A couple of weeks have past since my last post and there is good reason for that. Fujifilm delivered my new GFX-100!
This camera was announced some time ago and I placed a preorder with Wex just to be in with change to get my hands on it at some point. The day arrived 10 days ago and I have been putting it through my normal usage since then.
For those who are not familiar with the GFX-100, here is an outline of what it offers:
- 102mp “large format” sensor. 44mm x 33mm. 70% larger than full frame.
- Internally stabilised sensor (IBIS)
- On-sensor phase detect AF system
- 5 fps drive mode with AF.
- Built-in vertical grip.
- Weather sealed.
- Non-crop 4K video at 30fps
- High bit rate video output with low compression.
There are many improvements over the GFX-50S that I have been using for the last 18 months, but the upgrade really comes down to three main points for me;
Resolution – IBIS – AF.
These three factors alone were what I was looking for in this upgrade. Anything else is an added bonus.
My goto camera system for wildlife has been the Nikon D500 and Nikon AF-S 400 f/2.8G. This combo is almost perfect for wildlife and the results have been terrific. The camera offers the speed and AF accuracy that I need with 10fps and and almost unlimited buffer for long sequences.
The lens is great in low-light conditions and the shallow DOF and fast AF makes it a winner.
If there is one shortcoming of the D500 it is the 20.9mp APS-C sensor. The resolution is on the low side.
That said, the smaller sensor is actually an advantage for wildlife as it provides 1.5x more reach than full frame. This gives the 400/f2.8 lens the field of view of 600/f4 on full frame.
My Fujifilm GFX-50S provided me with a higher resolution file at 51mp and the files are beautiful. Wide dynamic range for enhanced detail in the highlights and shadows and great colour gamut.
The problem with using this camera for wildlife is the slow AF and inability to track a moving subject.
If the subject was relatively stationary the results where excellent.
The other shortcoming of the GFX-50S is the lack of long prime lenses. The longest lens is the GF250/f4 and with the 1.4x TC it extends to 350mm.
As the GFX sensor is larger than the APS-C sensor in the D500 the comparative focal-length (field-of view) of the GF250+TC is around 200mm (just under).
For this reason the Nikon combo was almost always preferable.
Enter the GFX-100
With the specifications listed earlier there are some interesting possibilites with this camera:
- With a pixel count almost 5x the D500 (2.2x the resolution) it should in theory be possible to crop the image of the GFX to match the field of view of the Nikon.
- With the new phase detect AF system in the GFX it should be possible to track moving subjects.
- With IBIS it should be possible to handhold the camera and not always be tethered to a tripod. The Nikon combo is too heavy to handhold for any length of time.
So after a week of testing this out have made some observations.
The resolution of the GFX does compensate for the lack of focal length. It is truly amazing how much you can crop into image and retain detail and quality.
D500 + AF-S 400 f/2.8G:
GFX-100 + GF250 f/4 + GF14TC:
As we can see here the GFX images enlarge more than the D500 despite the D500 image having an initial advantage.
The advantages will only be greater when you are able to fill more of the frame of the GFX.
Here are some examples of the detail you can extract from the GFX-100:
I am so impressed with the files and the detail.
When it comes to the improved AF capability of the GFX-100 I am still not sure what to think. Normal AF is solid and precise (as was the GFX-50S).
I am having very unreliable results when tracking a fast moving subject. Often the AF doesn’t acquire the subject at all and I miss the moment. Other times it works fine.
I should say here that I have only tried it with the GF250 + TC so that could possibly affect the results somewhat. All lens systems that I have experience with will loose some AF speed when using a TC. It is also worth noting that I am often tracking a small subject against a busy background as you can see from the examples below. This is very challenging for any AF system and my reference point here is from the Nikon D500 and AF-S 400 f/2.8G. That is a famously good AF combo. The GF glass is also not really designed for very rapid AF movements.
Here are some examples where the GFX handled it well. Full frame + 100% crops:
It is a massive improvement on the GFX-50S and I am excited to see how it will develop over time. At this stage the tracking AF reliability is inconsistent and you will end up with a lot of missed shots in the pursuit of the sharp ones.
I don’t want to draw any final conclusions as we are still at the infant stage of the firmware releases and much can change in the months to come.
It is clear that Fujifilm have implemented a lot of advanced tech and I have confidence in their ability to improve on this further.
This is a game changer in my opinion. Being able to hand hold a medium format camera and get sharp images down to around 1/6s with some lenses opens up new possibilities.
I got sharp images down to 1/60s with the GF250/f4 and could probably go even slower.
Most of the week I left the tripod at home and walked around as if I was shooting with my X-T3 and 100-400mm. When reviewing the images I never felt I had compromised the IQ by not using the tripod.
I don’t shoot video at the moment, but knowing that I have a very effective gimbal built into the camera is great.
At this time Adobe does not fully support the GFX-100. The files load in and you can work with them, but they are clearly not being processed to their full potential. The sharpening of the files is problematic.
Capture One Pro fully supports the GFX and the results are excellent. The default settings look good and the overall processing is fast and stable. I am using a MacBook Pro 2019 (8-core, 32mp ram, Vega20 graphics).
Be prepared to add more storage as each RAF file is around 208mb.
WHO IS THIS CAMERA FOR?
For most photographers 102mp is more than you need. The 51mp of the GFX-50S is enough for almost all publications and fairly large prints.
I think this camera really shines in the scenarios that require heavy cropping of the image. It compensates for the lack of longer telephoto lenses and allows you to change the aspect ratio of your image and still retain a high resolution file.
In essence it affords the photographer more choices in post. The pixel level sharpness is excellent and you can really crop hard.
I have come across a few issues so far:
- Camera reports the incorrect battery charge and gives an empty charge warning when there is plenty of charge left. I have seen many reports of this so it is a known issue. Switching camera off/on usually restores the correct reading.
- When using the EVF tilt adapter I occasionally get a strange recycle of the EVF where the EVF goes dark and the lens OIS restarts. This normally happens two times before normal operation resumes. It is very intermittent and I cannot find any consistency in the behavior.
- Internal settings randomly reset. I have had an issue where the date/time needs to be re-entered after the camera was switched off.
The GFX-100 is a major upgrade over the GFX-50S. The sum of its parts add up to a formidable package.
I wasn’t sure if it could fill my needs and demands as a wildlife camera, but I am convinced it will.
The tracking AF will need to be refined, but the overall performance is staggeringly good. You forget you are shooting with a medium format camera and just get on with the task. It feels very much like a large DSLR.
Here are the larger images. They are resized to avoid the files to be too large for the web, but should give a reasonable impression of the detail the GFX is capable of.