Fuji GFX100S – makes simply Gorgeous, Gorgeous, Gorgeous files.
My thoughts, likes and dislikes.
Well, it’s beautifully made, gorgeous build quality deserving of the price, but then Fuji gear is nice kit, this is not my first to hold and use, most likely not my last either.
For a 102 mega-pixel medium format (?) monster it is not a house brick, in fact, its smaller than a D850 / D810 and slightly larger than the Z7II so it sat well with me on that front, but, the caveat and there is always one, it is heavier.
Handling is nice, it has a good grip, and feels good in the hand, should suit most - my hands not being huge or small. With the 36-64mm f4 it is, however, poorly balanced, but we have all had camera lens combinations that have wanted to nosedive before - right! I am afraid that was the only lens I had for the loan period, more of that later.
The colour rendition is nice, although I don’t subscribe to the Fuji system having better colours than anyone else’s, that is mostly advertising hype, largely, and a little ownership pride, loyalty stuff going on there too – but yes, they are very nice files.
I found the whole film simulation stuff very different, shooting in both raw and jpeg, I used lots of the simulations, some were quite nice, classic chrome in particular, but generally deleted the jpegs and just processed the raw files as I normally would - I did, however, like the ability to add them as presets in Adobe Light room in post - that was a nice touch for those who dislike their own touch on things.
The detail containing in these huge files in incredible, just amazingly incredible, and I doff my hat to the developers who engineered this camera and its gorgeous sensor.
But then that gives us a problem, and it’s quite a large one – one has to deal with, process and manage those huge files – the finished jpegs are a shade over 100mb each, and despite my very fast computer system here, even that struggled, time wise, to execute complex commands within the photoshop environment – that would be far more of an issue for people with slower systems and could be quite daunting in reality - investment in computing is never cheap either.
I was surprised Fuji stuck with a dual SD card slot for the camera, my thoughts would be for a much faster CF express card but hey, we have two, SD cards are smaller, available everywhere and much more cost effective, so no big deal. The only real pain was waiting for the file transfer (painful) when compared to a CF express files transfer speeds - but, that gave a little time to make some coffee.
What I really enjoyed was the manual controls, I shoot probably 95% of my photographs in manual and the human interface was really quite nice, changing the aperture on the lens was a breath of fresh air and something I will be changing the function rings on all my Nikon Z lenses to be able to do right now!
The camera has probably the most customisable body I have ever used, there are special function buttons all over the place, you can change the command dials to do what you want too. I have this with the Nikons but not to the same degree offering just two or three custom function buttons, generally for me though this is sufficient. The top panel is something I am used, to being a long-term Nikon owner, and this offers shutter speed and ISO information immediately, nice display dials however, very retro despite being within the LCD panel, again customisable.
Some people have been critical of the EVF being lower resolution to others but, that was not noticeable to me in use, don’t look at spec numbers, look at what you can see. Yes, it is almost the same spec as the Nikon, but I find the Nikon’s EVF easier on the eye.
The Fuji rear screen is far superior to that of what I am used to mainly due to the variable tilt options, none of my current Nikons offer a tilt out function in portrait orientation, which is infuriating at times when in the field. However, the Fuji screen locks in and this would be very fiddly to use with gloves (reads almost impossible).
Battery life was quite poor compared to other cameras but this is not a camera you are going to shoot lots of images on regardless – I used the camera for a whole afternoon and made about 70 exposures on 1/3 of a battery, so it’s not great but probably more than adequate – a major plus for later Fuji X shooters is that it takes the same battery – nicely done Fujifilm.
The lens supplied was the 36-64mm f4, again beautiful build quality but heavy despite the camera’s bulk it was unbalanced in the hand. Lens was tack sharp even wide open with very minimal fringing and it was sharp corner to corner with just a little edge fall off, BUT…it barrels like a bitch, and after using the Nikon Z lenses which don’t, this was a huge step back for me. If I were to go down the Fuji route, I would most likely omit this lens option from my bag because of it. It’s a useful range too, I think a full frame 35mm equivalent of 24-50mm or fairly close. But it made nice images had great contrast and focused as fast as the system would let it.
Now getting on to the AF system, generally I liked it although by no means an exhaustive test from me here. The functions are basically the same as any other mirrorless camera, you have various options in the screen for number and size of focus points, how many you use and basically what you want it to focus on. In the Constant AF set up menu it even offers you movement options where you input to the AF system what you are photographing. I am not one for techy stuff really and most of my work is generally manually focused but I did set this up and focused on a steam train coming almost directly towards me, with the drive set to its highest, about 5fps and it nailed every image out of the sequence except the last two where the locomotive was literally on top of me – I’ll give it that, system worked well.
Now I come from a Camera system which is not renowned for its blisteringly good AF, so I might be a little unfair here – generally I think Canon and Sony shooters might find the big Fuji a bit of a truck to drive where AF is concerned – just a thought.
Pet hate of mine however, and this is not just with the Fuji but with any mirrorless camera system is chasing that bloody focus point around the screen / sensor - I quite simply hate, hate, hate that !!! Why the manufacturers cannot just give us the option to lock the focus point to the middle of the screen / viewfinder is beyond me - yes I know I am a draconian old fossil but I am a focus, half hold, frame and shoot kind of guy - I have been shooting like it my whole life, rarely use back button focus, because I work faster just like I always have done AND....don't want to change - so every mirrorless camera pains me to use - they are all the same. I think the worst is the Nikon ZFC, that focuses with my nose on the rear screen, so much so I have to turn the touch AF off all the time, my nose does take some very artistic images, but it's better left for duties of smelling I think - enough of me though, everyone else I know (just) embraces this - for me it utterly sucks!
I have to say that the electronic shutter gave me very little confidence, compared to my current cameras, but that was most likely just me not being used to it but it seemed to lag massively, it generally got the image I wanted. At one point I pressed something and then it was 'processing file' and I could only take an image every 5 or so seconds - user error for sure, but I had to execute a full reset to get rid of it.
Shooting at 102 megapixels was a challenge, for sure, it reminded me of the step I made from my Canon 5DII when I bought the D810 and almost doubled the resolution to 37mp, I struggled to get a sharp image at shutter speeds that were then commonplace with the old system. Basically, the more pixels you have, the faster you must shoot handheld and / or be more in love with your tripod. I dropped a lot of shots with the Fuji, despite its 6 stop IBIS, which surprised me, but most of my woes were when the camera was locked down on a tripod in windy conditions which is a little unfair on the camera. My loss rate was higher in windy conditions to the Nikon, which is to be expected in all reality with the resolution of the Z7II being half that of the Fuji.
Handheld it was a lump in the hand, but heavy cameras make for more stable platform generally, I took some images at quite slow speeds handheld, but I had to prepare for them rather than shoot on the fly, which did not work for me with this camera.
I really like the files, and in all honesty that is why you even entertain this camera in the first place.
This camera can make astonishingly lovely images, the 16-bit raw files are huge, coming in at a shade under 200Mb, but you can compress them using lossless techy stuff inside the camera and you can shoot in 14bit, whilst not exhaustive, I noticed no difference between the two file types, compressed or not.
My interest, primarily as a Landscape photographer, was for the ability to shoot large files of big vistas on a couple of planned trips to great locations and I know it / we would make some nice pictures together for sure.
I do not, however, wish to use it, mainly because I don’t like it – surprised huh – so was I!!!
It just did not sit with me well enough to want one. I am familiar with the Fuji system, I am familiar with the menu’s too having both owned all the X100 series (except the V) and an XT100 for some years (Great, great camera btw) but no, I was just not charmed by it enough to want it as my daily drive - there was no love affair, despite my initial attraction
I would need to finance it too, after all it is a huge outlay and to do this, the body alone being 5 large and nearly every lens being 2 large on top of that, yes that’s each one! As a result, I would need to sell off the quite a lot of my large collection of Nikon Z gear I currently own. Now from that, there would be no going back of course from a financial standpoint, so for once I have thought with my brain instead of my heart, and as Sarah will tell you, that don’t happen too often. I think my current equipment performs very well and another camera does not make you any better as an artist , the tool, in this case was not required for the job.
But and there is always another caveat, I am highly conscious of the onset of age, yes, I am in my late 50’s, a middle-aged man I hear you say, but I have, and am, more regularly beginning to feel the weight of my bag. I take less and less gear, continually frustrated that I needed my 70-200 but it’s at home, or there was a 14mm opportunity I could not realise for the same reason.
This was / is HUGE in my decision-making process too, because Fuji made some outrageously lovely glass, and I have always been a ‘see it – want it’ Kid, as my mother will testify.
Sarah, as always in these instances, was already cashing out on Duck purchases as I procrastinated – she almost looked disappointed last evening as I boxed up the Fuji, a whole day early before it’s return to them.
Remember above all, I am one person, with one opinion, which may or may not differ from yours, and reasonable people can disagree – please try one if you are so inclined it may well suit you well.
So, thank-you to Fuji Film for the loan of this lovely camera and anyone who uses one will with a little patience, will there is no doubt, create some lovely images with it, but I don’t need it and I realised I don’t want it – but it was fun to try and that’s what life is all about.
I am thankful for having the opportunity to be able to get to try this lovely equipment out over a few days.