Fuji GFX

Have you ever seen an older gentleman in a hideously expensive sports car and thought ‘That machine is capable of so much more than you could ever ask of it. That is such a waste of potential!!!’ Well me using Fuji’s Medium Format GFX is pretty much the photographic equivalent. But that didn’t stop me from borrowing one from Fuji try it out. Here’s how it went.

The camera

If you’ve come to this blog knowing a bit about photography, you will already know what a Medium Format camera is…and if you’ve come to this blog not knowing much about photography you really won’t care about pixel counts and sensor sizes. So I won’t waste any time throwing numbers at you.
In short, the camera I normally shoot on (the Fuji x-T1) has a sensor about the size of a postage stamp, and the GFX has a sensor about the size of a tea-bag.
Do I think for a second that Fuji want me making this comparison? No.
Do I think it’s very helpful for people trying to picture this in their mind? Also, no.
But it basically means that each photo has a lot more pixels and therefore a lot more information and detail. When I had my photo (taken on the x-T1) in the NPPP I had it printed as large as I could without it losing any detail…and when I saw it compared to the other photos, my first thought was ‘Why is my photo so small?!’ Part of the answer may have been that the other photos were taken with cameras with a bigger sensor.

‘Soooo…your Dad’s photo is pretty small huh!’

So part of me wanted to see just what was possible with a camera with a bigger sensor…the other part of me knew that I had purchased my entire Fuji kit (camera body and 4 x lenses) for $5K, and $5K wasn’t even going to get me the camera body of a GFX, let alone lenses. So were my photos going to be 4 times better with $20K worth of camera gear? Let’s find out! (Narrator’s voice – ‘They weren’t”)

The lenses

I was lucky enough to be sent 4 lenses; a 45mm, 63mm, 120mm and 250mm. Instead of banging on about them, here’s a snapshot of each:

The 45mm

I REALLY liked this lens. Wide enough for landscapes and architecture, but tight enough for an environmental portrait.

The 63mm

Hey, do you know what’s fun? Maths. So this 63mm on the medium format, is about the same as a 50mm on a full-frame and a 35mm on my Fuji x-T1. So this is a convoluted way of saying that if I could only have one lens on the GFX… this would be it.

The 120mm

The 120mm was probably my revelation as a portrait lens. I’ve never really done portraits where people’s hands are cut off, or heaven forbid, part of their head is cutoff. But I LOVED how some of these shots turned out with this lens, and I’ll definitely be using this in my future portraits…albeit with a LOT fewer pixels!

The 250mm

I added this to my list of lenses because I thought I was going to take photos of wildlife. I didn’t. So this lens didn’t get as much of a workout as the others. But I also took one of my favourite GFX pictures with it, so on average is was probably the best performer!

So what’s it actually like?

You 100% feel like a Pro with this camera in your hands. It feels solid and purpose built, the sound of the shutter is brilliant and it has the same functionality as my x-T1 so everything I needed was at my fingertips. The file sizes are enormous! I’m used to having my RAW files as 20mb files on the x-T1, whereas the jpegs that come out of the GFX are 20mb…the RAW files over 100mb! So on my first day of shooting I went to a skate park where I was shooting RAW+Jpeg on burst mode, and just about filled my entire 32GB card! There are a lot of reviews of this camera where people say ‘It really made me slow down and consider my composition’ which I had thought was a comment on just how much you can fit onto the sensor…but I now realise it was just code for ‘I can’t afford to buy another hard-drive to store these files!’

Should have gone on the wider lens!
I missed SO many of these photos where I tried to follow the skater to keep them sharp while everything else is blurred that I almost cried.

I loved the amazing detail in the photos. I loved being able to shoot at f32 for a long exposure and not have to worry about ND filters.

f 32 and 7 second exposure at Kalimna Falls
f 22 and 5 seconds at a Lorne sunrise

I loved that even shots that were brutally over-exposed could be made to look amazing!

This was just a lighting test to set the level of the flash. Did I turn it down after this shot? Damn straight I did. But when I worked on it in Lightroom it actually became one of my favourite shots.
I had been taking photos on the other side of the pier and when I turned on the camera it still had the old settings. It looked so ethereal in the viewfinder that I had to take the shot.

I loved the results I got when using a soft-box or off-camera flash.

But most of all I loved the motivation it gave me to get out and take photos ‘You’ve got $20K worth of camera equipment for a short period of time’ is a VERY strong motivator to get out and shoot!

The photo prior to this didn’t have the bird flying through…the bird really makes it.
Kids in trees…always good.
Families in trees…also good.
Photo of the photographer…with thanks to Katie!

But would I buy one?

Well first and foremost I would like to thank Fuji Australia for allowing me to borrow the camera. Outside of some bizarre ‘You’ve seen this camera in the hands of the best…now see it in the hands of the rest?’ angle, there really was no reason for them to take a chance on me. I can’t imagine there is a huge demographic of my readership with $20K burning a hole in their pocket just looking for a camera to spend it on. So I can’t imagine sales are going to skyrocket after me writing about it. But to Fuji, and in particular Neil, thank you so much for this. You were fantastic to work with, and I really appreciated this once in a lifetime opportunity.
But would I buy one? No. If I had the money would I buy one? Yes. Would I hire one to shoot a wedding or a proper photoshoot? Yes. Is Fuji likely to loan me gear again after saying this? Probably not.
But this is not a reflection on the camera, it’s a reflection on where I am with my photography. When I was training for the Ironman and the 3-Peaks, I could never justify buying a new super-fast bike, or super-light wheels to get myself some ‘free’ speed, until I knew that I had done everything in my power to make myself as fast as possible (train more, lose weight, race smart etc). Not surprisingly I never bought a new bike…because I never got to the spot where the only thing holding me back was my gear. Similarly, there are still SO many things that I can improve with my technique, my discipline, my willingness to approach complete strangers etc that will result in better photographs. I need to get them sorted before I can look to better gear to raise my game.
I have also had my x-T1 for nearly 5 years now. I’ve shot a documentary on it, multiple videos, weddings, award nominated portraits and even a photo where 9 children are all doing what I wanted them to at exactly the same time!
If, in the process of trying to get an epic shot, my camera got hit by an errant skateboard, or fell into the ocean, or was eaten by a surprisingly fast and aggressive turtle…I could live with it. I certainly wouldn’t be happy about it, but I could live with it. And that gives me a level of freedom that simply doesn’t come with holding a camera worth more than a family holiday to somewhere NICE.
Plus, if I take a photo with my x-T1 and the 35mm lens and it’s an abject failure, people think ‘Well, he only has that little camera that looks like it’s from the 1970s…what did you expect?!’ But if I take a great shot, suddenly I’m a genius who may get upwards of 7 or 8 likes on Instagram! Follow me a @sumo_21 😉 But if I take a great photo on the GFX people will think ‘Well yes OF COURSE he took an amazing photo…he has that amazing camera.’ Worse still, if someone sees one the of MANY crap photos I took with it, they’ll think ‘Why does he have such a fancy camera, when his photos are so average?!’

Plus, every photographer knows about Gear Acquisition Syndrome, you always need something to aim for, and if I had a GFX 50, what could I possibly have to look forward to after that?! It’s not as if Fuji are going to do a GFX 100 that has a 100 megapixel sensor…I mean that would be insane, and…what? They have made one?!


Excuse me…I have to change the entire tone of this blog…and then make a grovelling call to Fuji!

2 thoughts on “Fuji GFX”

  1. As usual, many great shots and beautiful writing, Chris. Always impressed. I liked having a chance to look through them more slowly this time. I can see the difference (a bit) that the gear makes, but really it’s the shots that count, and your photographic eye never fails. I think, since I am viewing on a computer, it’s more the lenses than the sensor. That huge glass! Yikes!

  2. I love portraiture and you have the magic Chris.
    Fuji will lap up your story and comments, lavishly illustrated and combined with your personal observations.
    I think Nick and Tony are strong contenders for my personal photographic award. Men don’t have to be beautiful. Craggy handsomeness is more than enough.
    Your fan, Netta

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