Fujifilm GFX 100MPX
I am pleased to announce that I've added a new camera system to my arsenal of photography equipment: The Fujifilm GFX 100S, a 102 MP medium format camera and lenses.
The Fujifilm GFX 100S, with their GF 32-64 F/4 zoom lens
Fujifilm (aka Fuji) launched the GFX medium format system six years ago. The GFX product line currently includes three camera bodies (I have the GFX 100S) plus 14 lenses. I am starting with a 32-64mm F/4, 100-200mm F/5.6, 250mm F4, 110mm F/2, and the 20-35mm F/4 lenses (the image quality gap between GFX zoom lenses and prime lenses is essentially nonexistent).
Why This Camera?
- 100 megapixels!!! Currently the smaller full-frame (aka 35mm, or “FF”) cameras offer up to 61 megapixels, although Sony and Canon are working on higher resolution sensors (Sony makes the sensors in Nikon and many other FF cameras). APS-C cameras provide even lower resolution.
- Exceptional lens quality. Virtually all reviewers/testers agree that the Fuji GF lenses are outstanding.
- Quality color and tonal reproduction. Medium format cameras such as the GFX 100s can produce 16 bit RAW image files. Full frame and APS-C cameras are limited to 14 bits. This higher bit depth results in finer shades of color and luminance (brightness). The difference is subtle, but it does account for that richer “medium format look.”
- Unlike most other medium format cameras, Fuji designed their GFX cameras and lenses to be used in the great outdoors. Medium format cameras are generally built (and priced) for use in high-end photo studios. Go to a brochure shoot for a shiny new car model, or a supermodel shoot for a glossy fashion magazine and you will find a Hasselblad, Phase One, or other medium format camera system costing many tens of thousands of dollars. But these fine, delicate cameras are not designed for all night shoots amidst the windy sand dunes. On the other hand, my mirrorless Fuji GFX 100S and lenses are priced about the same as the Sony Alpha-1 FF camera with Sony GM lenses. Plus, the GFX system is rugged, weather sealed, and ready for a long trek through the rainforest mists in my backpack.
Why Does High Resolution Matter So Much?
For most photographers the ultra high resolution of this camera really isn’t important. There are many types of photography, each with their own technical requirements. Commercial and portrait photographers need high flash sync speeds. Photojournalists, street, wedding, wildlife and sports photographers need fast accurate autofocus, subject tracking, eye detection, and burst frame rates to capture their moving subjects in action. Vloggers and videographers want cutting edge video capabilities. The list goes on and on.
In fact, for many of these specialties, high resolution cameras actually create problems. Each higher resolution image takes more time to process and write to memory. This limits video frame rates and reduces action photography burst rates.
The end products for most of these specialties will be images on a computer or TV screen, or prints for wedding albums and mantle frames. For these purposes, 12MP to 36MP is usually more than adequate. Cameras with 100 MP, or even 61 MP, are overkill.
My end product is a large print. I want my prints to look sharp and nuanced up close, even if they’re big enough to fill an entire wall in your favorite room. For this I need the highest resolution possible in a quality camera/lens system. So, the 61MP (14-bit) of a top FF system is excellent; but the 100 megapixels (16 bit) of this medium format system is even two bits better.
What is a Medium Format Camera Anyway?
These days, in the hobbyist and mainstream-professional (wedding photographers, etc.) camera world, all of the talk is about Sony versus Nikon versus Canon, and full-frame versus the smaller APS-C and micro 4/3 cameras.
If you started your photography journey during the post-film digital era, you could easily believe that full-frame reigns the largest camera format, and thus serves as the top choice for serious photographers rather than the smaller APS-C and micro 4/3 cameras (not to mention smartphones). As such, you could easily remain unaware that sensor formats larger than full-frame even exist and are very much in use today. As a result of this understandable ignorance, I see many posts and comments asking if medium format is the same thing as APS-C.
If you want to learn about why “medium” is larger than “full” please read the post Medium Format vs. Large Format Cameras: What They Are & What They're Good For. In brief, in the film era, 35mm cameras (now called full-frame) were the APS-C/Micro 4/3 equivalent of their day, smaller, cheaper and more portable than professional medium and large format cameras. Ansel Adams didn’t shoot with a little 35mm camera.
For more about medium and large format cameras: https://www.adorama.com/alc/faq-what-is-a-medium-format-camera/.
Why Choose This Medium Format Camera?
For about a century, the biggest name brand in medium format cameras has remained Hasselblad. Hasselblad has had a tough time financially over the past twenty years. This allowed the elite Swedish company to be acquired by Chinese drone manufacturer DJI. DJI’s financial resources enabled Hasselblad to break out of the studio-only box and introduce their own mirrorless-DSLR-style XCD system, which is very comparable to the Fuji GFX system.
Both systems debuted in around 2016-2017. Hasselblad’s sleek XCD system takes a stereotypically Scandinavian minimalist approach in both style and features. For instance, XCD cameras do not do video at all. Fuji’s GFX cameras are stereotypically Japanese in that they are covered in buttons, buttons that toggle, dials, stacked dials, dials that are also buttons, dials that have buttons in their centers, sliders and wheels. Like Nikon, Canon, and Sony FF cameras, Fuji has crammed every conceivable feature and function into these medium format cameras, and I love them for that. Of course, I will never use 60% of it, but still…
On my October/November 2022 photo expedition through Utah and Colorado, I planned to rent both the Hasselblad X2D 100C and the Fujifilm GFX 100S so I could compare and contrast. Both cameras use the same 102 MP sensor manufactured by Sony and have a similar assortment of lenses. The new X2D 100c body was due to begin shipping in September, ’22; however, Lensrentals.com still had not received their first XD2 100c by the beginning of November as I was nearing the end of my trip. I never did get a chance to try it. I had also read many user accounts of quality control issues with Hasselblad’s XCD lenses.
Meanwhile I had spent two weeks getting to know the Fuji GFX 100S. I fell in love. The camera had every feature I relied on in my Sony, including pixel-shift, and many that I always wanted including automated focus bracketing and an LCD screen that tilts up, down, and to the side (the Hasselblad’s screen only tilts up/down, and it lacks focus bracketing and pixel-shift). Most of all, the image quality was outstanding.
Without even trying the Hasselblad, I called Lensrentals.com and told them I wanted to keep the Fuji. That Fuji GFX 100S and I have been together ever since <3.
What About My Beloved Sony System?
Well, yes, I sold my α7R IV and a bunch of lenses. I did keep the Quartet of Sony f/2.8 GM zooms spanning 12mm to 400mm, plus a couple of Zeiss wide angle primes. I kept the Sony lenses because I replaced the α7R IV with α7R V body. This brand new α7R V has the same 61 MP sensor as the α7R IV, and it finally has incorporated those features that I always wished the α7R IV had, including a sideways tilting screen, focus bracketing, etc. I also still have my modified full-spectrum α7-III body for astro work and infrared photography.
Both Fuji GFX 100s & Sony α7RV Together?!
Why two systems? For most situations during daylight the Fuji camera and lenses reign supreme. However there are situations in which the Sony system, especially the lenses, will be a better option.
First, the longest GFX lens is a 250mm f/4. Add a 1.4x tele-extender and you get a 350mm f/5.6 lens. It’s not bad, but because of the 100S’ larger image sensor, at 350mm you get the same field of view as a FF Sony lens at 279mm. So for really long shots (a moon rising over a distant lighthouse for instance) I will want to use my Sony 100-400mm zoom plus its 1.4x tele-extender at 560mm, which yields just about twice the magnification. So, for extreme telephoto situations, the Sony system works the best.
Second, Sony’s lenses are faster. Most Fuji GFX (and Hasselblad) lenses are f/4 wide open, which works well for landscape and long exposure daylight photography. However, this is not optimal for most low light situations. I have many Sony and Zeiss lenses that are f/2.8 or faster, meaning that they let in twice as much light. More light is vital for capturing pinpoint stars and subtle Milky Way features in nightscape and night sky photography.
Lastly, I often shoot with two cameras at the same time. For instance, when shooting an event such as moonrise over an interesting landscape, I will often have two cameras on tripods operating with different focal lengths and compositions. I never know exactly where the moon will poke its head above the horizon no matter how much research and preparation I have done. With two cameras operating in intervalometer and bracketing modes I am well covered for the event.
For now, these two systems complement each other beautifully. In time I may settle into just the medium format system as new lenses and bodies come out; or I may return fully to the full frame world as higher resolution bodies are introduced. I will keep you posted.
Published March 10, 2023.