Back to the Future
- guest post by Chris Dodkin – dodkin.com
- to see the original size of the images, just click on the image
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I first heard about the GFX on 8th January, 2014, when I met these two gentlemen at CES in Las Vegas [see image on top].
Zack is an editorial music photographer based in Atlanta, GA, and a Fuji X System Photographer, and Billy is a Manager for the Product and Marketing Specialist Group – FUJIFILM CANADA INC., and one of the ‘Fuji Guys’ on YouTube.
We met at the Fujifilm stand at the Consumer Electronics Show, with Zack and I both pestering Billy to get a sneak peak of the new, unannounced, Fuji X-T1 camera.
With our sneak-peeks arranged, the conversation turned to ‘what’s next’, and Zack expressed a strong desire for Fuji to look at jumping the legacy 35mm format completely, and for them to take a look at producing a Medium Format mirrorless camera.
Billy was excited by the idea, and we began to discuss the features that the new camera should have.
Zack was all about a MF sensor as the starting point, and Billy suggested that this could then be used to shoot multiple aspect ratios, native in camera.
The camera needed to be mirrorless, to keep size, weight, and cost down, and should undercut the established MF market leaders by a significant margin.
We discussed super-sizing the successful Fuji X-Pro1, to make a digital version of the Fuji 6×9 120 ‘Texas Leica’ Film cameras, and building a more conventionally styled model, with the same accessible controls and styling, to make the camera easy and fun to use.
The Fuji engineers on the stand were excited. I left the show with a strong impression that this was something they wanted to make happen.
I posted about Fuji’s logic of jumping to MF a few times on DPR, with mixed reactions. Most people didn’t believe it would ever happen. Many 35mm format users did’t get it, and still don’t. Fuji see it makes the best economic sense, and takes them past the limitations of the 35mm format market place.
Fast forward to April 2017, and I have a full Fujifilm GFX system in my hands, ready to shoot it’s first studio set, a Spring Fashion Makeup set for MUA Michelle Njoroge, featuring Windsor Store Fashion.
I have the GFX50S body, with grip, tilt EVF, and all three launch lenses, and set up a set up a single beauty dish, with Elinchrom Quadra head, in studio to get the desired look.
Flash sync for studio was 1/125, and the Elinchrom sky port trigger worked straight from the camera hot-shoe, or the hot-shoe on top of the EVF.
For the initial headshots, the camera was tripod mounted, with the EVF removed, and I used the rear LCD to compose the image, select the AF point, and then review the shots with the client.
The Elinchrom was set to provide f/8 at ISO100 – metered using my Sekonic L-758 meter. Color mapping for the camera/lens/lighting was done using a ColorChecker Passport.
I initially used the Fujinon GF 120mm F4 R LM OIS WR lens, with OIS turned off, as the rig was tripod mounted.
AF was quick and accurate. I used the rear LCD to select the eye I wanted to focus on, and the camera was able to snap focus under either the ambient studio lighting, or just using the LED modeling light from the Quadra head. There was no hunting, and the AF was fast and responsive, and extremely accurate.
The pinch/stretch feature on the camera’s LCD was an immediate hit with the client, as she was able to zoom and review the makeup detail immediately, and get a high level of confidence that the images were delivering the look and quality she wanted.
Detail from the camera/lens set-up was outstanding – just when you think you’ve zoomed in all the way, there seemed to be another three levels of zoom before you hit 100%.
f/8 provides some of the sharpest output from this lens, and it really shows.
There is, in fact, so much detail, that the retouchers will be hard at work making subjects with less than wonderful skin, look a little ‘younger’.
You can see/count/edit individual hair follicles, or particles of makeup which have gone adrift.
The 120mm did a stellar job – even though it’s sold as a ‘macro lens’. I’ll be buying the 110mm f/2 when it’s released, only because I also want the low light capability that goes along with hat lens. The 120mm lens as it stands will do an excellent job for anyone doing any form of portrait work.
I then switched up to the Fujifilm GFX 50S GF 63mmF2.8 R WR lens, and fitted the EVF with tilt adapter, taking the whole rig off of the tripod for a more fluid shooting experience.
The EVF on the tilt adapter makes for really comfortable shooting. Coupled with the grip, the whole rig felt well balanced and easy to handle, with AF Point selection being handled using the joystick, conveniently located under the thumb in either orientation.
Having set-up the camera for studio shooting, with the EVF showing auto gain in Manual Mode, rather than the usual WYSIWYG exposure/WB mode, the EVF gave a clear image under the LED modeling light, and allowed for easy composition and shooting.
AF with the 63mm was again fast an accurate. Somewhere between the X-T1 and X-T2 in experience. Again, no hunting or missed focus to report.
Images are super crisp at f/8 – I can’t wait to try this lens wide open in available light work.
The lens is perfect for mid length portrait work, with superb color and contrast as you’d expect from Fuji.
Finally I switched-up to the GF 32-64mmF4 R LM WR zoom lens. Currently this is the only way to go ‘wider’ on the GFX system using Fuji GF glass, and it covers a useful range, including the 35mm FOV equiv I like to shoot with for double-page spread features in magazines.
As with the other two lenses, the AF was fast and accurate, and had no issues working under the LED modeling light from the Quadra head.
This is an exceptional zoom, with edge to edge sharpness, and great color and contrast.
The 4:3 default aspect ratio is perfect for magazine cover and full-page coverage, and I really enjoyed being able to compose to fill the frame, rather than having to leave crop space as I’d had to do previously with my X-T1 and X-T2.
The RAW files were processed using Adobe ACR into Photoshop CC. I use NIK’s sharpening tools, and also some of their image manipulation tools for retouching.
Portrait Pro will probably be a useful add-on for anyone using the GFX for general portraiture or wedding work, as the level of skin detail will lead to subjects asking for some ‘retouching’ and ‘smoothing’. But I’d rather have too much detail than too little, as a starting point.
The camera was a breeze to use, coming from the X-T2 it was the same set-up and user interface, and performed exactly as expected.
Client reaction was excellent – they were totally enthralled by the LCD pinch/zoom, and the amazing image detail. The final images have blown them away, they have ‘never seen anything like them’.
I loved the whole experience, and quickly felt at home with the system, and confident in the output. The GFX makes a superb studio camera, and I have high expectations for using it in natural light, and on location.
IQ – The GFX system completely exceeded all of my expectations.
It was well worth the wait!
Thanks to OC Camera, Foto Care NY, and Brandon Remler from Fujifilm N. America, for their help in assembling my GFX system.
Model Brenna, MUA Michelle, Studio DK3
guest post by Chris Dodkin – dodkin.com