Thoughts on Fujifilm’s new GFX Medium Format line.

Small Marsh Scene (Nikon D800E, Nikkor 85mmf1.8G)

Small Marsh Scene (Nikon D800E, Nikkor 85mmf1.8G)

It’s an exciting time to be a Fujifilm user. The recent release of Fujifilm’s new medium-format camera “GFX” system at the Photokina event in Cologne was arguably the most important event at the exposition. For those of us who use the company’s gear, this announcement offers a lot of reassurance.

Up to now Fujifilm has been an innovative, but “boutique” brand of camera and lenses. Those of us with investments in the system I think, have worried that they were not necessarily long-term players. Certainly the memories of the” S” line of cameras which was discontinued, has haunted the company somewhat (though owning them left me with a collection of good Nikon glass).

The announcement of a brand-new format, and quite a serious camera at that, I think is reassuring that the company as a manufacture of photographic equipment is “here to stay”. It reveals a serious commitment to the future, which is important for all of our investments.

Fujifilm GFX 50 (Fujifilm Marketing)

Fujifilm GFX 50 (Fujifilm Marketing)

This looks like a really great piece of equipment. The GFX body has a conventional Bayer 50mp Fuji-developed imager in a weatherproof body with features and controls that echo the smaller X series cameras. It has a movable LCD, as well as a detachable electronic view finder that swivels. It has a focal plane shutter. It is a “mirrorless” design with a small flange distance. This will allow adaptation to other medium format lenses, even those with leaf shutters. It will already be offered with a zoom (rare for medium format), and several prime lenses. The body is roughly the size of my D800 .

Side View(Fujifilm Marketing)

Side View(Fujifilm Marketing)

For me, as an enthusiastic, but decidedly part-time photographer, would I consider expanding my horizons into medium format now that Fuji has an offering? I think this is a question we often encounter, when a piece of significant new technology appears that may fall tantalizingly close to what we might be able to afford/justify. I think for instance of the D800 series when it was introduced. This was essentially industry’s best, non-stratospherically-priced imager. It had the highest resolution, and the best dynamic range of any digital SLR.

I described my dilemma with it here. As always, frugality won out, and I ultimately bought  the cheaper-but-still -good  D600.  A year or so later I found a very lightly used D800E on eBay, where afterwards I sold the D600.

Several years later I look over my camera situation. Truth is, I barely use my Nikon bodies. I have really been seduced by the control features, the modest size and weight, and the image quality of the Fuji cameras. I trot out the D800, for use on a tripod, and generally shooting from my car. Otherwise it’s the Fuji’s that I grab for more active situations.

At this point in technology, imager resolution is not really an issue. I have 24” x 36” images taken with my  S3Pro (with roughly 8mp of resolution) which are hanging in commercial buildings in our city, and still look great to me,. So 16 and 24 mega pixel imagers of the current X series are not at all limiting for what I do. In fact, camera shake is a far greater impediment to image resolution, than the actual number of pixels.

Small Flume on Harvey's Creek (Nikon D800E, Nikkor 85mm F1.8G)

Small Flume on Harvey’s Creek (Nikon D800E, Nikkor 85mm F1.8G)

So what about a 50mp medium format imager? Wouldn’t that be something?


Relative sensor sizes (The D800E has roughly the same size sensor as the Canon)

I’m sure it will be.

Clearly just based on the physics related to the imager/pixel size, one would expect better high ISO, and dynamic range capability than even current full frame imagers let alone the APC sized imagers of the X series. With such a chip you could certainly make extremely large prints, and/or crop with reckless abandon. And given the current quality of the modestly priced XF lenses, I would imagine that the glass Fuji has designed for this camera must be extraordinary.

Certainly the price, once it is announced, will influence people’s decisions. If it is relatively far “under $10,000” for a camera and lens as Fuji claims, this would be tempting. If I were a studio/commercial photographer, enamored of the “Fujifilm look” I would have one on preorder as we speak. But for me to consider a purchase, maybe I should first just use my D800 more often, as it would serve roughly the same purpose.

Small Marsh Scene @200%

Small Marsh Scene @200%

In fact the advantages of medium format in terms of depth of field, resolution, and dynamic range compared to the pretty damn good Nikon , are likely not significant enough to for me to justify the expense.

There, I’ve said it. I’m not interested. Definitely not interested.

Of course, if my pattern holds, in roughly two to three years, lightly used versions will start to appear on eBay. This will likely occur after the next version is announced.

I think we know what will happen next.


About henrysmithscottage

Henry F.Smith Jr. has been involved in photography for 35 years. He has become well known as a chronicler of the Eastern US landscapes , though his portfolio includes, portrait, event, and "street photography". His work has been displayed in multiple galleries throughout the northeastern US, and is available for sale for use in public and commercial spaces. His book "Pennsylvania Seasons" is available through major booksellers. He is also a writer and editorialist whose work has appeared in a variety of "daily's" in Pennsylvania. "Dr. Smith" is also a Pulmonary and Sleep physician who practices in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. He is happily married, with two wonderful children. Inquiries to purchase prints, and for photographic services can be made through:
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