Examining 400 Megapixel Images From the Fujifilm GFX 100 Pixel Shift Mode

The Fujifilm medium format titan was already called into question by many because 100 megapixels is overkill for most photographers. Well, Fujifilm didn't just double-down on that, they used a Pixel Shift mode to quadruple-down.

I've already waxed lyrical about the Fujifilm GFX 100 this month, singing how it's even more impressive than you might have realized once you see inside the specialized factory which makes it. Well, I'm going off again, this time over the Pixel Shift mode that was added through a firmware update.

My first experience with Pixel Shift was with a much smaller sensor: the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III which uses a micro four-thirds sensor. I was thoroughly impressed that, handheld, I could take pictures of most subjects — even wildlife — and increase the image resolution far beyond the sensor's maximum. If you're not sure how that's achieved, I implore you to Google it as it's a little time-consuming to explain, albeit rather straightforward.

Well, Fujifilm updated the GFX 100 to include this technology, increasing the maximum image resolution from 100 megapixels, to 400 megapixels. I'll echo what I said in the first line: 100 megapixels is overkill for most photographers. Even in my niche work macro stacking watches for commercial use wouldn't see much use out of 100 megapixels over, say, just 50 ("just.") So, 400 megapixels really will take some spectacularly specific work to see any form of a necessity for it. That doesn't mean, however, it isn't incredibly impressive. I shot an image from a Tokyo rooftop in daylight with the GFX 100 just to see how much I could zoom. A 200% crop on a baseball field showed the players clearly — players I couldn't really see when viewing the full image. Well, with 400 megapixels, I could probably tell you their eye color.

A quick word of warning, though: you're going to need a computer with a high spec for these files not to cause your RAM, processor, and graphics card to fuse together in a smoldering blob at the bottom of your case.

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5 Comments

Dave Haynie's picture

I'd just like to point out there are two different kinds of uprezzing mentioned here. The GFX100 and the Olympus cameras all have a pixel shift mode. This requires a tripod, and they're actually moving the image sensor, using the high precision IBIS hardware, in 1 and 1/2 pixel increments. So you don't just get higher resolution, but every pixel has RGGB samples. No de-Bayering needed anymore.

When used handheld, that's an entirely different process. Olympus is using a technique called DRIZZLE that was invented for the Hubble Space Telescope, and these days runs in many smartphone cameras. Google's Super Res Zoom uses this basic technique, plus cropping. More formally known as variable-pixel linear reconstruction, this technique builds up a higher resolution images by taking advantage of very small changes in the position of the image in a series of photos to essentially figure out pixel positions at a sub-pixel level. Most amateur astronomers have heard of this, but in the few cameras that use it, it's just under-the-hood "magic".

Of course, none of these things can out-resolve your lens!

Gerald Donovan's picture

Until Fujifilm fix the problem of combing in areas of high spatial frequency, the multishot feature of the GFX100 will be close to worthless for its intended purposes.

Ian Browne's picture

to be honest; I'm way over this "pixel war" that seems never ending and way past what very many can use or need in real life .

One of the many quotes I safed along the way

The one thing I do know is that if I shoot with a 4×5, a medium format film camera, a point-n-shoot digital or film camera, or a high end DSLR that my photos still end up all looking the same. I have not yet found a camera that improves my photography!! D’oh!
 D’oh! Seems that the person behind the lens really has a lot to do with what the camera does – go figure eh?
Author unknown :(

Andrew Eaton's picture

Bit useless for 99.8% users and the lens used didn't have the rendering power