Monday, 17 April 2017

Experimenting With The Fuji GFX50s

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy - All Rights Reserved
I had been ruminating getting involved with medium format photography for quite some time. In fact, I had used the analog Mamiya 645 many years ago, but when I tried to have its defective shutter replaced a few months ago, I was told that the lack of readily-available parts would make it difficult, lengthy and potentially costly. Then I reflected on having to get involved in buying films, have them processed, scanned et al. So that impulse came to a halt.

I've been using the X-Pro2 (and a panoply of prime and zoom Fuji lenses) as my primary go-to camera since mid-2016 and was (and still am) perfectly content with the quality of its images. I also used -to a lesser extent- two Fuji X-T1 cameras which came in handy when I needed them for certain situations. So my gear needs were more than satisfied in terms of image quality and job requirements.

Nevertheless, the medium format itch was still there. I read all the reviews that were available on various photography websites. Many were obviously overly-gushing in their praise of the camera, whilst a few were more sensible and measured in their recommendations. 

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy | All Rights Reserved
My just acquired "new-car-smell" GFX50s was in my hands on March 21st in Tokyo. When testing it at the retailer, I immediately and instinctively understood the menu (almost identical to the X-Pro2's), and the ergonomics felt perfect. I did think a couple of buttons were awkwardly placed, but reading through the online manual, I assigned the function of playback to the down selector button (as one example).

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy | All Rights Reserved
I thought fitting the GFX50s strap could wait until I was back in NYC, bought a hand strap/cord fitted to the tripod mount, and carried it in a should bag. I tested it quite a lot in Senso-ji, the famous Tokyo  shrine, and in the streets of Kyoto. 

I did not find it too heavy to carry or to hold. As I said earlier, it's lighter than my Canon DSLRs, and its ergonomics are comfortable for hand-holding. That said, it's certainly not an X-Pro2 for street photography, and it's auto-focus is not as fast; with or without the face-detection option. I managed to shoot a few on-the-fly photographs of people walking about, but, for the time being and until I get the hang of it, it's not ideal for the kind of street photography I am used to. This too will have to wait.

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy | All Rights Reserved
Other than that, the GFX50s performed flawlessly when I used it to photograph rather static subjects and the not-so-static but very willing young women posing in their kimonos in Kyoto and Tokyo. Its image quality is superlative, but I found I needed to choose the aperture/iso wisely as its heft/weight meant that on occasions my hand-holding was not steady enough for pin-sharp photographs.

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy | All Rights Reserved
Whether on my laptop or desktop, I used Iridient Developer 3 to process either the GFX50s' RAW or jpgs with no difficulty at all. If need be, I used Color Efex Pro 4 to add some saturation and vignetting to the images.

A few months ago, I've written a blog post titled 'Can The X-Pro2 Do The Job Of The GFX50s?', and now that I have both, I believe it can (despite the variance between the X-Pro2's 24 megapixels and the GFX50s' 51.4 megapixels -which matters to pixel-peepers-).
However, using the medium format will push me into an ancillary trajectory to my "travel meets photojournalism" niche, and merge fashion-travel photography style into it, and it will allow me to photograph thematic ethnic fashion wherever I travel.