Medium format. That’s the stuffy, studio-centric camera tech that costs tens of thousands of pounds, right?

Not any more. The GFX 50S is unique; a professional-grade camera that’s as comfortable in the studio as it is in the wilderness.

There are few questions you need to ask yourself before buying one. Most obviously, can I afford to spend £6,000 on a camera and at least £1,350 on a lens? But also, how vital is detail to your photography? How many megapixels do you need? And how much sharpness can you handle?

Because this is a camera that, thanks to its giant 51MP medium format sensor, is a dream tool for any serious photographer who wants to capture the world around them in finer detail.

Yes, it’s frighteningly expensive, and yes, it might initially feel a little unusual for those more used to DSLRs and compact system cameras. But it produces astoundingly detailed photographs, and does so in a surprisingly user-friendly package.

Full-frame photographers watch out - there’s a new high-end champion to get jealous over...

Design: small, sturdy, sort-of stylish

Tradition holds that medium format cameras are large, unwieldy beasts, but the GFX50S bucks the trend – largely down to the fact that it’s a mirrorless model that doesn’t have to make room for a giant moving mirror and pentaprism.

Remove the electronic viewfinder module, fit one of the smaller lenses and this thing’s not much bulkier or heavier than a premium DSLR.

That’s not to say it’s small, per se. The body needs to accommodate that huge sensor, and as a consequence there’s a large bulge on the back, onto which Fujifilm has bolted a 3.2in LCD screen; the whole thing protrudes an inch or so from the rest of the body. If you’re used to hauling round a dinky, lightweight compact system camera, you’ll need some time to adjust to the GFX50S’ heft.

Thankfully, the package includes a high-quality padded neck strap, which helps distribute the bulk quite comfortably. The body is constructed from tough magnesium alloy and weatherproofed at no fewer than 58 points, so it’s built to take a beating from the elements.

Rubberised material wraps the midriff, and a large grip for your right hand ensure it’ll stay steady in your mitt while shooting. Styling-wise, you’d probably call it functional rather than fashionable, but it exudes a handsome utilitarian charm that’s somewhat reminiscent of Fujifilm’s X series.

Controls: buttons galore

Another holdover from the X series is the menu setup and control system. Fujifilm has peppered the exterior with enough dials, joysticks and buttons to keep the most enthusiast control freak contented.

There are dedicated dials on top for shutter speed and ISO, aperture can usually be changed via a lens dial, and various other buttons can be customised to fulfil whatever function you’d like. If you’ve used an X series camera recently, or have a good handle on general CSC/DSLR control layouts, there’s nothing here that’ll scare you away; you’ll pick it up in no time.

In a another welcome nod to control inclusivity (and a move likely to dismay photography purists), the rear display is a touchscreen. That means you can swipe through photos and video clips you’ve taken, pinch to zoom and tap on-screen to change settings in the Q menu.

You can also touch to set an autofocus area. It’s a good, restrained example of how touch controls can enhance an advanced camera without getting in the way – and those purists can easily avoid them if they feel the need.

While not technically a “control”, the LCD display on the top plate deserves a mention here. This remains on even when the camera itself is powered off to give a quick indication of battery life and remaining SD card capacity, and when you flick the power switch it displays general shooting settings information like aperture, shutter speed and exposure compensation. Another useful addition.

Fuji has put a lot of thought into keeping studio snappers happy too, which is why there's a vertical battery grip available at launch. This adds a significant amount of extra bulk to the camera, but duplicates the shutter button, command dials and most-used buttons for portrait shooting. It’ll double battery life, too, raising the number of shots between charges from around 400 to over 800. Easily enough for an entire photo shoot.

Combine it with the optional tilting EVF adapter, and you’ve got one seriously flexible camera. It lets you move the viewfinder up to 90° when shooting landscape, and 45° in each direction when shooting portrait. The GFX 50S will do tethered shooting with Adobe Lightroom, too - as long as you buy the optional Pro plugin.

Features: focused on the important things

By medium format standards, the GFX50S is daring and different, but that’s not to say it’s festooned with gimmicky features. This really is a camera designed to nail the basics.

There’s optical image stabilisation, but in-lens rather than in-body. The fastest continuous shooting speed is a treacle-like 3fps. And the video options are limited to Full HD quality at 30fps.

That said, it’s hard to be disappointed by what’s on offer here. Medium format cameras aren’t famed for autofocus speed or accuracy, but the GFX50S is impressive on both counts. It's not the perfect choice if you're planning to shoot sport or wildlife (that's more like the Sony A6500's domain), but it's by no means bad at all.

Fuji has also added a whopping 117 autofocus points, and the same convenient focus selector joystick from the X-Pro 2, so you can really dial down and get pin-sharp results every time. That’s a world away from the one or two focus points you’d get on a traditional medium format camera, and puts the GFX 50s on par with the pro-level full frame cameras you’ll spot at any football match, or in the photo pit at any concert.

There are lots of other handy features. The screen tilts and flips. There’s built-in Wi-Fi. The (included) electronic viewfinder add-on has a large, natural-looking and sharp OLED screen with millions of pixels.

And you get plenty of pro-level features like dual SD card slots (which not only double your storage capabilities but can be set up so that, say, RAW files to go one card while processed JPEGs go to the other) and in-camera RAW conversion.

I’d say the GFX50S is short on “pioneering” features, but strong when it comes to the things it needs to deliver a pleasant and powerful user experience.

Image quality: a devil for the details

 

Stuff says... 

Fujifilm GFX 50S review

Not cheap, but no camera we've tested takes better photos than this
£5,999
Good Stuff 
Richly detailed shots
Weatherproof build
User-friendly
More compact than many MF cameras
Bad Stuff 
That price tag
Limited video options and no 4K
Not built for speed