Fujifilm GFX 50S II Review
|Full model name:||Fujifilm GFX 50S II|
|Sensor size:||Medium format
(43.8mm x 32.9mm)
|Viewfinder:||EVF / LCD|
|Native ISO:||100 - 12,800|
|Extended ISO:||50 - 102,400|
|Shutter:||1/16000 - 3600 sec|
|Max Aperture:||4.5 (kit lens)|
5.9 x 4.1 x 3.4 in.
(150 x 104 x 87 mm)
Fujifilm GFX 50S II Preview - First Impressions
by Jeremy Gray
Preview posted: 09/02/2021
09/14/2021: First Shots added
While the 102-megapixel medium-format image sensor in Fujifilm's GFX 100 and GFX 100S cameras have understandably garnered a lot of attention among photographers, the 51.4-megapixel sensor from the original GFX 50S and rangefinder-styled GFX 50R cameras remains an excellent image sensor. Aiming to deliver some of the advantages of the GFX 100S while offering a much more affordable new choice in 2021, Fujifilm has combined the sensor of the GFX 50S/R and the body of the GFX 100S for its new $4,000 GFX 50S II medium-format mirrorless camera.
The key new features of the GFX 50S II compared to its predecessor are a more compact size, updated autofocus, in-body image stabilization and better value. When the GFX 50S launched in 2017, it cost $6,500. The GFX 50R launched in late 2018 for $4,500, a significant price reduction compared to its sibling. However, the 50R lost the chunky front grip, large viewfinder, three-axis tilting touchscreen and a bit more. What it did was keep the same impressive image sensor.
2017 was a long time ago, at least when considering technological advancement. However, the 51.4-megapixel image sensor from the GFX 50S/R cameras continues to hold up well. It produces sharp images with excellent color. Besides, not everyone needs 102 megapixels, nor does everyone want to spend $6,000 (plus a fair bit more to get a lens) to get their foot into the door of the GFX system.
By combining the exact body design of the new GFX 100S and the older imaging pipeline of the GFX 50S/R, Fujifilm hopes to deliver a great value with the GFX 50S II. Let's take a closer look at the new camera and see how it stands up, at least on paper.
Fujifilm GFX 50S II Key Features
- 51.4-megapixel large-format Bayer CMOS image sensor
- Image sensor is 43.8 x 32.9mm
- Native ISO range of 100-12,800, expandable to 50-51,200
- 14 stops of dynamic range
- Includes Nostalgic Neg. Film Simulation
- Overclocked quad-core X-Processor 4 with latest firmware
- Contrast-detect autofocus system with faster AF than the original GFX 50S
- Upgraded autofocus algorithms
- Focuses down to -3.5 EV with lowlight priority AF
- Focuses as fast as 0.272s with Rapid AF
- Continuous shooting at 3 frames per second
- 0.77x 3.69M dot electronic viewfinder with 50fps refresh rate
- 3.2" tilting touchscreen
- Up to 6.5 stops of shake reduction with in-body image stabilization
- 205-megapixel Multi-shot Pixel Shift
- 440 shot battery life with NP-W235 lithium-ion
- FHD video at up to 30p
- $4,000 for the body only
Fuji GFX 50S II camera body design
When Fujifilm first announced the GFX 100, it represented a significant departure in design and handling compared to the original GFX 50S. The dual-grip design was different. In some ways, it was better. In other ways, it was worse. Fujifilm dialed things back with the GFX 100S, returning to a more traditional, SLR-inspired design. A few excellent features of the GFX 100's design were lost in the process, unfortunately, including its fantastic 5.76M dot EVF. The GFX 100S has a 3.69M dot EVF with 0.77x magnification. That's still good, but not as good as the high-res EVF with 0.86x magnification on the GFX 100. The original GFX 50S included more magnification, too, at 0.85x.
The new GFX 50S II uses the same body as the GFX 100S, save for the model name badge on the body. Therefore, anything that can be said about the GFX 100S's design can be equally applied to the GFX 50S II. It's incompatible with a vertical grip, and the camera doesn't include a dedicated control pad with four customizable function buttons.
It's far from all bad news, though. The GFX 50S II is significantly smaller and lighter than the original GFX 50S. Fujifilm's first GFX camera had its battery slot behind the tilting 3.2" display, resulting in a large bump on the camera's rear. As a GFX 50S owner, I got used to it. However, the thinner design of the GFX 50S II is undoubtedly an improvement.
The GFX 50S II is quite similar in size to a full-frame DSLR and some full-frame mirrorless cameras despite its larger image sensor. The GFX 50S II weighs almost the same as the Panasonic S1R and is nearly identical in size. Compared to another full-frame mirrorless camera, the Sony A1, the GFX 50S II is 31mm wider, 7mm taller and 17mm thicker. That's not a big difference. The GFX 50S II is slightly bigger than a Nikon Z7 II but weighs over 100 grams less. While the original GFX 50S was somewhat unwieldy, the slimmed down medium-format GFX 50S II is comparable to its full-frame competition.
Looking at the back of the GFX 50S II, it's laid out a fair bit better than the original GFX 50S. Whereas the GFX 50S had the playback and button in an awkward position to the left of the viewfinder, the GFX 50S II has it to the right of the camera's 3.2" tilting touchscreen. Above the playback button are DISP/BACK, MENU/OK and AE-L buttons, plus the camera's joystick. Instead of directional buttons, this is the primary way to interact with the camera, aside from using the touchscreen. The joystick worked well on the GFX 100S, although it isn't as reliably precise as directional buttons. We expect it to feel the same on the GFX 50S II. To the far right, near the thumb rest (which is ample in size, by the way), is the Q button. The Q Menu is a customizable quick menu to access your go-to camera settings. There's also an AF-ON button and a focus drive mode dial on the back of the camera.
The top of the camera includes a mode dial to the left of the viewfinder, a large top display, a pair of customizable function buttons, an exposure compensation button and the shutter release. The camera has dual command dials that both offer click functionality. The shutter button has a very soft touch, which was noted when Fujifilm briefed us about the GFX 100S. It has a lightweight feel in use.
Essentially, if you've seen or used a GFX 100S, you know what to expect with the body and design of the GFX 50S II. If you've used the original GFX 50S, you can expect numerous improvements, like a better overall button layout and a smaller size, as well as some compromises, including a smaller EVF and lack of directional buttons.
Image sensor and image quality
The GFX 50S II uses the same image sensor as the original GFX 50S. To recap, it's a 51.4-megapixel CMOS image sensor. The sensor is 43.8 x 32.9mm, which is 1.7 times the size of a full-frame image sensor but still smaller than the medium-format image sensors found in Phase One IQ4 digital backs.
The sensor has a native ISO range of 100-12,800, which can be extended to 50-102,400. The larger pixel size of the image sensor results in excellent tonality and imaging performance. While the 102.4-megapixel image sensor in the GFX 100(S) is superb, we did call the original GFX 50S's image quality the best we'd seen back in 2017. Of course, it has since been passed by its newer siblings, but the GFX 50S and now GFX 50S II still delivers excellent image quality that arguably continues to beat full-frame cameras in the market. Even though there are full-frame cameras with more megapixels, there's something to be said for having a physically larger image sensor.
What we wrote about the original GFX 50S's image quality in our review conclusion in 2017 remains true in 2021: 'Fantastic image quality across the board; Excellent RAW dynamic range; Superb high ISO performance.'
Autofocus, performance, IBIS and shooting features
We also wrote about the GFX 50S that its superb image quality came at the cost of autofocus speed and overall performance. The GFX 50S II hopes to address by pairing the same image sensor with a newer image processor, an overclocked X-Processor 4, which is the latest-generation Fujifilm image processor and same chip from the GFX 100S, for example.
By increasing the available processing power, the GFX 50S II takes advantage of improved autofocus algorithms and delivers better speed. It's still a contrast-detect autofocus system, but minimum focus speed is said to be faster. Further, low-light performance, autofocus tracking, eye detection and face detection are all said to be better, too.
Fujifilm states that the GFX 50S II can autofocus in as little as 0.272 seconds. While we need to wait until we go hands-on with the camera to assess its autofocus performance, it's worth pointing out that in our lab, the original GFX 50S focused in 0.476 seconds. It's a significant difference, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out in the real world. After, sluggish autofocus performance is one of the key weaknesses of the original GFX 50S, especially compared to full-frame cameras and the newer GFX 100S with its hybrid autofocus system.
The GFX 50S II can shoot at up to 3 frames per second with continuous autofocus, which is the same as the original GFX 50S. Considering that the GFX 100S has a higher-resolution sensor and uses the same processor to shoot faster, we think that the GFX 50S II, like the original GFX 50S, is limited by the sensor's readout speed more than anything else. It's still shooting 14-bit files, by the way, so unlike the GFX 100(S), the GFX 50S II isn't constrained by a 16-bit raw file. The GFX 100(S) can also shoot 14-bit, which is how it achieves its faster 5 fps continuous shooting.
Regarding buffer capacity, there's been no mention of improved buffer capacity, so we expect similar performance. This means you can expect a burst of about 21 lossless compressed RAW frames or 8 uncompressed RAW frames before the camera begins to slow down. We'll test this, of course, but we aren't expecting any real change in performance here either.
The GFX 100S includes in-body image stabilization. In fact, it has an improved, smaller IBIS system compared to the one found in the GFX 100, which was the first GFX camera to include IBIS. The GFX 50S II includes the same IBIS system as the GFX 100S, but stabilization performance is slightly improved due to the larger pixel size on the 51.4MP image sensor of the GFX 50S II. The GFX 50S II promises IBIS up to 6.5 stops (compared to up to 6 stops on the GFX 100S).
The addition of IBIS also results in a key feature addition for the GFX 50S II compared to its predecessor, Pixel Shift Multi Shot. The mode allows photographers to capture multiple images of still subjects using a tripod to get a final image when processed with accompanying software on your computer with 205MP of resolution. While this isn't quite as practical as 102MP in a single shot, it's still a nice inclusion.
The GFX 50S II has other features that the original GFX 50S lacks, including the Negative Nostalgic Film Simulation. The GFX 50S II also adds Bluetooth connectivity, something that was missing from the GFX 50S, although it was added to the GFX 50R.
Since it shares its design with the GFX 100S, the GFX 50S II also shares the same battery. It's an NP-W235 battery, and it's rated for 440 shots (20 fewer than the GFX 100S, which has a more efficient imaging pipeline). It's also the same battery as the Fujifilm X-T4. The GFX 50S II is rated for 40 more shots than its predecessor.
In terms of memory card slots and ports, the GFX 50S II includes a pair of UHS-II SD card slots on its right side. On the camera's left side, there are mic and headphone inputs, USB-C, HDMI (mini) and a remote control input. The camera's battery slot is on the bottom, whereas the original GFX 50S had its battery compartment on the side behind the monitor. The camera doesn't accept a screw-on vertical grip, unfortunately. On the top of the camera, there's a standard hot shoe. The camera's maximum flash sync is 1/125s.
Video: Still Full HD
Like the original GFX 50S, the new GFX 50S II records video. And like its predecessor, video quality tops out at FHD resolution at 30 frames per second. FHD/30p video was outdated in 2017 when the GFX system launched and is even more outdated now, especially considering that the GFX 100(S) does 4K/30p video and does it well, by the way.
Not everyone requires 4K, of course. For those who don't, there's some good stuff with the GFX 50S II. It records 4:2:0 8-bit video using the full width of the sensor, allowing for video with nice depth. The camera now has 180 shutter functionality, allowing users to set shutter speeds like 1/48s, 1/96s, etc. The camera has a built-in mic and has mic and headphone inputs. The camera has an impressive recording limit of 2 hours and can record to SD, output via HDMI and do both simultaneously.
Pricing and availability
The GFX 50S II will be available starting September 23 for a suggested retail price of $3,999.95 USD, a full $2,500 less expensive than the launch price of the GFX 50S and $2,000 less than the GFX 100S retail price. By the way, the original GFX 50S is still available for $5,500, although we expect it to be phased out.
The GFX 50S II is the first Fuji GFX camera to have an official kit option. While the $4,000 body-only price is a good deal, the kit option is an even better value. For $4,499, you can purchase the GFX 50S II with Fujifilm's new compact Fujinon GF 35-70mm f/4.5-5.6 WR zoom lens.
The lens offers an equivalent focal length range of 28-55mm (35mm equiv.), which is quite like the existing GF 32-64mm lens's 25-52mm range. The new GF 35-70mm lens has a slower maximum aperture across the range and eschews the aperture ring (as denoted by 'R' in Fujinon GF terminology). Aperture must be controlled via the camera. It's the first Fuji GF lens not to include the aperture ring.
When looking at the lens, it's clear that there's just no space for the aperture ring. There's very little room on the lens that isn't taken up by the zoom and focus rings. The lens is only 73.9mm (2.91") in its collapsed position. To use the lens, you must zoom in from the collapsed position to 35mm, which extends the lens to 76.4mm (3"). The lens weighs 400g (14.1").
The weather-resistant lens promises fast and silent autofocus performance. Its close-focusing distance is 35cm (13.8") across the zoom range, resulting in maximum magnification of 0.28x. For video shooters, the lens is designed to deliver minimal focus breathing.
The lens will be available first in the kit with the GFX 50S II for $4,499, although the lens will be sold separately in late November for $1,000.
Fujifilm GFX 50S II versus GFX 50S
Compared to the GFX 50S, the GFX 50S II includes around 80 new and upgraded features. New features include Nostalgic Neg Film Simulation, clarity adjustments, focus limiter, better eye detection, color monochrome, updated pixel shift technology, low-light live view, multiple exposure improvements, tone detail adjustment, Q menu customization, improved AWB, digital IS for movie recording, improved dial operation, SD card hot swapping, an independent menu for movie and stills, auto HDR priority, linear focus ring, exposure smoothing during interval shooting, customizable lens name, Bluetooth (BLE) and much more.
The different body design is a big difference, too. The GFX 50S II is smaller and lighter. It does lose some usability by ditching the larger detachable EVF, optional grip support and directional buttons, though, so it's not an improvement across the board.
In terms of photographic capabilities, the improved autofocus is a nice change. Perhaps an even bigger change is the inclusion of in-body image stabilization. Having IBIS will make the GFX 50S II a much better handheld camera than the GFX 50S, which often requires the use of a tripod to take full advantage of the image sensor's impressive capabilities.
When comparing the GFX 50S II to the GFX 100S, the differences are much less superficial. The cameras look the same and have identical control layouts and designs. However, there's a big difference between what's inside the camera. The GFX 50S II has a 51.4-megapixel sensor without phase-detect autofocus points that records only FHD video and shoots stills at up to 3fps. The GFX 100S has a 102-megapixel image sensor that includes wide phase-detect AF point coverage, records 4K/30p video and shoots stills at up to 5fps.
If you want 102MP, the GFX 100S is the obvious choice. If you don't need that much resolution or don't need the best autofocus and video features the GFX system has to offer, the GFX 50S II promises to be a good option at a 33% less expensive price point.
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