(Pocket-lint) - It's not everyday that you get to play with a 100-megapixel camera. That's been the reserve of Hasselblad and Phase One medium format cameras and a select few photographers. Until now, that is, as Fujifilm has finally put its GFX100 medium format on sale.
At a breakfast meeting in central London in late June, we got a few dozen minutes to poke around this brand new and final production medium format camera, to see how it handles, what its images are like and, well, whether it's worth the £10,000 body-only asking price (yes, it's a lot, but it's several times cheaper than its competition).
And if you're just here to see what a 102MP images looks like then scroll down to the last section, where you can see original and full-size crops of just how detailed this camera's images truly are.
Design: Easy-to-use, just like a DSLR/mirrorless
- 0.86x magnification 5.76m-dot OLED viewfinder (50fps / 85.7fps modes)
- Rear LCD: 3.2-inch vari-angle screen, 2.6m-dot resolution
- Top plate: 1.8-inch LCD for mode/dial views, histogram
- Rear LCD plate (2.5-inch long) for quick settings view
- In-body stabilisation (IBIS), 5-axis support
- Weather and dust resistant build
- Weighs 1.4kgs with 2x batteries
- Dual SD card slots
To look at the GFX100 is no small camera. But that's a given. It's got a huge sensor inside - about four times the size of the sensors you'll find in the company's mirrorless line-up - to deliver huge depth of field and quality like nothing else.
There's an exquisite amount of thought to the camera, though, because with such a big sensor and so much resolution every care has to be taken to avoid any shake, including that from the camera itself. As a result, the GFX's sensor module is paired to the lens connection, while the body portion sits around this, separately, as an additional form of stabilisation, allowing the sensor to avoid shake. Even the shutter mechanism has its own shock adsorber, to ensure nothing is disrupted.
This ingenious design looks somewhat odd, though. The magnesium alloy build is certainly hardy enough - it's also weather- and dust-sealed in 76 places - but that alloy colour looks, well, kind of plasticky. It scratches too - the samples we played with all had scuffs on the off-blue-grey finish.
In terms of size, the GFX100 isn't actually too different from a pro-spec DSLR. Think Nikon D5 or Canon EOS 1D X II. That's because it comes with two batteries that slot into the grip portion - unlike the earlier G50S where the grip was optional and the camera far smaller - giving a great layout for both portrait and landscape orientation use.
The GFX100 doesn't come with an affixed viewfinder, instead it includes a clip-on unit that slots over the hotshoe. Great for future updates, replacing if there's a problem, or simply removing if it's not your preferred way of shooting. As finders go it's exceptional, with a 5.76 million dot resolution across the OLED panel. The refresh rate, at 50fps, is fairly good - but we'd hope for something like 90/120fps in boost mode, which tops out at 85.7fps here.
There are a trio of screens on the GFX100 too. They're all for different purposes of course: there's the main one to the rear, while a long strip on the rear displays data, as does a larger top plate (which can also be illuminated).
The main rear screen is a 3.2-inch size with massive 2.6 million dot resolution, plus the screen can be pulled out and adjusted through portrait and landscape orientations. It's easy enough to pull out, but if the finder is still attached then it gets in the way of the screen view a fair amount. There are also considerable borders around the screen, as if it could be even bigger still - which would be great for the touch controls and looking at results in extra-large detail on the camera itself.
The top panel LCD is where things get interesting. Fuji hasn't setup the GFX100 like you might think: there's no main mode dial, for example. Instead you can toggle between P/S/A/M modes (and ISO control) through a combination of physical adjustment - the GF lenses have physical aperture rings, including A for Auto and C for Control (we believe this is the terminology) - and, if you want, the two thumbwheel controls. Set the lens to C, for example, and you can use the thumbwheel to control aperture like you would on many DSLR cameras. In that sense the GFX100 can be setup however you please.
That top plate LCD has three main displays it can toggle between too: there's all the shooting info, available at a glance; there's a dual dial setup, where ISO and shooting priority are shown as digital dials; and there's a histogram. Toggling between them is simply a case of hitting a small button to the side. The only 'mode dial' to speak of is the 'Stills/Multi/Movie' switch on the opposite side of the camera - which is unconventional, but we're sure you'll pick the most suitable one and that's where you'll stay, no accidental video capture or anything like that to worry about.
Overall, then, the GFX100 is large, but feels familiar. It's a lot like a Fujifilm mirrorless camera, really. Or a pro spec DSLR with a slightly different layout. That'll make it accessible to a whole raft of photographers we should think. No need to think of medium format as daunting then.
Performance: As fast as medium format gets
- X Processor 4 is capable of 5fps burst (2fps when in live view)
- Phase detection and contrast detection hybrid autofocus
- Face & Eye tracking improved over G50S
- 4K video at 30fps (25/24fps too)
- USB-C for on-the-go charging
Medium format has never been that well known for high-end performance, in terms of speed anyway. In a sense, then, the GFX100's 5fps burst shooting - and it can capture over 40 consecutive shots in raw format - is rather impressive. Use the rear screen, however, and that's just 2fps, making it far slower.
Now, we're not expecting anyone to grab one of these cameras to shoot F1 races. But the speed the GFX100 offers is a step up in this field. The autofocus, for example, will be familiar to Fuji users: you can touch the screen to focus if you wish, while the rear thumbwheel adjusts the focus point size. It's not quite as speedy as the X-T3, but for stills it's close.
There's also Eye AF and Face AF to auto-identify subjects' faces, including multiples from which you can select. This shouldn't be underestimated, especially for a camera where the slightest of movement through a focal plane will take something out of sharpness far more quickly than you'll find from smaller-sensor cameras.
We found the autofocus to be snappy for a variety of still scenes, easy to adjust and ultimately favourable. We've not tested it in low-light conditions at all, however, so that's a whole other question that we can't answer. Still, with high ISO sensitivity and both phase- and contrast-detection AF points, we suspect this camera will be equipped well enough to manage.
The batteries are said to be good for up to 400 shots a piece. As there are two loaded - which are used independently, one after the next, so you could run the camera on just one while the other charges - that means up to 800 shots per charge. And there's even a USB-C port if you have a powerful enough power pack to charge the camera on the go, which could get location shooters out of a sticky situation here or there perhaps.
Immense resolution: 102MP makes for exceptional quality
- Capture One Pro Fujifilm and Tether Shooting Plug-in Pro
- Medium format sensor size: 43.8 x 32.9mm
- Back-side illuminated (BSI) CMOS sensor
- 102MP resolution, ISO 100-12,800
- Bayer array, not X-Trans
- 16-bit capable raw/TIFF
But the real headline of the GFX100 is its massive resolution. First came the G50S, with its 51M.4P sensor. The GFX100, as naming convention dictates, more-or-less doubles that, offering 102MP. That's a lot of resolution, hence the build solutions for stabilisation and shock resistance outlined in the design section above.
The images speak for themselves. We shot with a 63mm standard lens and 100mm macro to get a sense of what the GFX100 could do. The autofocus proved snappy - although we'd like a 100 per cent zoom confirmation to be hyper critical of precision - and the results, where the focus has been spot-on, reveal heaps of detail.
We shot some breakfast yoghurt pots, as you can see in the slide above, but its when seeing that frame at 100 per cent detail that you can see the tiniest of details on the flower and blueberry. It's very special indeed.
Other frames of London's skyline and inevitable breakfast snaps continue to show just how incredible this amount of resolution is for levels of detail and availability to crop too. If you need a billboard filled, this camera would have no trouble doing so without even using the entirety of its image output we should think.
There's also a lot of play with the ISO sensitivity. The starting sensitivity, ISO 100, can expand to ISO 12,800 as standard, meaning the camera can be treated in a more DSLR-like way. We doubt those high sensitivities will be frequently used by many, but at least it shows the sensor is highly sensitive, which is handy for preview processing as much as anything, and adds greater versatility should you need to shoot in darker conditions.
Other points of note are the 16-bit capture capability, meaning raw files can capture crazy amounts of colour and dynamic range detail. These will be about 200MB a piece, however, so you'll need to have large cards in those two SD card slots. Unless, of course, you're working tethered - which works just fine through Capture One Pro.
Video capture might not sound like the reason to buy a GFX100, but as the whole sensor is used for 4K capture to maintain the focal length equivalent, moving images can be shot with incredible shallow depth of field potential. Get the right video lens on the front and there's most things here that you'll need for Hollywood-grade capture (H.265/H.264 at 400MB, 4:2:2 10-bit output via HDMI, F-Log and HLG, up to 60mins capture).
Like we say, it's not every day that we get to use a 100MP medium format camera. The biggest take-away from the GFX100 is just how easy it is to pick up and use. There's nothing daunting about it.
But why would you want to spend £10K for a camera body? There are many reasons, the main being the huge sensor size and resolution. From what we've seen the images from this camera are special - there's so much detail it's mind boggling.
Add to that the attention to detail that Fujifilm has put into the design by including dampening, shock adsorption, and an in-camera stabilisation system which you won't have seen anything like in a camera of this kind before. That makes for a very versatile and capable medium format system.
Which for some will be a game-changing experience. And one that's a cut of the price compared to its competition. Sure, the GFX100 is very specialist, but it's also special.