Mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras have been revolutionizing the camera industry for years now with slimmer, lighter designs and image quality and performance that has grown to rival that of the long-seated kings of the camera hill – DSLRs. Fujifilm has been on the forefront of exploring these technologies with a popular line of cameras featuring APS-C sensors.
A general understanding of sensor size is important to grasp just how cool Fuji’s new GFX really is. Within the mirrorless camera market, there are three major sensor sizes: Micro 4/3, APS-C and 35mm, or full-frame sensors. In general, larger sensors produce better images with finer details and lower noise levels when shooting in low light.
Micro 4/3 is the smallest, a format favored by Olympus in its line of mirrorless cameras. APS-C is probably the most widely used format, found in all of Fujifilm’s mirrorless cameras, some of Sony’s and basically every entry-level DSLR out there. 35mm sensors are the quintessential professional sensor – so much so that many pros simply won’t shoot with anything else. As far as 35mm mirrorless cameras go, Sony pretty much owns the market with its line of A7 cameras.
The GFX is an interesting move for Fujifilm because it entirely skips over full frame and works with an even larger medium-format sensor instead. Medium-format sensors have been around for a long time, but the GFX, along with the Hassleblad X1D-50c (not yet released), are the first mirrorless cameras to make use of one. Both of these cameras boast enormous 50MP resolutions and are set to become a great tool for professional photographers seeking the highest levels of detail in their images.
One of the most obvious benefits of mirrorless cameras thus far is their reduced size and weight when compared with DSLRs sporting the same size sensors. With medium-format cameras, this differentiator really couldn’t be more pronounced. In the past, medium-format digital cameras in this price range have been bulky, heavy, and frankly, quite ugly.
Unsurprisingly, the GFX is heftier than most mirrorless cameras, but considering the mammoth sensor within, it’s mind-blowingly compact and comfortable. To us, it seemed to be roughly the same form factor as a typical full-frame DSLR. Ultimately, professionals used to the size and weight of a Canon 5D or Nikon D810 will feel right at home with the GFX.
It’ll likely take some time for medium-format mirrorless cameras to reach the same level of speed, autofocus accuracy and reliability as their tried and tested mirrored cousins, but for now, the detail and image quality of a medium-format sensor will probably be enough to persuade many professionals to reconsider their loyalty to DSLRs.
The model we played with had three lenses and a battery grip, and aside from a few software glitches, we found it to be a natural performer. Not only were the buttons, dials and screens well laid out, but it also didn’t feel stripped down like many first-generation cameras do. It still has a swiveling touchscreen display, an excellent viewfinder, and most of the settings and features you find in one of Fujifilm’s more mature lines. If you’re familiar with shooting on Fujifilm bodies, we imagine that the transition would be fairly painless.
As photography enthusiasts, we are excited about Fujifilm’s approach and apparent vision for the future of its mirrorless camera line. The GFX is a beautiful camera, but while we appreciate the direction Fujifilm is heading, it’s definitely not for everyone. At around $10,000, it’s unlikely that non-professionals will invest in such a piece of gear. Still, we believe this marks the beginning of an interesting new chapter for mirrorless cameras, and indeed, for the history of cameras as a whole.