Is it time to bail on the Fujifilm medium format?
I read some disturbing news today about the next generation medium format camera body from Fujifilm. It’s the one I was waiting for when I bought into the hype. Don’t take my words wrong here, the current GFX 50s is a great (fantastic!) camera but it’s 50 MP capacity was always a starting point for the 645 sized sensor. At least for me. The real juice was the 100+ MP sensor of the future generation. THATS where medium format really shines. Thats what I have been waiting for. At it’s announcement the GFX 50s was also billed to “look” like a Fujifilm camera. It basically carried over the design of the beloved Fujifilm X system using the dials, buttons and controls making it very similar. So switching from one to the other was pretty seamless. I’m guessing those designers and product managers are gone now because the new 100+ MP “GFX 100” appears to be a replica of the failed Hasselblad X1D. All menu driven off an LCD, no dials save for a PSAM mode dial - nothing to tie it to the rest of the lineup. Stupid move and I don’t understand it.
I own only four lenses but thats still a sizable investment for a small shop and one I made thinking I’d use them on the newer generation body. I would own more lenses except Fujifilm are tending toward G mount lenses of little use to me. I have to plan these purchases out several years because the funds needed to acquire a $10k Fujifilm GFX 100 body requires a savings plan for me. The GFX 50s, the four lenses and extension tube for it was already a considerable investment. I’m at the point now though of having to decide to just cash out and move back to a full frame hi res camera or just keep the Fujifilm X system and go with it. Or call it done and keep shooting with the GFX 50s not planning to upgrade. I got duped into the GFX system wrongly assuming Fuji’s intentions were to carry on its tradition and build cameras similar to it’s established legacy of traditional ergonomics. In seeing the dismal offerings of new lenses for the GFX, since the initial offerings, and now seeing the new GFX 100 design, it’s pretty evident that Fujifilm is on a different path now and it’s got nothing to do with the ground breaking designs and initiatives of old.
I really wanted the 100+ sensor. For those not in the know, there is a difference in images from this sensor as compared to APS-C or full frame. It’s not just the size of the sensor, physics and attributes of light - in a nutshell the angles with which the light rays and data arrive to the sensors photo cells makes a huge difference. The larger size of the sensor does allow for these angles of collection so to speak, because the size is 70% greater than full frame. The flange distance from the lens to the sensor contributes too and medium format lenses are designed to take advantage of this. The difference of APS-C to full frame 35mm format is not as great and most companies design lenses to fit either format which compromises the quality versus lenses designed for APS-C sensors. Oh, there are tons of detractors, that will simply count pixels and claim same-same or whatever. But the difference is real, especially when printing. Although my customers see the difference on their computer screen too. The 50 MP sensor mattered, but 100 MP is the sweet spot in pixels and light collection for this sized sensor and thats what I was waiting for.
Medium format is not on the agenda for other companies, not as far as I have read. Everyone seems to be fine with 35mm formats and plenty of R&D is headed there. Phase One and Hasselblad were the only other players besides Fujifilm in the medium format market. Fujifilm is the one most can afford so it was the direction to go without selling body parts. But any system has to meet basic needs of use or those lenses and camera bodies become collector items and I’m not looking to collect Fujifilm medium format cameras. Its clear that Fujifilm won’t be building the camera I can use. I can not imagine I’m alone in this regard. I do not think my style and use is THAT different but perhaps it is. Perhaps this new 100 MP body will sell like mad. Maybe. But not to me.
A nagging concern too is if they did this with the GFX side, could the X system be just as doomed? I’m looking at plans there and as far as lenses, they are building some very questionable products that appear to have lots of forum interest. The problem is forum interest doesn’t mean financial gain. Forum users cry for everything and buy little. The Fujifilm plan is to design and sell a XF 33mm f1.0 lens. This thing will be huge and very expensive. The EXACT opposite goal of the X system! The only thing Fujifilm touts is it will be the first such lens with autofocus. So what? I’m fine with the magical qualities of the current 35mm f1.4 which can fit in my pocket. The rest of the future roadmap is just as goofy and murky too. Fujifilm builds probably the best 16mm lens for APS-C right now. Its fantastic! But this week they plan to announce a 16mm 2.8. What for? Couldn’t they put those development efforts into something useful for pro users? The smaller light f2 lenses and junior sized X-T cameras seem to be the focus of Fujifilm now. They want to sell cheap pocket cameras. It makes me question my move to Fujifilm. Had I known any of this a few years back, I’d still be shooting Nikon.
I’ve got a decision to make. I hate switching systems too. Hate it. Damn Fujifilm. Why do they want to be Hasselblad?