6 minute read
How GFX100’s Sensor Delivers Sensational Landscapes
At the heart of GFX100 is a 102-megapixel sensor, which also offers unrivaled color, tonality, and light-gathering power
Great landscape photos are the product of many things, including inspiration, effort, and timing. But of course, the right camera gear helps, too. GFX100’s 102-megapixel sensor can deliver supremely detailed, vibrant, and lifelike images. Several factors combine to make this happen. There’s the sheer number of photosites on the sensor producing 102-megapixel files; the design of the sensor, which maximizes light gathering for low ISO and low-noise pictures; the ultimate sharpness produced by removing an optical low-pass filter from the design; and the outstanding dynamic range that produces rich highlight and shadow detail. Let’s look at each one…
All the Resolution You Need
How does GFX100’s sensor offer unique benefits to the landscape photographer? The obvious starting point is its headline 102-megapixel resolution. The amount of detail produced surpasses anything a DSLR sensor can achieve, adding unrivaled realism and clarity to landscape scenes.
It’s hard to realize how much detail is contained in a 102-megapixel file unless you take a journey into it by zooming from a screen-fitting size to a 100% view. It’s the same with prints. At its maximum 11648×8736 output, you can make 300dpi prints at over 3ft wide!
This number of pixels also means masses of options in cropping, and in choosing the best aspect ratio to fit the scene in front of you. For instance, set GFX100 in its panoramic 65:24 aspect and you get a huge 11648×4304 file. Or switch to 1:1 format and you can still enjoy massive 8736×8736 images. Of course, this also means you can more easily crop into files to change composition, without ending up with a disappointingly low-res result.
But unlike many larger format cameras, with GFX100, all this megapixel power comes with easy DSLR-style control. GFX100 allows users to produce images in various formats and image qualities, so how you use the data is up to you. Files can be saved as uncompressed/lossless compressed RAWs and JPEGs in various sizes and compression ratios. In-camera RAW processing also lets photographers save 8-bit or 10-bit color depth images as 8-bit or 16-bit TIFF files.
Every Pixel Counts
When it comes to recording light, most camera sensors have their photosites arranged in a Bayer pattern, and GFX100 is no different. This design consists of photosites arranged in blocks of four pixels, with one red, one blue, and two green pixels making up each block. This pattern is repeated across the entire imaging sensor, making up its entire resolution.
With smaller imaging sensors that have lower resolution than GFX100, a potential issue that can arise from time to time is the appearance of moiré in an image. These digital artifacts often appear when the level of detail in a scene being photographed is beyond the sensor’s resolving ability. This results in an image that can look jagged and unrealistic. It can also generate false colors in the image, because the camera’s internal algorithm is using less data to make decisions on how to interpret and render color.
These issues can be slightly mitigated by placing optical low-pass or anti-aliasing filters in front of the sensor. However, using them blurs the image slightly, and while the number of pixels that make up the image isn’t affected, sharpness definitely is. Of course, the resulting images can always be sharpened in post-production, but only from what’s originally been recorded, so ultimately some detail is lost.
In comparison, GFX100 doesn’t require the use of an optical low-pass filter, because its megapixel count is so high it can resolve complex textures with little to no moiré effects. This results in a more accurate, true-to-life image. For example, in a landscape scene, this means every delicate detail in foliage or rocky foreground texture is rendered to near-perfection, keeping scenes looking perfectly natural.
Resolve Maximum Highlight and Shadow Detail
Sheer resolution is not enough to make a great landscape image. Another factor that routinely affects landscape exposures is dynamic range. The varying levels of light in the scene, and their intensity from highlight to shadow, can often outstrip a camera’s ability to record them. When that happens, something has to give, so you get clipped highlights and shadows that look unnatural and lack detail.
Of course, landscape photographers use filters to control this, but GFX100 makes it even easier to portray all of a scene’s tones within a single exposure via its 16-bit RAW files.
Another technical innovation that GFX100’s sensor uses to produce superb images is found in its physical design. Light gathering is where image making begins, and the more light there is, the better the image quality can be theoretically. So, anything that gets in the way, or blocks light, is inefficient.
GFX100 uses a back-side illuminated (BSI) design, which increases efficiency by repositioning elements of the sensor’s architecture compared to traditional designs. Each photosite on the sensor needs to be held in place by a frame, and it also needs wiring to transfer its signal to the processor. In regular ‘front-illuminated’ sensors, this architecture sits on top of the photo layer and no matter how low-profile its design, it always reflects some light, which doesn’t make it to the photosites, and therefore can’t be recorded.
BSI sensors, like the one GFX100 has, position the wiring behind the photo-sensitive layer, so light doesn’t need to pass through it, and therefore far less light is reflected away and lost.
This stronger signal means better, brighter, and less noisy exposures, and in landscapes –typically created when light levels are low, for instance, around dawn, dusk, and after dark – it’s clearly a huge benefit. And because more light is recorded during an exposure, the BSI design also means the sensor can extend its native ISO to ISO 100.
What’s more, the design is particularly helpful for very high-resolution cameras like GFX100, as their photosites are comparatively smaller than lower-resolution sensors of the same size.
Last but not least, of course, there’s color. With Fujifilm’s unrivaled history in color science and film production, GFX100 has an obvious advantage. Without modification, colors from the camera are natural, true to life, and delicate. What’s more, with trillions of colors and shades realized in its 16-bit files, tonality is exceptional, with smooth tonal gradations that are especially important when photographing skies and water with long exposures.
GFX100 also offers exceptional control over color with its Film Simulation modes. FUJIFILM Velvia was long the filmstock of choice for discerning landscape photographers, and those wanting to enjoy its vibrant and deeply saturated colors can do so, either by assigning the mode in-camera, by adding it with in-camera processing, through Capture One, or through Adobe Lightroom. Of course, there are many more Film Simulation modes that can add a distinctive appeal to scene images, including GFX100’s several ACROS monochrome effects, perfect for brooding, dramatic scenes.