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Want gorgeous images using a digital camera that pair well with medium format film stocks like Fuji 400H and/or Portra 400? That’s what we (my wife and I) wanted! And now, I’m here to tell you that it’s definitely and absolutely more possible than ever thanks to the Fuji GFX.
In this post we’ll cover:
Why we didn’t buy a GFX
Why we (finally) bought a GFX
Why we bought a 50S (GFX 50S vs 50R)
Review of the GFX 50S features
Best lenses to use with a GFX to get a classic film look
Per the usual for my posts I’ll state the following: there are plenty of “technical” data reviews and documents that can give you all the “specs”. I won’t attempt to recreate that here. Instead, my review with be highly based on my user-experience and preference, which I think many will find helpful in their practical decision making when it comes to purchasing a GFX (or not).
So, let’s dive right in!
Why We Didn’t Buy a GFX (at First)
I tire of the “megapixel race”—this constant drive for more and more megapixels. Megapixels, much less any gear, is not in and of itself capable of making amazing photographs. Honestly, many of the images I saw when the GFX first came out were basic images without much “oohhh” and “ahhhh”.
That story changed as I began seeing some more classic lenses utilized by talented photographers. More on that in the paragraphs below!
Why We Bought a GFX
As a devoted medium format film lover, I’ve never seriously considered any digital options as having much competition against our film cameras for portrait photos with our brides and grooms. The look of our 645 and 67 cameras has almost always been indispensable for photos we’re proud of sharing.
That said, we’re always keeping an eye out for what tools we can introduce that help us both create the images we love, while also improving our business and workflow—enter the Fujifilm GFX! I love the look of medium format film—the sharpness, the depth, the ratios—when you see it, you know it.
As the GFX gained popularity among film photographers, I noticed that I was seeing almost everything I loved about film, only the images were taken with the GFX.
GFX 50S vs GFX 50R
I’d love to tell you that I handled both cameras and used them extensively for a good degree of time. However, that’s not my story, and I believe that’s completely fine. Why? I knew what I wanted.
I’ve owned rangefinder film cameras and have owned a rangefinder-esque digital camera (Fujifilm’s X-Pro 2) and have loved them all. However, I have always preferred the more SLR feel of cameras like the Pentax 645. After looking at online photos of the GFX 50S and GFX 50R, I came to the conclusion that I would much prefer the SLR feel and grip of the GFX 50S.
Review of the GFX 50S Features
The GFX feels great in hand. I compare the weight and feel to something like my Canon 5DIV, while it feels very much like a Pentax 645 in the hand.
I want to preface some of the negativity I’m about to share with this—the GFX is HIGHLY useable. It just takes time, effort, and knowledge to get it setup the way I wanted it to be set up (fully manual mode with focus peaking).
The GFX, for me, really took some time to set up correctly so that I could shoot it the way I wanted. To shoot in a manual mode like I normally would with my Canon and film cameras, I needed to set my top dials to their respective manual modes. That’s no biggie, honestly, though it took a little time to get these things all figured out via the manual.
Setting ISO took a whole other foray into the user manual. I really don’t remember how I got it set to the correct dial. I’m purposefully displaying my ignorance on the process and remembering it because I think it says a lot about how unituitive it is.
Lastly, I wanted to set up focus peaking because I intended to use mostly manual focus. This was fairly simple to access by going in the menu and then navigating to the AF/MF settings and selecting the focus assist options. No biggie.
However, after I set it, there was no focus peaking. After lots of perusing, I finally figured out that I needed to set the focus selection knob to “M” for focus peaking to appear.
Lastly, after mounting my Canon 85Lii f/1.2, I noticed that it was only showing me a 35mm frame. Again, after a safari into the manual and menus, I discovered that I needed to turn off the “auto lens detection” option which automatically detected the lens as a full-frame/35mm lens.
Again, not a big deal (sort of), but this was another step that could have been way simpler to encourage less technical users to get the most out of the camera.
All in all, the toil required to set up the GFX how I wanted it was well worth it, though such a tiresome experience is by far the biggest downside to the GFX.
Build Quality of the Fuji GFX 50S
The GFX has outstanding build quality. I love the way it looks and feels. The magnesium alloy body looks sharp. The overall weight feels minimal. The camera does not feel cheap in any way.
Image Quality of the Fuji GFX 50S
Image quality of the 50mp GFX is outstanding. Again, I’m mostly comparing it from experience while shooting hundreds and thousands of images from weddings. I’ll zoom in here and there, but I’m really no pixel-peeper.
For those that are pixel-peeping, that’s awesome. Image quality is definitely valuable and totally present in the GFX files. I just find tons of value in my ability to comfortably crop and see something magical when comparing my Canon 5DIV files. I’m highly practical and most concerned with comfortably producing images that impact my clients, and I do believe the GFX adds to this effect for me.
Other GFX Features
There are a number of other features that the GFX sports that are highly valuable in meet in my practical shooting needs:
Short flange allowing for adapting of various lenses
Large sensor for shallow depth of field with smaller aperture lenses
Tilt Screen (which allows me to achieve angles much more easily)
Touchscreen (this is nice when trying to zoom in to check focus in a particular area)
Various crop options
Compressed lossless file option (allows the files to be compressed without any loss in quality. This saves TONS of space!)
Matching GFX to Film
I find it fairly easy to match our Fuji files to film. Currently, we have a custom preset that we use, from which we make tweaks. The files have plenty of dynamic range and beautiful colors. As always, if you’d like more info on our processes for editing, you can learn more about our film and digital photography education options here!
Besides the editing, your lens choices are the most critical when it comes to producing a “classic” film look.
It’s NOT All About The Camera—Best Lenses to Pair with the GFX to Get the Classic Film Look
We share several great lenses to use in our article on “Best Digital Alternatives to Shooting Medium Format Film”. Be sure to have a look at it!
GFX 50S Review Conclusion
All in all, the GFX 50S has been a hit with us. From image quality, functionality, and features, it’s a grand slam.
We want to here from you! Do you have any thoughts, experiences, or further questions about the GFX? Let us know in the comments below!