The GFX 50S was Fujifilm’s first foray into medium-format photography, and it was a bold move for the company at the time. In order to provide studio, landscape, and artistic work with better quality than is possible with full-frame, this technology was developed.
The GFX 100, which was unveiled in 2018, produced stunning images with unprecedented detail, but it was large, cumbersome to use, and cost an eye-watering $10,000. The GFX 100S, on the other hand, is a mirrorless camera that looks and feels like a “normal” mirrorless camera, but costs a lot less at $6,000 from Fujifilm.
Even though the GFX 100S is smaller than Panasonic’s full-frame, 45-megapixel S1R, its sensor is 70% larger and more than twice as large, allowing it to capture images with more detail. Fujifilm claims that its new mirrorless camera is faster than ever, with features such as eye-detect autofocus and in-body stabilization that you’d expect from a modern mirrorless camera. When compared to recent models like the Sony A1 and Canon R5, how does it fare? In addition, I loaned it to a pair of professional photographers who were considering purchasing this particular model. Here’s what we uncovered.
Body and Handling
In comparison to the GFX 100, the GFX 200 is a smaller, lighter camera that weighs 1,400 grams or just over 3 pounds. Fujifilm reduced the weight by a third to 900 grams with the GFX 100S. (just south of 2 pounds). It’s less than half the height and has a more slender profile. The vertical grip and its controls were removed, which resulted in the device being smaller and lighter.
Because it’s shaped more like a traditional mirrorless camera, it’s more comfortable to hold than any previous GFX mode. On top of all that, it provides a more comfortable grip and an additional physical mode dial.
Operation is still very tactile despite the lack of physical controls on the X-T4 or other Fuji X-series cameras. In addition to the mode dial and two command dials, you’ll also get a joystick that allows you to move the AF tracking point diagonally rather than just up and down. The drive selection, quick menu, and more are all accessible via a focus select switch on the other controls panel. The lens ring controls the aperture, just like on other Fuji cameras.
Even though the X-shutter T4’s and ISO dials were absent from this model, I didn’t miss them. Using the exposure compensation button on the rear dial or “clicking” the front dial to change what it controls is just as simple (maybe even easier) (shutter speed or ISO, for instance). It’s possible to get a sense of the dials by looking at the top display, which can show settings or a histogram. The latter proved to be a convenient way to check exposure without clogging up the back display for my purposes.
With a quick menu or manual controls, you can control most aspects of the camera, but the menu system isn’t as intuitive as Sony or Panasonic’s. My overall impression is that the GFX 100S is the best-handling medium-format camera to date. If you’ve used Fujifilm cameras in the past, you’ll have no trouble finding anything.
For the GFX 100S, Fujifilm created a new IBIS that is significantly smaller than the one found on the previous model. Six stops of shake reduction, rather than five stops, was enough to improve performance. Because of the sensitive nature of a medium-format camera’s sensor, every little bit helps. Even at low shutter speeds of 1/1000th of a second or so, I was able to get sharp images with the IBIS on.
Considering that the most recent model (as well as the $2,500 Panasonic S1) has a 5.76-million dot OLED electronic viewfinder (EVF), the 3.69-million dot OLED EVF wasn’t up to the standards I’d expect on a $6,000 camera. Additionally, if you want to use the maximum resolution (adjustable in the menus) available, the refresh rate drops to 50Hz. It’s possible to get a higher refresh rate (85 Hz), but the resolution will suffer as a result.
In addition to tilting up, down and to the side to provide a nice high-resolution view, the 3.2-inch 2.36-million dot rear touch display also features several adjustment options. There is no flip-out display on this camera, but I don’t think many people will buy it for vlogging or taking selfies because of this.
It has two high-speed SD card slots for backup or additional storage, a USB port for charging and data transfers, mic and headphone ports, and a micro HDMI port. In comparison to the larger batteries found on other GFX bodies, this one is smaller but still provides enough power for 460 shots. The GFX 50S lacks a vertical battery grip, but that’s a fair trade-off for the significant weight savings.
The GFX 100S delivers a mixed bag of performance results. At 5 frames per second, it is more responsive than any other medium-format camera, with a buffer of 14 RAW images (about 1.4GB of data). On the other hand, this is a far cry from the high-resolution models from Sony, Canon, and Fujifilm.
There are 3.76 million phase-detect pixel sensors and up to 425 selectable AF points in the camera’s autofocus system. Continuous AF tracking and eye and face-detection AF are also included.
In contrast to our experience with the Sony A1, we found this camera to be sluggish and unresponsive. While eye-detect and tracking perform admirably for stationary subjects in a studio, they fall short in more dynamic settings. With the GFX lens you’re using, the AF speed can vary greatly.
The GFX 100S, on the other hand, is made for studio work, not competitive sports. With full-frame cameras, high-resolution image quality can be combined with excellent performance, such as the Sony A1. However, the best quality (which the GFX 100S does deliver, as we’ll see soon) may not be acceptable to all photographers.
The GFX 100S has a surprising amount of low-light capability, and it’s a joy to use. Having a 102-megapixel sensor doesn’t mean you’d expect that from a camera. There are 43.9×32.9mm of pixels on the sensor, but they’re spread across a massive 43.9×32.9mm area; thus, they have a 3.76-micron pixel pitch like the 61-megapixel sensor on Sony’s A7R IV.
It performed better in low light than I expected, thanks to the sensor’s dual gain and backside illumination. At ISO 6,400, I saw very little noise, and at ISO 12,800, with a little noise reduction, I got clean images.
The GFX 100S is ideal for archival preservation, as well as portrait and landscape photography, when used at lower ISOs. To get four times the resolution, you can use the pixel shift option, but it requires a tripod and a still image.
If you want a shallow depth of field for portrait photography, you can use a sensor this large. With a fast lens like the 80mm F/1.7, it provides stunning bokeh and separation of the subject from the background. Focusing becomes even more critical as a result. That could be a problem because of the erratic AF performance.
Color depth in RAW files can be up to 16 bits, compared to most cameras’ 14 bits. If you compare it to the Sony A1 and A7R IV, the Nikon Z6 II, and the Nikon Z7 II, it has more dynamic range than any other camera (aside from the GFX 100).
Although the GFX 100S is optimized for RAW photography, it also produces crisp, accurate-color JPEGs. Those who want to experiment with Fujifilm’s popular film simulation modes will find this ideal. Nostalgic Negative, Fuji’s new GFX 100S, is based on the style of American photographer Stephen Shore.
Beware of using the electronic shutter on the GFX 100S as a street photography camera if you want to keep it quiet. That mode has a terrible rolling shutter unless you hold the camera very still. In the absence of a tripod, stick to the mechanical or front curtain shutter settings.
The GFX 100S is no exception to Fujifilm’s recent trend of improving the video capabilities of its cameras. Because of its clever line-skipping implementation, it’s arguably the best medium-format camera for filming.
Allows for a razor-fine depth of field and soft bokeh thanks to the sensor’s full width. Because it’s not as sharp as a fully downsampled video, moire (rainbow patterns) and aliasing will be visible (jagged diagonal lines).
Fujifilm was also able to read the sensor at a relatively fast rate for its size thanks to line-skipping. Although it has terrible rolling shutter in still mode, it’s much better in video mode, looking similar to Sony’s aging A7 III.
It’s possible to enhance video stabilization by using the digital IS mode. However, rolling shutter can still occur if you move the camera in a jerky manner, so I would only use it for static shots and not for tracking, panning, or tilting.
Like the GFX 100, the GFX 100S has Fujifilm’s F-Log option for 4K 10-bit video. In addition, it can record 12-bit ProRes RAW to an Atomos Ninja V recorder for additional post-production flexibility, albeit with restricted ISO settings and no white balance control. You won’t be able to find that on any other mirrorless camera out there (except, again, the GFX 100 thanks to a firmware update).
The video is a little grainy, but the 10-bit and RAW capabilities make it easy to fix in post. In addition to the IMAX-like quality provided by the large sensor, no other camera can match it. Fujifilm’s latest color science ensures accurate colors and natural-looking skin tones in the photos. Of course, it’s not designed to be used as a video camera, but you can use it to record short videos in addition to still images.
A camera like the GFX 100S, which is designed for high-resolution studio, artistic, and landscape photography, is difficult to evaluate in its entirety. A camera review or purchase isn’t something that happens in a vacuum, however. It’s possible that buyers will compare this model to other medium format cameras, as well as high-resolution full-frame cameras.
There are a few exceptions: the $3,900 Canon EOS R5, the $3,100 Nikon Z7 II and the $4,500 Panasonic S1R are all significantly less expensive. The Sony A1’s price tag is actually $6,500. Customers may also consider the Hasselblad 970X 50C, the Hasselblad X1D II 50C, or Fujifilm’s $4,499 GFX 50R in the medium-format category.
After putting the camera through its paces, my fellow photographers and I were blown away by the quality of the images it produced for both studio and archival purposes. However, compared to their Sony A7R III, A9, and other models, they found that the speed and focus hit rate did not meet their needs for covering births or weddings. At the same time, they discovered the quality disparity was not as glaring as expected. After using the GFX 100S for a while, their enthusiasm for the graphics card has waned somewhat.
Sony and Canon have, I believe, raised the bar for autofocus with cameras that have high megapixel counts. The GFX 100S did not even come close to keeping up, which I expected from a camera with such a large sensor. This means that switching from full-frame to medium format may not be a good idea if your working style requires faster performance.
Despite this, the GFX 100S continues to outperform all of its medium-format competition. Most importantly, it provides the highest possible image quality for photographers who are willing to put up with slower performance in exchange for the quality they want. For a buyer of that caliber, it’s a real bargain at $6,000.