Medium Format at Full Frame Prices: What Does It Mean for the Future of Photography?

The Fujifilm GFX 100S takes the company's flagship medium format monster and shrinks both its size and price almost by half with very little sacrifice of features. With this and the company's other GFX cameras, we are now seeing medium format prices well into the realm of full frame. What does that mean for the future of photography?

Coming to you from Matt Irwin Photography, this excellent video essay discusses the GFX 100S, where it is situated in the larger market, and how that market might respond. A few years back, medium format kept it squarely priced in another realm far away from full frame prices that rendered it a product only for specific, niche circumstances. Now, however, there are multiple manufacturers offering medium format cameras at prices that compete with full frame options, and an entirely new system choice has opened up for photographers, especially those who are more concerned with ultimate image quality and less concerned about things like ultra-fast burst rates or 8K video. If nothing else, it sure is an exciting time to see how gear is evolving, and we have never had so many choices at reasonable prices. Check out the video above for Irwin's full thoughts. 

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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When did the size of the smallest item in my kit, my camera, become such a big deal? I still carry a pelican case full of flashes, a case full of modifiers, c-stands, boom arms, reflectors and holders, a toolbox full of misc grip items, backup bodies and lenses, and sometimes a sweep and extra gear.

Are people shrinking and I'm not aware?

You do realise that your specific kit isn’t the same as everybody else’s use case don’t you?

Nice to know that you carry all that bulk together with your crampons, ice axe, pools, rackets, food, water, raincoat, while climbing 2000m (6500ft) up.

This month's "Best Comment That Assumes The Poster Is The Most Representative Person In The Market" award goes to Doug Birling.

Give Doug a break...he is from Milwaukee!

I just wonder when spec junkies are going to claim FF is inferior and insist it is dead like they currently do with M4/3 and APS-C simply because of the sensor size.

I guess as soon as MF becomes truly affordable. THe problem with spec junkies is they don't actually do photography. People who do use whatever works for them

The widely used nonsense phrase I’ve seen being banded around currently is that full frame cameras are vastly superior to APS-C but there is negligible difference between full frame and medium format.... it’s amazing how people like to bend facts to protect their purchase and gear choices.

Edit: I just read a few more comments further down aaaaaaaaand there they are.

when they bring out digital medium format instead of a slightly bigger fullframe.

fujis "medium format" is just a marketing gag to produce a slightly bigger fullframe to be out of the fullframe competition which is clever i think, but still not even near the smallest medium format like 645

The body plus a single large piece of glass is $8000+. Encroaching upon the realm of full frame? Not exactly.

Compared to what people spend on top-end FF, the prices are getting closer and closer now I think is their point.

For landscape and portrait photographers, the Fujifilm GFX series is increasingly a meaningful option--provided you can deal with current lens options that aren't quite as wide as the FF equivalent of 14-24 and portrait bokeh not as shallow as FF 1.2. Great for product/archival photography, too.

Sports/action/wildlife are all still non-starters compared to the best FF cameras, though. I'd still rather have the versatility of FF for now. But from a business perspective, Fujifilm seems to have hit it out of the park, focusing on crop and medium format and eschewing FF altogether.

For a working professional in commercial and architectural fields, this represents superb value. The available lenses plus those that can be adapted (Canon TS) make this a great option for those needing maximum resolution.

Won't change anything. The lens lineup is terrible: overpriced, slow (even with equivalence), heavy and very limited.

I think you need to buy a dictionary and read the description of the word ‘terrible’.

Remember, don’t let your personal preference and choice of equipment muddy your opinion of other brands/formats, it just makes you look like a troll.

No, I'm perfectly familiar with the word. If a FF system had the same, equivalent lens lineup it would be brought up constantly and the mount would die.

But it’s a different ball game on that format isn’t it. Remember a lot people aren’t chasing that F1.2 “Instagram” look to their shots so the already razor thin f3.5 on medium format is more than enough. There are also fast lenses to suit the needs of those that desire it.

But to rubbish the whole lens lineup as ‘terrible’ is just not accurate, compared to other brands in the same format they are an absolute bargain.

Except that it's not a different ballgame at all. That's what the article implies as well. The difference is not even a stop, so this system directly competes with high end ff. The lenses don't offer anything that you can't get for cheaper on ff. The only advantage is slightly better iq in very specific circumstances.

And less distortion at wide angles, 23mm wide angle primes on GFX with virtually zero distortion that equals to 18mm full frame and 12mm APS-C... distortion isn’t a bad thing but if you want to eliminate it then this is a good system.

Why can’t you people just accept that this is an excellent camera system that produces stunning results and move on with your lives? Why are so hell bent on trying to convince the world not to buy it? What’s in it for you?

Why would it have less distortion?! It doesn't. You know what other cameras have 18mm equiv lenses? Phones. Those aren't particularly distorted either.

It's truly baffling why so many believe these myths with distortion, "medium format look", and other bs. Have to justify the price I guess.

Say what? Lens distortion is a physical attribute of wide angles.

Let’s use your logic for a minute then, what’s the point in expensive full frame cameras and systems when I can get much cheaper APS-C ones that do exactly the same job, all that full frame marketing is just myths and bs.

Or does it not work like that?

The clue is in the name - wide angle. What matters (for how difficult it is to build a rectilinear lens) is the angle of view, not the physical focal length. But hopefully you knew that. Which pretty much invalidates your point about less distortion.

No, my logic is working just fine. Taking equivalence into acccount, ff lenses generally have better price/performance than mf, apsc and mft ones. Now, if you find some cheap apsc wide angle, then sure, go ahead. As long as the resolution and dynamic range is enough for you. There's a much bigger gap between apsc and ff than between ff and fuji mf of course.

Yes and being able to achieve the same field of view with a higher focal length will result in less optical compromise, take the 3 ‘standard’ zooms and then compare 16mm, 24mm and 32mm, the 32mm can get that same field of view with much less optical correction and therefore a better overall image.

I don’t understand why you are trying to argue that it won’t? I also don’t understand this insistence by full frame camera owners that they must continually try to preach to the world how anyone not using the same system as them is ‘making a bad choice’, and why it’s only that group of people who ever seem to do it? Even worse than that, they go one step further and start tit for tat arguing with other brand users about which 70-200 blows which out of the water or whatever.

The whole thing is a bit pathetic and reeks of an inferiority complex, or some sort of self justification about their purchase that other format users in general don’t care about.

You keep saying that you understand, but you really don't. It's actually hilarious.

Again, making a wide lens for a larger sensor is not easier, or result in less compromise. Only the angle of view matters.

And you started this whole comment thread by referring to GFX lenses as ‘terrible’ so nothing you have to say since holds any weight.

The argument for MF is always maximum IQ. Working professionals in the relevant fields needing high res generally do not need a massive inventory of lenses. Fuji has delivered a decent range for this young system with more lenses to come as the user base grows. One cannot ignore the utility of adapted lenses to expand the capabilities of the body.
The narrative that a system has to have a Nikon or Canon like range is misguided and and irrelevant to a system designed for a different purpose than the do-all ambitions of the 35mm format.

Rollei and Hasselblad had a decent range of lenses that fell far short of the Canon/Nikon offerings but no one in the day was so ignorant to suggest that they were anything but the standards of quality for their segment.

Yeah the 110/2 and 80/1.7 are really terrible... Lol.

Fuji GFX has some of the best lenses ...

Wanting a bigger sensor is definitely not a niche. Many photographers don't really care for 4k or even 8k capabilities. What we want is that medium format look, which is capable with a larger sensor, not lense.

Sure you can replicate it with a FF but, the bokeh fall off isn't the same.

Fuji is making huge leaps and it's definitely good for them, good for photography

Please show some examples of the bokeh falloff.

Too expensive and not as utilitarian

50MP was the sweet spot for that sensor. Which is an entry level MF sensor .
I think 100MP for that sensor is too many packed pixels. Not until they go to a larger sensor. I am happy to sell my Phase and save money but it isn't still there.

After reading enough of these articles, I think it doesn't matter to the industry at large what kind of camera, lens or sensor you have, as long as you are so willing to "keep up," and eventually come around to thinking the ridiculous price points of these camera's and lenses are "normal," and that you keep buying stuff, whether or not you are a pro or a hobbyist.
I guess my point is, why argue?
I am quitting reading this ezine only because a.) I'm not buying any more equipment unless I lose or break the equipment I have, and b.) I'm not learning anything about the art of photography, which is my main interest.

One of these days, I'll have to rent one to see what the fuss is all about.

Just not seeing the need.

It's going to be a tough sell as long as they call it "medium format". It turned out that "full frame" was marketing gold, but "medium format" just doesn't impress. Your friends or clients will say "um... what's that? I thought all the pros used FULL FRAME".

Who has an idea for a new name? It has to sound professional. Serious. Artistic.

How about an honest name: Macro 4/3?

Honesty won't sell anything. If it did, Full Frame would have been called "legacy 35mm".

Leica Format LOL :D

What it means is: Why do you need a huge data file that kills your computers just to print 12' prints and special, huge lenses that cost $10,000? With AI filesizing SW you can take reasonable sized images using smaller sensors and smaller, cheaper lenses and make big file of just the images you may want to make a billboard with. 20 megapixels is all you need.

how do you know the print size of every user ?