Fujifilm lowered the price of entry for medium format photography with its GFX 50S, which debuted at $ 6,499 in early 2017 and has since enjoyed a $ 1,000 reduction. The follow-up, the GFX 50R ($ 4,499), doesn’t make any changes from an imaging perspective. Instead, Fujifilm has repackaged the 50S in a smaller, more affordable body, more suitable for documentary and travel photography. It’s just as capable as the 50S, and also earns Editors’ Choice marks.
The GFX 50R gets its name from its body style, which puts the viewfinder at the corner, just as it would be in a rangefinder camera. The 50R isn’t a rangefinder, of course—its viewfinder shows the view through the lens, like an SLR.
The body is essentially brick-shaped, not unlike Fujifilm’s old GW690 medium format film rangefinder. It measures 3.8 by 6.3 by 2.6 inches (HWD) and weighs about 1.7 pounds. It does incorporate a modest handgrip, though the 50R handles better with smaller lenses. If you’re interested in using some of the heavier glass available, like the GF 110mm F2, the 50S is probably a better fit.
The 50R sports an all-weather design. It is sealed to protect internal components from dust and moisture, and all of the native lenses are also protected. This adds to its appeal as a system for travel, as you won’t have to leave your camera behind when exploring on a rainy day.
Front controls are minimal—just one programmable button, Fn2, placed directly next to the handgrip. The PC Sync socket, for wired connection to lighting equipment, is also on the front. Top controls are all at the right half. You get a shutter speed dial with a center locking post—it’s the style that locks or unlocks with a click. The EV dial doesn’t have a lock, so take care to check its position when pulling the GFX out of your camera bag.
It’s flanked by a button to set the Drive mode and a second unmarked, progammable function button. There’s also a dedicated dial for EV adjustment—a feature we’re used to seeing from Fujifilm but was conspicuously absent from the 50S—and the shutter release. A control dial surrounds the shutter release and the On/Off switched is nested into its side.
Most of the physical controls are on the rear. A row of controls starts just to the right of the EVF and includes buttons to set the View Mode and Delete images, two unmarked programmable Fn buttons, a toggle switch to set the focus mode, and the rear control dial.
An additional column runs to the right of the LCD. It starts at top with an eight-way control nub and is joined by Menu/Ok, Play, and Display/Back buttons. Finally there are two more buttons on the rear protrusion that creates a natural resting place for your right thumb. One is another programmable button, and the other activates the on-screen Q menu.
Longtime Fujifilm owners will be familiar with the Q screen. It contains a bank of 16 total settings, adjustable via touch or physical controls. The menu is completely customizable, which, along with the 50R’s large number of programmable buttons, makes the camera one that you can tune to fit your needs.
One of the default options in the Q menu sets the Film Simulation mode. The GFX 50R’s default look—Standard—is a take on the company’s Provia slide film, while there are also vivid (Velvia), soft (Astia), and black-and-white (Acros) looks available. Film Simulations offer the option to add a weak or strong grain effect, and also support the Color Chrome look, which does a better job preserving detail in subjects with deeply saturated color.
The rear LCD is a 3.2-inch, touch-sensitive panel. Resolution is excellent, 2.36 million dots, and the screen is clearly viewable from an askew angle. It matches the 4:3 sensor aspect ratio, so there’s no wasted space when framing stills. You will see some big black bars when recording 16:9, but while the GFX supports video, this is not a good camera for any sort of serious video work.
The display is mounted on a hinge, so it can tilt up and down. It doesn’t face forward, nor does it swing to the side at all. That’s a shame, as Fujifilm has developed an LCD with an additional hinge for low-angle images shot in portrait orientation, but doesn’t use it here.
One of the cost-cutting choices is a fixed EVF; the 50S has a removable viewfinder that tilts when paired with the correct accessory adapter. In the 50R, the EVF is nestled into the body and positioned at the corner, rather than centered behind the lens. The EVF itself is quite nice; it’s an OLED panel with 3.68 million dots of resolution and a 0.77x magnification rating.
The viewfinder is big to the eye—in line with full-frame cameras like the Sony a7R III. The experience isn’t flawless, though. I noticed some flicker when shooting under bright sunlight, presumably due to the camera’s meter slightly changing its read of the scene, and the quality of the live feed drops whenever autofocus is engaged. The feed appears a bit grainier and shows less detail when the focus system is actively working. This is more of a concern for photographers who often employ AF-C, as the viewfinder returns to full quality as soon as focus is locked. The same effect is visible on the rear LCD, but the EVF’s stronger resolution and proximity to your eye amplifies the effect.
In terms of image quality and autofocus performance, the 50R is identical to the Fujifilm GFX 50S. For more detail, read our full 50S review.
Connectivity and Power
The GFX 50R includes Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. It connects to Android and iOS devices using the Fujifilm Cam Remote app, which supports wireless file transfer and remote control. The addition of Bluetooth, absent in the GFX 50S, speeds the connection process. Once paired, the app is able to switch your phone’s Wi-Fi network to connect to the camera without you having to go to a different app to change networks.
In addition to PC Sync, the GFX has USB-C and DC ports, accessible via the bottom plate. The USB-C connection is for data transfer and tethered photography only; it doesn’t support any sort of power delivery. Photographers who want to use the GFX in the studio should invest in the $ 99 AC-15V power adapter in order to run the camera from an AC outlet.
There’s also a 2.5mm connection for a wired remote or microphone, located on the left side. The micro HDMI port and dual UHS-II SDXC memory card slots are on the right. The battery is the same used by the 50S. It’s good for about 400 still images, 70 minutes of video with Face Detection enabled, or 145 minutes of video with Face Detection turned off.
Just For Fun: Non-Native Lenses
As with other all-new systems, Fujifilm didn’t have a ton of lenses available when the GFX 50S debuted. But it’s done a good job building out the library over the past couple of years. The company now offers a library of eight autofocus lenses, with focal lengths ranging from an ultra-wide 23mm to a telephoto 250mm. There are even two zooms—a 32-64mm F4 and a 100-200mm F5.6.
What’s missing from Fujifilm’s lineup is bright, wide-aperture lenses. The company does offer a 110mm F2, which is a phenomenal lens for portraiture, but a little long for everyday use. Its other lenses are f/2.8 at the fastest.
Mitakon has stepped in and announced a pair of manual focus lenses, an 85mm f/1.2 and a 65mm f/1.4 with bright designs. I haven’t tried either, but they fulfill one of the potentials of the medium format image sensor—the ability to capture photos with wider angles of view, with shallower depth of field available than a full-frame system.
The GFX is a mirrorless design with its own mechanical focal plane shutter, so it’s possible to adapt glass from other systems, as long as you are happy with full manual focus and aperture control. I tried a couple of different lenses designed for 35mm systems, the Pentax FA 31mm f/1.8 Limited and the Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH.. I used adapters loaned to us by Fotodiox, which I found to be well made and sturdy.
One word of warning when adapting lenses: Keep an eye on the rear element, especially when it comes to M-mount rangefinder glass. There is a decent amount of empty space between the shutter and sensor. If you mount a lens like the Leica Super-Angulon 21mm, which almost touches the shutter in an M camera, you’re going to destroy the mechanical shutter if you try and use it to make a photo. The GFX 50R does have a fully electronic shutter option, which does work with lens designs similar to the Super-Angulon.
A 35mm sensor—or film frame, if you want to stay true to the era in which the Pentax 31mm and Summilux 50mm were designed—is notably smaller (24-by-36mm) than the medium format (33-by-44mm) sensor found in the 50R. Because of this, I expected both lenses to show a heavy vignette, at least when shot at their maximum aperture, and was prepared to crop images square if needed.
Neither lens is going to light up the resolution charts at the edges of the frame as they do on a 35mm camera—there’s definite softness there, even on the plane of focus. But the look you get is really lovely, as you can see in the images we’ve included in this section of the review.
I hope to see Fujifilm release some brighter, autofocus primes for the system. An f/1.4 or f/2 standard lens, like the 80mm f/1.9 Hasselblad sells for its rival mirrorless system, would be a welcome addition, for one. For the time being though, you can certainly use manual focus lenses via adapters. If you do, you’ll only have yourself to blame when your photo is out of focus. The GFX 50R does support frame magnification as a manual focus aid.
Medium Format for the Masses
Fujifilm is doing its part to democratize medium format imaging—its aggressive pricing in the space is unmatched. In this price range, your other options are limited to the Pentax 645Z, an SLR that’s priced around $ 7,000, but is currently on sale for about $ 5,000, the Fujifilm GFX 50S ($ 5,499), and the Hasselblad X1D-50c, which is priced around $ 9,000 but currently out of stock at most retailers. There is speculation that its successor is coming soon, but nothing has been confirmed by Hasselblad.
Of course, you can still spend $ 50,000 or so on a Phase One system, which offers a larger image sensor with resolution up to 150MP, if a “budget” medium format camera doesn’t meet your needs.
The GFX 50R is essentially a rehash of the 50S, but that’s not a bad thing. It costs less, is just as rugged and weatherproof, and delivers the exact same image quality. Neither camera will light up the world in terms of autofocus—they use a contrast-based system that’s quick for static subjects, but fairly useless when it comes to keeping moving targets in focus.
Fujifilm has teased an upcoming medium format camera, with a 100MP sensor, speedy phase detection autofocus, and in-body image stabilization, but we don’t know how much it will cost, or when it will be available. For now, if you want a camera that’s both high resolution and fast, think instead about a 35mm model like the 42MP Sony a7R III, which shoots and tracks subjects at 10fps.
Photographers in medium format imaging won’t do better than Fujifilm when it comes to value for the dollar. It’s still a more expensive proposition than 35mm, and not quite as versatile when it comes to photographing action or recording video. But for artists who are more concerned with absolute image quality—we’re thinking landscape, portrait, and studio specialists—opting for a larger-than-full-frame sensor has real appeal.
We’re naming the GFX 50R our Editors’ Choice, just as we did with the 50S. Either camera will serve you well. Choosing between them is simply a matter of deciding between the SLR body style of the 50S, or the rangefinder design offered by the 50R. And heck, if you’re used to Phase One prices, you may end up buying both and wondering what to do with the rest of your money.