I have been using medium format cameras to shoot landscapes since 2009.
I remember how thrilled I was by the first medium format camera I tested back then. Opening the files from that digital back, I realized that there was no turning back. Those files were almost elastic... I mean, you could bring out a huge amount of information without ruining them! I was also inspired by the medium format look: the detail, and that 3D feel. I knew then, that my approach to landscape photography would change forever, that I would develop better as a landscape photographer, and it didn't take long to realize the truth of this.
How I portrayed nature changed. I knew that every detail I saw in my viewfinder would be visible, but I was no longer afraid of including more complex subjects to my photographs.
The one thing I did not realize though, was the need for spending huge amounts of time processing every file until I was satisfied with the results. In landscape photography, it’s extremely important to portray natural colors; no less, no more. Shadows, mid-tones and highlights must be correctly captured and processed to achieve this look. So I was accustomed to spending hours sitting at my computer, processing photographs.
That changed dramatically when I tried my first Fujifilm camera in 2012.
I was totally happy with my medium format camera and really didn't want to go back to small format cameras. However, I was given the chance to try a new camera from Fujifilm on one of my workshops in Svalbard, in the Arctic circle. It was a FUJIFILM X-Pro1 with a XF18mmF2 R lens. I normally don't take many photos when I teach photography, as I am there for the students, not my own work. So having a compact camera to document the workshop was perfect - of course, I shot RAW only.
By the time I got home from my trip, I was pretty excited about this new camera. It was easy to use and I liked its old school feel. I could not wait to open the files on my computer. The first thing that struck me was their colour rendition. I have been using digital cameras since 2006 and this was the first time I was totally happy with how naturally rendered the colors in my files were: they were exactly as I remembered them from the trip. All I did was recover some shadows and highlights, and make minor contrast adjustments. That was it!
It took about 45 seconds to process each image to satisfaction. That was a long way from the hour or so I used to spend on each file from my older cameras. The dynamic range of the X-Pro1 was impressive too. But I could tell that the images were not from a medium format camera. The ingredients of the medium format look were missing: that 3D feel and detail weren't there. I remember how I looked out of my window and started dreaming about a medium format camera with Fujifilm colors. I had no idea that it would take four long years for that dream to come true.
But it’s finally here.
I was lucky enough to be one of the “test pilots” for the GFX system. I can’t even describe how fantastic it felt to open my first files from this camera. This amazing micro contrast, detail rendering, well balanced sharpness, and that 3D feel... I had all the goodness of the medium format look with Fujifilm colors. I am still amazed at how all these photographic features fit in a camera body as small as the GFX’s. The new bright viewfinder is the best I have ever seen, and you can even tilt it!
I am used to working with the Fujinon lenses on my traditional medium format cameras and I know that the new Fujinon lenses for GFX are the best you can get. I have used non-recommend- ed apertures like f/22 and f/32 to get the greatest depth of field when I tested the GFX prototype, with impressive results. Prior to this, I was never able to publish an image made at f/32. I still wonder how the ladies and gentlemen at Fujifilm managed to achieve this, as all my results are great at f/32. Of course you lose some of the detail and sharpness that you get at optical sweet spots of f/11 or f/16, but not significantly enough to affect the decision to publish these images.
The new GFX system is not only a perfect combination of a medium format sensor and Fujifilm colors, but it’s mirrorless too. This was more than I dared to hope for. My traditional medium format system weighed about 7kg. This cut back on my ability to hike long distances, or carry more food and camping gear for a week in wilderness. Now with the GFX system, the maximum my camera gear weighs is 2.5 to 3kg. When your backpack weighs up to 25kg, every gram counts.
The GFX system has everything I have missed in a traditional medium format system; the best color rendition in the market, in a lightweight mirrorless body, Fujinon lenses, and well considered solutions for serious and professional photographers.
However, I have another dream.
My new dream is a couple of tilt-shift lenses for GFX. Imagine a landscape photo taken with the GFX.... and Fujinon tilt-shift wide angle lens at f/11! With the tilt, I wouldn't have to stop down to f/32. At f/11 I got the best compromise between sharpness and depth of field. I am imagining a print 2 meters wide with maximum detail and endless depth of field... I really hope this time I don’t have to wait another four years!