I've just spent two days at a great event organised by Fujifilm Switzerland. It was a 1.5 day event in which the GFX system was introduced and all the attendees were given a GFX-50s to use during the event.
I'm not going to go into technical details, it's not something that I'm particularly concerned about. A camera of this level is not going to be missing anything that I require, and there are already a lot of reviews online from people that know more about the technical side than I ever will. After my recent experience of making a decision between Olympus and Sony; I now know that my priorities are with the results and the handling with an emphasis on the results.
Before I go further, I'll give you the short version just in case you are only reading to find out my opinion of the GFX-50s. I can say without any hesitation, that this is the best camera that I have ever used.
As with everything though, there is always something that isn't quite how you'd like it to be!
The scene. The Event was at Melchsee Frutt, a place I have heard of, never been to, but will soon be returning too. As it was out of season by a few days the cable car was not running so I had to drive to the top. In itself not a problem, it is only 15 minutes more to drive up. The problem with this is that the road is only open to drive up on even hours, and to drive down on the odd hours. So I had to be at the bottom of the road between 0800h and 0840h, or wait another two hours for it to open up again.
I hate being late and with this time frame I wanted to leave some space. I'd expected a lot of traffic around Luzern on the way down, so I left at 0600h. With clear roads all of the way, instead of arriving the planned 15 minutes early, it turned out to be closer to 40 minutes early! It's also possible that I may have driven a touch too fast. I haven't received any fines yet, but there is still time!
The weather forecast was not good for the next two days, heavy rain and thunderstorms. I arrived at the top to beautiful weather and a calm lake, torn between going off to take pictures or sit in a meeting room to listen to the first presentation. With the GFX in my sights I decided for the meeting room.
We spent the morning listening to several presentations about the history of Fujifilm as well as the GFX-50s. They were all interesting, but I couldn't help being distracted by scenery gradually disappearing into the ever lowering cloud level!
The GFX still in sight, it was time for a quick lunch before the handover.
Lunch finished, back in the meeting room, the handover begins. Each participant received a pelican case containing the GFX-50s, 32-64mm f/4, 63mm f/2.8, spare battery and charger as the base kit for the rest of the event. We could choose from other lenses and accessories outside of this set too. We were also given a 32GB SD to take with us.
At this point I obviously asked for the 250mm and the 1.4x, packed everything in my bag and set off to explore Melchsee Frutt.
With the GFX-50s in had I headed out to the lake, the clouds had closed in but there were still a few patches of blue shining through. First things first though, I had to get used to the camera and the handling. I sat down by the lake and started going through the menu.
I've never had a problem understanding and following a new menu system, and this was no exception, although this one was particularly easy. The menus are easy to follow and plainly laid out.
The handling of the camera has some elements that are particular to Fuji, the ISO dial on the top left, and the aperture dial on the lens. There are ways to adjust this in the settings and make the usage similar to what you'd expected from other manufactures, but to be honest once that you've got used to these two points, everything else falls into place. The rest of the buttons can be assigned to what you need. I like to be able to all of the functions that I need on the camera with one hand on the body and one on the lens. Due to the size of the system, one or two of the buttons are slightly out of reach, these can be assigned to lesser used functions though.
On the point of size, it is very large camera. There is no getting around this. It has to house a medium format sensor. The lenses are of course huge too, but the camera does not feel too large when used. It is very comfortable and feels natural to hold. Once I was using it, the size was no longer a concern. Even while using the 250mm with the 1.4x converter, it didn't feel too large or too heavy.
The following pictures from the two days are in no particular order. I preferred to spend my time trying out functions of the camera and wasn't paying too much attention to the composition, nevertheless, some of them aren't too bad.
This first image was taken handheld with the 250mm, the second is a 100% crop of close to the centre of the image. I've included this to show the detail. Which is amazing!
I loved the 250mm, and would have like to try it more but there was only one available and I felt that others should get use out of it too. I was also annoyed as every time I had the 32-64mm a golden eagle would soar by, but when I had the 250mm with the extender on, it would disappear. To top it off, while I was sat in the meeting room in the evening looking out of the window at the scenery, the same golden eagle flew directly towards the window and right over the room!
The next image was taken using the image format function in which you can pick from various image formats and see these represented in the evf and on the screen. There are a multitude of options to choose from as opposed to Sony which for some reason only has two! I really like this function, but in my opinion there is a bug. It's not possible to use this function unless you choose to save as RAW+JPEG or JPEG. The official explanation is that JPEG is required to display how final image will look. I think that it must be possible to also show this if only saving as RAW. I have no need for, and do not want to fill up my cards with JPEGs. On the plus side, when the RAW file is loaded into Lightroom, it is pre-cropped into the chosen image format.
Other than the image format issue there is only one thing that I would change, but this is a pet hate of mind and not restricted to this camera. The screen. I do not understand why professional level camera can't be fitted with a fully articulated screen the same as can be found on the Olympus OM-D EM1 mkII and many of the lower end cameras. I see great value in being able to fold the screen in on the body. The screen on the GFX-50s is articulated, but only to a certain extend and although I didn't really test it, I had the feeling that it was quite delicate. Especially when compared to the rugged structure of the rest of the camera.
This one is from the second day, we'd headed out early in the hope of the sunrise bringing some colour in to the sky. It didn't quite go as hoped. There is always something else around though, this is a long exposure shot using an ND filter of a small stream close to another lake near Melchsee. In hindsight I would have used another aperture or tried the focus stacking function.
The last image from the last day. The clouds were coming down over the lake, blocking the direct view of the peaks but allowing them to be seen in the reflection on Melchsee. This can also be seen in the title image.
Is this the camera for me? Yes and no. This camera is wonderful for landscape, the image quality is spectacular, the ergonomics are great which leads to the size not being an issue and it is lighter than it looks. I am also told that it is exceptional for portrait and studio work, but these are not subjects that are of interest to me. As you know from my blog, my interests are in landscape and wildlife. This camera is not fast enough and does not have lenses with the reach that are required for wildlife photography and that is fine because it is not meant to. Although on saying that, I wouldn't mind having a little more time with the 250mm and the 1.4x converter.
The yes and no is dependant on how you see a camera. If I am looking for a camera that is a multi-tool, and can be used for all types of photography, then the answer is no. But if I want the best tool for the situation, then the answer is yes. This would be my perfect landscape camera, well apart from the screen, but I can live with that.
Am I going to buy it? No, but I will definitely be renting it soon. It is a high end system with a high end price to match. A price that is outside of what I can spend right now. The setup that I would like to have and which would cover my style of landscape photography is:
GFX-50s - CHF 7000.-
GF 23mm f/2.8 - CHF 3000.-
GF 32-64mm - CHF 2600.-
GF 250mm f/4 - CHF 3600.-
GF 1.4x convertor - CHF 900.-
This combination would cost roughly CHF 17'000.-. Selling my Olympus gear (which I still haven't done! If anyone is interested, get in touch), would only just cover the body.
Do I still want it? Yes of course I do!
On a final note, this type of event is certainly something that other brands should pay a lot of attention to. It was well executed and well planned. It's not only that it introduces a product to potential customers, but it more importantly brings across a connection to a brand and an enthusiasm to a product.
It could have very easily come across as a sales event, which isn't a bad thing, a company needs to sell their product, but this wasn't what came across. What came across was a group of people wanting to share an enthusiasm for photography and for a product from a company that they work for.
I'll be keeping a very close eye on Fuji in the future, in the hope that they may change to a better screen on the X-H2. ;o)