I’ve had the Fujifilm GFX 50S along with the GF 63mm F2.8 lens on hire for a few weeks from Hire a Camera.
- It’s epic. Properly epic.
- The image rendering quality is phenomenal.
- It’s not a camera I would ever use at weddings.
- It is a camera that I think wedding photographers that shoot editorial, portraits, groups etc would fall in love with instantly.
- The GFX is a lot bigger than my beloved Fuji X70.
- Did I mention it was epic?
- The dynamic range is incredible. Properly incredible.
- I’ll be sad when the camera goes back.
By now, if you have read much of this blog, you’ll know that I’m not much of a pixel peeper and that specifications and MF charts etc are pretty alien to me.
There is a load of reviews and technical analysis on the Fujifilm GFX 50S out there already. If you get a chance, check out the work my Kage Collective colleagues who have invested in this camera are putting out there. Notably:
These guys are pure artists and produce images with the Fujifilm GFX 50S that I can only dream of creating. Wrap yourself up in their imagery, as I often do, and really get a feel for how the camera can yield beautiful and powerful results.
With that in mind, when I received the camera I pretty much used it as it came. I ensured a couple of things were in place:
- Super Fine JPEG + Raw was set
- JPEGs were set to Acros + Ye (as I knew I’d be mostly shooting portraits).
I’ve not delved into the menus or changed anything else. Out of the box, the camera is, of course, larger than what I have been used to but nothing to make me think twice about carrying it around and using it handheld.
The menus, and configuration are on par with the X-Series and so it was like an old friend in terms of handling.
I had to configure the top plate to display the Exposure Compensation (and yes, I think it would be better if there was a dedicated exposure compensation dial). I also configured one of the many function buttons to photometry so I could switch to Spot Metering very easily.
As you know, I’m a documentary photographer. I tell stories through pictures and whether that is wedding photography, day in the life photography, or street photography, or even Birth Photography the important things for me are people. People being people and so I wanted to see if it was possible, primarily, for me to get images that I felt showed the essence of the subjects I was shooting.
In real terms, I know that the Fujifilm GFX 50S is never going to be a camera (in its current incarnation, at least) that I can use for the way that I shoot weddings. I work very quickly, very closely and very quietly.
The primary reason I moved from my DSLR system to the X-Series was that the equipment facilitated me to achieve those objectives.
The Fujifilm GFX 50S whilst creating mind-blowing image quality goes against the grain of the reason why I moved to the X-Series.
I’ve no idea what the future holds for the Fujifilm medium format range, but if they did manage to somehow defy science and fit something of this magnitude into an X-Pro or X100 body then I would be absolutely first in line to purchase it.
BUT – I want it. I’ll be sad when it goes back. There is definitely a reason that this camera has been getting so much praise from portraitists and fine art landscape photographers.
The Fujifilm GFX 50S is, simply, incredible at what it does.
Studio shooting with the Fujifilm GFX 50S
With that in mind, I got out my aged flashlights, dusted off the instruction manual (actually, I Skyped Bert and he gave me a quick 101 on flash photography – he know’s everything!) and got a few familiar faces into my studio.
I know that the internet tends to squeeze a bit of resolution and life out of images, so you may have to take my word for the sharpness of the rendering.
The above image is one of my best friends, Geoff. You may remember him from this short video I did about his art.
I’d show a 100% crop of this, but I think Geoff might not like it as you can literally see my face reflected in his eyes. I’ll show some 100%’s later of “younger” subjects 🙂 – love you, Geoff.
Here he is again, bless him.
I’m shooting these images handheld. I’d always been under the impression that Medium Format meant you “had” to use a tripod.
In both of the images above, I have the camera set to “Eye Recognition” and it did an amazing job of locking on to the eyes. This allowed me to use my normal focus & recompose method without worrying too much about losing the focus.
It’s worth noting, at this point, that because the sensor is so much larger, a narrower depth of field (such as the F2.8 images shown later) is more challenging to achieve – especially with a focus and recompose method.
It’s easier to lose the focus, and it can even be the difference between an eyelash being in focus or an eye. This is one of the reasons why I can’t see me shooting reportage with it…..but boy it’s so sharp for those that need it.
Fujifilm GFX 50S: f8, 1/125, ISO 100 – GF63mm F2.8 R WR
Moving on to some more willing subjects, notably Rosa and Albie, of course, I found myself obsessed with trying to get portraits of them that I think showed off their personalities a little.
I’m not a professional portrait photographer (well, not in the real sense of the word) but I’m excited at taking pictures of people in a semi-formal situation with the Fujifilm GFX 50S.
I adore the work of my friend Louis Garvan and so I tried with these portrait images to take a note from his mentoring – and so without fixating on perfect quality, I’m trying to achieve an engaging portrait (and hopefully the quality occurs anyway).
I really love the above image of Rosa and as she’s now nine years old, she is growing up, and I wanted to capture her maturity and also her confidence as she is growing up.
Click the above image for full-size JPEG
I’m sure Geoff won’t mind if I use Rosa as the model for the 100% crop 🙂
It’s still going to suffer from some internet compression but I hope you can see just how the resolution is being handled by the camera.
I don’t have a reference point to compare this too. I’ve never shot Medium Format before, and so for me, when I compare the image quality of this I’m astounded.
It manifests itself more when I’m looking at images of my own children at home and I can get a sense of realism in the photographs that I have never been able to achieve before.
Fujifilm GFX 50S: f9, 1/125, ISO 100 – GF63mm F2.8 R WR
What’s the most important thing to you when you look at an image? For me, I think it’s pretty simple; does it make me smile?
The two images above make me smile. A lot. And so that is mission accomplished.
Does it really matter what camera we use?
No. It doesn’t
But on the flip side of that coin, I’m getting images using the GFX that I am seeing such depth to that I really am wondering how the F**k am I going to buy into this system? The more I’ve used it over this short period of time, the more I’ve been wanting to shoot with it and create images with such depth that I can’t help but smile.
Click the above image for full-size JPEG
I’m not really sure what they mean on DP Review etc when they say “here is a 100% crop”. So I’ve just taken a guess. I’ve basically cropped in tightly in Lightroom and exported with the no-resize set.
Hopefully, that works and you can see how much detail there is in a tight crop from the images.
Shooting candids with the Fujifilm GFX 50S
So documentary photography is my passion. And for all good the studio is for me trying to get the “essence” of a person, I really feel the power of images when they are spontaneous and candid.
I’ve really only used the Fujifilm GFX 50S for about five days on and off. Even though the hire is for three weeks, I’ve been busy shooting a wedding in the South of France, a birth and various other work over this period.
I wanted to see how the GFX got on as my “kitchen table camera”. By that, I mean a camera that is just there and ready to go when I saw something of my own family that I wanted to document.
And this is where the camera becomes more difficult for me to use. I love the fact that I can pick up my X100F, focus and recompose, shoot and repeat. I love the fact I can use high-speed burst accurately and successfully with the X100F to document entire days with my family.
The Fujifilm GFX 50S is not as versatile, obviously, for rapid reportage work. This doesn’t mean it can’t be used of course and I’ve already seen some amazing street photography from people like Jonas shot with the GFX system.
I had a few attempts at home and, being totally honest, I found myself thinking……. Oh my lord! If I could only get this image quality from my X100F or X-Pro2.
I can’t emphasise enough how the dynamic range and quality of the images from the camera are staggering (for me at least). I know that I can’t use it for the way I shoot 95% of my commercial work……but my word, I wish I could.
Fujifilm GFX 50S: f2.8, 1/125, ISO 100 – GF63mm F2.8 R WR
You are probably all bored of pictures of my kids. I know. But let’s look at the image above and understand that this was shot wide open, hand held on a medium format system.
This, I find quite amazing.
Click the above image for full-size JPEG
Once again, I’ve simply cropped into the eyes here and exported from Lightroom. If you click the image and open the large version you can see my breakfast plate on the kitchen table reflected in his eyes.
And if you are interested in what was on that plate…..
Fujifilm GFX 50S: f2.8, 1/100, ISO 100 – GF63mm F2.8 R WR
Fujifilm GFX 50S: f2.8, 1/125, ISO 320 – GF63mm F2.8 R WR
The above image is the first one shot at a higher ISO. Of course, ISO 320 in the grand scheme of things isn’t high but the camera will shoot comfortably up to 12,800 ISO natively.
I’ve not really had the necessity to go that high. Maybe I’ll get a chance in the remaining few days with the camera but I suppose the key thing about the images above is the fact that, yes, as a “kitchen table” camera it can work.
This is Albie doing his homework (he looks excited doesn’t he?) and again the depth of field in the image and clarity is simply something I cannot achieve with any of my other cameras.
Fujifilm GFX 50S: f2.8, 1/125, ISO 1,000 – GF63mm F2.8 R WR
This image was shot just last night and is at ISO 1000. It’s a simple snapshot which I think demonstrates that the idea of Medium Format being unusable outside of the studio or on a tripod is mute.
The Fujifilm GFX 50S is really a very easy camera to handle. I used it without the strap and the grip is comfortable and very sturdy in the hand. I’m sure after an hour shooting with it like this I’d probably wish it was on a strap but it fitted very comfortably (with lens attached) in my Camslinger Streetomatic bag which sat around my hips.
Fujifilm GFX 50S: f2.8, 1/60, ISO 320 – GF63mm F2.8 R WR
This is Albie when I told him that the GFX had to go back. Actually, it was when I told him he had to go to bed, but you get the idea.
I’ve got lots of images of my children and even documenting them when they are upset is important to me. I want to look back on these images in many years to come and remember these days. And I want Albie and Rosa to look back on them, perhaps with their own children, or even their children’s children and remember their own childhood (hopefully fondly).
Being able to take a snap like this, handheld at 1/60th of a second with “the beast” that is the Fujifilm GFX 50S is pretty remarkable for me.
None of the other images that I have of any of the kids when they are crying resolve like this. None. And this is really just a snapshot.
Fujifilm GFX 50S Summary
So what happens next?
You can purchase the GFX 50S and lenses right now from Warehouse Express in the UK. And if you can afford it and you can make it work for you then it’s a no-brainer.
As medium format systems go it’s cheap too.
In fact, all in, this camera and the 63mm lens together are around the same price I once paid for a Canon 1D4 and 85mm f1.2 lens.
So, this camera will go back to Hire a Camera and will end up with another photographer who I am sure will be as amazed at it as I am.
Understand that my reasoning behind shooting with Fujifilm has not changed. The X-Series remains my camera system of choice and the reasons for that are obvious.
I don’t see this camera being used for me at weddings. Could I use it for other work? Possibly.
Maybe it will fit in with my day in the life work. Maybe I could shoot more equine portraits or simply embrace more portraiture with the camera.
One thing is for sure, when the camera goes back I will miss it. A lot.
I can’t justify spending £6,000 on the camera just because “it makes great images”. I’m not realistically going to use it as kitchen table camera.
So if I buy one, it has to work and work bloody hard for me.
Now, where did I put the kids piggy banks? …..
By the way, I have a few workshops and talks coming up if you are interested:
Tuesday, 13th June I’ll be doing an evening talk for Ffoton in Cardiff, Wales
Tuesday, 27th June I’ll be doing an SEO for Photographers talk for Digital Lab in Newcastle, England
Thursday, 6th Jully I’ll be doing Wedding Photojournalism Workshop in London, England
- Happy Snapping – Kevin (in my Studio in Malmesbury, listening to Songs of Separation))