Medium format image sensor. 51MP resolution. Crisp, modular EVF. Tilting, touch LCD. Dust- and moisture-resistant design. Film Simulation modes. Dual UHS-II card slots. Wi-Fi. USB-tethered shooting.
Quirky EV compensation control. Limited lens selection at launch. Modest 1/125-second flash sync.
- Bottom Line
The Fujifilm GFX 50S is an affordable medium format camera with superb image quality and a forward-thinking mirrorless design.
By Jim Fisher
The Fujifilm GFX 50S ($6,499.95) isn't the first affordable medium format camera, but its mirrorless design means it's more compact than the Pentax 645Z, which has been on the market for a few years. It also feels more modern—its EVF is removable, and its tilting LCD is sensitive to touch. A 51MP image sensor delivers superb images, even in difficult light, though photographers that need high-speed flash sync will be turned off by a lack of native leaf-shutter lenses. Still, that's a weakness shared by the 645Z, our previous Editors' Choice. The GFX 50S is less expensive and a better camera, so it's our new top pick in the category.
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At 3.7 by 5.8 by 3.6 inches (HWD), the GFX 50S isn't that much larger than a typical full-frame SLR, but its image sensor is. In its body you'll find a 33-by-44mm chip, which is about 1.7 times the size of the 24-by-36mm sensor in Canon's take on the 50MP camera, the EOS 5DS R. An add-on vertical grip is available ($599.95) if you prefer a beefier feel.
There are some advantages to a larger surface area. Image noise, for example, is reduced due to the increased size of each individual pixel, and sharpness and dynamic range are improved as well. Lenses also cover wider fields of view at matching focal lengths—a 63mm lens is considered to be a standard angle on the Fujifilm system, where a shorter 50mm covers the same field of view on full-frame and a 35mm lens would mimic the field of view on an APS-C system.
Shooting wider images with a comparatively longer focal length more noticeably compresses the distance between subject and background. The system promises to be able to capture photos with a shallower depth of field with similar framing to what you get with 35mm, as long as wide aperture glass is available—more on that later.
The GFX itself is finished in black. Its body is sealed to prevent dust and moisture from getting inside, as are all of the available lenses. The all-weather design is a big advantage for landscape photographers, whose work often takes them out into the wild to catch that perfect shot, regardless of weather conditions. The competing Pentax 645Z is also sealed, but not all of its lenses are.
The GFX is mirrorless, so there's not a large distance between the lens mount and sensor, but its body is similar in bulk to a full-frame SLR. Some of the electronics that would normally live elsewhere in an SLR are placed behind the sensor, and the battery, which is typically housed in the handgrip area, occupies a good deal of space here as well.
Many of the physical controls can be customized. This includes the lone, unmarked button on the front (Fn2)—it sets automated exposure bracketing by default, but can be remapped to perform a wide range of other functions.
The top plate houses a couple of control dials. The ISO control sits to the left of the removable EVF, and the shutter speed control to its right. Both are lockable—a center button toggles whether or not the wheel can turn. It's the type of locking control dial I prefer, as it lets you leave it unlocked if desired.
Also on the top plate, to the tight of the EVF, is a dedicated button to change the Drive mode, one of the few on the camera that can't be reassigned. There's also a monochrome information LCD, and a corresponding button to activate its backlight so you can read it when working in dim conditions.
The front control dial is nestled into the handgrip. Above it is the On/Off switch, which surrounds the shutter release, and right next door is Fn1, which adjusts EV compensation in conjunction with the rear control dial. It can be reassigned, as can any other button with the Fn designation.
There's no dedicated EV dial. This is a big departure from recent Fujifilm models, and an ergonomic step back if you ask me. You don't have to use the top button to set it—I reassigned that Fn1 to magnify my frame as a manual focus aid. I'd love for the rear dial to serve as a dedicated control to dial in EV compensation, especially since lenses sport physical aperture adjustment dials, but it's not possible with the current firmware.
The closest I could get is a two-touch solution, first pressing in on the rear dial, and then turning it to set the level of adjustment you'd like. But if you exit out of taking photos—to review a shot in playback menu, change a menu setting, or if the camera goes to sleep—you'll need to remember to once again press in on the button to set EV. A firmware update to add the option of making the rear wheel a full-time EV adjustment control would go a long way to improving the ergonomics associated with that particular function.
The toggle switch to adjust the focus mode, and buttons to delete images and enter playback sit at an angle above the rear LCD. To the right of the LCD, Fn4 and Fn3 flank the rear control wheel to its right and left; Fn4 locks focus when held in, and Fn3 toggles a live four-channel histogram display.
A dedicated focus joystick sits below—it makes it easy to set the active focus area. Also on the rear are Fn5, exposure lock by default, and a four-way arrangement of Fn buttons, surrounding the Menu/OK button. By default they set the AF area (Fn6), film simulation mode (Fn7), adjust white balance (Fn8), and toggle the speedy Rapid AF function (Fn9).
At the bottom of the rear plate is the Disp/Back button, which is used to change the amount of information shown on the rear display and to navigate through menus. There's also the familiar Q button, located on the thumb grip, which launches an on-screen control menu.
If you've shot with a Fujifilm camera before, you're familiar with the Q menu. For those new to the brand, it's an on-screen bank of settings, arranged in a four-by-four grid. It gives you quick access to common functions—autofocus area, color output, white balance, and the like—and is navigable via touch, or using the rear joystick and control wheel. Each of the 16 available settings can be customized, so you can configure the Q screen to suit your fancy.
The rear display is a 3.2-inch LCD with touch input support and a 2.36-million-dot resolution. It's very, very crisp—you'll be able to zoom in on images to ensure the sensor has captured the smallest of details—and plenty bright for outdoor use. The display is mounted on a hinge and can tilt up or down, as well as face toward the right, but it can't tilt left or face forward for selfies.
The EVF is also very crisp, with a large 3.69-million-dot OLED display that delivers 0.85x magnification to your eye, larger than viewfinders in full-frame mirrorless cameras and SLRs. And it's removable. Why would you want to remove the EVF? If you have no problem working with just the rear LCD, it cuts down on the overall size. Or, if you typically work at a low angle on a tripod, the EVF-TL1 Tilt Adapter ($569.99), which sits between the camera body and viewfinder, makes it possible to tilt the EVF straight up, or 45 degrees either right or left. If you're tired of getting on your hands and knees for those low-angle shots, and prefer the EVF to the rear LCD for framing a shot, you'll be interested in it.
The GFX 50S includes built-in Wi-Fi. You can transfer images from the camera to your Android or iOS device for quick social sharing using the Fujifilm Cam Remote app, and also use your phone as a remote camera control. The app allows you to tap on your phone's screen to set the focus point, and supports full manual exposure control, ISO adjustment, and access to film simulation, white balance, flash, and self-timer options.
You can also tether the GFX to a Mac or PC via USB and leverage the free X Acquire software in order to automatically store images on your computer system. X Acquire runs in your taskbar or menu bar and only has a few settings available. Unlike some other tethered solutions, the software doesn't control the camera. Instead it simply allows you to set a folder to which Raw, JPG, or both Raw and JPG images are automatically transferred via USB as they're captured. If you want to see them appear in real-time on your screen, use it in conjunction with a watched folder in Adobe Lightroom to import images into your catalog automatically.
There are a number of physical connections on the body. Both the EVF and body itself feature a hot shoe, so you can mount an external flash or wireless trigger regardless of whether or not the EVF is attached. The left side of the body boasts 3.5mm headphone and microphone connections, as well as a 2.5mm remote connection, a DC power input, a micro USB 3.0 port, and a micro HDMI connector.
There are dual memory card slots, each supporting SD, SDHC, and SDXC cards at up to UHS-II speeds. The memory cards are accessible via a door at the right side of the body. If you use studio strobes with a wired connection, you can utilize the PC sync socket, on the front plate, just ahead of the ISO dial, to connect them.
The GFX has a big battery, but it's also a power-hungry device. CIPA rates the battery for about 400 shots per charge, which seems right in line with my use of the camera after a long weekend of travel photography—I put the battery on the charger when it showed about half power, having shot roughly 200 images. If you plan on using the camera all day and capturing an intense amount of images, a spare battery or two ($119) is a worthwhile investment.
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The GFX 50S is the first camera to use Fujifilm's G mount. As such, early adopters are faced with a rather scarce selection of lenses compared with more established systems. Fujifilm is shipping three at the moment—the GF 32-64mm F4 R LM WR ($2,299.95), the GF 120mm F4 R LM OIS WR Macro ($2,699.99), and the GF 63mm F2.8 R WR, which we received along with the camera for review.
There are a few more lenses on the way, all due this year—a wide-aperture GF 110mm F2 R LM WR, an ultra-wide GF 23mm F4 R LM WR, and a moderately wide GF 45mm F2.8 R WR. After that, what's coming is anyone's guess, but if Fujifilm's rapid development of its APS-C X system is a blueprint, expect the G system to be fleshed out in a similar fashion.
To me, the announcement of an f/2 lens is a big deal, as shooting with a medium format sensor with such a wide aperture can deliver stunning results. I'd love to see a premium standard-angle prime at f/2 or wider. Time will tell. For now, you can invest in a lens adapter if you want to expand your options. Fujifilm sells the H Mount Adapter for $660. It supports Hasselblad H lenses with electronic aperture control and flash sync of 1/800-second, much quicker than the 1/125-second of native G lenses, but it doesn't support autofocus.
There's also an official adapter to mount the GFX to a 4-by-5-inch large format camera body, with the option to take pictures using the in-camera shutter or an in-lens shutter. And if you want to delve into third-party options, Fotodiox offers a full range of adapters to attach almost any lens imaginable to the body, including those designed for 35mm systems. You may have to crop a bit to get rid of darkened corners and edges when using a lens that doesn't cover a medium format sensor.
Despite costing as much as a high-end full-frame SLR like the Canon EOS-1D X, the GFX 50S isn't built for incredible speed and subject tracking. That's simply not the strength of medium format, at least not yet. That said, the GFX isn't slow. It starts, focuses, and fires a crisp image in about 1.3 seconds, which is in line with many other mirrorless cameras.
Its autofocus system does take about 0.2-second to lock focus, a beat slower than smaller sensor models, some of which can lock on almost instantly. But it's accurate, and it covers a very large portion of the image sensor. There are 425 individual points available, and you can move the active focus area using the rear joystick. For situations where very fine control of the point isn't crucial the focus box can be set to be larger, for quicker movement from one portion of the frame to another, or you can size it down to focus on a smaller point.
Burst shooting is available at about 1.9 frames per second. Focus is locked after the first shot, even if the camera is set to AF-C, and that pace is limited to 10 Raw+JPG, 11 Raw, or 52 JPG shots when using a SanDisk 280MBps UHS-II memory card. The camera completely clears the buffer to the card rather quickly—13.4 seconds for Raw+JPG, 9.2 seconds for Raw, and 7.1 seconds for JPG.
The mechanical shutter can fire off a shot at 1/4,000-second, with an electronic first curtain option available that's used to reduce vibration when capturing images. There's also a full electronic shutter mode, supporting speeds as short as 1/16,000-second, but it's more prone to picking up images with the rolling shutter effect and can't be used in conjunction with a flash.
There's no flash built into the body, but medium format photographers are very likely to use a camera in a studio with multiple external lights. The GFX 50S will only sync at 1/125-second with its mechanical shutter. You can skirt this limitation by using Hasselblad H lenses via an adapter, improving the sync to 1/800-second, but you'll be limited to manual focus. There's certainly nothing stopping Fujifilm from developing its own leaf-shutter lenses with faster sync speeds, but at this time it hasn't announced any plans to do so. The cost of development, and demand for the feature, will likely decide that outcome.
In the meantime, there are alternatives to a leaf shutter. You can add an ND filter to the front of your lens, cutting the incoming light so you can use powerful strobes at wider apertures. Other systems have benefited from wireless flash controllers that power down strobes and fire them at extremely short durations—High Speed Sync. There's no question that someone will bring that tech to the GFX system in time.
Image and Video Quality
We've seen other cameras use a very similar 51MP CMOS image sensor. Fujifilm states that this particular sensor design is unique to the GFX, but its performance is very much in line with Sony-made sensors used by Pentax, Phase One, and Hasselblad.
Those other cameras don't offer Fujifilm's JPG engine, which keeps noise under 1.5 percent through ISO 6400 while maintaining strong detail. ISO 6400 shots aren't perfectly crisp like images shot at ISO 1600 and below, but we see only very minor smudging of detail at ISO 3200 and 6400 when viewing photos at full resolution. There's a little more blur at ISO 12800, but I'd still use the setting. It's not until you push the camera to its extended range, starting at ISO 25600, that fine lines meld together. That type of blur is more visible at ISO 51200, and you should avoid the top ISO 102400 setting when shooting JPGs no matter what.
Shooting in Raw is also an option, one that most photographers investing in a camera like the GFX will be wise to do. Raw images show excellent detail through ISO 6400. At ISO 12800 the very smallest dots in our ISO test image begin to meld together, but you only notice it on the closest examination. Raw quality is still quite strong as you push to the first extended ISO setting, 25600. But it takes a step back, with noisy grain eradicating small detail at ISO 51200. The top ISO 102400 setting is very, very rough and should be seen as an option of last resort.
The GFX supports in-camera Raw conversion to JPG. Not normally a huge deal, you may want to play with it, or enable Raw+JPG capture, as Fujifilm's JPG engine offers some creative options not seen in other cameras. This includes Film Simulation modes like the muted Classic Chrome, monochrome Acros, and vivid Velvia settings, along with the ability to apply a Color Chrome effect to color images and a simulated film grain to any photo. I love the versatility that a Raw image provides, especially when working in medium format and a sensor like this one with excellent dynamic range to reign in highlights and pull details out of shadows. But for less challenging scenes, the Film Simulation modes often deliver more pleasing results than I'd be able to manage on my own with Lightroom.
Video recording is included, but the large size of the sensor makes the GFX 50S more prone to showing the rolling shutter effect, which causes fast-moving objects to render with a jelly-like skew. Video is captured in QuickTime format at 1080p or 720p quality at 24, 25, or 30fps. The full width of the sensor is used, which is a plus, but autofocus is spotty, taking a long time to react to changes in the scene. I also had to deal with some heat issues when recording video—my first test clip cut off around the two minute mark due to warmth.
Think of the GFX 50S as a still camera that happens to have video capability—I was happy to have the feature available to capture a short clip of flight above the Rocky Mountains on a recent trip, but as you can see from the footage, the lack of stabilization resulted in some shaky handheld work, even from a seated position. There are full-frame models out there that are much better suited for video—the Sony a7S II is a top choice for dedicated video use, and if you want a mix of high-resolution imaging and 4K capture, the a7R II is a strong performer in both regards.
The Fujifilm GFX 50S is the best medium format camera you can buy in this price range, and earns our Editors' Choice. It doesn't do some things that high-end medium format cameras do—the Phase One XF 100MP is our favorite in the high-priced realm and offers a physically larger, 100MP image sensor, leaf-shutter lenses, and a modular design with a removable digital back, for example. But it doesn't cost $50,000 either.
The GFX is especially appealing for landscape photographers. Its high-resolution sensor, strong dynamic range, all-weather build, and portable design make it an appealing choice for capturing the wonders of nature. And while lens choices are a bit limited right now, we're confident Fujifilm will expand the system, and do so aggressively.
There are some applications the GFX 50S doesn't lend itself perfectly to, of course. It's not a sports camera, and I'd be a bit wary using it to capture the fast-moving action of a dimly lit wedding reception. But if you're a high-end event photographer, you may want to add one to a kit for portraits, especially once the 110mm F2 lens becomes available. If you like to shoot outdoors with a powerful strobe, the 1/125-second flash sync can be a concern, but you can work around it by adding a strong ND filter to the lens, and there are sure to be third-party High Speed Sync (HSS) flash solutions available in time.
Medium format isn't only about resolution. There are 35mm format cameras that match or near the GFX 50S in pixel count, and if that is your only concern, I'm going to suggest that you also give a hard look at the 42MP Sony a7R II. It's a bit more portable, offers an array of wide aperture lens options, and includes in-body stabilization. Its existence is one of the reasons I'm giving the GFX 50S a 4-star rating—there are full-frame options that compete with medium format in resolution now. There weren't when we reviewed the Pentax 645Z in early 2015.
If you decide that your work will benefit from a larger sensor, and you don't want to break the bank with a high-end Hasselblad or Phase One SLR system, there's no question the GFX 50S is the best choice out there. It's more affordable and compact than the Pentax 645Z, and by the end of the year it will have more modern, all-weather lenses available. The Hasselblad X1D is also available in this price range, but it feels like much more of a work in progress than the finished, polished product that is the GFX 50S.
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By Jim Fisher Senior Analyst, Digital Cameras
Senior digital camera analyst for the PCMag consumer electronics reviews team, Jim Fisher is a graduate of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he concentrated on documentary video production. Jim's interest in photography really took off when he borrowed his father's Hasselblad 500C and light meter in 2007. He honed his writing skills at retailer B&H Photo, where he wrote thousands upon thousands of product descriptions, blog posts, and reviews. Since then he's shot with hundreds of camera models, ranging from pocket point-and-shoots to medium format… More »
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