Specializing in vibrant, fast-paced multicultural weddings, Petronella Lugemwa found the speed and quality of GFX50S II made it an ideal companion
“Since we came back from lockdown, weddings have been crazy,” reports Petronella Lugemwa with a smile. “People just want to celebrate at full blast. But the multicultural weddings I photograph are always full of energy and life, so I’m well prepared. I dive in and follow the emotion. That’s always been my approach, because things happen so fast – and if you or your camera can’t keep up, you’ll be left behind.
“My days are usually 12-hours plus,” she continues. “And there’s always a calm before the storm. You start off recording details, meet the family, and I’m usually with the bride and her bridesmaids, getting to know everyone and taking candids of the preparations. But as soon as the dress goes on, things take off! Then you’re running, running, running… so you want to be carrying as little as possible. There are family photos, the ceremony, then a big party full of dancing. It’s non-stop, and you have to nail every moment. For a camera to deal with all that, and produce such high-quality images is crazy, but that’s what GFX50S II manages to do.”
Petronella tested the new camera and new GF35-70mmF4.5-5.6 WR lens at several events. “One of the first things that struck me about GFX50S II was its size,” she says. “I use GFX100S regularly and the bodies are very similar – much smaller than the original GFX 50S, and with more refined handling. It also has a beautifully contoured handgrip, so it’s usable all day, without weighing you down. At only 1.98lb, it’s perfect alongside my GFX100S during weddings, and the pairing has felt absolutely seamless. GF35-70mmF4.5-5.6 WR is only 0.97lb, so it keeps up the portable appeal – and together they’re really compact, no bigger than a full-frame DSLR, but with all the extra quality you expect from the G Format sensor.”
“Using the two cameras together, the only difference was in the ultimate resolution,” she continues. “At 51.4 megapixels, GFX50S II still has plenty of pixels, but most importantly its colors and dynamic range are right up there with GFX100S. That’s so important, because my wedding clients are looking for natural, vibrant skin tones and juicy colors. Because I always make a point of exposing for the skin tones of my subjects, I need to know details are safe in highlights and shadows. As the colors are identical from both bodies, there’s nothing to slow down my editing, either.”
So, it’s obvious that Petronella’s approach requires speed. That’s also found in GFX50S II’s intuitive handling, using a simple PASM dial to set exposure mode, a clear and simple button layout, and redesigned focus lever for placing the AF point on the most important details in her composition.
On top of that, its Auto ISO mode lets her ride the varying light levels throughout the day, so she’s not bogged down in settings. “I just couldn’t use a camera without Auto ISO now,” she exclaims. “In weddings like these, you can’t fiddle with your camera, contemplating a stop up or two stops! If you do that, a wedding is going to run right past you. I was regularly using ISO 640, 800 or 1000 outside, and anything up to ISO 10000 indoors, and still getting beautifully smooth results.”
With its retuned X-Processor 4 engine, GFX50S II also sees accelerated AF speeds, thanks to sensor readout increased to 250fps – twice as fast as the original body. This, combined with the same improved subject-tracking algorithms as used on GFX100S and pro-level FUJIFILM X Series cameras, means that Face and Eye Detection AF lock on in a snap. “Basically, it means there’s nothing to take me out of a situation,” explains Petronella. “It was totally reliable as I roamed around, even with bridesmaids running on to the dance floor at 100 miles an hour! Sure, I was nervous. It’s not as if I can say, ‘can you go back, because I don’t think that was quite in focus’. But every time I checked on the screen, GFX50S II nailed it.”
Working in tandem with its high ISO performance and AF speed is GFX50S II’s In-Body Image Stabilization system. As it’s 20% smaller, and 10% lighter, than the unit in GFX100, it still gives up to 6.5 stops of five-axis shake reduction, so image makers like Petronella can work with freedom without a tripod in low-light conditions. For example, a wedding after-party or bridal dressing room. “That’s a huge benefit,” says Petronella. “Wherever the action and emotion is, I need to be there – well-lit or not!
“GF35-70mm F4.5-5.6 WR is a brilliant partner to this body,” she continues. “It’s so versatile, and as the lightest GF zoom lens so far, perfectly suited in terms of weight. I normally use primes like GF80mm F1.7 R WR and GF50mm F3.5 R LM WR, but this zoom gave me so many more options, which is helpful as wedding days are highly unpredictable. So, when people are on the move, it helped me keep up – and there’s no compromise on quality. It focused fast and caught some beautiful moments.
“I can definitely see GFX50S II joining GFX100S in my kitbag,” Petronella concludes. “Ever since using FUJIFILM X-T4, I’ve embraced these smaller cameras that help me create wedding memories the way I want. But with the affordability and seamless workflow of two GFX System cameras, it can improve what I do. And for photographers wanting to try the larger format, this is an amazing place to start. They’ll find smoother, cleaner, crisper, and more vivid images, greater dynamic range, and all of that in a body that’s as easy to carry and use as a DSLR.”