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Chillout TGIF: Fujifilm GFX 50S

by Peter Chong on January 10, 2020
Overview
Brand

Fujifilm GFX 50S

Complication / Type of Watch

Medium Format Digital Mirrorless Camera with 50 Mp.

Recommended Retail Price

S$8,099 inclusive of GST

We covered the Fujifilm GFX 50R in considerable detail in two earlier articles – the camera body and lens review, and a photo essay style to show the photographs. We continue here with the GFX 50S. How does it differ from the 50R?

The Fujifilm GFX 50S is Fuji’s first foray into the world of medium format digital. The company has had a long history in making cameras, particularly film medium format cameras. And an distinguished line of lenses. The Fujinon EBC lenses were revered and lusted in the days of yore. As were professional bodies like theGA645, GW670, GW690, GF670, GF670W and Fuji GX680, GX690.

The GFX 50S was revealed just months after the world’s first medium format mirrorless digital camera – the Hasselblad X1D was announced in 2016. Fujifilm followed up in 2018 with the 50R which we reviewed earlier, and the GFX 100.

Fujifilm GFX 50S vs 50R

With three horses in the medium format race, what are the differences in the Fujifilm offerings, and how does one go about to choose one?

First, the similarities. All three system use a cropped medium format sensor measuring 44mm x 33mm. Both the 50S and 50R use the same sensor with 50 Mpx, and the 100 uses a denser 100 Mp Backside Illuminated Sensor. All three share the same lens ecosystem, and all lenses are freely interchangeable between them, including all third party lenses via adapters and accessories.

The Fujinon GF 120mm f/4 R LM OIS WR and the 32-64 f/4 R LM WR lenses are usable in all 3 GFX bodies.

Fujifilm GFX 100

The 100 is a different beast, and we are currently waiting for Fujifilm Singapore for a loaner to take it through its paces. It is a much more advanced camera than either 50. The sensor is BSI, features 100 Mpx, and for the first time in a medium format camera, features In Body Image Stabilisation (IBIS). Fuji claims this provides up to 5 stops of stabilisation, which is very impressive. The GFX100 also uses a hybrid phase detect and contrast detect autofocus system, and a very advanced AI based face, eye detection autofocus for humans and animals.

The GFX 50S. Sensor size on the 50R and the 100 are exactly the same – 44mm x 33mm. All the sensors are made by Sony. The 50 sensors are made to Fujifilm specifications.

Ergonomics

But we had the 50S for the week we were in Dubai Watch Week, and had the pleasure of using it then. The 50S and 50R share the exact same internals. The sensor and electronics are the same. And thus, image quality is exactly the same. The only difference between the 50S and the 50R is the shape and layout of the bodies, resulting in very different ergonomics.

The 50S (147.5mm x 94.2mm x 91.4mm, 920g) body is a narrower, but slightly taller with a much deeper dimension than the 50R (160.7mm x 96.5mm x 66.4mm, 775g). It also weighs a bit more, but in the hand, the additional 100g or so is not noticeable.

The GFX 50R vs 50S side by side. Photo from Mirrorless Comparison.

The 50S is also capable of using an external, detachable electronic viewfinder, while the 50R’s EVF is fixed. An optional tiltable EVF is available for the 50S. The 50S’s EVF is placed in the center of the body, while it is to the left on the 50R. The 50S arrangement is more DSLR like, and the 50R’s rangefinder like. Some may prefer the 50R arrangement, as if one uses the right eye to focus and compose, one’s nose does not get in the way and touch the rear LCD in the process.

Fujifilm GFX 50S with Fujinon GF 32-64mm zoom lens attached. Note the depth of the grip, which gives good carrying ergonomics. And the LCD panel on top which is lacking on the 50R.

The back of the 50S extends, making it thicker than the slim 50R. The back LCD on the 50S is tiltable three ways, while the one on the 50R only tilts 2 ways. I never use the rear LCD tilts, so the difference is not significant to me.

The EFV on the 50S detached. The GFX 50S extends out from the back, and is equipped with a three way tilt LCD. The dial layout on the 50S has the lockable ISO dial on the left of the EVF, and the lockable shutter speed dial on the right.

The 50S body features the more traditional dial style layout, with the top dials providing all controls at a touch. The 50R lacks an ISO dial. The ISO adjustment is programmable to one of the buttons, which is workable for me. As mentioned in the 50R review, the Exposure Compensation dial is easy to accidentally move, and I disabled it. On the 50S, it is lockable, and becomes useful. The 50S also features a D-pad on the back to navigate the menu, which the 50R lacks, but I did not find one to be preferred to the other.

Some love the D-pad on the 50S, but I get along well without it. The joystick on both the 50S and 50R is sufficient for me to navigate the menu system.

The 50S is also able to take a vertical battery grip which is able to provide an additional battery, extending shooting life. I did not have one on loan, so did not test this battery grip. But my shooting style is that I seldom use the vertical grip, preferring to rotate my hand in portrait mode. I do this, even with the integrated vertical grip I had on my Canon 1D system ages ago.

What is significant and noticeable is the larger grip on the right of the body of the 50S. The 50R, being designed as a rangefinder style body, is more brick like, lacking any substantial grip. This sometimes makes it tiresome to carry, especially with a longer, heavier lens attached. The remedy is to use an aftermarket L-grip, such as the one made by Small Rig, which doubles up as a tripod mounting plate. This plate is Arca Swiss compatible, and being L shaped, allows for landscape as well as portrait orientation.

The grip on the 50S provides a nice grip on the camera.

The 50R being newer, supports better interconnectivity. Bluetooth is available as is USB – C which allows power and charging via the port, which means that a USB Battery brick can be used as an emergency power source.

Image quality

As discussed, the image quality of the 50S is exactly the same as the 50R, which means that it is EXCELLENT. All the photographs taken during Dubai Watch Week were made with the GFX 50S and either the 32-65 zoom lens or the 120Macro. The 32-64 is a very versatile zoom lens covering a nice wide to normal focal length.

Concluding Thoughts

Summing up, the internals of both the GFX 50S and the 50R are the same. Both use the GF mount lenses, and the same glass. This means the image quality is exactly the same. Shooting speed, autofocus are also exactly the same. Nothing to choose between them.

And though the sensor is basically the same as the one used in the Hasselblad X1D, Fujifilm contributes to Sony to the development, and the specification for the micro lenses used on the Fujifilm 50Mp sensors are different from those in the Hasselblad. The Fujifilm sensors use smaller micro-lenses, resulting in sharper images off the camera, though some feel the image becomes too sharp…crunchy is the word that comes to mind. And there are artifacts. See Jim Kasson’s detailed explanations on this phenomena. In my use, I reduced the sharpness slider in Capture One to zero in raw processing and I think the images are very good. And I did not notice any of the artifacts described by Kasson.

The difference is in ergonomics. Do you prefer the DSLR like body of the 50S or the rangefinder like body of the 50R? Do you need the three way tilt rear LCD? Do you need a tiltable EVF? Do you need the vertical grip, either for additional battery life, or you prefer to hold the camera upright in portrait mode? Do you need the ISO on a dial? Do you need the D-pad? If you answer yes, to these questions, or rank them highly, then you will need to pony up the S$1.4k or so for the 50S. For me, both work well, and as the 50R is the less expensive of the two, that would get my vote.

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