Hello to the new age of medium format cameras. The potential sweet spot? That would be the Fuji GFX.

To be honest I really wasn't expecting to see so much good stuff coming out of Photokina this year. I'm a little puzzled by the Sony a99 mk2 because I thought they were abandoning the "A" system in favor of the E series cameras. I owned the original a99 and think that everything they fixed was exactly what needed to be done. I'm still not sure about the depth of Sony's support for that family but the camera looks to be a good choice for photographers who also do video; especially those who stuck with the A system over time. The two SD card slots appeal and I would be interested to see if they have gone with a hardier HDMI plug than the micros on the FE series cameras....

The GH5 intro from Panasonic was more or less expected. It will be great.  I thought Canon might show a vague prototype of a medium format camera and I hoped that Nikon would show something, anything, mirrorless. My personal wish was for an update to the Sony A7ii.  I wanted to see an A7iii with the same shutter technologies as the A7rii (silent please!) and an update to the video capabilities. 

But the thing that makes this show memorable, and the one product that inspires desire in me, is the new medium format camera being introduced by Fuji. No one has had a chance to play with the camera yet but looking at the specifications and the overall design I'm willing to call this camera the smartest entry into the medium format digital market to date. 

There's nothing to make me stand up and shout, where the sensor is concerned. It's probably a Fuji tweaked version of the same sensor being used in the Pentax MF and both lines of 50 MP sensored Hasselblads. The thing that makes this camera exciting is the combination of features that makes one system superior to another system. While Hasselblad is dicking around with consumer-focused, moderately wide lenses for its initial foray into the markets the folks at Fuji get that these cameras will be used by real, live professionals (at least the ones still standing) and that they want something more (a lot more) that just some point and shoot optics. That Fuji will be rolling out the initial system with a 120mm f4.0 Macro lens (95mm equivalent in 35mm-speak) signals to me that they know how vital portraits are to the commercial practice of photography. You could buy this camera and that one lens and get to work trying to make enough money to pay for it. Not so with anything announced for the mirrorless H-Blad...

The second Fuji lens that makes me sit up and take notice that Fuji intends for this system to be taken quite seriously is the 110mm f2.0. I owned the 110mm f2.0 Planar in the Hasselblad system and the combination of the focal length and the very fast aperture made images that were hard to duplicate in any other way. I can only assume that Fuji's version of the lens will be at least as good. Their current track record, when it comes to lenses, seems pretty much unimpeachable.

Of course there will be wide angles. There are always wide angles. Architectural photographers need them and landscape photographers love them. But the meat and potatoes of any system is the existence of a great normal focal length, fast short telephotos, and beautiful portrait focal lengths. It was the 150mm f4.0 Sonnar that drove the original Hasselblad system. I don't know a single pro who didn't own one in the day (presuming they used Hasselblad). With Fuji's recent track record one can buy into the system with a good degree of confidence that their line of lenses will quickly be fleshed out with outstanding (and useful) products. They've watched the stumbles at Sony and learned that great camera bodies are only part of a successful system equation. You've got to have the lenses buyers want.

I was also happy to see that Fuji's camera  will give us the choice of different aspect ratios; including the blessed and holy 1:1 ratio. It seems that in one fell swoop Fuji has given me most of what I've been asking for and musing about in a medium format system. If there is a shutter in the body, which will allow for an open system when it comes to third party lens choices, it will be sweet icing on the cake. 

This is one of the first cameras to come along in a while that pushes me to start saving for the actual launch. I wish the sensor was larger (spatially) to give more ramp to the focus fall off but it's not a "deal killer" in this situation. The roadmap of future lenses is already enough to make me smile. 

No pricing has been announced yet but my hope is that body stays around the $6,000 or less range while the lenses stick under the $3,000 per range. Less is better. My first system construct? The body and the 120mm. I'll buy the rest of the lens I might want (but not necessarily need) with the money I'll make shooting portraits with this combo.  Well done Fuji!!!! 

The 120mm Macro f4.0 is the lens that signals to professionals that Fuji is serious.


amolitor said...

This is so interesting!

The response generally is totally different from the response to the X1D from Hasselblad. The masses drooled over that one, but the Serious Guys were like "meh", but this one seems to be reversed?

Focal plane shutter and a better lens lineup (and, just possibly, a better chance that it will actually be delivered some day, to be fair)? Otherwise they look like pretty much the same camera. It makes sense, of course, but it's a pretty telling case study.

Kirk, Photographer/Writer said...

Hey Andrew, It's kind of what I was referring to in my recent article about the marketing differences between Fuji and Nikon. Hasselblad introduced a toy like presentation with lenses that mimicked the kind of kit lenses you might see on a Rebel: slightly wide to somewhat normal. Aperture okay at the wide end and worthless at the long end. No serious lens announcements. While Fuji dove right into the meat of the matter and sold me hard with the most useful and profitable glass a business like mine invests in. In the end both cameras might have identical image quality but Fuji is making an unambiguous statement that their camera isn't a trinket for RISD trustfunders but a working set of tools for people who need their technology to make a living. It always boils down to understanding the demographic and then marketing well.

KK said...

Don't know how I missed this announcement... as a recent Fuji X system convert, this is great news on a number of fronts.

Richard Leacock said...

When Fuji initially came out with their XPro body they came right out of the gate with 3 workable primes and a clear roadmap of future lenses. Not consumer friendly "uninspiring & average apertured" zooms. Their statement of intent was a system for passionate enthusiasts and serious working photographers (commercial photographers, pros, etc etc). They haven't disappointed yet. Some important back and forth conversations/feedback between the company and working photogs have given us some seriously good gear (lenses and cameras). Pretty damn impressive results, and sticking to a non full frame sensor. Full frame? "We may have something else in mind" Fufi says matter of factly : )

Now with a medium format system that has raised eyebrows and brought out some seriously wide smiles to photographers, people are really aware that Fuji has some big time "skin-in-the-game".

And they're coming out of the gate again with primes! Whoo-hoo! Useful ones...Amazing... (apply big smile "here")

Willie said...

Hi Kirk
Yep - I think you nailed it on the head with the comments about understanding the demographic and then marketing.
The 'blad will undoubtedly be a lovely unit, but overall there seems to be something quite underwhelming in the whole presentation around it.

Meanwhile in light of Andrew's recent 'Whither Nikon' post (and your own comments on that particular brand) - wow, we have been blessed to be given three, yes count 'em, three, Keymission cameras. Be still my beating heart.

Cert la vie - while I have a decent size range of their digital gear, of late I've mainly been using my old FE and a couple of Nikkormats for non-business photography.

Life goes on. Keep smiling.

Anonymous said...

Why not the 110 with wider aperture to start?

Doug said...

No leaf shutter....dealbreaker. The Hassy sync's at 1/2000 and takes legacy lenses with a cheap adapter.

Kirk, Photographer/Writer said...

Doug, tell us about the use of legacy lenses with a cheap adapter on a camera that has NO internal shutter. How do those legacy lenses trigger......anything on the H-blad? No leaf shutter is a deal breaker? You don't think the company that makes the same adapter for the shutterless H-Blad might make an adapter for the Fuji and allow you to access the same leaf shutter lenses? And, is it still a deal breaker if Fuji's roadmap includes a couple of leaf shutter lenses?

Kirk, Photographer/Writer said...

Anonymous. The 110 is on the future of the roadmap while the 120mm is indicated to ship first. Also, like the longer focal length better for most portrait work.

Ryan Stinn said...

I think it's a very interesting move by Fuji and they are not a stupid bunch it seems. The interesting part of the presentation to me was the talk about creating lenses for the resolving power of a 100mp sensor. Looking at the mount it looks like there might be enough space to fit the larger 54x40 100mp sensor that Phase One uses(http://i.imgur.com/5HM35Sg.jpg, kinda looks like the FE sensor to me). I wonder if it's possible that fuji is designing the lenses to be compatible with a larger sensor for a possible future model.
Just musing...

Anonymous said...

Have you run this past the CFO yet?