In the past year, there have been just a couple of camera announcements that have really shaken things up: in the Summer, Hasselblad announced the X1D, a medium format mirrorless camera with a sleek design and a decent price point (compared to most other digital medium format options). Then, at Photokina last Fall, Fuji also announced a similar product. Demand for both has been high; crashing websites, and even forcing Hasselblad to change its financial structure in order to accommodate all of the new orders.
I have been watching B&H’s website, and emailing contacts at both companies, hoping to get my hands on one to preview, and eventually was able to finalize my order on the Fuji GFX 50s in early April. That said, I hope to be able to try out the Hasselblad sometime soon as well!
What is medium format, and why does it matter?
Basically, it’s all about larger sensor size, which offers increased resolution, and light-gathering capabilities…like an owl that has huge pupils, and can see far better at night. That’s why even an older dslr does better in low light than an iPhone. In many cases, this larger sensor size comes at a cost: both a huge price increase, as well as cameras that might not be as light, ergonomic, fast-focusing, or user-friendly as the ubiquitous DSLR of the Canon or Nikon variety. Up until the past couple of years, the larger sensors have been relegated to CCD chips, which have great color rendition and sharpness, but poor low-light performance.
Fuji has been coming on strong in the mirrorless market in the past few years with all of their X-series cameras. The Fuji X100t was my favored “carry piece” for a couple of years. I only recently sold it to save up for medium format digital. Fuji has done very well in developing new technologies in focus, processing, optics, and a host of other areas as well. Because of the experience with the X-series (an APS-C sized sensor) Fuji leveraged their mirrorless muscle with their extensive knowledge of medium format film cameras, and came up with a brand new system! Enough jabbering. I’ll start showing some images!
Here are some other links to a few of my previous forays into medium format digital:
Here’s some recent medium format film work:
Putting it to the test! Out of the box, and to the beach!
The camera responded very well, and has a great ‘feel’ to it. Admittedly, it’s not quite as handsome as some of Fuji’s retro-inspired X-series offerings, but it also has a lot more going on under the hood!
For me, I’m looking for that j’en sais quoi in an image, from increased sharpness and resolution, but also an absolute confidence of knowing when I got the shot.
The resolution on this sensor is really something to write home about!
Lens Adapters – a unique advantage for mirrorless cameras
Without getting into too much technical mumbo-jumbo, let’s suffice to say that because there is no mirror that flaps up and down for each exposure, the distance from the lens to the image sensor can be shortened significantly. That also means that vintage lenses have plenty of opportunity to be able to render their image circles. The reason that the adapter seems so long is that the lens needs that much distance to be able to render its image in focus, as it was originally designed to project an image that far. Though it made for a different feel and balance for the camera, the long adapter wasn’t a deal-breaker. This Zeiss 110mm f2.0 lens is one of my absolute favorites. Except for Fuji’s adapter to Hasselblad H lenses (manufactured by Fuji) all of the off-brand adapters currently available for the GFX are “dumb” meaning that they can’t control aperture, auto focus, transmit any EXIF data, or anything else for that matter. I was delighted to find (in one of the many Fuji menus) a setting where I could name this lens…so presumably when I use this adapter, the camera remembers that it’s a 110mm lens, and will fill that EXIF data into the file. I’m guessing that if I put a different lens on the same adapter, the camera wouldn’t recognize a difference. On a technical note, I had to figure out one caveat in order to work the adapter: Deep in one of the menus, I had to select “shoot camera without lens attached” so that it would work.
I can’t wait for manufacturers to make one for my beloved Contax 645 lenses either; especially the sublime 80mm f2.0 unit. Since nobody has made a dumb adapter yet, I’m hoping that they are spending the extra time and resources to make a smart adapter, which would presumably carry aperture settings and possibly even AF!
Here are a few shots with the vintage Zeiss glass and Fotodiox adapter. DOF was crazy thin, and I was thankful for focus-peaking in the EFV.
I received this camera while on vacation with my family, so it only made sense for me to torment them at the zoo, the beach, and in our daily lives as I put it to the test! I sought out colorful and interesting things to shoot, but also purposely found situations that would be difficult for the autofocus, and tried to make a few ‘bad’ exposures to see what the files are capable of. I was impressed that the camera could handle everything I was throwing at it!
Dynamic Range – I was ‘blown away’
Digital sensors have been steadily improving in all aspects, and dynamic range (being able to capture all of the lightness and darkness in a given scene) is one of the most important. Being a wedding photographer, it’s important for me to be able to confidently change lighting situations throughout each day, knowing that highlights are not going to be blown out. Also, brides want to see the details in their wedding dresses! So I need a camera that’s able to capture all of the details, as well as be capable to recover highlights, even if my exposure was less-than-perfect. Here are some tough exposures I did on the camera to highlight the dynamic range!
Bokeh, Bokeh, Bokeh
You could also say: “that blurry area that’s so pretty.” In France, it’s called flou. Most of the time, I’m shooting with my lenses wide-open so that the optics can serve up a nice bokeh in the foreground and background. This 63mm lens has really impressed me with its lovely bokeh, as well as the sharpness where it counts. Here are some shots the show off its capabilities. All are wide open at f 2.8, unless otherwise labeled for comparison.
Honestly, there are always going to be a few cons with changing camera systems, especially for a first-generation product. Admittedly, there is an ever-so-slight shutter lag. It’s nothing that can’t be overcome, and I found that the more I shot with the camera, it became a non-issue for me. You can see in this section how my timing improved with practice.
I had intended to do a few more samples with high ISO’s but was also trying to be a good parent on vacation…so no late night wandering around…yet. Here are 2 samples that give a feel for it.
In conclusion, this camera lives up to all of the hype generated by its announcement and release, and then some. It’s exactly what I have been looking for in a tool that will help me deliver better images to clients of all genres. It’s got phenomenal dynamic range and resolution, great bokeh, as well as the sharpness where it counts, and low-light capabilities that are almost unheard of in this genre. That being said, I’m going to be selling off some Canon gear and a few other things to finance this purchase! 🙂 To be fair, I’ll still keep at least a basic Canon DSLR kit…
I am excited to see what this camera will push the competition to do. Just like many other things, a healthy competition is great for the end user, as the bar is raised higher and higher. I’m looking forward to trying out the Hasselblad X1D, though I’m slightly perplexed as to why they didn’t introduce the camera with a great “normal” lens, or start off with a partnership with Zeiss for optics. Yes, the 65mm has been announced, and I hope it’s faster than f3.2 like its brothers. Speaking of competition, I’m also hoping that Zeiss has been at its drawing board since the GFX announcement. I’ve heard that their Touit line of lenses developed for the Fuji X line are great. Imagine if they were to develop a new lineup of primes for the Fuji GFX line! That would be amazing!
This post was in no way sponsored or promoted by Fuji, B&H, Fotodiox, or Zeiss, although it may sound that way. I have been more impressed than I had even dared hope with this product!