Review: Fujifilm GFX 100S review – smaller, cheaper, and better

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We covered our first impressions when we attended of the Fujifilm GFX 100S launch event in Singapore recently. Fujifilm has started shipping the new camera, but there is still a long waitlist for photographers waiting to receive theirs. Here is our review after two weeks of use as our main camera.

In a recent photowalk shoot, among 5 photographers, there were 4 GFX 100S, though 3 are media loaners owned by Fujifilm Singapore.

The GFX 100s, GF 23, GF 50, GF 120 and MCEX 18 and MCEX45 are loaners extended as a courtesy by Fujifilm Singapore.

Review: Fujifilm GFX 100S

Our initial impressions conclusion was that the GFX 100S is smaller, lighter, faster and cheaper than its big brother, the GFX 100.

Please read our Initial impressions of the GFX 100S for technical details and a comparison to what is new from the GFX 100.

Image samples in this Initial Impressions review are jpeg only, as at that time, raw conversion is not available.

And considerably less expensive. We concluded after the couple of hours at the launch event that this was a mind blowing new approach to medium format. Full bells and whistles, at a price never seen before in this category. After two weeks with the GFX 100S with the GF 23, GF 50, GF 120 Macro and both MCEX estension tubes, our view has not changed. This is the best value performance camera in its class…perhaps in any class. An absolute game changer….I know its a cliché, but in this case, totally true.

As a recap, the class leading features of the GFX 100S are:

  • Medium format Back Side Illuminated (BSI) CMOS sensor (44mm x 33mm) with 100Mp image resolution.
  • In Body Stabilization (IBIS), claimed to be up to 6 stops. Other than the GFX 100, the GFX 100S is the only medium format camera to have IBIS.
  • Fast and accurate hybrid autofocus system using phase detect and contrast detect, with multiple modes.
  • Dual card slots for SD UHS-II cards.
  • Small, lightweight, ergonomic body with good handling characteristics.
  • Weather sealing on body and all native lenses.
  • Excellent pricing.

Price matters

Retail price of the GFX 100S is SGD 8,999 inclusive of GST / USD 5,999. At publishing time, the SGD prices include a special package comprising of a 256GB UHS-II SD card, and two additional batteries with 1 year GFX Membership thrown in. Compared to the launch price of the GFX 100 at SGD 14,999 / USD 9,999. The launch prices for the GFX 50S was at SGD 10,999 / USD 6,499 and the GFX 50R was at SGD 6,999 / USD 4,499, and both are now regularly discounted.

While SGD 8,999 is not exactly small change, it is breaking new lows in the prices of the medium format cameras. Fuji has done this earlier with the GFX 50S, the GFX 50R and the GFX 100, each setting new lows in their market segment at launch. And with the GFX 100S, Fujifilm upsets the hierarchy of the medium format digital world once again, leaving competitors in its wake for ground shatteringly low prices. This new GFX 100S is priced to compete directly with the high end professional full frame cameras like the Sony A1 (SGD 8,999), the Canon EOS 1DxmkIII (SGD 9,768), Nikon D6 (SGD 9,999) and the like. While the soon to be announced GFX 50S mark II (see below) is set to compete directly with the mass market full frame arena like the Panasonic S1R, Sony A7R IV (not yet available in SG), Nikon Z7-II, Canon EOS R5.

Fujifilm GFX 100S with GF 50mm lens.

Traditional medium format vendors like Phase One and Hasselblad are left high and dry as being very expensive. In the competitive landscape for 100Mp medium format cameras, we see the Hasselblad H6D-100C, which retails for USD 32,995, and Phase One XF IQ4 100 which is priced are at least one magnitude even higher. And maisons like Leica with their S3 (64Mp, 30mm x 45mm sensor, no IBIS), an excellent camera, seemed to have been muscled out of the market. The S3 is currently only available in Singapore as a special order at SGD 29,950.

Pricing within the Fujifilm GFX hierarchy has also gone slightly awry as the GFX 100S was launched an unexpected low price. Currently the GFX 100S has the same street price as the GFX 50S of SGD 8,999. This pricing is unusual as the 100S is 100 Mp with a BSI sensor, IBIS, hybrid autofocus body, while the GFX 50S is 50Mp, an excellent, though aging CMOS sensor (first seen as early as 2014 in the Pentax 645Z, and also used in the Hasselblad X1D-50C, H6D-50C and GFX 50R), no IBIS, and contrast detect AF. While the 100 remains at a high of SGD 14,999 (though still the next lowest 100Mp medium format digital camera when compared to other brands) and the GFX 50R is now SGD 5,699.

The GFX 100S is seen as the smaller brother of the GFX 100, and in my view, significantly beats it in performance in critical areas of IBIS, autofocus and handling. As the sensor and image processing engine remains unchanged, and both cameras use the same lenses, the image quality is exactly the same. The differences are in the bells and whistles.

The Fujifilm GFX 100 – the big brother.

The GFX 100S loses out to the big brother in some physical aspects – like a lower speced Electronic View Finder (EVF) and rear LCD in both resolution and image refresh rates, the inability to accept removable EVF and a vertical battery grip. But gains back in by being in a more compact body, the non-removable vertical grip of the GFX 100 is rather ugly anyway. While the GFX 100 is able to take 2 batteries, the GFX 100S is only equipped with one with a battery autonomy of about 400 shots. This is better than the GFX 100 in single battery mode, where with two batteries, it will last about 480 shots.

GFX 50S mark II matters (yet unannounced camera)

There is much buzz around the internet that the GFX 50S line will be revised soon. The popular Fuji Rumors site has been reporting fairly accurately on previous pre-release cameras, and the source of much of the info I received. Though some appropriate legwork added more info. Be aware that as we report this, this is conjecture. The speculation is that this new GFX 50S mark II will be announced sometime before mid-2021, and will feature the new IBIS system similar to the 100S, but retain the existing Sony 50Mp 44×33 sensor. Further sources speculate that it will be housed in the same body as the GFX 100S.

Fujifilm GFX 50S mounted with the GF 32-64 zoom lens.

This will mean that it will not have the hybrid AF system that the 100S is equipped with, but will remain a contrast detect only autofocus. I understand the body will also not be revised, and the hump at the back of the 50S will remain, though later rumours point to the suspision that the 50S mark II will be housed in the same body as the 100S. This suggests that the removable EVF on the 50S will be replaced with the non-removable one. And that EVF and rear LCD specifications may be watered down. The rumoured price is USD 3,000 to USD 3,500 which would make this new camera a superb value! In comparison, Hasselblad’s newer 50Mp, no IBIS offerings competing with the GFX 50 series as seen in the X1D 50C-II (USD 5,750) and 907X-50C (USD 6,399) will be considerably more expensive.

Size matters

It stands repeating that the new GFX 100S is in a body size which as recent as a year ago was thought to be impossible to house a 100Mp sensor with IBIS. The size comparison to the Panasonic LUMIX S1R, a capable full frame camera is of some interest.

The GFX 100S is approximately the size as the full frame Panasonic LUMIX S1R.

As can be seen above, the size of the GFX 100S is not too different from the S1R. The tale of the tape tells us that the GFX 100S is only 150mm x 104mm x 87mm, 900g, while the S1R measures 149mm x 110mm x 97mm, 1016g. Critical performance areas like ISO, speed and accuracy of autofocus also score in favour of the GFX 100S.

Fitted with small GF 50mm/f4 lens, the system is very compact and easy to carry around. And surprisingly very useful as a street photography tool.

And the GFX 100S is considerably smaller than the GFX 100 which measures a hefty 156.2mm × 163.6mm x 102.9mm, 1,400g.

Speed matters

Handling and autofocus is very fast, and probably the best in the medium format class, and better than almost all full frame cameras. Full frame cameras often have faster AF because the sensor is smaller, and also the glass to move to achieve focus is smaller and lighter. The ones to beat in the AF speed game are the Canon 1Dx mark III, Nikon D5/D6 and even the Sony A1 or A9 II. These cameras are designed to capture fast motion sports and excel in acquiring and locking to focus almost instantaneously, and offer excellent continuous autofocus tracking modes, and other AF modes like eye tracking, face tracking, body tracking, animal and bird tracking. Compared to these speed demons, the GFX 100S fades.

In operation, the GFX 100S feels no slower than a standard full frame DSLM like the excellent Panasonic S1R or the Leica SL2. This is a great achievement, as the Panasonic and Leica are both full frame sensors 36mm x 24m with 47Mp, and the GFX 100S is medium format 44mm x 33mm at 50Mp. The autofocus on the GFX 100S is also sleeker and seem faster to acquire and lock focus accurately than the other two full frame bodies. All three cameras offer In Body Stabilization (IBIS).

In addition, AF performance is slightly faster than big brother GFX 100, though a firmware update last week may have brought the 100 to 100S levels. And both are considerably better than all other medium format digital cameras.

The 44mm x 33mm “small” medium format sensor is the same as the one found in the GFX 100.

The menu system is the same as with the other GFX cameras. And a familiar sight to those used to the interface. To new users, it is rather intuitive to use, though the learning curve is somewhat steeper than the best of breed cameras in the user interface arena, namely the Hasselblad X1D and Leica SL2.

Ease of use in the field or in the studio for the GFX 100S is exceptional. Here is a ultra high quality compact camera which can go anywhere. Build quality is good, though not up to the levels set by Leica. The package with GF lenses are fully weather sealed. And image quality is outstanding.

The top LCD from the GFX 100 is retained on the GFX 100s, but the addition of a mode dial is a welcome change. The rear bottom small LCD is deleted due to space constraints of the smaller GFX 100S body.

The only caution in image quality when comparing the GFX 100S to say the GFX 50S is that the sensor pitch is much smaller in the 100S. Thus, the onset of visible diffraction is seen earlier, perhaps at f9 or f11, while it remains nicely hidden till about f16 on the 50S. This is based on anecdotal and experiential evidence. Incidentally, the vintage Hasselblad H3D-39 I use in the studio has an even larger pixel pitch as the sensor size is considerably larger at 48mm x 36mm, while only packing 39 Mp. To my eyes, it only start to show diffraction at f22.

In full regalia for a typical watch shoot – the GFX 100S with the GF 120 Macro sometimes on its own and sometimes with the MCEX extension tube. The GF50 by the side is often used with the MCEX 18 extension tube for wrist shots.

Computer matters

The 100Mp sensor captures a tremendous amount of image detail, with superb dynamic range. This translate directly to superb image quality, but it also means the corresponding files are very large. For 99% of my use case, this huge file size is overkill.

A 100Mp photograph, printed 1:1 at 300dpi will yield a print which is 39 inches x 29 inches. I rarely print this large. But the file has sufficient detail that the final print can be easily scaled up to double this physical dimensions and still stand to close inspection scrutiny.

An example of a large print done with 39Mp sensor (Hasselblad H3D-39). This print measures 24 inches x 18 inches. The GFX 1:1 print will be considerably larger.

Although 20Mp is sufficient for almost all of the work I do, and enough for publication in glossy magazines, the sweet spot is perhaps 40/50Mp. With 40/50Mp, images are large enough for poster sized prints (see picture above) with full fidelity in colour and resolution.

The raw compressed file size of the GFX 100S at the 16 bit setting is about 100MB each. Raw uncompressed, the file size swells to 200MB. And working in Photoshop with layers, the file size can easily reach 1 GB. Handling files this large will tax most computer systems and storage needs. These files need a faster processor, more RAM memory, more disc space than images from smaller sensors. This may be just a matter of including an upgrade to the computer system as part of the pricing decision.

Continued next week with image samples

Photo Notes

The photographs on this article were taken variously by different camera systems. The product pack shots of the GFX 100S was taken in our studio with the Hasselblad H3D-39 and HC 4/120 Macro with Profoto strobes. The GFX 100 and GFX 50S photographs used here was also in the studio but with the Panasonic LUMIX GH-2 with Panasonic Leica 45mm/f2.8 Macro instead of the Hasselblad. The comparison shots of multiple GFX 100S and the GFX 100s with Panasonic LUMIX S1R was taken in-situ at food courts with iPhone 8 Plus.


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