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Thursday, 12 October 2017


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We are about ready for a see change, see intended. M4/3 and DX/APS-C are more than good enough for many/most things. Real photographers, not online gurus, seem to love the new MF Mirrorless. So where does this leave FF DSLRS?

About ten years ago I walked into Calumet's store in Santa Ana, CA, and the first thing out of the salesman mouth, after Hi Chuck, was what would I think of a Canon MFD?

Now appears like a good time for Canon to skip FF Mirrorless and go directly to MF Mirrorless. Hoping to see one soon.

Interestingly, I too rented a GFX and 32-64mm lens over a long weekend recently. Like Mr Scharf, I am a Fuji XT2 owner and found the menus almost identical except that the GFX has a three color histogram and better leveling indicators. I also went to locations I shoot often but did not do any handheld work. I'm certain some will use this camera handheld but I chose not to do so.

I compared carefully made 12x16" prints from the GFX and my X T-2 (cropped on the XT2 to eliminate bias from the aspect ratio difference) and, in the end, at my usual print sizes, I felt the difference, was not worth it, especially given that the body costs roughly the same as TWO Nikon D850 bodies. The differences certainly can be seen on a monitor at 100% and with one's nose right in the print, but not so much at usual viewing distance.

Unlike Mr Scharf and Ming Thein, I am unable to appreciate the "medium format look," though. I also compared the files to those made with my D800E, now sold, and they are pretty close in detail resolution. Like Lloyd Chambers, who is currently testing the D850, I am a detail oriented photographer, perhaps the term "detail freak," applies. To me, more resolution is almost always better, to paraphrase Mae West, "too much of a good thing is never enough." But, again, given the cost and currently limited lens selection (sure to improve but I'm not getting any younger), I decided against purchasing this lovely camera. I'll be interested in others' thoughts.

If only I had the budget....

I believe the range of the 32-64mm lens (2x) is not 21-51mm 35mm equivalence, but more like 25.5mm-51mm which is also 2x.

Good write up of the camera, though.

"I chose the 32–64mm ƒ/2 lens because, with its 21–51mm equivalent focal length." 32-64 is a 1:2 ratio, 21-51 is not. What is the actual equivalent FL range?

[Typo. Fixed now.

Fuji gives it as 25–51mm on this page:


Bear in mind that focal lengths are not exact and lenses can depart from their marked focal lengths by quite a bit in some cases. An article in Popular Photography years ago found various "50mm" lenses that had actual focal lengths several millimeters off in both directions. Fuji is probably just rounding. --Mike]

I would like to see the GFX 50S compared to the D850. If the D850 is 90-95% of the way to the GFX 50S that knocks the GFX out of the running IMHO.

#Results!—nothing else matters.

HCB said Sharpness is a bourgeois concept. Robert Capa's D-Day photos may not be sharp, but they sure do grab-you-by-the-throat. Whilst some surrealist dreams are sharper and more real than reality. Lots of tools available, pick what works for you.

BTW, for me, a Canon crop camera, knocks both the Nikon D850 and Fujifilm GFX 50S out of the running. #Camera doesn't matter.

Stephen / Mike, thank you for the review.
I love the architectural Pictures.
As you pointed out , it is impossible to make meaningful evaluations by viewing web pictures which is why your impressions as a working photographer are helpful.
In the Track picture of Will Power, we see what appears in the JPEG to be a blown sky, and very dark backlit faces - typical for most cameras in that difficult setting (which I am sure is the reason you chose it).
I'm guessing that it looks better on your display, is that the case? or would those areas be easily and believably recovered?
Perhaps you could explore that in Part III
I am on the fence about this camera.
As others have pointed out current and coming FF cameras will probably get fairly close and have price, speed and focus advantages.
But I have always believed that there is clearly a MF 'look' from when I Shot Hasselblad along side 35m m, especially with large prints. How much of that Fujifilm packs into cropped MF format is something I am interested in.
You are clearly an experienced photographer, so I found your description of the first image's wow factor helpful. B&W can be a good way to see that smoothness and 'effortless diferentiation' from tone to tone that can make a really great print.
Thanks for this.

You’ve offered some excellent practical commentary on the GFX50s so far, Stephen. Your remarks largely coincide with what mine would be, albeit I have never tried to photograph motor sports with mine. (It looks like you made it obey very nicely!)

@ Eric Rose: On what basis would you want that comparison with the new Nikon? “Image quality”? Features / usability for specific tasks? I’ve never even touched a Nikon camera but can say with 110% certainty that it will easily beat the GFX 50s in terms of all-around value, versatility, and performance for the vast majority of photography activities. The dslr is largely a perfected bit of equipment, with the newest Nikon reportedly being at the top of that mountain. In my view, the GFX 50s should probably not even be considered “in the running” against a top-of-the-line dslr for most folks.

”Bear in mind you're not seeing anything like the full file with these tiny web JPEGs.” That times 10! It’s impossible to show the marginal, but often remarkable, differences between these medium format sensors and smaller cameras on any internet page or browser. There is nothing in Stephen’s excellent, varied images that even hint at it here. It’s not until you make a larger print that these big sensor cameras really pull away from the pack.

At the conclusion of Stephen’s excellent series I will try, with his and Mike’s permission, to offer some additional brief notes from my experiences with my GFX 50s. I may, for example, be able to offer some useful comments concerning using adapted Hasselblad and Mamiya lenses with the GFX 50s, as well as a few other peripheral topics. (I will be traveling for the next several weeks so it might be slightly afterward.)

I’m enough of a gear lover to be intrigued, and I’m happy this camera exists and is working out for many people. Yeah diversity and options! But I don’t think it’s going to make it into my camera bag any time soon. Asking some hard-nosed questions is a good cure for the GAS that a new camera like this can produce:

Will it make me a better photographer? Well, no, probably not. Sometimes a big change in a camera system can make you a better photographer. For example, since switching to a Fuji X-T2 from a camera that almost had to be used on a tripod, I’ve made different kinds of images, and more images. But I don’t think adding a Fuji GFX 56S will have the same result, in large part, paradoxically, because it is so similar to the X-T2 in terms of handling (light weight, similar control set, etc.).

Can it make files that lead to better prints? This is more of an open question. For someone who makes huge prints, perhaps it can. But I think they’d have to be really huge to notice much of a difference. For instance, I doubt there’d be much actual “better” in a 16”x24” print made with the GFX 50S compared to my X-T2. In comparing 16”x24” prints of the exact same subject using comparable lenses made with a 36MP Sony A7R sensor versus a Fuji X-T2 sensor, the extra pixels from the A7R didn’t add significantly to the quality of the final print in my view (or the people I showed it to). Obviously if you make prints where you need this many pixels to get to your pixels per inch “floor” on a print, then yes, this could work for you.

Does it make RAW files that produce better black and white tones? I only shoot for black and white these days, so this is a huge deal for me. I’ve read or heard this claim lots of times about various cameras (and even lenses). And I’ve chased down RAW files made with those cameras and lenses so I can see for myself. I haven’t done that yet with this camera, so it could be the first one I try where it truly does produce “better” black and white images…. That would be exciting, and a first for me. So far all the cameras and lenses I’ve used regularly have been able to produce RAW files that make the black and white images I’m working towards.

And as a bonus question… Does it have the magical medium format look (and will that make my photographs better…)? Ming Thein is a terrific photographer and a really good writer, but that medium format look article that Stephen cited in his post was one of the few that I thought was a stretch. The GFX 50S sensor, at 43.8mm x 32.9mm, has an area around 58% of the smallest technically medium format film size (645). It gets worse for people like me who actually like the 3:2 aspect ratio. I look at lots of photographs, and I’m not seeing the magic from mini-medium format sensors. Your eye may well be better than mine.

@Michael Periini: Regarding your question about the Will Power, Pit Lane photograph:

This is a good example what you deal with in shooting in these situations, so let me give you some context behind this shooting scenario from a photojournalistic context: At this time of year, the light at Sonoma Raceway has a "hard wash" to it that can make photography at this time of day, to say the least, rather "unflattering". To make matters worse, Indy Car schedules this morning practice event at a time in the morning when the sun is directly behind pit lane, and the cars are very backlit by the strong summer sun. Furthermore, this morning time slot is the only session that Indy Car allows the photographers with "blue vests" to be "over the wall" and get into the pit boxes to photograph the cars in pit-lane during this practice session. Moreover, to be maximally safe, I always go to the front of pit lane and work my way along pit lane from front to back, directly into the backlit lighting, so I can be facing the cars, and keep my eye on the cars in their pit boxes, and much more importantly, cars entering and leaving their pit boxes (they tend to come in rather fast, and exit even faster!). In other words, I don't want to be in a situation where my back is turned to a racing car entering or exiting it's pit box! ;-) As you can imagine, photographing in this situation can be extremely dangerous; for example, you want to make sure your foot or ankle is never inside the loop of an air hose on the ground in the pit box that may be grabbed very quickly by a crew member and pull you to the ground.

Regarding the photo itself: Yes, I could have easily pulled up the backlit shadows up and pulled down the highlights (just a touch for this photo). There is TON of editing headroom in the GFX images with which to pull up the shadows and pull down highlights. I've done some additional editing on the photograph to bring up the lighting on the crew member and area around the cockpit where Will is stting just to provide an example.


In a normal situation, I would have popped some flash into this shot for fill, but I didn't have a flash for the Fuji GFX that provided TTL flash control.


The nice thing about TOP is that it almost generates informed and interesting commentary.

I'll respond to a few comments to provide further context into Part II of my review:

@Eric Brody: it's very likely one will not see any significant differences in print quality between an X-T2 and a GFX 50S when printing at 12" X 16". I have two very good friends that are critically acclaimed professional fine art photographers that shoot exclusively with a medium format Phase One digital, and their view and experience is that it's only when you print at 30" X 40", or minimally, at 24 x 36" that you start to see how MF files really pull ahead of APS-C or FF images with respect to print quality. The majority of their print sales are at these larger sizes, and having seen many of these remarkable and beautiful prints first-hand compared to similar-sized prints made from a FF camera, the advantages of MF are clearly visible. Ken's comment, "It’s not until you make a larger print that these big sensor cameras really pull away from the pack." is absolutely the case.

@Ken Tanaka: "That times 10! It’s impossible to show the marginal, but often remarkable, differences between these medium format sensors and smaller cameras on any internet page or browser. There is nothing in Stephen’s excellent, varied images that even hint at it here."

Thank your for your kind words, and truer words were never spoken. It was not until I opened up Norris Canyon Road on my large, 5K, profiled, high-resolution display that I really "got it". I think the first words out of my mouth were "Whoa. Okay, now I am beginning to understand what this "medium format thing" is all about." It's clearly a process of re-discovery of what photography has the potential to actually be. And, it's not just about specs, or resolution, or the size of the sensor, it's much more than that, most notably the interaction of MF lenses with the sensor, the sensor design, and the all-important imaging processor (the bit that eveyone forgets about) that plays a big role here. I will discuss these points in Part III.

And yes, Ken, please, by all means, share your notes and experiences with us. I very much value your comments and insights, and look forward to your sharing your experiences with much interest.

Stephen, the tonality of [i]Norris Canyon Road[/i] absolutely blows me away, even in the low resolution web JPG. I need to lock up my wallet.

@Ken Ford: Thank for your kind words. If you send me your email address to [email protected], I will send you a larger image to view, if you like.

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