With the new Sony A1 at about $6499 coming in $500 more than the about $5999 Fujifilm GFX100S, the deciding points for 35mm vs medium format have never been so interesting, with price negated as a consideration, and actually in favor of medium format.
Well, not quite: throw in the about $2999 Sony A7R IV, and it gets even more interesting—half the price of the GFX100S and less than half the price of the Sony A1. This is your entry into the leading-brand 35mm-format system. That’s awfully compelling when price is considered. Except that the camera body is only part of the whole system and if you’re planning 3-5 years out... still, an extra $3000 or $3500 to spend on lenses is a huge incentive.
OTOH, which brand (or both or none) will offer a monochrome-sensor solution? That would decide the matter for me on the spot, because a true monochrome sensor at 60 or 100 megapixels would be incredible.
What’s a photographer looking for the best solution to do? That’s a question I will address head-to-head for landscape shooters and perhaps wildlife* and portraits when the Sony A1 and Fujifilm GFX100S show up sometime in March (I already own a Sony A7R IV).
In the meantime, some thoughts for specific use cases. It is partly about capture resolution, but it’s also about total image quality, lens choices, haptics/ergonomics, size/weight, usage patterns, applications, and finally, cost.
I’m just going to declare a winner out of hand: Fujifilm GFX100S. Not because of 100 megapixels vs 50/60 megapixels on the numbers because the difference is moderate, but because there is a real difference that can be seen and it really helps for landscape usage. I’m going to call it a 25% to 50% advantage, not a 100% or 67% difference. And if you use zooms instead of the best prime, you’re losing out—you must use the very best lenses on sensors with 3.76 micron photosites (both the GFX100S and Sony A7R IV) along with perfect shot discipline.
Look and feel
Partly this is the lens—Sony A7R IV. Partly this is the format and lens designs—Fujifilm GFX100S. this is one area you’re going to have to go by feel. See Reader Comment: “Fell in Love with the Aesthetic of the Fujifilm GFX100”. Don’t forget to consider lenses like the Sony FE 100mm f/2.8 STF GM—these don’t exist on the Fujifilm system.
If the camera is to be an all-arounder, I’m not even going to hesitate: take the $3000/$3500 saved and use it for lenses on the Sony A7R IV. The A7R IV has never failed me; it has been 'bulletproof' in the field, and it takes fantastic images with a humongous lens selection.
No way in hell or Antarctica am I going to shoot 4K when I can shoot 8K for the TV I expect to have in 2-3 years. I want the whole enchilada—8K video or bust—Sony A1.
No-brainer: the Sony A1 with its zero blackout, and human and animal Eye AF (even if it isn’t really iris AF), and world’s fastest focus tracking. The most tech to make you look good ever released in a camera, even if you suck at sports/action/wildlife (as I do).
Macro and focus stacking
Sony A7R IV. You don’t need the hassle of limited lens selection and less depth of field.
The Fujifilm GFX100S, unless you need super-fast Eye AF for some odd reason.
Why exactly do you want the hassle of limited lens selection and less depth of field? Sony A7R IV, possibly adapting a Canon TS-E lens. Or a DSLR with tilt-shift lens.
This one is tricker than it sounds: if you’re hiking up a few thousand vertical feet and/or long distances like the Alaskan taiga or tundra, you might value the smallest possible size and weight, such as the 60-megapixel Sony A7R IV with the Voigtlander 50mm f/2 APO-Lanthar, the Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2, and for self-flagellation with the world’s best wide angle, the Sony 12-24mm f/2.8 GM.
OTOH, you can do a heck of a lot with the Fujifilm GFX100S + Fujifilm GF 50mm f/3.5 and Fujifilm GF 30mm f/3.5 with little real difference in 'carry' and a 2 or 3-frame stitched panorama solves a lot of focal length challenges.
OTOH, not having something equivalent to a 12-24mm really really sucks—ditto for a 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom when you need one.
Think both because you know you want to
Dang, it’s complicated. If you thought I was going to go gaga over megapixels... yes and no. The next time I shoot the Eureka Dunes, I want the Fujifilm GFX100 and the Nikon D850 Monochrome along. But that Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM is so sweet too and you can’t have anything like it on the Fujifilm platform—OMG I need a bigger pack and I just had another birthday.
The well-heeled photographer really ought to own both the Sony A1 system and the Fujifilm GFX100S. If that’s you—get both and figure out which system you like using when—beat 'em with your wallet! If you’re over 60 and can afford it, forget the Porsche and get the cameras.
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