Andrew Marr
Andrew Marr | Photography

Journal

My Hands on Review of the Fujifilm GFX50R and comparison with the GFX50S for Landscape Photography

Fujifilm has created a lot of interest with the release of the GFX50R. With the same 51.4 megapixel sensor as the 50S, which camera will prove to suit my style as a Landscape Photographer the best.

If you’ve been watching my latest videos you’ll know that I’ve been using the GFX 50R and 50S recently to shoot landscape images.In this video I’m going share you my thoughts on using the GFX50R for landscape photography and I’ll make some comparisons with the GFX50S along the way.

Taken at Elephant Rock with the GFX50R

Taken at Elephant Rock with the GFX50R

THE IMAGES

Both cameras have the same 51.4Mp Medium format sensor, so the quality of the images from these cameras is the same. And the images are incredible. The files are big, clean, with lots of details. I know not everyone likes big files but I love them. Zooming in exploring the detail, having the flexibility of cropping in and still having plenty of resolution to print big. Editing the images is a dream. And when it came to storage, transferring and rendering the files in Lightroom I had no issues. But keep in mind as a landscape photographer I’m not taking 1000’s or even 100’s of images. Often I’ll walk away from a location with at most 20 to 30 photos, sometime less. So I can easily import everything into Lightroom, no problem. If you’re a wedding photographer, where you’re shoot a lot more images this experience might be different.

THE BODY

Both cameras have weather sealing and look and feel solid. Regular viewer’s will know that I’ve used Fujifilm cameras in the past with the X-T2 and X-T3 one of my favourite cameras to use. So when I picked up the 50S for the first time, it immediately felt familiar. Dedicated externals dials for ISO and shutter speed with the aperture controlled through the aperture ring on the lens.

The 50R is a range finder format, which I’m not that used to, so I had to adjust. Having said that, after just the first session shooting with the 50R I was very comfortable with the design and how the button and dials were laid out - more on that in a minute

Weight

I was expecting it to be heavy but the first time I picked it up, I can remember how surprised I was at how light it was. Both cameras are roughly the same weight, depending or not if the 50S has the EVF attached. Both coming in lighter than my D850.

Grip

The larger grip on the 50S makes that body more comfortable to carry around when hand-holding the camera, even with the 250mm lens attached.  However the grip with the back LCD screen that sticks out from the rest of the body, makes the camera feel more chunky and larger, to me at least.The 50R really doesn’t have much of a grip to speak about, making it a little more awkward to hand-hold, particularly with larger lenses.

Top screen

The 50R doesn’t have display screen on top of the camera like the 50S to show a range of information and camera setting.I assume this is in an effort to keep costs down. For landscape photography, I didn’t miss the screen as I found the back display much more useful to use.

Tilt screen 

When I’m on location I predominately have the camera mounted and I view the image and information on the back LCD screen. Occasionally I’ll use the viewer finder for composing the shot. Using the viewfinder in the corner of the 50R took a little getting used to.Both cameras have the same LCD screen, 2.3mil dots at a 4:3 ratio (the same ratio as the sensor).

The difference is the screens on the 50S tilts in three directions while the screen on the 50R is restricted to just two, up and down when the camera is in landscape orientation. This made some of shots with the 50R low to the ground a little more awkward than what they needed to be.

When it comes to back screens, the more the directions the screen can flip, turn and swivel the more flexibility you have in the ways it can be used. I can accept that it probably doesn’t need to flip all the way to the front but I can’t see why they didn’t use the same three directional mechanism they use for the 50S, surely it’s not a cost saving decision.

Taken at Greens Pool with GFX50R

Taken at Greens Pool with GFX50R

DIALS

Layout

On the 50R the dials and controls have a different layout which was one of the things I had to get used to. Because of the viewfinder being on the left, all the dials on the top are on the right.

ISO dial

The 50R doesn’t have a dedicated ISO dial like the 50S. When the camera arrived, the dial that is around the shutter button was set to adjust ISO, I didn't like that setup as I often moved it accidentally and didn't know (probably because on the other cameras this is the on/off switch).  So it wasn't long before I removed the ISO from there. For landscapes I don’t adjust ISO frequently so I was happy to change it when I needed to through the ‘Q’ or ‘Quick’ menu.

‘D’ Pad

Probably to keep costs down, the Fujifilm removed the directional pad or 'd’ pad on the 50R, but you do have the Thumb stick to move through the images or navigate the menus. I find the thumb stick much easier to use, so I was happy they left it over the ‘d’ pad which I don’t find as easy to use.

Focus Mode

While some dials have been moved, others have been re-positioned like the focus mode dial, from the front to the back of the camera - I actually found this far more convenient and I can’t work out why more cameras don’t do this.

Customise Option

The layout of the dials on the 50R certainly feels more stripped back over the 50S. But it feels like plenty of thought has gone into balancing form, function and the cost of the camera. After just a few days of shooting I quickly got used to the control layout of the 50R and appreciated Fujifilm’s more minimal approach. To help compensate for the controls they’ve taken away, Fujifilm has included a plenty of customisable buttons (on the back, the top and on the front of the camera) for you to maps to functions you want to quickly access.

You can also customise the touch LCD screen on the back to access features by swiping to the left, right, up and down. However, I did notice the screen wasn’t as responsive as it is on my X-T3 as I struggled a few times to swipe correctly. After playing around with the options on the 50R for a week I was able to setup the camera to suit the way I like the shoot landscapes. I felt everything was where it should be which made the 50R a very pleasant camera to shoot with.



THE LENSES

Let’s quickly talk about the lenses. I had the 23mm prime which is about an 18mm equivalent and this focal was perfect for the seascapes I was shooting. I would have been quite happy to just walk around with this lens on the camera. Wonderful to use, weather sealing, gorgeous image quality, wide with minimal distortion and the lightest of the three lenses coming in at 845g.

I also had the 32-64mm, equivalent to 25-51 so probably classed as a mid-range zoom. This lens was sharp, and a nice companion to the 23mm when I needed a little more reach. I did find the range of only 26mm a little limiting, but that’s the nature of medium format zooms.

The third lens was the 250mm prime, which is just under 200mm equivalent, That's not a focal length I frequently shoot with so I actively looked for opportunities to use the lens to check out what it can do. I explored Williams Bay while we were done in Denmark to capture some wildlife imagers. This lens has Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) which coupled with how quick the lens focused made capturing a images of the wildlife much easier. I was impressed with how sharp this lens was and the detail it could capture, check out the feather patterns on this white-faced Heron feeding amongst the reeds.


SUMMARY

Both these cameras were a lot of fun to use and gave me results I was extremely happy with. I’d be a very happy landscape photographer carrying either camera around in my bag. So which one did I prefer? Well I found myself picking up the 50R more than the 50S, which really surprised me. The 50R was set up with nearly everything I needed and the layout of the controls suited the way I like to work.


It’s can be considered slow camera, it doesn’t have the quickest autofocus, the shutter button is responsive but it takes its time to display the image on the LCD. All of this just doesn’t bother me. When I’m shooting landscapes, I’m not rushing around, I like to take my time. The camera was perfect for my style of shooting. When it comes to cost, keep in mind this is a medium format camera.

So the first question to answer is...do you want to shoot in medium format? If medium format is the direction you want to take you photography than the GFX50R and 50S for that matter is a cheaper camera in comparison to other medium formats currently on offer.

I think the pricing from Fujifilm for these two cameras is very clever, they’ve found a price point where they’ll tempt some photographers that currently use high-end full frame cameras. They also provide an alternative to photographers that currently hire medium format gear for projects. In Australia, hiring a Phase One body for four days can cost $2000-$2500, you wouldn’t need to that many times before you could justify the cost of buying one of these. For me, I know I want to explore medium format more in the future.

I’m really exciting about the direction Fujifilm are taking and the impact they are having on the industry with these cameras. Things are really going to get interesting when the release the 100Mp camera that is currently being talked about.

Please share your thoughts on the GFX50R, GFX50R or the impact Fujifilm is having in this space in the comments.

Andrew MarrComment