One Year with the FUJIFILM GFX100 II

[Disclaimer: I am not an ambassador for Fujifilm but I have worked with them closely over the last five years or more. I have created images for the launch of three of the 102 MP GFX cameras including the GFX100, GFX100S and the GFX100 II. Check out my portfolio website to see those images and the behind the scenes video for those assignments. I have also created images for the launch of some of the GF lenses as well–notably for the GF45-100 and more recently the GF500mm lens. As a result, I cannot say that this review is unbiased. I am certainly biased. I hope that you find this review at the very least balanced since I do use other cameras systems for some of my work.]

I published my preview of the FUJIFILM GFX100 II back in September 2023. I know the camera was not released until September last year but since I created images for the launch of the camera I have been working with it since late May 2023–almost a year now. Hence, this article will dive deeper into the camera and my experiences with it than the preview did. Since working with that early prototype camera, I have had a lot more time to photograph a variety of fast-paced action and really put the full production camera through the paces. I received the full production camera very shortly after getting back from the launch event in Stockholm, Sweden last September.

As I said in the preview last fall, I still stand by my claim that the GFX100 II is the best camera that Fujifilm has ever produced. It is by far the fastest, most-responsive medium format camera ever made by anyone. I say that with over 25 years of experience working with medium format cameras of every flavor from older film cameras like the Mamiya RZ67 and 7 II, the Hasselblad 503CW, as well as newer digital options like the Hasselblad H5D 50c and the Phase One XF cameras. I have also spent time with the Hasselblad X1D and X2D. None of them can compare when it comes to the overall array of features and speed of operation. In terms of image quality the GFX100 II is right up there with the best of them as well.

[Note: The only camera that I would say surpasses the GFX100 II in terms of image quality (and only by a hair) is the Phase One IQ4 150 MP digital back–but that camera is so slow to operate and basically has to be used with a tripod to get decent results making it very limited in how it can be used. The Phase One XF also has one of the worst autofocus systems I have ever used.]

What have I learned in a year with the GFX100 II? First off, it is far more capable than you might think–especially when trying to capture action. I have photographed both whitewater kayaking (for the launch last year) and more recently wind surfing out in Maui with a prototype of the new GF500mm lens. In both cases, the autofocus was able to track the subject and get an impressive number of images in focus–even with the subject moving all over the place. Of course, for those who haven’t used medium format cameras before please note that the percentage of in-focus images is lower than with a 35mm mirrorless camera system like the Nikon Z9, Canon R3 or the Sony A1 or A9III. Both of the images below were created with the GFX100 II and the new GF500mm f/5.6 lens.

On that wind surfing assignment for Fujifilm, I shot with my Nikon Z9 for the several days before I was sent the GF500mm lens. My Nikon Z9 was so solid in terms of the autofocus that it was rare to have an image out of focus–so I would put that in-focus percentage up around 97%. With the GFX100 II, I would say that it was pretty darn amazing, especially for a medium format camera. When it locked on the subject it would normally track the surfer all the way through the sequence unless another wave splashed up between myself and the surfer. I would say that I got around 80% of the images in focus. Note that while working with the GFX100 II, I was firing away at 8 frames per second the whole time. Hence, I created thousands and thousands of images each day while photographing wind surfing.

In my experience, it isn’t even the autofocus that is the limiting factor when trying to capture action with the GFX100 II. The frame rate, buffer depth and autofocus are all sufficient (for a medium format rig) but the electronic viewfinder (EVF) doesn’t seem to seem to keep up with the action quite as well as my Nikon rig. I did switch into the 120 fps EVF mode and then also the 240 fps EVF mode–and both of those modes worked much better for this scenario. Even so, the fact that the camera has a physical shutter and you get a black out between shots is a limiting factor when trying to keep the subject in frame–especially with longer lenses. I realize this is a small criticism that has more to do with other cameras (namely my Nikon Z9) having no viewfinder blackout. Perhaps down the road someday we will have a global sensor medium format camera that alleviates this issue but for now, even with my criticism here, the GFX100 II does amazing well at capturing action given it uses a larger sensor.

Staying with the autofocus for a moment here, the face and eye tracking as well as the subject recognition system all work incredibly well. Whether you are creating portraits (as shown in the images below) or photographing wildlife, the camera performs exceptionally well even with the faster f/1.7 lenses. While photographing guanacos in Patagonia on my most recent trip the eye tracking would lock onto the eyes of the Guanacos easily and track them around as well. Even though the autofocus system might be a step behind the fastest cameras out there it is incredibly intuitive and fast for medium format.

I realize I am one of the few photographers out there that would grab the GFX100 II to photograph action sports. Depending on the assignment, and if the action is repeatable, I might use the GFX100 II or I might opt for my Nikons. It just depends on the gig. These days both systems go on most assignments. But I hope this goes to show that the GFX100 II can do much more than most might think. Even when considering more normal medium format genres, like portraiture for example, I pretty much leave the camera in the “AF-C” continuous autofocus mode all the time. The continuous autofocus is so accurate that it rarely misses when it comes to portraits. The subject tracking locks on so quickly (even in low light scenarios) it feels like I am working with a smaller format camera. About the only time I switch to the “AF-S” single point autofocus modes anymore is when photographing landscapes or objects that won’t be moving as in the example below.

Shifting to the camera body itself, the ergonomics and the layout of the GFX100 II is as close to perfect as Fujifilm has ever gotten with this line of cameras. The EVF has also completely spoiled me. It remains one of the best EVFs I have ever looked through. Whenever I use any of my other cameras I am immediately turned off by what I see through the lower resolution EVFs. The only downside to the EVF is that I feel I have to be a bit more careful when jamming it into my camera bags since the removable EVF is a bit more fragile than one built into the camera (like on the GFX100S). Since the EVF sticks out a fair bit from the back of the camera I often remove it from the camera and use the protective caps on the camera and EVF when traveling. More specifically when I am flying, I find that the camera fits better into my camera bag without the EVF attached and then I can put the EVF back on when I get to the destination.

The angled top deck and the large OLED display–showing pretty much any and everything you would need to know–has also spoiled me. The layout of the camera is very intuitive and easy to use. I also love the three custom button layout just behind the shutter release–and the fact that the OLED display tells you what each one is assigned to do. The OLED display is one of the best I have ever used. Fujifilm thought through it very well and really laid out all of the information in an easy to read, and very elegant manner.

The new Reala Ace color profile is another stand out option in the GFX100 II. Since I first got the prototype cameras back in early 2023, I have been using the Real Ace color profile more and more. It has become one of the my favorites along with the Standard Provia and Negative Standard color profiles. Even though I always capture raw images, when I pull those images into Adobe Lightroom I often choose one of those three Fujifilm color profiles as my starting point.

While I do have the extended battery grip for the GFX100 II, I have rarely used it since it adds weight and bulk to the camera. The battery grip looks and feels wonderful, and adds a lot to the ergonomics of the camera. Part of the reason I haven’t used it as much is that I am often carrying a 45-pound camera backpack with me on most assignments and space in the camera bag is limited–especially when carrying two different camera formats (GFX and 35mm) and lenses for each. I have noticed that the GFX100 II seems to drain the batteries faster than my GFX100S, which makes the grip that much more appealing, but regardless when I need to go as light as possible, I just take the camera body without the grip and with just one or two lenses. If I can drive to the assignment then that changes the nature of my packing issues and I will take the grip. The grip also balances the camera very nicely when using the larger GF250mm and GF500mm lenses as well.

While in Torres del Paine recently, co-leading a photography workshop with Visionary Wild, I did an 11-hour hike up to the Torres (towers) on the east side of the park. Round trip it was over 14 miles (22.5 Km) and 3,000 feet (914 meters) up and down. I took the GFX100 II and one lens, the GF 32-64 with me. And of course we had food, water and extra clothing as well. I had been to this location once before which is what allowed me to trim the kit down to one lens–as I had a very good idea of what would work up there. Even with a medium format camera it didn’t feel that much heavier than if I had taken a Nikon Z8 and the 24-70 f/2.8 lens. We hiked through about a foot (30 cm) of fresh snow for the last third of the hike so as you can see it was full on winter up at the Torres. I wore pretty much every bit of clothing I brought so I felt pretty happy with the stripped down camera gear choice. My point here is that the camera is plenty light to hike with in most scenarios.

I have also used the GFX100 II (and its predecessors) in some fairly atrocious weather. All of them have come through with flying colors. While in Patagonia this spring and in Japan last fall, the GFX100 II had a lot of time out in the rain and wind. I never covered it up in any of those circumstances and just let it get wet. It never once flinched at the weather. For the image below, the winds–which were upwards of 70 mph (113 kph), and there was water spraying straight at the camera. Basically water vapor was being driven into the camera but the weather sealing was so good that I never had any problems.

When creating images for the launch of the GF45-100mm lens, I worked with it and my original GFX100 camera photographing ice climbing in a blizzard. The entire day it was snowing sideways. After a few hours the camera and lens were coated in a half-inch of ice. I had to breathe on the camera where the buttons were just to depress anything or make any changes. I was at the time a little worried I had pushed the camera too far (and sadly I didn’t take any photos of the camera in this condition). But at the end of the day, I went back to the hotel and set the camera down in the warm room on the carpet and let it defrost before pulling the memory card or opening anything up. I still use the same camera and lens to this day and they seem fine. Hence, I have built up a lot of confidence in Fujifilm’s weather sealing on the GFX cameras.

The In-Body Image Stabilization (IBIS) is also quite impressive. I used tripods when necessary, but with the excellent IBIS built into the GFX100 II, I am free to capture a wider array of images at slower shutter speeds than with previous GFX cameras all the way down to 1/6th second with confidence. As shown below in this image from Stockholm, I can create motion blur images handheld in very low light scenarios. How low of a shutter speed I dare to use depends on the lens as some work better with the IBIS than others. The new GF55mm f/1.7 for example does exceptionally well on this front. The GF 32-64 and the GF45-100 also work exceptionally well as slower shutter speeds.

Speaking of IBIS, I often eschew a tripod when trying to go light and fast as in the scenario above in Torres del Paine. The combination of excellent IBIS and low noise at the higher ISOs really frees me up from having to use a tripod for landscapes all the time. I find that if I run around at ISO 800 and a suitable shutter speed, I can get a wider variety of landscapes–which are still tack sharp–than I would have gotten if I were on a tripod. Of course if the aim is to get classically sharp landscape images from a foot or two in front of the camera to infinity then I would have to focus stack images and that requires a tripod. [Sidenote: Fujifilm has also massively improved the focus stacking mode on the camera as well. This isn’t just a GFX100 II thing but a firmware update on lots of their cameras that includes the new and improved focus stacking mode.] Hence, it depends on the scenario but that freedom to be able to capture images in low light handheld is pretty amazing.

One of the few downsides to the GFX100 II, which is not anything to do with the camera, is that you can create an extraordinary amount of data with the camera cranked up to 8 fps. When photographing wind surfing I would easily create 3,000 to 4,000 or more images in a few hours each day. That is a lot of data. And that is a lot of 102 MP images for any computer to deal with. My Apple M1 MacBook Pro, which is fairly souped up, took some time to ingest and build previews in Lightroom with that assignment. In many ways, photographing action at high frame rates with the GFX100 II feels a lot like working with 8K raw video. The amount of data is not that much different, and it takes a fast computer to effectively deal with the vast amount of data.

There isn’t a whole lot to complain about with the GFX100 II as you will notice so far. Sure, if you have never used a medium format camera and expect this GFX system to perform on par with the top 35mm full-frame cameras then you might be a little disappointed. But if you know about the history of medium format even a little–and have worked with any prior medium format rig–then the GFX100 II is going to be absolutely astounding in its capabilities.

Speaking of video, while I still have not done a lot of video work with the GFX100 II, I have done enough testing to see that the video quality from this camera is phenomenal. The GFX100 II, even with its larger sensor, in some modes has less rolling shutter than a lot of smaller format cameras. And because you can choose a variety of video formats in the camera you can essentially use just about any lens you want on the camera–even Anamorphic lenses. My favorite video format is the CINE 5.8K (2.35:1) mode which uses the full width of the sensor–and I really love the wide format 2.35:1 aspect ratio. And since you can record straight to an external hard drive that simplifies a lot of the headaches, and expense of high capacity memory cards, of recording the data. The footage looks like something created with a higher end video camera–not unlike that from an Alexa.

Last fall, Fujifilm asked me to come speak at the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) Clubhouse in Hollywood, California. That is hallowed ground for Hollywood’s elite cinematographers and I felt a little bit like a fish out of water. During the event, I was on a panel with a three other Directors of Photography (DPs), who to my amazement used the GFX100 II and really put it through its paces alongside some of the top Alexa offerings that are commonly used for a huge percentage of feature films. They even went so far as to rig the same lenses on the GFX100 II that they were using on the Alexa. At one point a DP said that they could not tell the difference between the Alexa and the GFX100 II and they would happily use the GFX100 II as a second camera body. I was pretty shocked by that statement–as were many in the room. I was the still photography guy in the midst of world-class cinematographers but even so it was an amazing experience to soak up their thoughts on the camera. Here is a link to a video showing a comparison between the GFX100 II and an Alexa.

Wrapping this up, the GFX100 II has image quality that very few cameras can compete with and only one other camera can best (if only by a hair). It is by far the most versatile high resolution medium format camera on the market. The handling and operation of the camera are top-notch. On top of that the selection of GF lenses is superb with pretty much all of them being incredibly sharp, relatively portable and free of chromatic aberrations and/or distortion. This system is basically as good as it gets. There is no wonder loads of top photographers are ditching their older Phase One systems and going with the GFX100 II. I know a lot of them as they have reached out to me to ask about switching over and what I thought about the Fujifilm system in general. Even Annie Leibovitz and Dan Winters have been seen working with the GFX system. There is a reason so many top pros are switching over or at least adding a GFX camera to their lineup. The image quality, ease of use and overall set of features are pretty darn compelling.

The FUJIFILM GFX100 II is pretty much the state of the art system right now. No other 102 MP camera system has a lens lineup from 20mm up to 500mm (700mm with the teleconverter)–and all with excellent autofocus. That equates to a full-frame lens lineup from approximately 15mm up to 560mm. Fujifilm has done a remarkable job creating the GFX system. I can’t even imagine where it will go from here. Perhaps global sensors in the future can unleash even faster cameras with even better autofocus performance. Regardless, the GFX100 II is going to be a great camera well into the future–for both stills and video. Bravo Fujifilm!

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