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 S$10,000 on a camera and at least S$2000 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.