GFX 50R

GFX 50R

Fujifilm GFX 50R Review

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What We Love. Medium format film shooters need not despair any longer. That is, if the only thing that's keeping them from switching is the high price point of these digital medium formats on the market these days. At $4,499--less than $1000 than its predecessor, the Fujifilm GFX 50S, $500 less than the Pentax 645Z, and definitely much cheaper than any Hasselblads out there--this great new body hits that sweet spot for medium format shooters who are on a tight budget. But affordability isn't the GFX 50R's only strength. It's got a 43.8x32.9mm 51.4MP CMOS medium format sensor that is able to deliver fine, detailed images. It also has more than decent 14-stop dynamic range, a brand new 3.69M-dot EVF, impressive weather sealing, Bluetooth support, a joystick selector, and a dual card slot, all fitted in an ergonomic body that's lighter and more compact than the 50S. Additionally, it has a rangefinder-style body that keeps things nostalgic.

What We'd Change. Most complaints about the Fujifilm GFX 50R--the crappy rolling shutter, especially when shooting with the Electronic Shutter; the slow 3fps continuous shooting; the lack of 4K and the generally bad video quality; and the lack of contrast detection AF points--might just stem from the fact that these folks are subconsciously comparing it to the full-frame bodies dominating the market today. If you're not a medium format shooter or have not shot the format in a while, it's easy to forget that it's designed for a more thoughtful way of photography... to be patient, slow things down, and size up every single shot before taking it, as opposed to simply taking a whole lot of photos and sorting through 25 or so images to find the best one. So in light of this, is there anything we'd actually like to change? Perhaps just an autofocus system that performs better in low light situations.

Pick This Up If... you'd like to slow things down in your photography. Some folks are saying that the Fujifilm GFX 50R isn't a camera meant for the general consumer. We don't quite agree with that. While medium format cameras are certainly designed more for studio, advertising, and fashion photography, this new body feels more like Fuji has designed something with the hobbyist or experience shooter in mind, what with its more compact design, its affordable price tag, and its ease of use. This camera is excellent for travel, landscapes, and portraits, whether or not you're doing it professionally.

INTRO

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When you've gotten so used to all these amazing full-frame and APS-C cameras that try to upstage another in speed, whether by subject tracking and autofocus or by continuous shooting, indulging our collective obsession for instant gratification, it's easy to forget when you have in your hands a tool that demands patience and time... like a medium format camera, for example.

We made that mistake ourselves while shooting Fujifilm's new medium format body, GFX 50R. But as soon as we realized what we were doing--essentially shooting with it as we would our Sony A7R III and finding all these things that are "wrong" with the 50R--we switched gears. That's when we realized the beauty of this camera.

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The arrival of Fujifilm's GFX 50R might just usher a new age in medium format photography, one in which we won't have to break the bank to get medium format and one in which the format becomes more accessible to consumers who may not even be aware of its existence. The camera is not only easy to use and handle even if you're a medium format newbie, but it's also very affordable at only over $4000. Plus, it comes with many of the bells and whistles Fuji is known for.

We're big fans.

GEAR USED

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To test the GFX 50R's capabilities, Fujifilm loaned us the Fujinon GF 32-64mm F/4 standard zoom lens, released in early 2018, from their GF lens range. Unfortunately, it was the only lens we had on hand during our test so we did feel a little limited with what we could do with the camera. 

We didn't feel like we had a good lens for shooting portraits, and since this glass has the equivalent focal length of 51mm, our zooming capabilities were severely limited. However, this glass did satisfy most of our travel photography needs while we were testing the camera in Brazil and also while out and about in Los Angeles.

KEY FEATURES

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  • 51.4MP Medium Format 43.8 x 32.9mm sensor
  • FUJIFILM G Mount with short flange back distance of just 26.7mm
  • X-Processor Pro imaging processor
  • Weather- and dust- resistant; operation to as low as 14 degrees Fahrenheit \ -10 degrees Celsius
  • File formats include three different JPEG settings (SUPER FINE, FINE, NORMAL), as well as two different RAW settings (uncompressed, compressed). TIFF output is also possible with in-camera RAW development
  • Full HD for Movie Mode: 1920x1080 29.97p/25p/24p/23.98p 36Mbps, in Film Simulation modes
  • Lightweight body weighs approximately 27.3oz. (775g )
  • 3.2 inch, aspect ratio 4:3, approx. 2,360K-dots; tilt-type (two direction), touch screen color LCD monitor (approx. 100% coverage)
  • Uses SD Cards (UHS-II recommended)
  • Equipped with dual slots
  • Uses NP-T125 high capacity battery for approximately 400 photos (with Auto Power Save ON)
WHAT'S IN THE BOX

  • Li-ion battery NP-T125
  • Battery charger BC-T125
  • Plug adapter
  • Body cap
  • Strap clip
  • Protective cover
  • Clip attaching tool
  • Shoulder strap
  • Cable protector
  • Hot shoe cover
  • Sync terminal cover
  • Owner's manual
BUILD QUALITY & DESIGN

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Fuji has designed the GFX 50R by combining the old with the new, bringing in the same 51.4MP sensor, X-Processor Pro, and autofocusing as its predecessor, the GFX 50S, in a new body that is a bit more compact; 5g lighter; has a flatter, blockier grip reminiscent of the X-E2, only more pronounced; and boasts a 3.69M-dot electronic viewfinder.

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Despite having a more compact, rangefinder-style body, this camera still carries a lot of heft at 775g and it definitely is larger than many full-frame mirrorless we're used to. But again, we cannot compare this to those. It is a medium format, after all, and it needs a bigger sensor, for one thing. That said, it still handles beautifully--heavy, but not too heavy that it's a pain to carry around when you're shooting for hours or traveling all day.

It's also made with quality materials, with a magnesium alloy body, top dials made of milled aluminum and weather sealing on the inside of its body to make it dust-proof, weather-resistant, and able to withstand up to 14 °F (-10 °C), which makes it suitable for in-the-field shooting and for traveling.

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There are less physical features on its body than the 50S. Fuji left the shutter speed and exposure compensation dials, as well as the joystick selector, alone, but skipped the top LCD Monitor, multi-selector buttons, and the dedicated ISO dial perhaps to save space and make it more compact. 

The on/off switch is also different, and to be honest, something you might have to get used to. In fact, during our tests, we kept forgetting to turn the camera off when not in use because it isn't the typical circular switch that most Fuji cameras have. The playback button placement is reminiscent of the X-Pro2, sitting on the right side of the LCD screen for more convenient access.

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Finally, it boasts dual SD card slots that support UHS-II, which is very much appreciated considering that you'll be dealing with much higher image files.

ERGONOMICS

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Great ergonomics and straightforward operation are two of the GFX 50R's many strengths. Not that it doesn't have its limitations, which we will get to later on, but for a camera that is bigger and heavier than many of Fuji's mirrorless bodies--the X-Pro2 is only 495g and 5.5 x 3.3 x 1.8 in while the X-H1 is 673g and 7.9 x 6.1 x 6.9 inches--it doesn't feel like a burden. It most likely owes that fact to its compact design and very good grip.

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We shot with this camera while walking around Sao Paulo and Santos in Brazil as well as while ice skating in Pershing Square in Downtown LA, and it was never tiring to carry or in the way.

To make up for its missing dedicated dials and buttons are the several customizable dials and buttons to which you can assign functions for easy access. For example, in lieu of the ISO button, which its predecessor has, our review model had the top button assigned to quickly access the ISO settings. To make its playback button easier to access, Fuji positions it on the right side of the LCD screen, a small change that we really appreciate. Additionally, it has a Drive button on the top panel to quickly switch shooting modes.

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Now for the not so good. While its 3.2-inch touchscreen LCD monitor has a 2,360K-dot resolution, it only tilts in two directions: up and down. That's a downgrade from the 50S' three-directional screen that tilts 60-degrees to the right. This was a bit of a disappointment as we did find ourselves needing that feature on several occasions.

There's also the matter of the Q button and a custom button placed right on the thumb grip hump. This placement was a tad inconvenient as we found ourselves constantly pressing on one or the other when carrying the camera around.

Other than these two, we're pretty happy with this camera's handling. It's not only easy to lug around, its operability is also simple. As a bonus, it's also very customizable to make it more accessible and more personalized.

MENUS & DISPLAYS

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The menu on the Fujifilm GFX 50R is the same menu you'll find in the other Fuji bodies. The Main Menu bears 7 tabs represented by the same icons and accessible via the Menu button on the right side of the LCD monitor just above the Playback button, and the customizable Q Menu Selection allows quicker access to settings more important to you. These menus are simple and straightforward to navigate, so much so that even the less experienced photographers can and will find their way around.

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As per usual, the Custom buttons that give you access to settings such as ISO, AF mode, and shooting modes bring up a more transparent Function menu style so that you can still see what's in your frame while changing a particular setting.

We didn't use it extensively, but the touchscreen LCD doesn't have more functions than adjusting your AF area. In Playback mode, it lets you pinch in and out to zoom in and out of your images as well as swipe left and right to view the previous or next image.

SPEED & AF PERFORMANCE

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Yes, compared to cameras like the X-T3, which has up to 30fps of continuous shooting, and the X-H1, which has up to 14fps, the GFX 50R is definitely SLOW. It only offers 3fps on continuous, for one. 

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Its tracking and autofocus are also quite slow, at least by full frame and APC-S camera standards. While it does have 425 autofocus points, these are only contrast-detect points, which might be great for portraits and still subjects yet certainly not enough for moving ones. 

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Additionally, during our tests using the camera's Electronic Shutter, the rolling shutter had often resulted in grossly distorted images, even though our subjects weren't really moving that fast. This isn't, by any means, a sports camera; and if you use it to capture action shots, you'll have to work extra hard and, unless you get really lucky and get perfectly focused shots on your first try, be forced to do reshoots. 

However, bear in mind that Fuji didn't design this camera to be a sports camera. This is, first and foremost, a medium format, and every single digital medium camera on the market demand a little more time, effort, and thought than usual. Every single medium format shooter, whether they shoot film or digital, will tell you this. So when you're shooting with this camera, speed matters a whole lot less than getting that shot right on your first or second press of the shutter, much like it would when you're shooting film and every single frame has to count.

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That said, the GFX 50R, at 3fps on continuous, is faster than the $44K Hasselblad H5D-200c and the $33K Hasselblad H6D-100c, which both only offer 1.5fps. And it also boasts Face and Eye Tracking, which is pretty effective as long as your subject isn't wearing sunglasses.

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AF could be better in low light situations, but seeing as this camera forces you to slow down and exercise patience, and the Single Point tracking does allow you to help its autofocus along, this isn't such a big deal.

METERING

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The GFX 50R boasts the same 256-zone through-the-lens as its predecessor as well as other Fuji cameras, with four different metering modes: Multi, Spot, Average, Center Weighted. 

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During our tests, we found that while the Multi metering mode performs excellently in most situations, it isn't as effective when we were shooting holiday lights at night as it tends to blow out the brightest parts of the image. It's something to keep in mind when you're shooting city lights after sunset.

STILL IMAGE QUALITY

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With a 43.8x32.9mm 51.4MP sensor and Fuji's X-Processor Pro processor at its core, it's hardly a surprise that the GFX 50R produces excellent, clean images with amazing detail, impressive resolution, and very accurate (not to mention, vibrant) color reproduction. This medium format body may take its time in taking photos and you will have to invest time yourself, but when you get that shot, there's no denying that it's going to be an outstanding image. One where you can see the finest hairs on your subject, which crop again and again without sacrificing quality, and that allows you to create larger-than-life prints.

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Fuji also gives it a 14-stop dynamic range (that's only one stop under Sony's A7R III, which has amazing dynamic range), which lets you shoot this baby in high contrast situations without losing a lot of details in the highlights and shadows, as well as the ability to handle noise quite well, which we'll discuss in detail in the next section.

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Unfortunately, it doesn't have in-body image stabilization. But then again, since this camera isn't built for hurried shots and rather for more careful compositions, you can take a bit more time to avoid camera shakes that might ruin the image. Like setting it up on a tripod, for example, or using higher ISOs, seeing as it has a more than decent noise handling.

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4:5 IMAGE FORMAT

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5:4  IMAGE FORMAT

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 7:6 IMAGE FORMAT

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1:1 IMAGE FORMAT

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3:2 IMAGE FORMAT

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16:9 IMAGE FORMAT

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65:24 IMAGE FORMAT

One of our favorite features about this camera is its number of available image aspect ratios. Besides Fuji's usual square, 3:2, and 16:9 formats, the GFX 50R also offers other aspect ratios, including 5:4, 7:6, and the panoramic 65:24. Of course, this being a medium format camera, we opted to use the 5:4, 7:6, and square formats more. Just to keep things traditional and nostalgic.

ISO PERFORMANCE

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The GFX 50R's ISO performance is nothing less than impressive. First of all, its standard sensitivity of ISO100-12800 may be extended to 50 and 102,400, that's better than the new X-T3 and X-H1 APS-C models. 

More importantly, however, it handles noise really well. Luminance noise is well kept at bay and doesn't start becoming discernible until you get to 6400. And that's only when you zoom in and look really closely. Signs of chromatic noise, on the other hand, aren't apparent until you get to 3200. Even at the highest ISOs, noise is still well managed and the images are fairly useable until 25,600.

VIDEO QUALITY

What is there to say about the GFX 50R's video quality? This camera only offers 1080p recording at 30p, with no 4K capabilities and no in-body image stabilization. And if you were to shoot Full HD with it, there's too much moiré and the rolling shutter is terrible anyway so it's not even worth the effort.

Medium format cameras are generally not meant for shooting videos, though that might change with Fuji's GFX 100, which promises to not only offer 4K recording at 30p, but also have IBIS. For now, if you want a camera that offers excellent video qualities with 4K capabilities and several frame rate and compression options, look somewhere else.

WIRELESS PERFORMANCE

Mirroring the X-T3, the GFX 50R offers Bluetooth support, something that its predecessor doesn't offer. And of course, it offers the same connectivity as most Fuji cameras for image transfers and remote shooting via the Fuji Camera App. So if you need to transfer some of those images to your mobile device from your camera while on the go, it's very easy. The camera remote is easy to use as well, and if you're a Fuji user and familiar with the app, the process and interface are the same as when you're shooting with your APS-C body.

PROS & CONS 

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Pros
  • Super high resolution
  • Excellent image quality
  • Compact design
  • Lightweight
  • Great dynamic range
  • Good grip
  • Weather sealing
  • Dual card slot
  • 3.69M-dot EVF
  • Face and eye detection
  • Great noise handling
  • Customizable buttons
Cons
  • No phase detection AF points
  • AF could be better in low light
  • No IBIS
FINAL THOUGHTS

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We know that some of you are still asking why you would invest in a camera that's slow and is best used for specific things when you can have a full frame that is considerably faster, more versatile, and offers practically the same high image quality.

Beyond the matter of size, it's simple. Shooting medium format is an elegant, meticulous art that reminds you to spend more time considering each and every composition. It basically forces you to relinquish your need for instant gratification, and teaches you discipline as well as helps you improve your compositions, instead of relying on the latest technology to do some of the work for you.

And while medium format cameras tend to be pricey and only something that pros should invest in, Fujifilm's GFX 50R opens the previously inaccessible medium format door for consumers with its $4,499 price tag, its more compact design, and its approachable user interface. 

Not that every casual shooter, enthusiast, hobbyist, and advanced shooters should invest in one. But if you're looking for a camera that will force you slow down and develop discipline, patience, and the right photography skills--without resorting to shooting film, which can be very expensive and is frankly proving to be less accessible due to the dwindling film supply, this camera will give you those, alongside super high resolution and excellent image quality, for an affordable price.

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