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REVIEW: Fujifilm GFX-50R

Seng Mah, from Venture Photography Workshops over in Fremantle test drove the new Fujifilm GFX-50R, courtesy of Perth-based camera specialist Camera Electonic. Read on for his review of the most compact medium format camera to date:

The entry of the Fujifilm GFX-50R into the photographic consumer market has irrevocably changed the face of digital medium format photography forever.

Once the province of bank-account-breaking price points and budgets that could only be acquired after selling one’s kidney and cornea, Fujifilm have introduced two amazing medium format digital cameras into the market – first with the GFX-50S and now, the GFX-50R, which is essentially the same camera as the 50S but in a more manageable and portable rangefinder-styled body.

Thanks to Camera Electronic, I had the GFX-50R to test drive for a week. Camera Electronic are Fujifilm specialists and have displays and expertise dedicated to Fujifilm X cameras and their accessories. Pop over to the Stirling Street or Murray Street stores in Perth for some Fujifilm X goodness!

First impressions
The first thing I noticed about the GFX-50R is the compactness of the camera body. It’s hard to believe that a medium format sensor resides within a body that’s really no bigger than a DSLR or the Fujifilm XH-1 with battery grip. The physical interface is balanced and well-designed and, in fact, I had no problems using the GFX-50R to shoot some street photography in Fremantle:
Fremantle street photography

Fremantle street photography
Shooting street in Fremantle with the Fujifilm GFX-50R – it’s quick and intuitive to use. (Pics: Seng Mah)

If you’re a Fujifilm X user, the interface is familiar and hews closer to a kind of hybrid between the X-T20 and the X-T3. Dials and scroll wheels allow you to set shutter speed, exposure compensation and aperture (using the lens aperture ring); there’s the very utilitarian joystick and four buttons on the D-Pad to which you can assign functions. In fact, the GFX-50R provides multiple function buttons to which you can set your AEL lock, AFL lock and AF-On for back button focusing.

About the only thing missing is the ISO dial. As a longtime user of the X-T2 and X-T3, the absence of the ISO dial is a trifle jarring. You can assign ISO control to the front scroll wheel, which offers quick fingertip control of ISO. However, I would have preferred that the ISO dial replace the exposure compensation dial (how often do we use EV compensation when shooting medium format anyway?). But that aside, the GFX-50R’s physical design is sweet, and allows for intuitive photography (rather than having to scroll through various quick menu items to change settings).

Fremantle street portrait
(Pic: Seng Mah)

Image Quality
Where the GFX-50R excels is its image quality. The 51.4-megapixel medium format sensor (43.8 x 32.9mm) and powerful X-Processor Pro processing engine combine to capture colour and detail that absolutely pops! I must confess to falling in love with the level of detail visible in the images when viewed at full magnification. It’s stunning! This is the kind of camera that makes you want to be worthy of the images that it can capture.

For me, the GFX-50R’s sensor would excel in landscape and portrait photography – where detail, clarity and colour reproduction are paramount. I ran the GFX-50R with the 32-64mm f4 LM WR lens, which was great for wide angle landscapes and mid-range portraits (approximately 24mm – 50mm 35mm equivalent focal length). Here are some sample images taken during my test drive, along with a 100 percent crop of one of its image files.

River and bridge landscape
The colours from the GFX-50R are luminous and stunning, as in this landscape. (Pic: Seng Mah)

Portrait of Chantelle

Portrait of Tony
Studio portraits taken with the GFX-50R. (Pics: Seng Mah)
100% crop of portrait of Tony
100 percent magnification of a portrait. (Pic: Seng Mah)

Performance
If you’re coming to medium format digital photography from shooting with a DSLR or mirrorless camera, then it takes some getting used to. For one, there’s a slight (but noticeable) lag when you take an exposure – this is not new or unique to the Fujifilm GFX line, but rather baseline for medium format cameras. You don’t shoot burst mode with this type of camera, that’s for sure. As with the X-T and X-Pro lines, there are 117 autofocus points that work beautifully, even in fairly dim conditions.

Light and silhouettes in Fremantle
Light and silhouettes in Fremantle (Pic: Seng Mah)

I see the GFX-50R as the go-to camera for photographers already comfortable shooting with DSLRs or the higher end Fujifilm X systems, and who are looking for excellent image quality without compromising performance. For those arguing that the higher megapixel DLSRs such as the Nikon D850 (and Z7) and the Canon 5DSr essentially produce the same image quality as a 50+ megapixel medium format… nuh-uh! Having shot with the Nikon D850 and Z7, I can categorically say that while the images from the Nikon Raw files are luxuriously sharp, they are still not as sharp and detailed as the RAF file from the 51.4-meg GFX-50R sensor. If you’re into image sharpness and detail at full magnification (ie, pixel peeping), or you require large prints that don’t lose detail, then the GFX-50R’s sensor is for you!

River twilight landscape
River twilight landscape (Pic: Seng Mah)

Usage and Value
If you’d told me a few years ago that I could purchase a 50+ megapixel medium format camera plus lens for around $9300, I would have sent you to the loony bin. Fujifilm’s new entry into the medium format digital market changes everything. For the price of a high end DSLR, you can shoot full detail medium format and still include a great lens like the 32-64mm f/4 in the bargain!

Street moment
(Pic: Seng Mah)

Of course, its price point puts it a few thousand dollars ahead of its nearest DSLR ‘cousin’ (or competitor, if you prefer), but if you’re looking for excellence and sublime detail in your images, it’s a price worth paying!

So, what now?
Spending a week shooting with the GFX-50R makes me want my very own. I won’t divulge if I went down that road or not. All I can say is that if you’re a serious photographer or serious photography enthusiast and you have an eye and a hankering for detail, then this is as good a medium format digital camera as you can get for a price point that’s perfectly reasonable for this grade of camera.

Light and shadow
(Pic: Seng Mah)

You can test drive, hire or buy the Fujifilm GFX-50R from Camera Electronic  –  visit the Stirling Street store to give this baby a go!

– This review was originally published here.

 

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