The Fujifilm GFX100 102 Megapixel Camera is out. I have to say I am absolutely excited from its launch, to its first shoot and even now. Everything about it shows how far we can go with modern day digital photography.
Disclaimer: I’m a GFX fan, I own the system since 50s and every lens except the Macro and the 100-200 zoom. I shoot them extensively as a hobbyist and assignments.
The GFX100 is what Fujifilm promised on spec sheet to be a modern take on what a medium format camera is. Beyond its larger sensor and image quality prowess, it promises modern day performance similar to how you would use any mirrorless, and my weekend of extensive usage agrees with it, at least from a portrait photographer point of view.
There is much to say about this camera. For those that wants the summary:
- It works like a modern day Mirrorless: AF, IBIS, Low Latency EVF, and even 5 FPS
- Image Quality is phenomenal
- Its big and heavy
- I didn’t like the grip
- I think handling can be improved
- Banding can happen in extreme cases
With the summary out of the way, lets go through the items one by one.
My first shoot was in the bright sunlight, slightly back lit situation. From the get go, the GFX100 is responsive. It AF quickly, much faster then the 50s, and it is dead accurate. At least 95% of my shots are tact sharp in focus, and the 5% is just soft but still usable on size down. There is the occasional out of focus, but I will attribute it to either bad handling on my side, or the subject is too close and too fast moving, like a little kid running under you.
For the purpose of walking, spinning and focusing in both bright, backlit and dark situation, the continuous AF (CAF) is accurate and quick. The only time it faltered in low light, indoor lighting similar to a house at night, the CAF just hunts a little too much but the single point still works great and quick to boot. Definitely not as decisive as the XT3 here.
Eye AF on the hand do not work quite as well. It seems to jump and loses the person face rather easily. I tried it a few rounds and decided moving the AF point around and use continuous or single AF is still the better way out.
However AF will be useless if the EVF latency from the GFX50s is still there. Luckily Fujifilm fixed it totally this time. In fact, between what you see and the actual scene, I reckon its really similar to any mirrorless out there. This may seem normal, but 50s had like a 0.2s latency or something, X1D probably worst. Whats more, the EVF is huge, bright and really sharp. There is one thing the GFX100 could not overcome, and that is the blackout. Between each shot, there is significant, noticeable blackout. It is quite distracting and probably more so if you do sports or quick action.
Talking about EVF, I would also like to highlight that finally you can check sharpness properly. GFX50s had this oddity where zooming in playback images, it just look soft but in reality tact sharp on the laptop. That issue seems to be gone for the playback here in the GFX100.
Touching on sharpness, I still find the photos pretty sharp at the pixel level. I am still editing at my 200% zoom and felt it was no way worst off then the GFX50s at that zoom level. This applies to the 63mm and the 110mm lenses I used extensively so far.
The magical image pop. I’m sure the sharpness of the lens and probably the 100mp has some contribution, but sizing down and applying sharpening resulted in photos that I felt had more pop to it. Maybe its a placebo effect but to me the subject seems to transit a lot more sharply when the distance between the subject and background is huge, while in the the gradual areas, its still smooth as usual.
Another area that has a subtle improvement is the dynamic range. I put it subtle as whatever I did here in terms of pushing and pulling, I felt my GFX50s can do it too. It just felt slightly easier, like there is just more wiggle room. However I do not have any scientific test on hand but photonstophoto have the measured results that put the GFX100 about 0.3+ stops more DR then the GFX50s and more then everyone else except the Phase One with their true 645 sensor.
Fuji claims the lenses were built for beyond 100mp. I believe they are built for more then 50mp for sure, and maybe some of them like the 110mm is built for beyond. It looks incredible on the GFX100, with ultra sharp images, extremely low CA and near perfect resolution anywhere on the frame. Fuji also thought about the future, giving it the LM motor to ensure its speedy when a better AF systems comes along. Notice the sparkling dots behind, no LOCA, and on a 100mp photo. Kudos to the optics guys at Fuji and their lens design.
So far I covered all the outdoor stuff, now it comes to the last factor I believe is essential to complete this image/camera package. And that is the In-body Image Stabilizer. For all the high megapixel users out there that do not have one, notice how painful it is to shoot a sharp photo with say a 110mm? You will need 2x or even 3x the shutter to focal length to ensure consistent sharpness. IBIS is not only about low light, but also to ensure every shot counts and maximizes that 100mp in the camera. With the GFX100, you almost never need to worry about raising your ISO just to counter shake or to ensure consistency in not so bright days.
Of course IBIS is also useful for all sort of other scenario, such as the above, mixing light with the ambient on the back and a flash on the front. The flash is only at 1/128 power and shutter was hovering around 1/30. In the GFX50s, I would be force to raise two stop of ISO so that I don’t get those soft looking images due to flash and ambient mix coupled with shake. On the GFX100, I can just shoot. It also affords me better flash control since I can use lower ISO, which gives me more headroom in post processing.
To bring the camera to the modern age, GFX100 lost the dials and gain additional digital displays. They are useful, especially the rear one which gives you a clear view of your setting without cluttering the main image view. The top can be used for histogram and setting views, which will continue to show the last setting view even when the camera is off. I can imagine Fuji unlocking more use for the two LCDs in the future with more firmware.
So with all the good points, I did raise some bad one right up front. Firstly I did not like the grip. It just didn’t felt as secured as my GFX50s of the past. Maybe its the balance or the now heavier body, but I felt less secure one hand holding the GFX100 with 110mm compared to my GFX50s with a 250mm. The vertical grip is also not great to hold, its just weirdly different from the other grip, and button placement also differs. I also hate the lock on the vertical grip, which I constantly accidentally hit when I put in and pull it out of my bag, resulting half my buttons locked and I have no idea why till I see it. I prefer Olympus solution of C-Lock, which is at the back and allows me to choose what to lock.
On the buttons, or the lack of it, the GFX100 for a modern digital camera has not enough buttons. They remove the 4 way from the bottom, and this result in lost of some really crucial ones like WB. After mapping everything, I still lack a button or two, something I never experienced on the 50s. My last complain on the button is the placement, Who thought putting them in a column next to the LCD is a great idea? It is hard to stretch to the play button, which I use at times keeping my eye to the EVF to do some chimping in the bright outdoors, and I keep hitting the display/back instead.
There is one point on banding I written above. It happens in rare scenarios, such as raising EV for +5, or shooting into really really bright highlights and doing some recovery. I did one night shot and when pushing it +5 and 100 shadow, the banding could be seen. This is probably due to PDAF, but it plagues pretty much every camera out there from my Olympus EM1X to the Sony A7RIII. If banding do occur, sizing down probably makes it goes away since unless you need the full 100mp, even 50/25mp is enough for most and the banding becomes a lot less obvious. Check out the Fujifilm GFX group on FB as someone had quite an issue with it in the highlights and if that is what you always do. For me, it did not affect a single of my shots outdoor with the sky and clouds behind the subjects back in normal usage even after recovery. I think that is good enough.
Even with the above issues, the GFX100 is still a phenomenal camera. The best there is in image quality without being clunky or unusable. Everything about it is making sure you can maximize the 100mp in most situation. It may not be your sports camera, or the best there is in image quality (Phase One 150mp holds that record) but what it gives you is near pinnacle image quality in most situation that medium format would have never enter, till now.
So who is this camera for?
For $9999 USD, it is definitely not for the faint heart.
For those who need the 100 megapixels, there really isn’t much else without paying twice or three times the price. Never forget a camera is a system, and GFX lenses can be said to be on the lower bound of cost in the medium format category.
Then there are people who want all the goodness of image quality with all the modern convenience of AF and IBIS. Be it hobbyist or commercial work, this camera will allow you to work like a normal mirrorless camera, but obtain image quality that you will not get in full frame cameras today. The GFX lenses are also one of the best, and as stated earlier, the GFX100 brings them to their peak.
For commercial photographers though, there is one more reason to use it: The GFX 100 is just more reliable in most scenario in ensuring a good, repeatable output. AF and IBIS ensure most of your shots count. Your shot will have lower chance to be blur/out of focus/under exposed. This maybe important to some as it builds confidence: you can’t always ask your clients to repose due to errors.
In conclusion , if you can afford it, like the GFX lens line up, and want that modern mirrorless feel, get it. It is the modern day behemoth of a camera.
There is also other improvements such as video, usb-c charging and dual battery for great battery life. You can probably read them from people that actually do use them. For now enjoy some extra pics below shot by this camera. I am definitely looking forward for many years of great imaging with this camera.