We discussed the Fujifilm GFX 100 last week, with lots of details on the camera, lenses, and the pros and cons of such a camera. The GFX 100 is the most technically advanced medium format digital camera in the market. Established. But how do the images look like? Here is our lookbook, with some commentary.
As discussed in last week’s article, I had the camera for the best part of 3.5 months. During the first part of this period, Singapore was in a partial lockdown which we call the Circuit Breaker (CB). Watch shoots at were very few, as shops and offices were closed. This became a bit easier to meet up when we went into Phase 1, and later Phase 2 of the relaxation of lockdown.
The lens used most often for watch macros is the Fujinon GF120 F4 R LM OIS WR Macro. This lens is very sharp, and optimized for near flat field photography. It goes to 1/2X magnification natively. And when used with the MCEX45G or MCEX18G, it affords a higher magnification, coming up to 1.04X with the 45mm tube. The tubes can be stacked for 63mm extension, but I hardly use it as it becomes unwieldy and not easy to handle.
The Funinon GF 50mm f/3.5 R LM WR is also frequently pressed to use for photographing watches. It is considerably smaller and lighter. Image quality is superb. Native close focusing and magnification is not useful except for environmental type shots. And to get a higher magnification, it will need to be coupled with the extension tubes. With the MCEX18G, it is particularly superb for use to take selfie wrist shots, and with the MCEX45G, it reaches 1.09X magnification, higher than the GF120 with the same tube. It becomes easy to just have the GF50 with the two extension tubes to make a versatile macro shooting kit.
I had done some shoots before the CB started. For example the Audemars Piguet [Re]Mastered Chronograph, Breitling novelties (Reviews of Breitling Chronomat and Breitling Premier B01 Bentley were photographed with the GFX100) and the Chopard Happy Sport were photographed before lockdown.
Once the CB started, the number of horology photoshoots reduced. Some manufacturers still managed to send the watches by courier to be viewed and photographed for review. Where there is a will, there is a way, and bravo to these brands for pushing ahead. These were the Moser X MBF LM101, the Montblanc Star Legacy Orbis Terranum and the Bell & Ross BR05 Skeleton Blue.
After what is known as Phase 2 which began on June 19, the relaxation of the business environment allowed some limited viewing on premises. Some of the reviews we have done with photographs from this period were the Patek Philippe Calatrava Ref. 6007A and the Annual Calendar Ref. 5205G.
Also photographed during this period is the new Jaeger LeCoultre Master Control Calendar Chronograph, and a vintage piece – the IWC Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Split Seconds, the Seiko 5 Sports SRPD 67K1, the Citizen Fugu NY011, and some embargoed pieces, yet to be released.
I found the GFX supremely capable as a still life product camera. Files are detailed, with good colour fidelity, and eminently usable not only for web pictures where is it probably an overkill, but also in magazine prints, and fine art large prints. The resolution and image quality affords it practically unlimited enlargement capabilities, with properly exposed and processed images equal to the task to be blown up to billboard sizes.
I used the GFX 100 with the GF 50 with and without extension tubes for flower photography. This is a particularly nice combination because with the very small 50mm lens, the camera is rather light, and easy to move around the garden.
Many of these photographs were taken at the Singapore Botanic Gardens, a World Heritage Site, about 1km from my home, and I walked there during the CB period. As a small hike is required, the combination of the GFX 100 with the GF50 and the MCEX18G is versatile.
The GFX and Capture One system does not record the extension tube used in the EXIF, and it is easy to forget if a tube is used or not.
Colour rendition is superb, with natural, lifelike colours showing in the files. Texture, and other small details are captured beatifully.
With 100Mpix, there is an abundance of resolution, and cropping an image is an easy decision, especially when the final photograph is not required to print at sizes larger than 1m wide.
Landscapes, Interiors and Architecture
The Fujinon GF 23mm f/4 R LM WR is an ultra wide (18mm full frame equivalent) lens, very well suited for landscapes, interiors and architecture. As the setup is not too large and heavy, especially compared to the Hasselblad H and the Phase One XF, I carried it around quite a lot. The IBIS and high ISO performance also makes it an easy combo to hand hold. Though for critical jobs, I would still use the GFX 100 on a tripod, and turn off the IBIS.
The only wish list for this application is for a tilt and shift lens, which the GF ecosystem lacks. As mentioned in the roadmap section last week, there are currently no plans for such a lens. The saving grace is that the 100Mpix file is large and detailed enough to do perspective corrections in Capture 1, but it is still best to capture an image with the correct perspective in camera with the use of a tilt and shift lens or adapter.
The GF23 is not a small lens, but the optical quality is excellent with superb sharpness to the edges of the frame, exhibiting little vignetting, chromatic aberration or distortion. All these automatically corrected in Capture One.
Performance at higher ISO is very good, especially for images scaled down for web or magazine print sizes (even double page full bleed spreads are ok). But start to break down when printing larger. The native print size without any scaling of the GFX 100 is 98.6cm at 300dpi on the wide side – making a really massive print. Typicaly one could print 2X enlargements for well exposed images on modern 12 colour inkjet printers on good paper. These are easily handled, and at ISOs below 1600, I am confident to print to this size or even larger. For an image like the one below, shot at ISO 3200, I will print up to 60cm (approx 0.5 enlargement) across, and the noise would not be noticeable as an artifact.
The sensor’s ability to resolve details and micro tonal variations is very impressive. Dynamic range is excellent, with highlights and shadows rendered very well. Underexposed parts of the image is easily recoverable up to 2 full stops, and when recovered shows good detail and colour fidelity.
I think the GF23 is an excellent lens for use for interior work, and architecture.
I had wanted to do portraits as well with the Fujifilm GFX system, but the opportunities to meet with other people during the lockdown period was few and far in between, and on occasions where I do bump into others, the mandatory mask ruling in Singapore meant that the portraits had to be with half their faces covered. I took very few portraits during this time, with the exception of those of my family, which I will decline to show.
Overall, the GFX system with the trio of lenses I had was a superb camera system. It is a power packed system, with the latest and greatest bells and whistles, as mentioned the IBIS, the continuous autofocus tracking, the dual mode autofocus which is fast, reliable and accurate. And the gorgeous BSI 100Mp sensor. The lens ecosystem is outstanding in quality. Impressive lineup, falling short only of a full 1X macro and a tilt shift lens. Image processing via Capture One is superb as well.
Personally for me, I do not use many of the advanced features as much, and as a choice, I prefer the smaller, lighter, and less advanced GFX 50R, which uses the same superb lenses.
The GFX 50R has less features and functions, but it has almost all that I need. Plus a 50Mpix file is sufficient for all my work, including fairly large prints, and much easier to work with and store than a 100Mpix one. My reasoning is outlined in an article about my Dual Camera System approach.
But for those who want the best, the GFX 100 presents an excellent option, and the least expensive one in the very small field of excellent cameras. Other options like the Leica S3 (63Mpix), the Hasselblad H6D-100C (100Mpix) and the Phase One XF IQ4 100 Trichromatic (100Mpix) are at least double the entry price. The GFX 100 bests all these in terms of features and functions, and loses out very little in image quality. This list represents the very best of the very best of camera systems. And a pick of any one will work superbly well. The decision on which to buy is then based on support (very good for Fujifilm in Singapore), the perceived ease of use, and for me, the most important x factor of the camera. The camera must feel good in my hand, and speak to me, make me want to pick it up and shoot. Its hard to describe, but when that happens, you will know it.