FUJIFILM GFX 50S II OVERVIEW
Not so long ago, we reflected on how Fujifilm seemed to be teasing full-frame camera manufacturers with their still-valid motto "more than Full-frame". And despite not targeting directly to fancy names like Hasselblad or Phase One, they are mining their grounds. Today we want to talk about the latest member of the Fujifilm Medium Format pack, the GFX 50S II.
Fujifilm promises that this camera will get us closer to the balance between quality and total control for the perfect images to happen. In a nutshell, it is the fifth medium format camera presented by Fujifilm, and could be easily overseen as a 2021 upgrade from the 2017 GFX 50S model. Something that is of course very much true, but which also deserves a deeper look. Photography is a practice of pursuing perfection, and at $3,999.00 the GFX 50S II is the most affordable medium format camera yet.
Closely related with other GFX series cameras, including the previous GFX 50S, this camera also comes with a 51.4 megapixels medium-format sensor (43.8mm x 32.9mm), but with improved technology. This sensor comes with larger pixels, enabling it to collect more visual data when compared to same resolution full-frame sensors built into other cameras. Hence stronger signal-to-noise ratio, which helps keep noise to barely noticeable levels, and increased dynamic range. It is almost 40% cheaper than the previous GFX 50S, but a bit heavier by 75 grams (former 825 grams vs current 900 grams). But without further ado, let's see what the GFX 50S II is all about!
FUJIFILM GFX 50S II General Overview
It is obvious to say it, but we still shall do it. Long gone are the days in which medium format photography was unreachably expensive, and we owe it all to Fujifilm. the GFX 50S II combines all the medium format visual strengths with a compact and portable size. It is simply nonsense to keep enclosing medium format photography to professionally commercial situations. This camera is so convenient that will help change the street, documentary and photojournalism landscape forever. And by that we pretty much include several other genres along the way.
A massive 51.4 megapixels CMOS sensor with an improved X-Processor 4 image processor can only mean incredible high quality photographs. Visual images produced with extremely wide dynamic range and high resolution. Not to mention the extended sensitivity range of ISO 50-102,400 for any difficult lighting situations. And if that doesn't impress you, then this will do it. The sensor's large form factor achieves a still-unique three-dimensional feel with some special color transitions and smooth tonalities.
But one of the most interesting features, and perhaps the reason why this camera is a bit heavier than the GFX 50S Mark I, is the updated five-axis in-body image stabilization system. This marvel of technology cancels up to 6.5 stops of camera shake, translating into a precise handheld experience. But why is this so relevant? You might be asking ourselves right now. Well, thanks to such reduction now medium format photography can be used for a broader creative visual possibilities. Can you imagine working with slow shutter speeds while taking advantage of that ISO 50 extended sensitivity? Or even better, by keeping your GF lens within its optimal sweet-spot?
Built with a magnesium alloy, the GFX 50S II is both lightweight and resistant, but also dust and weather-sealed. And for the most adventurous of our readers who love and need to work in harsh environmental conditions, the camera is freeze proof down to 14°F. And for a much comfortable compositional experience (and by that we mean a high resolution eye-level viewing), a 3.69 million dot electronic viewfinder coped with a 2.36 million dot tilting LCD touchscreen. This last part might be vital for video-content generators, but let us remind street photographers about the joys of shooting with a TLR camera, medium-format, with the "tilting view" benefits. You can get very similar results with this kind of set-up.
Deeper into the Specs
Even though the "larger pixels" might seem like just a marketing move it isn't. The large sensor inside the GFX 50S II is capable of delivering particularly high resolution images due to the individual larger size of each of the pixels scattered around it. Another interesting thing, especially for those legacy shooters from the film era, is the wide variety of traditional aspect ratios popular in medium format. Beyond the standard (and quite traditional) 4:3, you can shoot at 1:1, 65:24, 5:4, 7:6, 3:2, and 16:9 without compromising image quality.
And such a mighty combo of sensor and processor wouldn't be complete without the 117-point auto focus system. Razor-sharp imaging results whether tracking moving subjects or picking a single face in a crowd. The improved auto focusing algorithm boosts focusing performance in all modes, including face and eye detection. Also, the huge sensor can shoot continuously up to 3 fps, which might not feel as much but it is medium format, so don't be that picky about it. And last but not least, full HD 1080p video recording at 29.97, 25, 24, and 23.98 fps frame rates.
For the Techies
The internal mechanical focal plane allows working with very slow shutter speeds from 60 minutes up to a fast speed of 1/4000 seconds. But if you want to shoot even faster, then the electronic shutter will do the trick. It will allow us to shoot at 1/16000 sec, perfect for very bright light situations like the beach of the snow.
One of the most interesting aspects in the design of this camera is how close the optical back element of the lens gets to the sensor. Briefly for you to know, the shorter the distance between the sensor and the lens, the higher the quality of the resulting images are. And that's why Mirrorless cameras became the new-standard after overthrowing DSLR designs. In the GFX 50S II, we still are getting a short focal flange distance of just 26.7mm while still retaining some room for lenses to properly operate while focusing.
And for the Creatives
Tethered shooting is possible when using X Acquire software to transfer photos from the camera to your computer for further processing. Alternatively, the Tether Shooting Plug-in PRO for Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and HS-V5 for Windows operating systems are also available, nice! Also important, the GFX 50S comes with 19 film simulation modes including Provia, Velvia, Astia, Eterna, Classic Chrome, Classic Negative, Pro Negative Hi, Pro Negative Standard, Acros, Monochrome, and Sepia. Additionally, Grain Effect can be adjusted as well as Classic Chrome effect to fine-tune the resulting images.
How Does the GFX 50S II Feel?
For us, the GFX 50S II is perhaps the camera that meets all the requirements for Photography in a general and broad sense. Some limitations revolve around technicalities, like the low frame per second rate; something any skilled photographer wouldn't consider to be a major downside. "The feeling, the atmosphere, the vibrancy". Taken from Fujifilm's promotional video on the GFX 50S II, the camera personifies an eager high quality collector compelled for preserving memories and moments in the best possible way. Poetic indeed, and we want to know more about how this camera feels on the field.
Fresh photography newcomers might not get this comparison after mirrorless camera systems started reigning us for a considerable amount of time. But some other photographers would understand this right away. If you've ever handled a Nikon 810 or 850, or even a chunky Canon 1D (any mark), you won't believe that the GFX 50S II you'll be holding is a medium format camera. Not to mention film photographers who were used to working with heavy Mamiyas like the RB67 PRO SD or the huge Pentax 645. And of course, digital photographers used to work with recent Hasselblads and Phase Ones too.
The body alone, with battery and both SD cards inserted into it, weighs 900g (or 0.9kg if you prefer it that way). Way lighter than any of the aforementioned cameras. Therefore, we confidently say that the GFX 50S II won't tire you, and even if you are a large-handed person, the ergonomics are great. Every button is in the right place; although some folks have encountered that the exposure compensation button is a bit oddly-placed. But for us, everything is where it belongs.
And speaking of which, the button layout follows an intuitive logic while giving us the capability of personalizing the actions in them. On top of the camera, we find the Exposure Mode dial with the classic lock and the button to choose between stills or video. On the right-top side, a useful 1.8" LCD screen with all kinds of information like exposure and film simulation. Our favorite one, the crisp histogram, perfect for shooting landscapes or any other stuff when the camera is mounted on a tripod. And beyond the top-screen, the power and shutter release buttons, the previously mentioned exposure compensation button and the backlight for the 1.8" screen. Also, two configurable buttons and the two wheels for the index and thumb with button action when pressed.
Now, at the back of its nice body, a generous 3.2" screen surrounded by seven buttons on its sides. Also a lever to choose the focus mode, a sturdy grip and a highly precise joystick filled with several functions. On the right side, slots for two SD cards; and on the left one, all the inputs and outputs like the USB-C for charging the camera and the connection for synchronizing with an external flash.
Last but not least, the electronic viewfinder. We've said this before several times, long-gone are the days in which EVFs rendered reality in a sloppy and highly laggy way. Nowadays, the visual experience is just like watching through a regular optical viewfinder, with the benefits of getting an instant view of how the images would look like. Oh, and focus peaking is also a nice thing EVFs have given us since quite a while now.
On the Fujifilm GF 35-70mm f/4.5-5.6 WR Lens
And if this is your first GFX camera, then we highly suggest you consider the bundled set-up with the kit 35-70mm lens. Alone, this optic is $999.00, but if you go for the bundle, the whole package will be $4,499.00. So, that's like having an instant $500.00 saving don't you think? Just remember, this is a medium format camera so it would be like having a 28-55mm f/3.5-4.5 full-frame equivalent lens with you. Now the "kit lens" sounds more like it!
Specifically designed for the Fujifilm G-mount GFX camera system, this lens covers from wide-angle to normal-length perspectives, a zoom-range that in our opinion is well-suited for everyday shooting purposes. Weighing just 440g and lengthening a bit under 3" when closed, this is a compact and portable lens made to produce images and videos with impeccable detail and minimal focus breathing, resulting in a fantastic tool for the large format GFX System. Breathtaking landscapes, delicate portraits, and objective documentaries are all within the optical scope of this lens. In addition, it also features a dust, freeze, and weather-resistant design for using it under harsh environmental conditions.
Who Should Buy the GFX 50S II?
Both newcomers and seasoned photographers can benefit from the optical capabilities of medium format photography. But even with a friendly price of $3,999.00, it might still be a high sum for certain photographers. Especially for those shooting for the joy of it and not for sustaining their lives. To be honest and despite all the generosity this camera has, we do think that it's still aimed for professional uses. And by that we mean every genre but in a professional way, which in other words translate into consistent and substantial income.
If you are interested in Fujifilm cameras, there are several great options beyond the GFX 50S II or any of the medium format offers from these folks. Yes, the camera is great, but we recommend you to rent it instead and evaluate how much your photography would need such a particular tool.