Fuji GFX 50S Review
Performance - How well does it take pictures?
Medium Format is all about image quality. The larger-than-full-frame 0.8X crop-factor image sensor is expected to translate into lower image noise at equal magnification and higher dynamic-range. This is essentially the only reason photographers accept bigger and heavier lenses, with all that those imply.
The ultimate output quality of any ILC depends on both the camera and lens. Fujifilm made sure this is overseen by announcing that all their GF-mount lenses are designed for a resolution of 100 MP, telling photographers that those lenses are made with consideration to future-generation GFX system cameras. While color, noise, contrast and exposure are properties of the camera, distortion, vignetting and chromatic aberrations are properties of the lens. Sharpness depends on the weakest link. So, the camera cannot capture more details than the lens lets through. Conversely, a lens can transmit a greater amount of details than the sensor can capture. For a review of lenses used in this review, read our Fujinon GFX Lens Roundup.
This is the only Medium Format Digital Camera review at Neocamera to date, so we have not seen any direct competitors. Our expectations for the Fujifilm GFX-50S are that it should deliver notably better image-quality than the best Full-Frame DSLRs. This is the mind-set used for our performance evaluation in this digital camera review. Understandably, this mirrorless camera is specialized for image quality and is therefore expected to sacrifice other areas of performance.
Sharpness & Image Noise
Image quality of the Fujifilm GFX-50S is simply spectacular. Its 50 megapixels CMOS sensor without any Anti-Alias Filter captures incredibly fine details with critical sharpness and extremely well-defined micro-contrast. The default Sharpness level is very good, while pushing it to +1 makes things absolutely tack-sharp without any visible sharpening artifacts. Given that diffraction only hits around F/20, this mirrorless has a tremendous latitude when it comes to depth-of-field.
There is virtually no image noise from ISO 50 to 800. Images taken at those ISO can easily be printed up to 40" x 30" and can stand close examination. ISO 1600 and 3200 show an absolutely minimal amount of noise that can only be seen at 1:1 magnification. Even 40" x 30" prints look impeccable at those sensitivities. There is a very gradual increase in image-noise from ISO 6400 to 12800, the highest standard sensitivity of the GFX-50S. Given a high resolution of 50 megapixels, large prints are possible throughout these sensitivities, diminishing by a few inches at each stop.
ISO 25600 is clearly noisy with fine details being destroyed. Contrast and colors are maintained remarkably well though. Mid-size 20" x 15" prints still look rather good, despite such a high sensitivity. ISO 51200 is somewhat worse but not as much as expected. Mid-size prints are possible, although they will certainly look grainy. ISO 102400 is a touch too far, producing noisy and soft output with much lower contrast. Colors though are surprisingly well-maintained. One can make a decent small print out of this ISO.
Dynamic-Range & Metering
Dynamic-range of the Fujifilm GFX-50S is nothing short of exceptional. This Medium Format mirrorless camera can handle over 14 stops of dynamic-range all the way to ISO 3200! Our systems cannot measure beyond 14 stops even, so there is no telling exactly how much it can capture. Images straight out of this digital camera have the look of HDR, even though they are made from a single exposure. The maximum dynamic-range it can record happens at ISO 400, although stops before it, all the way down to Expanded ISO 50, are still all capable of over 14 stops.
From ISO 6400 upward, dynamic-range gradually decreases, finally becoming measurable. ISO 6400 and 12800 still capture more than 12 stops which is previously unseen by any digital camera. One stop of dynamic-range is lost for each sensitivity stop beyond that, until ISO 102400 which loses almost two stops, landing just below 10 stops. Clearly this is where the larger pixels of Medium Format offer the most advantage.
There are three Dynamic-Range settings on the Fujifilm GFX-50S: 100%, 200% and 400%. These represent a normal capture, one with 1 full-stop more and one with 2 stops more than the default. 200% is available from ISO 200 and up, while 400% if available from ISO 400. Expanded ISO sensitivities are are locked at 100% Dynamic-Range. Unless shooting rather low-contrast subjects, simply setting Dynamic Range to 400% performs optimally, since the camera will simply use a lower setting when 400% is not available.
The GFX-50S offers independent control for Shadow and Highlight tone. These affect how dynamic-range is compressed when rendering JPEG images. The default Shadow tone is somewhat contrasty which adds punch to images but can yield away shadow details. Pushing it down to -1 or -2 preserves more shadow details. Default Highlight tone is quite pleasant, although it can be decreased for high-key subjects to record more nuances in highlights.
Metering of the GFX-50S is one of the best. The Multi-Segment metering system produces well-balanced exposures while minimizing clipping of highlights. It almost never over-exposes major areas. Only a slight amount of negative Exposure-Compensation is needed to perfectly record highlights gradations in high-contrast scenes. Of course, given how much dynamic-range this Medium Format camera can capture, there are much fewer scenes that it cannot completely capture, at least in RAW format. This camera also offers simple Center-Weighed, Average and Spot metering modes, which all work exactly as expected.
Color & White-Balance
Unsurprisingly for a company still named after their analog origins, Fujifilm expertly renders colors. The GFX-50S offers an impressive number of Film Simulation modes that vary in saturation, contrast and gradation. Still, hue is almost always close to reality with both Provia and Astia producing the most life-like colors. There is a tiny amount of extra red which is corrected by setting Color to -1.
The White-Balance system in the GFX-50S is reasonably good. It tends to be slightly warmer than expected, particularly so under artificial light. Colors are usually well-balanced when lighting is even. In low light, artificial illumination often leaves a noticeable yellow cast though. This can be corrected in-camera either using Presets or WB Fine-Tuning. The EVF and LCD both show an accurate preview, so corrections are easy to make.
Speed and Performance
While the Fujifilm GFX-50S is generally quite response, it certainly is not a fast digital camera. Its huge 50 megapixels sensor generates a considerable amount of data to process. Since this is a mirrorless system, the sensor must constantly be read to generate views on the rear LCD or optional EVF. Contrast Detect AF also depends on iterating over data read from the sensor. This is exactly where the GFX-50S shows its compromise between image-quality and performance.
With the camera ready, all controls, dials and the joystick respond instantly. One can set exposure parameters and even navigate through the menu system quickly and efficiently to get the camera ready to shoot. Live-View tracks movement with virtually no lag until moderately low-light. As light diminish further, the GFX-50S slows down its refresh-rate to preserve preview brightness. This lag becomes noticeable towards the end of the blue hour yet allows a bright preview as night falls. The GFX-50S achieves this brighter preview using a combination of slow-refresh and increased pixel-binning. The side-effect of this is that Manual Focus becomes more difficult, just as the camera is pushed beyond its autofocus sensitivity limit.
The Contrast Detect AF system of the GFX-50S is incredibly precise and accurate. There are a few cases where it incorrectly confirm focus, usually by a very small distance, so this is mostly noticeable at relatively wide apertures where the Medium Format sensor causes depth-of-field to be shallow. Depth-of-field of course depends on focal-length and subject but expect it to be relatively shallow until at least an aperture of F/5.6.
Autofocus speed is reasonable. In bright light, the GFX-50S locks onto its target with ease. Low-light slows things down, yet it remains acceptable in typical indoor lighting. Night photography poses more of a problem, as it can take over a second for focus to be achieved. Again, depth-of-field is much more shallow on Medium Format, so focusing must be established with greater precision. Overall, this is roughly the autofocus speed of earlier generations of mirrorless cameras. All recent DSLRs focus significantly faster.
Shutter-lag of this Medium Format mirrorless camera is short. Image capture starts right after fully pressing the shutter-release. There is a noticeable black-out after each shot, roughly 1/3s. When shooting at Expanded ISO sensitivities, additional processing is done which locks the camera for just over one second. Unexpectedly, this happens even when shooting in RAW files only.
Throughput of the Fujifilm GFX-50S is quite impressive. When recording JPEG images, it can shoot continuously and indefinitely at 3 FPS. With murch larger RAW files, it has a buffer for 13 frames. When it uses an Electronic Shutter though, burst mode slows down to 1.8 FPS but can now capture an unlimited number of RAW files, untl the memory card or cards, fill up. This performance was confirmed using Lexar 2000X USH-II cards.
The GFX-50S is slowest at transitions. Any time the camera needs to change states it take some time and remains unresponsive during that period. The most critical one is probably entering and exiting Playback mode. It takes about ½s to enter but just over 1s to exit. There is an Instant Review though that allows to quickly return to Shooting mode with a half-press of the shutter-release. The switch between Stills and Video modes is also rather slow, taking almost ½s to engage and a lengthy 2s to disengage. Power on also takes a little more than 1 second, while powering off takes a full second longer but that includes cleaning the sensor at least. Recovering from Sleep is even slower.
Performance of the Fujifilm GFX-50S is characterized by the following measurements:
- Power-On: 1½s. Slower than most professional cameras.
- Power-On to First-Shot: 2 seconds. On the slow side.
- Autofocus: ¼ - ¾s, good in bright light, below average in low light.
- Shutter-lag: Quick with ½s blackout. Very slow.
- Shot-to-shot: Just under 1½s with AF, 1¼s with MF. Very slow either way.
- Playback: ½s to enter, 1s to exist. Below average.
- Power-Off: 2 second, includes sensor cleaning. Average.
- Wake Up from Sleep: 1½s, extremely slow.
- Video: Instant to record and stop. Excellent.
Compared to a modern Mirrorless Digital Camera or to a recent DSLR, the GFX-50S is undeniably slow. This is certainly not a tool for action, sports or even candid photography. One key performance number reveals that this is all about data. You see, the GFX-50S is slow with two exceptions: Video and Autofocus. For AF, only pixels that are part of the chosen focus area must be read. Video uses pixel-binning to output a stream of much lower resolution. Full HD (1080p) frames only have 2 megapixels and these binned pixels only need to be read at 8 bits-per-pixel. Compare this to photographs that are 50 megapixels at 14 bits-per-pixel, which is 44X more!
Battery-life of the Fujifilm GFX-50S is seriously limited. Already the claimed 400 shots-per-charge is low compared to the vast majority of professional cameras, yet it easily drains faster than that. Simply waiting for shots with the EVF or LCD on consumes battery. Using Playback drains the battery faster than expected too. The square monochrome Status LCD on top of the camera also causes some battery drain and it remains on even when the camera is off. This type of display is more power-hungry than segmented LCDs used by other brands of cameras.
There is an essential Eye-Start Sensor on the optional EVF unit which is crucial to save battery. By default, the Eye-Start Sensor automatically switches between the EVF and rear LCD. This means that one display is always active and constantly draining the battery of a substantial amount of energy. Using the VIEW MODE button on the side of the viewfinder module, the camera can use only the EVF, only the LCD or toggle the EVF on and off. This last mode saves power since both the EVF and LCD are off unless something is within proximity of the sensor. This does not help if you carry the camera hanging from your neck though, since the EVF would always be on due to your own proximity.
The Fujifilm GFX-50S is unlike any other digital camera reviewed here. It is a highly specialized product having its own Mirrorless System with a newly-designed all-electronic lens-mount and paired with a large 0.8X-Crop sensor. With only a handful of native GF-mount lenses to choose from so far, the entire GFX system draws a boundary of possibilities. Within that boundary, there is studio, architecture, urban and some landscape photography. Outside, there is action, street, wildlife and more, for now. Fujifilm is expected to continuously grow their Medium Format system to cover more photography opportunities.
It is clear that the Fujifilm GFX-50S delivers the highest image-quality seen from any digital camera. Images produced by the GFX-50S are extremely sharp with even the finest details impeccably rendered. The dynamic-range of this camera is incredible. High-contrast scenes get the look of subtle HDR from a single capture while its reliable Multi-Segment metering system ensures that only the smallest highlights get clipped. Given such a wide dynamic-range, this Medium Format digital camera can easily handle most scenes.
The large 44x33mm sensor in the GFX-50S shows excellent noise-characteristics. There is virtually no noise from ISO 50 to 1600. Above that it starts appearing and increasing very gradually for each additional stop. Given its high-resolution 50 megapixels sensor, this digital camera can produce large prints easily up to ISO 6400, while sensitivities above can be used for mid-sized prints, until ISO 51200. This huge range of usable ISO sensitivities make the GFX-50S an excellent camera for night photography. Plus, it can expose a frame for up to an hour.
While one can compare pixel-per-pixel and see how well the Fujifilm GFX-50S performs as shown in these indoor crops. When it comes to evaluating printed quality, an equal-resolution comparison is more revealing which is what we have done in the comparative crops between the Fujifilm GFX-50S and Nikon D5 XQD. That truly shows by how much this Medium Format from Fujifilm can exceed even the best performing Full-Frame DSLR when it comes down to image-quality alone.
Fujifilm produces beautifully pleasing color with nice saturation and quite a bit of user-control. Automatic White-Balance, which only affect JPEG images, is the only area of image-quality where the GFX-50S could use some improvement Overcoming any AWB issue is a breeze though, with Custom WB getting perfect results and numerous other options available.
The tremendous bandwidth needed to process output from the 50 megapixels sensor in the GFX-50S is what defines its limits. Compared to a current mirrorless camera or DSLR, the GFX-50S is slow on nearly all fronts. Autofocus is fairly reasonable though, taking on average less that ½s to lock yet is noticeably slower than other recent digital cameras. Shutter-lag is fine but the black-out that follows it unacceptable for anything that moves. Shot-to-shot times are poor too, making it even harder to capture a precise moment.
The Fujifilm GFX-50S features a design familiar to X-series users, only scaled to a much larger size. It has efficient and highly customizable controls, making it easy to perform most actions without entering the menu system. This Medium Format mirrorless camera is seriously bulky though, even more so when a necessarily large GF-mount lens is attached. Despite a large size, many of the controls are uncomfortable, particularly the EC button and rear control-dial which is necessary to select shutter-speeds between full-stops and either extremely long or extremely short ones. There are many quirks that this camera inherited from the X-T1 which has similar controls but the new issue that the GFX-50S added is that its control-layout is uncomfortable when not using the camera from above.
It is clear that the GFX-50S is designed to be used on a tripod. Given its bulk, that makes sense. Fujifilm equipped this camera with a nice high-resolution display on a sturdier-than-usual tilting hinge for framing from above. Even better though, there is an optional Tilting Adapter that allows the optional class-leading 3.7 megapixels 0.85X magnification EVF Module to be used from above and towards the sides. It provides a much more precise view and remains usable down to fairly-low light.
Giving a final word on the Fujifilm GFX-50S is proving difficult. This is a camera built around a Medium Format sensor which truly delivers amazing images with extremely low noise and unrivalled dynamic-range. This large sensor necessarily needs a correspondingly large lens-mount to support even larger lenses. This makes the entire thing cumbersome and ergonomics, while relatively efficient, need work. Its true limitation though is speed. There is no way this camera can be used reliably for moving subjects. However when it comes to architecture, urban and studio photography, the Fujifilm GFX-50S delivers unprecedented image-quality and so the choice really balances on the intended type of photography.
For an entirely new platform this is an amazing start. Fujinon GF-mount lenses are expected to be future-proof until digital cameras exceed 100 megapixels. With the current 6 lenses being offered, Fujifilm is building up what looks like a highly promising system.
Fuji GFX 50S Facts
|51 Megapixels Mirrorless||ISO 50-102400|
|Fujifilm GF Mount|
Sensor-Size: 44 x 33mm
Actual size when viewed at 100 DPI
|Unknown Size Optional EVF 3.7 Megapixels (0.85X)||Full manual controls, including Manual Focus|
|Automatic Eye-Start sensor||Custom white-balance|
|2 Axis Digital Level||Spot-Metering|
|Weatherproof down to -10C||Hot-Shoe & Sync-Port|
|Built-in Dust Reduction||Stereo audio input|
|3 FPS Drive, Unlimited Images||Lithium-Ion Battery|
|1920x1080 @ 30 FPS Video Recording||Secure Digital Extended Capacity x 2|
|3.2" LCD 2.4 Megapixels|
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