It has been a bit quiet on the photography front over the last month, summer here in the North is my least favourite time photographically speaking, most businesses are on their summer vacations and it's the perfect opportunity to prepare for the upcoming work season. Mainly that has meant the buying of a new HQ and creating a nice little studio and gallery.
New studio finished, I built a full cyclorama to make the most of the modest space, nice!
It has also meant time to reflect on the Fujifilm GFX 50S and decide whether it's the right system for me and my work. There are lots of things the GFX is good at and lots that it isn't so good at, the key to any investment is selfishness, deciding exactly what is important to you and then finding the best solution. As a commercial photographer who happens to photograph to relax, making the right decision is pretty important to my financial and personal happiness!
The GFX is a very compact system, especially compared to my previous Phase One kit, it's light, easy to hand hold and in practical terms, feels as easy to use as my Nikon kit, this matters to me a lot as long as it doesn't impact negatively on the image quality I need and my clients expect.
GFX 50S, 63mm, new build data centre.
There is a huge amount of information in the files which means it is easy to translate your vision in to a finished result, often with little processing work which translates in to more profit for me, I like that! It's fine to read about how you can push massively under exposed files or recover detail in the deepest shadows but it's only when you are using it for what you want to shoot that you find out what is important, I'm not interested in showing what the camera can do, I'm only interested in showing what I want from a scene.
GFX 50S, 100mm f2, reindeer marking at last light.
I have taken the GFX everywhere and shot it in a wide variety of conditions, we get beautiful light in the mountains here at this time of year as the sun dips below the horizon for just a couple of hours and it never gets very dark. Shooting fast moving reindeer and action in low light though is tricky but the GFX handles it pretty well, the images have a nice feel to them and most importantly look how I want them to look.
GFX 50S, 110mm f2, catching reindeer calves.
This shot was taken at 2am as the sun started to return, I spent a little while trying to balance movement in the reindeer with the action from the Sami people working to catch and mark the newborn calves, this just about works as I was able to get the lad sharp enough but still keep the impression of the speed at which the reindeer move. I have read a lot about AF performance and for sure it's no D5 or 1DX but with a little practice it's actually very easy to capture what you want. I find the AF perfectly fast enough for most subjects and manual focus very easy to use. I personally don't have an issue with pre-focussing either but I guess some will want to rely on AF and may find things not working so well. I'm not trying to fight the camera though, I will find it's limits and then work around them, it's the only way.
GFX 50S, 110mm f2, my local waterfalls at Storforsen.
I have been impressed with the weather sealing, actually that's not strictly true, I haven't really thought about it at all, just shot whatever the weather, only afterwards thinking how little issue I have had. The above shot doesn't look like it but was taken between torrential downpours as we have had some terrible weather over the last few weeks, I have no issues in letting the camera get wet.
GFX 50S, 63mm, sorting reindeer for their move to the mountains.
In contrast, this taken shortly after I got the camera, lots of snow and around -7 degrees c, not too cold but still not a problem at all for the GFX, wearing gloves standing in the snow for 6 hours and I found the camera extremely east to use. I have read that some find the amount of dials and buttons to be confusing but I find it very easy, I only ever shoot in manual, adjust shutter speed, ISO and aperture from the dials and that's it, the only camera easier is the Phase One XF which has 3 dials but at the expense of weight and bulk. I haven't gone in to the menu once now I have everything set up how I want it, perfect!
In the studio.
I make most of my money on location, I live in a small area and need to go where the work is but recently I have been getting more requests for studio shots, products and corporate headshots, hence moving to a new location and building a studio. It is vital that the GFX allows me to work efficiently in the studio and under strobes. I initially had a few issues with focus as I was used to the D810 which focusses very well in low light which meant I didn't need to use modelling lights so much, this is not the case with the GFX but as soon as I understood the issue I haven't had any further problems, modelling lights go on and I can shoot as I like. One big advantage I have noticed over the Nikons is moving the AF point and maintaining good results, I tended to focus and recompose with the D810, relying on the centre AF point but with the GFX the performance is amazing on all the AF points, a big benefit.
GFX 50S, 110mm f2, Emma in soft light.
Processing the files to how I want them to be is very easy now I have a routine, I am a Capture One user and have been for years but have found that I am liking the results from Lightroom as I practice more with it, I still process critical files with C1 but have found a lot of images I shoot for fun I stick with Lightroom. The above shot of Emma is very simple, a single large softbox to the left just out of frame and a single white reflector just out of frame to the right, a hand-painted background and a very nice result. Being able to switch off exposure compensation assigned to a button is very easy, I can go from shooting strobes to taking advantage of the big windows in the studio to shoot natural light very easily.
I picked up the 110mm f2 a couple of weeks ago to use alongside the 63mm, I can shoot 95% of my current commercial work with these 2 lenses. The 110mm is absolutely amazing, it may well be the best lens I have ever shot with, which is saying a lot! It is noisy, the sound of the elements inside being controlled is annoying, in the studio I can hear it clearly and it is something I would very much prefer not to hear, but it's something I can live with for sure, it doesn't affect the amazing image quality which is the bottom line for me.
GFX 50S, 110mm f2, Anne-Chatrine
Another simple studio portrait, I am loving how easy it is to get the result I want, very simple processing to get a beautiful look, I am addicted to the deep rich files. The 110mm has just a beautiful look to it, I can see it being my main lens for quite a while. I will pick up a 23mm soon as we move away from 24hr daylight and hit the Northern Lights season, I am sure it will work really nicely for aurora.
So that's where I am, the Nikon kit has gone, I am all in with the GFX and have not regretted it for a moment! I don't need to think about the camera at all now which is important for me, it just disappears. I have spent 12 hours on the top of a mountain handholding the GFX for a lot of the shots shown here and haven't felt it to be too heavy or difficult to use. The batteries last reasonably well but I will see how they do when winter arrives, things can be very different at -30c!
GFX 50S, 110mm f2, sunrise in the mountains.