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Reader Question: Fujifilm GFX100 or Panasonic S1R with Multi-Shot High-Res Mode?

Reader Bruno L writes:

I'm a subscriber to both "Medium Format" and "Mirrorless + L-Mount". First, let me say how much I appreciate your detailed coverage on the website. Yours is a truly invaluable and unique source.

I have a quick question: do you intend to compare the Panasonic S1R multi-shot high-res mode to the Fujifilm GFX100 focus stacking mode at some point?

I have been particularly impressed by the results for both systems, and I would be curious to see a comparison. If you don't intend to compare the two systems, I would like to get your opinion on what you think would produce the best results: Panasonic S1R in multi-shot high-res mode with Zeiss Otus lenses (I own the first 3 lenses) OR the Fujifilm GFX 100 in focus staking mode I'm hesitating between the two systems at the moment.

My Pentax 645Z is getting long in the tooth and I'm wondering if it's worth holding out for the GFX 100 (when it becomes available here in Canada is another story...), OR just going with the excellent Otus lenses and the S1R in multi-shot high-res mode. I don't shoot action or moving subjects by the way. Obviously, I understand the sensor size and the pixel pitch are different, but still, I would love to see a comparison.

DIGLLOYD: I prefer the 4:3 format including for panorama work, and so the aspect ratio issue might be of relevance to some.

While I did some manual-focus focus stacking with the Panasonic S1R, as far as I can tell the S1R does not allow high-res mode with its focus bracket feature. So that appears to rule out HighRes mode for automated focus stepping.

More problematic, having to take 8 frames to capture one focus position with the S1R generates a huge file which will invariably be larger than a single GFX file, and have less depth of field! And it takes too long to make the exposure: I often shoot at times near one second, and 8 seconds instead of 1 second is a big deal problem. Plus the depth of field in S1R high-res mode is extremely shallow, so even more exposures will be needed—double the number for the GFX100, at least.

Worse, the the S1R will not do high-res mode beyond a second in any case; see the Fujifilm GFX100 image below which used 30-second exposures for 9 frames (about 5 minutes total!). Even if the S1R allowed 30 second high-res mode, that would be 320 seconds for a single focus position, times 9 equals 2880 seconds, or 48 minutes—the sun would have risen and the lighting been dramatically different a few minutes into that! It shuts out so many options for the best lighting—just not viable at all.

And of course, single-shot exposures at 100MP are possible with the GFX100 for many photographic situations where any kind of multi-shot is not viable.

Accordingly, I would strongly suggest going with the GFX100—it will be far easier to get the results you want, much faster and with far less storage space. It’s also possible that Fujifilm could at some point add pixel shift or high-res mode of its own via a firmware update to the GFX100—Fujifilm has been the camera vendor most aggressive in upgrading firmware.

I urge readers to us my B&H links to buy whatever you do buy (B&H ships to Canada and overseas), as B&H has been generous in loaning me the GFX100 system.

See also Landscape Photographers Looking for Superior Results and Lowest Effort and Fewest Problems Go with Fujifilm GFX100, not Sony A7R IV.

CLICK TO VIEW: Fujifilm medium format System

Pre-Sunrise View Looking South, High Above Patriarch Grove
f8 @ 30.0 sec electronic shutter focus stack 9 frames, ISO 100; 2019-08-17 05:39:18
Fujifilm GFX100 + Fujifilm GF 23mm f/4 R LM WR @ 19mm equiv (23mm)
ENV: Outcrop above Patriarch Grove, altitude 11650 ft / 3551 m, 45°F / 7°C
RAW: Enhance Details, LACA corrected, distortion corrected, vignetting corrected

[low-res image for bot]
f2 @ 1/250 sec Multi-Shot HighRes, ISO 50; 2019-06-05 20:17:14
Panasonic S1R + Leica 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-SL ASPH
ENV: Hwy 120 East, altitude 7050 ft / 2149 m, 60°F / 15°C
RAW: Enhance Details, LACA corrected, distortion corrected, push 1.45 stops, USM {8,50,0}

[low-res image for bot]

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