Pros Cons
  • 51.4MP, 44 x 33mm sensor yields high image resolution
  • Excellent image quality in both Raw and JPEG
  • ISO invariant behavior used above ISO 1600 to give increasing amounts of highlight recoverability
  • Contrast Detect AF is accurate and precise
  • Fujifilm color science, and color chrome effect, in larger than APS-C size
  • Direct controls provide for engaging shooting experience
  • AF joystick + touchscreen makes selecting an AF point simple, effective
  • Touchscreen flips vertically and horizontally
  • Weather-sealing and solid build quality
  • Comfortable ergonomics
  • Plenty of custom buttons
  • Dual card slots give flexibility and capacity
  • Electronic first curtain shutter mode minimizes risk of shutter shock
  • Lack of mirror avoids mirror-induced shock other MF systems bring
  • In-camera Raw processing lets you make full use of excellent JPEG engine
  • Easy-to-use Wi-Fi
  • Slow native lenses do not take full advantage of camera's sensor size
  • Contrast Detect AF speeds can be sluggish in moderate light, often fails in dim or backlit situations
  • Relatively low flash sync speed
  • AF-C is virtually unusable due to constant hunting
  • Moiré is visible in fine detail and patterns
  • 'Shimmering' and moiré in the EVF when focus is initiated
  • Significant rolling shutter in complete (silent) E-shutter mode
  • No way to link minimum shutter speed to focal length with Auto ISO
  • Significant color shift at highest ISOs
  • No ISO 100 during video capture
  • No dedicated exp. comp. dial
  • Rear dial can be difficult to turn due to its position
  • Limited lens selection at launch

Overall Conclusion

This image was cropped in nearly 50% (and edited to taste) in ACR.
ISO 12,800 | 1/90 sec | F2.8 | 63mm
Photo by Dan Bracaglia

Over the past half decade, Fujifilm has proven it can produce retro-inspired interchangeable lens cameras with excellent ergonomics and outstanding image quality. But as the APS-C X-series has grown, so too has Fujifilm's desire to create a new system with a larger sensor. And thus the GFX 50S medium format camera was born.

It joins a diverse field of high-resolution cameras, including a few that use a very similar spec'd sensor both in size and resolution: the Hasselblad X1D and the Pentax 645Z. It also joins a few high resolution full-frame DSLR like the Canon 5DS R, Nikon D810, and Sony a7R II. But does it give users of these cameras a compelling reason to switch? Read on.

Body & handling

The camera's UI is directly borrowed from the company's 3rd/4th generation mass market X-series cameras and feels quite refined. Control points on the GFX 50S are extensive, as are customization options. In total, 10 buttons can each be set to one of 37 options. The camera also has a customizable Quick menu as well as a 'My Menu' option for storing most-used settings. It has both a dedicated shutter speed and ISO dial, both of which can be locked, though sadly no dedicated exposure compensation dial.

In hand, the camera sits comfortably. Depending on the lens, the sharper curves can end up painfully digging into your fingers, but despite its large sensor, it weighs only slightly more than a full-frame DSLR like the Nikon D810. The combination of dedicated AF joystick, and a touchscreen allows users to easily select an AF point. And the dual-hinged tilting LCD is a nice option for shooting low and high angles either vertically or horizontally.

In all, the shooting experience with the GFX 50S is as simple or complex as the user wants to make it. That said, it is very easy to simply pick up, punch in an aperture, ISO and shutter speed and get shooting. We only wish its rear dial were more useful - it's typically used for exp. comp. in combination with a button, but it's often difficult to actually turn more than one click, especially without pressing the button inward. Oddly un-ergonomic for Fujifilm.

Performance

In some ways, the GFX 50S is best suited for static or slow-moving subjects.
Edited to taste in ACR | ISO 500 | 1/250 sec | F11 | 63mm
Photo by Dan Bracaglia

This camera is in no way a speed demon. But that's okay, because its definitely better suited in a studio than on the sidelines of a sporting event. Startup time is adequate but not as fast as you might be used to. And overall operation speed is also up to standards. If you choose to take it out of single shot mode, you are looking at bursts as fast as 3 fps.

Some aspects of the camera's performance left us wanting more, including 'shimmering' and 'crunchiness' in the EVF when the camera is focusing. This is likely due to the sensor dropping into a faster, lower-resolution readout mode to provide fast updates to the focus system. Some of us on staff found it more distracting than others.

The 1/125 sec max flash sync speed also left us wanting more, especially knowing the Hasselblad X1D can sync up to 1/2000 sec thanks to its leaf shutter. This is limiting for outdoor strobe work - something many MF photographers are likely to shoot.

Being a mirrorless camera with a CDAF system, autofocus is both accurate and precise. AF info is read directly from the sensor, which means lenses for the system never need micro-adjusting (unlike SLRs). We can't over-stress how welcome this is coming from shooting a 100MP Phase One system that misfocused more often than it focused. A Pentax 645Z might similarly require lens calibration.

Focus speeds are somewhat lens dependent. Overall, they are reasonably fast in good to moderate light (especially the 120mm F4), but sluggish and occasionally downright unreliable in low light (or when the subject is low contrast, or backlit). Generally lackluster AF is par for the course when it comes to the current crop of digital medium format cameras on the market, though. So if you're considering upgrading to the GFX 50S from the likes of the Nikon D810 or Canon 5DS R, AF speed and usability in low light is one area of the MF digital experience that may feel a tad prehistoric.

On the other hand, in a studio setting, the Fujifilm acquires precise focus with as much as ease as any mirrorless system - a huge plus for the system.

Image Quality

Look closely at the brickwork in the upper left of the image, and the building dead-center, you'll notice a bit of moiré.
Edited to taste in ACR | ISO 100 | 1/30 sec | F11 | 120mm
Photo by Dan Bracaglia

The resolution from this camera is impressive (take a look at the image above at 100%), as is overall Image quality. High ISO Raw files have similar noise levels to the Pentax 645Z, which is to say, minimal. And we were impressed by the camera's Raw dynamic range as well as its exposure latitude. JPEGs have punchy, pleasing colors with well-chosen (though occasionally a tad aggressive) sharpening. JPEG noise reduction overall is well-balanced, maintaining detail while suppressing noise. This plus Color Chrome mode and TIFF output make it easy to get near-final results from the camera - a huge potential workflow benefit.

Overall, this is the best image quality we've ever seen. Which is what you'd hope for, given it's one of the most expensive cameras we've ever reviewed.

It's not all confetti and balloons though. Fujifilm used a Bayer filter array in the GFX 50S (for efficient data readouts times) as opposed to an X-Trans filter array, found in most of the company's other ILCs. The latter does a good job of eliminating moiré, without the need for a low pass filter (which the GFX 50S also does not have). As a result, moiré is noticeable in some fine detail in GFX 50S files. Take a look at the brickwork in the image above at 100% to see what we're talking about. This is enhanced by the company's claimed less gapless microlenses, which prevents stray light rays from entering any pixel for increased pixel sharpness, at the cost of decreased spatial sampling.

That said, one thing that truly impressed us is the fact that Fujifilm makes use of the ISO invariant nature of its sensor when shooting above ISO 1600. This means that when your ISO is four stops above base, no additional amplification is applied, resulting in a surprising amount of highlight information being retained (we literally created the ISO invariance test, and showed its results to most every brand, hoping manufacturers would do precisely this one day). The real world implications of this can be seen in the image below, and we can confidently say: this is how future cameras will function, so we're extremely pleased to see Fujifilm (and Hasselblad in the X1D) take the lead.

Fujifilm has capitalized on the ISO invariant nature of the camera's sensor, and applied no additional amplification above ISO 1600, this allows the retention of additional highlight data in higher ISO captures, which can be incorporated in the processed images.

Edited to taste in ACR | ISO 3200 | 1/500 sec | F2.8 | 63mm
Photo by Dan Bracaglia

This all leads to the million dollar question. Does the Fujifilm GFX 50S have better overall image quality than its tried and true full frame competition: the Nikon D810 and Canon EOS 5DS R and Sony a7R II? The answer is a tad complicated.

In principle, there's a full frame camera that can match the Fujifilm in each of the specific areas in which it might be expected to excel: resolution, dynamic range and noise. Our technical editor explains why. However, if you aren't pushing the camera to its limits in any of these respects, then the difference becomes negligible.

The GFX's greatest strength is its combination of all of these characteristics. For instance, anywhere you can use the Fujifilm at ISO 100, the Nikon D810 can match it by opening up its aperture and using its lower base ISO to capture the same total amount of light. But those images won't have the level of detail that the Fujifilm's 50 megapixels offer. Try to do the same with the Canon 5DS R and you'll have to let in 2/3EV less light, to avoid overexposure, and the image quality will be consequently lower (especially given that camera's lower dynamic range). And if you want 86-96% the linear resolution of the GFX, with only a 0.3 - 0.5 EV base ISO dynamic range cost, you can opt for the Sony a7R II, with far, far more advanced autofocus, and better low light performance with faster lenses.

So there is a potential advantage, but it's up to you whether it's is worth the considerably greater outlay.

Out of camera JPEG | ISO 1600 | 1/550 sec | F4 | 63mm
Photo by Dan Bracaglia

Of course one valuable feature GFX 50S is its unusually good JPEG engine, which seems even more impressive when you consider that the competing Hasselblad X1D doesn't even shoot full-res JPEGs. And like many Fujifilm cameras, the GFX 50S offers powerful in-camera Raw processing. This allows users to easily reprocess images. And when it's time to share, Fujifilm has one of the simplest Wi-Fi implementations around.

The Final Word

Fujifilm set out to create a medium format digital camera that would appeal to landscape, fashion and portrait shooters. We think they did a really good job. Price-wise, it lines up nicely against Pentax 645Z and the Hasselblad X1D as the most affordable digital medium format option (beating the now-reduced Pentax by a hair). However it is still considerably more expensive than any high-resolution full framer.

And though it does offer the best combo of dynamic range, resolution and noise performance of any camera on the market, it only beats its full frame competition by a small amount. The Nikon D810, Pentax K-1, Canon 5DS R and Sony a7R II all offer 90% or more of what the Fujifilm offers in terms of IQ, at a substantially lower price and weight, with a far more versatile lens selection that, at times, allows these systems to overtake the GFX in terms of low light performance and subject isolation (shallow DOF).

Edited to taste in ACR | ISO 400 | 1/160 sec | F4 | 120mm
Photo by Dan Bracaglia

If Fujifilm truly wants to steal users away from Canon, Nikon and Sony (and they should), they're going to have to get serious about a few things: releasing faster glass, improving AF, and packing the most modern sensor technologies that smaller formats provide. Currently, the full advantage of the camera's larger sensor is held back by the F2.8 and F4 maximum apertures of the available lenses, and the lack of sensor technologies like BSI and larger saturation capacities. And the GFX 50S' AF performance can not match that of the Canon, Nikon or Sony, when it comes to moving subjects. Finally, the GFX system currently doesn't offer the high shutter speed flash sync speeds the Hasseblad X1D provides - important for professionals lighting models outdoors.

That being said, it's not easy to come out of the gate and launch an entirely new system. Most bodies that debut with a new mount have their stumbling points but the GFX 50S holds up in the real world as well as it does on paper. The shooting experience may be a tad less engaging than that of an X-series camera (due to AF speeds, lack of an exp. comp. dial), but it's still very good. And if you are looking for a 50MP medium format system, this is your ticket: on-sensor AF and lack of mirror with electronic first curtain shutter means you don't have to worry about all the sources of blur a Pentax 645Z or equivalent Phase One system will burden you with.

There was some back and forth on staff about what award the camera should receive. Faster glass, a greater resolution difference, or better sensor performance would've made the advantage over full frame more comprehensive and our decision more clear. But ultimately, for successfully debuting a new system with an all-around lovely camera and the best image quality we've seen to date, the Fujifilm GFX 50S takes home the gold.


Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category.
Click here to learn about the changes to our scoring system
and what these numbers mean.

Fujifilm GFX 50S
Category: Professional Interchangeable Lens Camera / DSLR
Build quality
Ergonomics & handling
Features
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Performance
Movie / video mode
Connectivity
Value
PoorExcellent
Conclusion
The Fujifilm GFX 50S represents the company's entrance into the medium format digital market. It takes the ethos of APS-C X-series cameras and combines it with a larger sensor. Control points are plentiful, image quality is exceptional and autofocus is precise, just don't expect it to focus on moving subjects. The only thing truly holding back the GFX 50S from reaching its potential is a limited lens selection (at launch) with slow maximum apertures. Still, it is capable of the best image quality we've tested to date and is all around a lovely camera to shoot with.
Good for
Studio, portrait and landscape photographers seeking a high-resolution camera with outstanding ergonomics, plus excellent image quality, dynamic range and out of camera JPEGs.
Not so good for
Sports or action shooters. Anyone needing a camera with usable continuous autofocus.
85%
Overall score

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