Fujifilm GFX 50S II review
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Fujifilm GFX 50S II review

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The Fujifilm GFX 50S II is the company’s third 50 Megapixel medium format mirrorless camera, and the first to feature in-camera stabilization.

In almost every respect, the 50S II is a lower-res version of the GFX 100S, sharing more with its high pixel-count sibling than it does with the original GFX 50S. The means it benefits from all the refinements Fujifilm has introduced in the five years since the first GFX 50S was launched but also sees some features pared back.

It’s also Fujifilm’s least expensive medium format camera to date, making the 44 x 33mm format more accessible than ever.

Key specifications

  • 51MP 44 x 33mm CMOS sensor
  • In-body stabilization offering up to 6.5EV correction
  • 3.2″ rear touchscreen with two-axis tilt
  • 3.69M dot OLED viewfinder with 0.77x (equiv) magnification
  • Top-panel status LCD
  • Pixel-shift high-res mode gives 205MP images
  • Battery rated to 440 shots per charge (CIPA)
  • Full HD video at up to 30p, with headphone and mic sockets

The Fujifilm GFX 50S II will be available later this month at a recommended price of $4000. Launched alongside the camera is a 35-70mm F4.5-5.6 retractable zoom lens, which provides 28-55mm equivalent coverage. Fujifilm is asking for $1000 for the lens if bought separately, but it adds only $500 to the cost of the 50S II, if bought together as a kit.



What’s new?

Image Stabilization

The biggest change compared with the previous 50MP GFX models is the addition of image stabilization. It barely needs saying how valuable image stabilization can be, especially for expanding the range of circumstances in which you’ll get the camera’s full resolution. At a stroke, it means you’re much more likely to see the camera’s full benefit when shooting hand-held.

This isn’t a particularly extreme example, but in-body stabilization helps maintain sharpness even when shooting shutter speeds at or below 1/equivalent focal length. 1/25 sec, GF 35-70mm F4.5-5.6 WR @ 35mm (28mm equivalent)

The GFX 50S II’s stabilization system gets a rating of 6.5 stops of correction when subjected to the tests laid out by industry body CIPA.

The image stabilization mechanism also allows the camera to offer a multi-shot pixel shift high-resolution mode that shoots and combines 16 images with fractional shifts of the sensor between each one. There’s no attempt made to correct for the motion of the camera or in the scene, so a tripod and static subject matter is needed for this feature.

Viewfinder

One area in which the 50S II loses out, compared to its forebear, is in terms of its viewfinder. It uses a similar 0.5″ type 3.69M dot OLED EVF panel but it uses the smaller, lower-magnification optics from the GFX 100S, giving it ‘only’ 0.77x magnification (in full-frame terms). This is down from the 0.85x magnification of the original 50S, but is still competitive with the likes of Canon’s EOS R5, for instance.

The other area in which the 50S II falls behind its predecessor is that the viewfinder is built-in, rather than being removable, which also means there’s no option to add the EVF-TL1 tilt adapter between the camera body and viewfinder.

Updates since the GFX 50S

The original GFX 50S received a series of firmware updates and feature upgrades but these haven’t included all of the small feature improvements Fujifilm has made across the five years since its launch. The GFX 50S II gains a series of small feature additions that haven’t made it back to the older camera.

  • Lossy Raw compression option: This may seem like an odd thing to add when there’s already a lossless compression option but it allows smaller Raw files with little-to-no visual loss of quality, which may suit some photographers.
  • DR Priority mode: This adjusts exposure to protect highlights (like the standard DR modes) and also brightens the shadows to maximize the amount of dynamic range shown in the images. ‘Strong’ uses DR 400 mode exposures and a big shadow lift, ‘Weak’ uses DR 200 exposures and doesn’t brighten the shadows so much. ‘Auto’ appears to pick between these two settings (never selecting the ‘off’ setting). We found the results a bit over-the-top, but only the change in exposure has any impact on the Raw, so there’s no harm trying them in high-contrast conditions.
  • Nostalgic Neg and Eterna Bleach Bypass film simulations: These give the camera a total of 19 color modes (if you include the variants of Acros and Black & White modes that simulate the use of a colored filter in front of the lens).

In total Fujifilm says there have been 79 small adjustments in the camera’s behavior and operation since the introduction of the original 50S.

GFX100S features not present / Video

Because the GFX 50S II uses the same sensor as the original model, there are a handful of features it doesn’t gain from the GFX 100S. The most obvious is resolution but it also falls behind in terms of video. Whereas the 100S can shoot 4K video, the 50S II only offers 1080p capture, and can’t match the 10-bit capture of its higher-res twin.

So, while it gains the ability to record to the capacity of a memory card, and options such as linear focus response for video shooters that rely on manual focusing, there aren’t any major improvements in video quality.


How it compares

Fujifilm has priced the 50S II $500 lower than it launched the 50R for, despite the new camera gaining image stabilization: a major upgrade for a lot of the types of shooting it does well. This puts it much closer in price to the likes of Canon’s EOS R5 and other high-res full-frame camera bodies.

There are still differences in terms of costs of lenses but many of the Fujinon lenses do well in justifying their higher prices.

Fujifilm GFX
50S II
Fujifilm GFX 50R Nikon Z7 II Canon EOS R5
MSRP $4000 $4500 $3000 $3900
Sensor size 44 x 33mm 44 x 33mm 36 x 24mm 36 x 24mm
Resolution 51.1MP 51.1MP 45.4MP 44.8MP
Image stabilization In-body
(lens IS combines for pitch/yaw)
Lens only In body
(lens IS takes over pitch/yaw)
In-body
(lens IS combines for pitch/yaw)
Burst rate 3 fps 3 fps (EFCS) 10 fps 12 fps (Mech)
20 fps (Elec)
Shutter speed range 60 min – 1/4000
(EFC or Mech)
60min –
1/16,000 (Electronic)
inc auto-switching mode
60 min – 1/4000
(EFC or Mech)
60min –
1/16,000 (Electronic)
inc auto-switching mode
15 min – 1/8000 30 sec – 1/8000
Flash sync 1/125 1/125 1/200 1/250 (EFCS)
1/200 (Mech)
Raw options Compressed
Lossless Comp
Uncompressed
Lossless Comp
Uncompressed
Compressed
Lossless Comp
Uncompressed
(all 12 or 14-bit)
Dual Pixel Raw
Lossless Comp
Compressed (14, 13 or 12-bit, depending on mode)
Top-panel display 1.8″ 69.7K dot Memory LCD
(303 x 230)
None OLED (Res not published) 16.4K dot Memory LCD
(128 x 128)
EVF 3.69M dots
0.77x Mag
(equiv)
3.69M dots
0.77x Mag (equiv)
3.69M dots 0.8x Mag 5.76M dots
0.76x Mag
Rear display 3.2″ 3.69M dots
2-way tilt
3.2″ 3.69M dots
2-way tilt
3.2″ 2.1M dots
Tilting
3.2″ 2.1M dots
Fully-articulated
HDR options None None None 10-bit HEIF stills
(PQ)
10-bit video (PQ)
Card Types 2 x UHS-II SD 2 x UHS-II SD 1x CFe Type B
1x UHS-II SD
1x CFe Type B
1x UHS-II SD
Battery life
(LCD / EVF)
440 / unspecified 400 / unspecified 380 / 360
(440 / 420 power save)
490 / 320 (power save)
Dimensions 150 x 104 x 87mm 161 x 97 x 66mm 134 x 101 x 70mm 139 x 98 x 88mm
Weight 900g / 31.7oz 775g / 27.3oz 705g / 24.9oz 738g / 26.0oz

As you might expect, the smaller-sensor cameras offer faster shooting rates and quicker flash sync speeds (since their shutters don’t need to travel so far), but in most respects, the Fujifilm offers a competitive spec and a sensor that’s 70% larger. The camera itself is a little larger too, but not unbearably so, meaning that for some types of shooting it looks like a credible way to gain access to a greater-than-full-frame world.


Body and handling

The GFX 50S II uses the same body as the GFX 100S, which means it’s slightly smaller and lighter than its predecessor. It also means the only dedicated dial on the camera is an exposure mode dial. The loss of a dedicated shutter speed dial frees up space for a larger top-panel display, which can be set to show a histogram, a representation of virtual shutter speed/aperture dials or a customizable settings display.

The GFX 50S II has a pair of UHS-II SD slots behind a removable door, which has rubber flanges for environmental sealing.

There are two well-placed command dials on the front and rear edges of the camera, which again can be customized. Both dials can be pressed inwards to cycle between functions that have been assigned to them. There’s also an AF joystick, which is larger and flatter than the one on the old 50S, and that we found to be both more comfortable to use and easier to move with precision.

As you might expect, there’s plenty of scope for customization. Eight physical buttons and four directional swipes of the rear touchscreen can be re-purposed to give quick access to your favored settings. The camera’s quick ‘Q’ menu can also be modified to include the options of your choice in the order that makes the most sense to you.

We found the exposure comp button to be a little awkwardly placed, so customized it to act as a switch (rather than needing to be held down), to make the rear command dial a full-time Exp Comp dial.

The camera retains a rear screen that can tilt in two axes, meaning you can tilt it for waist-level shooting in both the landscape and portrait orientation. It remains our favorite layout for a photo-focused camera.

The body’s magnesium alloy construction has a distinctly dense feeling which, on a camera this size, means it ends up feeling quite weighty in comparison with other mirrorless cameras. Which you perceive this weight as a sign of solid, high-quality construction or as a hindrance to travel is likely to depend on how you plan to use the camera.

Battery

Another area in which the GFX 50S II more closely resembles the 100S is the use of a smaller, NP-W235 battery. Despite its smaller size, it can deliver 16Wh of power, rather than the 14Wh of the older NP-T125 unit used in the older camera. This helps the Mark II to deliver a battery life rating of 440 shots per charge, using standard CIPA test methods. As usual, it’s common to get as many as double this number in day-to-day use.

The GFX 50S II comes with an external charger, and can also be charged over USB.


Image Quality

Our test scene is designed to simulate a variety of textures, colors and detail types you’ll encounter in the real world. It also has two illumination modes to see the effect of different lighting conditions.

The image quality of the GFX 50S II is, as you might expect, very impressive. There’s a level of detail that’s not matched by many other cameras. And its larger sensor helps give slightly cleaner tones than most full-frame cameras. This large-sensor advantage starts to slip away as the ISO levels rise, presumably because it’s squaring up against newer sensors: it’s gone entirely at super high ISOs.

JPEG color response is very good and, thanks to a wide selection of fairly subtle Film Simulation modes and decent processing, the Fujifilm arguably offers some of the best out-of-camera results of any medium format camera, which can be useful even if you only plan to use them as proofs or as an initial guide for your edits.

We suspect the 50S II has the same microlens design as previous 50MP Fujifilm models, with gaps left between pixels to increase the separation between pixels that emphasize (exaggerate?) sharpness. This comes with the risk of moiré in very high-frequency patterns, but it’s no any worse than its peers, and it seems to clean up well in JPEGs, so shouldn’t be disastrous.

Dynamic range

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In terms of dynamic range, the sensor performs very well. An ISO 100 file pushed by 6 stops shows only a little more noise than an ISO 6400 image shot at the same exposure (the difference stemming from electronic, read, noise). This is a pretty good result, which gives the option in low light, high contrast situations, of dropping the ISO setting to retain highlights, rather than amplifying them to the point where they clip. You can do this in the knowledge that brightening the rest of the image won’t reveal much additional noise.

The camera’s DR400 mode used the exposure associated with ISO 400 but with the level of amplification typically used for an ISO 100 shot, helping to protect the highlights of the sunset. The foreground was then brightened and warmed, to better represent my memory of the scene.

ISO 400 (DR400) | 1/210 sec | F8 | Fujifilm GF 35-70mm F4.5-5.6 WR @ 70mm

At base ISO, if you reduce the exposure to capture additional highlights, you can dig detail out of the very deep shadows if you have to. There’ll be a noise cost because of the reduction in exposure, but while the results aren’t quite as clean as on the GFX 100S, you can dig very deep into the files without being swamped with noise. This performance is better than most full-frame cameras, but it’s worth noting that the Nikon Z7 II’s ISO 64 setting can always be shot with 2/3EV more exposure (with the same shutter speed and depth of field as the GFX), and delivers comparable results, right down into the deepest shadows.

Image stabilization

What our test scene doesn’t show is the impact of image stabilization. It’s one thing to be able to get peak sharpness (or something very close) with the camera mounted on a heavy tripod but quite another to repeatably do so in the real world. We spent three weeks traveling with the 50S II, sans tripod, and haven’t had to worry about camera shake in any of the captured images. The 50S II’s stabilization doesn’t boost image quality, per se, but it significantly expands the circumstances in which you’ll get the best out of the camera.


Autofocus

Autofocus is the GFX’s most significant shortcoming. Fujifilm says the use of a newer processor makes it quicker than previous 50MP models but without the distance-aware phase-detection AF of the 100MP models, it’s still pretty slow. Given the leaps forward in autofocus speed, tracking performance and ease-of-use going on elsewhere in the market, the GFX 50S II feels significantly off-the-pace.

There’s an argument to be made that the higher-resolving capabilities of medium format lenses are a legitimate trade-off for the slower focusing that comes from having to move more glass, but the GFX 100 series has shown it needn’t be this slow. Some GF lens designs are faster than others, but they’re all more snappy on the GFX 100 models.

The camera’s eye detection AF can place the focus perfectly on the eye, but it only does so in S-AF, so won’t refocus if your subject is moving. It’s also much more prone to losing its subject than most rival systems, which makes it difficult to depend on.F2.8 | 1/160 sec | ISO 1250 | Fujifilm GF 45mm F2.8 R WR [Standard/Provia]

The other issue is the dependability of the face/eye detection system. The GFX 50S II can detect faces and eyes but it only seems to do so when your subject is facing you fairly directly and has a tendency to lose the subject if they look down, or away or close their eyes. It’s also unusually prone to finding faces in the scene where none exist, which is likely to prompt some people to simply disengage the mode altogether. It can also only detect eyes when in single-acquisition AF, which means it won’t attempt to refocus if your subject moves.

The latest cameras from other brands can lock onto the face nearest your chosen AF point and then stick to that person tenaciously, even if they look away or are obscured by another subject. That’s simply not the case here, and we often found it was more reliable to manually position the finest AF point, rather than trying to rely on Eye AF: a process that takes longer and requires your subject to hold their pose for you.


Video

The GFX 50S II’s video isn’t one of its greatest strengths but it’s perfectly usable and includes a decent array of support tools, including headphone and mic sockets.

The use of the older 50MP sensor means the GFX 50S II doesn’t gain the 4K video capabilities of the GFX 100S, despite how much other hardware they share. So, while the 50S II has a dedicated Still/Movie switch, mic and headphone sockets and the touchscreen-led ‘Movie Optimized Control’, its video performance isn’t anything special.

Video tops out at 1080/30p, though there are both 23.98 and true 24p options if you prefer. The camera also offers digital stabilization, which combines with the in-body and in-lens correction to allow hand-held shooting with movement.

The camera’s 1080 footage isn’t bad at all, even compared with cameras that are very good at Full HD, and there’s no major loss in quality for applying the digital IS (and the 1.1x crop that comes with it). But most of its rivals, and its big brother, will happily shoot 4K footage (that typically downsamples to give very good 1080), so we feel the 50S II’s video probably isn’t a major part of the camera’s appeal to would-be buyers.


Conclusion

What we like What we don’t
  • Some of the best image quality available
  • In-body stabilization extends circumstances in which you’ll get maximum resolution
  • Film Simulations give attractive processing options
  • Comparatively small and light
  • Dual-tilt LCD is excellent for portrait orientation shooting
  • Least expensive digital medium format camera ever
  • Well-thought-out video features
  • Matched card slots mean you only need one type of card
  • USB charging is convenient
  • Face/eye detection not as dependable as in rivals (and no eye detect in C-AF)
  • Autofocus isn’t the quickest
  • ‘Quick AF’ mode drains battery faster
  • Video is only Full HD (no 4K)
  • Exposure Comp needs its own button, even if you want to use a dial
  • Multi-shot mode very sensitive to movement of the camera or subject

This review was created based on experience using a pre-production GFX 50S II running f/w v1.0. While it is possible that there may be minor differences between this sample and a final shipping camera, we are confident that they will not significantly affect our findings. As such, in consultation with Fujifilm, we have opted to give the GFX 50S II a score, and we will revisit our findings if necessary once a final production camera becomes available

The GFX 50S II takes a familiar sensor and mounts it in Fujifilm’s most refined GF body. This combination provides the company’s first image stabilized 50MP model while also becoming the lowest priced digital medium format camera ever launched. Clearly, this will be a tantalizing prospect for anyone who’s dreamt of going beyond the 135 format.

And it makes a very powerful combination, especially when combined with the surprisingly capable 35-70mm F4.5-5.6 zoom lens. It’s no bigger than some full-frame DSLRs and makes a superb studio or landscape camera. Its solid build and direct control make it a very satisfying camera to shoot with and the end results hold up to the closest scrutiny.

The GFX 50S II won’t make you a better landscape photographer, but it can make the most of any shots you take.

ISO 200 (DR200) | 1/150 sec | F11 | Fujifilm GF 35-70mm F4.5-5.6 WR @ 56mm [Standard/Provia]

However, its relatively slow contrast-detect autofocus and a rather flighty face/eye detection means that the GFX 50S II is much less adept at portraiture, especially if your style tends towards the spontaneous/candid. Its slow AF and 3 fps maximum shooting rate essentially rule it out for sports and action work, which high-res full-frame cameras increasingly do well at.

The 50S II’s fundamental challenge is that there is no inherent magic or special ‘look’ to medium format (even if you move up to the larger 52 x 44mm ‘~645’ format). The same logic that draws an equivalence between smaller sensors works just as effectively for large sensors: light and geometry work the same way, regardless. So, while the GFX’s 70% larger-than-full-frame sensor provides a roughly 2/3EV benefit over the smaller format (at the same F-number and shutter speed), there are full-frame cameras that can claw back some of that advantage. The difference is that the latest full-frame cameras can focus faster, shoot quicker, are much better at Face/Eye AF and cost less money.

It’s hard to argue with the levels of detail the GFX 50S II is capable of, even when shot hand-held using a collapsible ‘kit’ zoom. Note the seagull.ISO 100 | 1/220 sec | F9 | Fujifilm GF 35-70mm F4.5-5.6 WR @35mm [Classic Chrome]

That said, the larger lenses needed for larger sensors will find it easier to resolve any given frequency in the scene. This, combined with the 50S II’s microlens design, which boosts apparent sharpness (at the cost of some aliasing), means the GFX 50S II delivers truly impressively sharp images. And this is on top of tonal quality and dynamic range at the upper limit of what full-frame can achieve.

Ultimately, compared to some full-frame competitors, the GFX 50S II isn’t the most rational choice, even for landscape and studio shooters. But its slow awkwardness, compared with a do-everything full-framer, has a certain charm. And it so frequently delivers great image quality that I fully recognize how someone could end up loving it. If you’re shopping with your head, and you have the extra budget, the GFX 100S makes a lot more sense (a newer, more efficient sensor, more resolution and better autofocus), but the 50S II buys you into a range of excellent lenses and frequently makes photography feel special. And what’s the price of that?


Compared to

If you want to fully experience the benefit that a 44 x 33mm sensor offers over full-frame, the Fujifilm GFX 100S is a stronger candidate. Its 100MP resolution really shows off what the Fujinon GF lenses can do, and its on-sensor phase detection means the whole experience is that bit quicker. A newer, more efficient sensor delivers a slight bump in image quality beyond the pixel count, and it reads out fast enough to deliver a much more capable video camera. It may be more expensive than the 50MP model, but the benefit over its rivals is much clearer.

The Nikon Z7 II is the camera that represents the biggest challenge to the GFX 50S II, because its ISO 64 mode lets it tolerate 2/3EV more exposure than the Fujifilm. You can shoot the Nikon with an aperture 2/3EV wider, and get the same depth of field and the same amount of light per the whole image. This gives directly comparable quality in terms of noise, dynamic range and tonal quality throughout the image (in practice, as well as in principle). Nikon’s Z-mount lens lineup contains some impressive options and the Nikon’s AF speed, video capabilities and general responsiveness make it a much more flexible alternative, at a lower cost.

The Canon EOS R5 can’t quite match the Fujifilm for image quality at base ISO, so the landscape and studio shooters will gain something by opting for the Fujifilm’s bigger sensor (it’s a similar story for Sony’s a7R IV). But portrait shooters are likely to appreciate the Canon’s excellent Eye AF system, which is quicker to use and far more dependable than the GFX’s. Again, speed, video functions (including 8K capture) and general flexibility are all on Canon’s side, if you’re willing to cede that extra margin of base ISO image quality.


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