Both Hasselblad and Fuji got quite a bit of buzz in 2016 when they introduced the first mirrorless medium format cameras. The Hasselblad X1D-50c stole the show with its beautiful design, compact build and leaf shutter lenses, whereas the GFX 50S got Fuji fans excited with its functional camera body, modular EVF, tiltable LCD screen and a lower price point. Both cameras compete head to head when it comes to image quality, since they feature a very similar 44x33mm sensor, which is why I will be bringing them up quite a bit for side-by-side comparisons in this review. I have now been shooting with the Fuji GFX 50S for approximately six months, so the experience that I am sharing with our readers is based on quite a bit of field work, including international travel.
All of the images presented in this review were captured with the three lenses that Fuji announced with the GFX 50S: Fujinon GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR (~25-50mm full-frame equivalent), Fujinon GF 63mm f/2.8 R WR (~50mm full-frame equivalent) and Fujinon GF 120mm f/4 Macro R LM OIS WR (~95mm full-frame equivalent). Additional notes regarding these and the recently announced Fuji GF lenses can be found in the next few pages.
Just like the Hasselblad X1D-50c, the Fuji GFX 50S features a 50 MP Sony-made medium format sensor that we had previously seen on the Pentax 645Z. Although the sensor is excellent in every way (as I have described in my Pentax 645Z review), Sony simply decided to resell existing sensor technology to three different manufacturers: Pentax, Hasselblad and Fuji. So whether you are looking at the Pentax 645Z, Hasselblad X1D-50c or Fuji GFX 50S, they all share a very similar sensor. However, Fuji claims that it “customized” the GFX 50S sensor to yield superior image quality, which is not something one can easily see, but something that can be proven via detailed image comparisons that you can find in the Image Quality page of this review. Still, at the end of the day, image quality differences might not matter in the long run – it mainly boils down to differences in camera systems. The Pentax 645Z is a large and heavy DSLR with a good selection of lenses already available – it is a fairly mature medium format system. The Hasselblad X1D-50c is a lightweight and stylish mirrorless camera with leaf shutter lenses. And lastly, the Fuji GFX 50S is a functional machine designed with a similar user interface and functions as the existing Fuji X-series cameras. Thanks to its focal plane shutter and a relatively short flange distance, it is also possible to adapt many different lenses from other systems, the advantage the X1D cannot compete with. I have been fortunate to have used all three systems, so everything I say in this review is based on my extensive experience with each camera.
1) Overview and Sensor Size Comparison
While the three medium format cameras technically have more resolution than any other full-frame camera on the market (the closest in resolution is the Canon 5DS / 5DS R), it is not the resolution, but the sensor size that plays a huge role in the overall image quality of a system. Generally, larger sensors have better handling of noise, potentially better dynamic range, better colors and with the right set of lenses, can produce beautifully rendered photographs. At the end of the day, sensor size certainly does matter, but the big question is, how much of a difference is there really between medium format and full-frame sensors? Take a look at the below illustration:
Unlike APS-C and full-frame, medium format does not strictly define one particular size of sensor. As you can see, the sensor on the Fuji GFX 50S (just like on the Pentax 645Z and the Hasselblad X1D-50c), is significantly smaller compared to the medium format sensor found on 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 one chooses. There is a huge cost premium involved when moving up to the largest 53.5mm x 40mm sensors too (for example, the Hasselblad H6D-100c retails for $33K, far more than what the GFX 50S goes for). Think of the GFX 50S sensor as a crop-sensor medium format, because that’s what it is really…
When it comes to overall sensor size, it is also important to point out the physical size difference between the above-mentioned cameras:
- Full-Frame is 236% as large as APS-C and typically 2x-4x as expensive
- Medium Format Small (Fuji GFX 50S, Pentax 645Z and Hasselblad X1D-50c) is 167% as large as full-frame and typically 3x-4x as expensive
- Medium Format Large (Hasselblad H6D-100c) is 149% as large as Medium Format Small and 3x-4x as expensive
As you can see, moving up in sensor size costs a huge premium and the larger you go, the less value you get. Considering that one can get a new camera with an APS-C sensor for around ~$500 nowadays, does it make sense to move up to a Hasselblad H6D-100c that costs $33 thousand dollars? Even if the latter has a 586% as large of a sensor, the cost difference is a whopping 6,600%, which is mind-boggling. For most people, this is simply a huge waste of money. Now considering that the smaller medium format sensor is only 167% as large as full-frame and yet it is 2-3 times as expensive compared to something like the Nikon D810, one wouldn’t get the same dollar per sensor inch value as say when moving from an APS-C to a full-frame camera. Hence, such a move would not make much financial sense for most photographers out there.
However, for those who want to have the best image quality and do not mind the much higher price premium, medium format cameras certainly do have an edge over full-frame cameras. For example, the Fuji GFX 50S’s pixel size is 5.3µ, whereas the Nikon D810 has a pixel size of 4.88µ. Not only does the latter have less resolution, but it also has smaller pixels, which gives a fairly noticeable advantage to the GFX 50S. The difference is certainly visible in images, but it is very marginal. While jumping from an APS-C sensor to medium format would be huge, moving up from full-frame to medium format is not going to show night and day differences in image quality. And that’s expected, given the relatively small difference in sensor size between the two, as shown above.
2) Fuji GFX 50S Specifications
Main Features and Specifications:
- Sensor: 51.4 MP, 5.3µ pixel size
- Sensor Size: 43.8 x 32.9mm
- Resolution: 8256 x 6192
- Native ISO Sensitivity: 100-12,800
- Extended ISO Sensitivity: 50, 25,600-102,400
- Weather Sealing/Protection: Yes
- 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 Only
- Autofocus Points: 425
- Focusing Modes: AF-S, AF-C and Manual
- LCD Screen: 3.2 inch, Approx. 2,360K-dot Tilt-Type Color LCD Monitor
- Touch Functionality: Yes
- Battery Type: NP-T125 Li-ion battery
- WiFi: Yes
- GPS: No
- USB Standard: 3.0
- Weight: 920g (Camera Body, battery and EVF attached)
- Dimensions: 147.5mm (W) x 94.2mm (H) x 91.4mm (D)
- Price: $6,499 MSRP
A detailed list of camera specifications is available at Fujifim.com