Hands-on with the Fujifilm GFX 50S II and GF 35-70mm lens

The Fujifilm GFX 50S II and its kit lens, the GF 35-70mm F4.5-5.6, have just landed! If you follow the digital camera industry, the 50S II will no doubt look pretty familiar: it’s essentially the same camera body as Fujifilm’s existing GFX 100S model. But if you’re newer to the world of Fujifilm digital medium format cameras, well, then join us in a tour of the 50S II, followed by its new kit lens, and find out what’s what.

51MP medium format sensor

At the heart of the GFX 50S II is a 51MP sensor that measures 44x33mm in size, giving it fully 70% more surface area than a full-frame digital camera. In both theory and practice, this will result in cleaner tones and greater dynamic range than many (but not all) full-frame cameras, and a special microlens design gives images from this sensor impressive sharpness at the expense of some moiré patterning.

It’s the same sensor used in Fujifilm’s previous GFX 50S and 50R camera bodies, so we know image quality is sensational, but there are a couple of drawbacks. Firstly, anyone wanting to shoot video on the 50S II will be limited to 1080/30p capture (though it’s good quality). It’s also not a backside-illuminated design like the more expensive GFX 100S, so doesn’t give quite as significant an image-quality boost over full-frame as you might expect. Lastly, there are no on-sensor phase detection pixels to aid with autofocus, so AF is contrast-detect only.

Overall though, you can expect images captured with the 50S II to be characterized by plenty of detail and excellent tonal quality.

Top plate controls

The top plate of the GFX 50S II has seen some significant reworking compared to the original 50S. Gone are the dedicated shutter speed and aperture dials, having been replaced with a PASM mode dial and a larger LCD. That LCD can display settings as shown here, a histogram of the scene you’re photographing, or virtual shutter speed / aperture dials.

On the left shoulder, the Movie / Stills switch makes it easy to switch between the two mediums, and the camera separates your settings between them as well.

Over to the right side of the camera, you can see clickable command dials for your index finger and thumb, an on/off switch surrounding the shutter button and two customizable buttons. We found exposure compensation button, to the right of the shutter, to be a bit awkward to press, but you can at least set it as a ‘toggle’ that will repurpose one of your command dials to control exposure compensation until you press the button again.

Lastly, on top of the viewfinder hump is a TTL flash hotshoe. The GFX 50S II will synchronize with flashes at up to 1/125 sec shutter speed.

Rear controls

Around the rear of the camera, we see a fairly simple (though sensible) array of controls. The ‘Drive’, ‘AF ON’ and ‘AEL’ buttons are customizable, and you can customize directional swipes on the touchscreen to carry out functions as well. There’s a larger, flatter AF joystick than we saw on the original GFX 50S, and we think it’s an improvement. The Q button all the way over on the right pulls up a customizable Quick menu, and we appreciate easy access to control AF behavior with the ‘S/C/M’ switch by the viewfinder.

Speaking of the viewfinder, it’s a bit of a downgrade from its predecessor, the original 50S; you still get a solid 3.69M-dot panel, but at a slightly lower magnification. That’s not likely to be all that noticeable, but what is more noticeable is that the viewfinder is no longer a detaching design. This means you’re unable to fit the EVF-TL1 tilting viewfinder adapter should you want to.

Rear screen

We’re pleased to see the return of a dual-hinged screen on the GFX 50S II (first seen, incidentally, all the way back on Fujifilm’s X-T2). It allows for easy waist and high-level shooting in both portrait and landscape orientation. It’s our favorite screen implementation on cameras that are more stills-oriented (video shooters often prefer a side-hinged design).

Ports

The GFX 50S II comes with a solid assortment of ports, including microphone and headphone jacks for video shooters, a USB-C port for data transfer and charging, a micro-HDMI port and a traditional flash sync port. On the other side of the camera, by the card slot door, is a small remote-release port.

Card slots

The GFX 50S II utilizes twin UHS-II SD card slots, allowing for overflow, backup, or separated video / stills shooting. The UHS-II designation means you can use the fastest cards on the market and be rewarded with impressive write speeds for those big Raw files, but the 50S II isn’t much of an action camera – you’ll top out at 3fps when you’re shooting bursts of images.

Battery

Fujifilm has fitted the GFX 50S II with its NP-W235 battery, seen in the company’s X-T4 and GFX 100S offerings. Though physically smaller than the NP-T125 unit seen in the original 50S, it packs increased power, and is good for 440 shots per charge, as rated by CIPA. In real-world use, you can expect about double that number if you’re disciplined about turning off the camera between shots and limiting your playback and Wi-Fi use.

GF 35-70mm F4.5-5.6 kit lens

The GFX 50S II comes with an all-new kit lens option – the GF 35-70mm F4.5-5.6. Offering a 35mm-equivalent field of view of roughly 28-55mm, it’s a handy if not especially ambitious offering on paper. That said, we’ve been thoroughly impressed with the image quality the lens offers – check out our sample gallery from this combo if you’re curious.

This is also the first retractable GF zoom, and it makes for an impressively compact package when stowed.

GF 35-70mm F4.5-5.6 kit lens

Even when the lens is extended, though, it’s hardly unwieldy. The weight doesn’t shift forward noticeably, and it’s roughly the same length at 35mm, shown above, as it is at 70mm. There is no locking switch to fumble with – a firm twist of the zoom ring is all that’s required to extend it when you’re ready to shoot.

In front of the rubberized zoom ring is a rubberized manual focus ring, which is very nicely damped indeed, and provides smooth operation. The camera can be set so that the manual focus ring is sensitive to the speed that you turn it, or it can be set to a linear response, so the distance turned equals the same change in focus distance regardless of speed.

GF 35-70mm F4.5-5.6 kit lens

Around the front of the lens is a 62mm filter thread, and visible through the front element is a diaphragm with nine rounded aperture blades. The GF 35-70mm isn’t optically stabilized, but that’s less of a concern given the 50S II’s IBIS system.

The optical formula consists of 11 elements in nine groups, including one aspherical and two extra-low dispersion (ED) elements.

GF 35-70mm F4.5-5.6 kit lens

The GF 35-70mm carries a ‘WR’ designation denoting weather-resistance. There are gaskets and seals throughout the lens construction, but the most visible evidence of sealing is the rubber gasket visible here, encircling the lens mount.

We’re told that the GF 35-70mm F4.5-5.6 WR will be available in late November, 2021 at a suggested retail price of $999.95. It’s also included as a kit with the GFX 50S II camera at a premium of around $500.

GFX 50S II and GF 35-70mm F4.5-5.6 kit lens against the GFX 100S and GF 32-64mm F4

We think that the GF 35-70mm F4.5-5.6 does a great job at filling a gap in the Fujifilm GF lineup, by offering a truly compact but reasonably flexible zoom meant to be kitted with single-grip medium format bodies. Here, side-by-side, is a GFX 50S II with the 35-70mm on the left, and a GFX 100S with the 32-64mm F4 lens on the right.

The 32-64mm F4 is by no means an enormous lens, but the 35-70mm does make a Fujifilm medium-format setup much more appealing for traveling light.

Hands-on with the Fujifilm GFX 50S II and GF 35-70mm lens

And that wraps up our tour of the Fujifilm GFX 50S II and the GF 35-70mm F4.5-5.6 kit zoom. If you would like them as a kit, they come together for a suggested price of $4499, and the GFX 50S II is available body-only for $3999.

What do you make of the most affordable digital medium format that’s ever been released? Let us know in the comments.

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