North of 60 with Fuji's GFX50s

A couple of years ago when Fujifilm had asked us if we had interest in a Medium Format camera, my gut reaction was a decided no.  In my mind, I had just downsized and replaced my heavy Nikon D800 and lenses for the Fuji XT1 system with money left over to boot.  I had the perfect system and when they launched the Fuji XT2 I was even happier.  I couldn't imagine it getting any better. Sigh.  

Then the GFX was launched and everyone who is anyone in the Fujifilm world was having a go at it.  Even friends who were decidedly not going that route, preferring instead the sleek pocket XF100F which is generally the preferred camera for street photography, were trying it out and writing reviews.  Everyone was blown away by the files.  They were saying that the images shown on Facebook or Instagram simply did not do them justice.  To make a long story short, and against my better judgement my curiosity got the better of me and I asked Fujifilm Canada if I could try it.    I explained that we would be moving south soon and the Aurora season was just about to start up again and I was hoping to do some portraits of some Northerners. I say against my better judgement because I sensed that I was going to really like this camera.  

Fujifilm Canada graciously agreed and sent me the GFX50s, the GF23, 32-64, 63 and the 120.  It arrived about a week later.  

The full kit.  GFX50S, GF23F4, 63F2.8, 32-64 and the 120F4

My first thought when I picked up the camera was that it fit so comfortably in my hand with the grip and that it wasn't as heavy as I thought it would be.   I was also pleased to see that Fujifilm had beefed up the camera strap hardware.  Coming from the Fuji XT2 I found the dials, buttons, and menus quite familiar and was able to quickly navigate around the menus. 

Unfortunately, the EVF didn't work at all which was a bit disappointing.  There seemed to be a problem with it as it kept shutting off.  Rather than send everything back I simply learned how to shoot solely with the LCD screen.

Since I've had this camera I have photographed a Dene First nation wedding, several portraits, landscapes, urban and of course the Aurora Borealis. I too was blown away by the image quality. I had never seen anything quite like it.  What was it about these files?  The colour, the nearly impossible dynamic range and the tonal quality and creamy bokeh noticeable even with the GF32-64mm F4 zoom lens!  

Almost every bride in Yellowknife wants to have their portrait done at the top of Pilots Monument under the usually bright sun.  I brought with me the GFX50s to see what it could do.   I used also a  bit of Fuji's EFX500 fill flash as well.  I probably could have used an off-camera flash with an umbrella but it was pretty windy up there.  I was pretty happy with the results anyway.  

GF32-64 ISO200 F6.4 1/1250 SEC. 

The photographs seem to have a 3-dimensional quality almost as if you are stepping inside the scene.  I also liked its native 4/3 ratio especially for the Aurora as you can get more sky in the frame.  I was also impressed with the battery performance as I worked the entire time with only one battery.    

The camera has a few quirks though.  The zone focusing routinely gets stuck in a bottom corner requiring you to turn off the camera and reboot it.   I don't think this is a serious issue though as Fujfilm has an excellent reputation of fixing these little quirks in future firmware updates.  

Also, it isn't the fastest camera around and it certainly isn't designed for sports or wildlife shooters.  Although it wouldn't surprise me to see some sports and wildlife photography done with this camera as I was able to capture my beloved Saydee full sprint in the park with the GF23mmF4.  

GF23MM ISO 100 F4 1/640 sec.

In addition to the files being exquisite, they are rather large.  Raw files are about 115mb each so I hardly minded cropping this one of the husky relaxing on the roof. 

 GF63mmF2.8 ISO 100 1/450 sec

GF63mmF2.8 ISO 100 1/450 sec

I have to say the camera along with the GF23F4 really nailed it for the Aurora Borealis.  The files were clean and crisp with hardly any noise at ISO3200 F4.  Also check out the Time Lapse at the end of this post. 

For portraiture I used the GF32-64, the 63F2.8 and the 120mmF4 and I have to say I like them all. I wish I could be one of those people who shoots only one kind of thing one way with one lens.  It would make things more affordable.  However, I do enjoy variety and sometimes I feel like making an environmental portait and at other times I want to zoom in.  

So much detail! 

This camera however, at $8,124 for the body only, is not to be taken lightly.  However, in comparison to a Hassleblad at $11,000 Canadian it would be more within reach of the serious photographer.  It would be an excellent camera for those commercial, landscape or studio portrait photographers who demand the very best for their clients and can command a good price for doing so in the marketplace.  

To conclude, I would love to have this camera and I can definitely see adding it to my gear bag in the future.  Since I plan to focus my photography more on portraiture and selling fine art prints when I return to Ottawa, I would start with the GF63F2.8 and the GF3264 for my nature urban images followed by  the GF120mm.  

Huge thanks to Fujifilm Canada for allowing me to spend my last month in Yellowknife with the GFX.  I'm only sorry I'll miss shooting in pristine winter wonderland with the GFX. 

A time lapse of a G2 Aurora Storm in Yellowknife, NT September 27, 2017.