The Fuji GFX Medium Format Camera


The camera getting all the attention at Photokina is Fuji's Medium Format GFX Mirrorless Camera, which I guess could be described as 'Enthusiast MF'. And below is the size advantage that you get.

So you get 1.7x the area of 35mm / 'Full Frame'. This size increase is less than the difference between APS-C and 'Full-Frame' and a lot less than the difference between m4/3 and 'Full-Frame'. So a bit more sensor real estate but not that much. And for the privilege of those extra pixels plus one lens you will have to find something close to $10,000 / €10,000 / £10,000. Gulp!!!

Now kudos to Fuji for coming up with something different, but who exactly do they think is going to buy this? Professional Medium Format is a very small (and very expensive) market. Catered for by companies like Phase One, Leaf, Leica, Pentax and Hassleblad. Now I'm not sure that many of those users are going to change. In many cases they get bigger sensors and more MP's anyway. Plus the thought of a small lens range will hardly be appealing, though I guess somebody will come up with adapters. So I guess Fuji are looking to people wanting to upgrade from the smaller sensor sizes. Hassleblad have released something similar, more expensive but they have a track record with MF digital. Fuji made some fine MF film cameras but that was a long time ago and APS-C to MF is a big jump, considering they haven't proved themselves with a FF camera. 

But how exactly will this work? I and a lot of others have taken a punt on a new camera system, but with a significant 5 figure layout on the body and some lenses, who exactly will take the risk on an untried and untested system? It usually takes a number of years for a system to get accepted after we, as consumers, 'road test' it. m4/3 certainly had it's skeptics when it emerged, but now it's a well established part of the interchangeable lens marketplace. But getting into m4/3 and seeing what it was like was a lot cheaper than 'having a look' at Fuji MF will be. 

There is of course the issue of why is MF so expensive? One reason is that it sells in much lower quantities than other systems, but it's always struck me that another is some kind of 'snob' appeal. I have trouble with the notion that a camera with a slightly bigger 50MP sensor than the Canon 5Ds is almost 4 times the price. Under what logic can that be justified? There is no way that it costs 4 times as much to produce. And surely Fuji would have come up with a real coup if they had priced the GFX a lot lower. Put this in the shops at around $3-3500 and I suspect they will made a killing. But no, it's medium format so start multiplying. 

And my suspicion is that the price that will mean this never really takes off. Sure it will appeal to some and they may even have the spare cash to buy it, but I can't see it being much more than a "Look what we can do' camera. I'm certainly not interested in selling everything else to buy this and I wonder just how many others will be. Though it is possible that the hire companies could do very well with a camera like this, since it seems very mirrorless / DSLR user friendly. And having one for that special shoot for a week won't be cheap, but then that would be a lot cheaper than buying one. 

So, all in all, an interesting concept, but it remains to be seen whether it has more mileage than that. Certainly it will get a lot of attention and maybe that's what Fuji are looking for. But ultimately is it any better than the best 'Full-Frame?' I've looked at a few samples from MF cameras that haven't really blown me away. Sure, there is some serious resolution, but the difference isn't as great as some would make out. And in terms of reproduction, there is even less difference than you might think. In fact I've argued quite 'robustly' with some of my professional colleagues as to why they use MF. For me the fact that I would have to stop down to f/16 or so to get the DOF I want is a negative factor (as I did with my Pentax 645 film camera) and I would really prefer to spend my money on some great FF lenses rather than a MF body. Plus there are size, weight, processing speed and storage issues with MF as well. But ultimately for me, I can't see any justification for the price premium. Sure my Leicas are expensive but they are manufactured to the highest specifications, with premium materials, hold their value and are to a large extent 'hand made.' None of which I imagine applies to the Fuji. However like all these 'off the wall' products, time will tell.