The Fujifilm GFX 50S and Beyond

Now that Fujifilm has revealed the GFX 50S, I want to talk a little bit about what this means for the future of digital photography. If you recall, from one of my first posts, “24MP and Beyond“, there was some controversy over my statements that the megapixel war needs to begin again. It’s my belief that Fujifilm’s move to medium format is in recognition of the technological demands to come, which I addressed in my first article.

Medium format photography has traditionally been very slow and methodical, but when Leica introduced the S2 that changed. For the first time Leica proved that you could design a medium format camera that could be shot like a DSLR and still get amazing results. When the S2 was introduced, I demoed one for a week and the results floored me; but I just couldn’t see carrying around that much weight along with the stuff I regularly carried for my kids. It was a truly spectacular camera, and when the latest refresh happened, I would have bought into the S system if they decided to use the Sony sensor that the new Hasselblad X1D-50c and Fujifilm GFX 50S cameras use today; even though the Leica S could go on a diet.

The Fujifilm GFX 50S is going to shake up the camera market as we know it because, if you’re a photographer that doesn’t shoot fast moving subjects or telephoto, it’s going to be hard to justify owning a Nikon or Canon full frame camera. It’s likely that the GFX 50S will shoot 1-3fps, but that should be enough for most trained photographers to capture “the decisive moment.” The system isn’t going to be for everyone today, kind of like digital wasn’t for everyone when it came out; but larger sensors are going to be a big part of digital photography’s future as digital displays demand more data.

Medium format today is good beyond 100MP, which will greatly simplify or increase the quality of a shoot like the one I posted the other week from Drew Gardner of the USA Women’s Rowing Team.  He had to use a Roundshot VR drive, which costs $14,995, to create a HDR 194MP 180×360° Pano in under 4 minutes. Using a medium format camera for this task could greatly increase the resolution and dynamic range or decrease the time needed to capture the scene at equivalent resolution. Either way, I see medium format technology slowly replacing full-frame/APS-C as quality demands continue to increase on professional photographers.

I believe professional photographers/cinematographers are going to have to become increasingly tech literate as HDR 8k launches and 4k fades alongside the emerging virtual reality and augmented reality markets. I have already made the jump into VR and the content being produced today is of varying quality, but some of it is mind blowing good. Some musicians are even attempting to create music videos in VR using creative rigs to film in 360°, but the quality isn’t quite there yet and it looks like a 90s webcam when done poorly. At this time, computer generated content is king in the virtual world, but that will change.

Cameras companies are going to have to develop medium format and 50MP is a step in the right direction for traditional photographers. There are a lot of engineering problems to solve in the coming years, but at least HiDPI displays won’t lack photographic content in the near future thanks to the Fujifilm GFX 50S. I am very interested to see how this system develops and wonder what the limits of the 43.8 x 32.9mm sensor size will be as technology continues to advance.

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  • Wally Kilburg

    I’m coming at it from another direction, mainly from my business as a working photographer. I’m a generalist right now but seem to concentrate on portraits of late, a few weddings per year, and also some product photography. I have done and have quotes for architecture work and do ad and promo work it seems in cycles. I’m noticing an uptick in business as my customers want great IQ with a different look than what a phone gives them. The fact I can use so many different lenses for field of view and compose more than an arm’s distance away means a lot and thats been driving a lot of work so far.
    I have used my Fuji X system more and more (I have the X100, X100T, X-Pro1, X-Pro2, X-T1 and X-T2 and most lenses from 10-24 to 100-400) over the past few months. It still lacks run and gun flash support so I still use Nikon too. But the Fuji’s are closing the gap and I have incorporated them into most work outlined above.
    I knew about the rumor of a Fuji medium format system. I use medium format when I can, mostly renting a 645z (for the price) when I need it. I have access to a Phase One but have yet to take advantage of it. Still I hoped for a Fuji MF system because I think they make the best performing glass for the money. Real good no frills engineering too. And I just love the “look” Fuji X delivers. The GFX misses a lot of points for me. It is a mirrorless 645z. Thats it. I would have preferred a X1D clone or their own groundbreaking “something”. But you basically have a DSLR sized mirrorless medium format copy of a full frame DSLR. which can do my studio work but probably not my event, sports and other work where a D750, D810, D5 and Df can work. My favorite thing was multiple aspect ratios because I am asked for more 1:1 and 4:3 files now. I would have liked HSS support, at least one leaf shutter lens, and a different form factor. It does support tethering – odd since they refuse to do anything with the X system there. But tethering without proper flash support would still drive me to the X1D because it just has more working photographer qualities. The GFX just screams enthusiast.
    I will certainly look at the GFX when it comes out, but I’m not expecting to own one. I don’t think MY customers will want 100MP files any time soon either. What you speak of in terms of HD and VR are asked for and produced but not by or for my customers. The HD/VR stuff is a very small percentage of work that most working photographers outside of NY and LA won’t get to do. I’m cool with that, and while my measly 36MP D810 has satisfied many customers, I wouldn’t mind wowing them with 50MP but it needs to be the right camera system.

    • Price point is going to be a big factor. Body/Lens/VF for well under 10k. That could be 6k ($4k body $1500 lens $500 VF) for all we know… As for HSS that’s pretty much a trick unless you have a leaf shutter, which could be put in the lens like they did with the Leica S. I think they system has a lot of promise going forward and helps resolve a lot of the complaints form my previous article. VR/AR are just starting to take off and HiDPI is starting to hit homes on hand held devices and TVs, plus wide color… There is a lot of display technology on the way that is going to make print less desirable.

      The 645z is nice for the price, but it’s not as easy to use as a Leica S. The Leica S shows you where medium format can go and Fujifilm tends to be very inspired by Leica so I’m expecting a Leica S like experience from the GFX 50S. The Hasselblad X1D-50c interests me and I am supposed to get one for review, but I do not think it will be fore me. They don’t have a lot of experience in usability so it could be a very Sony like experience, which I really don’t enjoy.

      When I make a big purchase I like to think about if I will be using it in a few years especially if I am going to invest in a lot of glass.

      • Wally Kilburg

        No offense, I know you are a Leica guy, but the S isn’t suitable for my work either. Its a great camera but if I could afford it, I’d be rocking a Phase One with the IQ 250 back and a cadre of three lenses that cost more than my truck. Or the HD5-50c.
        Price point will make a difference, I’m not immune to price. I talked to my local Hasselblad rep, felt and played with the X1D in a controlled environment. I like it but delayed ordering due to that “Sony” experience you speak of and to see what the Fuji was all about. I do not like the A7 series or any Sony to be honest.
        I still don’t see VR going anywhere for a while except games. People still want the big screen experience and VR headsets are novelties. Print sales are climbing, so are 360 videos. Thats what people are asking for. If they want VR/HD I’ll give it to them but so far, no one is asking.

        • No offense taken. I wouldn’t call myself a Leica guy beyond I like my camera to get out of the way. It’s why I like Fuji. I haven’t used my M240 since getting the X-Pro 2 and now X-T2 so it might go into a GFX.

          The S was crazy when it launched, but pushing for speed over resolution in the last revision was a mistake. The glass is superb. Regardless I would rather save the money for a better car or home improvement or more glass for my Fuji cameras right now. Leica needs to take care of M fans or lose them.

          As for VR I think the opertunity to see new places in VR is quite unique and it’s ability to relay presence is unmatched by any media. It’s also one of the few formats that iv seen illicit emotional reactions from everyone that experiences it fear/joy/scared very powerful stuff. It won’t be long before someone like Apple releases the must have VR/AR device they are hiring people like crazy.

      • Wally Kilburg

        The other thing too is I spent 5 years waiting for Fuji to develop the X system. And it’s still not there. I’m not buying into that again with a MF system. Promise or not, I’m just not going to wait that long for something to be usable.

        • Let me put it this way APS-C/43 are good enough for a lot, but for those looking for the best medium format kills full frame because right now APS-C/43 can do most of what full frame can but it won’t keep up with medium format. They also offer advantages over full frame like telephoto and sensor read out speed.

          • Wally Kilburg

            …and there are those medium format systems there now. No waiting.

          • Not sub 10k

        • CHD

          The X system ‘is not there yet’?? Really?? Aside from an in-house flash system I think they’ve done a pretty good job of creating a system in 4 years…look how many quality lenses there are.

          • Wally Kilburg

            Pretty good isn’t good enough if you use it for work. The flash system is REQUIRED. So yeah, to earn money with it, its not there yet. I own most of the lenses, I know how good they are….

          • CHD

            If you need a flash so bad buy a 3rd party one, they work fine….or better yet buy strobes as on camera flash sucks in most cases anyway.

    • CHD

      ‘I’m noticing an uptick in business as my customers want great IQ with a
      different look than what a phone gives them. The fact I can use so many
      different lenses for field of view and compose more than an arm’s
      distance away means a lot and thats been driving a lot of work so far’

      Are you for real….or are you being sarcastic because I can’t tell. Are you really saying you have some happy customers because you don’t use a cellphone and you can actually change lenses?? Did I really just read that because that is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever read. Even the hacks on Craigslist who charge $25 for a head-shot use an interchangeable lens camera so again..what are you trying to say??

      If you actually want to make money at this gig I would suggest finding clients with bigger expectations then ‘he uses something other than an iPhone’.