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09.01.2017David A. Williams

Working with the GFX by David Anthony Williams

David A. Williams

The opportunity to work with the Fujifilm GFX 50s was (to say the least) exciting – but for less obvious reasons than you may think…..
For almost 20 years I worked with large format film cameras – especially square format 6x6cm. It left an indelible mark on me, and adjusting to the wide horizontal rectangle of most digital cameras has always been hard.

My FUJIFILM X-Pro2’s had already given me the reality of composing and shooting square in camera. That combined with being able to choose a very high-quality film simulation for black & white (ACROS) was taking me to a whole other level of predetermination when making portraits.

You might wonder ‘why was the film simulation important to me?’. Fujifilm cameras have always had an outstanding reputation for excellent quality JPEG files. For other camera manufacturers, JPEGS are treated as somewhat of a compromise – and the RAW file as the ‘vehicle of choice’ for finalizing an image.

So, what if the image is made in a totally controlled environment? Where the content of the JPEG is pretty-much what is finally required? This was most certainly the case with the images I made with the GFX. The RAW was there as a back-up. It always amazes me how much shadow information is in a Fujifilm JPEG file.
What surprised me about the GFX 50s was its compact size – sure, the lenses have a presence one associates with large format – but the body is ‘neat’.
The ‘icing on the cake’ for me was the beautifully designed and made viewfinder adapter (EVF Tilt Adaptor) This unit allows much more comfort when operating the camera on a tripod – indeed it adds up to the equivalent of the waist-level finder, the 45 degree finder and anything in between. Being able to automatically switch between the rear display and the viewfinder is wonderful – and fast.

My experience with the GFX was almost all tripod based. Having said that, the optional vertical grip makes the whole package very comfortable – and easily manageable on a wedding or other function requiring hand-held operation.
So, to my created image of the ‘actor backstage’….
It was photographed in the car park of the building I live in. A few trash bins were moved, and then the ‘set’ was dressed with a sign, business cards and advertisements for acting classes and a little graffiti here and there.

My subject was dressed in appropriate costume for ‘Don Quixote’ and has make-up suitable for a stage production. I liked the incongruity of the 17th century costume and the cellphone he is holding.
The main light was a Phottix Indra 500 studio light through a Westcott Apollo light modifier. In between the light and the subject was a black gobo to block light getting to his white sleeve. A Phottix Mitros + unit provided a little highlight near his head. The ‘fill-light’ was the existing light in the car park. The image was shot on a tripod, and the exposure was 125th @ f13 at 800 ISO. I used the wonderful GF120mmF4 Macro lens for this image.

The portrait of young Sydney was visualized as a black & White square image in camera before being shot. What I saw was exactly what I got. The cameras ability to hold detail in the lighter tones as well as the shadows is wonderful – with excellent subtle gradation.

It was shot with my favorite lens – the beautiful GF110mmF2 lens used at 125th sec @ f9 using 200 ISO. Lighting was a single Phottix Indra 500 through a Westcott Apollo light modifier.

In conclusion: Did I get the ‘large format’ camera I’d been looking for?……Yes, I did. But I got a lot more than that. To put it all into perspective, the GFX produces a 6192 x 8256 file. That equates to a 111mb RAW file, and a 146mb JPEG (when opened). But we know big files aren’t the only answer. The GFX creates the look of ‘large format’ and the roundness that always distinguished it from smaller formats.

Is it better than ‘large format’ from the past?…….most definitely – YES.

Toronto, ON Canada