The Fujifilm GFX 100S was released worldwide in the evening of January 27, 2021 to a great reception. We got our hands-on session with a pre-production unit of this amazing new camera on January 30. Here are our first impressions.
We will follow this with a detailed review when we get the loan GFX 100S for a couple of weeks later. As a non-camera magazine, we are understandably not at the top of the media loan list. But we have secured a place in the queue.
Launch price of the GFX 100S is USD 5,999. Compared to the launch price of the GFX 100 at USD 9,999. The launch prices for the GFX 50S at USD 6,499, GFX 50R at USD 4,499, and both are now regularly discounted.
This new release create great waves in the high end camera world. 100Mp medium format sensor, now in a small package, with In Body Image Stabilization. A lot of hype and pre-release embargoed information has been floating around the cyberspace since late November. And impressively, much of the information provided by the site Fujirumors were accurate.
As a background read, please read our review of the GFX 100:
Until the GFX 100S, the GFX 100 was the least expensive route into the high performance world of 100Mp Back Side Illuminated (BSI) sensors.
The other competitors are the Hasselblad H6D-100, which is not BSI, the Phase One IQ4 100 Trichromatic, also not BSI, and the Phase One IQ4 150 which is BSI. All are significantly more expensive than the GFX 100, and all have sensor sizes which are larger. Though Fujifulm calls their 44mmx33mm sensor large format, most seasoned professionals laugh at this moniker as the sensor size is smaller than the smallest traditional medium format film which measures 56mm x 40mm. For a discussion on sensor of medium format digital cameras, see the preliminary paragraphs of our review of the Phase One XF IQ4 150 and the GFX 50R.
Fujifilm GFX 100S First Impressions
The pre-production camera I got to handle is one with final hardware configuration, but will have firmware updates before public availability in March 2021. This camera is new, and currently there is no raw converter for the files. Though I shot in both raw and jpeg, I can only show jpeg images until Capture 1 and Lightroom / ACR releases their support of the raw files.
The amazing size
As shown in the side by side comparison above, the GFX 100S is no larger than the full frame Panasonic Lumix S1R which we have done extensive testing. From the top, the scene is similar. It is quite amazing that Fujifilm is able to pack almost all of the technology in the GFX 100, which itself is a ground breaking camera (first IBIS of any kind on a medium format camera) in the space of just a few years.
The camera retains almost the entire engine of the GFX 100, including the remarkable sensor. This means that the image quality is identical. The same sensor implementation also means that the dual system autofocus system leveraging on the best of phase detect and contrast detect is retained. However, autofocus performance on the 100S is notably better than the 100 (more later) due to new and more powerful firmware. We think the same autofocus algorithm will be rolled out as a firmware upgrade to the larger 100 soon.
What has been redesigned is a new IBIS, now capable of 6 stops instead of 5.5 stops, and is so small that it fits into the much smaller body. And the body itself is totally different. What you give up from the larger 100 is the ability to use a removable EVF, when the 100 allows two options – one standard and another offering tilt. The 100 EVF is also higher specified at 5.67M-dot OLED, while the 100S is only 3.69M-dot OLED. The refresh rates are also downsized from a max of 120Hz to a max of 85Hz. However, during the hands-on, without the benefit of a side by side comparison with the GFX 100, I could not tell the difference. As we did have a Panasonic S1R on hand, and it has a 5.67M-dot EVF, but going back and forth, I could not tell the difference.
The other big difference it the removal of the vertical grip. The GFX 100 has a huge, rather ugly vertical grip stuck to its bottom. This is standard for most professional DSLR bodies, though the implementation on the GFX 100 leaves much to be desired. It is ugly, and is in a blueish plastic which is slippery, when say the Canon 1DmkIII’s vertical grip is almost identical to the main grip in ergonomics and feel. The GFX100’s vertical grip, however allows the body to house 2 batteries, allowing longer shooting times between battery changes. But the GFX 100S is rated to 465 shots, compared to the GFX 100’s 800. Interestingly, if the GFX 100 is run on a single battery, it last only 400 shots, less than the GFX 100S. Both bodies allow powering and charging via USB C.
Some other critics may complain that the D-Pad is now deleted, and the dials at the top of the body is also gone in favour of a PASM dial. Both of which do not bother me at all.
Photographs from the GFX 100S and image quality discussion – jpeg images only
We begin with a quickly setup shot of the Bovet Recital 29 (full review coming soon). The setup is a simple one, with two Profoto B10 strobes. The lens used is the GF 120/f4 R LM OIS WR Macro.
As discussed previously, the GF 120 lens is not a true macro lens, as its maximum magnification is 1/2 life size. To get life sized reproduction with the lens, the MCEX45 extension tube is required. But for our initial investigation, it is sufficient.
Resolving power is clear, and is superb. Image quality is the same as the more expensive and physically larger GFX 100.
Next, I had on the new GF 80mm f/1.7 R WR (USD 2,299), the new lens which was announced at the same time. At launch, it is the fastest autofocus medium format ever made from any manufacturer. This replaces the Hasselblad XCD 80 f/1.9 as the lens with the widest aperture.
The new lens has a particularly dreamy bokeh and will be an interesting comparison to the superb GF 110mm f/2 R LM WR, which is a firm favourite for portrait photographers. The GF 80 is smaller and lighter, and is brighter. In final critical examination, it gives off a little in sharpness to the bitingly sharp GF 100, but the character of the lens is very nice for portraits. It can get pretty sharp when it needs to, as shown in the 100% crop of the image.
Autofocus performance on the new GFX 100S is superb. Not only for a medium format camera, which is now leads as the fastest and best autofocus of any medium format system, but it is starting to rival the best of the full frame arena. Subjectively, the autofocus is better than the slightly sluggish Lumix S1R, and almost as blindingly fast with the latest lenses – GF 80 and GF 50, as the Canon EOS R5. However, it is not as versatile as the superb, almost instant autofocus of the EOS R5, and does not offer animal eye AF. The GFX 100 does offer face and eye detect, and during the 1 hour hands-on, it works well as intended. But to put it through the paces, I will need to explore this in more detail when I get the loaner camera for further testing.
ISO and low light light performance is also notably better than the GFX 100. The GFX 100 itself is no slouch in low light. Look up the GFX 100 Photographs article for further details. Here is a shot taken at ISO 51,200 which demonstrates excellent colour fidelity and resolution at this extreme ISO.
But the GFX 100S ups the ante. Here is a photograph taken at ISO 102,400. The image is highly usable at smaller sizes – small prints and for the web, it is difficult to discern that the photograph is taken at this ISO. This will yield an image at a lower shutter speed, still hand holdable, especially with the excellent IBIS, in near darkness. The autofocus is specified to be able to work up to -5EV, which will appear almost completely dark to the eye. 0EF requires a 1 second exposure at f/1 with ISO100. -5EV is 5 stops darker.
This is a mind blowing camera. One the likes of which cannot be imagined even only 2 years ago. The leading edge in medium format digital mirrorless cameras was led by Fujifilm ever since they announced the GFX 100 in 2019. Back then, Fujifilm insisted that the body could not have been smaller due to the requirements of the IBIS and various other technical bits. But in January 2021, barely two years since the May 2019 announcement of the original GFX 100, they soundly trounced their own flagship with the GFX 100S. Faster, smaller, and in my first impression. Much better. This is the camera to beat in the high end world. Hasselblad and Phase One better wake up, or face obliteration by Fujifilm. Currently, only Fujifilm is able to offer IBIS on a medium format camera. And they are killing it with the pricing levels, undercutting the traditional maisons of Hasselblad and Phase One. By a huge amount! Retail price of the GFX 100S is USD 5,999! The H6D-100C is retailing at whopping USD 32,995, and the Phase One XF IQ4 100 Trichromatic is even more expensive at USD 37,990.
I understand the GFX 50S has also been discontinued, and will be replaced with a new, cheaper (rumours say half of the GFX 100S) GFX 50s (mkII?) which will feature IBIS. And Fujifilm will continue to push the price levels down. This is an exciting time in the world of high end cameras.