FUJIFILM GFX 50S II: Sleek & Fast Mirrorless Medium Format09/02/2021
It has been more than four years since FUJIFILM entered the mirrorless medium format market with the original GFX 50S, and now the company is finally getting around to updating the focal point of this system with the GFX 50S II. Version II of this groundbreaking model sees a revised design, more in line with the recent GFX 100S, along with faster performance and the inclusion of in-body image stabilization (IBIS). The GFX 50S II is a more usable camera, built to make medium format shooting more intuitive while still retaining the distinct image quality benefits of the larger sensor size.
When the original GFX 50S came out, it was a remarkable effort from FUJIFILM simply to realize such a medium format system within the relatively sleek, at the time, mirrorless body. This original camera also saw FUJIFILM prioritize a more advanced user and emphasize modularity. Now that the overall GFX system is more mature, FUJIFILM is reeling in this ethos a bit more and focusing on what made the GFX system so special in the first place: medium format for the masses. Rather than complicating the design or catering to specialized applications, the GFX 50S II features a more integrated and simplified design that is also smaller, lighter, and generally more accessible than the original camera.
Getting into specs, the GFX 50S II isn’t going to look remarkably different from the first version, and this is mainly due to carrying over the already impressive sensor and focusing more on usability updates for this version. However, the sensor is still an admirable 51.4MP 44 x 33mm CMOS Bayer-array chip, and the camera does sport an updated X-Processor Pro 4 image processor that contributes to faster readout speeds and quickened AF performance. The updated autofocus algorithm is claimed to be optimized for the newer crop of G-mount lenses, offering improved face- and eye-detection performance, and the contrast-detection system now offers focusing speeds as quick as 0.272 sec when working with the kit zoom.
Other imaging specs carried over from the first version of the camera include the 3 fps continuous shooting rate and Full HD 30p video recording; neither are particularly spectacular, but then again, one must consider this camera’s intended shooting applications. The camera has 19 Film Simulation modes and also retains FUJIFILM’s attention to detail with the inclusion of a PASM dial, top LCD for quick viewing of shooting settings, and easy-to-handle focus controls for intuitive use.
Regarding the differences, two main ones distinguish version II from the original camera: The viewfinder is now built in, and there is sensor-shift image stabilization. Considering the EVF first, the GFX 50S II has an integrated 0.77x 3.69m-dot OLED EVF—the same as the GFX 100S. This affords a more streamlined and simple unit, compared to the removable EVF of the first 50S and the current GFX 100, which are more studio-intended designs. By integrating the EVF into the body, rather than having it be a removable unit, the overall form factor is sleeker and there is less to faff with while shooting. I’m sure this decision won’t appeal to everyone, because it removes some of the viewing flexibility and accessory compatibility, but it certainly simplifies the GFX 50S platform.
The second key change for this second-gen camera is the inclusion of sensor-shift image stabilization, which compensates for up to 6.5 stops of camera shake for sharper handheld shooting. The original 50S relied on lens-based stabilization, which meant that many of the more affordable lenses, slower primes, and wider lenses would never have the benefits of stabilization. Now that this function is camera based, essentially any mounted lens receives the benefits of IS, which greatly improves low-light shooting capabilities and makes this a more user-friendly camera for casual handheld shooting.
When the original GFX 50S was released, it was the sole camera in the GFX lineup and essentially functioned as the flagship for the line. Since more cameras have been released, the 50S has taken a small step down from the top of the podium and is now meant to be an even more approachable medium format mirrorless camera; this is appealing to the same photographers who are looking at flagship full-frame mirrorless bodies, but might be enticed by the upped resolution and larger sensor size of medium format.
Despite this slight change in lineup position, the 50S II still has the same responsibility of shirking the old-fashioned connotations of what a digital medium format camera should be. This camera is even smaller, even more affordable, and even more user-friendly. It’s the medium format camera built to appeal to the travel, landscape, and lifestyle photographer rather than just catering to the needs of professionals.
Being announced alongside the GFX 50S II body is a new kit zoom lens, the GF 35-70mm f/4.5-5.6 WR, which will also be available in a kit with the camera body. This lens offers a 28-55mm equivalent focal length range and is billed as the lightest standard zoom for the GFX system. It has the added benefit of having the least amount of focus breathing, to suit video recording needs. Focusing is handled by an STM stepping motor, and the lens is also distinct in that it doesn’t have an aperture ring or physical switch on the barrel, playing into the streamlined appearance of the camera body. Compared to the other standard zoom of the system, the GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR, this new 35-70mm is almost a full pound lighter (0.97 lb vs. 1.93 lb) and noticeably more compact (3.3 x 2.9" vs. 3.7 x 4.6") when collapsed. And even with a slimmed-down exterior, this new lens still maintains weather-resistant characteristics that match the sealed construction of the camera body.
FUJIFILM is clearly looking to make its medium format system even more accessible with the launch of the GFX 50S II, which might seem like a change of pace considering the original GFX 50S used to be the flagship of the system. Consider, though, that when the original camera was first released, its aim was also to make medium format accessible. Version II does the same thing, but to an even greater degree. With a more filled-in system, FUJIFILM can now cater to different ends of the medium format mirrorless spectrum. The company has cameras appealing to studio pros, as well as models like this that are intended for amateurs who prioritize image quality and value what medium format still means, but don’t want to give up on the portability and convenience of an everyday camera.
What are your thoughts on the GFX 50S II and the new GF 35-70mm f/4.5-5.6 WR kit lens? Do you like the new lineup position of this camera? Are you happy with the move to make this camera even more accessible than its predecessor? Let us know your thoughts in the Comments section, below.