The Expert Reviews camera desk is a busy place. Cameras come, and cameras go. We’re lucky, we realise, to have become pretty complacent at the arrival of yet another sleek, well-featured mirrorless camera or mid-range DSLR.
The GFX 100 stopped the office in its tracks. It looks the business, for sure – its full-height, space-age design a good deal more interesting than your usual photography fodder – but it’s the answers to the question, “what’s THAT?” that really stand out.
It’s medium format. It’s ten THOUSAND pounds and, what’s more, that’s a pretty good deal. The biggest challenge proved to be wrestling it away from the gawpers.
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Fujifilm GFX 100 review: What you need to know
The GFX 100 is best described in superlatives. It’s the most expensive camera we’ve reviewed this year (ever, very likely) at £9,999. It has the biggest, highest-resolution sensor you’ll see in any digital camera, with a medium format, 102-megapixel backlit CMOS unit measuring 44mm across by 33mm tall. It produces 11,648 x 8,736 still images at a rate of five per second, and at ISOs of up to 102,400.
It’s also big – Fuji is stretching market-speak to its utter limit when it describes the GFX 100 as “compact and lightweight” because before you add a lens it weighs nearly a kilo and a half. At 156mm wide by 164mm tall and 103mm deep it’s actually bigger in terms of volume than the Canon EOS 1D-X Mark II.
But a camera like this isn’t about portability and it certainly isn’t about economics. This is a camera that will live and die by the images it produces.
Fujifilm GFX 100 review: Price and competition
We say the GFX 100 isn’t about economics, but it’s a rare photographer, pro or otherwise, with £10,000 to drop on a new body, so it’s important to remember what you could have for the money otherwise.
The list is extensive. For starters, you could have the GFX 100’s smaller, cheaper sibling, the Fujifilm GFX 50R, which at £3,449 body-only leaves you with a handsome chunk of change for a few of Fuji’s excellent but pricey G-mount lenses. It’s the worse performer in most ways – 3fps instead of five, 50 megapixels instead of 100, and a maximum of 1080p, 30fps video recording. You’ll also find just a single battery (the GFX 100 takes two) and one memory card slot. Image quality, as we found in our review, is superlative but the GFX 50R can be a little trying in terms of usability.
So what’s around elsewhere? The obvious candidates, if only because of their similar size, are the likes of the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II and the Nikon D5. Canon’s most potent pro camera, the EOS-1D X Mark II, costs £4,799 while the Nikon D5 is more at £5,599. Either way, both are full-frame cameras offering superb image quality at a vast range of ISOs and have a huge library of lenses to choose from.
Performance from both is incredible – the Nikon D5 shoots 12fps and the Canon 1D X Mark II up to 14fps. You don’t get vast amounts of resolution from either – the Nikon D5 offers 20.8 megapixels while the 1D X Mark II shoots 20.2-megapixel stills. However, if you want images that print very, rather than stupendously, big, both are incredibly usable, tough workhorses doing impressive jobs with pro photojournalists all over the world. And, while the images may not be as large, both leave you with a big pile of money for lenses compared to the GFX 100.
If you simply must have medium format, there are more options than ever, and 2019 might be the first year that a £10,000 camera didn’t represent the absolute cheapest end of the market. There’s the GFX 50R, of course, but there’s also the new, horrendously-named Hasselblad X1D II 50C, a 50-megapixel mirrorless medium format camera that might be the most portable medium format camera yet. At 650g without a lens and competitively priced at £5,399, medium format photographers should be rejoicing at the sudden abundance of choice.
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Fujifilm GFX 100 review: Features and design
For the money, we expected the GFX 100 to be bang on in terms of usability and features, and we weren’t disappointed. It has a full height body with controls for shooting both horizontally and vertically; the extra space at the bottom of the camera is put to good use with a sliding magazine able to accommodate two 1,250mAh batteries for a claimed maximum of 800 frames. That’s very good for a mirrorless camera – we’re used to seeing sub-400 claims elsewhere. In real life, if you’re going to shoot a load of video or are used to shooting a LOT of stills, you might experience a bit of battery anxiety towards the end of a busy day shooting, but in our tests we failed to exhaust the GFX 100.
Out of the box the GFX 100 is a flat square of a device, but that’s because it ships without its “optional” EVF attached. Once the EVF is on you’ll never look back – it balances the camera nicely and has a generous eye cup that allows you to really concentrate on your frame. The viewfinder is a 0.5in number with 5.76 million pixels, which means the picture it produces is impressively fine-grained. The EVF has a hotshoe on top, allowing you to either mount speedlites or wireless flash triggers.
Next to the viewfinder is a secondary shooting screen, presenting information such as shutter speed and aperture settings. It’s a high-contrast, monochrome screen with a backlight that you can trigger in low light. It’s large, and readable with large characters, and possibly goes some way to explaining the GFX 100’s excellent battery life, as you don’t need to run the much larger screen on the back of the camera just to get your exposures set up.
Speaking of which, the screen on the rear of the camera is another good one. At 3.2in, it’s larger than many, and with 2.36 million pixels offers plenty of resolution – although when shooting with either the rear screen or EVF, we preferred to check focus by cropping into the frame or using focus peaking to double check things were sharp. The screen tilts in three directions and, naturally, is touch-sensitive. Beneath it is yet another secondary information screen, again proffering shutter, aperture and ISO settings among others. Both these secondary screens sound like minor details; in reality they make the GFX 100 a much more usable camera as you can quickly check what it’s going to do without having to prod the rear monitor into life.
It’s fair to expect a good number of physical controls on a camera like this – n00bs might be happy poking their way through the menu system, but the more experienced will want lots of shortcut keys so they can get their camera set up quickly to adapt to changing shooting conditions. It’s here that things feel just a little less than ten grand: it’s not the number of buttons or dials, but their relatively small size and how little they obtrude from the camera body. Look at any of Nikon or Canon’s high-end cameras and you’ll find bubbly, raised buttons that are easy to hit wearing gloves or when feeling your way around the camera in the dark. These can be a little harder to find.
Whether you forgive them or simply get used to them, the GFX 100 isn’t lacking in body controls. Of particular use is the joystick on the back, used to select your autofocus point. Or, more precisely, the joysticks, plural, on the back, which along with a few other duplicated buttons, allow your fingers to find the controls in the same place on the GFX 100 whether you’re holding it landscape or portrait. Jogdials on the front and back right hand shoulders of the camera allow you to get set up, while a dial on the left hand top of the camera lets you choose between movie mode, a mixed mode, or stills only; a button in the middle lets you choose your drive mode. It all adds up to a camera which is very easy to use – Fujifilm has really put the GFX 100’s plus-size dimensions to good use here.
Ports, sockets and slots are all as you’d expect on a top-end body like this. The GFX 100 can accommodate two SD cards at once, allowing you to plump for either added data security or simply more storage. With the GFX 100’s RAW files weighing it at a shade under 200MB EACH, the latter is not a terrible idea. The other side of the camera provides a flash sync port, plus both audio-in and -out sockets for a microphone or headphone respectively – a nod to the camera’s video competencies. There’s a USB-C port and a Micro HDMI connector for attaching an external monitor, as well as – unusually – a dedicated DC power socket, allowing you to run or charge the GFX 100 straight from the mains. The camera can also charge via its USB-C connector. Told you it was fully equipped.
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Fujifilm GFX 100 review: Photo quality
The GFX 100’s images are huge, but that’s easy – we’re used to even camera phones routinely busting the 50 megapixel mark these days. What stands out about the GFX 100 is its absolutely outstanding image quality. Its sensor might be packed with pixels, but its images are easily the equal of the very best DSLR lenses out there – they’re just also four times the resolution. That allows you to be extremely aggressive when it comes to cropping, and also means images will survive even the grandest reproductions. Not sure if your client is going to take your images and emblazon them on the side of a building? The GFX 100 will produce images that hold up outstandingly well.
Part of the credit must go to Fujifilm’s lenses. We’ve now used the GF23mm f/4, the GF32-64mm f/4 and the GF110mm f/2 (the latter only with the GFX 50R) and could not find fault with any of them. Chromatic aberration is nowhere to be seen and they are outstandingly sharp – not just at the apertures you’d expect a pro lens to be sharp at but also wide open.
Mind you, you pay for the quality – the GF32-64mm f/4 (equivalent to a 25-51mm lens in 35mm money) is a zoom lens that costs £1,799. The prime GF23 f/4 (equivalent to a wide-angle 18mm lens in 35mm terms) costs a shade over two grand. Once you’ve got the 32-64mm – as close to a walk-around lens there is on this camera – we’d suggest making friends with a suitably-stocked rental company.
^Click to view comparison photos at ISO 50, 3,200 and 102,400 (in that order)
This is a seriously usable camera – it’s unusual to think of a medium format body as being particularly compatible with street photography, and yet we started to think nothing of popping the GFX 100 on a shoulder and nipping out when the light was nice. It performs extremely well for a medium format body – 5fps isn’t much in the grand scheme of things but we’re used to very sluggish performance from other large sensor cameras. That precludes them from doing obviously high-performance shoots like wildlife and sports, but also discourages their use for street photography or ad hoc portraits. The GFX 100’s ability to write at speeds commensurate with most mainstream DSLRs makes it an incredibly usable, accessible camera – just one that happens to create images you can crop into for days.
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Fujifilm GFX 100 review: Video quality
A criticism of the smaller GFX 50R was its poor video options – something the GFX 100 puts right. For one thing, it shoots 4K – in fact it shoots 4,096 x 2,160 DCI 4K at 29.97, 25, 24 and 23.98 fps, or standard 4K at the same framerates. It can also shoot 2K (2,048 x 1,080) or regular old Full HD. You can shoot at various of Fuji’s film simulations, or in F-log if you’re happy to grade footage later. The base ISO for F-log is 800, so if this is something you want to use you’ll almost certainly need to get a few ND filters.
Video of Fuji GFX 100 4k Video Test
The video features continue – audio in and out allow you to monitor audio while using an external mic to get it sounding better, while the micro-HDMI connector can feed an external monitor. Like the GFX 50R there are various niceties to make shooting video easier, such as zebra striping for exposure and focus peaking.
Video quality is excellent, with great dynamic range and limited rolling shutter effect. But – while the GFX 100’s image quality is clearly medium format quality, the same can’t be said for video quality, which is great but not miles better than that of a good full-frame DSLR. If you’ve got 10k to spend on a video camera, you’ll find more suitable choices elsewhere.
Fujifilm GFX 100 review: Verdict
The GFX 100 is a terrifically fun camera, and if you have the wherewithal to buy one, and the technical chops to do its incredible sharpness and image quality justice, you should. It shoots beautiful portraits and performs similarly to mainstream DSLRs which, given the amount of data it’s pushing, is no mean feat. Its handling is excellent, particularly compared to other “budget” medium format mirrorless cameras, thanks to its full height body, and we have no complaints about its EVF, battery life or body controls.
Mind you, at ten grand you shouldn’t have any complaints, and while this is a hugely enjoyable camera to use – and one capable of outstanding results – most mainstream photographers will struggle to make much of an economic case for it. Yes, it shoots technically better pictures than top-end full-frame DSLRs, but it costs twice as much and has a smaller selection of lenses. If you’re regularly asked to make images that will repro beautifully at very demanding sizes the justification will be there, but we can’t see many jobbing photographers splashing out. For hobbyists the choice is different – if you’ve got the cash for this, spend it. We can’t think of many more enjoyable ways to splash out.
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