Why Fuji's New Medium Format Camera Is Important

Why Fuji's New Medium Format Camera Is Important

Since the days of film, medium format has been far from reach for many photographers. Even working professionals can have trouble justifying the high price point of these systems: when used, they can be $8,000-10,000. Medium format film bodies, while cheap now, were always several thousand away from even the most exorbitantly priced 35mm bodies. Factor in the inconvenient size of just about every medium format camera ever, and it's easy to put the idea of working with these monsters far from mind.

The Fuji GFX 50s

The world of digital photography is ever-evolving, however, and just a few short months ago, Hasselblad announced what could be a solution to these issues, the X1D. While certainly intrigued by what that brings to the table, I believe the future of medium format lies with Fuji. Fuji's new camera has this name for a reason. G refers to their medium format heritage, F for their heritage in film and the popular film simulations offered on the camera, and X because well, it's a giant X-T2. The GFX 50s has been rumored for quite a while. I recall personally having seen small rumors here and there over a year ago. To much hype, Fuji finally decided to unleash it on the world this year at Photokina. Fuji did not disappoint. The 50s has an impressive list of specifications, many of which will be familiar to current Fuji shooters, some of which are standard in the world of medium format. What has me so excited is how Fuji is marketing this camera directly at DSLR shooters. I say this for several reasons, the first of which is the size. The 50s is nearly identical in size to the D810 and 5D Mark IV, but with a sensor 1.7x larger than full frame. With the vertical grip that Fuji announced, it may be slightly larger, but the point is that the size and feel won't be foreign to full-frame shooters. The camera can also shoot tethered, which most medium format users are used to, the 50s also has more physical controls on the exterior (like a DSLR), rather than the sparse bodies and extremely menu-driven operation of many current medium format platforms. There is also no X-Trans sensor, which could be good or bad depending on who you are and how you feel about Fuji's other options. Essentially, the X-Trans sensor uses a randomized pattern for the color pixels rather than the standard RGB order in traditional Bayer array sensors like those found in Nikon, Canon, and Sony cameras. X-Trans is what has always given the Fuji cameras their distinct look and color, but it has also caused many issues with raw converters like Adobe Lightroom, as the information is a little more difficult for the software to decipher. In what seems to be more seamless integration into existing workflows, the 50s has forgone an X-Trans in favor of a traditional Bayer array sensor. Being such a massive sensor, the difference, other than better file-handling in post, is likely negligible. 

The Lenses

I was almost more excited for the lenses than the camera itself. With the six lenses that they announced, DSLR shooters will have a hard time not finding a lens that will work for them, as the range is pretty much covered. Fuji has said that throughout 2017, they will release a 110mm f/2 (portrait photographers rejoice), a 63mm f/2.8 (50mm equivalent), a 120mm f/4 macro, a 23mm f/4, which is an extremely wide angle lens for this large of a format, a 45mm f/2.8, and a 32-64mm f/4 zoom. All of these lenses are weather-sealed too, giving the GFX system the durability to work both in the studio and in the worst conditions around the world. This could be the landscape photography camera to rule them all. 

Not all is perfect, though. The lenses don't have a leaf shutter, which may make many Phase One and Hassleblad users stick to their guns, regardless of how large they are. Truthfully, the leaf shutter or lack thereof is only going to be a problem for those using flash often. Leaf shutters were the original "high speed sync" in a sense. All of these new-fangled, HSS, High-Sync, Hypersync, etc. technologies are chasing after something medium format cameras have always had built in. A leaf shutter closes much like the lens's aperture, allowing for a flash to expose the frame evenly even at higher shutter speeds, whereas a focal plane shutter has to use some radio signal trickery to stop the flash from leaving a shadow across the frame. Fuji reasoned, and rightly so, that leaf shutters would make the lenses far too large for a mirrorless system. Fuji did say that the camera is capable of working with leaf shutters, however, which begs third party manufacturers like Novoflex and Fotodiox to make adapters for other medium format lenses. 

Compared to the X1D

No one can honestly argue that Hassleblad cameras are bad. I'm not here to try that, because I love Hassleblad, I do. In this new and untested market of mirrorless/consumer-level medium format cameras, Fuji has gone the extra mile to integrate both DSLR and medium format features into one camera. The X1D looks to be less of a working photographer's camera, making it an expensive piece that few photographers would get serious use out of. Lens selections can make or break a system as Sony saw during the early days of the A7 series. Coming out of the gate with six distinct weather-sealed lenses was a smart decision for Fuji and will likely put it ahead of the X1D for many users.

As far as image quality is concerned, I don't honestly think there will be much difference. With imaging technology where it is today, the differentiating factors will be in extraneous features like autofocus, ergonomics, system versatility, and lens selection. I think we can all agree that it's virtually impossible to buy a bad camera in 2016. What matters is finding the camera that best fits you. The Fuji GFX 50s looks to be a camera that will fit many photographers shooting a variety of genres. The X1D will likely be a great camera; I just don't see it having the wide appeal of the Fuji. What Fuji has done is create a camera with the highest level of image quality with the relative simplicity that photographers want and expect at a price (exact numbers aren't out yet) that is extremely reasonable for this type of machine. There is no better time to jump up to medium format, and there is no better time to be a photographer than now. 

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39 Comments

JUSTIN SISSON's picture

Great read! Proud Fuji XT2 owner here and I can say the leaps that Fuji has been making have been nothing short of amazing! I'm very much looking forward to GFX 50S as a studio photographer (Food & Portrait). The main thing the XT1 & XT2 owners have been begging for is tethering abilities through Capture One, which looks like we might finally get with firmware down the road. Cost will be the biggest factor for me because I feel like my XT2 is more than capable of doing the job and I truly love the camera! Fuji's price point for body & lens is WAYYYY below DSLR prices, hopefully this will be true for medium format. Either way I'm excited for what Fuji has for us down the road!

Peter Mueller's picture

My hopes are not high that Capture One Pro will support tethering this Fuji medium format beast.
It is direct competition. They already do NOT support the Pentax 645Z and some of the higher end Leicas.
Although I don't understand why they do not support tethering the "lower end" of Fuji cameras at all. At least you can develop their RAW files.

Jay Jay's picture

How is that xt2? Seriously considering buying one but wish they had their 35mm equivalent go down past 2.0.

JUSTIN SISSON's picture

My personal advice is to rent one if you get a chance. I shot full frame prior to shooting Fuji. I like the fuji system/body/glass so much more than I did when I was shooting Canon. The technology is there and the days of FF vs Crop gap are closing. That's across platforms from XT2 to D500. Don't let a crop body scare you away. Fuji XT2 is INSANELY good. Best camera I've used to date.

Jay Jay's picture

I just upgraded to a canon 5d4 from a 3, so i'm used to FF. I've been very spoiled to being able to shoot in near darkness with those cameras. But i would love a small walk around camera that looks like a small walk around camera and not a suv like my canon's look like. The high iso quality is the most important thing to me in deciding on an xt2, since i do a lot of indoor and night time shooting.

Christian Santiago's picture

I too am very close to switching form my NX1 to Fuji. Love the lenses, the colors and the constant support via firmware. The last one is very important as I am still sore at how Samsung just ghosted it's customers.

I know as a photo camera it will more than exceed my expectations, I am just curious if it's video capabilities will live up to the hype.

Jeff P.'s picture

I think there are already a few reviews/demos/samples on the net about the X-T2's video capabilities.
Although it's not a camera specifically designed for video, I read it does a very good job.

Jeff P.'s picture

I don't have the X-T2 but I have the X-T1 and it is much more than a walk around camera :)
From what I've read so far on the X-T2, you officially can't go wrong with it.

But, since you're already a Canon shooter, you could wait and see how the new M5 is doing. I know it took a lot of crap from all the internet experts out there but I'm sure it's not as bad as many say.
One added bonus is that you already have some glass you could use on it with an adapter.

Jay Jay's picture

As much as i'd like Canon to succeed with the M5, there's absolutely nothing about it that will make people want to buy it. Fuji has definitely cornered the market with solid, well built, high quality beautiful cameras. From the reviews on the XT1 and the X Pro series, it's an experience using a Fuji. While they partially bombed on the X100s, that Xt2 looks like it's going to be an amazing camera. I just wished they had a weather sealed prime that went below 2.0 though...

Dave Hachey's picture

Well I just picked up my X-T2 today, along with the kit 18-55mm f/2-4 and the 56mm f/1.2 lenses. It didn't take long to get used to it, but image quality isn't quite up to my big Canon systems, perhaps 90% of the way there. The main reason I bought it was as a light weight travel kit. I just spent 3 weeks in Peru lugging 15 kg of DSLR gear around at 12,000+ ft. So far I like the Fuji system and their philosophy, and the body is very responsive. I still need to evaluate image quality, but I suspect it will be fine once I get the workflow under control.

Jay Jay's picture

Thanks for the feedback. I know i'll never be happy with a camera if i compare it to a 5d3 or 4. A small, portable camera that provides good quality is what i'm looking for. I'm thinking about getting that X-T2.

T Dillon's picture

Give yourself a couple more days with it. I have been shocked how good it is compared to much higher mp Sony bodies and just about every brand of glass (Canon L, Zeiss, Minolta G, or Leitz). It took me a few days, then I found out that the differences in IQ were mostly me learning a new system.

Mr Blah's picture

Don't they have a 23mm 1.4? I never thought I'd see someone complain about the Fuji lens line up!

Jay Jay's picture

They do, but it's an older lens and not part of the new WR series (Which is the 23mm WR). I read reviews comparing the two and the WR has a bit better build to it (not to mention being weather resistant) and more importantly, finds focus much quicker than the their R series 1.4 in 23mm.

Mr Blah's picture

I see!

I didn't follow those lenses close enough, I though they were the same!

Andrew Richardson's picture

Fuji makes some of the best lenses in the world, can't wait to get my hands on the new camera and glass and see what they've been able to accomplish. If they can get me into a medium format system for a sub-$10k price, I'm in.

Bani Sen's picture

How many FPS will it be able to shoot and do you feel that it will be helpful for wedding photography

Spencer Lookabaugh's picture

I'm not sure if FPS has been released, but I see it having few, if any, advantages over an X-T2 or other camera for weddings.

michael andrew's picture

I agree, weddings are about coverage, speed, ergonomics and durability. Image quality and resolution have been great for wedding needs for as long as digital cameras have been out. I shot a wedding with a 20D before the original 5D and the photos were great.

JUSTIN SISSON's picture

If I were shooting weddings I'd look into a Fuji XT2 + Grip. 14 FPS. There's tons of videos online that showcase XT2 raw talents.

Robert Raymer's picture

I was very excited about this announcement, as I have been a fan of Fuji MF cameras since the days of film, however my excitement was quickly dampened when I found out that not only were they not incorporating LS lenses, which would have been fine, but also that the shutter sync speed is supposedly 1/125. As someone that uses flash a lot both in and out of studio that was quite a disappointment.

T Dillon's picture

Their price of the body and 63/2.8 being "much" less than $10,000 is such a tease. $9500 is nice and cute. But what if it is $7500? I have some hard decicions then. And how about the lens prices? The lack of a leaf shutter, they should be less costly. Could the more normal ones be $1k each? Less? $1500 for the portrait or macro?

Fuji has thrown me a curveball. The body with the 23, 45, and 110 could do 90% of my work.

I will probably stay as I am with the XT2 16/23/56, and pray they make an adapter for the medium format to be used on the X mount. Both the 110/2 and 120/4 macro would be tempting. Not to mention get me in the door for running a MF and APS-C combo if I can double up a couple of lenses.

J J's picture

The leaf shutter thing is one of the defining quality of many medium format system. Not that I'm in the market per se - but I don't really appreciate the value equation of the fuji camera when smaller formats are coming up so quickly in terms of quality. The leaf shutters of the Hasselblad offer a significantly different option and technical advantage that help define the camera.

Ralph Hightower's picture

As an enthusiast, the price of MF digital cameras are out of my price range. But in regards to sensor size to film size, the MF digitals sensor size is smaller than film: 6x4.5 or 6x7; so should these cameras be classified as "APC MF"? If the sensors matched the film size, the cost of the cameras would be more expensive. Plus, there's the lens multiplier factor to consider.

Dave Hachey's picture

Trust me, you don't want a digital camera with a 60 X 70mm sensor. The lenses necessary to cover the image circle would weigh a ton! At the equivalent pixel density of the 33x44mm sensor, a true MF sensor would be about 250 MP, so postprocessing would be a nightmare.

Fritz Asuro's picture

It's like a new trend in photography technology nowadays. First, Sony gave us a full frame sensor in the size of a compact camera. Now Fujifilm is giving us medium format on the size of a DSLR.

So based on the two given cases, mirrorless technology is really changing the game, but not by creating a new line of sensor size but sticking to the classic 35mm and medium format and fitting it in a smaller body.

I am not against DSLRs at all, but as technology advances, I don't doubt it that one day I'll be using mirrorless cameras.

michael andrew's picture

it happened before, rangefinders (mirrorless) cameras were the norm from the 30'- the 70' until the slr became popular in the 35mm format. It is coming full circle

Jay Jay's picture

From a post last week, the Fuji GFX sensor is quite a bit smaller compared to the Phase One and Hasselblads. How does it compare to that Hassel X1D?

Jake Reeder's picture

Same size/res as the sensor found in the h5d-50c, h6d-50c, iq150, iq250, iq350, x1d, 645z. Fuji say it's different to the sony cmos but can't see how.

Jay Jay's picture

Fuji has been hitting home runs in quality for several years now, so this won't be any different. But i'm sure it will be expensive enough where most mortals wont be able to afford it (as is all MF cameras out there)

Jake Reeder's picture

The sensor (if it is the sony CMOS which is 99% likely), is definitely killer. And while not exactly cheap as chips, I find it really promising to find mf (from all brands) innovating and making moves! Can only be good news.

Jake Reeder's picture

Spencer, it's "Hasselblad". Sort of takes away from what you're saying if you're not bothering to spell the name correctly.

LA M's picture

Well I for one couldn't care less about how it stacks up to other medium format cameras.

Our industry could use more excitement and innovation to breathe some life bak into it. Fuji, Olympus and Sony are the cutting edge of the business right now.

That said, I love the lens lineup. Camera systems do not survive without proper lenses to back them up.

Steven Barall's picture

Hello. I would say that there have only been three still cameras that are important and they are the original Kodak Box Brownie, the Leica and the original i-Phone. As far as photography goes, how exactly is this new Fuji camera important? How is it going to change the way in which we interact with the world and record our presence here?

Okay so let's just talk about it's place in the history of cameras and not photography. Medium format was never a rare and unattainable thing. Everyone shot roll film. There were many roll film cameras available and when you got one you used it for decades and you could even get one used in the first place to save money. It's not like today where you buy a new camera every year so you can make You Tubes videos about it. People used two cameras for their entire careers.

Also, no one fifty years ago thought that their Hasselblads and Rolleis were horribly inconvenient either. They were glad they didn't have to shoot 4x5 at weddings anymore. You can't just say that roll film cameras were all outrageously expensive and inconvenient because you have an i-Phone now. Besides, Leicas cost more than Hasselblads.

You think this new Fuji is convenient? If you travel with the new Fuji camera you need half a dozen batteries, a couple of battery chargers, voltage converters, a computer and all of its attendant items like extra hard drives, a bunch of memory cards and then another entire camera system to record videos of yourself using the Fuji camera and then you need a Think Tank wheeled bag to drag it all around in. In the olden times (one big pro camera shop in NYC was called Olden Camera) you had your Hasselblad with the 80mm lens and some film and you could buy more film where ever you were and you put it into an Abercrombie shoulder bag.

Yeah I get it, you work in a camera store and that's your bias. So as far as the history of "photography" goes, for a camera to be a "game changer" or "important" it has to be so culturally overwhelming that it allows us to see the world like we have never seen it before (Box Brownie, Leica and i-Phone). As far as the history of "cameras" goes, this Fuji camera is just another camera. It doesn't change anything so everyone calm down. No one even knows if the thing actually works. Oh and Sony is going to introduce their own line of medium format cameras so good luck with that Fuji.

Happy Autumn!!!

Gino Carlini's picture

What do you mean no one knows if it actually works? There are several videos on youtube with Japanese photographers using the prototypes in photoshoots. Here's one of the videos. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHhAkirFH-Q

Anonymous's picture

I'm not an expert here but what display would be needed to see actual difference between 35mm full frame and Fuji medium? Is there any? ;)

Espen Haraldsen's picture

Hi fstoppers

I'v used Pentax Spotmatix and Nikons since the 70' , still use the D800 (mostly in the studio), but when Fuji gave us the X Pro1 I traded my backup D700 for a new system and have never looked back (I still have the D800 and lenses). The rendition of color and the file quality of that small affordable Leica-lookalike was amazing! Since that day the X Pro 1 has been my G-T camera (the 56 f 1.2???). X-trans my life will you!

My photographic saga is too long for this place, but to cut things short, at the time of the digital revolution I was more conservative then most. I stayed analogue for a very, very long time, and feared digital would be the end of photography as I loved it (Bresson, Adams, Weston, Frank, Avedon et al), as analogue services was getting scarce and very expensive and digital cameras... easy, but reallyreallyreally crap. Adding to this PS was not that brilliant, but more importantly, very few understood how to use it properly: Give me a pristine file from the newest most expensive Hasselblad, and I'll destroy it in two moves, avoiding the obvious.

I was never really happy with a digital camera until the D800. It is a monster of a revolution in a rather affordable small package. Enter Fuji (and Sony a7). Since Fuji's X100 they have been hitting gold every time, although playing very bold: Developing an non-bayer non crop sensor, kicking out a fantastic line of lenses at reasonable prices while being at the time in a small niche of the market, saying "NO" to FF, and now finally...the G MF...the chitter has been going for a long time, but when Fuji said FF is out, I was pretty certain the MF was in the lineup.

At this point it's all about price... body...lenses? Great lens line-up as always, quality is to be stellar. With no X-trans Fuji MF G is still going to be crazy good. If it wasn't they would drop it. The really interesting point is going to be seen when guys at Metabones/Novoflex/Fototodiax et. al. get to making adapters for leaf shutter lenses from Mamiya, Hassy, and most of all, if the guys of Fuji makes magic and makes a workable X-mount adapter. Do this, and your running the field, like Nikon and Canon once did.

I may have some misspellings in this. It does not diminish my argument or expertise, I will not name you who are someone in this thread (Hassellblads), but let us be friends in here please! If you are frustrated, go out and you will be abel to use this to shoot better pictures. If you are in it for vision and not for the stash&bling, all that happens to you will make you a better photographer. Trust me, I've had my share. (I'm not claiming to be a great photographer, I'm just saying I'm getting a little better all the time, ha,ha, Lennon anyone?).

Steven B in this tread wonders what the fuzz is all about. I understand him well. How many models has Sony put out since the first a7? Are they better? Yes, but not everyone needs it, I've stuck with the first one with kit lens. Getting adapters so I can use Contax/Zeiss G lenses...manual focus but great electronic visual focusing. Love it! Did not like autofocus when it came out. Split screen of the Nikon FM2 is the best ever! Manual focus on Fuji X pro 1 or Sony a7 with other brand lenses is not a problem for my sore eyesight. Digital and analogue are finally merging together.

You can totally say that Steven B is right in picking his three cameras of choice...or...what about the first LF cameras available to the public, or the first cameras available to the public, period. If you see a news scene from the subjects side in the 50's everyones has Rolliflex TLR with the flash on the side, later on many used Nikon SLR's Nikkormat F1 F2. Would one say the original Hassy 6x6 is not an iconic camera? Did not this square change the way we say the world? I may or not agree with Steven B in his ranging of important stuff (cameras) in the wold of photography. But he is not stating a fact. He is giving an opinion. But this is nerding too much. Spend less time looking at the new gear coming, and more time shooting, working out what could be better, looking at the old masters...

Photography is about your soul, and the great thing is that everyone has it. And what's important is that digital has not killed photography. Quite the reverse, it blew it alive: Fuji (as well as Sony) have been at the forefront of this revolution: Making great images from cameras in a small, light, sexy package.

Fuji MF OOOOOOOUUUUUUMMMMFFF!

PS! I am a totally indipendent photographer. Not so lucy to be endorsed by Fuji, Sony, Nikon or any other company period.

Sincerly
Espen WES Haraldsen

Scott Weaver's picture

When the successor to the D801 is announced, I expect it to be very close in resolution to this new Fuji... but we Nikon users will already have the lenses. Having to acquire an entirely new line of lenses in order to use the Fuji would make it a terribly expensive proposition.

nick bowers's picture

" the sparse bodies and extremely menu-driven operation of many current medium format platforms". You're either talking out of your ass, or have never even seen a medium format camera. I've tested hasselblad and PO systems, and I've never had to hunt around menus for anything essential for shooting. All of the main functions you need are available through either a dial, or a button press on the top panel. Unless that's too much for this hipster