Should I stay or should I go…?

Part I: Just some thoughts…

Note: All pictures shown here in this post – apart from the title image – are made with the Fujifilm GFX 50S and not with the new 50R. My trusty local photo dealer was so kind as to lend me the camera for some days.

To avoid misunderstandings: This blog has not changed the subject and now deals with (my) psychological problems. It’s still about the passion for photography. And it is actually about the brand-new Fujifilm GFX 50R medium format camera.

Before I continue writing, I should definitely check whether I am not in the midst of a nasty midlife crisis. The fact that I haven’t bought a Porsche or Rollex yet or haven’t done any hair implantation isn’t proof enough against it. It’s simply because I don’t care about the first two things – and couldn’t afford them anyway – and personally feel silly about the latter.

The Value

Hopefully, however, what I may have in mind is not due to the crisis in question, but simply to the product itself. In the last days and weeks, I was very much at risk of entering the world of digital medium format and buying a Fujifilm GFX 50R. I know there will be people out there who can’t understand what this might have to do with midlife crisis or insanity. After all, there are people who easily spend the same money on aluminium rims. But I’m not such a person and – let’s stick to the facts – I have no economic and hardly any substantive photographic justification to buy this camera. Period.

Unfortunately, there’s a problem. The system is wonderful and the files it can produce are nothing short of spectacular. Awesome. Addictive. Yes, I know: files are not images for sure. And 95% of the pictures I make rarely or never care about megapixels or a supposed medium format look. But maybe the remaining 5% could care….

The Doubt

This is no review – how could it be one after only a few days with my hands on the GFX 50S – not to speak of the very few hours on the 50R? And it’s not even an article that deals with the technical stuff. Let’s be honest: What sense would it make to seriously discuss or even question the technical aspects of such a camera system? Holy cow, this is a digital medium format camera of the year 2018. The sensor is capable to detect photons you could not even dream about in the analog film days. And speaking of the lenses, they are among the best you can screw in front of a camera. No question at all about this!

The only relevant questions are whether the usability, the ergonomics and the joy of use will fit for me in the long run. Unfortunately, I only could give an answer to this question if I would be able to work with the GFX 50R for a longer time – an opportunity I probably do not have in the near future. So I can only rely on my first impressions and feelings. And these two are… kind of mixed at the moment.

The Surprise

The Fujifilm GFX 50R is without question a wonderful and beautifully crafted camera. I am a strongly documentary-addicted photographer with a great preference for cameras in rangefinder style – did I ever mention how much I adore the incredible Fujifilm X-Pro2? 😉

So, what’s the problem? There is no… at least no real one. Nevertheless, my first feeling is that the GFX 50R surprisingly is not the right tool for my current needs. I’m not sure I’d ever use it on the road like my X-Pro2 because of its size and unhandiness when carrying it in the streets. But if I lose this use case, there are few arguments left for a purchase. It’s also worth remembering here that due to ergonomics and the lack of a larger grip, this camera definitely struggles a little bit with the larger lenses. And for other tasks – like studio, stills or food – the GFX 50S, with its DSLR-like, flexible and modular design, appears to have a clear advantage in these respects.

For me personally, the 50R really seems to be a perfect digital reincarnation of the so-called Texas Leica. Just… I don’t have a personal need for (just) a Texas Leica. The jump from 35mm to the really large medium format from film days – in this case up to 6x9cm – was without question huge and the advantages in image quality and look were enormous. But I don’t see this big difference for my form of documentary photography when I compare the results of the X-Pro2 with the GFX – using the right and fast XF-lenses for sure. I don’t want to question the better tonality, the much higher resolution and the incredible dynamic range of the 50R. However, I also have that with the 50S and I am more flexible there. And I will not have it at all if I don’t take that camera with me…

For sure, I also have read e.g. the glowing review of the great Fujifilm X-photographer Jonas Rask on the 50R. But I’m afraid to say that the fever hasn’t gripped me like this, although I totally can understand anyone who is enthusiastic about this camera. If I would have the money to own it additionally (as just this mentioned kind of a single-lens Texas Leica) and use it only every now and then, hey, that would be great! But that’s not the case.

The If

This leads me to the very surprising realization that although I am no longer seriously considering the GFX 50R, I am suddenly considering the 50S – at least perspectively and after defining more specific use cases for me and this kind of camera. But that’s a totally different story…

Then I have to decide whether to take this step and invest in the Fujifilm GFX system or not. At the end of the day, only one thing counts here: Is it worth (the money) to me? To bypass here at least the above-mentioned and already negated question about the economic justification for me, I will simply refer to a saying that I have come across this September on our trip to the Northwest of the US:

Follow trails, not rules!

The major task now will be to identify the right trail for me.

To be continued…

P.S. But there is still good news to report. My X-Pro2 breathes a sigh of relief and smiles mischievously… 😉

2 Comments

  • I hear you. I’ve been using a 50s for about 2 years now. It’s a superb camera and one that I use on a tripod for everything. I love the look of the 50r and when I first held it I was surprised at how odd it felt in my hands. I can see the aesthetic reasons for a tiny grip but it didn’t work for me with the 32-64 zoom or the 110mm lens. The 50r just felt front heavy to me. The 50r will suit photographers who sling a camera round their neck on a camera strap and like to shoot with short primes. I couldn’ Imagine doing that with a 50s. The flush and offset eyepiece of the 50r doesn’t work for me because I’m left eyed. I’m glad that I have the 50s as it the better camera for me. It’s just a shame the 50s is a bit ugly and lumpy.

  • Hi Damien,

    thanks a lot for your comment! I totally understand why you prefer the 50S for your kind of work (which is great, by the way). As I wrote, I would never use the zoom or the 110mm as may main lenses with the 50R. It’s a nice option you have on occasion, but the handling then is not the strengh of this combo. But I don’t do this kind of shootings and my idea was to have a 50R for the road which I sometimes can use for other stuff as well. Still not sure if I would be happy with that… and still not sure if I really need (need, not want!) medium format for my kind of photography.

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