Sunday, 8 January 2017

POV : Can The X-Pro2 Do The Job Of The GFX 50S ?

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy - All Rights Reserved (X-Pro2 + 16-55mm)
I am not an impulse buyer, not do I have the dreaded (or lauded) Gear Acquisition Syndrome but when I saw that Fujifilm announced the imminent arrival of its medium-format GFX 50S, I admit my pulse raced a little faster than usual.

I own an old film Mamiya 645 along with an equally old 80mm 2.8 Mamiya lens in a drawer somewhere, crippled by an unfixable broken shutter according to the Japanese repair center that looked at it a few months ago. It has been infrequently used, so it may have been either a manufacturing defect, or a mishandling on my part. Consequently, medium format wasn't on my radar screen until the Fuji GFX 50S announcement.

According to the prevailing mix of facts and rumors, the mirrorless GFX 50S will be released on February 23, 2017 at a body price of $6500. It is weather-sealed and uses the X-Processor Pro (used in X-T2/X-Pro2), and has a 51.4MP 44 x 33mm Medium Format Bayer Sensor. Along with a GF63mmF2.8 R WR (50mm equivalent) lens costing $1500, the price tag will be $8000 before sales tax (if any).

This is a significant amount of cash, but it's much lower than many comparable medium format cameras. So the question arises as to whether it ought to continue attracting my attention.

I consider my cameras and lenses to be tools. Nothing more. Nothing less. They are chosen, bought or ignored based on my perceived present and future need, available cash liquidity, and whether they supplement, complement or replace an existing tool.

Whilst there's no dispute that the GFX 50S is exciting and interesting for what it it is, I have a few thoughts about its usefulness to my style of photography, and my impatience for setting up shoots. 

My migration from the Canon system to the mirrorless Fuji cameras and lenses was caused (among other reasons) by the weight factor, by the portability factor and by its rangefinder design (insofar as the X-Pro1 is concerned). I subsequently expanded my inventory of Fuji lenses and acquired two X-T1s with body grips, cementing my Fuji association. The GFX 50S body alone is about 800 grams (about 1.8 lbs), almost the same weight as the Canon 5D Mark II of 850 grams (1.9 lbs).  So the GFX 50S would bring me back to the same weight issue.

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy | The Travel Photographer
The other factor to consider is what I would use it for. The GFX 50S and lens would weight about the same as the Canon 5D Mark II, and I imagine it would have to be wielded in the same way. My principal style is "on-the-fly", street-type candid travel photography, and a lot of documentary photography of festivals and religious/ceremonial rituals. Will the GFX 50S lend itself well to this style? 

I viewed a bunch of GFX 50S promotional videos put up by Fujifilm, which are slick and well produced. However, these were, for the most part, photographers shooting in controlled environments, or in studios, or -in the case of a travel photographer in India- shooting with the help of strobes, reflectors and soft boxes.If the weight and my style of photography were the only two factors influencing the decision to adopt the GFX 50S, then the answer would be an easy no. But in the mix there's the newish factor of my being interested in the sub-set of "fashion-lifestyle-travel" photography. 

What on earth is "fashion-lifestyle-travel" photography? Well, something similar to the work by Anne Menke, a renowned fashion photographer, who occasionally merges fashion-travel photography styles. I've merged travel photography with documentary photography into a genre that I describe as "travel photography meets photojournalism", and I'm gravitating to yet another genre that would allow me to photograph ethnic fashion wherever I travel.

The photo gallery of Mansi Zhang's images made in the Old Quarter of Hanoi is a precursor of what I intend doing as part of my travel photography trajectory. I've been toying with this idea since 2014 -or even earlier-, and it's a style that I enjoy doing. For example, the portraits of Ms Hường Đặng and Ms Trần Hiền Trang which I made in 2014 and 2015 are also such examples. 

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
The photographs of Ms Mansi Zhang were made using the X Pro-2, and I am stunned by the quality of the images straight out of the camera. It's versatile, intuitive, lightweight, it delivers 24.3 mp.6000x4000 pixel images and I already have a panoply of Fuji lenses.

So the question that remains to be answered is whether the return on investing in a GFX 50S would be worth it. Would the quality of the GFX 50S surpass that of the X-Pro2 by such a factor that it justifies its $8000 expenditure? 

The jury hasn't even convened yet...but as I await more results and reviews of this new medium format tool, what I haven't seen so far is still short of being totally convincing.