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The Fujifilm GFX 50S is great for giant printouts

As a digital medium-format camera, the Fujifilm GFX 50S' $10,099 price tag might look staggering but is reasonable as most such cameras cost more than $20,000.
As a digital medium-format camera, the Fujifilm GFX 50S' $10,099 price tag might look staggering but is reasonable as most such cameras cost more than $20,000.ST PHOTO: TREVOR TAN

Images taken with this camera can be blown up to billboard size but it is not bulky or heavy

Fujifilm is no stranger to medium- format cameras, having released film versions such as the GW670.

Combining Fujifilm's mirrorless camera expertise and its medium-format heritage, the GFX 50S is a formidable entry into the medium-format market.

The GFX 50S' image sensor is 1.7 times bigger than a full-frame DSLR camera's, thus you can blow up images up to billboard size. But, unlike many digital medium-format cameras that are bulky and heavy, the GFX 50S is around the size and weight of a DSLR camera. You can even carry it around for street photography.

In terms of build and handling, the GFX 50S is right up there with the best. It is weather-sealed in 58 points to achieve a high level of resistance to dust and moisture. So, you can use this camera in the studio or in the desert.

Its body is made of magnesium alloy. It feels solid and sturdy when you hold it. I love the generous grip that lets you have a secure and comfortable grasp of the camera.

Button layout is well conceived. There is an ISO setting dial on the top left, while a shutter speed dial is sited at the top right, just beside the hot shoe. A square LCD screen displaying the important settings, like aperture and ISO, takes up the rest of the space on the top right.

A command dial sits on top of the grip, while another command dial is sited at the rear just beside the thumb rest. I particularly love the rear mini-thumb stick that can be used to adjust the autofocusing (AF) point. Handling is just superb.

With the launch of this medium-format camera, Fujifilm also released three corresponding GF-mount lenses. For this review, I used the camera with the GF 63mm f/2.8mm R WR lens ($2,399). The two other lenses are the Fujinon GF 32-64mm f/4.0 R LM WR ($3,299) and GF 120mm f/4 Macro R LM OIS WR ($3,599).

The GFX 50S' operation is understandably not as swift as that of DSLR cameras. It takes around 1sec to power up the camera and about 2sec to shut it down.

  • TECH SPECS

    PRICE: $10,099 (body only)

    IMAGE SENSOR: 51.4-megapixel medium-format CMOS

    DISPLAY: 3.2-inch tiltable LCD with 2,360,000 dots; electronic viewfinder (EVF) with 3,690,000 dots

    SENSITIVITY: ISO 50 - 102,400

    SHOOTING SPEED: Up to 3 frames per second

    CONNECTIVITY: Wi-Fi, USB 3.0, micro-HDMI

    WEIGHT: 920g (body only, with battery, memory card and EVF)

    RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 5/5

    PERFORMANCE: 5/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 3/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

Unlike DSLR cameras that use phase-detection AF, the GFX 50S uses the slower contrast-detection AF system. And the camera is a tad slow compared with DSLR cameras. In bright sunlight, it takes about 0.5sec to secure a focus. Under dim lighting, it can take up to 2sec to lock onto a focus.

I was surprised Fujifilm has not advertised that the GFX 50S can be used as a panoramic camera like the Hasselblad Xpan. These film panoramic cameras are able to shoot in a 24 x 65mm format.

And the GFX 50S has an option to choose the 65:24 ratio for its images. With its 51-megapixel image sensor, you are still getting 25-megapixel still images in this "Xpan mode".

I have always wondered why a digital Xpan was never made. Well, it seems like there is one now finally. With this Xpan mode, I can finally shoot real panoramic pictures instead of the usual in-camera or post-process stitching. It became my favourite mode when I was reviewing this camera.

Whether Xpan mode or normal mode, the image quality is excellent, with super-sharp pixel rendition. Even when you zoom in, you can barely see the softness that appears in images shot with full-frame DSLR cameras. Colours are vivid and accurately reproduced.

With so many megapixels, I thought its noise performance would suffer. However, I was pleasantly surprised that that was not the case. Images are devoid of noise until ISO 1,600, at which you start to notice some noise artefacts. Even at ISO 3,200, images are still usable for Web pages. There is a loss of details due to the noise artefacts only at ISO 6,400 and above.

The GFX 50S can capture crisp, full high-definition videos as well. But very few would buy a medium-format camera to shoot videos.

Battery life is around 400 still images for a full charge. For photoshoots out in the field, you might want to pack an extra battery.

The GFX 50S' $10,099 price tag might look staggering for the uninitiated. But, in medium-format terms, the GFX 50S is reasonably priced. Most digital medium-format cameras cost more than $20,000.

•Verdict: For commercial or wedding photographers who need huge printouts, the Fujifilm GFX 50S will be a worthwhile investment. And for serious hobbyists who can cough up the dough, this is the medium-format camera to get.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 22, 2017, with the headline 'The Fujifilm GFX 50S is great for giant printouts'. Print Edition | Subscribe