For a long time now, I've been undecided on camera systems. I've been working with two systems, two systems that have their own merits, but nevertheless, two different systems.
The two systems are the Fujifilm GFX50s and the Sony A7 MkIII.
I've always seen a camera as a tool and you should use the right tool for the job at hand. In theory, I would use the Sony A7 for wildlife, and the GFX for everything else, landscape, macro, etc. The Sony A7 has faster autofocus and the possibility of longer lenses than with the GFX. In my case, I have the 200-600mm and the 2x teleconverter bringing it up to 1200mm, the GFX has a maximum of 350mm with the 250mm and the 1.4x teleconverter, and equivalence in 35mm of 277mm, which is considerably less.
The theory is all well and good, but in practice, it was very different. Even with the extra reach that I have with the A7, I find that I am using the GFX much more, even for wildlife, but why. I've thought about this a lot, probably a lot more than I should too, and I narrowed it down to two main reasons.
Firstly, the buttons. For me, this is of importance with wildlife photography, but generally too. I ran into issues when changing between systems, pressing the wrong buttons or rotating the wrong dials when time mattered due to forgetting which system I was using at the time or muscle memory. I need to be able to operate the camera without looking at it, and although this is possible with both systems individually, the transition between using each system was a problem.
The second reason is more straight forward. I simply prefer the experience of using the GFX50s.
As I'm using the Sony A7 less and less and I prefer the GFX, why keep it. Well, I still have the issue around the reach, the difference between 277mm and 1200mm is a long one. I started to look for alternative options. The Fujifilm X-H1, teamed with a 100-400mm seamed a likely candidate. It would also have the advantage of being a little lighter for longer trips. As it's a Fujifilm camera the ergonomics are very similar and although smaller, it has the same look and feel. Only one problem, it's an older model with an older sensor and not easy to get hold of one to rent. With rumours of an imminent release of an x-h2, buying a secondhand model was not an option and not a good idea either. I decided to rent a recent model and took a look a the x-pro3. Although not ideal for use with the 100-400mm it still has the current sensor and I would still be able to view the image quality.
Yes, the X-T4 would probably have been a better option, but this camera is not an option for me at all, it's too small and even with a larger grip, the shutter button is still awkward to use. I can't contort my hand around it. I also really like the idea of the x-pro3, I thought that it may inspire me to try a different side of photography, so I wanted to take a look at it. The optical viewfinder, the hidden screen and the retro film sub screen were appealing too.
I tried it for a couple of days and it does have some appeal, but it's not for me.
While I had it I did some comparison tests between the x-pro3 and the GFX50s. On the x-pro3 I used the 100-400mm with the 2x teleconverter bringing it to 200-800mm (35mm equivalence would be 300-1200mm), and on the GFX50s I had the 250mm and the 1.4x teleconverter, bringing it to 350mm (277mm equivalence at 35mm). Not a very scientific test, but one which was enough for me. The same composition, as far as could be done with the variation of focal length, same lighting conditions etc.
I then cropped the GFX images as to give an equal field of view as those from the x-pro3 and compared the images.
I'm not going to show the images, and I'm not going to go into detail, but I found that the images from the GFX were clearer, sharper, and simply better.
This was enough for me to finally be comfortable with the decision that I feel that I made a while ago. The GFX50s system is the way to go. It's time to sell the Sony gear.
The two main points that I've been concerned with were:
Autofocus: I've already gone into this in another post, but in short, my style of wildlife photography is not that dependent on fast focus, and in fact, I often find that I am manually focusing.
Longer lenses / Reach: The sensor on the GFX50s and the sharpness of the images, allows me to substantially crop images and still come away with an image that can be printed to an acceptable size.
For an example of the detail that is captured by the GFX50s sensor take a look at the images below and the crop. It was taken using the GF120mm. Although I wouldn't crop to this level image dimensions are still over 1600 x 1200, which is perfectly acceptable for web use.
There is a third point which I haven't gone into as of yet, and that's the weight. The larger the sensor the larger the lenses, there is no way around this, it is something that you can only accept, and I've already started to look for solutions to ease this. The best way that I can see is lens choice. Planning and choosing the right lenses for the trip could lead to a difference in weight of 4.3kg.
Light Prime = 1.2kg: GFX50s, GF 50mm
Light Zoom = 1.8kg: GFX50s, GF 45-100mm
Hiking (planned) = 4.1kg: GFX50s, GF 23mm, GF 45-100mm, GF 100-200mm, 1.4x tc
Hiking = 4.5kg: GFX50s, GF 23mm, GF 45-100mm, GF 250mm, 1.4x tc
Cover All = 5.5kg: GFX50s, GF 23mm, GF 45-100mm, GF 120mm, GF 250mm, 1.4x tc
It's just one idea, I don't own the GF 100-200mm to complete the concept, I have used it for a couple of days and found it very versatile, but I really love the GF 250mm and I'm unsure whether or not it's too close and I can live without the gap. It's just that it's so damn heavy. The majority of images that I have taken since I've owned the GFX50s have been taken with the GF 250mm. The GF 120mm is catching up though.
The other ideas are to use a trolley or to fill the lenses with helium. I'm sure that the helium idea is a no go, but I'm still looking into the trolley.
On a final note. I've recently replaced the GF 32-64mm with the GF 45-100, as I didn't use the 32mm end of it much and I used the 64mm end a lot, meaning that the 45-100mm range would be better suited to me. This combined with the OIS in the GF45-100 made the change an easy decision. The GF 32-64mm will be sold along with the all Sony gear.
With the current rumour of a GFX50s mkII coming out in the first quarter of 2021, I will most certainly need the money.