Fujifilm GFX 50R Review – Digital Medium Format Heritage

A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

I’ve always admired this quote by the late Apple founder Steve Jobs. He was a true visionary, and left a huge mark on the world and how we live in it today. The camera that Fujifilm announced today is in many ways a materilisation of that quote. At least to me. And that’s what I want to share with you guys today. What does this camera mean to me. Not you, not your neighbour. Me.

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GFX 50R – GF23mm f/4

So in my little write-up of the GFX 50R today I’m going to focus on exactly that. I’m going to focus on what this camera does to my creativity and my joy of photography. What I will be not be focusing too much on is the technical aspects of the Fujifilm GFX 50R. The reason for this being that on a technical specs sheet and pixelpeeping level this camera is undistinguishable from the GFX50S. The image quality, the focusing speed, the Processor. Everything is unchanged.

So what has changed? – Well, the change is something as elusive as the feel of the product! – Yes I said it. The defining factor in why I see this camera as the best release for Fujifilm since the original X100 and subsequently the X-Pro1 is all about something as abstract and non-technical as a bloody feeling!
Did I have you guys running away screaming yet?
To those of you still here, reading. Let’s get this show on the road.

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That marvellous sensor. In an equally marvellous enclosure

Disclaimer: The camera used in this review is a pre-production prototype camera. Image quality might therefore not be final.
Disclaimer II: All productshots of the camera are shot by me for Fujifilm Corp.
Disclaimer III: I’m an official X-photographer. That’s spelled brand-ambassador. My views are most likely as biased as they come. This being said, I’m an open and honest guy and I speak my opinions. I have used, and still use to this day, all other imaginable camera systems, be they analogues, digital or pinhole. Whether you believe my views regarding this camera or not, it still has one big-a** sensor!

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GFX 50R – GF23mm f/4

Rangefinder heritage

Fujifilm has been producing cameras for many years, and back in the film days they produced some stellar cameras, especially in the medium format segment. Back then, shooting medium format was a lot more common for the everyday photographer. Fujifilm made cameras in all kinds of shapes and sizes. One of their probably most iconic medium format cameras is the GW690. A large rangefinder camera that shoots 6×9 film. I own the version 3 of this camera, and it is still one of the best cameras I own. And that is largely due to the complete no-frills approach. There are no bells and whistles. Heck it doesn’t even have a lightmeter. It has shutter speed, aperture, a filmwinder and a shutter button.
Even though I know from Fujifilm Japan that the inspiration for the GFX 50R comes from the Fujifilm GA645, I still cannot help but think that the reference is closer to that of the GW690.
The philosophy of decluttering. Simplyfying, and making a tool that just works with no superflous bells and whistles. THAT is what the GFX 50R is all about.

 

So Fujifilm took the first step of ALL the companies that produce digital medium format cameras, and made something different. Something real. Something that the other manufacturers either didn’t have the courage to do, or saw a market for. I applaud Fujifilm for their approach. They look back at their history. They take that legacy seriously and they make amazing up-to-date products containing the heart and soul of photographic gear of days gone by. The GFX 50R is a culmination of that line of thinking. Just like the X100 was, almost 8 years ago.

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GFX 50R – GF110mm f/2

The unavoidable technicalities

I can do this quite briefly. As I mentioned further up, this camera has nothing new under the sun in regards to the technology on the inside.
The 44x33mm 51.4MP sensor, the processor, the image quality, the incredible dynamic range, the autofocus, the features, the film simulations, the jpeg engine. It’s all there, and it is just as awesome as in the GFX 50S.

So for this writeup I’m going to refer you to all the different posts I’ve made during the last 18 months on/with/containing the GFX 50S. Obviously the most technical of those runthroughs will be the original review of the GFX 50S. But image quality wise these posts below contain such a wide variety of imagestyles, that it will definitely give you examples on what kind of image quality is possible with this camera.

So there you have it. that is all the technical stuff I’m going to write about in this review. That is definitely a first for me, but as I wrote in the beginning of this write-up, this camera is about something else for me.

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GFX 50R – GF23mm f/4

Build and feel

This is where the magic of the GFX 50R lies. The new formfactor. The feeling of the camera. The layout. The incredible user experience that just begs for me to use this camera.
When you first look at the GFX 50R what you will obviously notice is how it now has a classic “brick-shape” with the eyepiece placed to the far left on the back of the camera. You will probably also notice that the is no OVF window like on the X-Pro/X100 series. This makes the camera resemble the X-E3 camera quite a bit.

 

I would have loved for Fujifilm to have included an OVF, but I am also not immune to the fact that it would mean massive obstruction of the rather large medium format lenses. But for a street-/lifestyleshooter using the smaller GF63, GF45 and soon the GF50 I would have loved to at least have the option of the unique OVF/EVF hybrid viewfinder that I love so much. But Maybe in the next revision. One can always hope, right?

If you inspect the GFX 50R further, you will notice that the “block” that you find on the back of the GFX 50S is now gone. Fujifilm managed to slim this camera down in size so that it is now only as deep as the battery itself.
You will also notice that Fujifilm kept the flip-screen, which is the first time they’re doing that on one of their “faux-rangefinder models”. I know that a lot of users are torn on the issue of placing a flipscreen on a rangefinder styled body. But I also know how much I enjoy having a flipscreen on many of the other models. So why not on a rangefinder? In use I found it a very useful feature, and something that I think even the “purists” will enjoy immensely. The screen is touch sensitive just like

 

The on/off switch has been moved away from the circular placement around the shutter-button, and in its place Fujifilm put an unlabeled wheel that you can customize for F-stops, shutter speeds and most importantly ISO. SO this functions as a separate ISO dial. So staying true to the classic uncluttered heritage of the film rangefinders, you have the basic functions right at your finger tips. Shutterspeed, ISO, Aperture, Exposure.

The diopter mechanism on the side of the camera has the same push-pull locking mechanism as the one found on the X-T3 which works really well. No more “turning that when pulling the camera from your bag”. The camera has a layout that makes most functions accessible with your right hand only. So with you left hand under the lens supporting the camera, operating it with your right hand is easy-breezy. Very well thought out.
The focus mode selector has been given a much more prominent position on the back of the camera. This is really nice if you, like me, switch between auto focus and manual focus all the time. definitely a very street-photography centric change.

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GFX 50R – GF45mm f/2.8 – Single exposure

The GFX 50R features a lot of unlabelled buttons that can be customised to whatever you want. So this is a tool that you can really shape to be your own.
The camera isn’t entirely shaped like a brick. You do have a grip on the front as well as thumb support own the back. This is quite useful for when you mount the larger lenses of the system.

The EVF is very nice and it is also quite large. It seems fluid, but I did notice a little lag at high speed panoramic movements. But keep in mind that this was very early prototype camera and firmware, so things are bound to change. It’s supposedly exactly the same 3.69mp OLED as on the 50S but I need to get that confirmed.

The commercial

Back in July I pitched the idea of making a video that was taking cues from the original X100 commercial that aired in Japan. I didn’t want to do a replica, but I wanted to do my own version. I wanted to bring that story, that essence of documenting your life, into the newer generations of Fujifilm cameras. And when I was told about the GFX 50R I had no doubt in my mind that it would be the perfect camera for that project I had in my head.

I asked my very good friend Palle Schultz if he was in on the concept, and luckily he said yes. We had an amazing creative process where it became quite clear that we were on the same path. We wanted to create something different from the typical Fujifilm camera commercials. We wanted to focus on the arts, and on life. – A life with photography if you will.
It ended up becoming a statement on how I view my life with photography as of 2018. I’m so very proud of what we ended up creating.

Anyway. This is the uncut version of the video we did.

Final thoughts

The GFX 50R  is such a capable camera. I cannot help but compare it to the X-Pro1. When the X-Pro1 came out it was Fujifilms first Rangerfinder styled interchangeable lens digital camera. The X-Pro1 launched only 6,5 years ago, and look where Fujifilm is now in the APS-C segment. If we’re to see the same development based on the digital medium format sensor, Fujifilm is going to be a major player in the medium format over the next 5 years. I mean, they’re doing so many things so right. They respect their heritage, yet they have the balls to push these new products that might end up a niche. Because let’s face it, the rangefinder styled mediumformat camera caters to a much narrower audience than the GFX 50S. Yet they build it. It’s a signal to me that they care about so many things other than sales numbers and specs.
They care about photography. And thats why I love the Fujifilm brand so much. They take me and other photographers seriously.

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My beautiful Sofie – GFX 50R + Unreleased Mitakon lens

The GFX 50R is a camera that triggers so many things for me. It’s a camera that gives me a an overwhelming desire to take it out and shoot. The rangefinder layout is perfect for street/documentary/reportage – and it works really well. I have the insane image quality of the medium format sensor so I can do high dynamic range landscapes, portraiture etc. So this is such a no-compromise camera for capturing moments of my life.

Samples

My samples for this review are not those of technical content. They are sample images that are shot as I love to shoot. For the pixelpeepers among you these will probably not satisfy your curiosity for dynamic range and depth. Or maybe they will. But this run-through of the GFX 50R is a bit different than usual for me, and so are the sample shots. Many of these samples shots are as close to my artform as a photographer as you’ll get, so they’re not your typical “brick-wall” shots.
All images have seen various degree of post processing in Adobe Lightroom.

(Make sure you open up the gallery, and you can “view full size” for 3000px long side images.)