Fuji GFX 50R Field Test

Fujifilm's medium-format camera system receives a sleek and stylish addition

by Jeremy Gray | Posted 01/22/2018

Fujinon GF 63mm f/2.8 R WR lens at 63mm (50mm equiv.), f/8, 0.3s, ISO 100.
ACR converted raw file. Click for full-size image. Click here for raw image.

In 2016, Fujifilm launched its new GFX medium-format mirrorless camera system by introducing the 51.4-megapixel GFX 50S, with Fujifilm making the bold decision to skip past the full-frame sensor size. While there is overlap with the APS-C X Series in terms of styling and the user experience, many aspects of the GFX system are brand-new. With a fledgling camera system, there will always be some growing pains, particularly as a company fleshes out its native lens lineup. In that respect, the new GFX 50R, which uses the same sensor as the GFX 50S but places it inside a vastly different camera body, has more native lens options at launch than its sibling did. There are more native GF lenses, there are numerous adapters out there for non-native lenses and Fujifilm has made important upgrades to its GFX system via firmware updates.

Compared to the three lenses which launched alongside the 50S, the 50R hit the shelves next to seven native GF lenses -- with an eighth arriving in February of 2019. While there are still gaps in the lens lineup, it is a much fuller and more versatile assortment of optics than the GFX 50S had at its launch. Furthermore, the 50S launched with a price of $6,500 USD whereas the 50R launched at $4,500. While the 50S's price has gone down since to $5,500, it remains an expensive camera. The 50S is big, bulky and pricey. It does do many things very well, including capturing incredibly detailed images. It also offers a reasonably good user experience for a medium-format camera, with good autofocus point coverage and decent performance for its class.

Fujinon GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR lens at 32mm (25mm equiv.), f/11, 2.3s, ISO 100.
ACR converted raw file. Click for full-size image. Click here for raw image.

The GFX 50R opts for a somewhat smaller and modified camera body but maintains the same excellent image quality and internal components. In fact, much of the 50R's performance is identical to that of the 50S. If you have not yet read my Field Test of the GFX 50S, I recommend that you give it a look as much of what I said about that camera applies equally to the GFX 50R.

Of course, there are differences between the two cameras, primarily with respect to the design and overall usability. I'll highlight and detail the differences throughout this Field Test, but a few examples are a lack of ISO dial on the 50R, lower viewfinder magnification and less tilting of the rear display.

Fujinon GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR lens at 57.5mm (45mm equiv.), f/11, 0.9s, ISO 100.
ACR converted raw file. Click for full-size image. Click here for raw image.

Key Features and Specs

  • Rangefinder-style GFX medium-format mirrorless camera
  • Compact and lighter than the GFX 50S
  • Built-in electronic viewfinder
  • Tilting touchscreen
  • 51.4-megapixel medium-format CMOS image sensor
  • Native ISO range of 100 to 12,800
  • Includes Fujifilm Film Simulations
  • 425-point contrast-detect autofocus system
  • 3 frames per second continuous shooting
  • Full HD video recording
  • Built-in Bluetooth
  • $4,500 USD for the body only

Camera Body and Handling

With so many similarities between the GFX 50S and the GFX 50R, one of the best ways to differentiate between the two cameras is in their design and appearance. With the 50S, Fujifilm opted for a more DSLR-like design. To the extent that the camera was familiar to me as a full-frame DSLR user, it was a success. However, it is a big, bulky and rather unattractive camera. The 50R, on the other hand, is more like a brick in its form. Save for small protrusions on the back and front of the camera, it's smooth and certainly a sleeker camera than the 50S. (If you haven't seen it already, please watch our hands-on video for a great first look at how the 50R compares to the 50S and some other cameras.)

Like the GFX 50S before it, the GFX 50R is a large camera.

In addition to its different shape, size and styling, the GFX 50R also uses a different viewfinder location and design when compared to the 50S. The 50R's viewfinder is on the left edge of the camera and it is a 0.5-inch OLED EVF. It has a magnification of 0.77x, which is a bit less than the 50S, which offers 0.85x magnification. I have no issues with the lower magnification, but I don't find the 50R's viewfinder as comfortable to use. It has hard plastic around it rather than the nice rounded soft eyecup on the 50S and it did occasionally cause some discomfort and can allow a bit of light in from the sides.

With that said, the image through the electronic viewfinder is quite nice. It's sharp and detailed, although the 50R, like the 50S, can sometimes have some issues with framerate. The image in the viewfinder can be a bit jumpy and sometimes lags behind the scene you are photographing. It is particularly noticeable in lower light but can also occur when focusing in bright conditions. It is not a bad EVF, by any means, it is simply not as natural or as refined of a shooting experience when compared to something like a Nikon Z7 or Sony A7R III.

As you can see in this side-by-side comparison, the Fuji GFX 50R (left) is actually wider than the GFX 50S (right), but it's a bit smaller overall. It is worth pointing out that the GFX 50S's viewfinder, which is on the top of the camera, is removable. The 50R also has a much less pronounced front grip than the 50S.

Getting back to the design of the GFX 50R, this is where I think the camera shines. While I thought that the 50S did a good job of making a medium-format camera feel like shooting with a full-frame camera, the 50R is even better. While it is much bigger than the similarly-shaped X-Pro2, the GFX 50R is not significantly bigger than cameras such as the Nikon D850 or Canon 5D Mark IV. Where the GFX 50R differs quite significantly from both the GFX 50S and SLR-styled cameras is that the 50R does not have much by the way of a front grip. It is essentially the same depth as the amount the lens mount flange protrudes from the front of the body, which isn't very much. I would personally prefer a slightly more pronounced front grip.

There is no doubt that the 50R is easier to travel with than the 50S. It fits more easily into my backpack, it is lighter and more tolerable to carry around my neck for extended periods of time. A tradeoff is that there are fewer buttons and no directional pad, meaning that menu navigation is performed via a joystick. Despite the small surface area of the joystick, I found it pretty easy to use for moving the focus point and navigating menus. The joystick was even usable when wearing gloves. On the other hand, some of the buttons on the 50R are quite small and don't protrude much from the camera body, which makes them hard to press when wearing gloves.

There are also stark differences between the two GFX cameras when looking at the back. The 50R (left) has fewer controls and doesn't have the same bulge on the back as the 50S (right). We can also see the different viewfinder location better in this comparison.

The rear display is the same size as the one on the 50S, 3.2 inches. The display has 2,360K dots, is very sharp and works well outdoors. The touchscreen tilts in two directions, up and down, rather than in three directions like the one on the 50S. The 50R lacks the top display of the 50S, a feature I find useful, but not one that is a major omission for many users.

Overall, the 50R feels significantly different from the 50S. Having fewer controls can seem limiting at times. However, having a camera which is easier to carry and looks better is a nice consolation. Like the 50S before it, the 50R is a well-built camera with pro-level weather resistance and delivers a positive user experience.

The top of the GFX 50R is quite similar to other Fujifilm cameras, featuring dedicated dials for shutter speed and exposure compensation. I would have preferred a dedicated ISO dial over an exposure compensation dial.

Image Quality

While the GFX 50R, like the 50S, is a medium-format camera, it is worth pointing out that there isn't the same level of standardization with medium-format digital cameras as there is with full-frame cameras. While all full-frame cameras have nearly identical sensor sizes, that is not true of medium-format cameras. Cameras like the GFX 50R, Hasselblad X1D and Pentax 645Z have medium-format sensors that are smaller than the sensors found in cameras like a Phase One digital back. The GFX 50R's sensor size is 43.8 x 32.9 millimeters (compared to a 36 x 24mm full-frame sensor). That said, there are notable image quality gains to be had with the GFX 50R's image sensor compared to cameras such as a Nikon Z7 or Sony A7R III. The important takeaway is that while the GFX 50R offers outstanding image quality, the jump up from a full-frame camera is not particularly noticeable in every situation. With cameras like a GFX, you are operating in an area of diminishing marginal returns. You're at a reasonably affordable cutting edge of imaging, but the gap between a GFX 50R and an A7R III in terms of image quality is not the same as the gap between a 50R and a Fuji X-T3, for example.

Fujinon GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR lens at 39.6mm (31mm equiv.), f/8, 10s, ISO 50.
ACR converted raw file. Click for full-size image. Click here for raw image.
100% crop from the above image. Click for full-size image. Click here for raw image.

Looking closer at the image sensor itself, the GFX 50R image sensor is a 51.4-megapixel CMOS sensor and it offers a native ISO range of 100 to 12,800 (which can be expanded to ISO 50-102,400). In every way, it's the same sensor and imaging pipeline as is found in the GFX 50S. The 50R also offers the same aspect ratio modes: 4:3 (native; 51.1 megapixels), 5:4 (48.0MP), 3:2 (45.4MP), 16:9 (38.3MP), 1:1 (38.3MP) as well as numerous smaller sizes, including a 12-megapixel 4:3 file. Raw images are recorded with 14 bits of depth in lossless compressed or uncompressed .RAF files.

With its lack of an anti-aliasing filter, sharpness is excellent in the GFX 50R files. While the straight-from-the-camera JPEG images are good and have very nice detail, the raw files are where the 50R shines. With careful sharpening, you can produce images with a staggering level of detail and resolution. Some of this is of course due to the excellent image sensor, but perhaps just as important are the very good Fujinon GF lenses.

Fujinon GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR at 45mm (36mm equiv.), f/8, 1/4s, ISO 100.
ACR converted raw file. Click for full-size image. Click here for raw image.
100% crop from the above image. Click for full-size image. Click here for raw image.
100% crop from the top image. Click for full-size image. Click here for raw image.

Of course, with a lack of anti-aliasing filter comes the possibility of increased moiré and other aliasing artifacts. In the image below, the tree branches are a semi-repeating pattern, which cause some issues. There are also some shimmering artifacts along the fine details in the water. It is worth noting that this is not an issue in the JPEG file of the image below. However, the image is simply not as sharp. There's a tradeoff to be considered.

Fujinon GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR at 45mm (36mm equiv.), f/8, 1.1s, ISO 50.
ACR converted raw file. Click for full-size image. Click here for raw image.
100% crop from the above image. Click for full-size image. Click here for raw image.
100% crop from the top image. Click for full-size image. Click here for raw image.

In the image and crops below, we see that there are artifacts visible in the ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) conversion as well as in the JPEG file straight from the camera. The issue of moiré is a case-by-case basis as well as what software you use.

Fujinon GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR at 45mm (36mm equiv.), f/8, 1/7s, ISO 50.
ACR converted raw file. Click for full-size image. Click here for raw image.
100% crop from the above image. Click for full-size image. Click here for raw image.
100% crop from the original in-camera JPEG file. Click for full-size image.

The difference between the GFX 50R and something like a Nikon Z7 or Sony A7R III is significant only in specific situations, such as when making very large prints or doing extensive cropping. It is not always easily seen, but it is something I notice. However, part of the reason I can see it is because I am looking closely. It's a rare situation when someone views a print from a modern full-frame camera and believes it's soft or lacks detail.

However, in my opinion, there is something special and unique about images from a medium-format camera such as the GFX that does set it apart in a meaningful way from a full-frame camera. That separation is negligible at times and it does come at a cost, both in monetary terms and with respect to overall camera performance and usability.

Fujinon GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR lens at 32mm (25mm equiv.), f/9, 1.2s, ISO 100.
ACR converted raw file. Click for full-size image. Click here for raw image.

When I was reviewing the GFX 50S, its .RAF files were excellent, but not always easy to process because some popular software couldn't read them, including Capture One software. Since that time, Phase One has started to support Fujifilm cameras, including its medium-format cameras, which is a really big deal. The newfound editing flexibility is not a strength unique to the GFX 50R compared to the GFX 50S, but it is worth noting.

You can do a lot of correction to raw files from the GFX 50R without them breaking down, including images captured at high ISOs. In the comparison below, we see the highlight recovery you can easily perform with GFX 50R raw files.

Fujinon GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR at 45mm (36mm equiv.), f/8, 2.6s, ISO 100.
In-camera JPEG. Click for full-size image.
ACR converted raw file of above image. Click for full-size image. Click here for raw image.

At higher ISOs, the camera also performs very well. The image below was captured at ISO 6400 and while there is some loss of detail, it's generally good file quality, especially considering that it is over 50 megapixels. If you are printing at 16 x 20 or smaller, the issues visible in the full-size file are not nearly as apparent.

Fujinon GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR at 45mm (36mm equiv.), f/2.8, 6.5s, ISO 6,400.
In-camera JPEG. Click for full-size image. Click here for raw image.
100% crop from the above image. Click for full-size image.
100% crop from the above image. Click for full-size image.

If you have yet to read my GFX 50S Field Tests, I suggest you do so for further insight on the image quality you can expect from the GFX 50R. In those Field Tests, I further discuss raw file flexibility and also how the sensor performs at different ISO settings with respect to exposure recovery.

Suffice it to say, you can expect very sharp images from the GFX 50R. Further, the raw files are flexible, and you can perform a lot of work on them while maintaining image integrity. Obviously, nailing as much as possible in camera is ideal, and generally the GFX 50R makes this pretty simple, but there is also value in being able to adjust files to artistic taste or compensate for an error during capture.

Fujinon GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR lens at 41.8mm (33mm equiv.), f/8, 10s, ISO 50.
ACR converted raw file. Click for full-size image. Click here for raw image.
100% crop from the above image. Click for full-size image. Click here for raw image.

Overall, the GFX 50R delivers outstanding image quality. When the GFX 50S launched at $6,500, it stood to reason that the camera should deliver image quality above and beyond that which you could achieve with full-frame cameras costing roughly half as much. However, with the GFX 50R launching at $4,500 USD -- a little over $1,000 more than cameras such as the Sony A7R III and Nikon Z7 -- the situation is a bit different and stellar medium-format image quality is more attainable than ever before for enthusiast photographers.

Autofocus and Performance

Autofocus

Continuing with the theme of identical specifications and features with the GFX 50S and the new GFX 50R, the autofocus system is the same 425-point contrast-detect system. There are good things and bad things about this autofocus system. I'd like to get the bad out of the way first. It's not fast and it is not particularly good in low light. While the GFX 50R is not a fast camera in and of itself, the autofocus system in particular can be quite sluggish and is not very good at handling moving subjects.

With that said, focus is generally accurate when dealing with stationary subjects. Further, the camera has very good autofocus area coverage. All but the extreme edges of the frame are covered by one or more of the 425 autofocus points. The camera also works well with touch focus, which is useful in the field.

Fujinon GF 63mm f/2.8 R WR lens at 63mm (50mm equiv.), f/2.8, 1/60s, ISO 160.
ACR converted raw file. Click for full-size image. Click here for raw image.

In total, the GFX 50R offers single point, zone, wide/tracking and face/eye detect autofocus modes. The face detect mode works quite well, although it does not always deliver quite enough accuracy when you are working with a shallow depth of field. The eye detect mode is an interesting inclusion, allowing you to even select between the left and right eye of your subject, although much like face detect, it is not fool-proof. Personally, I find that the single point mode, which offers six different sizes, is the most consistent focus area mode.

Overall, the GFX 50R's autofocus performance is far from its greatest strength. However, while it is not as fast as recent high-end full-frame cameras, it is reasonably quick and, perhaps most importantly, it is accurate and consistent.

Performance

As a medium-format camera focused on delivering great image quality above all else, the GFX 50R is unsurprisingly a pretty sluggish camera. Its maximum continuous shooting speed is only about 3 frames per second and its buffer depth when shooting raw files is a bit shallow. Buffer depths ranged from 8 uncompressed to 25 lossless compressed raw frames with a fast 64GB Lexar Pro 2000x UHS-II SDXC card in our lab tests, though when shooting best quality JPEGs there didn't appear to be a limit other than card capacity. When I used a slower 600x UHS-I SDXC card out in the field, I found buffer depths ranged from only around a half dozen to a dozen frames depending on the scene, ISO and file quality settings. So of course, continuous shooting is not a strength of the GFX 50R. With that said, in the course of normal single-frame shooting, it feels quick enough. Menu navigation is pretty snappy and the camera very rarely slows down. Powering on to the first shot is reasonably quick and going through image playback is fine too. See the Performance page for our lab performance test results.

Battery life is a concern, but the GFX 50R is not very different at around 400 shots than many other mirrorless cameras. Also, given the nature of the camera, it certainly encourages you to slow down and take your time, so I very rarely depleted a battery during a day. However, if you are shooting a lot of portraits or leaving the camera on when exploring, you will likely want a spare battery. It is worth noting that the GFX 50R, unlike the 50S, does not have an optional vertical battery grip.

Fujinon GF 63mm f/2.8 R WR lens at 63mm (50mm equiv.), f/8, 1/10s, ISO 100.
ACR converted raw file. Click for full-size image. Click here for raw image.

Shooting Experience

As was the case with the GFX 50S, there are some occasional oddities when shooting with the GFX 50R. Its 256-zone TTL metering system is generally good, but it occasionally produces some strange results, particularly with respect to white balance metering. Of course, you can correct for this when processing a raw file, but it is nonetheless frustrating to not fully know what to expect when shooting with a camera. Exposure metering mistakes can be more significant, but fortunately were limited mostly to low-light shooting situations. Further, the camera has an exposure compensation dial right on the camera (the 50S has a button + dial system for exposure compensation), which is convenient and helps alleviate some of the frustration.

Like other Fujifilm digital cameras, the GFX 50R offers Film Simulations. The variety is the same as the GFX 50S, meaning it includes: Provia, Velvia, Astia, Classic Chrome, Pro Neg. Hi, Pro Neg. Std, Black and White (standard, yellow, red and green filters), Sepia and Acros (standard, yellow, red and green filters). In my opinion, Provia and Velvia are the best for color and Acros is the best option for black and white photography. Others may prefer Classic Chrome or a different option. Therein lies the beauty of Film Simulations, there's something here for everyone.

Fujinon GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR lens at 64mm (51mm equiv.), f/8, 3s, ISO 100.
ACR converted raw file. Click for full-size image. Click here for raw image.

While I always prefer to process raw files on my computer using Adobe Camera Raw or more recently Capture One, thanks to the addition of GFX file support, the GFX 50R does offer the ability to process files in-camera, allowing for some broad global adjustments. Another feature the GFX 50R offers which I don't use in my own workflow is wireless connectivity. As was the case with the GFX 50S, the feature works fine although it is unspectacular.

GFX 50R versus GFX 50S

I found that during my time with the GFX 50R, I generally enjoyed using it. The shape and style is very much to my liking and it was noticeably easier to carry and transport than the 50S, particularly since I use the 50S with the optional EVF tilt adapter and vertical battery grip.

The differences between the GFX 50S and the 50R were a mixed bag. While the smaller size of the 50R was nice, I prefer the EVF experience of the 50S, particularly with the tilt adapter, something that is incompatible with the 50R. I utilize the tilt adapter nearly every time I shoot with the GFX 50S. Further, the lack of a compatible battery grip means that the battery life can be more problematic. I also prefer the three-way tilt of the 50S's rear display. For me, I think that these differences make the GFX 50S worth the additional size and cost compared to the 50R. However, I can appreciate the reasons why many other photographers will find the new GFX 50R better suited to their preferences, not the least of which is the lower cost.

Fujinon GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR lens at 54.6mm (43mm equiv.), f/16, 0.9s, ISO 100.
ACR converted raw file. Click for full-size image. Click here for raw image.

Video

The Fuji GFX 50R is not a camera well-suited for recording video. If you intend to use it as a hybrid camera or as part of a multimedia setup, you will likely come away disappointed. Like the 50S, video resolution tops out at 1920 x 1080 (Full HD) and the frame rate maxes out at 30 frames per second. There is no 4K recording. Further, the autofocus performance is mediocre to poor. There is not a lot to like with respect to the 50R's video performance.

Fuji GFX 50R Video #1
1920 x 1080 video at 30 frames per second. GF 32-64mm f/4 lens. ISO 200.
Download Original (101.3 MB .MOV File)

From a usability standpoint, to begin recording video with the GFX 50R, you must enter the Drive mode menu. At the bottom of a lengthy list is the video recording option. Once you're in the mode, the screen will show a 16:9 image area and you start and stop recording using the shutter release.

Fuji GFX 50R Video #2
1920 x 1080 video at 30 frames per second. GF 32-64mm f/4 lens. ISO 200.
Download Original (62.1 MB .MOV File)
Fuji GFX 50R Video #3
1920 x 1080 video at 30 frames per second. GF 32-64mm f/4 lens. ISO 1600.
Download Original (77.3 MB .MOV File)
Fuji GFX 50R Video #4
1920 x 1080 video at 30 frames per second. GF 32-64mm f/4 lens. ISO 6400.
Download Original (67.9 MB .MOV File)

While the base ISO for still images is 100, when shooting videos, the lowest ISO is 200. Similarly, the maximum ISO is not the same in video as it is for stills, it is capped at 6400 for video. You can use Auto ISO while recording video, which is nice. You can also use the exposure compensation dial on the top of the camera if you want to augment automatic exposure.

The autofocus during video recording is very slow and indecisive as you can see below. You also don't have access to as many autofocus areas when recording video and are limited to larger autofocus areas.

Fuji GFX 50R AF Test Video
1920 x 1080 video at 30 frames per second. GF 63mm f/2.8 lens. ISO 800.
Download Original (221.8 MB .MOV File)

Generally, the Full HD video looks fine. However, 1080/30p video is not an impressive offering these days and the autofocus is limiting. The GFX 50R is not a camera designed around video. The upcoming 100-megapixel GFX is promising 4K video, so it will be interesting to see how that camera performs and if the GFX system really can become a hybrid camera system. But as of now, there are much better options for recording video.

Fujifilm GFX 50R Field Test Summary

Same great image quality as the GFX 50S with more style and some of the same issues

What I liked:

  • Sleeker and more compact than the GFX 50S
  • Good touchscreen
  • Excellent image quality
  • Pretty good, albeit slow, autofocus
  • Easier on the wallet than the GFX 50S
Fujinon GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR lens at 64mm (51mm equiv.), f/16, 8.5s, ISO 100.
ACR converted raw file. Click for full-size image. Click here for raw image.

What I didn't like:

  • Sluggish overall performance
  • Still big and heavy
  • Some gaps remain in the GF lens lineup
  • Poor video features and performance

The Fujifilm GFX 50R is an interesting camera. With respect to its image quality, it is one of the best cameras out there. On the other hand, while more affordable than the 50S, it is still an expensive mirrorless camera. The decision to purchase will come down to how much you value different aspects of a camera's overall performance.

Those who value image quality above all else will find a lot to like. Photographers who care about speed, performance and versatility will find issues with the GFX 50R, much as they would with the 50S. The sensor is amazing, and the Fujinon GF lenses are universally excellent. However, if you need something fast or compact, the 50R is a nonstarter. Its video features and performance are also poor.

Fujinon GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR lens at 41.1mm (33mm equiv.), f/9, 4s, ISO 100.
ACR converted raw file. Click for full-size image. Click here for raw image.

Despite its shortcomings, there is something special about using the 50R. It is an approachable yet supremely powerful medium-format mirrorless camera with great style and overall usability. For a travel photographer who doesn't need something extremely small or light, the 50R should prove compact enough. For a landscape photographer, it's a great tool due to its excellent image quality. When it comes to studio work and portraiture, the situation may become a bit murkier depending on the need for fast autofocus. Nonetheless, I am a big fan of the Fujifilm GFX 50R and its image quality.

Fujinon GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR lens at 64mm (51mm equiv.), f/11, 2.3s, ISO 100.
ACR converted raw file. Click for full-size image. Click here for raw image.

 



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