In the later part of 2018, I noted that Fujifilm released its medium format GFX 50R onto the market. Wanting to upgrade my next camera to something lighter with higher specs, the GFX 50R seemed to have all the hallmarks and got my attention.  I also noticed that Fujifilm were making their medium format cameras more affordable, and that’s a good thing.  Not only is the GFX 50R mirrorless, but it’s not really that much bigger than some other DSLRs such as the Nikon D4 or the Canon 1D X MII.

The Fujifilm GFX 50R is described as a rangefinder-style camera and the second in their series of medium format cameras. Not quiet the same ‘medium format’ in the sense of film cameras using 120 roll film however.  What sets this camera apart from the others is the size of its 44 × 33mm 51MP CMOS format sensor. That makes it almost 1.7x larger than the full frame sensor of my Nikon D810.  With 8K TVs starting to appear, that also means a lot more detail to capture and the ability to move into 8K time-lapse production.  According Morten Rustad, there will be more demand now for 8K time-lapse footage, especially by Sony and Samsung. Many of the top names in time-lapse photography are now shooting and producing 8K.

Getting back to the GFX 50R, the New Zealand Fujifilm distributor were gracious and forthcoming to loan me the camera with the 23mm f3.5 wide angle lens. I was really impressed with the camera and did not waste any time racing around to some favorite spots and snap some footage.

One of my concerns was how it would sync with my other time-lapse gear for ramping and motion.  What did work was its ability to connect with the Sapphire Pro and NMX controller by Dynamic Perception allowing a full range of 3-axis motion.  In each of the scenes, I used some pan and tilt motion along with the slider.  In hindsight however, and especially when it came to post production, I realised I should have made static sequences so that I can zoom in without the movement.  But what I’ve delivered seems to work fine.

Another piece of my kit is the Timelapse+VIEW, a ramper which adjusts the exposure when the light changes.  This failed to work, even with the advice to use the latest firmware which was tweaked for Fujifilm cameras. Given that I like to capture the change in light with sunsets and sunrise, I decided instead to use the aperture priority mode on the GFX 50R with an ISO of 800 and an aperture of f32 or f22.  I knew could easily reduce the noise of an 800 ISO setting in post.  The results worked well using LR Timelapse and the detail in the foreground through to infinity was pin-sharp.  It made me wonder if I now actually need the Timelapse+VIEW ramper.

One issue I failed to take note of was the how quickly my memory cards filled up, even though it has 2 SD card slots.  I had to quickly purchase a 256GB SD card and that did the trick.  While I didn’t spend too much time figuring it out, I’m sure there’s a way to ensure the second memory card serves as an overflow.  Other great aspects about the GFX 50R being a great camera for time-lapse is that it’s weather sealed and also has a direct power input for 15v making it ideal for astro time-lapse.


Post production workflow

When it came to workflow, I knew I would have trouble importing the raw Fuji files into version 5.7 of Adobe Lightroom.  Instead, I converted them to DNG using Adobe file converter which was reasonably quick and efficient.  As far as I’m aware, there’s no loss of quality.  I was then able to grade them in Lightroom and smooth the exposures in LR Timelapse.  A slightly longer workflow, but it worked fine.  This won’t be an issue though if I decide to go down the path of the GFX camera range.  The makers of the Phase One medium format camera have developed their own ‘Capture One’ raw image editing software and have partnered with Fuji allowing RAF files to be edited in their software, this eliminating my need for Lightroom.  I’ve yet to explore this and see how well it might play with LR Timelapse.

One issue I had when processing each time-lapse sequence was the amount of time taken to render the clip.  My lossless AVI files were around the 90GB mark.  A smaller issue was the need to rename files and keep them in time sequence, given that file numbers zeroed out and restarted with new folders on the memory card.  I have that occasionally with my Nikon.  Maybe that was a setting I needed to adjust, but it wasn’t obvious to me.

For some unknown reason, I wasn’t able to render this in 8K using Adobe Premiere Pro CS6.  I’ve never rendered in 8K as yet and so I suspect I will need to move to Adobe CC to do that.  Instead, the 90 second movie was rendered at 4K.  To give the effect of 8K, each of the scenes zoom in to 50 percent for the second half of each clip.  The detail is definitely there, making the footage ideal for moving around in the frame when editing.  Once my final sequence rendered out, I played it back on my 4K TV.  The detail was amazing, so much so that I noticed the rabbits moving around on the clay bank on the far side of the lake in the 4th clip – something I had not noticed until this time.

My thoughts on the camera 

I like the fact that I got a lot more megapixels and a bigger sensor for the size of the camera. With the 23mm lens, it’s not heavy compared to my my Nikon D810 and the 14-24mm I commonly use.  That’s important when hiking into the back country with lots of gear.  If I were to buy the GFX 50R, I’d only use it for time-lapse and the occasional still landscape. I cannot see myself using it for anything else other than that.  I’m likely to retain my Nikon gear for general photography but will wait for the new GFX 100 (due mid 2019) which is supposed to set a new benchmark for professional photography.  Having any GFX camera would also mean a change to my whole system from PC through to storage just to handle and process bigger files.  I may have to sell a kidney just to afford it, but its price is the best by comparison to the other medium format cameras out there.

Here’s some pictures from the time-lapse, plus a few others.

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My thanks to Marco and the team at the TimeLapse Network for kindly re-posting this article on the TLN Facebook page. Remember to like their page to keep updated.

Stephen Patience is a time-lapse photographer who was awarded ‘winner’ in the Panasonic-Lumix time-lapse category in the 2017 and 2018 New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the Year competition.  Stephen’s work has been published in various forms, seen on TV, and used in other international film media.