Fujifilm GFX 50R and 45mm f/2.8 Lens First-Impressions Review

Currently testing the new Fujifilm GFX 50R (digital medium format camera) and the Fujifilm 45mm f/2.8 Lens, and here are some of my first-impressions and thoughts:

First Impressions

Stream of my thoughts:

1. This camera is very lightweight

When I first picked up the Fujifilm GFX 50R, I was surprised how light and ‘plasticky’ it felt.

This is what I thought:

  1. Wow, this camera is super light– but it feels plasticky (cheap)
  2. Perhaps Fujifilm made the body more out of plastic, in order to keep the costs down (good thing).
  3. Perhaps Fujifilm made the body more out of plastic in order to keep it lightweight (a good thing).
  4. If you compare the Fujifilm build quality and a Leica M rangefinder camera, the Leica M feels 100x better ‘build quality’ (the Leica M is heavier, more metal brass components). But should this matter?

Overall, I think it is better that the 50R is lightweight (for us photographers, the lighter the camera, the better).

Furthermore, a digital medium format camera this light is awesome. It means the Fujifilm GFX 50R can be a ‘daily camera’ — you can carry it with you anywhere you go. Surprisingly, the GFX 50R actually felt lighter than my Lumix G9 + 12mm f/1.4 lens. It also felt lighter than most DSLR’s (the GFX 50R feels lighter than a Canon 5D, for example).

A random note — I really liked shooting with the EVF (electronic viewfinder) on the top-left of the camera; just like shooting with a rangefinder!

2. Image quality

Fujifilm GFX 50R RAW file processed with Eric Kim CHROMA preset in Lightroom

The files that come out of the GFX 50R are amazing. There is an insane amount of information and dynamic range within the RAW files, which means you can post-process your photos to look however you want them to look like.

Which made me wonder:

Perhaps at this point, the purpose of digital cameras, and digital RAW photos is to ‘paint’ your photos to look whatever color you want.

Thus if you’re a digital medium format photographer, you should think of yourself more of a painter than a traditional ‘photographer’ — because the colors that come out of the RAW files of digital medium format files are phenomenal. I had a ton of fun processing the RAW files of the GFX50R with ERIC KIM PRESETS.

Fujifilm GFX 50R RAW file processed with Eric Kim CHROMA preset in Lightroom

Also something interesting in terms of aesthetics:

The files have almost no blown highlights.

I think one of the biggest downside of digital cameras is that there is very low dynamic range (compared to shooting film).

Fujifilm GFX 50R RAW file processed with Eric Kim CHROMA preset in Lightroom

Thus a digital medium format photograph is smoother– a smoother transition between the darks and lights of a photograph.

Furthermore, because there is more information in the RAW files, you can post-process your photos with more control. You have more control over processing the highlights, shadows, and everything in-between.

Thus if you want ultimate control of post-processing your photos, digital medium format is for you.

3. Value

Fujifilm GFX 50R

The Fujifilm GFX 50R is the best digital medium format camera ever created. My hats really go off to Fujifilm for making this camera a reality (as well as a shout-out to Zack Arias for pushing Fujifilm to make a digital medium format camera, while making it accessible/affordable).

Obviously the GFX 50R (at around $4500 USD for body only, another $1,000+ for the lens) ain’t cheap. But certainly it is one of the best values in terms of ‘bang for the buck’ (as well as the value of the Pentax 645Z).

4. Fujifilm GFX 50R vs Pentax 645Z

Washington DC, 2018
Washington DC, 2018. Pentax 645Z

Now the question on my mind is:

If you had your choice, would you choose the Fujifilm GFX 50R or the Pentax 645z?

Practical thoughts:

  1. The Fujifilm GFX 50R is 100x lighter than the Pentax 645Z (I seriously started to get elbow tendonitis pains when carrying the 645Z around all day). If you wanted an everyday digital medium format (DMF) to carry around, the Fujifilm GFX 50R is the clear winner.
  2. In terms of image quality, I’m sure they’re pretty much the same. Having said that, I do prefer the JPEG positive film preset from the Pentax 645Z (when compared to the JPEG film simulations of the GFX 50R).
  3. In terms of ‘investment’, the Pentax 645Z will probably be a more robust camera in the long-term (also there is something really nice about shooting with a really massive optical viewfinder on the 645Z).
  4. Random note: I prefer the Fujifilm GFX 50R over the GFX 50s (the 50R has better styling, is lighter, cheaper, and more simplified).
  5. The Pentax 645Z is really meant to be a studio/fashion camera. The 645Z is not meant to be carried around in the streets or as an everyday camera. Thus for street photography, the Fujifilm GFX 50R is the clear winner.

So if you’re more passionate about street photography or everyday photography, the Fujifilm GFX 50R is the superior camera.

5. What is the future of photography?

Fujifilm GFX 50R

Frankly speaking, if I wanted to buy a new camera– I think the Fujifilm GFX 50R is far more interesting than the Leica M10 (another camera that many photographers covet).

To me, I think the future of photography is going to be bifurcated into two different directions:

  1. Phone cameras (computational photography, AI) or night sight mode— for example the Google Pixel 3
  2. Digital medium format cameras

This is why I believe this to be so:

  1. We want the convenience of everyday photography (phone camera is best for this; most photographers will just prefer to shoot with their iPhone)
  2. Photographers will always lust for better image quality (digital medium format is the apex for image quality in digital photography)

Then the other direction is going into video — and I feel that Micro 4/3rds is the future for photography/video. The Lumix G9 I have is fantastic at BOTH still photos AND videos. And it certainly seems that the trend of YouTube/vlogging isn’t going away anytime soon.

Also another direction– film photography is going to continue to be even more popular, as people strive for something TOTALY DIFFERENT than digital. Shout-out to my friend Bellamy Hunt (japancamerahunter.com) and my friend Vishal (Camera Film Photo) for pushing this movement.

6. Should I buy the Fujifilm GFX 50R?

Fujifilm GFX 50R

Obviously I cannot (and should not) dictate your purchasing decisions.

My practical suggestions:

  1. If you’re curious about digital medium format photography and have never tried it out, order it– and if you don’t like it, just return it.
  2. Spending ~$6,000 on photography equipment is a bunch of money, but still a lot less than buying a new car, home, etc. If photography is your passion and you have at least enough cash in the bank to buy two of them (the 2x camera rule) go for it.
  3. Buying a digital medium format camera won’t inspire you to shoot more. It will just create a different type of photograph and image. Thus if your impetus is to be more inspired to shoot (or find new motivation), I would encourage you to buy books, not gear. Or using the money to invest in an experience (not equipment) — an investment (travel, workshop, etc) will always result in more photographs being shot by you.


Fujifilm GFX 50R

This is just a first impression review. So far, I really like the camera a lot. I will continue to stream more thoughts. Some points I want to cover in the next post:

  • Fujifilm GFX 50R performance in street photography
  • I just ordered a Leica M to GFX adapter (I want to test my Leica 35m f/2 Summicron lens on the body — which turns the lens into a wider-angle lens). My curious thought: “Would shooting a Leica M-lens on a digital Fujifilm GRX 50R be the ultimate solution for a digital-analogue hybrid camera?”
  • Everyday living/performance/convenience of shooting with Fujifilm GFX 50R.


Digital Medium Format Photography

Cindy in front of colorful mural. Madison, Wisconsin
NYC, 2017. Pentax 645Z
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