When Fujifilm annunced the GFX-50R already two years ago, I understood that something big was gonna happen. For the japanese company it was probably the only chance to survive in the high end photography market, for us photographers it was the historical chance to put our hands on a really high level object at the same price of a full format body.
From a coldly numerical point of view this was the bargain: a juicy +70%.
But the +70% of what exactly?
A person who can define herself a photographer doesn’t even have to pose herself the question and search for an answer. The seventy per cent more of three-dimensionality, realism and image plasticity.
Certainly all of this wasn’t for free, and to make the dial renouncing something was necessary, or rather a lot more than something to be honest.
At more than 1100€ less of the GFX-50R’s launch price, a full frame camera like the Sony A7Rmk3 offered some indispensable features in addition: IBIS, PDAF, tons of lenses and a perfect ergonomy (handle, centrale viewfinder, battery grip) to achieve whatever with it without the albeit minimal shadow of a limitation.
There is one “but”.
But Fujifilm was bringing to the market a medium format camera, where for “medium” it’s meant nothing but a 4/3 format sensor with a surface that’s 70% bigger than the 35mm sensors, that as of today has lowered its price at just a bit more than a Sony A7Rmk4 (that actually represents the reference from the image quality point of view in the full fram market).
The “give and have” balance is soon done and each photographers should know what is willing to lose to obtain that gain.
For those who shoot a lot with fixed focal lenghts not having a stabilized sensor could mean to stop taking pictures, which is not a viable option. For those who need to shoot subjects with a certain rapidity and autofocus reliability having just a contrast AF system could mean losing a good 70-80% (if not more) of the pictures. For some others simply not having the desired focal lenght means that it’s not even worth going out with the photo camera.
And now let’s get back to that “but”.
The Fujifilm’s “but” is that they’ve announced at the same time the GFX-100 development, and for those who follows the world of photography’s evolution it’s been quite easy to understand that sooner or later that stabilized sensor (more because of the IBIS than the 100 MPX) would have come to the GFX-50R successor. This thing in particular still has to happen, but it will happen and it won’t be long.
The second “but” was the Fujinon zoom GF 45-100 f/4 OIS announcement.
The nuclear device dropped on the competitors in that September of 2018, at least in my opinion, was the announcement of that lens rather than the first affordable medium format camera.
Because for those who love doing reportage a set of equivalent focal lenghts that ranges from around 35 to 80mm means that as if by magic a GFX-50R turns into a viable option. In the sense that it becomes a usable camera. Yes, because a non-stabilized medium format camera with fixed focal lenses or non-stabilized zooms is completely useless without a tripod.
What’s the exciting part of the toy?
The Fujinon zoom GF 100-200mm f/5.6 and the wide-angle zoom that may come out in 2021 should give to the GFX system a range of focal lenghts spread over three zooms and above all stabilized that will cover many needs from around 16 to 160 equivalent millimeters.
Which is definable as the prohibited dream for every single photography lover.
The third and last “but” of this story is the GFX-100R or whatever it may be the name of the next model.
Stabilized sensor, fast autofocus, and employment possibilities that satisfies almost 100% of the enthusiasts’ requirements.
Obviously a GFX will never offer the speed of a last generation full frame mirrorless and the same choise of lenses, but what it’ll offer will be more than enough. Not everyone are interested in shooting sport, having a 14mm f/1.8 or a 600mm f/4.
Useless to say that in any case, at least from the image quality point of view, a GFX-50R will outperform a future Sony A7RmkV or mkVI or mkVII.
All of this consideration was intended to be the introduction for a small series of images shot during my last reportage in the August of 2019, among Singapore, Malaysia and Sulawesi. Unfortunately the employment of my GFX-50R with its 50ish (GF 63mm f/2.8) has been just a side dish to the core part of my reportage work, work that has been realized with the X-H1 and the 18-135 for obvious reasons. Shooting hand-held with a medium format camera without IBIS is really painful. Difficult and painful.
The first bunch of photographs is made in Singapore, both diurnal and nocturnal.
The next are made in Penang, Malaysia.
To conclude here’s some of those who gave me more satisfaction; the first two galleries (one in colors and the other in black and white) contain photographs of Makassar, the capital of indonesian’s island of Sulawesi, while the last almost entirely concerns a funeral ceremony to which I wintnessed in the Tana Toraja regency (again in Sulawesi) and a few shots taken at local buffaloes market.
The 45-100 zoom is the natural prosecution of the GFX-R series. Having had it one year before the amount of high level shots that I’ve realized in Indonesia and not only there would have been 10-15 times higher both in the number and in the variety of situations compared to to what I could with the fixed 63mm.
If on one side it’s true that one can’t have everything from life, on the other side it’s almost more true that now one can have ALMOST everything.
There’s only a big painful note that is worth mentioning: the reliability.
In this environment Fujifilm still has to exponentially improve herself; let’s figure out together why.
My first Fujifilm was an X-E1 bought under suggestion of my friend, as well as my master, Silvio Bisio before leaving for Australia at the beginning of 2013. Since that moment we’ve had Fujifilm’s gear aplenty; X-E2, X-T1, X-Pro2, X-T2, X-T20, X-H1 and innumerable lenses that we still keep. The only other photographic gear producer with which I’ve spent years working is Sony, with the first A7R bought in the early summer of 2014, soon after I got back from the reportage in Japan. Having had and utilized in a very intensive way many camera bodies and lenses made by Fujifilm and Sony I can say I have enough experience to judge its reliability.
I think I’m not wrong when saying that the Fujinon GF 63mm f/2.8 doesn’t work or it is a project born bad, like others (luckily non so many) at Fujifilm that are related to the X-Mount.
Out of two GF 63mm (of which one is mine) that I’ve tried until now I’ve found the same defect and I find quite ridiculous certifying that online there’s a wide talk about the exciting Fujifilm sales data without ever a hint of the quantity of malfunctioning gear that is put in commerce. The 63mm problem is an autofocus problem: it happens frequently to find a 10-20% of the shots out of focus even if the camera shows the focusing grid in green. Sometimes the problem is so evident that it’s possible to notice it before shooting, with the camera green lighting for the focusing on the subject when in reality the focus is on the background or on the absolute nothing. The same identical thing happened back in 2017 when we had a chance to test a GFX-50S with another model of the same lens. Shooting with a flash and all the quiet of this world we’ve found a lot images looking like they were slightly blurred (which is quite unlikely at 1/125s with the flash freezing the subject). After buying the GFX-50R we figured out that this was the real problem and likely afflicting who knows how many other units.
I can add with as much certainty that this problem concerns only the GF 63 and no other GF-Mount lenses having had the chance to try almost all of them (actually in addition to this I’ve got only the GF 120mm f/4 and the new GF 45-100 f/4) and finding a great percentage of perfectly focused images. This is a big point in favor of the GFX-50R because it means the camera work really well even with just a contrast type autofocus and definitely a lot better than the old contrast AF systems (X-E1 just to say one) at the expense of what was legitimate to expect when it was announced.
A further sore point, of the same type, il related to the GF 23mm f/4 lens that was lent to us and simply stopped working requiring an intervention by the assistance.
There, in a system where the cheapest camera body is presented at a 4600€ price tag this kind of things don’t have to happen and that’s it.
In this environment, reliability, Fujifilm’s path is still entirely uphill.
From the exquisitely photographic point of view on the contrary the path that has been plotted by the japanese producer undeniably represents the most innovative and exciting thing that happened in the world of photography since when Sony, 5 years before, launched its first full frame mirrorless.