Five years ago today Fujifilm announced the GFX 50S camera, which launched the GFX medium-format line. The camera’s initial MSRP was $6,500, which was an insanely low price for medium-format, so it is no surprise that Fujifilm quickly became top-dog of the medium-format market.
I remember when Pentax released the 645D in 2010 with a price tag of “only” $10,000. People were shocked that you could get into medium-format so cheaply. Four years later the much improved 645Z was released with an even cheaper cost of $8,500, and people went nuts. Three years later Fujifilm undercut Pentax by $2,000 while delivering a superior camera. Finally, medium-format was affordable!
Of course, Fujifilm didn’t stop there. A year later they released the even cheaper (and much more cool) GFX 50R, with an MSRP of only $4,500! The GFX100 came next, which was the world’s first 100-megapixel mirrorless camera, at a whopping $10,000 price tag (remember when that was shockingly cheap?). Then came the GFX100S, a 100-megapixel model for only $6,000. A few months back Fujifilm released the GFX 50S II, an upgrade to the original GFX camera, with a retail price of only $4,000. Fujifilm has brought medium-format down to the price point of top-tier full-frame. It’s really quite amazing!
Despite the relatively low cost of GFX, it’s still out of my budget. The only time that I was able to shoot with one was last year when Fujifilm kindly loaned me a GFX 50S for a few weeks (read about it here). Maybe someday I’ll own one—that would be a dream come true. In the short time that I had my hands on it, I made three film simulation recipes for GFX: Classic Negative Industrial, Ektachrome, and Provia 400. GFX owners can use X-Trans IV recipes, as the X-T3 and X-T30 recipes are compatible with the “older” GFX models while the recipes for newer X-Trans IV cameras are compatible with newer GFX models. For example, in the video below, I used the Kodak Vision3 250D recipe on the GFX 50S with much success.
A lot of people have questioned Fujifilm’s decision to skip full-frame. When they launched their APS-C X-Trans line, crop sensors were generally regarded as for amateurs and not professionals. That mindset, of course, has changed significantly over the last 10 years as the quality of APS-C cameras has closed the gap on lower-end full-frame cameras, and in some aspects surpassed it. More and more professional and advanced enthusiasts are ditching their bulky full-frame gear for light and nimble APS-C models, like the Fujifilm X-T4. And some cameras, like the X100 and X-Pro series, are just more fun. So sticking with the smaller sensor wasn’t such a mistake after all.
As for GFX, not only has Fujifilm dominated the medium-format market since introducing the GFX 50S five years ago, but they’ve also been able to compete against the high-end full-frame market. People are asking, “Should I spend $6,500 on a Sony Alpha 1 or $6,000 on a GFX100S?” And, “Should I buy the Canon EOS R5 for $3,900 or the GFX 50S II for only $100 more?” So Fujifilm is able to attack the full-frame market from both the bottom and top, while not investing any R&D into launching a new system. Where Fujifilm cannot compete is with mid-range full-frame cameras. I think Fujifilm could do a 40-ish megapixel X100-like full-frame fixed-lens camera, which would be absolutely wonderful, and wouldn’t require investments into a new system—that’s the most practical way for Fujifilm to get into the mid-range full-frame market, and otherwise it’s just not in their cards, which I’m completely alright with.
It’s quite an accomplishment to enter and completely dominate a market segment within such a short period of time, yet that’s exactly what Fujifilm has done with GFX. It all began with the launch of the GFX 50S five years ago today.
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