PhotoJam 01/22/22 – Shooting with the Fujifilm GFX 50SII

I don’t think a “PhotoJam” is a thing, but that’s the word that kept popping into my head last night as myself, a couple of my co-workers and a couple of other photographers got together in the studio at Dodd Camera to take photographs of local Chicago rapper Chebaka (@smilenowcrylaterz). During the shoot we were playing with light, testing out all of our different cameras, and just having a great time enjoying the company and joy of photography.  My co-worker, Rosie Edwards (@rosiescope), put the event together and brought a lot of his own film camera toys.  Lots of large format and medium format film being shot.

Film is something I’ve learned to operate due to working in a camera store but I simply do not know enough about. Watching photographers use these cameras to create stunning imagery is really impressive and I have nothing but the utmost respect for the ones who practice the craft.

I, on the other hand, am still a digital baby.  Instead of medium format film, I opted for medium format digital. I rented the Fuji GFX50S II with the 120mm f/4 Macro and 32-64mm f/4 lenses. First impressions? The GFX 50S II is equal parts awe-inspiring and infuriating.  Its shortcomings, of which there are many, get outweighed by the sheer brilliance of the imagery that its 50-megapixel sensor is capable of capturing.  And the one thing the GFX cameras do which make me love them more than any other is something a little silly since you can do it in post, but in camera, the GFX will crop into a 65×24 aspect ratio, which is the aspect ratio you get out of the Hasselblad X-Pan 35mm panoramic film camera.  The reason being is because that iconic camera was developed by both Hasselblad and Fujifilm as a collaboration.  Fuji released their own version called the TX. It essentially had a wide panoramic shutter double the width of a normal 35mm shutter that would take an image using two exposures of 35mm film.

Hasselblad's XPan promotional photo illustrating the width of the exposure
[ohio_text text_typo=”null”]Since I am so enamored with this format, I couldn’t help but shoot most of the evening in this XPan crop mode.  But let’s talk about the 50S real quick.

Kneejerk reactions?  The Autofocus system is not good. It is contrast-based so it is slow and not good in even gentle low light conditions.  I didn’t bother using face detect and opted for back button focus which should, in theory, work fine, but it had to focus hunt constantly which it shouldn’t have to do with one subject on a blank wall. It simply was not quick or reliable to use and really makes the camera only useful for more controlled shoots.  Do not attempt sports with this camera, you will have a bad time.

The EVF? Not great.  Looking through the EVF everything looks… crispy?  I don’t know that that’s the right word because I could say the same about the photos in a positive way.  Everything looks like it has frayed edges and the clarity is not that great. It’s not until you take an actual photo that you realize the folly is in the EVF.  It just does not look good and makes your compositions feel uninspiring.

The button layout?  Not a fan.  They give you the broad joystick-style thumb control as a means of navigating menus and it’s very annoying because you will sometimes accidentally click it which selects something for you you didn’t mean to select. Had they used the joystick-style found on the X-series of cameras, it actually would’ve been fine because those work great.  This one, not so much.  The buttons were also in awkward places that cause me to contort my hand into unnatural positions to hit the buttons.  Just wasn’t a huge fan.

But then you take a photo you composed properly and… it just hits you that all these little annoyances are meaningless in the grand scheme of things because you capture images like this…[/ohio_text][ohio_gallery gallery_grid=”Minimal” masonry_grid=”1″ gap=”5px” columns=”5-4-1″ content_images=”18965,18964,18963,18962,18961,18960,18959,18957″ caption_typo=”null” gallery_title_typo=”null” gallery_caption_typo=”null”][ohio_text text_typo=”null”]It may be hard to tell, but the clarity in the images is astounding.  Not only that but shooting in raw lets you pick and choose which Fuji film simulation you’d like to apply to the photo and then tweak.  The dynamic range and details you can recover using Lightroom and Luminar is fantastic.

Speaking of film simulations, as an X-T3 user I’ve been missing out on a lot on the latest simulations Fuji has put in their newer cameras.  Getting to play around with the new sims, I have to say that Nostalgic Negative has become my new favorite for photos.  Eterna Bleach Bypass is too bold to use all the time, but Nostalgic Negative is here to stay.  I shoot Velvia quite often on my X-T3, but if I had Nostalgic Negative I’m not sure I’d shoot anything else, it’s that good.

Here are some comparison photos so you can see the straight out of camera version vs my edited version.[/ohio_text][ohio_compare first_image=”18972″ second_image=”18960″]

[ohio_compare first_image=”18970″ second_image=”18965″]
[ohio_compare first_image=”18969″ second_image=”18957″]
[ohio_compare first_image=”18971″ second_image=”18959″]
[ohio_text text_typo=”null”]I’m just very very pleased with the images coming out of this camera. They are stellar, and it makes me more excited to eventually get my hands on the Fuji GFX 100S.  The lenses used are quite phenomenal as well.  Because medium format uses a larger sensor size than full frame you have to do a reverse crop to get the full frame equivalent.  The 120mm f/4 functions more like a 95mm f/3.2 and the 32-64mm f/4 functions like a 25-51mm f/3.2.  A solid set to play with.

The GFX is a perfect studio camera.  As long as you can live with its shortcomings, you will be rewarded with some of the most gorgeous images you’ll ever take. And with the 50S II’s new price point being $3999, it makes an enticing option if you’re in the market for a full-frame camera, which is Fuji’s game plan.  They are bringing medium format to the masses and it’s only a matter of time before enough people get their hands on one before too long and realize how special it can be.  That said, there’s still a ways to go before a medium format camera performs efficiently like a full-frame, so it remains a tool for a very certain set of photographers.

If you’d like to view the full resolution before and afters I posted above, please follow this Dropbox link here:[/ohio_text]

©Logan Bowes 2022