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Fujifilm Has Had Its Eyes on Full Frame the Whole Time

Fujifilm Has Had Its Eyes on Full Frame the Whole Time

With its innovative APS-C and medium format cameras, many have long wondered why Fujifilm has steadfastly refused to enter the full frame market. It turns out they have had their eyes on the full frame market the whole time. 

For a long time, the professional market has mostly been populated by APS-C and full frame bodies, flanked on either side by micro four thirds and medium format. Arguably, full frame has been the most competitive, as it is generally the format of choice for many professionals and where most manufacturers concentrate their most advanced tech.

Medium format digital cameras have traditionally occupied an ultra-premium niche in the photography world. The combination of tremendously large sensors and finely crafted lenses could produce images with a level of detail and purity beyond smaller formats. But extremes in cost, complexity, cumbersome operation, and a lack of certain features relegated medium format to the realm of rental only for most photographers.

Fujifilm's GFX system has aimed to make medium format more accessible and capable without sacrificing image quality. The latest 102-megapixel GFX 100 II camera and expanding selection of GF lenses bring medium format solidly into competition with elite full frame setups, both in terms of price and capabilities. For many photographic applications, the GFX platform can now match or exceed full frame performance while delivering superior resolution, sharpness, and dynamic range.

GFX 100 II Camera Advances

At the core of the GFX 100 II is a large 102MP BSI CMOS sensor measuring 43.8 x 32.9mm. This provides 1.7 times the surface area of a 35mm full frame sensor. The result is ultra-detailed and artifact-free image captures. However, the quality of a modern medium format sensor has never been in question. 

The things that traditionally hold back medium format are autofocus, burst speed, lens selection, in-body image stabilization, video, and perhaps most importantly, cost. This relegates them to a select few purposes (mostly all in studio) and to the hands of the few who can afford them (or rent them).

Autofocus and Burst Speed

If you have ever used an early medium format camera, you know that the autofocus systems leave a lot to be desired. They typically consist of only a few points and react very slowly. For those working in a studio, that was rarely a problem, but if you want medium format to be more versatile, you have to do better. Full frame cameras have become small miracles in the autofocus department, and Fujifilm has brought many of those advancements to the medium format platform, the latest such feature being AI subject detection with deep learning technology. 

The story is similar with burst speed. Early medium format cameras could manage 2-3 fps if you were lucky, not enough for any sort of remotely demanding action. Modern full frame cameras easily churn out 10-15 fps, with top options pushing to 30 fps and beyond. The GFX100 II doesn't quite touch those blazing speeds, but at 8 fps, it is certainly capable for genres like wedding photography or, dare I say it, certain sports and wildlife. Did you ever think you would be able to say that about medium format? 

Lens Selection

This is another area where medium format has always lagged behind smaller formats. By virtue of the smaller range of applications and customers, more niche options simply weren't justified, meaning extreme focal lengths and specialist lenses were often left out. 

Fujifilm has pushed these boundaries, both in quantity and variety. With 19 lenses released or scheduled for release between 2016 and 2025, the GF mount is well filled out by medium format standards. And that is both in terms of quantity and variety. The company has shown they intend to move beyond traditional medium format applications like portraiture and to make it appealing for a wider range of applications. Two tilt-shift lenses, a surprising five zoom lenses, an upcoming power zoom for video work, and very long telephoto lenses show that the company is thinking about way more applications, such as architecture, filmmaking, and even wildlife and sports photography.

In-Body Image Stabilization

This is another area that shows the company wants medium format to be less a fickle and temperamental instrument permanently glued to a tripod in a studio to ensure good results, and more a creative tool meant to thrive in any situation you can conjure. The eight stop of image stabilization in the new GFX 100 II offers, on paper, some of the highest levels of compensation in any camera and helps to ensure that you can get the most out of those 102 megapixels. 


Just look at those new video specs: Apple ProRes 4:2:2, 10-bit video at 4K/60p and 8K/30p and support for Apple ProRes 422 HQ, Apple ProRes 422 and Apple ProRes 422 LT support. If you just read those, you would think I was talking about an advanced full frame, APS-C, or micro four thirds camera. Video used to be an afterthought in medium format.


This is perhaps the most important part. Fujifilm has priced the GFX system aggressively from the start. Here are the prices of all their current bodies:

The GFX 50S II and 100S are easily priced to be direct alternatives to full frame options, while the GFX 100 II is just above the highest levels of full frame prices, making it a reasonable alternative. In the early days of digital medium format, bodies easily cost $30,000 or more, and while they generally had larger sensors than those found in GFX cameras, the cost still made them prohibitive to all but the deepest of bank accounts. Cameras like the Pentax 645Z brought prices below $10,000 (not by much), but none sat smack dab in the middle of full frame prices like the GFX 50S II does, and certainly, none integrated as many contemporary features. 

Has This Been Fujifilm's Play All Along? 

While medium format lags behind the speed of top full frame cameras, the GFX platform has become fast and responsive enough for portraiture, events, and even some action photography. The burst rate can capture fleeting moments at weddings and parties. The autofocus locks onto faces quickly for group shots. And the stabilization allows use in far many more cases. 

To be clear, there are areas where medium format still lags smaller sensors. As advanced as the new autofocus system is, it likely still lags the most advanced full frame options. Burst speeds still lag the blistering output of the faster full frame cameras. Medium format lenses rarely go wider than f/2. And when you factor in all the costs, it will generally be more expensive than roughly equivalent full frame setups. Rather, the point is that while these gaps all still exist, Fujifilm has shrunk them to the point that medium format is now a viable alternative for many users.

Fujifilm has long said they would not enter the full frame market, simply because it was too crowded and competitive. That would make one think they were content to offer their popular X Series and keep the GFX Series as a niche alternative. However, it seems that that wasn't the case. Rather, Fujifilm seems to want to compete with full frame by offering something no other full frame manufacturer can: most of the features and capabilities of full frame with all the benefits of a medium format sensor, all at a highly competitive cost. Their goal was not to compete with full frame by outrunning it; rather, they wanted to redefine the entire race, and it seems like that goal is going well.

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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Fair enough that these medium format bodies are now priced alongside the very high end full frame market, but the price of Fujifilm's medium format lenses are still incredibly prohibitive for even many professional photographers. The bodies are clearly a gateway to their making the real money on lenses. Correct me if I'm wrong, but their most affordable first party lens is a 50mm f3.5 that's still $1000 🤷‍♂️

I sold my GFX system because of the lenses indeed. I had the 45mm and 80mm, but wasn't willing to give another $3,000 or so for the only wide angle zoom they offer 😅😅 back to FF for me it is..

I do not disagree with you, the GF lenses are $$$$. But have you seen the latest RF, Nikkor, and Sony glass? They are also $2k+ as well.

This is totally true. That being said, at least Sony allows great third party AF lenses that often cost much less, and Nikon is getting wise to the same reality. Canon is of course a lost cause in that respect. In terms of GF lenses, the only third party lenses seem to be totally budget manual focus, likely no connections for EXIF and still ~$800.

I think it could be that 3rd party offerings, from brands like Tamron and Sigma, see it as too costly to develop for in terms of market share. So their ROI probably wouldn't see anything significant, as opposed to FF and APSC. I am a GFX user, and definitely balk at the cost of the lenses. But they are really amazing optically, and some have fast AF motors for medium formatish lenses.

So... no full-frame.

Yeah, as usual with the titles here...

Well said. There's no need for Fujifilm to release a 35mm camera. They've got the best APS-C and right now the best medium format. Full-frame would just be a compromise with which they'd lose the size and convenience of the X series and the image quality of the GFX series. I'm a fan of this strategy of doing it their own way and not trying to squeeze into an established and well-populated full-frame market.

I totally disagree with your statement. If they have the best APS-C and Medium format camera systems (ymmv) then they could cherry pick the best features from both their current camera systems to create a compelling Full-frame system.

But why? There's a plenty of full-frame systems out there. It would only come at a cost of diverting resources away from what's working for them well and cannibalising on their own lineups. I don't understand this obsession with full-frame. It's just one of many very capable and usable formats.

You are assuming they could just carbon copy all that makes its APSC and GFX so popular and respected and just waltz into the FF arena and take a chunk of the action.

In APSC Fuji is the yardstick, it dominates the sector. You might not end up with a Fuji, but you sure as hell will be comparing to its offering.

Same with GFX within the "reasonable" price range it operates. Pentax with better management could have been sitting where Fuji is now in GFX. Instead Fuji is being compared to Hasselblad.

And in both cases it took Fuji a long time to flesh out the lens offerings. It was lucky Sony and co. really didn't care about their APSC line-up for the longest time other than to shepherd the unfortunate souls with their APSC cameras to their full frame offerings. Preferences for ergonomics, menus, colour science asside - there were decent cameras to choose from, but a commitment to developing APSC and speccing the top APSC cameras to compete with their own FF offerings...forget it.

So now some 10 years into the x-mount, we are seeing stellar MKii lenses - to the chargrain of the lovers of the initial character lenses perhaps - and a very well fleshed out line-up. Third parties are officially allowed to the party, and with the likes of Viltrox, Fuji is a priority, not an afterthought. Even Sigma and Tamron are finally getting it. A few gaps to fill for sure, but fewer and fewer.

Same with GFX, that is a very well rounded line-up for a supposed niche market. Seems Fuji hopes it won't be so niche in the longer term.

So why would Fuji at this time enter FF and be the small fish with a handful of lenses it would have to simultaneously develop, release and be able to deliver in volume at release? If it recreates a classic styled camera, Nikon will just copy it and be able to offer a full complement of lenses. If it takes on cameras like the A7RV or R9 it's soft underbelly (AF performance) will be exposed. That AF is slightly behind the best that canon and Sony can offer this is accepted by most as a trade off for the price, size, feature set and ownership experience. It would lose most mitigating factors were it to go full frame, and it's reputation could well be eroded as a result - especially if a focus on FF negatively affected it's APSC and MF offerings.

Rather the question should be when will sony and canon step into the MF world. A far more likely scenario should Fuji be successful with its strategy.

The only area Fuji should even consider Full Frame is with a fixed lens camera like the x100v. I'd rather MF, but the size and pricing would make it extremely niche. But there's no-one even close to creating a FF x100v, Nikon's attempts rightly seen as coattail riding.

Well said.

You wrote a blog 🤣 I think Fuji may have made a master stroke that will pay rich dividends in the next 2-3 years as their MF catches up with the FF photography features (autofocus specifically). Most high end wedding and event photographers will make a switch to distance themselves from rest of the flock.

I am assuming nothing. They have the tech from 2 other systems without having to create a new system from scratch. That is always appealing for a tech company. I shoot nikon so i don't care either way but after spending 25 years in high tech startups thats the way you blend tech to enter or cover markets. If they lowered the gfxII to 4500 they would also gain a lot of FF customers which is another way to gain share.

I've been pretty happy with the Fuji 100S, and while I do have my eye on the new 30mm T/S lens I'm not committed to buying it.

Thank you for actually writing an article, Alex. Much better than just linking to YouTube videos all day long!

Great studio/portrait/landscape/cityscape camera. A waste of money for avid sports, action, and wildlife shooters. Having said that, if I had the budget, I'd already own a medium format Fuji, but it would be used for what it's good at. For wildlife and sports, I'd stick with my Canon.

Fuji still have problems being medium format. Size for one, including lenses and the cost. My Sony FF and Voigtlander lens cost less that one of the GFX bodies and that's without including a lens. GFX would be too impractical for the street photography I do and they certainly don't have the lenses I use.

I've been using the GFX 50R after a lifetime of nearly every other system out there (Favs were Canon 5d Series and Mamiya RZ with phase once).

I've had great success with it for street photography, and the image quality is the best I've ever gotten out of a camera. I do tend to carry a Ricoh GR with me more often, but if I am headed out with the intention to take pictures, the GFX 50R with the 30mm lens has produced the highest quality images of my career.

The quality is incredible, the camera is physically attractive (minus the 30mm lens, that one is a bit ugly, but the sharpest lens I've ever used), and the depth and beauty of the images match or exceed my years on Phase One.

And you can use your 35mm Voigtlander lens on the GFX system (Yes! You can!) to fantastic results.

It's really been the most incredibly satisfying camera I've ever owned. This series is such a winner for FujiFilm. It's only competition is Hasselblad (also fantastic image quality, but corrupted a shoot of mine once) and Hasselblad is still pricer.

Mine is just a personal opinion as is yours. It's great you can make a GFX work for your street photography. Personally it's not a great camera for me as I prefer my smaller Sony (and really great battery life) and don't need the image quality or large file sizes of GFX images. Also adapting my lens would drastically change the frame size (equivalent focal length) and it would end up being too wide. I just wanted to make the point that the GFX medium format system isn't going to be advantageous for everyone but great that we as individuals can choose whatever camera and lenses makes us happy regardless of other peoples opinions.