Fujifilm has a history of making historic announcements at Photokina, but 2016 may go down as one of the biggest. It’s not often that a hall full of conference-hardened journalists applaud the features of a new product, but it actually happened on a number of occasions as Fujifilm pulled the wraps off its all-new GFX camera system. GFX is a mirrorless digital medium format camera system to rival Hasselblad’s X1D, but it’s full of neat little design features that have also been the hallmark of its ‘APS-C’ X Mount system.
Why has Fujifilm gone down this route rather than, say, having a full-35mm sensor system? The company has a long tradition of making interesting – but not always loved – 120/220 rollfilm cameras, including the brilliant GX680 6x8cm format SLR. The ‘G’ in the new system’s title pays homage to this, but Fujifilm also thinks the time is right to “re-invent the digital medium format camera system”.
The system is based on a new lens mount – called, logically, the G Mount – and a 43.8x32.9 mm sensor which is more than likely fabricated by Sony, but has been designed by Fujifilm, including the microlenses. Fujifilm says the sensor has been “fully customised” by its engineers. The first camera body is called the GFX 50S – the effective resolution is 51.4 megapixels – which implies that there’ll be a GFX 100S down the track, using a version of Sony’s 100 MP ‘44x33’ sensor. At first glance, the camera body looks more like a big rangefinder design – there’s a hint of the GW670 – and you dread, for one moment, that it doesn’t have a built-in EVF. It doesn’t… but instead it has a detachable EVF which will be supplied with the camera and, once fitted, makes the GFX 50S look just like a D-SLR. The detachable finder earned some applause, but there was more when it was demonstrated that it not only tilts, but rotates… so you can still have a tilt when shooting vertically. Likewise – and as on the X-T2 – the LCD monitor tilts in both directions (more applause).
Three Fujinon GF lenses will be available when the system launches in early 2017 – a 63mm f2.8 prime, a 32-64mm f4.0 zoom and a 120mm f4.0 macro. Following soon after will be a 45mm f2.8, 23mm f4.0 and 110mm f2.0. All are ready, Fujifilm assures us, for 100 MP and beyond. All have fully weather-proofed barrels and, of course, the camera body is also sealed as is the optional vertical battery grip. The GFX borrows quite a bit from the X Mount bodies, including dials for shutter speeds and ISO setting, but new is the inclusion of a top-deck read-out panel. The lenses have traditional aperture collars so, as on the likes of the X-Pro2 and X-T2, the auto exposure modes are selected by turning these and/or the shutter speed dial to their ‘A’ settings.
Only a prototype is on show at Photokina and the likely timetable for the system’s roll-out will be to have production cameras and lenses at next year’s CP+ Show in Japan (February) with deliveries starting after this. Pricing is likely to be highly competitive… Fujifilm is predicting that the GFX 50S with the detachable EVF and 63mm standard lens will sell for under US$10,000… actually “way under” the company says.