Complete Review of the Fuji GFX 50S, Part Two: How Does The Shooting Experience Compare to the X-T3?

Complete Review of the Fuji GFX 50S, Part Two: How Does The Shooting Experience Compare to the X-T3?

In part two of my five-part, in-depth month-long review of the Fuji GFX 50S, I looked to compare the GFX S to the camera that originally inspired my interest in its potential, the smaller X-T3.

You’ll notice that I’ve titled this particular section with the phrase “shooting experience” rather than “image quality.” That’s not to suggest that my X-T3 hasn’t earned me money by pumping out great images over the last year. And, as I’ve stated repeatedly in the past, I often cut shots taken with my APS-C sized X-T3 next to images shot with my Nikon D850, to shots taken with medium format cameras and put them into the same portfolio all the time. All three are perfectly capable of producing your photographic masterpiece. But, it would naturally be ridiculous to claim that if you were to pixel peep that you wouldn’t notice a difference in image detail between a medium format sensor and an APS-C sensor two steps down the sensor size ladder. More on the impact of sensor sizes later, but what I was mainly interested in when comparing the GFX 50S to the X-T3 was usability.

Shot by me, Christopher Malcolm, with Fuji X-T3, from my series "Breathless"

I’ve written enough dramatic soliloquies to the beautiful design of the Fuji X system in the past that I don’t need to rehash those here. But safe to say, one of the reasons I even wanted to make this comparison was because of how well Fuji designs their cameras. Not just manufacturing computers with lenses, Fuji’s strong point has always been that its makers seem to understand the photographic experience. Instead of making machines that make the decisions for you, Fuji understands that photography is about choices. And it puts those choices literally at your fingertips, mimicking the design of classic camera, where your exposure triangle can be manipulated by the quick turn of a tactile dial without having to resort to pouring through endless menus on a digital readout. Not that you can’t shoot in PhD mode (Push Here Dummy), but if you want to really take control of your images, it’s as simple as turning a dial.

Thankfully, this design has made its way up from the X system to the GFX 50S. In fact, those familiar with any previous Fuji camera (or most cameras pre-digital) will find it very easy to pick up the GFX 50S and operate it straight out of the box. There’s not much of a learning curve. When I did go into the menu, it was mostly to set up the custom menu and viewfinder options. If you’ve used any of the other Fuji bodies, you’ll find the layout similar and easy to follow.

Speaking of the menu system, time for a minor quirk. Why is it that Fuji doesn’t allow me to add the “Format” menu option to “My Menu?” This is a function I literally use almost every day. Being able to put it right on my opening menu and quickly access it seems like a no-brainer. But, I digress.

In terms of portability, the X-T3 is obviously going to win that battle. The smaller sensor inside the X-T3 allows for a smaller body, smaller lenses, and smaller batteries (although that last one might be the one they would want to rethink).

Could the GFX 50S be your street or travel camera? Absolutely. In fact, shooting with the camera the last month has been such a pleasure that I’ve begun taking it with me in situations that I previously would have likely left it at home. I’m not really a street or landscape shooter. But street scenes captured with the detail of medium format? Sign me up.

Were you to opt to use the GFX 50S as a street camera, however, you would definitely be best served sticking with the 63mm (50mm) instead of lugging around the zoom if you can help it. Or, ideally, the upcoming 50mm (40mm) would be the only lens you would really need.

Nighttime concert shot on Fuji GFX 50S by Christopher Malcolm

The X-T3, on the other hand, is very easy to just toss into a backpack or a purse and is far easier to shoot in stealth mode. Also, because of the video capabilities, the X-T3 may be a better choice if you’re looking for a camera that can “do everything.”  

While the GFX 50S does shoot 1080p video and does it well, I don’t think this is the first camera I would turn to if my primary interest was video. It works adequately as a vlogging camera or grabbing a few clips here and there. But, if you want a full production camera for video, the X-T3 is your gal.

The GFX 50S is your choice when the quality of each individual still frame is your top priority. It’s the camera you pick up when you want to create a standalone image that sings. The only way I can describe it is to say that there’s something about medium format that doesn’t just create an image, it creates a world. You don’t just want to look at a scene shot with medium format, you want to walk into it.

Landscape shot by Christopher Malcolm with Fuji GFX 50S

Of course, if you have the budget for the GFX 50S, it’s also possible that you have an extra $1500 to grab an X-T3 to have in your bag as well to dedicate to video. So, you might just have the best of both worlds.

In the next part of our series, we’ll have a look at how 50 MP medium format GFX 50S performs in comparison to the near-50 MP (45.7MP) full frame sensor in the Nikon D850.

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13 Comments

You, sir, are a gem. Thank you for writing — not just this review, but for writing so beautifully about the art and the craft. Your articles are a delight and were influential in my choice of Fuji as I got back into photography in middle age, having worked as a photojournalist in the last years of film before transitioning over to the writing and editorial side. I look forward to instalment #3...

Paul Sokal's picture

You are so right about formatting. If there was one thing I would change about my stable of Fuji's, it is that you can't format from the "My Menu." I guess they're trying to protect us from ourselves, but hey, we're all adults here and we need to be accountable. Since Fuji is the best listener when it comes to camera manufacturers (a major reason I love me some Fuji) hopefully they will read this and add this in a future firmware upgrade.

Didn't explore much on the usability eh? Nicely written article, looking forward to the next one.

JetCity Ninja's picture

there's a 2 button shortcut to the format menu, if you're not already aware: hold down the trash button for 3+ seconds, then press the rear command dial. takes you straight into the format menu.

Paul Sokal's picture

Thanks so much. Now there is nothing I don't love about my cameras.

JetCity Ninja's picture

no opinion on the detachable viewfinder or top plate display?

I shoot canon dslr (6d2). I can put "format card" in my customized menu. Believe me, you dont want it there. Between flash settings and screen brightness adjustment having something critical as format card is bad. Ive been there, the images were retrievable with rescue software. But man, let "format card" be at least a tiny bit buried in the menu systems.

marc gabor's picture

This article is about 10 paragraphs too long. Allow me to summarize.

While the GFX handles very similarly to the smaller fujis, it has better image quality than the x-t3. The x-t3 is smaller, easier to shoot discreetly, takes better video, and it's image quality is more than good enough for most applications making it a very versatile camera.

THANK YOU CAPTAIN OBVIOUS

As for creating worlds not images, I have no idea what the author is talking about. The image of a concert just looks like an image of a concert to me (that could have been shot on just about any decent camera from the last 10 years).

Finally, as for capturing street scenes with medium format detail, who cares? Now this is totally my personal opinion but I think that shooting street scenes and candids with smaller format cameras makes a lot more sense. Beyond the practicalities of a small camera vs a big one, having too nice an image quality takes away from the immediacy of the image. It feels fake and contrived. I'll take my little Ricoh or micro 4/3 camera over medium format any day for shooting street scenes.

Paul Sokal's picture

Your post may be a bit harsher than needed. As someone who shoots with both the GFX 50S and the XT-3 it's really hard to appreciate the images in a post online. You really need to hold the print in hand to appreciate what the GFX can do. And I don't disagree with you that I probably wouldn't pick up my GFX to shoot street, but I might.

rodney simba masarirambi's picture

I love this series. It's well thought out and while I might want to argue about certain aspects I can only respect the work put into it. I cannot wait to read more

Wyatt Ryan's picture

I'm absolutely loving this series so far, but a random question; who is the artist performing in the concert shot in your article?

I like your writing style but you didn't provide any input I couldn't read on a spec sheet...

GFX has more details but is bigger. Done.

Nothing about focusing (in the street for example with faster moving scenes than a fence) or ergonomics of a big mirrorless VS the D850 and X-T3...

I think your 5 part could have been 4 really...