Fstoppers Reviews the Fujifilm GFX 50R: Medium Format for the Masses

Fstoppers Reviews the Fujifilm GFX 50R: Medium Format for the Masses

Fujifilm have placed themselves squarely at both ends of the sensor-size war, skipping 35mm full frame altogether and instead concentrating on APS-C and medium format. In this review we'll be taking a look at the second addition to their GFX series of cameras, the rangefinder-styled GFX 50R

With this price point and body design, Fujifilm are clearly aiming for the consumer market with this new body. It is smaller, lighter, and simpler than it's older brother, but still packs the same exceptional image quality that drew many to invest in the GFX 50S. Today we'll take a look at what you lose or gain by opting for the “little brother” rather than Fujifilm's first release.

Build

The first thing you'll probably notice about the body when you hold it is the strain it puts on your right hand if you support the camera with that hand. It feels rather like a bloated Fujifilm X-E3. But, with the additional weight in both the body and lenses, it can be difficult to hold. It's much easier to support the camera with your left hand under the lens and simply use your right hand for controlling the camera.

As you might expect, the GFX 50R does not feel quite as well built as the 50S. Although it is robust and feels good in the hand, all the materials feel slightly cheaper than the SLR-styled body. Much like my feelings about the Fujifilm X-H1, I find the GFX 50R to feel somewhat hollow when holding it. To be sure, it is packed with exceptionally high-end tech and a giant sensor, but it feels as though it's an empty shell from time to time. With a larger lens attached, this feeling goes away.

While not a huge difference, especially when you pair it with a lens, the GFX 50R is around 150g lighter than the 50S. What I found, however, is that because of the larger grip on the 50S, it actually feels lighter in the hand than the 50R. We'll talk a little more about holding the GFX 50R later.

GFX 50R with 110mm f/2 @ f/4

Buttons and Ports

The button layout, overall, is well thought out. As with Fujifilm's other rangefinder-styled bodies, most buttons are placed to be within reach of your right thumb for easy operation. Even with the larger body size, they're placed close enough to your thumb that it shouldn't be too difficult to reach them. Personally, I do have a couple of gripes with the overall layout, but your mileage may vary.

The first issue I have is with the front dial. It is not embedded in the front of the body as it is with most Fujifilm cameras. Rather, it is wrapped around the shutter button where you would find the power switch on their other bodies. This takes a little getting used to, but that isn't the main issue I have with it. It's simply too easy to knock. I found myself constantly changing whatever setting it was assigned to by accident and ended up switching the dial off altogether.

As I mentioned, the power button is no longer a collar switch around the shutter button. It has been placed next to the shutter button as a small switch. This takes a little getting used to but it shouldn't be a huge problem once you train your muscle memory. Even after a month of using the camera, though, I still forget to turn it off quite frequently.

One departure from many of the Fujifilm bodies that might frustrate some is the lack of a dedicated ISO dial. Personally, although I appreciate having it, I don't change ISO often enough for this to really be a hindrance to my work. If you're constantly changing ISO values, it could make the 50S a more attractive option for you.

Another thing that might bother some is the placement of the ports. If you're planning to use this camera tethered or run it using the A/C power adaptor, the layout could be quite cumbersome. These ports are on the bottom of the camera rather than the side as with most bodies. Even though Fujifilm provides a jerk stopper for cables plugged into these ports, the placement of the ports will make it difficult to work on a tripod or hold the camera while changing lenses.

While we're on the subject of ports, the data connection is a USB Type-C port. However, Fujifilm still hasn't included USB charging capabilities. For a traveling photographer like myself, being able to connect the camera to a powerbank in the field and have it charge the battery would make things so much easier at times. As it stands, I've invested in the great Nightcore FX2 Pro USB charger for GFX batteries as a solution.

A final thing that plagued my use of the camera for the first couple of weeks was the lack of a four-way selector. So far, every one of my Fujifilm bodies from the X-T1 to the GFX 50S has been set up with my function keys doing exactly the same thing on every Fujifilm body so no matter which camera I use, I can operate it in the same way. The 50R has taken some getting used to as I have had to retrain myself for the new button layout. There are plenty of function buttons to go around, so functionality isn't an issue, but it does mean that I have to consider which camera I'm using and where the functions have been assigned. In this respect, I much prefer working with the GFX 50S.

Note the absence of the four way selector.

In a move that clearly suggests Fujifilm wants medium format to become a more casual form of photography, the exposure compensation dial is back (right where the second screen was on the 50S). This is honestly one of my favorite features of the Fujifilm body design. Being a mirrorless camera, the combination of real-time exposure preview and a compensation dial on your thumb makes for a simpler experience when working in shutter or aperture priority modes.

Fujifilm has also included a touch screen interface with the GFX 50R, but it still hasn't been implemented to its full potential and is plagued with the issues we see on many other cameras. Touch functionality can be used to move the focus point (although it is quite laggy), focus, shoot, or activate assigned functions by swiping across the screen. With this limited functionality and laggy performance, it feels more like an afterthought than a fleshed-out implementation. Personally, as with all my Fujifilm cameras that have touch-screens, I turned it off and never thought about it again.

Appearance

The GFX 50R has been styled to look like the medium-format rangefinders of the film days and Fujifilm has done a great job of building a sleek camera. The boxy look of the GFX 50S that many disliked is gone and has been replaced with curves that may be more pleasing. If aesthetics are important to you in a camera, you might consider the 50R over the 50S for its styling alone.

From a more practical standpoint, the shape of the body also makes it much easier to slide into an existing bag configuration. With the protruding viewfinder and sensor box on the back of the 50S, this was always an issue for me, but the 50R simply slips into the same bags I use for my X-series cameras.

GFX 50R with 110mm f/2 @ f/5.6. 65:24 crop mode.

In Use

Whereas the Fujifilm GFX 50S was designed to by a workhorse, the GFX 50R is designed for a more casual photographer. As I have mentioned, the button layout is not quite as ergonomic as the 50S. A little more effort is required to change any settings you might want to change on the fly, but that is easy enough to get used to.

The difference in the grip also makes this a very different camera to use. With the 50S, I felt comfortable carrying it around in my right hand as I always had a solid grip on the camera. However, with the rangefinder styling of the 50R, you lose that grip. When working hand-held with this camera, I always add a wrist strap to make sure I don't lose my grip while walking around. Depending on how you like to work with the camera, this could be a factor in your decision of which camera to purchase.

Autofocus also feels slightly faster and hunts less than the GFX 50S, but we can assume that any firmware changes made to incorporate this will also come to the 50S soon. The autofocus system overall does have the same issues that faced the older camera. Although you have continuous autofocus modes and face detection, they are both still in need of some serious work. The continuous autofocus is not a huge issue as medium format is not commonly used for fast moving subjects, but would be great to see the face detection improved. I have found that the system has difficulty finding faces if they are slightly obscured (such as with a hat) and it will detect clothing or other objects in the scene as faces quite frequently. This should all be able to be done in firmware, so I look forward to the next updates from Fujifilm.

GFX 50R with 110mm f/2 @ f/4.

Pricing

The Fujifilm GFX 50R is priced extremely competitively and Fujifilm offers discounts several times a year if you purchase the body with a lens. Other options for medium format in this price range are the Pentax 645Z if a traditional SLR camera suits your style of photography more and also the GFX 50S. If your budget stretches a little further, the Hasselblad X1D (discontinued and rumored to be replaced soon) could also be a camera worth looking at. All three of these companies offer different color science and a different set of lenses, despite using the same underlying sensor. 

What I Liked

  • More convenient body shape

  • Well laid out controls that make the camera easy to use, although slightly different from other Fujifilm cameras

  • Same great image quality from GFX 50S

  • Excellent price for Medium-format

  • Exposure Compensation Dial

  • Mostly familiar controls

What Could be Improved

  • Unbalanced with larger lenses

  • Missing four-way selector

  • Front dial resistance and functionality

  • Port placement

  • USB Charging Capability

  • Continuous Autofocus

  • Face detection

  • Touch-screen implementation

Final Thoughts

If you're thinking about getting into the medium-format world and want a lightweight, relatively cheap option, the GFX 50R is a great camera that should be on your short list. It carries over all the great things about the GFX 50S and places them in a simpler rangefinder-styled body. If you're comfortable giving up some of the physical controls, interchangeable viewfinders, and larger grip of the GFX 50S, this is an excellent option. I would recommend heading into your local Fujifilm dealer to hold both cameras with your intended lenses attached as the feel of the cameras is one of the biggest differences between them. If I've convinced you here that this is a great option, you can pick yours up right here.

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18 Comments

charlie sanders's picture

14 bit color and 1/125 flash sync ? I’m still waiting for a real MF at a Canikon price (looks like I’ll be waiting for quite some time)

The EOS 5Dsr is a great 50MP alternative to MF. Have used it a lot in the studio and on location with excellent results.

Clay Wegrzynowicz's picture

Loved that camera. Only sold it to trade up to an EOS R because when my focus was even just a little off, it was unforgiving.

The GFX is just as unforgiving. Miss by 1mm and you may as well have missed by a mile.

Actually it's pretty okay. I used the camera handheld for an event and output was good. Focus was as expected and colors were amazing.

Is there any specific situation where you found in unforgiving? Just asking for my knowledge.

By unforgiving, I'm referring to the fact that the high resolution shows up any errors in technique. Slight movements cause blur that clearly shows up, missing focus by millimetres is extremely noticeable.

When you nail it, the images are beautiful to be sure. But when you don't, it shows very clearly.

Yeah. That's true. You have to be a bit more patient with the camera

It is, indeed! If resolution is your primary concern, the 5D is a great option, as is the D850. Both fantastic cameras.

You will indeed be waiting a while. Flash sync is not an issue as you have HSS with this camera. All the major players support it now.

Flash sync speed is not an issue. With HSS, this is not a problem

William Faucher's picture

Right when I started being happy with my trusty old D800, this comes out and renews my GAS.
Honestly though, this price range makes Medium Format realllllly appealing.

However, isn't this a crop-medium format? I seem to recall it is a bit smaller than a full MF.

William,

Yes, this is what people are referring to as "crop medium format". It's the same sensor found in the Hasselblad and Pentax offerings. The larger sensors found in some of the Hasselblad and Phase backs are still nowhere near this price range.

It's a very different beast from your D800, but depending on your shooting style, it could be a great way to enter the MF world. I recommend heading in to check one out!

Cheers for stopping by.

William Faucher's picture

Yeah, I am loving its small form factor, it doesnt seem to be bigger than a D800 at all, despite the much larger sensor. Having seen the GFX50s ability to recover highlights and shadows blows me away. Its not Phase One or Hasselblad territory, but it is affordable.

Thanks for the article!

Joe Navas's picture

I had the GFX 50S for a few weeks and can't say I didn't enjoy it.
I'd used Fuji X cameras for a year in 2014 before missing full frame enough to let them go, despite their still being the most enjoyable user experience I've yet to have with any system.
I've been shooting the Sony A7r III (and the A9 and A7 III, but for the purposes of this explanation/comparison, I'm just talking about the A7r III) for over a year and a half, with Sigma primes such as the venerable 105mm f/1.4 and though I'm quite perfectly happy with them, they still aren't as much fun to use as the Fuji X cameras were. So, with that in mind, I picked up a 50S and the 45mm f/2.8 and the 110mm f/2.
From a resolution standpoint, there is very little difference. The Fuji may offer a small upgrade in dynamic range, but there's already so much with the Sony sensor that it's negligible. One thing I must say is that there is a certain tonal and color quality to the Fuji that is more true, gradual and natural, not by a heaping amount, but it's there.
So, why did I sell it? It just doesn't offer that much of an improvement in image quality when all is said and done. I look for my gear to be as versatile as possible and give me the most options for getting what I want in any give scenario and between the AF that is simply not useable for anything moving quickly or happening spontaneously and the lack of faster lenses, as well as sync speed, it simply doesn't offer enough or large enough advantages over my current gear, as I would imagine the same goes for anyone shooting the D850 with a host of Nikon or Sigma's best glass. As MF from Fuji or anyone else (though I don't see anyone jumping in anytime soon) becomes more versatile, this certainly can all change, but for now, what I have does everything I need it do in a way that is so close to the ability of the Fuji in its key areas that I'm going to stand pat, however somewhat longlingly.

I think this is a good point from a working professional's standpoint. I, too, do not use the GFX for everthing. It has its place in my workflow, as do the X series cameras. As you mentioned above, the Sony cameras do everything you need them to. To be honest, for my own purposes, just about any modern camera body does the trick. But again as you mentioned, I really enjoy using the Fujifilm system. This for me is the most important thing. If I don't enjoy using my tools, I can't get myself to enjoy my job. All of the technical aspects aside, if we don't want to pick up our cameras and make images, there are very few reasons to own them. It's a complicated issue and beyond the scope of a camera review, but possibly something I'll discuss in an upcoming article. Thanks for chiming in. :)

EL PIC's picture

Note to author ..
High Resolution in MP and or MF is not for the masses !!
Read the comments on the unforgiving of it in either DSLR or MF.
For What It’s Worth ... 15 years ago ... Canon said 25 MP should be max for DSLR due to Optics Limitations. Improve the Lens First !!! Then you can entertain High Resolution.
What we have seen since from all camera manufacturers is excessive feeding and marketing to a Gear Head nation.

To the author:
The spinner ring around the shutter release controls ISO.
The little nub over the MENU button is actually a 4-way joystick.

The spinner ring is able to be assigned to several functions and is not limited to ISO at all. The menu button is separate to the 4-way joystick. The joystick and be used to select items or as an "OK" button, but not as the menu button.