Last week, Fuji formally announced their newest camera, the rather stellar-looking GFX 50S. The GFX is a medium format camera that looks like it balances the shooting experience of the Pentax 645z with the portability of the Hasselblad X1D (yes, I’m aware the X1D is smaller, I’m saying it’s a balance). This is a really good thing for photography and photographers, but I don’t want people to think this camera is what it isn’t, or is trying to be something it isn’t.

What I’m talking about is discussing where the camera fits in the market. Yes it’s a medium format sensor, but should it be straight-up compared to and compete with the kings of the hill, Hasselblad and Phase? I don’t think so.

Adrian Murray posted his first impressions and mentioned something I had intended to discuss, and so I’m glad he brought it up first:

Lastly I want to talk about the files and general capabilities of the system. This time last year I was predominately shooting with a Canon 5DS R so the 50 megapixels was nice to have once again. Though, while the digital resolutions of both these cameras are similar I did notice that the actual image quality was far better on the 50S. So much so that I’d pretty much say the two cameras are basically incomparable.

The idea that the Fuji GFX would be compared to a Canon 5DS R is clearly not unique to me, to Adrian, and likely to many others. In fact, Canon made that comparison a thing when they received Peter Hurley’s glowing endorsement of the product that turned him away from his Hasselblad.

The thing is, I think you can, and should, compare the Fuji GFX to the Canon 5DS R. I think that if the Fuji performs better than the Pentax 645z does (as they share the same sensor), which I expect it to, then this is absolutely a conversation. The Fuji should be better than the Canon, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t comparable.

If you wanted to actually throw the GFX into the same ring as the Hasselblad 50C and the Phase One XF, you would run into the following issues:

  • Shutter Sync of 1/125th ruins this for studio work
  • Yes, they say that leaf lenses can work, but with no autofocus… which sucks (clearly)
  • 14 bit (Seriously no idea why they didn’t do 16, but oh well)
  • Lens selection right now is odd at best, but I admit this can and will change over time
  • Locked in at 50 megapixels

So now if you’re a fan of the GFX, you probably would say “well none of those things matter to me, so from that perspective it competes well with both the Hasselblad and the Phase.” Except you would be wrong. Though those things might not matter to you, to the people who shoot on Hasselblad and Phase One, and do so at the highest level, those things matter a lot. To go head-to-head in intense studio shooting environments would put the Fuji at an extreme disadvantage.

But if you then instead compared it to the Canon 5DS R… well that’s a different story. Aside from battery life concerns (which is an issue for any camera running full time EVF), the Fuji competes well in just about every category. The quality of the image will be better thanks to the larger sensor, and even without looking at photos shared by an [incredibly biased] set of first time shooters, since it’s the same sensor as in the Pentax 645z, I know the dynamic range is far and away better than on the 5DS R.

The Fuji GFX isn’t supposed to be compared to other medium format cameras, it’s supposed to be compared to modern DSLRs. It’s absolutely going to be stellar for natural light portraiture, landscapes and street photography. It’ll probably even do just fine in studio. But to say that just because the images look a lot better on the Fuji means it can’t and shouldn’t be compared to the Canon 5DS R… well that’s just shooting yourself in the foot.

Maybe I took what Adrian is saying here too literally, and he’s just trying to say it blows the 5DS R out of the water. But I it doesn’t make what I’m saying any less true. If you keep the Fuji on a playing field below Hasselblad and Phase, it can win. Just don’t make it fight above it’s weight class.

Compete there, Fuji. You can win there. And there is no shame in that.