Fujifilm Australia’s Warrewyk Williams arrived at the Touch and Try event at Ted’s World of Imaging in Sydney last night with one of the few, if not the only, Fujifilm GFX 50R medium format rangefinder-style digital cameras along with a selection of G Mount lenses, Fujifilm GFX 50S DSLR-style medium format camera, Fujifilm X-H1, Instax printers and more.
The event provided an opportunity for a brief but informative hands-on with the GFX 50R with the proviso that the camera is a pre-production model with pre-release firmware and so comes with possible quirks and operating speed reductions.
This event was particularly welcome as I have not had the opportunity to touch or try the X-H1, GFX 50S or any of Fujifilm’s Instax products, given the closure of our local top-end camera stores, and I have long been hoping and waiting for a digital version of Fujifilm’s justly loved and celebrated “Texas Leica” 120 roll film analog cameras of the past.
Some “Texas Leica” medium format rangefinder cameras from the analog era, made by Fujifilm, Bronica and Mamiya
Some of the last Fujifilm analog 120 roll film cameras.
The last 120 roll film analog camera to be made by Fujifilm, the Fujifilm GF670 folding rangefinder camera with fixed Fujinon 80mm f/3.5 standard lens. I saw one once at a photography trade show in Sydney alongside its non-folding wide-angle rangefinder sibling.
Fuji GS645 II Professional Wide 60 120 roll-film rangefinder camera with wide-angle lens, great for photojournalism. Photograph courtesy KEH Camera.
Fujica GW690 120 roll film rangefinder camera, image kindly released into the public domain by Jfriedl.
Mamiya 7 II interchangeable lens 120 rollfilm rangefinder camera. Photograph courtesy of Japan Camera Hunter.
Bronica RF645 6×4.5cm 120 roll film rangefinder camera, photograph courtesy of Japan Camera Hunter.
Fujifilm, as well as Bronica and Mamiya, made some remarkable 120 roll film rangefinder cameras with Fujifilm producing a huge variety of “Texas Leicas” in the 6×4.5cm, 6x6cm, 6x7cm, 6x8cm and 6x9cm formats and for all I know may well have produced 6x9cm and 6x12cm cameras too.
I continue to search for top quality photographs of these and other cameras in the hopes of preserving some of the camera-building achievements of the past, some of which may trickle down to the present day.
The Fujifilm GFX 50R has clearly benefited from Fujifilm’s analog innovations, its look and feel reminding me of the company’s larger 120 roll film cameras while also sharing a great deal of the X-Pro2’s own DNA.
Fujifilm GFX 50R Touch and Try
Reeling off a few snapshots with an unfamiliar and pre-production camera is hardly a thorough real-world test but the experience reminded me that documentary photography and portraiture with a medium format camera is a very different thing to making the same sorts of photographs with a small, fast, agile, gestural camera like the X-Pro2 or X-T3.
Making reportage and portraits photographs with the GFX 50R and GFX 50S is more akin to how I used to work handheld with my Hasselblad, Mamiya 7 and even my Crown Graphic 4″x5″ sheet film 4field camera – slower, more deliberate and with fewer shots than I would make on APS-C or Micro Four Thirds cameras.
I tried two lenses, the Fujinon GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR and the Fujinon GF 120mm f/4.0 Macro R LM OIS WR in emulation of the two-lens moderate wide and medium telephoto kits I had for my medium and large format analog cameras.
I learned that, aside from the coming-soon Fujinon GF 50mm f3.5 R LM WR pancake lens, equivalent to about 40mm in the 35mm sensor format, more wide prime lenses are planned for GF mount cameras along with the Fujinon GF 45-100mm f/4.0 R LM OIS WR and Fujinon GF 100-200mm f/5.6 R LM OIS WR zoom lenses currently slated for 2019 and 2020 releases on Fujifilm’s G Mount Lens Roadmap.
The Fujifilm GFX 50R is, for me, a combination rangefinder-style and small field view camera, for use primarily handheld but also on a portable but sturdy tripod such as 3 Legged Thing’s Winston or those made by Really Right Stuff, for making environmental and full-face portrait photographs.
My quick and dirty test shots indicate that it has the image quality of an analog sheet film camera rather than a 120 roll film camera, and I would prefer to use prime lenses with it rather than zooms.
Warrewyk Williams estimates the focal length equivalence factor at 0.79 for Fujifilm’s G Mount lenses, making the 45mm equivalent to 35.55 in 35mm terms and the 120mm equivalent to 94.8 in 35mm terms.
Other lenses worth considering for my sort of portrait photography include the Fujinon GF 110mm f/2.0 R LM WR equivalent to 86.9mm and hopefully a soon-to-come 35mm GF lens equivalent to 28mm.
Not to be discounted is the Fujinon GF 32-64mm f/4.0 R LM WR zoom lens which provides at least three useful focal lengths for different forms of portraiture, in 35mm equivalent terms 28mm, 35mm and 50mm, and is available right now rather than waiting for fast prime lenses to come.
A two or three lens kit for the GFX 50R may be all I would need for portraiture should I invest in digital medium format.
While it is too early too come to conclusions about the GFX 50R and its lenses, I have been particularly struck by the superb 3D image rendering in the available light snapshot portrait of Warrewyk Williams above and am very much looking forward to exploring more of the creative possibilities of Fujifilm’s GFX camera and lens system very soon.
Portrait of Warrewyk Williams made by Karin Gottschalk on Fujifilm medium format camera with Fujinon GF 120mm f4.0 R LM OIS WR Macro lens as five autoexposure brackets processed in Skylum Aurora HDR 2019 with film emulation LUT applied and further processing in Skylum Luminar.
Documentary photographs made by Karin Gottschalk on Fujifilm X-Pro2 with Fujinon XF 23mm f/1.4 R lens.
Header image of GFX 50R made by Jonas Rask for Fujifilm.
Fujifilm announced the development of its new digital medium format GFX system back in September 2016 with the promise that the “Fujifilm GFX 50S will give professional photographers the most extraordinary image quality in the history of Fujifilm”.
Time is rushing by and the first quarter of 2017 will soon commence, during when we can expect the release of the Fujifilm GFX 50S camera with 43.8 x 32.9mm 51.4 megapixel non-X-Trans sensor and three lenses initially with three more to came later in the year.
The first three GF lenses are:
GF63mmF2.8 R WR – standard prime lens equivalent to 50mm in the 35mm format.
GF32-64mmF4 R LM WR – wide-to-standard zoom lens equivalent to 25 to 51mm in 35mm format.
GF120mmF4 Macro R LM OIS WR – stabilized mid-telephoto macro prime lens equivalent to 95mm in 35mm format.
The next three GF lenses will be:
GF23mmF4 R LM WR – ultra-wide prime lens equivalent to 18mm in 35mm format.
GF45mmF2.8 R WR – wide-angle prime lens equivalent to 35mm in 35mm format.
GF110mmF2 R LM WR – wide aperture mid-telephoto prime lens equivalent to 87mm in 35mm format.
Ivan Joshua Loh
Jonas Dyhr Rask
Piet Van den Eynde
FUJIFILMglobal –Development of Professional-use Mirrorless Camera System “GFX” / FUJIFILM
Fujifilm’s History of Photographic Achievement
Fujifilm has a long history of achievements and innovations in the photographic sphere and especially in medium and large format photography.
Richard Avedon was a devotee of Fujifilm’s large format lenses for his 8″x10″ sheet film cameras and Greg Gorman relied on the Fujifilm GX 680 series as his main studio portrait cameras for some years.
I once spotted the great German-Australian photographer Helmut Newton toting a Fujica GS645 Professional on his way to a magazine portrait assignment and fell in love with that camera for the purpose, an unrequited love affair alas, as it was with other Fujica cameras due to them being hard to get outside of Japan.
I hope that the big photography and video production trade shows will be coming back to the new International Convention Centre Sydney in Darling Harbour soon – it has been far too long without them.
Camera and Lens Choices
As a magazine editorial portrait photographer, I relied on medium and large format cameras for the way they caused my subjects to quickly settle down and and start projecting to the reader via the camera and lens. That was very different to how they related to 35mm rangefinder cameras and different again to 35mm SLR cameras the few times I used them on assignment.
Just before stepping out of professional photography for a time due to extreme photochemical allergies, I had planned on rationalizing my gear with Fujica 6×4.5cm 120 roll film cameras and the GX680. A GX680 III might have been a good choice with which to enter the digital age as Fuji later introduced a digital back, the DBP for GX680, though that was reportedly only available in Japan.
The GX680 series was celebrated for its big range of top notch lenses, 17 in all with one of them a zoom lens, as well as an even larger range of accessories. Lucky owners reported that their experience of the GX680 was a little like using a small view camera, a little like using a 120 format SLR and a little like using a motor drive SLR.
From what little I have seen of using the GFX 50S, its user experience seems like something of a hybrid too, given its fealty to Fujifilm’s X-Series cameras and lenses and even, perhaps, aspects of the FinePix S5 Pro and its S-Series predecessors. We will learn more soon and I am hoping Fujifilm Australia will host a GFX 50S launch event similar to its X-T2 event earlier this year to enable some hands-on experience.
Back to my editorial portraiture experience. I would often be lucky to get not much more than fifteen minutes to meet, greet, assess, set up, light, shoot then pack up for a typical portrait session. That was a product of expectations created by other magazine and newspaper photographers’ typical modus operandi, and client requirements of three to five such assignments per day.
The challenge was to come up with enduring, insightful portraits of two basic types, a landscape aka horizontal format environmental portrait and an intense vertical format full-face portrait. If time allowed I would grab more candid shots with my Leicas. My clients rarely needed more than those two types of portraits, though, one for the article intro and often full-page and the other in the body of the article. I like some focal lengths for 1:1, prefer others for 4:3 and 3:2, and others again for 16:9.
I used a medium wide angle lens for the environmental portrait, lens stopped down for detail and camera mounted on a tripod. A medium long telephoto macro lens was perfect for the emotionally-engaging full-face portrait. I usually carried a three-light flash kit but substituted it with a single continuous light when needing to shoot in 35mm only.
Looking at Fujifilm’s 2017 GF-Series lens list, of the three to be released in the first part of the year I would choose the GF 120mm f/4 R LM OIS WR and the GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR.
The 120mm’s OIS is a real bonus for handholding close and framing tight under continuous light. The 32-64mm’s wide to standard focal range provides framing choices in tight interiors. I would stop both lenses down to f/5.6 as a matter of course, and more again with the wide end of the zoom lens for even more environmental detail if needed.
Out of the three lenses to be released mid to late 2017, the faster lenses look interesting. But, so much hinges on how the camera handles, what configuration works best for what sorts of subject matter and which genres, whether it will be handheld or tripod-mounted, and whether it will be used in available light, continuous artificial light or flash and even what aspect ratio one is shooting for.
Time will tell. Meanwhile I have fingers crossed that one of the rental studios around here may consider adding a full Fujifilm GFX 50S camera and lens kit to their equipment hire inventory.
Raw Processing and Image Editing
Right now it is impossible to predict if and when software companies making raw processors and raw-savvy image editing software will begin supporting the Fujifilm GFX 50S.
But one thing is almost guaranteed, Fujifilm will be supplying an updated version of its Raw File Convertor aka RFC software “powered by SilkyPix” as soon as the GFX 50S is released and it will be available to download and use for free.
RFC is a special edition version of a product by Ichikawa Soft Laboratory Co. Ltd, made in two regular versions, SilkyPix Developer Studio 7 and Developer Studio Pro 7. Having used neither of these the precise differences between RFC, Studio 7 and Studio Pro 7 are unclear to me but RFC is enough for my purposes given I use other raw processors and image editors as well.
Complaining about RFC is almost a cliché in the online world, and while it is true that its user interface is unlike most others’, it is reliable and powerful.
Due to Fujifilm’s special relationship with Ichikawa Soft Laboratory, RFC will always be updated to handle each new Fujifilm camera’s raw files and it will always have Fujifilm’s proprietary raw demosaicing algorithms built in.
So far the ‘GFX Challenges’ series numbers sixteen videos and I hope that more are to come, especially some featuring female photographers.
Female professional photographers are just as likely to use medium format digital camera systems as non-female pro photographers, as I can personally attest having been a professional magazine photographer as well as photography client commissioning many of the finest female and non-female photographers in the world to shoot for advertising campaigns and magazines.
Non-Australian female photographers visibly working at the top end of photography had a major effect on my decision to take up professional photography in an era when women were almost completely unknown as pro photographers here.
It was one of those then incredibly rare Australian female professionals who recruited me as a teenager into working for a wedding and portrait studio, using big, heavy, clunky analog medium format cameras and big flash units, and it was another Australian female photographer who showed me that the same subject matter could be brilliantly tackled in a different way with 35mm analog rangefinder cameras.
I owe both those Australians a debt I can never repay, and I owe the same to the great female photographers around the world who inspired me, with whom I have worked, commissioned, produced or about whom I have written.
I hope that, some day very soon, all camera and photography hardware and software companies will recognize the crucial contribution female photographers have made and continue to make to the art and craft of photography by adding equal numbers of women to their professional and ambassadorial ranks.
I cannot help but note that Fujifilm, for example, currently includes only one female photographer in its 18-strong Australian X-Photographers line-up. Surely there is more than one qualified Australian woman using Fujifilm cameras?
As of January 26, 2017, Fujifilm has released 30 GFX Challenges videos via its FUJIFILMGlobal YouTube channel, 28 of which feature male photographers and 2 of which feature female photographers.
Billy Luong, manager for Fujifilm’s Technical Marketing and Product Specialist Group, shared that: “With the GFX we had something like 50 photographers around the world using pre-production cameras.”
Does this mean that there may be more than 2 female photographers in that group?