100 MP for $10K. That’s some serious green for a very serious camera. Being Fuji’s third medium format camera, the GFX 100 has a lot going for it. A high-resolution 100 MP sensor, the first of its kind IBIS (for medium format), pro-grade build and a fresh design approach. I have been shooting with the GFX 100 for the past month or so, and so far there is a lot I like about the camera, but some things are going to be hard to get used to.
Let’s start with the negatives and get them out of the way. Without a doubt, Fuji engineers put everything they got into this camera. But in doing so, I am afraid they also made a few drastic decisions that will make it tough for someone who is already familiar with the traditionally intuitive Fuji controls to get used to the new controls offered by the GFX 100.
First of all, the lack of classic dials for adjusting things like ISO and shutter speed are big changes and to be honest, I am not a huge fan, at least not yet. Perhaps with time I can get used to these, but after using the GFX 50S and the 50R for quite some time now, it is a pretty big change ergonomically.
Another issue I am struggling with is the size of the buttons. The GFX 100 is a big camera – it is the biggest among the GFX line of cameras. And yet the buttons on the camera are so small! I don’t know why Fuji engineers decided to go with such small buttons and a tiny joystick when there is so much available real estate on the camera. Such important buttons as “AF-ON” should have been the size of the MENU / OK button, not any smaller. The same goes for the dials, which just feel too small and flimsy – not something I expected to see on a $10K camera.
I could deal with the small buttons if there was a proper way to navigate the menus. Just like on the GFX 50R, Fuji decided to eliminate the four way navigation buttons. This means that the only way you can move up / down and left / right when going through the menus is by using the rear joystick(s) – good luck doing that with thick gloves when shooting in extreme conditions. I can understand why they would do that on a “budget” medium format camera, but not on a full-size flagship product!
Lastly, what’s up with the lack of button labels on this camera? I don’t mind being able to customize buttons, but at least give them some kind of a label like f1, f2, etc. How are these buttons supposed to be referenced in manuals and setup guides? The GFX 100 has a total of … wait for it … nine unlabeled buttons! That’s just crazy. If I wanted to ask someone to press one of these labels, it would sound like “press the larger unlabeled button to the right of the top LCD”. Or something like “press the second button on the bottom of the camera to the left of the joystick”. Fuji already refers to these as Fn2, V-Fn2, Fn3, V-Fn3, etc. in the menu, so why not just print out such labels on the buttons or on the sides of the buttons? And why even go with a stack of vertical and horizontal buttons in the first place? Looks like Fuji desperately needs to hire a solid UI / design company that will overhaul its high-end camera, similar to what Nikon has done in the past with its top-of-the-line D3.
Based on what I have written so far, you might be thinking that I am only here to criticize the camera. That’s certainly not the case, because the GFX 100 is an incredibly good and sophisticated machine that has no real competition on the market today (and looks like it will stay this way for a number of years in the future). Let’s talk about some of the positives now.
When it comes to image quality, the GFX 100 is an absolute monster. It is hard to believe how much detail the camera is capable of producing with the GF lenses until you look at images at 100%. That’s when you realize that cameras like the GFX 50S and 50R didn’t really do justice to showcase the true potential of a medium format sensor. With other full-frame cameras on the market pushing for 50+ MP sensors now, one could argue that going with a medium format system did not make sense. However, with the GFX 100, one quickly understands that there is always going to be a difference in image quality between the two. This is especially true with GF lenses that resolve astonishing amount of detail – Fuji has done a remarkable job there.
Another big advantage in favor of the GFX 100 is its 5-axis in-body image stabilization. In many ways, it really is a game-changer. Kudos to Fuji for putting so much effort into introducing the much-needed IBIS to a medium format camera! Many of us never thought it was physically possible to put IBIS on such a large sensor.
On my recent photography trip, I messed up by forgetting to bring a wrench that attaches the tripod plate on the bottom of the GFX 100. I previously only used the camera for hand-held shooting, so I came unprepared to a truly spectacular evening in the mountains. There was color everywhere and it lasted for an unusually long time. At first, I was a bit disappointed by the fact that I could not use my tripod. But after taking a few shots at relatively slow shutter speeds, I realized just how good IBIS on the GFX 100 is, and that I might end up walking away with some keepers. Take a look at this image, which is one of the last ones I captured that day:
Yes, I hand-held the camera for almost a second at 64mm and I was really surprised to see that it was sharp. Granted it was not easy to keep myself steady for so long, and I ended up with a bunch of other blurry shots, but the fact that the IBIS can stabilize the sensor this well already speaks volumes about how well Fuji designed it in the first place.
Another huge advantage of the GFX 100 is its amazing battery life. With two beefy batteries in the camera, you can confidently shoot and not worry that your battery is going to drain quickly. So far I have not yet been able to run out of one battery on the GFX 100, let alone two of them.
I am going to save my other thoughts for the upcoming GFX 100 review, which I am hoping to write as soon as possible. Unfortunately, my schedule in the next two months is going to be crazy due to all the travel and workshops, so I will need to find a way to squeeze the review somewhere in-between…