GFX initial impressions report; plus a few test photos (from RAW files)

GFX initial impressions report; plus a few test photos (from RAW files)

A couple of days ago, from the 10th to the 12th of March, the 1st Image+Tech Expo, a large Photography and Technology equipment exhibition, was held in Athens. Fujifilm Hellas participated, and I was honored to be one of four Greek X-Photographers to be featured. We all had a small exhibition of our photos plus an hour long presentation of our work and connection to the Fujifilm X-System.

It is estimated that the expo had tens of thousands of visitors during the 3 days, and Fujifilm Hellas had the largest booth; one could say “Photokina level” without being far from the truth. All the latest X-System cameras and lenses (including the limited edition X-Pro2 Graphite) were available in display and “touch and try” for the visitors. But, without question, the star in the booth (and, indeed, perhaps the whole exhibition) was the new GFX 50s.

It’s understandable that time was limited anyway, and a huge number of professionals and serious enthusiasts alike wanted to see and briefly try the camera, but I managed to get a good look and do some tests, with both the 32-64mm f4 and 120mm f4 macro, which were available. Fujifilm Hellas had arranged a shooting area, complete with the gorgeous Profoto D2 strobes.

I shot both RAW + Superfine JPEG, but, since there are already many samples from JPEGs around, I thought of presenting RAW files here. Adobe has already published their latest ACR and DNG converter, with support for the GFX. The latest version of ON1 can also import GFX RAW files. The following test shots were either converted to DNG and processed in Lightroom, or processed in ON1. I have to say I found no serious differences between the two, at least for the GFX files. We must not forget that we have a Bayer –and not X-Trans- sensor here, so the difficulties Adobe sometime has with processing Fuji files due to the different color filter are not relevant. You can check-out the captions for each photo, for specific settings.

First, I had my good buddy, and veteran photographer and journalist, Nick Vitsilakis sit for a couple of shots. Immediately the level of detail is standing out; photos actually seems over-sharpened but they are definitely not. Color depth is beyond any criticism; color tonality makes elements of the image “pop” and give a very natural and “live” impression.   

120mm f4 macro @f6.4, ISO 160, 1/160"

100% crop from the previous image

Luckily, besides veteran photographers, we also had great looking models for test shots; here is one of the lovely Sarah, plus a 100% crop.  

32-64mm f4, @f5.6, @32mm,  ISO 160, 1/125"

Here’s one that would be impossible with “regular” MF digital cameras; one from above using the tilting LCD

32-64mm f4, @f5.6, @32mm,  ISO 160, 1/125"

I also processed a few images, for example in B&W, just to see how the tones would render. I have to say that, I have to say that, careful use of the ACROS simulation with JPEGs would give an even better result, in my opinion. But I decided to limit this test to RAW files only. The GFX offers huge dynamic range, in this case though, shooting with controlled lighting, one could easily use JPEGs for everything.  

120mm f4 macro @f5.6, ISO 160, 1/160"

The files are ultra flexible and one can apply any post-processing with impunity. Here I tried a little color toning, shooting beautiful Chrysa.

120mm f4 macro @f8, ISO 160, 1/125"

The 120mm f4 macro is really shining in a studio environment. Sharpness is spectacular; in fact, this lens will be hated by any model and make-up artist on the planet, since it reveals everything. Of course it’s better to have a perfect image in the first place, and the 120mm would be a multi-purpose tool for a varied range of applications.

120mm f4 macro @f11, ISO 250, 1/125"

Next on, I had the chance for something I always enjoy shooting: dancers. The Profoto D2 is an ultra fast light and absolutely perfect for such shooting conditions. Things also get easier when you have subjects such as Hyperion and Eva to shoot.

32-64mm f4, @f8, @35.6mm, ISO 200, 1/160"

32-64mm f4, @f8, @36.2mm, ISO 200, 1/160"

32-64mm f4, @f8, @35.6mm, ISO 200, 1/160"

Finally,  I tested the continuous shooting (with tracking AF). The lights certainly managed to hold up to the challenge, and this is one example of such a method of shooting.

This is hugely exciting for photographers shooting performance; the GFX can be used exactly like a regular DSLR or mirroless camera, not like a usual MF behemoth. No need for pre-focusing or use of manual focus, action can be captured easily and transparently.

The following series was shot consecutively, with the 32-64mm f4, @f8, @48.2mm, ISO 200, 1/160"

A surprise with the Profotos was that the camera was able to sync at 1/160” overriding the 1/125” sync speed. I can see no shutter shadow in any of the photos, and this was achievable probably due to such super-high speed lights, and something to keep in mind.

So what are my thoughts after this brief encounter with this beast:

  • GFX is, first and foremost, a technological statement from Fuji. It’s ambition is to become a gamechanger and I don’t think this would prove too difficult to achieve
  • Apart from the astonishing IQ,  it is unique in every other respect for people used to high end DSLRs but also those currently using older tech MF digital (often at a cost several times that of the GFX)
  • The feel in hand of the camera is super comfortable and it’s very easy to use. It hides its bulk quite cleverly, and actually feels smaller than it is. It’s also lighter than you may believe; in fact, I happened to handle the Pentax K-1 (a rather slim looking full frame DSLR, to be honest) and the GFX felt lighter in hand. For Fuji-X users, of course, everything would be familiar: it took me about 20 seconds to come to terms with how everything worked.
  • AF was a surprise, considering the current “competition” (i.e. MF cameras with a handful of AF points and precisely zero capacity for continuous AF). Used in shooting high paced performance such as dance or martial arts, I’d say it can certainly keep pace, at least at the level of most high-megapixel DSLRs.
  • Lenses seem very high quality, both optically and construction-wise. With further firmware updates (certain to come) and more lenses in the pipeline, the potential seems unlimited.
  • I hope to have the chance of shooting with the GFX in the future, in a much more creative and challenging environment. For the time being, this first impression was absolutely wonderful and remarkable.

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