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Fujifilm GFX 100S initial review: Digital Photography Review

Introduction

GFX100S product photography by Dan Bracaglia & Richard Butler

The Fujifilm GFX 100S is the logical next step in the development of the company’s medium format lineup: a 100MP sensor in a single-grip DSLR styled body. But don’t mistake predictability for complacency: the GFX 100S is an awful lot of camera.

Inside its comparatively compact body, the GFX 100S carries the 102MP BSI CMOS sensor from the original GFX 100 mounted within a smaller, more powerful image stabilization mechanism. By blending technology from the GFX 100 with components from the APS-C sensor X-T4, Fujifilm has created a very powerful camera at a comparatively affordable price.



Key specifications

  • 102MP BSI-CMOS 44 x 33mm medium format sensor
  • Image stabilization system rated at up to 6EV
  • Continuous shooting at up to 5 fps with C-AF
  • 4K video at up to 30p with HDMI output of 10-bit 4:2:2 or 12-bit Raw footage
  • Multi-shot 400MP mode for static subjects
  • 2.36M-dot rear touchscreen with two-axis tilt
  • Fixed 3.69M-dot OLED EVF with 0.77x equiv. magnification
  • Lossy, lossless or uncompressed Raw in 16 or 14-bit
  • Twin UHS-II SD card slots
  • NP-W235 battery, rated at 460 shots
Out-of-camera JPEG using the Provia film simulation.
ISO 6400 | 1/100 sec | F11 | GF 120mm F4 Macro
Photo by Carey Rose

Despite offering most of the capability of the twin-grip GFX 100, the smaller camera is significantly less expensive. It should be available around March with a recommended price of $5,999.


What’s new

More compact body

The use of a smaller battery and fixed viewfinder have helped significantly slim-down the GFX100S (left), relative to the original 50MP GFX 50S (right).

Fujifilm says the addition of the image stabilization system meant that it was more practical to make the GFX 100S into a DSLR-shaped camera, rather than the more rangefinder-like layout of the GFX 50R. But a lot of the downsizing efforts that went into the 50R have been applied here, resulting in a camera that’s appreciably smaller than the original GFX 50S.

The GFX 100S has a control layout very similar to that of the original, dual-grip GFX 100, with a large LCD top plate display and a comparable number of custom buttons. A conventional mode dial and movie/stills switch replace the button-within-a-dial arrangement on the camera’s left shoulder.

Image stabilization

Core to the GFX 100S is the inclusion of in-body image stabilization. Just as Fujifilm has been able to continue to miniaturize the IS systems used in its X-H1, X-T4 and X-S10 models, it’s also been able to reduce the size of the mechanism from the original GFX 100 to allow it to fit in a smaller body.

Despite the size reduction, the new mechanism is more effective than the one that precedes it: rated to correct up to 6EV of shake. This is half a stop more than the GFX 100’s rating and is achieved with more lenses, giving a rated 1EV improvement with most combinations. On top of this, the new system can synchronize with OIS lenses to maintain this level of correction even with longer focal lengths. This Sync IS system uses both lens and body IS to correct pitch and yaw, just as Panasonic, Olympus and Canon systems do.

Fujifilm has managed to create an IS mechanism for the GFX 100S that is both smaller and more effective than the one in the original GFX 100.

As usual, we find CIPA ratings (which only asses pitch and yaw correction) tend to over-state the benefit somewhat, but a 6EV rating should make it much easier to obtain the full benefit of the GFX 100S’s resolution. You can see the effect of this in our sample gallery, where we’re consistently getting high levels of resolution, even at relatively slow shutter speeds.

The image stabilization mechanism is also used to provide a sixteen-shot high-resolution mode. This moves the sensor between each shot, first to ensure that a red, green and blue pixel has been captured for each location, then to do the same again at a slight offset. This both boosts the chroma resolution and the overall pixel count of the image. However, in our experience with the GFX 100, we found that the lack of any motion correction means it really only works for completely static subjects, such as artwork reproduction.

Eight-direction control nub

The eight-way rubber control nub sits within easy reach of your thumb as you grip the camera.

The four-direction joystick that’s featured on previous GFX cameras has been replaced by a wider, flatter textured nub, that allows diagonal control as well as vertical and horizontal.

Its lower profile makes it easy to nudge the AF point around or navigate menus without too much risk of accidentally pressing it inwards which, as before, resets the AF point or accepts the current menu setting.

Additional Film Simulation mode

The GFX 100S gains a 13th Film Simulation mode: Nostalgic Neg. Fujifilm says this is based on the distinctive look achieved by American color film photographer Stephen Shore.

Out-of-camera JPEGs.
ISO 100 | 1/500 sec | F4 | GF 120mm F4 Macro
Photo by Carey Rose

‘Nostalgic Neg’ aims to offer slightly amber-tinted highlights, cyan-ish skies and saturated reds along with deep shadows to provide another option for retro-looking images. As usual, the effect is relatively subtle, giving an attractive option without spilling into overly intense ‘Instagram-filter’ territory.

Battery

The GFX100S uses the smaller NP-W235 battery from the X-T4 but still boasts a decent battery life rating.

The move to the smaller body format also sees the GFX 100S make use of a smaller battery, compared to the GFX 100. It uses the same W235 battery first introduced with the X-T4. It’s a fair bit smaller than NP-T125 used in the previous GFX bodies. Despite the reduction in physical size and electrical capacity, the GFX 100S is rated at a pretty reasonable 460 shots per charge using the LCD, per CIPA standard tests.

As always with CIPA ratings, the number reflects very demanding use, and we’ve found we regularly get more than twice the stated number of shots from most cameras. However, the numbers are broadly comparable between mirrorless cameras, so it’s reasonable to expect you’ll get more than 1/2 as many shots out of the GFX 100S as you would from the 800-shot-per-charge rated twin-battery GFX 100. This is likely to be enough for a lot of situations, though wedding photographers are likely to find themselves wanting to pocket a spare. A two-battery charger is available for such users.

The X100S will recharge over its USB-C socket but there are no electrical contacts to allow a vertical grip option to enhance the battery life or provide a more substantial portrait grip: there’s the GFX 100 for that.

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How it compares

Beyond this, much of what the GFX 100S offers is a match for its larger sibling: 102MP Raw files in 14 or 16 bit with a choice of lossy, lossless or no compression, DCI or UHD 4K video at up to 30p and up to 400Mbps, with the option to output uncompressed 10-bit 4:2:2 or a 12-bit Raw stream over HDMI. Impressively, for a camera with a 100MP sensor, the GFX 100S can shoot at up to 5.0 fps with continuous autofocus, despite the continued use of UHS-II SD card slots.

As always, the key consideration is that the GFX has a sensor that’s 68% larger than a full-frame sensor, which means it receives around 2/3EV more light when shot at the same exposure values as a full frame camera. The ISO system means those images appear the same brightness, but the additional light provides better quality.

Fujifilm GFX 100S Fujifilm GFX 100 Hasselblad
X1D II 50C
Sony a7R IV
MSRP $5999 $9999 $5750 $3500
Sensor size 44x33mm
(1452 mm2)
44x33mm
(1452 mm2)
44x33mm
(1452 mm2)
36x24mm
(864 mm2)
Pixel count 102 MP 102 MP 51MP 60MP
Image stabilization Yes (up to 6EV, and lens sync) Yes (up to 5.5EV) No Yes (up to 5.5EV)
Continuous shooting 5.0 fps 5.0 fps 2.7 fps 10.0 fps
Viewfinder size/res 3.69M dot OLED / 0.77x 5.76M dot OLED / 0.86x 3.69M dot OLED / 0.87x 5.76M dot OLED / 0.78x
Rear screen Two axis tilt 3.0″ 2.36M-dot touchscreen Two axis tilt 3.2″ 2.36M-dot touchscreen Fixed 3.6″ 2.36M-dot touchscreen Tilting 3.0″ 1.44M-dot touchscreen
Max shutter speed 1/4000 sec 1/4000 sec 1/2000 sec (leaf shutter) 1/8000 sec
Video 4K/30p up to 400 Mbps 4K/30p up to 400 Mbps 2.7K/30p 4K/30p up to 100 Mbps
Battery life
(LCD)
460 800 Unspecified 670
Weight 900 g 1320g 766g 665g
Dimensions 150 x 104 x 92mm 156 x 164 x 103mm 148 x 97 x 70mm 129 x 96 x 78 mm

Although the GFX 100S’s maximum shutter speed, durability rating and 1/125 sec sync speed all match the GFX 100, Fujifilm says the new mechanism reduces shutter lag from 0.09 sec to 0.07 sec.

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Body and controls

The camera is primarily controlled by two clickable command dials, front and rear. You get a decent level of control over which dial accesses which function and, of course, you can directly control the aperture using the ring on the lens, if you prefer.

The GFX 100S uses a similar control approach to that of previous GFX cameras, primarily relying on its twin command dials for most control, and using an exposure compensation button rather than a dedicated dial (though, with a bit of work, you should be able to assign it as an option when you press the rear dial).

The GFX 100S fits nicely in the hand, with a thin layer of dense rubber providing a good amount of traction to a well-shaped hand grip, though photographers with larger hands may find the middle-finger indentation a little too small and close to the front of the camera. The solid grip is important because although the camera is smaller than the likes of a Nikon D850, it can start to get quite heavy once you’ve mounted something like the GF 110mm F2 lens on the front.

The top display panel can be set to show shooting information, a graphic representing shutter speed and ISO dials or a histogram. The camera maintains separate settings for stills and video, and can show black on white if you find it clearer than white on black. A small ‘lamp’ button on the side of the viewfinder illuminates the panel.

Viewfinder

The GFX 100S, unlike the GFX 100 or GFX 50S, has a fixed built-in viewfinder. It’s a 3.69M-dot OLED panel with 0.77x magnification (with a 50mm equivalent lens mounted). This is a pretty big display with pretty decent resolution. ‘Boost’ modes in the camera’s power settings let you increase either the refresh rate or the resolution.

Interface

The rest of the interface is very similar to that of recent Fujifilm models. Buttons can be customized by holding down the ‘Disp/Back’ button, and the ‘Q’ menu can be modified without the need to delve into the full menus. Menu options let you decide whether the Q menu is displayed on a grey background or overlaid on top of the camera’s live view. Different contrast levels for the interface and menus are available, including a night vision preserving red and black color scheme for working in extreme low light conditions where it’s easy to get dazzled.

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Initial impressions

The GFX100S (left) is a significantly smaller camera than the original GFX 50S (right), and it gives up the shutter speed and ISO dial to help with this downsizing. In return you get a significantly larger, customizable, top-panel display.

We’ve been impressed with what Fujifilm has achieved with the GFX system so far: most of the lenses are superb and the cameras bring a level of mass-market polish and usability that hasn’t always been a feature of medium format cameras (Pentax’s digital ‘645’ models being the notable exception). But the GFX’s have almost risked being a victim of their own success, in that this level of usability has invited comparisons with more mainstream cameras.

In testing we found that the 50MP sensor of previous GFX cameras didn’t offer a major image quality benefit over the best full-frame cameras of the time, but the move to a 100MP chip changed that. In use, we’ve found the smaller size and more powerful IS of the GFX 100S means it offers nearly all the capabilities of the original GFX 100 in a package that’s more accessible and more usable.

Out of camera JPEG using the Nostalgic Neg film simulation.
ISO 100 | 1/320 sec | F4 | Fujifilm GF 45mm F2.8
Photo by Carey Rose

It’s still not cheap, of course. Larger sensors are harder (and thus more expensive) to produce, they require larger, more expensive lenses, and the consequent lower sales volumes just serve to push up the unit price in what risks becoming a vicious cycle. But our experience of the GFX 100S is that you do gain something recognizable for that extra expenditure.

Getting the GFX 100S down in size (and price) does mean you lose out in a couple of respects, compared with the full-sized GFX 100, but none that are overly detrimental. For instance, the battery is significantly smaller than the ones the larger camera uses, though the battery life rating appears pretty solid and doesn’t appear to be achieved by being over-keen to drop into battery saving mode, or anything else sneaky that might undermine performance or user experience.

The viewfinder is perhaps the other significant step down in spec, compared to the GFX 100. A total of 3.69M dots is fewer than in the finders of the cameras such as the Panasonic S1R and Sony a7R IV, but it’s the same as the 50MP GFXs had, but Fujifilm appears to make good use of that resolution, rather than only using the full resolution in playback mode, as some cameras do.

While the GFX 100S won’t match full-frame cameras for autofocus responsiveness, its autofocus can be very accurate, especially with portraiture and eye-detection.
ISO 320 | 1/60 sec | F3.2 | GF 80mm F1.7
Photo by Richard Butler

Fujifilm’s lenses, while optically impressive, aren’t always the fastest to focus (though there’s some variability within the range). So, despite the inclusion of on-sensor phase detection, the GFX 100S won’t offer the levels of AF responsiveness you’d get from a Canon EOS R5, and Sony A7R IV or Nikon Z7 II, for portraiture, for instance.

But the fact that the GFX 100S offers only a slight reduction in responsiveness compared to mainstream full-frame cameras, and outputs not just usable but excellent out-of-cameras JPEGs is another major step forward for medium format usability. Add in image stabilization that means you don’t have to obsess about stability to realize the camera’s full resolution potential, and you have a camera that can be used in a wider range of circumstances than has previously seemed possible for medium format.

In-body stabilization that syncs with lens IS means you can get 100MP worth of detail without a tripod, without stopping to control your breathing or having to agonize over a steadiness/detail loss trade-off of using a higher shutter speed.

We’ve seen plenty of posts questioning whether cameras such as the Nikon Z7 II or Sony a7R IV will offer an appreciable upgrade over last-generation high-res DSLRs such as the Nikon D850 or Canon EOS 5DS R. In general that’s a difficult question to answer, because while there are benefits to the newer cameras – they tend to be are smaller, provide access to the latest lenses (and manufacturers’ future lens developments), offer better video and include features such as eye AF – we don’t usually see major IQ benefit from the cameras themselves. The GFX 100S appear to provide that image quality benefit, as well as all those other things that the latest mirrorless cameras offer.

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Sample Gallery

Photos are from a pre-production camera. At Fujifilm’s request, original Raw files are not available for download.

Please do not reproduce any of these images without prior permission (see our copyright page). We make the originals available for private users to download to their own machines for personal examination or printing (in conjunction with this review).

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