New Fujifilm GFX100S II & GF500mm – Hands On Review

 In Fujifilm, Fujifilm GFX, News

When I heard about these new Fuji product being introduced and I was selected to test drive them for the very first time, I jumped at the opportunity.

I received the box on a Thursday afternoon and I would only have a few days to make some compelling images that would be worthy of our product launch at Capture Integration. As I unpacked the products, I noticed the new Fuji GFX 100S II body was finished in the same fine materials that the flagship Fuji GFX 100 II was made of. I immediately tried to jam my CFexpress card into this newly designed 100 megapixel camera system but I remember from my notes that this new model had 2 SD card slots just like the previous model Fuji GFX 100S. I also noted that this new design fit my SmallRig L bracket like a glove, so it appears on first observations, that L brackets for the original GFX 100S should fit the new design. It does use the same battery and electronic cable release.

The viewfinder is very similar to the new viewfinder design on the GFX 100 II and offers higher resolution and has the ability to change the color to adjust a more natural electronic viewfinder.  You can see how crisp the image is as soon as you look through the viewfinder. The new body boasts 7 frame per sec in the fastest burst mode. So improvement over the previous model with 5 frames per sec.

The other new released product was the highly anticipated Fuji GF 500mm lens. As I took it out of it the packaging, I noticed something very strange, it was light as a feather. In fact, I thought it was the wrong lens, it was almost the same size as the GF250mm lens we have all come to love. As I mounted it to the body I noticed a cleverly designed foot that attached very easily. This is by far the best designed long lens foot I have ever seen. I mounted an Arca Swiss QR plate to the GF500mm lens and mounted it to my Arca Swiss tripod head. I went to rotate it from vertical to horizontal and I noticed how smooth it turned from each position. In fact you can rotate 360 degrees. I have to emphasize that if you switch from vertical to horizontal often, this is a dream to work with. I suppose we only have the tripod collars from the previous lenses like the GF250 to compare it to, well they made it so much better and super tight so the lens does not have any play when rotating.

First stop was to head to the beach where there are big waves and surfers, in fact kite surfers. For this type of capture, I switched the Auto Focus to face detection which uses an updated AF prediction algorithm to deliver reliable performance in sports and other situations where accurate, high-speed motion tracking is needed. As I started tracking the surfer coming towards me I could see the tracking highlighted in the viewfinder. As I burst, I could also see the continuous tracking as he came closer and closer towards me. Images were very impressive, tack sharp with texture and resolution we expect to see from high end medium format cameras. This tracking remained true as he turned and went back out to sea to catch another wave. It was so much fun to finally have a lens this long and be able to rely on how accurate it could focus and keep up with the subjects.

Detailed crop at 100%  from this frame to show you how crisp the detail is and how accurate the focus is. The image stabilization on this new camera system is really working with these shots and the results are clear.

As I burst into these segments, sometimes when the surfer would jump 20-30 feet in the air, I could get about 18 to 19 shots before I would hit the buffer. I reminded myself that the Fuji GFX 100 II can burst 8 frames per sec and not hit a buffer until you get to 80 shots, this is all due to the CFexpress card. I experienced this when I took the flagship Fuji GFX 100 II to the Masters last month. Trying to keep up with Tiger Woods swing at 180 mph, you could just hold the release button down while maintaining your AF on the rear button, which was a real treat. I now see why the need for both bodies and how they are positioned in the marketplace with different price points for different capabilities. Both bodies, Fuji GFX 100 II and GFX 100S II offer great auto focusing capabilities, but when you need speed and the ability not to hit a buffer, you need the more advanced camera design, the Fuji GFX 100 II. My favorite part of these images with the kite surfer is with his filming techniques, as he was doing it with a GoPro in his mouth. The entire session, he kept holding that in his mouth as he surfed, never dropping it.

I also tried the new system out on some wind surfers and various other photo opportunities. The other real need I see for a long lens is to be able to reach places you would have not gotten to before. I know with the 1.4x and the GF 250mm I get around 350mm, here we are achieving closer to 700mm with the 1.4x mounted to the GF 500mm. The other really nice thing about this long lens design is that it creates a lot of compression in your subjects. It throws the forward and background out of focus more since the depth of field is less, but the image takes on a completely different look when we compare this to a normal lens. I continued to shoot some different subjects like under the pier. As I set up to see if this lens would even focus that close, I look through the viewfinder and this beautiful dog had perched and started posing for me. I got about 4 frames captured before he took off, but had to include that one, he was so proud posing for the new Fuji GFX 100S II camera. He must have known this was an incredible breakthrough in technology and he wanted to be part of it.

I also really enjoyed shooting the small beach birds, they run around as the waves come crashing in, looking for fish to gobble up and eat. They run so fast that tracking is needed to keep up with them, focus was dead on. Depth of field gets really slim at this close of a distance, so you need to decide where you want to focus and go for it. And at 7 frames per sec, you be able to capture every moment. I also tried using my old stand by focus technique, Single Point AF. I have been using this one for years since most all the Medium Format cameras tend to only use this method. But having the ability to move that on your subject is huge in my opinion.

I shot the new Fuji GFX 100S II with some of my other favorite lenses such as the GF 23mm, GF 20-35mm zoom, and GF 45-10mm zoom. Images all were hand held and auto focused using the Single Point setting. The images are very crisp and have great detail and contrast. This new GFX 100S II and its price point offer the 35mm users a big step up in image quality, resolution, and ability to focus better than any medium format camera to ever hit the market.

Right before I had to pack it up and send it back to Fuji before the launch, I took it to a historic building I have enjoyed shooting for years. I never have used a lens longer than 23mm to shoot this building but not today, I was going to do some details of the architecture. As I processed these images I noticed the gorgeous detail in both the fabrication and design of this beautiful University of Tampa structure. All these images were hand held and I must say they are just perfect with great detail, contrast and optical sharpness. The first image was shot with 23mm because that is the lens you need to cover edge to edge of this structure. Then I took the GF 500mm and started doing detail shots of the design elements. It really allows one to see the details and building techniques they used to create this amazing landmark.

Wow, what a treat this was to see it firsthand and get such great results from both the Fuji GFX 100S II and the GF 500mm lens. I look forward to being able to get my hands on this rig again. I have always wanted to do a nice shot of the Sunshine Skyway bridge with a medium format camera but most all the lenses I have tried were just not long enough. The new GFX 100S II is a welcome addition to the Fuji medium format systems. It compliments the flagship Fuji GFX 100 II with so many build and technology features. And the GF 500mm is a great complement to the GF 250mm lens. I want one now, so many ideas.

I hope you enjoyed reading the article as much as i enjoyed creating it. If you have any questions or interest in the GFX system, please reach out! – 813-335-2473

Fujifilm GFX 100S II Camera Body

Fujifilm GF500mm F5.6 Lens

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