Canon 5Ds R to Fujifilm GFX 100s - Initial thoughts


I promise, I'm not a gear-head! I don't relish in the equipment that I use to do my art. However, I do enjoy having and experiencing different tools. It causes me to expand and learn and perhaps to do art a little differently. That's a good thing I think. Having said that, this post will be technical in nature, more geared toward photographers.

After much "hemming and hawing" the past six months over what upgrade path I should take, if any, I was determined to wait for Canon's next flagship camera, expected to be announced in 2023. I'd considered the Canon R5, but it just wasn't enough of a jump in image quality or function to lure me. It's actually a few MP less than the 5Ds R that I've been using since 2015. I would just wait.

But I kept coming back to the allure of Medium Format (or larger than full frame to be technically accurate). Specifically, the Fujifilm GFX 100s. The allure of having a larger sensor and twice the resolution. Yes, even the allure of having a niche system.

I wasn't about to move into a completely different realm of Fujifilm and G-mount lenses without getting my hands on an actual GFX 100s though. That's way too big of a step and way too much investment to make a blind purchase based on reviews alone. Two weeks ago, on the way back from my local frame moulding supplier, I decided to stop by Houston Camera Exchange as I had called in ahead and verified that they had a 100s in stock. They did. And it just so happened, completely unbeknownst to me, that I was visiting on a weekend where they were having a sale store-wide. Oh, be still my heart.

One of the staff who I'd worked with before unboxed one of the two copies they had in stock. It was larger, but not much larger than the 5dsr. Without the battery, it was noticeably lighter as well. Deep down I knew this was a safe play. It was significantly different from the Canon system, but I would learn and adapt. I would accept the compromises, like the electronic view finder (EVF - you'll see this again) not giving me a view like my eye sees it, but like the camera see it. Another compromise is the lenses being much heavier and roughly three times the price of Canon glass. But I've already covered these on-paper differences in previous posts, so I won't beat the horse.

I tried to make a logical decision as to whether I should make this purchase or not. Logical purchasing decisions are not my strong suit though, and I had them bag it up. Now that I've had my hands on it for a few weeks, have read through the manual (and revisited when necessary), and have a few shutter releases under my belt, I'd like to give some initial thoughts.

The first thing I did was order an adapter that allows me to connect my Canon EF lenses to the Fujifilm G mount while still retaining most electronic functionality, primarily autofocus. I knew that some lenses would work well, with little-to-no vignetting, and I assumed some would not. I was right. I set up a white board and shot all of my Canon lenses at various apertures (and focal lengths on the zooms).

17mm TS-E f/4 - Excellent. I can shift both directions up to about 8° before corner vignette appears.

11-24mm f/4 - Almost no vignette from 15-18mm, but hard vignette outside of that range.

24-70mm f/2.8 ver 2 - Hard corner vignette throughout the ranges. Useable with heavy cropping only.

I recently sold my 70-200 f/4 IS so I'm missing a huge gap in my focal lengths here.

300mm f/4 IS - Excellent, almost no corner vignette at small apertures. Easily correctable.

400mm f/5.6 - Good. There is moderate corner vignette in the extreme corners. Probably correctable.

I decided to sell the 11-24 f/4 as it is heavier and larger than the 17mm TS-E and the outer focal lengths weren't useable with the vignetting. I also put the 24-70 on the chopping block as the major vignetting made it no better to use than on the 5Ds R.

I found a good deal on a used Fuji 23mm which is regarded to be an excellent lens. My next purchase will most likely be the 45-100mm, another great lens and an important focal length range for me. I dont' know what I'll do for the 100-300mm range as the Fuji offering is a beast of a lens and not suitable for hiking. I'll look around for some good options.

So, now that I've had *some* hands-on experience, here are some quick thoughts that I have so far about switching from the Canon 5Ds R to the Fujifilm GFX 100s.

1. With the large Fuji lenses, it is noticeably heavier. This will probably make more of a difference when I fill out my lens collection and have them in my bag on my back, but I do notice the difference, at least with the 23mm f/4. I have mostly only shot from the tripod so far so it hasn't been an issue.

2. I really love the flip out screen. It makes composition much easier than having to get your eye to the view finder. This will be a life saver when working down low. In addition to this, there is an app on my phone that allows me to see the live view remotely which makes it even easier in theory, although I haven't used it yet.

3. In addition, my phone can act as a remote shutter release so that's a piece of gear I can remove from my bag. I don't use the remote release much, but now I won't need it at all.

4. Having the live histogram (composite or RGB) available when composing is great and should significantly cut down on the number of exposures I take in the field. There shouldn't be an excuse not to nail the exposure each time. With the 5Ds R, I often made little exposure adjustments to get the most data I could without clipping highlights. Now, there's virtually no guessing.

5. The Depth of Field preview is a wonderful feature which I already found helpful while shooting the Houston skyline at sunset yesterday. It's something I expect to use a lot so I can find the perfect balance between depth of field and diffraction.

6. The 100s is not nearly as ergonomic as the Canon's I've used. The menu's are somewhat difficult to navigate with the small thumb-stick and the function buttons don't protrude enough to be able to find them easily. I already noticed that my thumb has a hard time finding the autofocus button when I'm looking through the EVF. I also much prefer Canon's large thumbwheel for controlling aperture over Fuji's small protruding thumbwheel. Same with the power on/off switch - not easy to feel or manipulate. This is one area that I think Canon is excellent at, but I will adapt.

The clouds didn't cooperate last night for the skyline sunset photoshoot, but I got some shots anyway for practice, testing, and comparison.

This is a significantly cropped single exposure from the 5Ds R with the 11-24 at 20mm f/16 from 2018. The original cropped image size is 6747x2845. The uncropped image is 8688x5792.

5Ds R - Houston Skyline composite

This is a composite of two horizontal images from the Canon 5Ds R 24-70 2.8 ii at 42mm f/16 from 2018. Full image size is 14150x4792.

This is a single frame from the Fujifilm GFX 100s with the 23mm at f/11. (18mm full frame equivalent).

This is a composite using FujiFilm's pixel shift mode which outputs a 400 megapixel file. The file dimensions are 23264x17448. The lens is the 23mm at f/11.

At these sizes, you shouldn't notice any differences in image quality. I just wanted you to see that the focal lengths are comparable and I'm approximately the same distance from the buildings in both shoots. Now, let's pixel peep!

5Ds R

This is a tight crop of the center of the first image above of the 5Ds R.

5Ds R two-shot composite

Here is the crop from the 5Ds R two-shot composite. The field of view is tighter due to the image size being larger. These crops are pixel to pixel. Notice the building way in back with the vertical striped windows... quite a bit sharper than the single exposure. No surprises here seeing as we almost doubled our resolution. We didn't quite double it as there was plenty of cropping and some overlap was necessary to stitch the two images together.

GFX 100s single exposure

This is a single exposure from the GFX 100s. Compare this to the first image above - the singe exposure comparisons. Overall, the lines are cleaner and more defined, but not overwhelmingly so. They should be much sharper. I suspect that at this magnification, the focus is starting to soften at infinity. The image should be sharper than the above 5Ds R composite. I should have taken a test shot focused directly on the buildings.

EDIT: There is a setting in the 100s that switches the DoF scale from "Digital" to "Print" simulation. Digital is default and I incorrectly assumed that the Print would show a narrower DoF, thereby being more conservative so that's what I changed it to. I just found out that the opposite is true. Most likely this caused both the single shot and pixel shift of the 100s to be out of focus enough to appear softer than they should.

GFX 100s pixel shift

Many higher-end mirrorless cameras have a function that creates an internal series of images by shifting the sensor by extremely small amounts and then specialized software composites those images into a very high resolution (and more color accurate due to negating Bayer interpolation) image. This is the same-sized crop from this series. It appears softer than the single exposure above but holds much more detail. Notice the lights in the window above the "LD" in Baldwin and compare them with the single exposure image above. Fortunately, the appearing of softness can be addressed with some sharpening.

However, this technique is useless if there is any movement at all in the frame.

Strange, pixelated artifacts created by motion when using pixel shift.

You can see that any movement in the frame during the 16 exposures taken will create strange pixelated artifact which would be difficult, if not impossible, to remove. This really cuts down on the usefulness of this function for landscape photography as we already have a hard enough time with the wind causing blurring. The scene would need to be absolutely still. Fortunately, the still shots created are useable individually if needed as they are not different than a standard exposure, so a separate exposure doesn't need to be taken for safety.

Overall, I'm quite excited to get some more time in on the Fujifilm GFX 100s system to see what it can do and to understand it's limits better. The faster I can get accustomed, the faster I can forget about the camera and move back to focusing on the art of creating.

Posted in Equipment and tagged fujifilm, gfx, 100sm 5dsr, canon, upgrade.