Fujifilm GFX Vs. Canon 5DS R Vs. Pentax 645Z: Battle of the 50s

Up until now, Canon is still the only full-frame manufacturer that offers a 50-megapixel camera. The Canon 5DS R is still very much my favorite full-frame camera to use for any professional work. The usability and image quality are what appeals so much to me. Medium format, however, has always been seen as something that's a little out of reach for many photographers, but with releases from Pentax and Fuji the price has really come down and they're much more viable now than they have ever been. In my latest video, I decided to compare the Canon 5DS R, The Fujifilm GFX, and the Pentax 645Z to see how they perform against one another.

To keep things simple I also decided to only use their respective standard lenses. The lenses used for this comparison were the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art, The Fujifilm GF 63mm f/2.8, and the Pentax 55mm f/2.8. The angle of views between all three lenses do vary slightly, but they are close enough.

Usability and Ergonomics 

The Pentax is hands down the best in this regard. You can tell it's been made for the working professional. It may not be the best looking camera and it may quite possibly be the ugliest camera ever made, but you can tell it's been made with a lot of thought. The grip is extremely comfortable, and the viewfinder is much bigger than the other two cameras which gives a great spacious view of the world. Also, the flip-out screen is very useful for those awkward angles, although the focusing system does prevent full use of this feature. The fact that this camera has two tripod mounts, one on the bottom and one on the side, shows the care and effort. The button placement made using it feel almost second nature and the menu system was very intuitive.

Between the Fuji and the Canon, it was difficult deciding for a number of reasons. For one, the ergonomics on the Fuji aren't great due to the smaller grip. I found it a little front heavy and uncomfortable, especially when shooting with larger lenses. Having said that, the Fuji offers a flip-out touchscreen which can be very useful except for the fact that touch-to-focus is mostly ineffective and the menu is still the old design and not optimized for touch. Canon, on the other hand, is very straightforward and simple to use. If you know Canon then you'll know the ease of use. The EVF on the Fuji also suffered from some noticeable lag which always seemed to throw me a little which wasn't great, however, the viewfinder itself was very useful and offers a great quality screen. Button placement is very good in my view, however, menu options have always been a struggle for me with my Fuji cameras; far too many useful features are buried deep in the menu. Custom buttons do make up a little for this issue. Lastly, focus by wire isn't great but Fuji does it make it easier with a physical switch on the camera to change between focus systems. Battery life on the Fuji was OK at best, but the other two cameras were noticeably better. Essentially, for everything that Fuji gets right, there's something it gets wrong.

Image Quality

Unsurprisingly, the 63mm from Fuji performs the best. Wide open and even when stopped down, this lens is simply incredible. Even in the corners the lens simply cannot disappoint. The detail is extremely precise and the images don't look oversharpened but have a natural clarity. The Pentax comes in second, with the Sigma performing the worst from the bunch when it comes to sharpness.

There are, however, a number of shots where the Canon and Sigma combination outperforms the other two medium format systems. For one, Canon's color sciences seem to be much more pleasing and more accurate across a number of scenes and different lighting conditions. Both of these medium-format cameras only produce 14-bit raw files, therefore they don't have any advantage when it comes to colors. It may be worth mentioning that the Hasselblad X1D is also a 14-bit sensor based on the hardware and does not offer any real advantage. Software upscaling isn't the same as the actual 16-bit larger medium-format sensors.  

The Sigma also offers a much wider aperture, and the advantages due to this become very apparent in lower light scenarios. Although larger sensors may gather more light, they also require more light, therefore the Sigma does still hold a significant advantage in this area.

Check out the full video for the comparison and conclusions.

Usman Dawood's picture

Usman Dawood is a professional architectural photographer based in the UK.

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Anyone aware of any plans to create a true medium format sensor? I know PhaseOne comes close, but a real 6x7 would be amazing! And if you kept it to 75/100mp, the size of the pixels would allow for truly incredible stats. Is it just manufacturing technology or defect rates? Anyhoo... sorry to deviate from the above comparison of X, Y and Z meant to send us scrambling to buy X, Y or Z or infuriate fan boys. Now back to our regularly scheduled mine is bigger than yours discussion.

The film negative size of 6x7 is 70mm x 56mm - that's almost twice the surface area of Phase One and Hassy 51mm x 40mm digital backs. Yeah, the defect rate for a sensor that size would be significant with the current CMOS designs, so I don't think it'll happen.

Defect rate be damned! I want my... who am I kidding, given the price of the existing medium format sensors, one of that size would be so far out of my price range. I'll just stick with a Mamiya RB67 Pro SD with 6x7 back, you know, for snapshots.

Camera comparisons are fun it’s not about what bigger because clearly that’s the Pentax :-).

Thanks Usman, great comparison video. I have a sneaking suspicion that Pentax may announce a new 645 model this year. Every previous digital release has come in 4-year intervals (645D - 2010, 645Z - 2014). And Canon should announce a 5DSR successor soon as well, so hopefully we'll get another video like this with the new models.

Yes I heard Pentax may be coming out with something new however I’m not sure that there are any new sensors available right now. I’d love to see a replacement for the K1 too.

I’m looking forward to the new Canon, although I get the feeling that I should probably not get my hopes up too much lol.

And yet another article that's full of hot air - new content just for the sake of new content, but of no value whatsoever. And total bullsh*t in some regards. I have used the GFX for 9 months now, it's colour rendition leaves every other camera I've used in the last years (d810, 5ds-r, even the x1d) in the dust, especially when we're talking skin tones, and especially when compared to Canon sensors that are well known for their poor performance when compared to Sony sensors (Nikon & Sony cameras). And I mean both raw and SOOC jpg. If you can't see the difference you must be totally blind, which would explain why you're writing meaningless articles instead of taking photographs.

Add to that the statement "Pentax 645Z is the ugliest camera ... But the 645Z has the best ergonomics of the 3 body". That simple thing kills all the credibility of the video.

How does it kill the credibility? Please explain.

Ugly and ergonomic are not opposing things. In fact generally one causes the other.

It’s a 14 bit sensor same as the 5DSR. I’d love to see you compare them and demonstrate your points please. Canon has also had much longer to develop their colour science and it’s famous for it. Fuji doesn’t have any advantage for colours with this sensor and based on the testing it seems the images look almost identical vs the Pentax for colours. I doubt they’ve done anything significant in this regard. Also my video was positive towards the Fuji but it still has a few shortcomings.

Are you calling this hot air because it simply disagrees with your point of view?

Usman, I'm calling your test 'hot air' because is not a test at all, it's click bait. If you want to see how testing is done *right* head over to diglloyd.com.

About 14 bits, sigh... Canon has 14 bits, Nikon has 14 bit sensors. Yet a Canon 5drs has way less DR, shows way more banding in shadows than a D810. Bit depth doesn't mean anything. I shouldn't be telling you this in the first place as you're the one with testing authority!

The sensor in the GFX is identical as in the Pentax 645z, Hassy X1D, Phase IQ350. But each manufacturer uses a different low-pass filter and/or micro lenses and more importantly- they process the data in their own unique way. That's where Fuji really shines, perhaps because they have a lot of experience making analogue film. Their SOOC JPG's are simply fantastic, and there are pro photographers that claim they shoot their Fuji's exclusively in JPG and deliver them SOOC to their clients. That way they don't have to waist their time behind a computer. I'm not one of those photographers, by the way.

You’re using a bunch of red herrings and straw man arguments to discuss your points. Let’s keep this straight forward.

Relative to what I discuss and demonstrate in the video can you demonstrate otherwise? If so great we have a discussion then, but, you can’t just make points and not demonstrate or provide evidence for them because that’s more appropriately defined as “hot air”.

Also calling my review and comparison a test (in the way you are) isn’t accurate. I don’t perform any scientific tests I compare and review in a real world type setting which is different but still holds merit.

If you have something useful I’m interested.

Agreed on many points, Jeroen. Well Stated. I have no GFX experience, but your criticisms are encouraging and should, IMHO, be seen as such.

Next, compare the dynamic range of the 5DsR and the Nikon D850, ...and watch the Canon shamefully head back to ~2007 with its tail between its legs. All for a 10% total pixel boost that will almost always disappear anyways due to lens differences and non-perfect technique / conditions. :-\

I agree dynamic range is an issue for the 5DSR however for most of my shoots I've never need the extra stops of dynamic range, its importance is overstated for many kinds of photography. Extra detail, however, is still more useful to me, and Canon's tilt-shift lenses are way ahead of Nikon's so Canon is still a much better option.

Agreed, especially when it comes to tilt-shift. That is one HUGE advantage that SLRs have over medium format, since we now have ultra-wide, wide, medium, and telephoto TS lenses available for both Canon and Nikon.

I don't know when the last time you compared Nikon and Canon TS lenses was, though, but Nikons' are no slouch. Now that Nikon has a 19mm PC, their lineup is pretty decent. Of course I'd still consider the Canon TS lineup to be more versatile, since the latest update increases its range to 17-135mm, and updates the entire lineup altogether...

As a landscape and timelapse photographer, however, every stop of dynamic range is worth its weight in gold. I'm actually pretty curious to see how the Rokinon 24 tilt-shift fares on the Nikon D850.

You’re absolutely right. I think for your kind of work dynamic range may be very useful. Having said that it’s not that difficult to take an extra picture and I’m guessing you bracket anyway just in case?

The Rokinon tilt shift is ok at best. About as good as the canons mark 1.

Bracketing is indeed very common, and a prudent practice for still photography, however for timelapses it becomes EXTREMELY impractical. Same for video, which is also something I'm getting into lately, even for landscapes- every stop of dynamic range becomes worth its weight in gold.

Great video! Don't worry about the fanboys. You can't say a single negative thing about their favorite brands without them whining.

LOL thank you, Lee, really appreciate that.

The sample Canon image looks much better than the Fuji. Heavy magenta skin tone hurts the Fuji

I couldn't stop laughing when it comes to "focus" and "iso" in low light test. OMG, it could takes decades forward so that MF cameras can be used for sport.
And the auto white balance on model shoot! Why didnt include the color checker? Shooting Auto WB with a strobe could be tricky shot by shot. If you want to compare "auto balance" accuracy, you better bring 3 camera in a mix lighting environment, and i guess if you bring a Nikon D700 in too, it could beat all other 3.
Again, i'd love to be able to play with the Pentax and the GFX. Pentax would be the one i get for my studio work, end of 2018 i hope.

Colour checkers create a separate profile and it’s not how the camera interprets it. Defeats the whole point of seeing how the camera interprets the colours. They’re all 14 bit sensors so using a colour checker would mean they all would end up looking about the same.

Comparing the DOF at f1.4 on the canon to other two cameras at f2.8 and saying that the DOF on the canon is just better doesn’t make sense. You’ve aimed for around 50mm focal length on every camera so why not shoot at identical settings across the whole test to keep things meaningful?

All were shot wide open, if the medium format lenses could shoot with a wider aperture, I would, but they can't and that's the point. The sigma can do something they can't.

Stopping the Sigma down would negate one of its major advantages how is that fair? I shot all at their respective best, does the Sigma need to have "one hand behind its back"?

Also, I did stop down the lenses too and discussed how the Fuji lens is incredible and optically better at basically every aperture, but it can't produce the same kind of shallow DOF.

I thought the point was that you’re testing the *cameras* and not the lenses. One of the beauties of MF is that it has shallower DOF at the same apertures as 35mm and your readers wouldn’t know that if you’re introducing extra variables. An f1.4 lens on the Fuji or the Pentax would blow the DOF on the Canon out of the water - it’s actually the MF cameras you’re discriminating against in this test.

“One of the beauties of MF is that it has shallower DOF at the same apertures as 35mm”

This is false and a fundamental misunderstanding of how DOF works.

Smaller sensors produce shallower DOF due to circle of confusion. At the same aperture the same focal length and the same distance to subject full frame will actually have shallower DOF.

Also so what if it did produce shallower at the same, that’s no great feat. Full frame can just shoot wider and let more light in.

“An f1.4 on the...”

Well there aren’t any. Nor are there any f1.2 or f1 or f0.95.

My conclusion was that Fuji was the best. Canon didn’t win this comparison so how am i discriminating against MF lol?