Fujifilm GFX 100S II Pixel-Shift Multi-Shot Technology

 In Fujifilm, Fujifilm GFX, News

Now that Fujifilm has released the new GFX 100S II camera, we have published several blog posts that have been written by my fellow colleagues here at Capture Integration.  They have been busy shooting and testing the new camera as well as the new GF 500mm lens.  You can read their blog posts here:

Capture Integration News & Info

I decided to write my blog post about a feature, that while it has been in some previous Fujifilm cameras, it is not one talked about much and yet is a “must have” feature for product and still life photographers with the new camera.  Fujifilm calls it “Pixel-Shift Multi-Shot Technology”.  It turns your 102mp GFX 100s II into a 400mp ultra-high-resolution camera.  Holy smokes Batman, how do they do that?

Although Fujifilm has taken this technology to the next level, this technology has basically been around since the early 1990s.  If you are interested in a breakdown of some of these early digital cameras, please see Steve Hendrix’s post, “Top Ten Digital Back Innovations”.  I will touch on a few here, as well as some of the improvements that Fujifilm has made in this technology over the years. I will also cover some very important caveats in using this technology.

In 1995, I was an independent sales rep looking for a company sales position with a major player in the photo industry.  I was at a trade show in Seattle and came across the Sinar Bron Imaging booth.  They were showing a brand-new digital camera that Sinar was starting to distribute worldwide.  It was the Leaf DCB II Live.

I was instantly hooked on this new technology in digital photography and ended up going to work for Sinar Bron Imaging for the next 25 years.  There were a few other digital cameras that were out earlier, but this was the first really viable solution for photo studios.

The chip in this and some subsequent models did not have the familiar Bayer pattern of colors on it that we have today.  Instead, it relied on a very bulky filter wheel with RGB filters.  The filter wheel was the weak spot in an otherwise great production tool.  Sinar later brought out their own version of the filter wheel built into a stand-alone camera.  See the picture of the Sinarcam above with a Leaf DCB II mounted to it.  This was a very elegant solution.

As a digital camera for still life and product photography, it took the industry by storm.  The one drawback was that you could not shoot moving objects except in B+W.

Subsequently, Sinar, Leaf and others brought out single shot cameras that could shoot in color using new technology at the time.  The infamous Bayer pattern was introduced.  However, compared to the Leaf DCB II with a filter wheel, the quality was not as good since there was a lot of interpolation going on in the software. 

Basically, each pixel in the scene was only being shot through either a red, green or blue filter.  The pixels had to confer with their neighboring pixels, over a glass of wine, to determine what their real color should be.  It would sometime be a hit or miss situation on if the software got it right.

Sinar then brought out a digital camera that allowed you to do single color shots with interpolated colors as well as perform 4 shot pictures using vibrating crystals called piezos.  The piezos would shift the chip up and down as well as sideways by one pixel.  They were very accurate, and the multi-shot mode produced true color images since every pixel in the scene was shot with all the individual colors.  The software could then put the images together having all the data it needed.  No interpolation required.  Sinar also brought out a 16 shot mode that not only allowed for true color but also increased the resolution.  Others brought out similar designs with Hasselblad having a multi-shot camera that created the first 400mp medium format camera.

What does Fujifilm’s Pixel-Shift Multi-Shot actually do?

In the Pixel-Shift Multi-Shot mode the camera can shoot either 4 shots or 20 shots by moving the image sensor around by either one pixel, (4-shot) or ½ pixel, (20 shot).  It uses the camera’s internal image stabilization technology to accomplish this very accurately.

If your needs are for true color but do not need more resolution than the standard 102mp chip provides, you can use the 4-shot mode.

If you need higher resolution than the stock 102mp chip can provide, you can also switch to the 20-shot mode.  This will give you a 400mp image with actual RGB values for each pixel.  True color and ultra-high resolution, what more could a photographer want for ALL his images.  Not so fast.  There are many caveats on when you can and cannot use this shooting mode.

Commercial photographers doing tabletop shots, printing large murals, copy work, macro work, all would benefit from the 20-shot mode.  However, remember that for this technology to work, you cannot have anything in the scene moving and the camera must be very secured in place.

Early on in my career selling multi-shot cameras, it amazed me at how many obstacles would come up using multi-shot cameras.  Here are just a few observances and examples:

  • A lot of studios are in multi-use warehouse space.  I have seen photographers having to shoot multi-shot images at night because the warehouse space next to them uses forklifts during the day.  The vibration of the forklifts moving around and dropping loads, could cause problems.
  • A studio near train tracks could be a problem.  You are right in the middle of a 20-shot image and that damn train comes by.
  • Large studios with overhead fans can also be a problem.  You think that blouse you are shooting is not moving, but you find out that is not the case, when the image comes out blurry.
  • 2nd floor studios with wooden floors can also be a problem.  I have seen may times when someone walking by the camera is enough to cause some motion in the camera.
  • Strobes can be used, but you need to make sure the interval between shots is set long enough for your strobes to recycle.  Accurate and repeatable strobes are a must.  Existing light also works, if the light is not changing such as in passing clouds.
  • Storage and processing speed are also things to consider when deciding which shooting mode to use.

Fujifilm Pixel Shift Combiner Software

You will also need Fujifilm’s Pixel Shift Combiner Software.  This is a free software download for combining all the individual images into one.

It is a straightforward process.  You just select one of the 4 or 20 shot files, (it will find the rest), select the combining type, (High resolution + Accurate color or Accurate color only).

One of the things that is cool about this combiner software is its defect detection feature.  While processing the files, it will warn you if it has come across a problem with one of the shots in a sequence, (that damn train again).  This allows you to stop the processing and re-shoot without having to wait for the final file to process and be inspected.

I hope you have enjoyed this brief history of some of the technology behind multi-shot cameras and the Pixel-Shift Multi-Shot technology of the new Fujifilm GFX 100s II.

We have many more blog posts in the knowledge section of our website.  They can be accessed here:  Capture Integration News & Info.

As always, I am happy to discuss with you any of the Fujifilm equipment and our various other lines of cameras and lenses at any time.  Also, as a FAA certified remote pilot, I can help you with any of your drone needs.

Thanks for the read! If you have any questions feel free to reach out! Take care and stay safe.


Greg King

Fujifilm GFX 100S II Camera Body

Recent Posts