When talking about photography and gear, the holy grail is often seen as Medium Format Cameras. Now when Fujifilm asked me to give the GFX 100 a test run over a week-end, I could not wait to hit the road with it and shoot a GFX 100 Sport photography project.
Bare in mind that this GFX 100 was a PRE-PRODUCTION body, and this does bring some issues which most certainly won’t be in the Final version of the camera.
I was about to shoot some sport photography, and thought it would be a great opportunity to test it in a place it wasn’t initially prepared to work in.
As for my extreme review of the X-T3 in september 2018, this won’t be a technical review, so if you’re looking into pixel data, sensor size elements, specific features of the menu, and into the nitty-gritty details of the camera, you’ll be disappointed and I would recommend you enjoy the read for what it is, my hands-on review of the GFX 100 Sport Photography project.
Here’s the pitch. The client wanted to prepare their Key Visual for the event of 2020. The format was F24 (for those who don’t know, F24 is 2.90×2.60 meters) so if we do our maths properly, no camera on the market is capable of pulling it out, however the closest i could get to it was the Fujifilm GFX 100.
Meeting up with Fujifilm Switzerland team on friday 14th of june, I was heading out to Zurich directly after and had to learn about the body, understand it’s features, and get out and shoot an event to test the GFX 100, and if I could make it, shoot my visual as well as my event with my other cameras during the day.
To add to the complexity, I felt like it would be a great idea to check out the Fujifilm GFX 100 sport photography capabilities with my PROFOTO Flashes. I would give the Profoto B10 Plus a test run, and see how it could integrate with Capture One 12.1. Let’s just say it was a hell of a test run on 48 hours.
The final exciting news is that usually for sport events such as cycling races, you have access to a motorbike to go to various locations, but this time, the 20km loop around a lake was in a natural reserve, therefore I was allocated a Bicycle to follow the same path as the cyclists. That meant obviously that I had to be concise with my locations, and carry all my gear with me on my back, consider about 20 kilos all in all.
Seems huge ? hmm, maybe, but had this been 2 DSLR’s, and Profoto B1X or generator driven flashes, it would have been impossible, and the GFX 100 with my B10 Plus allowed me to create what I wanted to create.
The next day, I felt like I wanted to give the Autofocus and the Continuous modes another run, so I met up with a team of Slackliners/Waterliners by the lake in Neuchâtel and messed around the location for 1 hour, trying to shoot slackliners, with sun/water reflections, reverberation, mountains, and bouncing subjects on a 2.5cm line. What more could mess up with a sensor and it’s capabilities to screw up focusing and hitting targets ? hmm, in my humble opinion, the only other option would be heading out skiing or skyDiving… so that’s next on my plan 😀
So… I’m sure you’re all eager to know how it worked, and my feeling about this monster of technology the GFX 100 is.
The camera feels sturdy, very sturdy. With it’s integrated dual battery grip, it gives us a massive power time and shooting time. The camera thus includes the portrait and horizontal standard grip.
The Camera has 2 LCD Screens on the top and on the bottom of the camera as well as the TouchScreen we are used to seeing on our fujifilm cameras. They include indications we expect, iso, aperture, speed, battery indicators.
The Screen is a TouchScreen, which is really useful to go through our images, or change our settings. If you’re a fujifilm user, whatever the camera, you’ll find things in the right place, buttons placed where the finger goes, and I must admit, 99% of the buttons seemed to be just accessible and do what I wanted them to do by default.
Most medium format cameras are very front Heavy, they are bricks, not easy to handle, not practical to hold, can’t really get your hand around them, and where Fujifilm really went awesome is in making it a major uphaul on any camera on the market. It’s a huge camera with a DSLR Look, with massive powers, a monster sensor, and technology to kick anyone’s ass in place.
Menus & Interface
The Fujifilm Interface is very similar to the GFX 50 & to the Fujifilm X-T3 or X-H1. The amazing thing about it is that menus have the same name, and you can just go into menus, use the same method you do with your other cameras. Adjusting your Fn Functions to fit your needs.
For a medium format camera, the weight is just above a Top of the range DSLR. For sure when you’re shooting events, it’s a bit overkill and as I said in the intro, it’s not really what it’s meant for, but honestly… if you need massive size and want to shoot with it… it’s crazy and it will do the job in the most impressive way. I quit using DSLR’s almost 18 months ago, and must say I am not even considering going back. So getting that weight in my hands was quite impactful, It reminded me of “the old days” with a 1DX or D5 body, but this time with IBIS 100 MegaPixel MEDIUM FORMAT camera… that’s the twist and it’s huge.
The system, unexpectedly holds Drive mode. Single shoot, Continuous Low and Continuous High. What ??? Yes you heard me, Continuous low & high on a medium format camera 100 Megapixels. and the big question is… does it work ? Hell yeah. I was using a UHS-I 128Gb card therefore really not the fastest, and I managed to get 12 shots before buffering, Full RAW, uncompressed, before the camera started slowing down and locking to save data.
how about AutoFocus ?
Well the AF-C is something we want to consider when shooting events and sports, or commercial work with quite a bit of movement. What I can tell you about the AF-C is that it works really impressively. Now if you’re shooting with the smallest focus point, you’ll see that it searches like hell and can’t really figure itself out. But if you put it in 2nd size or larger size, (aka 5 or 9 points) you’ll be amazed, it hits it off like crazy and finds its target on most of the shots.
Files are 220mb for a RAW file and approximately 50 mb for a JPG file, which is very decent for the type of resolution you’ll be getting out of the camera.
The various film simulations are as expected from Fujifilm, no gimmicks, straight to the point high quality film simulations. It’s most certainly not what I would be using on a Medium Format camera, or at least not SOOC, but I would maybe be applying simulations in post with some tweaks, so it’s something we love about fujifilm cameras and this doesn’t disappoint.
IBIS – In Body Image Stabilization
The IBIS allowed me to shoot some shots heading down to 1/50th or 1/25th on a 23mm, without any camera shake (and i tend to shake quite a bit, or give more of a hand movement on my clicks). After having tested the IQ3 100 Trichromatic and this GFX 100, I can say that the effect of the IBIS is simply a winner, and it just makes shooting Medium Format a treat.
Connectivity with PROFOTO
You may wonder if you’re a flash user or a studio user, how it gets along with PROFOTO Gear. Well what I can say is that it’s streamlined. Using the AirTTL-F remote, I could connect to my Profoto B10 and Profoto B10 Plus without any issue. The camera firmware has integrated the Profoto connection with TTL & Manual mode perfectly.
The great news is that I know by fact some new products in the pipeline will make this connectivity with Profoto gear even greater, which in my case is an absolute treat.
My gear bag on that shoot
During the event, I had an Fstop Anja bag in which I had the GFX 100, my Profoto B10, a Profoto B10 Plus with a OCF Magnum reflector, and a Manfrotto Nano tripod. A set of batteries for my B10’s and card plus batteries for my X series fujifilm and the GFX. I was also wearing a Holster with my fujifilm X-H1 and fujifilm X-T3 bodies around me.
Capture One Pro Integration
This is another crazy thing which was totally Unexpected. When testing the Fujifilm X-T3 last year, I found myself having to work on JPG Files, as the RAW were not integrated by Capture One Pro before launch of the camera.
Now this time, Capture One team worked really well, and integrated the GFX 100 in the latest version of Capture One Pro 12.1. I inserted my memory card in my computer, and there you go… Capture one launched and imported the files, ingested them and recognised the RAW Files immediately.
I thought it was the GFX 50 with no change which would be found, but no, the Profiles are “GFX 100” Generic and access to all film simulations as a whole. Now that… PhaseOne is just perfect, and THANK YOU, THANK YOU ! You are impressive in reactivity and I can only wish you the very best and growth… you are clearly leading the pack.
What I didn’t like (in documentary mode)
Now obviously, there are always things we don’t like about cameras, and I do find that, if it’s a whole day camera, it’s still quite Heavy. Obviously i’m not taking a Medium Format as a comparison, but other cameras we might be using for documentary use. In this case the GFX 100 Sport Photography test took the camera out of it’s comfort zone, and I’m glad I did, here’s why !
Auto & Manual mode
The Auto to Manual mode is on a little button which took me a while to figure out. Obviously it was maybe a RTFM (Read the Fucking Manual) situation, but It wasn’t an obvious place to go from manual to full automatic mode.
Dual Battery Slot
The body integrated a dual battery slot, which allows for long time shooting or video, however, I believe that maybe integrating it as a removable element as it is on the X-H1 and X-T3 would allow for weight reduction.
With 1 battery in the body, and 2 in a removable grip (included within the body package, not as an option), this would make it the most amazing camera built to date.
Imagine a 100MegaPixel body, with the weight of a DSLR, and be able to add 2 batteries to it, thus getting 3 batteries in total, if you need to film, shoot or cover a whole day production.
Now consider you are travelling and need the same high-end quality, but want to pack compact, you could leave the battery grip at home and get out there, with all that less weight, and be even more efficient. That would be the dream Medium Format body to work with in my humble opinion.
Considering the GFX 100 Sport photography project, the Shutter lag is improved on PhaseOne IQ3, allowing to shoot faster and get closer to the shot when shooting sports and action, however I feel that improvement can clearly be done through Firmware and code, reducing the shutter lag even more and sending the signal to trigger the shot sooner.
Fujifilm Engineers are good, we know it from firmware updates on their other cameras, and I am convinced they can work on this GFX 100 firmware update before autumn and make that shutter click sooner, let’s cross fingers.
Who is this camera for ?
If you are looking for precise colour, high quality files, and large files for high end prints or deliverables, you should be within the target audience of this camera.
Now if you’re shooting documentary, and you want very high end files, that would not be the camera for you, the shutter lag would most certainly be an issue.
Portraits, commercial work, stills & video, commercial lifestyle, automotive, architecture, that BEAST is for you. With the price of the camera and set of lenses, you’ll most certainly back yourself 20k but considering you can rent it within your production value, like you would your studio gear, you’ll get back into your costs sooner than later.
Would I get it for my line of work ?
To be sincere, It is in my consideration line, It’s a beautiful camera, with a stunning rendering, and fascinating features (which I still have way more to test and discover. In the case of the GFX 100 Sport photography project, it hit the mark.
Considering the impressive quality, features and ergonomics of the GFX 100 PRE-PRODUCTION body I had in my hands, I can’t wait to see the very final version of the body & firmware.
That body is a beast, however most of my work is with Action, active & outdoors, and the shutter lag + weight makes it problematic for taking it around for days or weeks, but with improvement on the shutter lag, the answer would be a massive and clear YES (and if the removable battery grip was implemented… that would be a double or triple YES).
Now I must say that the production value and quality of the files, and of the camera would allow me to grow in my other fields of work, and for Lifestyle, commercial lifestyle and portraits, it would be the perfect camera to add to my fujifilm set, so for sure I would recommend it to anyone in that field of work.
Let me know in comments, discuss, thoughts, feelings, considerations.
Considering a series of corporate visuals