I had the opportunity to test for some time a pre-production unit of the newly released Fujifilm GFX 50S. While I am not at all camera reviewer, I thought it would be useful to share about my experience since I am sure I will be getting a few questions on social media about it. This is thus not a review of the camera, but just my initial impressions after working with it for the type of work I do on a daily basis.
My very first thought when holding the body for the first time was how similar it looked and felt in comparison to the X-T2. Aside from the size/weight difference and some button placement, the handling of both bodies is quite similar. It sports some of my favorite features of the X-T2 like the 3 way tilting screen and excellent ergonomics. The most important dials, like ISO and Shutter Speed (as well as Aperture Ring on the lenses), are present just like we have been pampered with on the X Series cameras for easy and intuitive controls. Also similarly to the X-T2, the GFX 50S is weather sealed. A welcomed improvement over the current X Series flagship cameras is the addition of a touch screen.
Something important to note in regards to the size and weight of the GFX 50S is that we are indeed talking about a medium format camera. Something you can easily forget when you start working it. A little in disbelief, I had to remind myself several times “dude, there is actually a medium format sensor inside of this little body”. If you compare this camera in terms of dimensions/weight as well price point, there is really nothing in the market that can offer the image quality and raw features you will be able to get out off the GFX 50S.
Now, to the most important part…performance. Once again, I was pleasantly surprised at how similarly the GFX 50S performed in comparison to the X-T2 and X-Pro2 bodies. Autofocus speed was much faster than what I was expecting, specially from a MF sensor. In spite fact that the GFX 50S offers only contrast detect points, I was rather pleased with how fast and precise it focused. On top of that, here is a MF sensor with 117 selective focus points, something never before seen in a camera of this category. I wouldn’t say it will be the best fit for sports for example, but for portrait work is more than adequate, even on low light situations. (for that matter, I don’t know MF cameras would ever be meant for shooting sports).
Moving along to image quality, I can only speak about the quality of the JPEG’s since RAW support is not yet available at the moment of writing this post. That in turn is a good thing for the purpose of this overview. In the unique Fujifilm fashion, the JPEG files turned our to be everything we have come to expect and love from the Fujifilm image processing and color reproduction. Here once again we see a camera that nurtures itself from the X Series legacy seamlessly while taking full advantage of the larger sensor to improve upon.
My work has been characterized by the integration of the dancers within urban settings, hence the backdrops are just as important for me as the dancer itself. The medium format sensor’s capabilities now provide me the opportunity to enhance the textures of the backgrounds and thus tell a more vivid and true to live story. Being able to pull more details out of the highlights and shadows will add a real sense of three dimensionality and immersive experience for the viewer.
Because I photograph movement, often I need to crank up the ISO in order attain the proper shutter speed (1/500+) so to freeze the dancers at the right moment. I found the high ISO performance quite outstanding. No significant noise was perceived and images look cleaner than those of the X-T2, which I liked as they were. This is due to the larger sensor size as well as the proprietary technology implemented.
The GFX 50S definitely caries over the X Series DNA and it feels like an strong evolution, built upon a solid foundation. With three lenses available at launch and three more by the end of the first year, the Fujifilm GFX 50S promises to be a working photographer’s answer to the new age in photography. A true modern day workhorse for high end editorial work offering unprecedented mobility in this category. It has all the features a professional needs and then some, in a rather compact body at a highly competitive price point.
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