Fujifilm GFX 100 Camera Review

bythom fujifilm gfx100 front

What is It?

Originally teased at Photokina 2018, officially announced in May 2019, and finally shipped in late summer of 2019, the Fujifilm GFX 100 had a lot known about it before it actually hit users' hands. But the question has always been "does it perform?" With camera in hand we can finally get around to assessing that.

bythom fujifilm gfx100 sensor

The big news here is right at the heart of the camera: a 102mp medium format image sensor. (The other big news is the price: US$10,000.)

That sensor is a 43.8 x 32.9mm Sony Semiconductor BSI sensor with basically the same current pixel design as the state-of-the-art 28mp APS-C and 61mp full frame sensors. I call this the "small" medium format size, and it has a crop factor of about .79x (multiply focal lengths by .79x to get the 35mm full frame equivalent). To put that in context, you can stitch four X-T3 image sensors together and you have almost the equivalent of the GFX 100 sensor. 

I've written it in the past and I'll repeat it here: Fujifilm was wise to chose sensor sizes—APS-C and small Medium Format—that were about two equivalent stops apart. Canon, Nikon, and Sony are stuck with sensor sizes one stop apart, and that makes it more difficult to clearly establish tangible differences between their product lines. I don't think it's any foreshadowing to say that in terms of performance, the medium format image sensor in the GFX 100 is clearly better than the smaller APS-C ones in the XF bodies. 

While the 102mp sensor sounds like pixels galore (11648x8746), remember that this is a sensor with a 4:3 image ratio. If you're comparing against 3:2 cameras (most DSLRs and other-than m4/3 mirrorless), you're actually at 90mp. In a 16:9 crop, my personal favorite for landscapes, you're at 76mp. Other in-camera crops supported by the GFX 100 include 5:4, 7:6, 1:1, and 65:24.

The sensor is Bayer type, not X-Trans, and doesn't have an AA filtration over it. Base ISO is 100 while maximum ISO is 12,800. Faux ISO values as low as 50 and as high as 102,400 are supported.

Surprisingly, this big sensor is set on an image stabilization platform. That's a lot of mass to move around, and it's interesting to see IBIS on a medium format camera before Fujifilm has gotten around to putting it onto an X-T model. Fujifilm claims 5.5 stops of correction (CIPA standard). 

Raw output is either compressed or uncompressed. Shooting single frames, you can get 16-bit files, while continuous frame rates drop you to 14-bit. You can also shoot 8- and 16-bit TIFFs in the camera.

As with all the recent Fujifilm cameras, the X-Processor 4 image processing chip delivers the full set of "film simulations," with the default being what Fujifilm calls Provia (not quite the same as the film stock, in my assessment). You get the same modification abilities, as well as Fujifilm's faux Dynamic Range choices, as you do on the Fujifilm X cameras. One thing that Fujifilm has gotten right is this consistency across all their cameras in terms of the basic image quality settings. If you've used another Fujifilm body, the IQ portion of the menu will look very familiar to you. 

One thing Fujifilm did add is a Smooth Skin effect, apparently because they were worried that all that resolution would be problematic with skin texture in the studio and event situations for JPEG shooters. This feature seems to work as suggested: it smoothed skin tones in my shooting but left hair detail.

bythom fujifilm gfx100 back

Likewise, the focus system will seem very familiar to Fujifilm users, and the Rear LCD can be used to control the 425 phase detect focus point selection (as well as the thumb stick). Unfortunately, that's a long reach for you thumb while holding the camera, so touch focus selection is probably best used for more static work, such as product photography or landscapes while on a tripod. Focus stack bracketing is supported and easy to configure (unlike Nikon's).

Phase detect focus points extend across the entire sensor according to Fujifilm, but really not quite in terms of controlling it, as there's a very small gap at each edge you can't reach with a user-movable sensor area. If you're used to Fujifilm's XF cameras, you'll find the Single point, Zone, and Wide/Tracking options to be pretty much the same. Even the predictive tracking options are the same as on the X-T3.

As might be expected with a big image area to cover, the mechanical shutter only goes to 1/4000 second. Flash sync speed is only 1/125. Longest programmable shutter speed is 60 minutes (in Shutter priority and Manual exposure mode). Maximum frame rate is 5 fps (14-bit only). 

The GFX's shutter handling capability is a little more nuanced than you find in most cameras. You have mechanical shutter, electronic first curtain shutter, and all electronic shutter options. Somewhat unique to the GFX 100 is that you have some say over which shutter is used at which shutter speeds. For instance, I tended to shoot in E-Front+Electronic, which uses electronic first curtain shutter up to 1/1250, then switches to mechanical shutter up to 1/4000, then switches to electronic shutter above that. But you have three different choices of how to divvy up the shutter use.

Note, however, that the large number of pixels being offloaded on the GFX 100 means that there is significant rolling shutter impact when you use the all-electronic shutter. I measure the impact to be somewhere between 1/5 and 1/6th of a second in 14-bit, as little as 1/3 a second at 16-bit. That's enough to show distortion with virtually any moving subject. 

Buffer size is about 41 images for JPEGs or 14 compressed raw files, which coupled with the 5 fps makes this fast and deep for a medium format camera. But someone coming from a state-of-the-art DSLR or mirrorless full frame camera might be disappointed by those numbers.

Since you're probably not used to the large file sizes the GFX 100 creates, it's probably worth noting here that you can get about 520 Super Fine JPEGs on a 32GB card, and about 140 uncompressed raw (double that for compressed). My Super Fine JPEGs were averaging a bit over 60MB each. A lot of shooters are going to need to up the card size they're using with this camera.

The other sensor surprise with the GFX 100 is that it includes on-sensor phase detection, again basically the same setup as used in the XF cameras. Unlike the XF cameras, the GFX 100 appears to always perform a final contrast detect step, though, so the focus system isn't quite as snappy as the X-T3's is. 

Sticking with sensor-related issues, the GFX 100 can record 4K 30/25/24P video in 4:2:0 10-bit internally (400Mbps H.265; uncompressed 4:2:2 10-bit is available on the HDMI port, which for some reason on this big camera is the smallest possible connector, Type D). 1080P goes from 24 fps to 60, with a max of 200Mbps. Compression is either All Intra or Long-GOP at the highest quality settings, and the camera supports the 17:9 Cinema frame standard as well as 16:9 in 4K. You'll need Video Speed Class 60 or faster SD cards to record that internally.

Unfortunately, with so many pixels involved, while the full 16:9 crop of the sensor is used, the video pixel generation is formed by line skipping, not downsizing. According to Fujifilm, only about two-thirds of the video area is actually sampled, which isn't as bad as other line skipping I've seen, but is still significant. Thus you can see clear motion moire at times. 

bythom fujifilm gfx100 evf

While I'm not sure why the supplied EVF is removable, that viewfinder is indeed a big plus on this camera, as it is basically a 1600 x 1200 (UXGA) monitor. (That's 5.8m dots, if you're used to that terminology.) The EVF display refresh rate maxes out at about 85 fps, a bit under some of the smaller EVFs out there, but still fast enough to seem completely stable to most viewers. Magnification is .86x, which coupled with the 23mm eye point made it so I can't quite see the full screen with my glasses on. A wide diopter adjustment range from -4 to +2 might allow you to shoot without glasses, though. You can add an optional EVF-TL1 and you then have a tilting EVF.

If you've got a GFX 50S, the lower-resolution viewfinder from it will also work on the GFX 100 (but obviously at the lower resolution).

bythom fujifilm gfx100 tiltlcd

Out back, the Rear LCD is a 3.2" 2.4m dot touchscreen. This is set on a two-way tilting mechanism. You can tilt 90° up, 45° down, and 45° towards the shutter release, the latter independent of the former. This allows you to position the LCD across a range of angles, but it's a constrained range.

Image and video files are saved onto a dual SD card slot mechanism (both support UHS-II). While that's a small physical card size for such a big camera, large capacity SD cards are relatively cheap, and with 102mp files, you're going to need many. 

The USB connection is 3.2 Gen 1 and supports USB charging of the batteries or powering the camera during shooting. There's also a DC input for powering the camera from external sources. The camera features 802.11ac Wi-Fi plus Bluetooth 4.2, both of which can connect to Fujifilm's iOS/Android apps. GPS tagging is supported via the mobile apps.

The vertical grip features a slide out battery tray that can hold one or two NP-T125 batteries, the same ones used in the 50S and 50R cameras. These are big, boxy batteries (10.8v, 1250mAh, which is 14Wh per battery), and together a pair gives you 800 shots (CIPA). Unfortunately, the charger Fujifilm supplies is a single battery charger. I think they should have supplied a dual battery charger. You're going to want a second charger, for sure.

bythom fujifilm gfx100 top

Yes, the GFX 100 is big and heavy. With batteries and cards that works out to 46.6 ounces, or nearly 3 pounds (1320g). Moreover, it's a hefty 6.1 x 5.7 x 3" in size (156 x 144 x 75mm), meaning that it takes up a lot of bag space. If you're used to a Nikon D5 or Canon 1Dx, you'll find the GFX 100 body nearly the same (it's actually slightly lighter and smaller, but not enough to pay attention to).

The GFX 100 is made in Japan and only comes in a dark gray/black look, which Fujifilm refers to as "black". The body itself has a rugged magnesium alloy frame, and is weather sealed at 76 points. The removable EVF is also sealed at 19 points, and is included in the package at US$10,000. 

Capture One Express, Fujifilm X Raw Studio, and Fujifilm X Acquire are all free downloads for the camera. Full versions of Capture One and Fujifilm's Tethering software are optional extras.

Source of the reviewed camera: loaner from B&H

Fujifilm's Web page for the GFX 100

How's it Handle?

Apparently Fujifilm's camera designers haven't got the message that your right thumb transcribes an arc when you're holding a camera grip. The AF-ON button is only very slightly offset from the vertical stack of thumb stick, AE-L button, Menu button, and other buttons. 

The vertical grip hand position puts the Rear Command dial, AF-ON button, and thumb stick in a slightly better arc than the horizontal grip hand position, but neither is particularly optimal. And the vertical grip front grip is shallower than the horizontal grip, which I found slightly disconcerting.

The good news is that the GFX 100 is so big and heavy that you'll always be holding it with two hands while shooting, so you can relax your death grip with the right hand and let your thumb wander over to the controls. The bad news is that pretty much throughout, the GFX 100 seems like it was designed from a large block of rectangular wood and then small controls from previous cameras scattered hither and yon more in a form that keeps them spread out than optimized for shooting.

The Exposure Compensation button is difficult to find by touch because it's carved into the edge of a sloping face. The Display Light button is crammed close enough to the EVF (when mounted) that those with big fingers will find that cramped. Likewise, I don't know why the Delete button and Focus Method switch are so far inbound to the EVF when there's plenty of space to move them away. 

Virtually of the buttons, dials, and switches seem to be from the parts bin of the smaller XF cameras, so seem "too small" for the aesthetics of such a big body. But it's not just the visual impact that's a problem. While we don't have the deep indent on buttons that we have had on some of the other Fujifilm bodies, I just don't think any real consideration was given as to what would have been "right" for a professional shooter. Odd positions, small controls, and difficult to find by touch are not things that resonate with someone paying US$10,000 for a camera body.

A long-standing Fujifilm design problem is on the GFX 100 as well: when the camera has gone to temporary sleep mode, none of the buttons restore it to power. Only a half press of the shutter release brings the camera up from sleep. 

Curiously, the Q button on the vertical grip doesn't bring up a vertically-oriented Quick Menu; the Quick Menu is always horizontally oriented. Oops. 

Overall, I find the GFX 100 to be one of the least ergonomic of the mirrorless cameras, and that's not because it's missing all the dials that you find on the XF bodies. 

I'm not a huge fan of the two-axis tilt mechanism for the Rear LCD, either. While it's better than the single-axis tilt you find on a lot of cameras these days, it really doesn't make the camera as flexible as a fully articulating display would. Moreover, I'm not sure why we needed a removable EVF. 

Negativity aside, there are a few nice touches in the handling. The dual information displays, for example. Both are easy to read—particularly when lit—and display the primary things you want to know in easy to parse clarity. The top LCD can display a very large real time histogram if you'd like, which I liked a lot, particularly because it was fairly easy to see saturation being hit, something a lot of histograms don't get right. Too bad neither additional display has a button dedicated to cycling through the viewing options.

The EVF sticks far enough back from the rear of the camera that the "nose hits LCD" problem is gone for most people. And the ability to add a swivel to it is a nice touch, too. 

The "Mode" button (unlabeled just behind the shutter release) allows you do things like pop back and forth between Aperture priority and Manual exposure mode (or Program/Shutter Priority) with a convenient button press, a very nice touch that's convenient to use.

Quite a bit of customization is available. Indeed, as befitting a professional camera, enough to force you spend some time setting up the camera exactly as you'd like it to perform.

How's it Perform?

Battery: I'm not sure I shot with the camera in enough stress situations to fully analyze battery experience. In very intermittent situations I got less than the 400 shots per charge, in one longer and more constant situation I got more. The fact that we have multiple batteries in the tray at one time pretty much should handle most situations, but I still think the serious event shooter is going to want a pair of backup batteries to shoot all day. The good news is, at 100mp, you are going to tend to shoot a little less to start with (otherwise you're going to have a very long computer session later ;~).

Write speed: For the type of shooting you'd normally do, the SD write card speed is fine. However, those 100mp files can tax the system. For instance, by the time I hit 20 frames on an every-second interval shoot using raw files, my Sony Tough SD UHS-II card was unable to keep up with the camera and the intervals no longer were regularly spaced. 

A fully stuffed buffer takes almost a minute to clear, so this is definitely not a camera you want to use where you're shooting and filling the buffer constantly. The good news is that the buffer doesn't need to be emptied to keep shooting: like most DSLRs, the GFX 100 will shoot immediately when space for another image is available.

Focus: The GFX 100 isn't a Sony A9 or Nikon D5. Don't expect it to be, as there are lot of reasons why that wouldn't happen, including the lens mass that is being moved during focusing. But the primary reason seems to be that Fujifilm chose to perform contrast detect after phase detect in order to make sure that focus is fully optimized to where you pointed it.

This all results in some slide-to-focus and double-clutch action when focusing using continuous autofocus. I wouldn't try to use this camera for sports or birds in flight because of that, but for event shooting in reasonable light it proved to be quite good and I didn't really see any focus speed issues I'd worry about.

Note that I didn't say studio shooting or low light in that last sentence. There, I have a bit of an issue. If you're composing in low light in the studio and triggering strobes for the actual shot, I think you're going to find that getting precise autofocus quickly is going to be more of a hit-or-miss situation. In my upstairs studio with little ambient light, I was finding that I was often seeing focus lag some. To the GFX 100's credit, it eventually figured out where it wanted to focus, but not before I saw sliding and hunting and double-clutching. Using continuous LED lighting solved the problem in the studio, but not everyone is going to want to go that route.

Eye AF isn't as accurate as I'd expect it to be, by the way. In low light I was finding that where the Fujifilm thought the eye was didn't turn out to be perfect (eyebrows, eye edges, even a bit of nose at one point). 

Focus repeatability also seems slightly suspect compared to with what I'm used to, which was a surprise giving the contrast detect step Fujifilm appears to be doing. This very well may be due to the lens designs: they simply aren't up to moving at the level needed to match what the camera itself is capable of generating. 

All that said, I've used enough other medium format cameras to say that the GFX 100 is in a category well above the rest in terms of autofocus performance. The GFX 100 is quite usable for autofocus within a slightly narrower realm than the state-of-the-art full frame cameras, which I can't say about any other MF autofocus system I've used. I'm simply saying that you'll probably want to avoid fast/erratic moving subjects and take more control of the focus system yourself (e.g. avoid Eye AF). 

Image Quality: I'm most experienced with the Nikon D850/Z7 in terms of high pixel count cameras, so I'll address most of my comments in comparison to those. Put simply: the GFX 100 is clearly better, though not perhaps as much better as I had imagined. That latter bit is probably due to lens, not sensor. 

There's probably a two-thirds of a stop dynamic range difference between the GFX 100 and my Z7. That additional ability is certainly welcome, but make sure you're really using it. The Z7 and GFX 100 "expose" a bit differently.

Shooting JPEG, it's easy to get relatively noise-free images at up to ISO 3200 without compromising detail. Above that to hold noise down you start to see noise reduction impacts from the camera's built in processing. JPEGs don't tend to completely fall apart for me until ISO 25600, at which point there is very clear processing going on, colors are blocked, and detail is being smudged, yet there will still be visible noise.

Raw files were about what I expected: again about a two-thirds of a stop advantage over my Z7 and D850, but with more detail and sometimes more edge acuity.

Let's look at some examples for a moment. Here's an out-of-camera JPEG as I shot it (to preserve as much highlight detail as possible):

bythom gfx100 0256orig


Now let's open that up in the raw file and see what we get (I also did a slight bit of distortion correction when I brought the raw in):

bythom gfx100 0256


Let's keep pushing, shall we? Let me take one of the darker areas and push it up even further:

bythom gfx100 0256detail


Incredible resilience of tonality, and an amazing level of detail (this isn't the focus point, but it's within the DOF). 

I know others have claimed they found evidence of the phase detect photosites in extreme pushing of GFX 100 images, but frankly, in very contrasty outdoor scenes where I need to let shadows go dark to preserve highlights, I'm not seeing any issues when I pull up the shadows later.

I'm not convinced that 16-bit really is necessary on this camera, though. While I can find small measurable differences at base ISO, these differences are small enough that they're not visual, even with a fair amount of exposure fiddling after the fact. The 14-bit at low ISO values on a Z7 shows more differentiation from 12-bit than the GFX shows between 14-bit and 16-bit. I'd probably just suggest shooting at 14-bits with the GFX 100.

In terms of pixels, I look at two things when trying to assess whether there's a benefit to the extra ones these days: edge clarity and fine detail. These aren't quite the same thing, though they're interrelated. What I tended to find on the GFX 100 was that I wasn't getting as much edge acuity improvement as I expected from the additional pixels, but I was clearly picking up more detail in textures and surfaces. I suspect a lot of that is lens-based. Having only the one lens to use during my time with the GFX 100 meant that I couldn't verify that, though. 

bythom gfx100 lv0261

I haven't pushed this image quite as far as I normally would, because I wanted you to clearly see that the creek was in deep shadow and the white door in bright light. The GFX 100 held both quite well in a single exposure. I still have plenty of room to adjust the bright areas down and the dark areas up. The amount of detail is pretty incredible, once again. Depth of field held the near creek and the far slope. Here's the front wall of the cabin.

bythom gfx100 0261detail


102mp shot right produces an impressive image. A better image than I get from any other non MF camera I've used (and better than most MF cameras I've used, too). In the somewhat narrow range in which I did most of my testing (events and landscapes), when I got things dialed in I was producing some incredible shots with much more detail than I'm used to. Unfortunately, the Web is not the place to try to show that difference off (particularly with an image resize algorithm running as I have on this Web site). You really have to look at the images on a really good display (e.g. iMac 5K or better) or printed out large (at 300 dpi we're talking about a 29x39" print, which is probably bigger than you're used to ;~).

Final Words

US$10,000. There, I said it. (Okay, I wrote it, but I also said it out loud while making a gasping sound...)

Price sets the GFX 100 virtually in a class of its own. It's far enough away from the full frame bodies to have clear separation (heck, it has clear price separation from Fujifilm's own lowest-cost medium format body, the 50R), and it has clear price separation from the dedicated medium format backs such as the Phase One IQ4's. 

In the film world, there was a very clear benefit from choosing a larger format over a smaller format. As I've described before, on Rodale's big 8' light boxes, a 4x5 slide sure stood out from a 220 slide, which itself stood out from a 35mm slide. Pros shooting in bigger formats were at a clear advantage when Rodale's photo editors were looking at submissions.

In the digital world bigger size of capture might not be so apparent at first, as you're likely pulling up your image to process or look at on a 4k or 5k monitor at best, and the visual differences can be more subtle once resizing gets involved. Nevertheless, they're there. For sure. 

A 102mp GFX 100 raw file shot at ISO 100 and properly focused and exposed just has small detail and clarity that, say a 45mp Z7 raw file shot at ISO 64 and properly focused and exposed doesn't provide. And better dynamic range, too. Yes, the multi-shift pixel capabilities of some Panasonic and Sony full frame cameras can get you into the same territory as the GFX 100, but not for any subject that has motion in it. And while 16-bits versus 14-bits is one of those "can you see it" things that'll baffle most people, there may be a very small benefit there, too, at least if you're shooting at base ISO properly. These things all add up.

The bottom line is that the GFX 100 creates very compelling files. Handled and shot properly, you're going to see things you didn't see on your previous (smaller) camera. The question, of course, is whether or not that's going to net you anything useful, or you're just going for the bragging rights. 

For pros shooting events and in the studio, despite some bone-headed handling issues the GFX 100 is probably the best choice for those that need ultimate or near-ultimate image quality to compete. You're going to have detail and dynamic range that survives even extreme blow ups. And despite the slight downgrade in the autofocus performance from full frame cameras (or even Fujifilm's APS-C cameras), the GFX 100 is still better than any other medium format camera I've used in autofocus, and that big EVF will let you verify that.

Likewise, top-line landscape shooters need to consider the GFX 100, as well. I was just looking at a number of pro gallery prints recently, and frankly, I could tell that most of those prints were made from something lesser than the GFX 100 (the ones that weren't were from large format film). If I thought that there was still a viable market for selling unique, large print landscapes, I'd unlock my Scrooge-like tendencies and get some gold out of the vault to go buy a GFX 100. 

That said, I'm a little leery about lenses for the GFX 100. First, there aren't a lot of choices, so you need to make sure what you need is actually out there to purchase. But one of the dirty little secrets of film medium format was that the lenses were quite often not up to the quality level of lenses for the smaller cameras. the lens I used had a clear tendency to produce a lot of flare on back-lit situations. I could also see some corner deterioration, as well. Indeed, as any optical designer will tell you, the smaller the format you design for, the more you need to design better lenses and keep quality control at bullet-proof levels. If there's one thing that Olympus did right over the years, it was lenses. 

I'm not so sure about Fujifilm, though. I don't have enough experience with their medium format gear, and particularly medium format lenses, to assess just how well designed and quality controlled their medium format lenses are. I've heard just a few too many stories about minor alignment issues from others that worry me a bit. So my advice is that if you're going to invest as much as the GFX 100 is going to cost you, do so with a dealer who'll let you thoroughly test the whole package before committing (camera and lenses). 

In the end I can't really give a Recommend or Not Recommended rating on a camera like this. That's because it's a little self-qualifying: you know whether or not you need such an expensive and impressive chunk of hardware for your work or not. As I stated earlier in this section, the GFX 100 sits in a rather unique point between full frame and traditional medium format backs, not just in capability, but also in price. 

The only question is whether your needs also sit in that mid-point. If so, the GFX 100 isn't just about your only choice, it's the clearly best choice, too. So you'll peel off a hundred Benjamin's out of your wallet and give it willingly to your drug...uh camera...dealer if you're in this category. I know I would.

If you merely aspire to something "akin" to what the GFX 100 can do, you'll likely just grab a full frame camera that can pixel-shift (e.g. Panasonic S1R or Sony A7Rm4). But don't expect the same exact results. 

If you're a studio pro who needs everything medium format provides, you'll look seriously at the Phase One and other backs, but you might find that the GFX 100 does what you need at a lower price point. I actually found it to be quite a nice studio shooter once I made sure the base lighting level was enough for focusing. I didn't mention it previously in the review, but the GFX 100 even has an old-school PC Sync socket if you've never brought your studio lighting into the 21st century. 

As long as you fit into the use profile for the GFX 100 and have the cash, I think you're going to like it. The images speak for themselves. Incredible levels of detail in raw files that can take a lot of manipulation.

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