First impressions of the Fujifilm GFX 50S

Fujifilm reps were at Samy's Cameras in San Francisco today, so I had a chance to play and "shoot" with the much-anticipated medium format (MF) Fujifilm GFX 50S. 

As the camera was a pre-production model, we were not allowed shoot any images on our own cards, but regardless,  I came away with some vey useful first impressions. 

The GFX is everything that you’d expect a medium format professional camera to be; it's clear that its extremely well thought-through and is executed to a very high engineering specification. In the hand, it is about the size of a Nikon D810 or Canon 5D-series. As you may have read, it is surprisingly light, but it is also very well made and robust-feeling; the fit and finish are excellent, The front grip and thumb are comfortable and nicely textured, and provide excellent purchase for a secure grip, and if you're an Fuji X-camera user, the now-classic X-camera knobs and dials will immediately feel right at home. The menu system is clearly-laid out and identical in organization and interface to the X-Pro2/XT-2. In use, given that the sensor supports contrast detection-only autofocus, I found the AF to be surprisingly fast, at least as fast as a Fujifllm X-T1. The EVF and LCD are gorgeous, bright and clear with neutral, accurate color and the EVF has a very fast refresh rate with no perceptual lag.  Having the joystick was very useful not only for AF point selection, but also for scrolling around the LCD when reviewing images or when zoomed in with manual focus to check critical focus. Something that I found notable was the shutter is quite specical:  upon actuation, it is very quiet and smooth and has “feel” that is to die for. Most importantly, it feels very well damped, you can tell that shutter shock is not going to be an issue with this camera.

Given the size of the lenses, they are suprisingly light, bright, and exude a very high level execution and fit and finish. The autofocus performance is fast and quiet with no discernable aperture blade chatter. The aperture rings have just the right amount of stiffness in rotation, and the manual focus and zoom rings feel very nice, smooth but with just the right amount of resistance that allows you to precisely set the adjustment exactly where you want to. The overall impression is that the lenses are extremely well-made with superb functionality. The sales rep said that the next two lenses in the series likely be available in the late Q2 2017 time-frame.

The strongest impression that comes across from using the Fujifilm GFX 50S is that it is a real workhorse and a serious "photographic tool".  This is not a camera, though, to replace Nikon D810, Canon 1D or 5D-series cameras designed for sports, photojournalism, or for the lack of a better term, "general purpose" enthusiast photography. After holding, using, and shooting with the camera, it's clear it’s primarily intended for seriously "hard-core" advertising, portrait, editorial, commercial, automotive, and fashion medium format photography of the highest professional standard, as well as expert enthusiast outdoor, travel, or landscape photographers who truly understand what working with a MF camera really means, and know how to get the camera to deliver it.

Given Fujifilm’s excellent track record of fully “thinking things through” and a very high level of execution, the GFX will become the hub of what looks to evolve into a very, dare I say extremely, capable system for demanding professional and expert photographer applications. While the term "game-changer" is bandied about all to often, in this case, I fully expect it will apply with the new Fujifilm GFX system. 

There was a lot of interest in the new Fujifilm GFX 50S at Samy's Camera, San Francisco

Whither the X100T?

The Fuji X camera forums and rumor sites are presently all a-flutter that the venerable Fujifilm X100T is about to  be replaced by the fourth generation X100,  ostensibly designated the Fujifilm X100F (F standing for "Fourth", as "T" stood for "Third"). And per the usual rumors, speculation, and brouhaha that inevitably accompanies forum dialog, there's a lot of discussion about "stuff": a new lens, specs, LCD touchscreens, weatherproofing, joysticks and the like. Lots of discussion, in particular, about whether Fuji will re-design the fixed 23mm f/2 lens that has been a mainstay in the camera design for the last three models. Lots of folks have whinged about this lens, but personally, I don't understand why. I've found the camera and lens to be capable of producing exemplary images, and at the end of the day, that's all that matters.

I dabbled with the original X100 and X100S  with two week rentals of each model. I loved the design, the whole Leica M4 gestalt they brought, and I certainly loved the image quality, which was gorgeous, but neither camera really clicked with respect to being a value proposition compared to the X-Pro1 I was using extensively at the time.  I remember having the X100S with me for an entire vacation in the Tetons along with my Fuji X-Pro1 (which had just received the big firmware update), and while I liked it better than the original X100, I found my X-Pro1 to be faster and more responsive, which was saying something, because the X-Pro1 was never regarded as "snappy" in use. Like the original X100, the X100S just didn't click enough for me to want to buy one. 

The X100T was an entirely different experience, however. The first time I handled one was in December, 2014 at the recently dearly departed Keeble & Schuchat in Palo Alto.  I found it to be much better camera than it's predecessors, and in particular, I liked the refinement of the controls (even down to the improved knurling on the dials and aperture ring), the improved autofocus, body shape, and button layout and the Classic Chrome film sim. Moreover, the camera seemed much snappier in real-world use than the first two models. I was sold, and bought one a month later. It's been my constant companion ever since, and goes with me everywhere, part of my EDC (essential daily carry). 

But I'm on the fence regarding the forthcoming X100F. Yes, it will have improved "specs" and more megapixels, not that more megapixels is important to me, as the X100T had enough.  Most likely it will have a joystick. It might even have a "better lens" (though I doubt it). But, will it be a value proposition? Tough to say.   For me personally, the X100F will have big shoes to fill, as I happen to think the X100T is one of the best cameras for what it was designed to do that I've ever used. Time will tell, but all I can say at this point is I love my X100T. 

Meantime, enjoy a couple of X100T images...for posterity's sake. 


Scottish Sea Eagle
Who says you need a big lens to do bird photography?  Scottish Sea Eagle at Gauntlet Birds of Prey raptor sanctuary, Knutsford, UK Fujifilm X100T, Continous High-Speed Autofocus  

Who says you need a big lens to do bird photography? 

Scottish Sea Eagle at Gauntlet Birds of Prey raptor sanctuary, KnutsfordUK

Fujifilm X100T, Continous High-Speed Autofocus


It's been a long time coming...

but  the Racing the Light website is finally here. 

I started designing Racing the Light back in May, 2015, got in the way.

My cat, Lucky, got sick with kidney problems around this time and life's been very challenging since, the majority of which has been concerned with caring for the health of family members, not the least of which has been Lucky. 

He's been doing pretty well of late, and while it may be a while before things are completely calm on the caregiver front, I took this opportunity on a quiet Thanksgiving holiday to finish the website. 

This blog will be primarily about photography, with a strong emphasis on the wonderful Fujifilm X System, which compteley rejuvenated my passion for photography. There will likely be the occasional digression into high-end audio, watches, and motorsports. 

Feel free to participate and enjoy the journey. 

- Stephen

the cat in question....Fujifilm X-Pro1 and Fujinon XF35 f/1.4. Processed in Capture One. 

the cat in question....Fujifilm X-Pro1 and Fujinon XF35 f/1.4. Processed in Capture One.