You just never know
I’ve been with Nikon from the beginning of my digital era, some eight, almost nine years now. I started with their APS-C sensor bodies and progressed to full frame bodies and a large collection of their lenses. I’ve owned some of the best glass Nikon makes, used their flash systems and never really had any issues with the equipment.
A few years back after Pentax announced the first affordable medium format camera and a few lenses for it, I rented it. The 645z camera was (and is) huge by comparison to my Nikon D810 or even my D4s at the time. It was heavy too. It did garner more than a few “now that’s a camera!” phrases when I brought it out for use. It took wonderful photos though. You could tell the difference right off between that 50 MP sensor and my 36 MP sensor in my D810. The dynamic range, the detail…it was all breathtaking and others saw the difference too. I wanted one and I remember doing the math, working out the how’s and the why’s in my mind. In the end, it just didn’t make sense because they didn’t have a very complete line of newer glass, it couldn’t tether then, and it was stinking huge. It was a Pentax and to be honest, I just didn’t know how much longer it would be around. Ricoh is a very large imaging company with deep, deep pockets but the Pentax camera division seems like a hobby to them and the lack of marketing for the 645z plus the lack of refinement just made me cautious. Not something to build a business on. But I did continue to rent and marvel at the images. I knew I wanted to shoot medium format but the Hasselblad’s and Phase One’s were just way out of reach. They cost what a starter home costs.
So I stuck with my tried and true Nikon equipment. Before all that I picked up a X100 fixed lens Fuji about six years prior, you know, just something for travel and to bring with for whatever because lugging Nikon DSLR’s and a compliment of lenses was around 50-70 lbs of stuff. I was blown away by the X100’s images. I still have that camera. I started to really appreciate what Fuji could do with a smaller crop sensor camera, their take on color and film simulations and the idea of building a camera with the ending image in mind. Next came the X-Trans sensor and the X-Pro1. I still have that camera too. Nikon, in the meantime, added more megapixels and more solid performance but they didn’t do anything really over the top...they just continued to build the solid best in class DSLR’s with high ISO and fantastic autofocus modules. But I was always seeing something more in the Fuji images. Over the years I progressed with Fuji through their X-T1, X-Pro2 and X-T2 and the X100T. Each camera different and each improving on the images, not necessarily in any particular quality but just different, pleasing images – and in many cases straight out of camera! Working their RAW files just improved on that. I took notice, especially when I would be scanning images in LR and stop on one that really caught my eye then finding it was shot with a Fuji. I have of late started to prefer the Fuji images when compared side by side to those from my Nikon’s. Uh oh.
So Fuji announces a medium format system in September. The GFX, with the same 50 MP sensor used in the Pentax AND the latest Hasselblad and a sensor still used by Phase One devotees not able to afford the 100 MP back they just released. The GFX is mirrorless though, similar to the Hasselblad X1D (also recently announced) and they promised it will be under $10k with a lens. The newer X1D is a shade over $10k with a lens…and that set the photo community on it’s ear. What? Well Fuji continued their blitz and this month they made it real. Delivery starts in late February with a family of six lenses to follow. Six! Hasselblad meanwhile announced in June 2016, promised delivery in August, then September, and then after the first of the year and so far nothing has come from it. Fuji is developing the GFX as they did their X system and being fully in with that equipment, I think Fuji is the medium format camera for me. I trust them to deliver. They are developing the GFX with similar menu’s, ergonomics, and firmware so using one system should be like using another. And the images I have seen so far are very, very promising – and its all pre-production. The real upside though is Fuji really knows lenses and given what did they with the X system, the lenses for the GFX should be as good as anything by anyone, on the market. Yeah, even the German stuff. Fuji admits they are developing all GFX lenses to be suitable for use at 100 MP…read between the lines folks. Already another GFX is being developed.
Admittedly, I’m probably at a pace to close out my studio days and photo career in about 4 years. I figure to still take pictures, but not with the bent and push I do now. It’s the right time and maybe the only time for me to go medium format. I have learned what works with my photo vision so I don’t really need the same lens compliment I have with Nikon (or Fuji for that matter…) I think the Fuji GF 32-64mm f/4 will be a good start. That’s like a full frame 25 to 51mm zoom lens. They promise a 110mm f/2 in summer, which is a 85mm equivalent and that, might be all I need. I will still be shooting with my X-T2 and X-Pro2 cameras and the FULL lens kit I have for them now. The GFX is smaller and lighter than my Nikon but it doesn’t mean I want to lug it everywhere but then, it depends doesn’t? Heh heh…
Right now, I am just in the beginning stages of putting my Nikon gear up for sale. I’m keeping a core set of lenses and the D810 body until the GFX is available along with that zoom. Demand seems high so that could be summer. I can wait, least ways I hope so. This isn’t a move I took or thought about lightly. True enough, a few weeks back I had all but dismissed the thought of going with a GFX. But I saw the sample images at full res and I started think about those Pentax 645z images and once I dulled a few pencil points working on the numbers…well it made some sense. Honest. It really did.
I do have the new Fuji X100F on pre-order. That’s was announced at the same time. The X100 series is probably the favorite, most best-est camera of all time to me. With the newer X sensor, the focus points, the new focus lever…I just had to have it. I will sell my trusty X100T when I get back from Costa Rica in a few weeks. I don’t think the new X100F will ship until early March anyway. Can you believe it? I’m going to be all Fuji soon. This year! I just never saw that coming.