Ever since Fujifilm entered the medium format market, it has been working steadily on developing the system by making highly-capable and compelling cameras at very appealing price points. The Fujifilm GFX 50R is the company’s attempt to lure APS-C and full-frame customers into the GF system by providing a lightweight, compact, and yet very inexpensive (for medium format) camera. I had the opportunity to use the GFX 50R when it was released for a number of months while doing assignments in Uzbekistan in 2019, and although I really wanted to publish my review of this camera more than a year ago, I simply could not commit to it due to my busy schedule. Better late than never, I guess! I hope that our readers will at least enjoy some of the images presented here.
The Fuji GFX 50R is by no means a revolutionary camera, and it was never meant to be one. Fujifilm cut many corners on this camera, with the purpose of keeping it small, lightweight, and affordable. With its retail price of $4,500 at the time of the announcement, it was the cheapest medium format digital camera on the market. And now that it has been out for a while, the price has been reduced to $3,500 for body-only, and even lower if you bundle it with Fuji’s excellent GF lenses. From this standpoint, it is a very unique offering – one that is meant to appeal to full-frame shooters looking into getting into a medium format system.
Fuji GFX 50R Review: Introduction
The Fujifilm GFX 50R is the last medium format by Fuji to utilize the same 51 MP CMOS sensor that we have previously seen on a number of cameras, including the Fuji GFX 50S, Hasselblad X1D 50C / X1D II 50C and Pentax 645Z. While this sensor is quite dated and does not have any breatkthrough technology like on-sensor phase-detection and in-body image stabilization (which the high-end Fuji GFX 100 does), it is still an excellent and very capable sensor that can produce images with very high dynamic range and excellent high-ISO performance.
To keep the body size small and lightweight, Fuji engineers went with rangefinder-style body design, with a limited number of buttons, a small grip, and a very small (for medium format) overall footprint. When coupled with prime lenses like the GF 50mm f/3.5 R LM WR, the camera is exceptionally sleek and compact, making it an ideal choice as a travel camera. Despite its compact appearance, Fuji managed to cram a 3.69-million dot OLED EVF into the back of the camera, in addition to a large 3.2″ 2.36-million dot tilting touchscreen LCD. It sports dual SD memory card slots, which are both compatible with fast UHS-II memory cards. Similar to other high-end APC-S and medium format cameras, the GFX 50R also has a durable magnesium alloy shell and it is both dust and weather-sealed – quite impressive for a “budget” medium format camera.
On the flip side, the camera utilizes a rather slow 117-point contrast-detection autofocus, which makes it a challenging tool to use when photographing moving subjects. It does not balance well with some of the heavy GF lenses, and its overall ergonomics leave a lot to be desired (more on that below). Similar to the GFX 50S, its video features are also very limited (only full HD).
Still, the GFX 50R is all about value, and that’s where it surely delivers. Anyone wanting to move up to a larger sensor system would probably look into the GFX 50R and compare it to other 50-60 MP full-frame options on the market. And this is where they need to pause and think about the consequences of going medium format. First of all, the term “medium format” should probably be redefined as “cropped medium format”, as the sensor on the GFX 50R isn’t significantly bigger when compared to full-frame. Take a look at the below illustration to compares sizes of different sensors:
Unlike APS-C and full-frame, medium format does not strictly define one particular sensor size. As you can see, the sensor on the Fuji GFX 50R (just like on the GFX 50S, GFX 100, Pentax 645Z and the Hasselblad X1D 50c / X1D II 50c), is significantly smaller compared to the medium format sensor found on a camera like the Hasselblad H6D-100c.
One should understand that moving up to “medium format” can differ quite a bit depending on what size of medium format sensor they choose. There is also a huge cost premium involved when moving up to the largest 53.5mm x 40mm sensors. For example, the Hasselblad H6D-100c retails for $33K, almost 10x more than what the GFX 50R goes for today. Think of the sensor size on Fuji GFX, Hasselblad X1D and Pentax 645 as crop-sensor medium format, because that’s what it really is.
In addition, switching to medium format entails much larger and pricier lenses, which might be a big turn-off for many photographers out there. Lens selection is yet another negative, as there are a limited number of selections available from each manufacturer, and the number of third-party options is equally limited due to the niche status of medium format systems.
This is the reason why Fuji decided to put its resources towards APS-C and medium format cameras, skipping full-frame entirely. While moving up from an APS-C camera to medium format represents a drastic difference in image quality, the difference is much smaller when moving from full-frame to crop-sensor medium format. So it simply did not make sense for Fuji to invest in a full-frame system…
Fuji GFX 50R Specifications
- Sensor: 51.4 MP, 5.3µ pixel size
- Sensor Size: 43.8 x 32.9mm
- Resolution: 8,256 x 6,192
- Native ISO Sensitivity: 100-12,800
- Extended ISO Sensitivity: 50, 25,600-102,400
- Weather Sealing/Protection: Yes
- Processor: X-Processor 4
- Mechanical Shutter: 60 minutes to 1/4000
- Electronic Shutter: 60 minutes to 1/16000
- Storage: 2x SD slots (UHS-II compatible)
- Viewfinder: 3.69M-dot OLED Color Viewfinder
- Viewfinder Coverage: 100%
- Speed: 3.0 FPS
- Built-in Flash: No
- Autofocus System: Contrast Detection AF
- Autofocus Points: 117
- Focusing Modes: AF-S, AF-C and Manual
- LCD Screen: 3.2 inch, Approx. 2.36 Million-dot Tilting LCD
- Touch Functionality: Yes
- Video Recording: Up to 1080p @ Up to 30p
- WiFi / Bluetooth: Yes
- GPS: No
- USB Slot: Type-C (USB 3.0)
- Battery Type: 1x NP-T125 Lithium-ion Battery
- Weight: 775g (Body with Battery)
- Dimensions: 160.7mm (W) x 96.5mm (H) x 66.4mm (D)
- Price: $4,499 MSRP
A detailed list of camera specifications is available at Fujifim.com
Ergonomics and Build Quality
As I have already pointed out, the ergonomics of the GFX 50R leave a lot to be desired. This is partially due to the rangefinder-like design that Fuji engineers were aiming at. While on one hand, the camera has a simplistic and somewhat minimalistic design approach that many will welcome, I am not a fan of two things primarily – its shallow and practically non-existent grip, as well as the lack of traditionally intuitive Fujifilm controls.
After using the GFX 50S extensively for a number of years now, which has a wonderfully deep grip that makes it a breeze to use with any GF lens (light or heavy), the GFX 50R simply does not handle well with anything other than small and lightweight primes. While I loved using the camera with lenses like the GF 45mm f/2.8, GF 50mm f/3.5 and GF 63mm f/2.8, anything larger caused the setup to be very front-heavy. And lack of a sizable grip made it especially difficult to handle heavier lenses, which is unfortunate.
Another big disadvantage for me is the poor design of the back of the camera – something I really disliked for the first time on a Fujifilm camera. Fuji designed to strip off the wonderful D-pad many of us Fuji shooters have gotten used to over the years and replaced it with a tiny and flimsy joystick:
In addition, Fuji for some reason decided to incorporate more buttons without labels – the GFX 50R has three of them, as you can see in the above image. This is a big change from the traditionally intuitive controls and buttons Fuji cameras thrived on and were praised for, for so many years.
While I found all this a puzzling move (especially the removal of the D-pad, given how much empty real estate was left on the back of the camera), this problem was eventually propagated like a virus to other Fuji cameras, including the Fuji X-Pro 3 and GFX 100. In fact, the lack of D-pad and the addition of even more buttons without labels was one of the main reasons why I disliked the ergonomics of the GFX 100 so much (it received a poor score of “2” for “Handling”). Thankfully, Fuji went back to its senses with the X-T4 (which is an absolutely stunning camera, by the way), and I hope all future cameras will follow. I very much hope the removal of the D-pad, as well as the unlabeled button approach, were temporary snafus by Fuji engineers…
Everything else feels great about the GFX 50R. The top controls are intuitive and easy to use (although a top lock on the exposure compensation dial would have been appreciated). The large, tilting touchscreen LCD is superb. Although it does not tilt when shooting in vertical orientation like the LCD screens of the GFX 50R / 100, I am personally fine with that, given the price of the camera. The dual UHS-II compatible SD slots are amazing to have, especially for critical shoots in the field. I am also glad that Fuji kept the large NP-T125 battery, which makes it great for anyone who shoots with other Fujifilm medium format cameras. When traveling on an assignment overseas, I brought both the GFX 50R and GFX 50S, and used a single charger to charge all batteries. Lastly, the dust / weather sealing is a huge added bonus, because that’s one less thing to worry about when shooting in various weather conditions.
The build quality of the GFX 50R is great, although I wish Fuji went with a larger joystick and buttons on this camera. I did not have a chance to use the camera in winter conditions, but I imagined how difficult it would be to operate with my gloves on.
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