Fujifilm GFX 50S Review

April 5, 2017 | Mark Goldstein | |

Introduction

The Fujifilm GFX 50S is a compact system camera with a 51.4 megapixel 43.8mm x 32.9mm medium-format CMOS sensor. The weatherproof GFX 50S features Raw images with 14-bit color depth and 14 stops of dynamic range, ISO range of 50-102400, 1080p video with a frame rate of 30fps, 3fps continuous shooting, contrast-detection autofocus system with 117 points, shutter speeds from 60 minutes to 1/4000th sec using the mechanical focal plane shutter or up to 1/16000 sec via the electronic shutter, a removable 3.69m-dot OLED electronic viewfinder, a 3.2" 2.36m-dot touchscreen LCD with a three-way tilting design, dual UHS-II SD memory card slots, built-in Wi-Fi for remote connection, interval shooting and multiple exposure modes, and a brand new line of GF lenses. The recommended retail price of the Fujifilm GFX 50S is £6199 / $6499 body only.

Ease of Use

Weighing in at around 800 grams and measuring 147.5mm (W) x 94.2mm (H) x 91.4mm (D), the Fujifilm GFX 50S is about 75 grams heavier and a couple of cms deeper than the Hasselblad X1D-50c camera, which uses the same sensor. The GFX 50S is a very well-built camera, with absolutely no flex or movement in its chassis thanks to the die-cast magnesium alloy body and machined control dials. It's also dust-resistant, water-resistant and freeze-resistant down to -10°C, making this a medium format camera that can be used outside as well as indoors.

The GFX 50S is strikingly similar to the Fujifilm X-T2 APS-C camera, and will feel immediately familiar to anyone who's used a recent Fujifilm mirrorless camera before. There is a generous and well sculpted handgrip, complemented by a prominent thumb rest on the rear. The top panel features both an ISO sensitivity dial and a shutter speed dial, each with its own locking pin. The X-T2's handy exposure compensation dial, however, is sadly notable by its absence, instead replaced by a tiny dedicated button on top of the camera that's awkwardly used in conjunction with the rear control dial.

New to the Fujifilm GFX 50S is a small status LCD panel on top displaying all the vital shooting information – including shutter speed, aperture, exposure compensation, sensitivity, shooting mode, white balance and film simulation mode - in one place. The rear panel will also look familiar to anyone who has ever handled a Fujifilm X-T1 or X-T2, featuring a 4-way controller with a centred MENU/OK button, a separate DISP/BACK button, a Quick Menu button and several programmable buttons. The Delete and Playback buttons have been moved to a the top of the rear display housing, but both are present and correct. The camera also features both front- and rear control dials.

Fujifilm GFX 50S
Front of the Fujifilm GFX 50S

The Fujifilm GFX 50S is equipped with a 43.8x32.9mm CMOS sensor with a resolution of 51.4 megapixels and no optical low pass filter that delivers 8256x6192 pixel still images. The sensor is essentially the same as the one found in the Hasselblad X1D. This chip has an imaging area that's 1.7x greater than that of a 35mm "full-frame" sensor, and over 3.7 times larger than the APS-C sized sensors used in Fujifilm's X-series cameras. Unlike those cameras, though, the Fujifilm GFX 50S has a traditional Bayer colour filter array in front of the sensor. The pixel count isn't really higher than that of the highest-resolution 35mm full-frame DSLRs – the Canon EOS 5DS and 5DS R – but the pixel pitch is greater, promising a wider dynamic range and a better signal-to-noise ratio.

We tested the GFX 50S with the new GF 63mm f2.8 R WR and GF 120mm f4 R LM OIS WR Macro lenses (separate reviews to follow), which feature a focal-plane shutter, allowing for shutter speeds as fast as 1/4000th of a second. The lenses also have an aperture ring and a new C (Command) position on the ring to enable aperture adjustments via a command dial on the camera body. All the lenses boast the same dust- and weather-resistant construction as the body. Because of the mirrorless construction of the camera, these new Fujinon G lenses have a very short flange-back distance of only 26.7 millimetres.

The GF 63mm f2.8 R WR lens feels well-balanced on the GFX 50S, while the GF 120mm f4 R LM OIS WR Macro makes it a bit more front-heavy and conspicuous. Adding both lenses to your GFX kit costs around $4000 / £4000. The third lens that's currently available is the GF 32-64mm F4 R LM WR wide zoom, with plans to release three further lenses in 2017 (the GF 110mm F2 R LM WR portrait lens, the GF 23mm F4 R LM WR ultra-wide prime and the GF 45mm F2.8 R WR moderate wide-angle lens). Note that there's no in-body image stabilisation system on the GFX 50S - instead it's lens based (if the lens features it, as the 120mm Macro does).

Fujifilm GFX 50S
Front of the Fujifilm GFX 50S

The Fujifilm GFX 50S offers a pretty basic video mode, rather inconveniently accessed via the Drive button on top of the camera (it's the last option in the list), that supports either Full HD (1920x1080 pixels) or 720p recording at 29.97, 25, 24, and 23.98 fps in the H.264 compressed MP4 format.

The Fujifilm GFX 50S turns on almost instantly, unlike the Hasselblad X1D. Squeeze the shutter release button in single shot mode to take a maximum resolution image and the screen almost instantly displays the resultant image. Although the 3fps continuous shooting speed won't impress mirrorless or DSLR users, it is actually pretty fast for a medium format camera.

The Fujifilm GFX 50S employs a contrast-detect type autofocus system, with no phase-detection AF sensors embedded in the sensor as on the X-T2 and X-Pro2. Depending on the lighting conditions, this makes the GFX both a little on the slow side to auto-focus, taking about 1/2 second to lock on to the subject with both the 63mm and 120mm lenses, and also prone to hunting in more dim environments.

Pressing the Focus Lever joystick allows you to move the AF point to one of the 177 different points that cover most of the frame, the AF point can be set to one of six different sizes via the rear control dial to achieve more precise focusing, and you can also simply tap on the touchscreen to set the AF point. If you want even more control, you can select the 425 points option which splits the same area of the frame into a 17x25 grid of smaller AF points.

The GFX also offers Zone and Wide/Tracking modes which utilise the larger 425-point area to capture moving subjects. In Zone mode, you can select a 3x3, 5x5 or 7x7 zone out of the 425-point AF area. During AF-C focus, the GFX continually tracks the subject, positioning it at the centre of the zone. The Wide/Tracking mode combines the Wide mode (during AF-S), in which the GFX automatically identifies and tracks the area in focus across the 425 point AF area, and the predictive Tracking mode (during AF-C), which uses the entire 425-point area to continue tracking the subject. This feature enables continuous focusing on a subject that is moving up and down, left and right or towards and away from the camera.

Fujifilm GFX 50S
Rear of the Fujifilm GFX 50S

Manual focus is also provided, and very good it is too. As you'd expect, the manual focus rings on both the lenses have a lovely feel, and two different focusing aids are provided - auto magnification and focus peaking. In conjunction with the high-resolution electronic viewfinder, we found it very easy to accurately determine critical sharpness.

With its focal-plane mechanical shutter, the GFX 50S has a top shutter-speed limit of 1/4000th second in all shooting modes. This allows you to select a faster aperture even in bright conditions or when shooting with flash during the day, although there's no built-in ND filter. The GFX also has an electronic shutter in addition to the mechanical one, which provides a much faster top shutter speed of 1/16,000th second. This allows you to continue shooting wide-open with fast aperture lenses in the brightest of conditions without having to resort to fitting a glass ND filter or using external flash and lights. There are some important caveats with the electronic shutter - the ISO range is restricted to 100-12800 and you can't use an external flashgun, but overall it's a great feature that makes the GFX more versatile.

Rather than a traditional optical viewfinder, the GFX employs a a 3.69m-dot OLED electronic viewfinder which is 0.5 inch in size. This electronic viewfinder is removable, slotting into the flash hotshoe on top of the camera, improving system modularity and enabling the camera to shed some weight if necessary. It also cleverly has its very own flash hotshoe, so that you can fit the EVF and still use an external flashgun at the same time. In addition, an optional adapter makes it possible to fit the finder at any angle, although we didn't get to test this out. The displayed settings automatically rotate when the camera is held in a portrait orientation and you can also customize the shooting information that's displayed in the viewfinder.

The size of the rear LCD screen is 3.2-inches and the resolution is an impressive 2.36m-dots, bigger and much more detailed than the screen on the Hasselblad X1D. It can also be usefully tilted up and down by about 90 degrees when in landscape mode and upward when shooting in portrait mode via a simple press of a button on the side.

The Fujifilm GFX 50S has an intuitive touchscreen interface, allowing you to either move the AF point, or simultaneously move the AF point and focus on the subject. On the right hand side of the screen you’ll see a small icon which if you press it allows you to choose between using the screen to set the AF point, or to have it focus as well. If you prefer, you can turn off this functionality altogether, but it is quicker than using the joystick to set the AF point. One drawback to leaving the touchscreen AF on is that we kept inadvertently moving the AF point when changing lenses. In image playback, you can simply drag left and right to go through the sequence of images and pinch/double-tap to zoom in and out, although you can't use the main menu system via the touchscreen.

Fujifilm GFX 50S
Top of the Fujifilm GFX 50S

The GFX 50S features the same built-in wi-fi connectivity as the X-series cameras. Install the Fujifilm Camera Remote App and you can transfer your pictures immediately to a smartphone or tablet PC and then edit and share them as you wish, transfer stills and video onto the camera, and embed GPS information in your shots from your smartphone. You can also control the camera remotely, with the list of available functions including Touch AF, shutter release for stills and movies, shutter speed, aperture, exposure compensation, ISO sensitivity, Film Simulation modes, White Balance, macro, timer and flash. The built-in wi-fi also provides a simple means to backup your photos to your home PC.

Two memory card slots are located on the right-hand flank of the camera when viewed from the rear. The GFX 50S offers compatibility with Ultra High Speed UHS-II SDXC memory cards, which has the main benefit of increasing the data writing speed in continuous mode to about twice that of a conventional UHS-1 card. The GFX 50S offers a continuous shooting rate of 3fps for 13 JPEGs or 8 compressed Raw files if you use a UHS-II SDXC card and the electronic shutter, making it one of the fastest medium format cameras on the market. If you prefer to use the mechanical shutter, the rate drops to 1.8fps for unlimited JPEGs or 8 Raws.

The front of the Fujifilm GFX 50S is adorned with the Fujifilm logo positioned above the lens. To the left of the lens mount, if viewing the camera front-on, is a small black button that can be customised, which by default accesses the AE Bracketing function. On the bottom-right of the lens is a circular button for releasing the lens.

The GFX 50S has a a very deep hand-grip at the front and a prominent rest at the rear for your thumb, with your grip helped in no small part by the textured faux-leather surface that runs around the full width of the camera. Two rather prominent metal eyelets on either side of the body are used for connecting the supplied shoulder strap. A metal tripod mount is positioned in line with the centre of the lens, with the battery compartment located on the left-hand flank of the camera. Battery life is pretty good at around 400 shots.

There is a vacant hotshoe for an accessory flash on top of the camera offering full compatibility with Fujifilm's flash units, but as expected there's no built-in pop-up flash. Also on top of the GFX is a large, tactile, lockable control dial for setting the shutter speed, with settings ranging from 1 second to 1/4000th second, an Auto option, a T setting for longer exposures (2 to 30 seconds, set via the circular command wheel) and a Bulb mode for exposures up to a whopping 60 minutes in length. On the left-hand side is a second, lockable dial for setting the ISO speed, with settings ranging from Auto to C (Custom).

Fujifilm GFX 50S
The Fujifilm GFX 50S In-hand

Sadly, as already mentioned, the GFX doesn't have a dedicated dial for changing the exposure compensation, replaced instead by a tiny button next to the shutter release. It does gain a top plate LCD screen though, very much like higher-end DSLRs, which makes it easy to check the main settings, some of which are displayed even when the camera is turned off (number of shots remaining and battery life). Completing the top of the camera is the Drive button for setting bracketing, burst and multiple exposure, a small button for illuminating the top LCD panel, and the On/Off switch that surrounds the shutter release button - this isn't threaded for a traditional shutter release cable, though, as on the X-T2.

The rear of the Fujifilm GFX 50S features the prominent electronic viewfinder, if fitted, complete with eye sensor for automatically switching between the EVF and LCD screen. To the left of this is the Focus Mode button with Single, Continuous and Manual settings, and to the right are the self-explanatory Delete and Playback buttons. The LCD screen itself rather incongruously juts out from the rear of the camera by about 3cms, and as already mentioned, it can be usefully tilted in both landscape and portrait orientations.

To the right are the rear control dial, a small unmarked button on the left which by default is set to AF-Lock, and an even smaller unmarked button on the right which by default is set to toggle the WRGB histograms on and off. Underneath is the Focus Lever joystick, under which is another unmarked button that sets AE-Lock by default. The GFX 50S actually has 9 Function buttons that all be changed to suit your particular way of working.

The tiny Quick Menu button is set into the rear thumb rest. This provides quick access to lots of frequently used shooting settings including the ISO speed, White Balance, File Size and File Quality, with either the focus lever or the 4-way controller and the command dial used to quickly change them. In the middle of the traditional 4-way controller is the Menu button, which accesses the seven different Shooting and Set-up menus. Underneath is the Disp/Back button which is used for changing the LCD display or going back.

The right hand flank of the GFX 50S features a metal lug for attaching a strap, with a matching one on the left, underneath which are the dual memory card slots housed inside a weather-proof compartment. On the left is a compartment with four ports - the USB 3.0 socket, HDMI output, headphone port and microphone port. There's also an X-sync socket on the front of GFX 50S, too. Completing the left-hand side of the camera is the large battery compartment. The base of the Fujifilm GFX 50S features a screw tripod thread that's inline with the centre of the lens mount.