The Fujifilm GFX50R mirrorless camera review

Check out the video if reading is not your bag. If not, read on

The Fuji medium format vs everyone else

 

The Fujifilm GFX50R is Fujifilm’s answer to full-frame cameras. It’s Fuji’s way of saying that a large sensor camera can be portable and does not have to be stuck in a photography studio.

I received the GFX50R body and the weather-resistant Fujinon 63mm f/2.8 ( 50mm f/2.2 full-frame sensor equivalent) and am eager to see the GF glass perform. But for now, check out the pros and cons in this Fujifilm GFX50R camera review.

What is the Fujifilm GFX50R?

The Fujifilm GF50R is a pro-level medium format mirrorless camera. Here are some of the specs

icon of a camera

  • (43.8X32.9mm) sensor size
  • 51.4-megapixel sensor.
  • Native ISO of 100-12800
  • Weight is 690g
  • Weather-resistant
  • X-Processor pro chip
  • 2.36 million dot touchscreen LCD back panel
  • 3.69million dot EVF with 100% coverage.
  • G mount lens compatible

 

The Fuji GFX50R is not a “true” medium format sensor camera, it offers a larger pixel area. This greater sensor size gives higher physical dynamic range, low light tolerance, and color depth than a standard full-frame sensor.

Fujifilm GFX50R dials on top of camera
Seen here with its minimal street style dials. Shutter speed, exposure comp, and drive

Fujifilm’s famous simulations

 

For those wishing to take advantage of Fuji’s beautiful film simulations, you will not be disappointed. All classic Fuji sims are there.

classic film cartridge

 

 

 

 

 

  • Velvia
  • Provia
  • Astia
  • Classic Chrome
  • PRO Neg.Hi
  • PRO Neg.Std
  • ACROS
  • MONOCHROME
  • SEPIA

 

Are film simulations really worth it?

 

I  have a gripe about all Fuji film simulations in general. They should just give the film simulations package to anyone using the CaptureOne or Lightroom software. This would allow people to add them in post.

To me jpeg film simulations offer you a preview of what filter you are about to put on. Even though these sims are amazing, they remain a simple filter along the likes of Gingham, Juno, Moon and Lark one finds in Instagram

Profile portrait of a woman
Taken with the GFX50R and the 63mm f/2.8. Eye autofocus was set to "on"

GFX50R Shutter and focussing

 

  • The GFX50R  has a mechanical focal plane shutter max 1/4000 
  • Electronic front-curtain max 1/4000
  • Electronic shutter max 1/16000
  • 425 focus points (single, zone, and wide tracking modes)
  • Face and eye-detection modes
  • Auto exposure is relatively standard as is flash.

It has full hd video functions but if you ask me. Talking about HD video functions on this camera is like asking how well a Lamboghinni Eventador can pull a camper. We will skip this aspect of the camera altogether.

GFX50R on a table in a cafe
Its footprint is really small for a medium format camera

How the GFX feels in the hands

 

The ergonomics of the GFX50R camera is great. I do not understand why many say that it is clunky in the hand. It is a lot thinner than the Fujifilm GFX50S.

Button placement feels good. However, I wish that they would have made the analog button and dials more complete. I would have loved to have seen an ISO dial on the outside of the body on the left top. I was able to fix that by assigning an “F” button but was missing that function in general.

 

Street scene at low level

The dynamic range on this camera is striking

 

I really loved the physical user experience. Button feel and construction are second to none. This is a bit of a dumb remark but the shutter release sound and feel is beautiful. Anyone old school will love it.

The Fuji GFX50R’s onlys

 

The GFX series is, without a doubt, a niche camera. It is one of the few cameras that offer a huge medium format sensor with the practicality and relatively small size of a mirrorless camera. That being said, it suffers from having a couple of “onlys” that need to be addressed. Some of the “onlys” can be ignored because of what the format has to offer. however,  some downsides cannot and render this camera less attractive for many potential buyers.

“Only” 3 frames per second

 

This camera only shoots at a burst rate of 3 frames per second. To me, this is not a big thing because where the medium format shines i.e. landscape, studio, still life, fine art, you are not looking to pop off a whole lot of shots. 

“only” contrast-detect autofocus

 

I think that Fuji really could have tried to up the ante on autofocus and moved toward phase detect. Many workflows that use this camera focus manually, but I think good auto-focus in 2020 is not a big thing to ask for.

I found this camera lacking quite a bit in places where I would have needed good continuous autofocus like street and portrait. Portrait photography, for example, is where this camera could have really shone. But depth-of-field is even shallower on larger sensors and focus can be missed very easily manually or automatically. I could not fall back on the autofocus during the portrait shoots that I did. 

I think Fuji’s idea was to compensate for that technology lacking by putting more focus points. But this just adds more “less accurate” focus points

  

Side by side photo of flowers far away and close up
The lens resolution and 51 megapixels of this camera show when you zoom in

“Only” 1/125th shutter speed synch

 

The GFX50R also only has a flash shutter speed synch of only 1/125th of a second. This is one of the biggest disappointments on this camera and the GFX50S. To me, to sell a medium format camera with such a slow flash shutter speed synch is to actually shoot one’s self in the foot. As ingenious as it was for Fuji to put a shutter speed synch of 1/250th on the X-T2 and X-T3 models this move is, in my humble opinion, a bit nuts.

Pros

  • Grip is great, feel in the hand is great
  • Photos that come out of this camera are stunning.
  • Medium format UMPH is there.
  • Low light tolerance, dynamic range, color depth and clarity are exceptional.
  • Battery life is great
  • Getting the picture is a fun experience
  • EVF and LCD are excellent
  • Hardware construction is top-notch

Cons

  • The continuous focus is not that good. 
  • It is big (It did not bother me but it will bother others)
  • Film simulations only in jpeg on a camera so many people will in a RAW workflow (A Fuji con in general)
  • Face and eye detect were OK but not amazing
  • Clunky and slow startup, shooting, and focus

Top dials of the GFX50R
Top dials and buttons are very well placed on the GFX50R

icon of a magnifying glass

Who is the GFX50R for?

 

The GFX line of cameras, for me, is a small mystery because I wonder who they will be selling them to. Even after getting off the phone with the people at Fuji, I find it hard to see where the niche of this camera is.

Because of the medium format sensor size, it is quite clunky. Kudos must be given to Fuji for bringing this camera size down but it is a funny thing to hold in my hand. Therefore, size itself limits the camera for so many things. Some of the fuji marketing has pushed this camera toward the street photographer. Here is the product website’s direct quote:

Just like medium format film cameras in the past, the GFX 50R has been developed in pursuit of a compact and lightweight system while delivering the ultimate picture quality for everyday snapshots and street photography.

There is an artistic look only a larger format sensor can give you. So, I see where street photographers and fine art photographers might want it. However, according to my first-hand experience, a small camera with spunky autofocus speed, and quick startup time would be a better bet. The GFX50R is none of these things. 

Therefore, for two niches this camera is perfect. For fine art photography and studio photography, it aligns with the GFX100 and GFX50S as being a no brainer buying choice.

My Conclusion

 

a ball icon with 360 degrees written on it

The Fujifilm GFX50R is great at what it does do for the limited niche that it caters to.

The question still is: For the narrow fine niche that this camera caters to, will it survive in a market where full-frame alternatives offer you so many more breakneck features. The GFX50R is definitely more than a Full frame but does that “more” warrant the high price of 4000$ and limited functionality?

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