If you have anything more than a passing interest in medium format cameras you’d have to be living on one of the moons around Mars to be unaware of the arrival of the Fujifilm GFX 50R.
This is a very special camera indeed if it were an album produced by band you would call it the breakthrough album.
The Fujifilm GFX 50R (the ‘R’ being for rangefinder as its styling resembles one) is such an appealing camera, smaller, lighter and much better looking than the GFX 50S this is camera for those wanting to get into medium format more affordably, some £1000 less that the GFX 50S is a complete no-brainer.
So when finances finally permitted I had the chance to buy a GFX I decided not to go for the 50R but for it’s slightly boxy looking big brother the GFX 50S.
Why on earth did I do this?
My background is in photojournalism and I love a small and lightweight camera and this would seem to answer all of my questions.
In life though things are rarely quite straightforward as they seem.
Let me say right here right now to hordes of 50R owners I do not feel that you have made a mistake and indeed I do have a pang that I may not have jumped in the right direction
Here are my reasons
1. Top plate OLED
The GFX 50S has the beautiful OLED display on the top plate which means even with the camera off, just by glancing down I can see how many frames there are remaining and what setting the camera is on. It is customisable too.
I did not have to pick the camera up and turn it on to see the settings on the camera.
This doesn’t seem like a big deal and indeed it may not be for money but I love to see what my camera is set on. Added to this when I’m shooting my panoramas and gigapixel I can see in circumstances with high ambient noise when the camera is actually being triggered visually on the counter.
I often use the GFX with some pretty meaty glassware be it the stunning GF 250 mm lens for gigapixel images or some sizeable adapted Zeiss glass and while the GFX 50R’s svelte body may seem to be the answer to all my questions, particularly when using the neat and compact 63mm or the yet to be released GF 50mm F3.5 ‘pancake lens which isn’t a pancake lens’ with the ‘big glass’ handling does become a bit of an issue.
Single handed operation is possible with a GFX 50S (particularly useful when dismounting the camera from a tripod) something which unless you possess Gekko like skin is not really possible with the 50R.
I’m sure in time third-party companies will be making neat little handgrips home from faux Ocelot skin and petrified ebony etc which will overcome this problem but ultimately you’re adding size and weight to a lightweight camera which kind of defeats the object.
Using the GFX 50S day in day out will I think be a much more comfortable proposition.
The input dials on the GFX 50S, to my mind at least, are super convenient and losing the four-way controller and the front command dial may not be a deal breaker for many and as neat as the solution is of having the ‘command collar’ around the shutter release it doesn’t suit me quite as well as that from command dial at the front.
Both have a 3.69 million dot viewfinder.
The GFX50R has 0.77x magnification, while the GFX50S has 0.85x magnification.
This is not a massive difference but particularly when one is shooting with adapted lenses at wide aperture’s you need every last bit of help to nail the focus, being the wrong side of 50 too I know my eyes are not improving with age either.
Add to this the 3 way articulation of the rear LCD which I use frequently with the camera in the vertical position
Once again this is a pretty small detail but it all adds to the overall usability of the camera
I know for many this will not be an issue at all
However for me the fact that the GFX 50R cannot take a battery grip is potentially a problem in extreme circumstances
I frequently shoot gigapixels with GFX 50S indeed on my most recent gigapixel we utilised 734 images which takes the battery life very much to the limit on a single battery.
Adding the VG-GFX1 battery grip would give me double the shoot duration, yes I know I could switch them out but that is not always possible.
The GFX 50S also takes the handy EVF-TL1 tilt and swivel viewfinder.
I have no immediate plans to get one but if I were to be commissioned for a major long running food shoot (which I have been in the past it would be high on my list of priorities)
What will I miss about the GFX50R? (apart from the £1000 saving)
The looks! (seriously???)
The size and the the weight – useful savings to have but buy the time you have factored in the lenses one would be pushed to tell the difference in the context of a full bag.
Bluetooth connectivity – a big step forward but I don’t use it quite often enough
USB C port – I love any device which brings USB C to the table but I am not plugging the camera in for a speedy download very often (ever?)
So that you have it that’s my take on it and I could very well be wrong but to be honest this is such a personal choice
For many shooters the 50R will be perfect choice.
Just not for me.