Wednesday, January 18, 2017

NEW! Fujifilm GFX Medium Format System

Today is the day that Fujifilm has officially announced their ground-breaking new GFX medium format mirrorless camera system. The GFX 50S is a 51.4 megapixel, CMOS-sensor based mirrorless camera with exceptionally high performance specifications and alongside the new body, Fujifilm has also announced three initial lenses, with several more to appear later in 2017. The new system is slated to start shipping by late February and prices are surprisingly modest for medium format gear. At launch, pricing in Canada will be as follows...

GFX 50S Body - $8,499
GF 63mm f/2.8R WR standard lens - $1,899
GF 32-64mm f/4R LM WR wide zoom - $2,999
GF 120mm f/4R LM OIS WR Macro lens - $3,499

You can inquire about pre-ordering by clicking the above banner. In addition, we will be hosting a hands-on GFX Launch Event at Beau Photo Supplies on Friday, February 3rd, so call or email for more information about that too!

Some interesting accessories will be available for the new GFX system as well. One option is a tilting and swiveling EVF bracket ($749), that will allow for greater flexibility when viewing from awkward angles, a vertical battery grip ($799) and a large-format camera adapter plate ($519) to allow for tilt and shift movements when used on a 4x5 camera with suitable, high-resolution large-format lenses. A very interesting accessory will be the H-lens adapter ($879) which will allow for Hasselblad HC lenses to be mounted, even allowing you to use their leaf-shutters for fast studio flash-sync speeds up to 1/800 second. The only downside of the adapter is that those otherwise autofocusing Hasselblad HC lenses will only be manual focus when adapted to the GFX. Still, those two adapters will immediately open up a world of additional lens possibilities when they ship!

Below, you can see the GFX with its optional battery grip and tilting and swiveling EVF bracket..

The sensor size of the GFX 50S will be the same 1.3x crop-factor from full-frame 645 that other CMOS-based 50MP medium format cameras are, like the Hasselblad H6D-50c or the X1D-50c for example. Indeed, just like other 50MP CMOS systems, the underlying silicon of the GFX sensor is also made by Sony, although Fujifilm is said to have massaged and tweaked things to their specifications. Standard ISO range for the sensor in the GFX 50S is from ISO 100 up to ISO 12,800, with extended high ISO all the way up to a very high 102,400! Interestingly enough, this time Fujifilm has chosen to go with a standard Bayer-pattern CFA on the sensor and not their highly regarded X-Trans CFA. The X-Trans colour-filter-array helps keep chroma moiré at bay on lower resolution sensors that are coupled with extremely sharp lenses, and apparently Fujifilm felt that with 50 megapixels, moiré would be much less of an issue for the GFX.

Personally I am not 100% sure that was such a wise decision, based on how sharp I expect the Fujifilm GF lenses to be and how much moiré I've experienced with other medium format sensors that also use Bayer CFAs. However, using a standard Bayer CFA means that at least Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom will do a superb job of converting the raw files and one will feel much less need to interrupt a smooth workflow to use a different raw converter, like PhotoNinja, Iridient Developer or Capture One. Speaking of workflow, Fujifilm will have full tethered capture plugins available for Adobe software as well, useful for those shooting the GFX in a studio environment. Time will tell if moiré ends up being an issue, but there's no reason to believe it should be any worse than from other medium format systems either.

Viewed from the top, you can see that the camera is fairly thick, although overall, it is roughly the same size and weight as a full-frame DSLR like a Nikon D810. You will also see that the shutter speed and ISO dials are essentially the same as the superb ones on the X-T2 but the GFX now sports a top-mounted status display. Interestingly enough, you can also customize this display and change what info is being displayed. Nice! Another interesting note is that the ISO dial and all the lens' aperture rings have 'C' settings now, which will allow for setting their respective functions via the camera's control wheels. Also nice! Lastly, you may also notice that the back LCD screen is hinged, and it will tilt up or down as well as pivot sideways, just like the LCD on the X-T2. However, the GFX's LCD is actually touch-screen as well! You can touch to choose focus points when shooting and pinch-to-zoom and swipe during image playback.

Speaking of focus, in addition to touchscreen control, the GFX has the same AF-point focus joystick that the X-T2 and X-Pro2 have. Good thing too, since the GFX can be configured to have a whopping 425 contrast-detect focus points to choose from that very nearly cover the entire field-of-view from edge to edge! Viewfinder refresh is said to be on par with the X-T1 (update: confirmed to be 50 fps), so while not quite as smooth as the very best small sensor mirrorless bodies, like the X-T2, it is still far better than medium-format live-view has been in the past. The fairly fast sensor-readout speed that this refresh rate will require, likely means that AF speeds, despite being contrast-detect only, should prove to be fairly swift and decisive.

The viewfinder is a whopping 3.69 million dot OLED unit that can be detached, and this is how you can add the optional tilting (to 90º) and swiveling (+/- 45º) bracket.

The GFX 50S basically has all the features that you would get from an X-T2 body, as far as user-interface and control flexibility, film-simulation modes, extended DR modes, time-lapse features etc. There are 10 custom buttons that can be redefined on the body, and you can create a user favourites menu and also customize the Q-menu, just like on the X-T2. The GFX also has WiFi, both USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports, a flash-sync port, HDMI port, a 3.5mm stereo mic port (yes it does video!), a 2.5mm remote release connector as well as a DC power connecter for shooting in the studio. You can even charge a battery in the body with the power input connector.

The GFX 50S can shoot Full-HD (1920x1080p) video at 23.98, 24, 25 or 29.97 fps with a bit-rate of up to 36Mbps and for as long as 30 minutes per single clip. According to the owner's manual, the camera will shoot beyond 30 minutes by creating separate video files automatically.

In terms of stills, the focal plane shutter can shoot all the way from a 60 minute bulb exposure to a very fast (for medium format) 1/4000 second. In addition, the shutter can be set to be electronic first-curtain for less vibration or fully electronic for silent shooting, albeit with the usual caveats about rolling shutter effects, potentially causing distortion of moving subjects and so on. Flash sync is 1/125 but using Fujifilm's new EF-X500 flash, you can get HSS all the way to 1/4000 second. Flash functionality is also totally on par with the X-T2.

The GFX 50S shoots quickly too, at up to 3 fps with a 13 shot buffer for lossless-compressed raws and unlimited for JPEGs with a fast enough SD card. Shooting at the slower 1.8 fps continuous speed allows for unlimited lossless-compressed raw shooting. This camera must have some very fast processing and card writing speeds! Speaking of cards, you get dual UHS-II compliant SD card slots, just like the X-T2. Battery life seems quite reasonable for such a fast, large sensor camera, with a big, new NP-T125 Li-Ion battery ($159) providing up to 400 shots per charge, one of the reasons the body is as thick as it is. Speaking of the body, I should point out that it is designated weather and dust resistant and rated to operate from -10C to +40C. All the lenses so far also have the 'WR' weather-resistant designation and are rated for use in the same temperatures.

With respect to lenses, additional ones that will be shipping later this year are a GF 110mm f/2 R LM WR, an 87mm equivalent in FF 35mm terms, which will make an ideal fast portrait lens, an GF 23mm f/4  R LM WR, an ultra-wide that's equivalent to an 18mm lens in FF 35mm, and lastly a GF 45mm f/2.8R WR that's equivalent to a 35mm lens in FF 35mm terms. Also, Fujifilm says that lenses have been designed to resolve sufficiently well to work optimally with potential future 100 megapixel sensors as well.

There are some operational enhancements in the GFX over the X-T2 as well, including RGB histograms, a live clipped highlight view, the ability to assign the electronic-level to a function button and more, so as usual, Fujifilm has been listening to the feedback they've been getting from X-Pro2 and X-T2 users and made some further enhancements to the GFX, some of which I hope will make their way to the X-series bodies as well.

Below is a pre-production GFX system I had a chance to see back in November...

Update: I should mention that even the pre-production camera felt fantastic in the hand, not as heavy as it looked either. The hand-grip was comfortable, reminding me a little of the now long-discontinued Contax 645 body, which I always felt had great ergonomics. The GFX's body had excellent feeling buttons and controls, and the lens aperture rings, as well as the focus and zoom rings all felt consistent and superb, with great tactile feel.

I hope to get my hands on a production GFX kit (or nearly production) just before our launch event on February 3rd and I will, of course, be writing more about this all-new system as I gain some experience with it. For now, let me leave you with some images of the lenses that will be shipping initially.

The standard 63mm lens, equivalent to a 50mm in 35mm FF terms...

The 32-64mm wide-angle zoom, equivalent to a 25-51mm in 35mm FF terms...

Lastly, the 120mm macro, equivalent to a 95mm lens in FF 35mm terms...

[Updated posting on 1/19/2017: added accessory pricing, listed upcoming lenses, preproduction body comments and EVF refresh rate.]

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