Where do we even begin? To understand this piece of marvel called the GFX100S, we need to take a few steps back to 2011, and the launch of the now iconic Fujifilm X100.
We were presented with a camera so raw and simplistic in its design, a body so very reminiscent of the days of shooting film. I doubt if many of us realise that our passion for photography has a certain romance attached to it, an excitement knowing that we are capturing a moment in time that will forever be immortalised in a picture.
This is exactly what Fujfilm achieved with the X100. “Retro” buttons on an almost dated looking body, which immediately resonated with our inner romantic. All this coupled with a brilliant sensor and fantastic ease of use and ergonomics.
Now some might wonder what this has to do with the GFX100S.
It’s quite simple really. Fujifilm cameras over that past 10 years all share that same familiar Fujifilm DNA, immediately forming a connection with the photographer and bringing ease of use through that familiar menu system and much loved Fujifilm ergonomics.
The major step taken here, however, is that we now have that award-winning GFX sensor capturing those moments for us.
The move towards medium format
I often hear debates around cropped versus full-frame, but we hardly ever hear of people including medium format into this equation.
Having moved to the X-system from a full-frame system, and getting far more satisfactory images from my Fujfilm cameras, always makes the cropped versus full-frame debate a real moot point for me. Trust me, I can go on for hours as to why and what makes them equal, and back this up with cropped frames straight from Lightroom.
Medium format – this is what the GFX 100s is sold as. I was in a very fortunate position to capture images on a prototype GFX 50S for Fujifilm SA in 2017 for a launch event of the camera. This afforded me an opportunity to make comparisons for myself, comparing the three sensor sizes side by side.
I really don’t need to add that I was blown away for several reasons.
With the GFX 50S, Fujifilm really did it, they gave the man on the street a camera that could fulfill all their photographic dreams and requirements
Fujifilm is also not known as a company that sleeps at the desk, and not long after we were introduced to the GFX 50R, the same size sensor in a much more compact form factor.
Things were heating up and photographers out there could now make a choice between the X-series or the GFX series, a medium format at an affordable price point. With these bodies we were also introduced to the GF series of lenses. These two cameras were followed by their big brother, the GFX100, packing a whopping 102 megapixels on the same size sensor.
Taking the smaller form factor of the 50R into consideration, all the technology this groundbreaking company has created, and the 102 megapixels of the GFX100, Fujifilm surprised the world with the GFX100S in March of 2021. The GFX100S is a really groundbreaking camera body, with a size not much bigger than that of its smaller brother, the GFX 50R. Here we have a 102-megapixel sensor and a body with 5-axis image stabilisation, in a body the same size if not perhaps a little more compact than some DSLR options.
Hitting the streets
With this in mind, I decided to use the GFX100S in the same manner that I would my X-T3. Equipped with the GF 30mm prime lens and the GF 32-64 mm, I took to the streets of Johannesburg.
The camera was used in the same manner one would use an X-series camera, the compact size really allowed for the camera and lens to be used with some low angle images. Some compositions were done holding the body and lens close to the ground and using the fantastic LCD for composition.
The GFX100S is a seriously high tech piece of gear, but with the same love and nostalgia one would get from using one of the X-series bodies. Buttons and menus in all the familiar places, except for the shutter-speed dial and exposure compensation dial now omitted from the top, the familiar ISO dial is also missing. Exposure compensation is the one dial I never touch, the shutter-speed and ISO dials on the other hand are very familiar to me, and have always been about the romance of shooting film.
Fujifilm have gained a cult following after all, thanks to their simplistic layout, reminiscent to the days of film. But do not fear, on the top right we have a second LCD, first seen on the X-H1, with some very useful information for when one is shooting at night, waist level or on a tripod. The front and rear of the body has two scroll wheels with a dual function.
Working through the easy menu and setup, I customised the front wheel to act as my ISO dial, and with a push the same wheel became my shutter-speed dial. Information for these, easily readable on the rear and top LCD displays as well as the bright and brilliant viewfinder. Fujifilm could not have made it any easier for the end user to use a medium format camera.
I took the camera with me to Time Square Casino in Pretoria and attempted a five image vertical panorama. Again, the small form factor, ease of use and ergonomics made light work of this.
Working with the images
Once uploaded into Lightroom (all RAW images), I was once again presented (not surprisingly though) by some great dynamic range.
Fujifilm has now become very familiar to me as the absolute masters of exceptional dynamic range. And it’s in this area where the GFX 100S absolutely excels.
The highlights are beautifully controlled and shadow detail retrieval is done with much finesse, so much detail is retained that it’s mind-boggling. I know many are wondering about the detail but there have been more than enough images shared with 200-300% crops to show what the sensor is capable of.
The Fujifilm GFX100S is one of those cameras that will change the course of camera technology, allowing for endless possibilities as to what can still be achieved with camera development. It’s a very serious and high-level precision tool in the digital world of photography.
But what I love most is that one can have all this in a beautifully constructed package that immediately takes you back to the X100 in 2011 and the many reasons I fell in love with Fujifilm in the first place.
I am Anton Bosman, X-Photographer who specialises in landscape, urban and architectural photography for corporate work as well as prints for your home. Stay strong in the era of Covid and keep shooting.