Today, we have the conclusion of my three part series having a look at the Fuji GFX 100 in actual practice.
I’ve tried throughout the last couple weeks to give you my raw unvarnished reactions to shooting with the Fujifilm GFX 100 camera for several months in the real world. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the camera itself is not perfect. Nor will it surprise anyone who has used Fuji cameras in the past that it is incredibly fun to use.
The real question for a professional photographer looking to invest in the system is whether it is worth the investment? Spoiler alert, I won’t be able to answer that question for you. All photographers are different. We have different styles of shooting and different styles of working. You can’t really know until you’ve had the camera in your hand for an extended period of time and get to know the quirks that drive you mad and the benefits that you didn’t realize existed. All I can do is try to give you the most honest look at my own experience as possible and allow you to pick through it to see what parts of my own story might apply to your workflow as well.
So Where Does the Camera Sit in My Lineup?
So, if you’ve read the prior two sections of this review, you will probably at some point have said to yourself “but that’s not how the camera is meant to be used.” And, you are probably right.
I shoot fitness and activewear advertising campaigns for a living. So, while I am not a sideline photographer, I shoot fast moving people professionally. And, despite Fuji’s advertising including a flying motorbike image in the camera’s launch campaign, this is not a sports photography camera. In fact, all medium format cameras are slower to operate than their DSLR brethren, so none of them are particularly ideal for photographers like me with a hint of OCD who like to shoot and move at a rapid pace. One area where this camera would excel, landscapes, is the one type of photography that I almost never find myself doing, further nullifying the camera’s strong suits. In so many ways, this camera is not meant for a shooter like me. In so many other ways, it is.
So why would I keep pushing the camera to the edges of it’s comfort zone, knowing it’s not the perfect candidate for the job, then being frustrated when things don’t go perfectly smoothly? Well, for two reasons.
One, despite what impression I might have given in the previous section, I really do love shooting with this camera! It’s like dating a woman, who you know is wrong for you in so many ways, but still you can’t seem to stop dialing her phone number. I am fully aware of the camera’s shortcomings, but when I’m setting up a shoot I still find myself trying to mentally shoehorn the camera into the shoot plan somehow. Even when any logical human being wouldn’t even think to include it in his bag.
I recently wrote an article about how these new mirrorless cameras, while good, have also made me learn to appreciate what I already had with my DSLR. And, there’s no question that my Nikon D850 can do almost all of these shoots just as well if not exceedingly better than my GFX 100. But, still, I just look at the images that I have produced with the GFX 100 and find myself balancing the small frustrations against the terrific end result.
The second reason why I end up using the camera in situations that it wasn’t intended is because, well, I’m a professional photographer and sometimes I have to shoot in less than ideal circumstances with less than ideal gear. A shoot can quickly migrate from the concept you were presented before the shoot into a new concept that the client falls in love with once you get onto set. No matter if you’re holding a Phase One or an iPhone, you need to be able to roll with the punches and still deliver. If the GFX 100 is really going to be a camera that can take over the mantel from my Nikon as my A camera, it needs to be able to go into every battle, even those with an uneven battlefield, and still deliver. So whether I am on assignment, or just shooting for me, I don’t hesitate to put it into really tough situations, because you never know what obstacles you’ll face in the future. No excuses.
So has the Fujifilm GFX 100 taken over the spot as my undisputed A camera? Unfortunately, no. Not yet, at least. As I mentioned at the top of the review, I am three months into ownership. I’ve reached for it first on multiple shoots in that time period, both professional and personal. I’ve shot it in ideal conditions as well as conditions that would be tough even for my D850. And, I guess, even as I type that last sentence, I may have landed on the reason why I can’t fully confirm Team Captain status onto my Fujifilm GFX 100 just yet.
When I purchased it, I did so with the intention of shifting 100% of the workload onto its shoulders. My goal was to eventually migrate away from Nikon and use the GFX 100 and smaller Fujis as my sole platform for creating imagery. But, ironically, using it has made me better appreciate my Nikon traditional DSLR and what it has provided me over all these years.
Before the comment section lights up with a mirrorless versus DSLR battle, this is not meant as a salvo against mirrorless cameras. I do own three of them, after all. But, there’s something to be said for an optical viewfinder when trying to capture very specific moments.
Now, if you put identical images from both my 45.7MP D850 and the 102MP GFX 100 side-by-side, there is no question that the image quality of the GFX 100 will win every time. But if I compare the practical usability differences in my own personal real world workflow, I’d be lying if I said the Nikon weren’t more perfectly suited to my own shooting style and specific needs. It may not be as exciting. But it is very practical. And it does what any camera should do best, it gets out of my way.
Right now, I find myself in a bit of a No Man’s Land in terms of brand loyalty. Due to its limitations, I find that I can really only trust the GFX 100 with let’s say 70% of the workload. The rest of the workload, capturing spontaneous fast moving action, is best captured with my Nikon D850. But since that smaller 30% section is where I earn my living, it requires me to keep the Nikon in my bag. In addition, it’s not like I can’t perform the other 70% with my Nikon. I just really like how the GFX 100 performs those tasks. But, in the proverbial hypothetical world where I could only pick one camera to bring to a desert island, it would still have to be the Nikon simply because it can comfortably do everything whereas the Fujifilm GFX 100 “can” do everything, but will do 30% of it with some frustration.
But, frustration and all, I still love shooting with it. And therein lies the quandary. I realize that enjoyment isn’t something one can include on a spec sheet, but it does matter. Owning the GFX 100 has inspired me to go out and shoot. It’s also inspired me to shoot different things and experiment with different techniques that have helped me improve my photography regardless of the camera. The image quality and different pace of shooting has inspired me to compose shots in a slightly different way an conceive of certain images to it’s unlikely I would have even considered when shooting with my D850. I realize that’s not a tangible thing, but after shooting with the camera diligently for three months, I can say that the creative inspiration caused by this camera is a real life affect. I don’t know of how one can quantify that in terms of monetary value. But it is worth a lot.
My last big investment, prior to the GFX 100, was purchasing a Canon EOS C200. It too was far more money than I wanted to spend. I also spent a number of sleepless nights wondering if it had been worth the investment. I even, for a time, turned to my X-T3 as my primary video camera making the investment feel all the more unnecessary. But, a funny thing has happened over the last year. As I’ve learned more and more about my C200 and gotten more experience with it, I’ve gotten better at using it. As I’ve gotten a better understanding of it, the work I’m producing with it has gotten better. Now, I don’t shoot motion with anything else. If you asked me three months-in with that camera, I might have been less sure, but now, it’s indispensable. I expect when I return to update you on my experience with the GFX 100 a few months from now, I will have experienced a similar transformation.
My GFX 100 has been worth the investment if for nothing more than the art it has inspired me to create. I’m still hoping to find a way to make the autofocus more effective for what I need it to shoot. I’m still looking for a better way to interact with the viewfinder so that I am able to capture “the” moment while simultaneously being immediately prepared for the next one without needing to delay my next shutter press or break the model’s concentration. While any firmware quirks have, up to this point, been solvable by turning the camera off and turning it back on, it still has a ways to go to earn my trust to take it, and only it, out for the most pressure filled assignments.
In many ways I find it to be the most frustrating camera I’ve ever owned. Primarily because despite its shortcomings, I still find myself desperately wanting to shoot with it. At some point during every shoot I’ve had with it, I’ve openly considered throwing it out the car window in frustration on the drive home.
Then, I get home, review the images and suddenly I can’t wait to use it again. And that, as they say, is half the battle.