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Cameras of the Year: Fujifilm GFX100S and Sony A1

Year 2021 brought us the Fujifilm GFX100S and Sony A1. Both superlative in their own ways.

Your bank account will dislike me for saying this but some of us will quickly discover that both are needed, because they serve different purposes.

I am not dismissing very fine mirrorless system from Nikon or Canon or Leica. They are all excellent and all of these 45-50 megapixels mirrorless cameras make better images than we have ever seen to date. But having shot them all, I am content to stick with Sony. I pay attention to my response to a camera system. It’s not in favor of these other brands, but it’s also not against them. And you might like something other than Sony for your own reasons, which might differ from mine. Too many decision points to elevate one system over another in any objective way, only various factors to weight for oneself.

The Fujifilm GFX100S has nowhere near the capabilities of the Sony A1 for all sorts of things. Yet the incredibly detailed images of the GFX100S can be exceptionally rewarding, so long as the subject allows a satisfactory hit rate. Unless you are trying to do monochrome conversions I suppose.

To wit: on my recent trip in November carrying the Canon EOS R5 and its wide-angle zooms, I confess to feeling irritated with the system. Not because of its minor faults (mostly lenses) which make very fine images as good or better than prime lenses of even a few years ago. But just because I was in the mood to make 2 or 3 really satisfying high-res images, not 800 images for comparison and evaluation. But the job was to do the latter and not to satisy my desires. And since I was not feeling energetic, the effort felt like a rip-off when I captured 45MP instead of 100 megapixels—same work, half the detail. Not for me, not for that kind of landscape. Had I been hiking with my daughter, I’m all in—the R5 and its zooms would have been ideal. Hence the appeal of the two-system approach.

I own the Sony A1 and I intend to obtain the Fujifilm GFX100S as money and availability and discounts converge.

Sony A1 system

I would prioritize lenses as follows, setting aside the very fine Voigtlander lenses, which are outstanding choices for landscape work.

  1. Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 GM
  2. Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM
  3. Sony FE 50mm f/1.1 GM
  4. Sony FE 135mm f/1.8 GM
  5. Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM or Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G
  6. Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS II

The Sony 35mm f/1.4 GM is a terrific all-arounder. Hard to beat for all sorts of photography. There are so many fine choices in the Sony lineup, but the items above are hard to beat.

Sony A1 and Recommended Lenses (partial list)
$2998 SAVE $200 = 6.0% Sony a7R IVA Mirrorless Camera IN STOCK in Cameras: Mirrorless
$3498 SAVE $400 = 10.0% Sony a7R V Mirrorless Camera IN STOCK in Cameras: Mirrorless
$2898 SAVE $100 = 3.0% Sony 12-24mm f/2.8 FE GM BACK IN STOCK in Lenses: Mirrorless
$798 SAVE $100 = 11.0% Sony 20mm f/1.8 FE G IN STOCK in Lenses: Mirrorless
$1298 SAVE $100 = 7.0% Sony 24mm f/1.4 FE GM IN STOCK in Lenses: Mirrorless
$1298 SAVE $100 = 7.0% Sony 35mm f/1.4 FE GM IN STOCK in Lenses: Mirrorless
$1898 SAVE $100 = 5.0% Sony 50mm f/1.2 FE GM Lens (Sony E) IN STOCK in Lenses: Mirrorless
$998 SAVE $100 = 9.0% Sony 90mm f/2.8 FE Macro G OSS IN STOCK in Lenses: Mirrorless
$1898 SAVE $100 = 5.0% Sony 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 FE G OSS IN STOCK in Lenses: Mirrorless

Fujifilm GFX100S system

I would prioritize lenses as follows:

  1. Fujifilm GF 50mm f/3.5
  2. Fujifilm GF 23mm f/4
  3. Fujifilm GF 250mm f/4
  4. Fujifilm GF 110mm f/2
  5. Fujifilm GF 30mm f/3.5

The Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 is a perfectly good substitute for the 50/3.5, as is the Fujifilm GF 63mm f/2.8. But neither is as enjoyable to carry, or as well behaved (focus shift).

I have little interest in the zooms unless by chance I could obtain exceptionally good copies—difficult and time consuming. That said, the Fujifilm GF 45-100mm f/4 and Fujifilm GF 32-64mm f/4 can be very useful. I don’t think they Fujifilm GF 35-70mm f/4.5-5.6 is likely to be a strong performer (it is compromised for slow speed and compactness), but I will reserve judgment until I test it.

Dr S writes:

Just a note that I agree 100% with your choices of "Cameras of the Year." Beginning of this year I have sold off much of my previous gear....Nikon, Canon, and some older Sony A7xx bodies to help defray some of the cost of the A1 and 3 months ago....the Fujifilm Gfx100S.  GF lens quality is really "through the roof" and of the 7 purchased only one had to be returned for severe lens skew.  Sony's GM lenses seem to be getting better and I have not had to return any.

Why have 2 complete systems?  You indicated correctly.  Sony has created a truly all around cam/system that can satisfy all one's photographic needs.  However, the sheer resolving power and visual acuity the Fujifilm GFx100S brings, makes it a must have for static objects as long as you don't have to carry the entire kit for miles on your back.

As I settle into the retirement stage of my life it will be augmented with gear that will provide exceptional results as long as the "retired" person behind the lens captures the image correctly.

Thanks for all the reviews this past year and, as always, causing my bank account to shrink.  It has been well worth it even though my wife may not think so.

DIGLLOYD: great!

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