There has been an awful lot of hype surrounding the latest Fujifilm medium format camera, The Fujifilm GFX 50s. With many photographers raving about the image quality from the G format sensor, the solid magnesium body, and the depth and scope of the RAW files, I was keen to give it a go myself!
In November, as part of PhotoJourney, a group of 5 photographers we travelled to the Eastern Villages of Nepal, to highlight the work of The Gurkha Welfare Trust in this particularly beautiful region of the country.
This trip seemed the perfect opportunity to really give the GFX a good thorough testing from a travel photographers point of view, and I was keen to pair it with the GF 120mm f4, prime lens to give me the longest lens available to the GFX currently, as I normally use the 55-140 mm f2.8 on my Fujifilm X-T2 for the majority of my travel portraiture.
I packed up the Billingham with the new kit, and embarked on my next adventure! We arrived in Kathmandu and were met with the customary Nepali welcome, a huge smile and Namaste!
After a night in Kathmandu we headed off to our first destination of Rumjatar up in the Solukhumbu district of Nepal. Staying at one of the Gurkha welfare trusts beautiful centres we had a brilliant base to really explore the village, and get a real feel of such a remote community.
From Rumjatar we were on the hunt for the perfect view of Everest, (also named Sagarmāthā in Nepali), we were not disappointed! We had been warned that the visibility can sometimes be difficult, however luck was on our side and the vista was incredible, and we spent a good couple of hours in Tingla, just marvelling at the amazing sight of the top of the world!
It was here that the GFX really came into its own, the detail that the sensor was able to capture was incredible, as this 100% extract demonstrates. It was even more impressive when using the enlarged live view capability (just a quick press and dial of the rear command dial).
It was real pleasure to see what this camera was capable of, and I have to say it really did surpass all of my expectations! I shot all images on this trip in RAW at the 4:3 ratio, as I wanted to see the real potential of the larger files, a staggering 8256×6192 pixels equating to file sizes of around 51mb!!
At these sizes you may be forgiven for thinking that the processing would become an issue, on the contrary, I found the files just as easy to process as with my other Fuji bodies, there was just more (ALOT more) information, making the final print output a wonder, full of detail and dynamic range.
Whilst up in the hills (roughly at around 3000m) we were treated to a beautiful portrait shoot from a Sherpa and her little baby, there is just something so photogenic about the Nepalis in their natural environments. The GFX again came up with the goods, and the warmth of the tones seems to really suit the style of portraiture that I do.
From Rumjatar we then set off to the far East of Nepal and arrived in Dharan, the home of one of the Gurkha welfare trusts residential homes, where we were treated to another wonderful welcome and the chance to take some character portraits of the incredible residents, some of whom were well into their 90’s and had amazing energy and zest for life, mostly I am sure down to the wonderful care that they receive in the centre.
For the portraits I tried to keep them consistent and simple, so as to really highlight the characters of the subjects, using natural light, and shallow depth of field (f4) on the 120mm lens, my aim was to let the energy of the subject shine through.
On the home straight now and an epic 10 hour journey back to Kathmandu and then home, but not before we had a final day of shooting at one of my favourite places in Kathmandu, Pashupatinath temple, an extremely spiritual and beautiful location for portraiture. Here I was impressed with the build of the GFX, with its weather and dust sealed body it was very much needed in the difficult environment of the Ghat. Dust, ash and thousands of people made for a heady atmosphere, which for a photographer can be exciting and exhilarating, however any gear needs to meet upto all of the photographers needs with ease.
The GFX with its compact style was easy to slip back into the Billingham when not in use, and easy and fast to respond when needed.
So after two wonderful weeks in Nepal with the GFX, I was hooked! And a little bit sad to see it go back! I am sure we’ll meet again for future trips, and maybe I will try out some of the different lenses. However the kit that I took was the perfect choice for me, and I would recommend any traveller this kit for a good all round system. Especially if your main subject is portraits.
The only down point of this test for me, was the knowledge that once I tried the GFX I was going to fall in love with it!
I’d better get saving!