This upgrade is worth it!
I haven’t reviewed any gear for quite some time, given that there is no shortage of online content about cameras and lenses. However, I felt that it is worth noting the improvements in the latest version of the GFX50S. If you want to stop reading now, just know that upgrading to the 50S II has been very worthwhile for me. If you want to know why, read on…
I purchased the original 50S early in 2017, thinking it would be my “retirement” camera. Of course, once I experienced the incredible image quality, I wanted to use it for all manner of work. Equally obviously, it wasn’t suited for some of that work, which continued to be handled by a variety of Fujifilm X-cameras.
Since 2017, the 50S was increasingly used for art photography, as well as for all types of portraiture. While it was well suited for shooting on a tripod, I did want to use it more handheld and for more types of work.
By 2022, I was using the 50S so much that I was considering upgrading to the GFX100S or the 50S II. The primary feature that appealed to me was the in-body image stabilization (IBIS), as well as the smaller, redesigned body. There are many other features that also appealed, like improved auto focus and smaller batteries, but none were as critical as IBIS and the form factor.
After some consideration and trying out a loaner 50S II, I opted for that camera over the 100S. While I received very good advice from my contact at Fujifilm Canada that the 100S had much better auto focus and a newer sensor, I couldn’t justify the additional expense, nor did I need/want the larger files. I picked up my new GFX50S II at the end of last year.
The image quality of the 50S II is the same as the original 50S/R bodies. Which is to say incredible. For the past few years, I have been making very large art prints from the GFX50S files, so I knew what to expect there. In fact, the image quality and file size seem to me to be just about perfect.
As for auto focus, the 50S II is an improvement over the previous model. However, I rarely rely on AF with this camera. Back button focus while in manual focus mode is my preferred way to work with the 50S II and works best for nearly everything I photograph with it. It is fast (enough) and (very) accurate.
If faster auto focus was critical for me, I would have opted for the 100S. But it isn’t and the 50S II offered me all of the improvements over the original model that I needed.
The new body is definitely nicer to handle than the bulkier 50S. The redesigned controls layout has taken some adjustment, but it works well. I do missed the original dials for shutter speed and shooting modes and ISO, but it hasn’t been an issue to make the switch to the new controls.
The first two months of this year have been busy with work, so my new 50S II has been getting a workout. The good news is that images it produces are as terrific as those produced by its predecessor. The even better news is that the 50S II’s IBIS has made it possible to work with the camera when I wouldn’t have been able to with the old 50S.
Last week, I was working on an ad campaign, shooting stills along side of a video production (Sorry, no samples as the ads haven’t dropped yet). As I was working with the lighting for the video production, I often found myself making photos at 1/60 of a second, hand held. This is no mean feat considering that I was fronting the 50S II with the GF32-64mm f/4 lens, not a lightweight combination. Because of the IBIS, I was capturing sharp images, something I could never have done with the 50S.
Back to image quality for a moment. Due to the low video production lighting, I was often making images at high ISO values as well. Just like its predecessor, the 50S II produces virtually noise-free images at ISO 3200 and completely usable images at ISO 6400 (much to my relief!).
There are many small ways in which the GFX50S II is an improvement over the original version. I really appreciate the refinements in design, handling and performance, plus the excellent IBIS and still-incredible image quality. In fact, it has become a natural part of how I work, which makes me think that the upgrade has been worthwhile.
NB: sample images captured with the Fujifilm GFX50S II, fronted with a variety of lenses. Of note, I continue to use legacy Mamiya 645 and Zeiss lenses with the GFX, as well as native Fujinon GF lenses. Product shots captured with a Fujifilm X-Pro3 and the XF50mm f/2 lens. GFX50S II specs.