A few weeks ago I reached out to Fujifilm UK and asked if there would be a launch event or something similar where I could as quickly as possible try out the GFX. It turns out there was a launch event in the UK, but it was a closed event and I had already missed it. To my surprise, Fujifilm offered to meet me at my local cafe for breakfast and a cheeky private demo.
Concerns from using X-Series Cameras
From using other X-series cameras, like the X-T1, X-T2 and the X-Pro2, I found a few weaknesses I wanted to make sure were not replicated in the GFX. One such annoyance is how crippled I felt not being able to fully adjust the aperture using the control wheels. Thankfully, the GFX’s lineup of lenses now have a “C-mode” on the lens which lets the front control wheel adjust the aperture. Speaking of the control wheels, they feel flimsy and way to sensitive on my x-series cameras. With pretty much every shoot I do using a flash, a couple of frames are ruined because I nudge the control wheel by accident and exceed the flash sync speed. However, the control wheels on the GFX do feel sturdier and offer more resistance before they can be turned although not by much which I felt could make enough of a difference to avoid mishaps.
I bought a mirrorless camera as I wanted a lightweight system. The first lesson I learned however was that after extended use a camera needs to be large enough to hold comfortably. Neither my X-T1 or the X-Pro2 are large enough for my hands, even with the largest grip available. Now, I only had the GFX for roughly an hour, but there is no noubt the GFX is big compared to its siblings. This was a sitting down test though which is in no way a real world use case, but the GFX felt comfortable and well balanced to hold.
First thing I noticed about the GFX is of course its box-like apperance, and it is safe to say it is the ugliest Fujifilm camera by quite some margin. This, of course, is not really a deal breaker but the GFX did not come off well next to my X-Pro2.
The lenses are pretty hefty things and do not have the same comforting, solid build as the XF lenses. In fact, they felt rather plasticky, but were at least pleasently light. This is good news as I was concerned about the weight and bulk of the GFX camera and its lenses. For my portrait work I don’t need to carry many lenses with me so it should be alright as this is the majority of my work. Most importantly, the GFX with the 120mm lens attached still fit into my Peak Design Everyday Backpack 20L.
What really stood out was the EVF; it was responsive and BIG. My current pair of glasses are on the large side, and I do struggle with the X-Pr02 to see everything. With the GFX it was much easier, even though I still have to press my face snugly against the eye cup. The display seemed promising as well, but hard to say as we were indoors in fairly forgiving lighting conditions.
Autofocus was snappy, but again it was not really very challanging conditions. I don’t expect it to be an issue for most of my use cases.
I enjoyed my brief time with the GFX, and the three lenses are pretty much spot on for my most immediate needs. The 110mm portrait lens coming out later on will be a killer lens for my work. It is a shame that the GFX is a bit of a box of a camera, and not exactly the prettiest camera, but far from a deal breaker. Functionality trumps aesthetics.
The flash sync speed of 1/125th of a second, and the complete lack of HS/HSS support, is however a deal breaker. I do a lot of outdoor portraits, some with athletes, and I struggle with my X-Pro2. The 1/2000th sync speed of the X1D is what really got me curious in the first place, but then the X1D seems to suffer from shutter lag which made it hard to time the shots of my athlete.
I’ve heard a rumour, from what I consider a reputable source, Elinchrom are working on a HS trigger for Fuji but they don’t know when it will be released. Fuji confirmed they are indeed talking to Elinchrom about this, but that was all he could say, understandably.
Big thanks to Fujifilm for taking the time to give me a private demo.