a weak area for the GFX, to be sure, but it proved sufficient for landscape work, but fast-paced portrait shooters could be limited by the GFX's autofocus speed and continuous shooting performance.

The primary highlight of the GFX is its sensor, which excels in a wide variety of situations across an impressive ISO range. Its sharpness is unmatched by full-frame cameras, and Fujifilm's traditionally excellent color rendering and film simulation options translate well from the X series to the GFX.

Fujifilm GFX Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Fujinon GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR at 46.5mm (37mm eq.), f/16, 30s, ISO 100.
This image has been modified. Click for original image.

What I like:

  • Fantastic image quality
  • Functional design
  • Small for a medium format camera
  • Detachable EVF is excellent
  • Zoom lens works very well
  • Great tilting touchscreen display
  • Ample autofocus point coverage

What I dislike:

  • Although AF coverage is good, autofocus speed is underwhelming, especially in low light
  • Slow continuous shooting performance, as expected
  • Sparse video features
  • Max flash sync of 1/125s could be limiting for studio photographers
  • Some may consider the GFX an unattractive camera
Fujifilm GFX Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Fujinon GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR at 49mm (39mm eq.), f/16, 60s, ISO 100.
This image has been cropped. Click for original image.

 



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