A Longterm Review of the GFX 50s: Living With Fuji's Medium Format Camera

A Longterm Review of the GFX 50s: Living With Fuji's Medium Format Camera

It has been just over a year since the release of Fujifilm’s entry into the digital medium format market, the Fujifilm GFX 50s. Fstoppers reviewed the camera a few months later, and I talked about it as a travel and portrait camera a while later. It’s an exceptional machine, there’s no doubting that. But after a few solid months of using it, how do I feel about it? The initial “wow” that comes with the honeymoon phase is over now, so what’s left?

Ever since writing my initial thoughts on using the camera for portraits and travel, I’ve been getting emails every few days asking for a recommendation to buy it or asking about how it stacks up against another camera. So, I thought I would take these questions and form them into a long-term review to give you an idea of how I feel about the camera now. 

I’m not going to go into technical specs, etc., here. The camera does the job it is said to do. It is an exceptional high-resolution medium-format digital camera. The lenses are nothing short of jaw-dropping and almost all the features one would need are present. I believe the elephant in the room is still Capture One support, however. Please correct me if I’m wrong here. Anyway, on to my thoughts.


The GFX 50s feels like any Fujifilm X-series body. As a Fujifilm user, you’ll be right at home when you pick it up. However, over time, its unique features and quirks come to light more an more. For me, there are a few things that really stand out and make the camera quite annoying to use at times. These gripes are simply my own personal ones and you may or may not feel the same.

The first for me is the lack of a dedicated exposure compensation dial. In my opinion, one of the great features of this camera over the bulkier medium format systems is that you can simply pick it up and walk out the door to shoot casually. When doing this with the X-Series cameras, shooting aperture priority with the exposure compensation dial is a treat. It is one of my favorites and most frequently used features of the X-Series cameras. Of course, the GFX offers its own method of doing this with the jog dials, but it’s not the same when shooting this camera run-and-gun.  

Of course, the removal of the exposure compensation dial does make room for the large thumb grip and e-ink display. Neither of these are really a big deal for me. Not once, after the first day of “Hey, that’s cool!” have I even looked at the e-ink display. It seems like a superfluous addition to a very streamlined camera. The thumb grip also doesn’t feel like it needs to be so large. Comfortably, my thumb actually rests a bit to the left, which makes it easy to press the buttons closer to the center of the body. 

One more control that could be better placed is the focus mode selector. Having it on top of the screen protrusion at the back takes a lot of getting used to. I understand that on a camera like this, you’re probably not going to switch focus modes as frequently as you would on a more general purpose body. However, I found it quite annoying as every other camera I have used places it next to the lens. That’s a place where it makes sense to have the switch. 

The final thing that seems at odds with the more robust body is the cheap plastic feel of the shutter and ISO dials. Where everything else about the body feels premium, these two feel like they were pulled off a toy in comparison. This is minor, but I notice it every time I turn them.

Image Quality

Of course, the image quality is nothing short of stellar. This is where the camera truly shines. The beautiful medium format sensor combined with Fujifilm’s own microlenses brings the much talked about sharpness and detail possible with this camera. 

ISO performance is fantastic. Of course, you’ll want to shoot at the base ISO of 100 for maximum image quality in controlled settings, but the camera is more than usable at ISO 1600 or 3200 if needed. I found this useful for my style of shooting as I’m often working outdoors at the fringes of day and loathe using a tripod when I don’t absolutely have to. 

By far, what really separates this camera (and other medium format cameras) from their smaller-sensor brethren, is the tonality they produce. The skin tones reproduced by the GFX are far more subtle than those in any of my previous cameras. The jump from my D800, D750, and X-T2 to this is huge. There is something more lifelike, more tangible about them. This is the one thing that keeps me coming back to the GFX for my Tattoos of Asia project. It brings a special quality to the files I bring home. People talk about the Hasselblad color rendition, and I honestly cannot speak to that as I don’t have enough experience, but the GFX is a step beyond any of the smaller format systems I have used in this regard. 

With Flash

When the GFX was released, many lamented the 1/125 sync speed, despite it being quite respectable for a focal-plane shutter in a medium format body. We knew HSS and other technologies would come, but out of the gate, they weren’t available. That is a different story now

I have been using the Godox system extensively with the GFX and it has been flawless. The combination of the X-Pro trigger and a couple of AD200 units has been the perfect travel companion. Shooting at f/2 on the GF 110mm f/2 with high-speed sync enabled meant that I could use a shutter of 1/1000 to all but black out the ambient light or vary this when I needed to get a beautiful shallow depth of field with flashes on location. 

The Godox system has been a treat, but they’re not the only option now. Profoto and Broncolor have also made their offerings to add support to their high-end flash systems. These three have made the Fujifilm system a much more viable option for flash photographers. 

Hopes for the Future

The Fujifilm GFX 50s is an excellent entry point for Fujifilm into the world of medium format digital cameras. They did an excellent job of releasing a polished product that put them instantly on the map in what was an elitist industry before. I still feel like there are a couple of things they can do to solidify that place and grow their market even further. 

The first thing would be improved autofocus. We have seen what the Fujifilm engineering wizards are capable of, and I believe there are some huge improvements coming in future firmware and body releases. The autofocus is quite quick, but it often does a full cycle through the lens’ focus distances before locking on. I’m sure an improved algorithm would be able to reduce this and make focusing faster again. Of course, in future bodies, improved processing power and the potential of PDAF will likely improve this significantly as well.

The second thing would be smaller, lighter lenses. As I mentioned, the GFX is a great on-location camera. The 45mm and 63mm lenses are small enough that you can simply walk around with them all day and photograph like you would with the X-Series cameras. I would love to see a smaller portrait lens or wide-angle lens that could be used in this way. Something like a 110mm f/2.8 could be significantly smaller and cheaper, bringing more people to the system and offering a lighter package. 

Versus Full Frame

This is the question I get in almost every email I receive about the GFX. “I’m tossing up between a GFX and a Canikon full frame camera,” I answer this the same way each and every time. They’re not the same thing. If you’re trying to make this decision, you probably want to go with a DSLR. They’re much more versatile. The D850 and 5D Mark IV are exceptional machines and will produce equal if not better image quality in the majority of situations. Medium format is a more specific beast. If you need it, you’ll know. 

In Conclusion

This article might seem like it’s harping on the little things too much, but I don’t mean it like that at all. These are simply some of the quirks that have stayed with me over time. For anyone considering the camera, I hope that this helps you in your quest. I’d love to see a few things improved and a few things changed to make this camera even better than it already is. 

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Zac Henderson's picture

Don't hold your breath on GFX support in Capture One. Likely will never happen (see Pentax, Hasselblad, etc). Seems like an interesting camera, especially if the similarities between the X-series and the GFX are as close as stated. Loved my X-Pro 1.

I'd pick this over the Hassy X1D anytime, though not sure I could ever justify a camera not supported by C1... But that's the trade off. Can't have everything.

Speaking of justification... I'm struggling to find the merits of a cropped sensor MF camera system like this if: "The D850 and 5D Mark IV are exceptional machines and will produce equal if not better image quality in the majority of situations." That's pretty damning if you're investing into a system without an opportunity to upgrade to a physically larger/higher res sensor in the future.

If, like you suggest, you know it when you need medium format, then why not go for the full frame 100MP medium format system? The Phase One XF100MP system will deliver noticeably better image quality out of the box at twice the resolution.

I realize that its a lot more expensive, but if you're investing in medium format already (and you know you need it), then why go with a half measure?

Michael Aubrey's picture

Just having a 4:3 ratio natively over 3:2 is enough reason in my mind to consider for one of these miniMF's over a 35mm sensor.

Korey Napier's picture

I've never understood the appeal of the 4:3 aspect ratio. To me, it's like the difference between watching an old square TV of the past versus watching an LCD or LED TV today.

TVs of the past were not square and they were very low resolution. So-called LED TVs are LCDs.

As for aspect ratio preference, it's just that, a preference. I prefer 3:2 for a still camera but in the end I crop to whatever aspect ratio will suit the image. Sometimes even square, which I generally dislike.

Korey Napier's picture

With my T.V. analogy, I wasn't speaking in terms of quality, but rather in terms of the aspect ratio. I know the T.V.s of the past weren't square, but my point was I like looking at a more rectangular ratio. Kind of like how I would rather look at a 16:9 computer monitor vs. an older 4:3 monitor.

I guess by now I'm just trained to look at more rectangular ratios with modern laptops, desktops, T.V.s and then throw in the fact that most photos I view are in the same aspect ration as 35mm film (full frame and APS-C). This is also why I hate 8x10 and 16x20 prints. Haha.

This isn't to say that other aspect ratios don't have their place. Many people like them, but I just simply don't understand the appeal.

Michael Aubrey's picture

I'm sure there are a lot of people who's experience means they can't comprehend something. That shouldn't diminish the value of 4x3 for others. 4x3 is excellent for portraits and more efficiently cropped to for 8x10 prints.

I've had people tell me they can't stand the 1:1 ratio of 6x6 MF cameras as a ratio because it reminds them of crappy instagram food pictures and phone photography. I doubt that any 500CM aficionado tossed out their Hasseblad over it.

Often times, I don't think 3:2 wide enough or square enough. I dream of an X-Pan ratio sensor...which the Fuji actually has a setting for that'll still produces a larger image diagonal (46.8mm) than normal 3:2 of a FF (43.2mm).

But isn't that the nice thing? That we all get to like different things?

Korey Napier's picture

Oh, I'm not saying that the 4:3 doesn't have any value. It certainly does to a lot of people. I just simply don't see the appeal of it. I guess I would rather look at a more rectangular shape than a more square shape (even though they are both rectangles, but you get my point).

Haha! That's actually pretty funny about the 1:1 ratio. A film format that has been around for years and years before instagram and smart phones, yet THAT'S what it reminds them of (speaking of which, I rejoiced the day they let us deviate from that dreaded 1:1 on instagram!) Haha.

I can relate to that sentiment though. I guess that's kind of how I feel about older analog T.V.'s and the 4:3 format. It reminds me of an old computer monitor or something.

Like you said, different strokes.

Michael Aubrey's picture

Glad we're on the same page!

(incidentally: musicians tend too love 1:1 because its what the art on their favorite album covers comes in!)

Korey Napier's picture

Interesting about the musicians. As someone who has a decent record collection, I've never thought about that. Haha.

I would say that the lack of Capture One support has been a real bummer - especially since I thought it was coming soon (according to that Zack Arias video from last year). That being said, I do love this camera system and am inspired to shoot with it, more than my Canon system currently inspires me :)

Jeroen Bouman's picture

I shoot my GFX tethered all the time, CaptureONE shows the jpg's without any problem. Back home I convert the RAF to DNG with Iridient X-Transformer and hack the exif info. Then I can edit the raw file in C1 with excellent results. It's a bit of a hassle but I'm not a heavy shooter.

My only gripe is that many menu items can't be put in the Quick menu. For the rest I'm amazed every day by this camera. The AF is not fast but it is really accurate (over 90% are keepers, no dslr could ever match this), and eye-AF is the invention of the century for me. Skin tones, just wow! And the 110mm is so gorgeous that I'd like to marry this lens. Best digital camera I've ever shot, and also the first digital camera I really like working with, I'm beginning to bond with it like with my twin lens Rolleiflex, Nikon F2, Pentax 67.

Back in the day you would only use medium format film if you wanted to shoot a billboard or if you were making super large prints (stereotyping here). The auto focus was never really important in either of these scenarios as you were paying for the film size (or rather your client was paying) so you got around it. The latest gen of medium format are marketed more towards someone with deep pockets (I do know one or two who use it in the industry but only for very select jobs) , give it a few years and you will see the autofocus , button layout, and everything else on your wish list come to fruition.

This is medium fauxmat, not true MF. That said, I plan on buying one once the second gen launches and the used prices tank.

The smallest frame size in film MF is 6 cm x 4.5 cm. The Fuji chip is 4.38 cm x 3.29 cm. It is MF relative to size only. Additionally, a competing website demonstrated the difference between FF and digital MF, is negligible. Diminishing returns and all that.

"I plan on buying one once the second gen launches and the used prices tank." Moore's Law applies to all chips. A digital camera is a computer with a lens.

"The D850 and 5D Mark IV are exceptional machines and will produce equal if not better image quality in the majority of situations."

Could anyone comment on image quality between the D850/810 and the Nikon D750? I currently own a Nikon Df, and love it. It is the first one I grab for shots. I bought the Df because it reminds me of the Nikkormat I had in college. Yes, I know the Df is really based on the Nikon FA.

Terry Poe's picture

"If you need it, you’ll know". What does this cryptic phrase mean in the context of article? It's kinda negates the very purpose of the article - to enlighten photographer brethren on benefits of medium format in the log run. What kind of photos it is good for? Examples, medium vs full frame, where the difference is stark obvious. Otherwise, it's toothless munching.

Peter Roskothen's picture

This is a wonderful article about the GFX 50S. I have read a lot about it, but this one is thoroug.
I would add that the EVF is a game changer too. I can shoot black and white while thinking bw. I can see the hyperfocal distance, the DOF, brightness and so forth before the shot. Can even switch format to 1:1 and think the square format while taking the picture.
Also the 3D and plasticity is different to FF. Cut it short: the much better system for a pro that is into bw, portrait or landscape, product, even architecture. Not for those who are into sports, action, wildlife.