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What Would the Arrival of a 100-Megapixel Fujifilm GFX and/or Hasselblad X1D Mean for the DSLR and Mirrorless Options?

See my Nikon wish list.

I expect to see a 100-megapixel Fujifilm GFX-100 next year, since Sony has announced the sensor. That said, Fujifilm uses a customized Sony sensor and it is unclear that the same customization is feasible at 100 megapixels (versus 50), namely a sensor design that yields incredibly strong acutance with the existing Fujifilm GFX.

Since 100 megapixels would be a huge leap versus 50 megapixels, I would not be a buyer of the GFX system at this time given the cost of the camera body. But next year I’ll be be hard-pressed to not buy a GFX-100, because nothing else will come close, though perhaps more surprises await. And what if a GFX-100 were to also offer a pixel shift capability? That would be like a 150 to 200 megapixel camera in terms of resolving power.

The gap between 44 X 33mm medium format and 35mm full frame (36 X 24mm) is not large, though the GFX to my eyes is superior to the Nikon D850 image quality which derives in large measure from having substantially larger photos, but also (a guess) by electronics and perhaps selecting only the top-tier (fewest defects) sensors. The Hasselblad X1D as well, though not in all ways and I feel that it has serious usability problems, particularly when gloves are worn because of its flawed touchscreen-centric design which makes it a non-starter for me in cold weather, and an irritant at many other times—it needs a 4-way controller.

So here I’m just going to say “GFX”, to be taken to mean 44 X 33mm medium format. Assuming we see 100 megapixels in that sensor size in 2018, a strong hierarchy re-establishes itself:

  • Medium format widens that gap by more then 2X in megapixel count, stepping past its current parity situation (there are obscenely expensive 100 megapixel cameras already out there, but that is irrelevant to this discussion except for the wealthy or very high end pro).
  • Noise level will increase, so will dynamic range be maintainable when going from a 50 to 100 megapixel sensor? Dynamic range is a huge priority for me, given that resolving power is already very high.
  • Power consumption might go up, but it might go down—twice the pixels at no power cost?
  • Will Sony introduce its own medium format mirrorless and why the heck not? I’d love to see more competition in the area.

Medium format mirrorless on a 44 X 33mm sensor is seemingly the new high-end which is in reach for many. I for one will be sorely tempted to not have a 100-megapixel GFX system.

The Fujifilm GF lens line has some disappointments (mostly ergonomic), but 100 megapixels is substantial leap over the 45 megapixes of a Nikon D850, with no penalty in size or weight versus the Zeiss lenses I use on the D850.

That to me is a game changer for any landscape photographer—and I cannot see a 36 X 24mm sensor offering high dynamic range an low noise any time soon—the 44 X 33mm format has a 68% advantage in area, which is critical in keeping noise down. What it means is that medium format with a new sensor design might well show noise an dynamic range equal to the best DLSR (the Nikon D850), but with 2.2X the pixel count.

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