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Rethinking When to Buy the Fujifilm GFX100S vs the Sony A1

Important to my B&H loaner support — buy your Fujifilm GFX100and Sony A1 and lenses via links on this site.

Fujifilm GFX100S, rear view

Last May, I bought my test sample of the Fujifilm GF 50mm f/3.5 for a measly $500 (50% off), because it was so darn satisfying. And I did not and still do not have a camera body to go with it—that’s how impressed I was with it.

So now I’ve been thinking about the Fujifilm GFX100S and how it fits into my plans, both for review purposes and for personal use (which I unavoidably intermingle with review work).

As it is now clear that Sony and Fujifilm only competitive platforms on the market (Canon TBD), those are the two platforms that demand most of my efforts.

Accordingly, it is time that I have a Fujifilm medium format camera body (I already have the Sony A7R IV). I cannot see the Fujifilm GFX100S going out of style for some years to come. Moreover the total sharpness and image quality of the GFX100S is near the very top. And when value and ease of use are considered it is indisputably the best option out there (PhaseOne IQ4 image quality is superior, but also 8X the cost and 5X the PITA).

Sony A1

Since I have long desired a 100MP landscape camera, and I don’t see any alternatives to the Fujifilm GFX100S , the timing seems right. Hasselblad isn’t there yet and won’t get there IMO: the price will be high and the bugs and operational shortcomings are unacceptable to me.

With the same sensor as the Fujifilm GFX100, the Fujifilm GFX100S assures me of the same image quality a svelte form factor. That means all the good aspects as well as the occasional risk of PDAF banding—so be it.

CLICK TO VIEW: Fujifilm GFX100 and Top Lenses

So my new way of thinking is as follows, as I cannot swing two new cameras right away:

  1. Buy the Fujifilm GFX100S as the priority. I can manage the cost over some months. I have the 50mm f/3.5, and I’ll add the Fujifilm GF 30mm f/3.5 and Fujifilm GF 80mm f/1.7 and Fujifilm GF 23mm f/4 over time when they get those nice $500 discounts (usually twice year, if 2020 is any guide). That might take a while, but the 50/3.5 is so darn useful that I’m OK with that as the sole lens (to own) for some time.
  2. Borrow the Sony A1 for testing, but defer its purchase until I can get a good discount. Since I already have the Sony A7R IV which is 60MP, it is better for testing lenses anyway. And I have no immediate compelling need for the Sony A1, as much as I’d like the new retina-grade EVF and other goodies.

This doesn’t mean my review priority is the Fujifilm GFX100S (Sony A1 is top priority); rather it means I can have the Sony A1 out on loan without having to delay the GFX100S review, and it allows me to focus my attention on the A1, as well as to compare it to the GFX100S towards the end of the loaner cycle.

Important to my B&H loaner support — buy your Fujifilm GFX100and Sony A1 and lenses via links on this site please—I am under pressure from B&H changes to our agreement.

CLICK TO VIEW: Top-Flight lenses for Sony Mirrorless

CLICK TO VIEW: Sony A1 System and Accessories

Roy P writes:

I had bought a Fujifilm GF 50/3.5 last year when B&H offered this lens for the absurd price of $500.  At that time, my rationale was to buy an inevitable 100MP successor to the GFX50 cameras.  Well, Fuji did come out with the GFX100, but I didn’t care for the size or form factor, and I was wondering if at some point, there would be a smaller version of this camera, or if I should sell my 50/3.5 GF lens.

So now that the Fujifilm GFX100S is here, I’m a buyer. I just saw you had addressed this very point!  I think it makes eminent sense to get the GFX100S, and I just ordered one!  I will probably order a couple of longer focal length lenses, like either the 80/1.7 or the 110/2, possibly the 120/4 macro.  I will wait for the $500 off sales to acquire these, I’m in no hurry.

With Hasselblad struggling, it looks like Fuji will be the king of this large(r than 35mm) format market, and as long as Sony or Canon don’t step into it, Fuji will have a couple of defendable slices to itself between the GF system and its APS-C line. So the new order seems to be Phase One at the ultra high end full medium format, then Fuji in the semi-medium format, Sony + Canon duopoly in the 35mm segment, and Fuji + Sony in the APS-C segment.  Maybe Panasonic remains in the MFT.

Canon has a very large user base. I heard somewhere that Canon is also developing a lot of new lenses for the R system (e.g., long f/4 and f/5.6 lenses). Lenses like the Canon 400mm f/4 DO and 200-400 f/4 are very popular, and these work with the R system, and Canon is also bringing out these in a native R mount. Importantly, they have the money and the talent, and unlike Nikon, they are not experiencing a customer exodus to Sony. They just won’t benefit from the Nikon defectors – those are headed straight to Sony, so Sony is enjoying great momentum and market share gain. But while Sony fattens up its market share, I don’t think Cannon will shrink in absolute terms, at least not substantially.

Incredibly, Leica had the right idea with the Leica S in 2009, and was sitting in a perfect position to go mirrorless. The Hasselblad X1D and the Fuji GF lines would likely never have even come into existence if Leica had the vision to bring out a mirrorless S3 in 2011-2012 with a 37.5MP CMOS sensor.  Today, Leica could have owned this slice of the camera market with a couple of S cameras, like a 50MP S4 and a 100MP S5, and all the S lenses, plus a few more.  That would have been an intimidating line up to discourage a new entrant like Fuji to get into this game.

At the same time, Leica could have morphed the M system into a compact, mirrorless, EVF line that used all the M lenses. That would have given Leica two very solid and defendable slices in the industry that completely bypassed head-to-head competition with Phase One in MF and Sony / Canon in 35mm.  Instead, Leica blew it with its L mount and the SL line which now looks ridiculous next to the Sony A1, A7, A7R, A7S and A9 line up + lenses ranging from 12mm to 600mm, not to mention the evolving Canon R system.

For all its deep pockets, it would be tough for even Sony to have a separate line. In the entire history of photography, no camera maker has been successful with two different mounts and systems. Sony kept the Minolta A mount alive for a while, but eventually phased it out, albeit unofficially. Canon (e.g., from FD to EF), Nikon (from whatever they had to the F mount), all transitioned from one mount to another, and when they went to the new mount, they phased out their old mount. Canon will eventually be out of EF and fully in R. The only camera maker that has had not only two but three mounts in parallel is Leica. It’s crazy to have the M, L and S mounts in production at the same time. We can see how effective that is – they’re not doing justification to any of them. For Sony, they’re already in medium format – they supply sensors to Phase One, Fujifilm and Hasselblad. It’s a great way for them to be in the space, without competing with their customers.

Oh, well… Bottom line, it looks like Sony and Fujifilm are safe bets… And Canon too, for those who are already committed to Canon.

How many extra batteries do you think I need to order for the GFX100S?  One?  2-3?

DIGLLOYD: as for extra batteries, I never needed more than the two in the Fujifilm GFX100 when I shot last spring. I recommend three (3) batteries as a surefire way to never run out, and allow for skipping the recharging one day while traveling.

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