I recently had a chance to test the brand new Fujifilm GFX 100 II body and the new Fujinon GF 55mm f/1.7 R WR lens for a few hours at Queen Elizabeth Park. Note that we do already have these new Fujifilm items in stock to buy or to rent, for those wanting to buy or try for themselves! Many things about the GFX 100 II are quite similar to the GFX 100S, which I reviewed here, but there are some significant improvements in the newer camera, although the price point is a fair bit higher too. The GFX 100S was $7,800, currently on sale for $7,025 as of this writing, but the new GFX 100 II is $10,125. Looking at the camera, you might be wondering why it is so much more, but trust me, despite having the same 100 megapixel resolution, there are a huge number of changes. Also, the GFX 100 II is not replacing the GFX 100S, rather it’s replacing the original GFX 100 which sold for $13,300. Granted, if you are one who likes vertical grips, which was an integral and non-removable part of the original GFX 100, you need to add that to the price of the GFX 100 II (+$680), but the total still comes in at much less than the original.
Straight to the gallery of test images from this combo –> Fujinon GF 55mm f/1.7 R WR Samples
Apart from some subtly different styling, with beveled shoulders, a redesigned grip, additional buttons and interestingly textured cladding, at first glance one could almost mistake the new camera for a GFX 100S. One change is the row of three user definable buttons near the shutter release that have accompanying icons showing on the now much larger top display, a very nice feature. There are also now two user definable front buttons, instead of the one on the GFX 100S. The focus-point joystick has an improved feel to me as well, and generally speaking, the level of refinement in the body has increased. As much as I prefer the “retro” marked control dials of a camera like the X-T5, or the original GFX 50S, I have to admit the shooting experience of the GFX 100 II is sensible and cohesive. The original GFX 100 featured some odd user interface design choices, but the new GFX 100 II just feels right to me. Another improvement over the 100S is that like the GFX 100 before it, the new GFX 100 II has a removable EVF, and the Fujifilm EVF-TL1 Tilt Adapter ($749) works with it, so you can tilt and swivel the EVF when the adapter is used.
As far as the overall user interface of the camera, it should be very familiar to Fujifilm shooters, but there are a few notable changes that initially threw me for a loop. For example, since I am almost always shooting in aperture priority, I find quick access to exposure compensation a must. By default, Fujifilm’s newer “DSLR style” bodies, starting with the X-H1, have a small button that needs to be pressed and held in order to change the exposure compensation with a control wheel, something I find very awkward. However, in those older bodies, one could set the exposure compensation button to be on/off toggle instead of press-and-hold, so a single press of the button would activate exposure compensation so you could then adjust the amount with the rear thumb operated scroll wheel, making the shooting experience similar to a an X-T or X-Pro body. This toggle would actually stay active even when cycling the power, so after turning the camera off and on, you still had immediate access to exposure compensation. When that setting change is made on the GFX 100 II, crucially it does not stick through power cycling, and even seems to cancel when the camera goes to sleep. This drove me bananas initially, but then with further searching in the control wheel customization, I saw one could set the rear scroll wheel to always be direct exposure compensation without requiring any button pushes, so problem solved!
The second minor irritation initially was that I always like the option to shrink down the image display in the EVF so that all exposure and mode indicators show around the outside of the image and not within the image itself, since I find that overlaid indicators are very distracting when trying to carefully compose an image. In addition, having the actual image a bit smaller improves the “eye-point” of the viewfinder, in other words, you can better see the entire image with glasses on or if your eye is not perfectly centred on the viewfinder optic. You generally do this by pressing the “DISP/BACK” button on the camera while looking through the EVF. Normally, it cycles between full image only, image with superimposed exposure data and then reduced size image with exposure data outside the frame. When I first tried this on the GFX 100 II, it only cycled between the full image and the full image with superimposed exposure data. After much additional fiddling I discovered that the EVF modes are disappointingly limited in some of the higher “boost” frame rate settings. Once I switched to an AF boost mode instead of a frame-rate boost mode, suddenly I could cycle between all the expected EVF modes. I am not sure if this is a bug, or some sort of limitation to how the image is displayed in the EVF at the highest frame rate settings? In any case, once I discovered that, all was well with the world again. Well certainly not all, but you know what I mean…
So once I figured those two things out, shooting with the GFX 100 II was a seamless and very pleasant experience. The IBIS seemed even more effective than on the GFX 100S (as it’s supposed to be) and the overall responsiveness of the camera was superb. The new 9.44 million dot EVF was stunning, the best I have experienced. There was an amazing “3D pop” to the EVF display when I was shooting with the GF 55mm f/1.7. The extra resolution made it very apparent where the point of focus was, even without zooming in on the display or using any of the MF assist features. Of course the depth of field is so shallow when shooting medium format at wide apertures, that as good as the EVF was without zooming in, one would still need to use a MF assist mode (zoomed in or focus peaking) to accurately nail the focus, but the extra resolution sure made for a great experience when framing and composing shots when viewing the full image. I was frankly not expecting to see such a big visual improvement in the EVF, but I suppose that going from 3.69 million dots on the GFX 100S to 9.44 million in the GFX 100 II is indeed a remarkable difference.
Image quality with the GFX 100 II was truly superb, as expected, and while the ISO can now drop down to 40 for a slight increase in dynamic range, even the older 100MP bodies were so good that any improvement was certainly not obvious. One major area of improvement, which was obvious, was the AF system. Face/eye tracking now seems a lot “stickier” and even using a single focus point to direct the AF system towards the subject of interest in the frame seems to work very well indeed. My wife Emily took some shots of me, two of which are in the attached sample gallery, and despite her relative lack of experience with just how shallow medium format depth-of-field can be, almost all of the shots of me with the 55mm at f/1.7 were focused perfectly on my eyes just by trusting the camera’s eye-detect feature. Note that I personally did not do extensive testing with the camera’s eye-detect or any shots really with subject detect focus tracking, so I certainly cannot vouch for its effectiveness in all situations. That is something you’d need to try out for yourself, either by renting it, or if your time is flexible, requesting a loaner unit from Fujifilm Canada.
As far as video is concerned, the new GFX 100 II is just bristling with features and enhancements, however since I am not a “video guy” at all, I never even switched the camera to its video mode setting! You will need to read other online reviews to get an idea of how good it might be for doing high-end video work, or as mentioned above, perhaps rent or borrow one to test out for yourself. The features and enhancements to its video mode are truly extensive! If you visit the GFX 100 II page on Fujifilm’s website, you can also find out a lot more about its video capabilities.
Now, a few notes about the new Fujinon GF 55mm f/1.7 R WR prime lens. In 35mm full-frame terms, it is approximately equivalent to a 43mm lens, so slightly wider than what’s considered a “normal” which is 50mm. I personally love that field of view, having always preferred a slightly wider lens as a normal lens. This would be a great lens for environmental portraiture, street photography and for low-light shooting. As far as image quality, if you’ve shot with the GF 80mm f/1.7, think of the 55mm as its slighter wider cousin. Like the 80mm, the new 55mm is tack sharp wide open, has smooth bokeh and is not that big or heavy a lens, at least when compared to the likes of the GF 110mm f/2 or GF 120mm macro. The 80mm had just a hint of purple fringing along high contrast edges when shot at f/1.7, but I couldn’t see any at all with the 55mm at f/1.7. It also focuses more closely than the 80mm and offers a slightly higher macro reproduction ratio. By no means is this a macro lens, but as you’ll see with a few photos in the attached gallery, it can focus fairly closely. Note that I often shot with the lens stopped down a little, only because the depth of field is so shallow on medium format, but I made sure to include a bunch of wide open shots in the gallery, so hopefully you’ll be able to get a decent idea about its bokeh.
I really only had two minor complaints about the 55mm. First is that its focusing speed was only adequate, certainly not swift, however it generally seemed fast enough for most of its use cases I’d say. The second minor complaint is the fact that its aperture ring f-stop detents were a bit mushy and vague, not as crisp as some of the other lenses. I am not sure if this is somehow sample variation, or just inherent in its design?
In the end though, I am a sucker for optically superb prime lenses, and overall this new 55mm certainly fits that description. I’m sure I’m repeating myself, but the GFX system is now getting even more appealing to me, since I feel that I could manage 90% of all the shooting I do with three primes, all of which are reasonably compact and not too heavy: the GF 30mm f/3.5, this new GF 55mm f/1.7 and the GF 80mm f/1.7. Okay, maybe I’d actually choose the superb GF 20-35mm zoom instead of the GF 30mm, or… maybe I’d choose the new upcoming 30mm T/S (tilt-shift) for the wide option! Other than the T/S option, the other two lens trios would make for a superb and not too bulky or heavy a kit. The 30mm T/S will be well over twice as heavy as the GF 30mm f/3.5 though!
On October 16th, 2023, Beau Photo and Fujifilm Canada will have a launch event for the new GFX 100 II at Elastic Studios. The GF 55mm f/1.7 will also be there and hopefully the new GF 30mm and GF 110mm tilt-shift lenses as well, which I have yet to see in person. There should be samples of most other GFX system bodies and GF lenses there for you to try as well. Here is the link to sign up: https://gfx100ii_vancouver.eventbrite.ca
Here is the gallery of images from this test: Fujinon GF 55mm f/1.7 R WR Samples
If you have any further questions about the GFX 100 II or the GF 55mm f/1.7, please feel free to contact us!