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.
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.
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.
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.