Fujifilm GFX50R - The Ultimate Travel Camera?

Sunrise over Hiroshima Bay
GFX50R + GF100-200mm f5.6 - 1/250s @ f5.6 ISO100
One of the joys of my job is the bonus of travelling to some fantastic destinations.  Of all the countries I visit Japan is by far and away my favourite and I have been lucky to have visited the Land of Rising Sun nine times since 2012.

I usually fly to Tokyo and spend a few personal days travelling around the city or in the area to the north or south of Tokyo, but in 2019 I decided to fly to Osaka and spend some time in the south of the country.  I also decided to take the medium format Fujifilm GFX50R, along with the GF32-64mm f4 and the GF100-200mm f5.6 zooms, to see if this was going to be my ultimate travel camera outfit.

TWO DAYS IN HIROSHIMA
I flew into Kansai International Airport and, after collecting a hire car, I drove 230 miles west to Hiroshima for the first stop on my itinerary.  As a student of history I have always wanted to visit the Peace Park and museum in Hiroshima and try to understand the aftermath of the dropping of the first atomic bomb in August 1945.

Hiroshima
GFX50R + GF100-200mm f5.6 - 1/500s @ f5.6 ISO100
Today Hiroshima is home to nearly 1.2 million people and is a busy port.  I drove to my hotel, the Grand Prince Hiroshima, near Motojina Park and overlooking the Hiroshima bay, and settled in for the night.  The next morning I got up early, which was thanks in part to the alarm I had set and a bit of jet-lag, and went for a walk around the Motojinamachi peninsula and the Motojina Park.  I took the GFX50R, the two zooms and my Manfrotto BeFree carbon fibre travel tripod, which is strong enough to hold the 'chunky' medium format camera and lens.

Hiroshima Bay
GFX50R + GF32-64mm f4 - 1/320s @ f5.6 ISO50
Watching the sunrise over the mountains to the east and seeing the fishing boats heading out to sea is a great way to start your day and this is something I do on a regular basis at home in Scotland.  I might have been half a world away from my home in Dunbar but the same rhythms of life abound.

I decided to set the GFX to the 65:24 format to capture some panoramic images.  As I was shooting JPEG and RAW - RAW to card 1 and JPEG to card 2 - I knew I had access to the full sized 4:3 RAW files if I wanted to.  I love shooting in this format when I am travelling, there is something about a panoramic wide image that gives the viewer a sweeping view of a scene.  The fact it is still shot with a moderately wide 32mm (21mm in full frame terms) field of view doesn't really matter.

Motojina Park, Hiroshima
GFX50R + GF32-64mm f4 - 1/320s @ f5.6 ISO200
The fishing boats were heading across the bay as the sun came over the top of the distant hill tops and the light on the water was just wonderful.  I even spotted a heron fishing near the shore and switched over to the 100-200mm zoom to capture a few shots.  I purposely over exposed one shot as it was backlit by the sun, which produced a Japanese style painting effect that was just perfect.  Luckily the heron was so intent on his fishing that he didn't move a muscle during the longish 1/2s exposure.

Motojina Park, Hiroshima
GFX50R + GF100-200mm f5.6 - 0.5s @ f32 ISO50

I watched a large car transporter and a tug boat heading into Hiroshima Bay before I headed back to the hotel to grab some breakfast.

It was then time to head into Hiroshima and to the Peace Park.  I took the bus into town and went down to the river to see the Genbaku Dome or the Atomic Bomb Dome. This is the ruin of the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall and was the only building that was left standing near the epicentre of the blast.  It has been preserved as a memorial of the bombing and as a symbol of peace.

The Atomic Dome, Hiroshima
GFX50R + GF100-200mm f5.6 - 1/320s @ f5.6 ISO100
In 1996 the dome was registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List based on its survival from a destructive force, the first use of nuclear weapons on a human population and its representation as a symbol of peace.

The Atomic Dome, Hiroshima
GFX50R + GF100-200mm f5.6 - 1/500s @ f5.6 ISO100
The Atomic Dome, Hiroshima
GFX50R + GF100-200mm f5.6 - 1/250s @ f5.6 ISO100
After walking around the Peace Park I visited the museum.  This presents visitors with some of the facts of what happened on the 6th August 1945 and the  results of dropping a nuclear weapon on a human population.  There are recordings from survivors of the bomb and there are plenty of exhibits showing graphic detail of the effects of a nuclear blast.  It was the shadow outline of a person who was sitting on the steps of a bank when the bomb went off that left the biggest impression on me.  All that was left was the dark shadow.

Hiroshima Peace Park
GFX50R + GF32-64mm f4 - 1/500s @ f4 ISO100
After that thought provoking couple of hours I headed back into the sunshine to walk back to the hotel.

The next day I got back in the car and headed east back towards Osaka.  I stopped overnight in Kobe to watch a game of rugby.  Japan was hosting the Rugby World Cup and I had managed to get a ticket to the Scotland v Samao game in Kobe thanks to my contacts at Fujifilm Japan.

The view from the hotel at Nakatsugawa
GFX50R + GF100-200mm f5.6 - 1/80s @ f5.6 ISO200
HEADING TO MAGOME-JUKU
The next day I drove 170 miles from Kobe to Nakatsugawa as I wanted to visit Magome-Juku, one of  the post towns on the ancient road that connected the ancient capital of Japan Kyoto to Edo during the Edo period.  This is on a well preserved section of the old route and thousands of people walk through this beautiful part of the Japanese countryside.

Magome-Juku
GFX50R + GF32-64mm f4 - 1/200s @ f6.4 ISO200
The central feature of Magome-Juku is the restored row of houses along the former post road, which runs at a slope the town's low and high ends. At the top of the town there are panoramic views over the surrounding countryside and the 2190m / 7,185ft Mount Ena.

Magome-Juku
GFX50R + GF100-200mm f5.6 - 1/250s @ f6.4 ISO250

After Magome-Juku I headed to Gotemba to begin the five days of work at Fuji International Speedway with the FIA World Endurance Championship.  However my hotel had a magnificent view of Mount Fuji and I captured this image from my room with the GFX50R and GF100-200mm f5.6.

Sunrise over Mount Fuji
GFX50R + GF100-200mm f5.6 - 1/160s @ f5.6 ISO640
USING THE GFX50R
I had also taken my Fujifilm X-Series cameras and lenses to Japan as I needed them for work later in the week.  The X-T3 or X-Pro2 would be my go to travel companion but for this trip they stayed in the bag.

There is no getting away from it, the GFX50R is no compact camera but if you want medium format quality it certainly is a lightweight system.  The camera itself is a joy to use and the two lenses offer superb quality while covering most of the focal lengths I use when travelling.

The 51.4mp CMOS 43.8x32.9mm CMOS sensor offers a significant 1.7 times increase in size over a standard 36mm x 24mm full frame sensor with greater light gathering capabilities.

I didn't find carrying the GFX50R a chore at any point during my travels in Japan, even with either of the two large lenses attached.

Using the camera is pretty easy if you are used to operating an X Series camera.  The menu is pretty much the same and the dials and buttons are all familiar.  It is like having a large X-Pro body without the optical viewfinder (which I rarely use on my X-Pro2 anyway).  Operation of the camera is slower, this is no sports camera.

I found myself slowing down and being more selective with my shots, which is a good thing to be honest.  I had two 32gb SD cards in the camera and, because of the RAW file sizes (compressed lossless), I only had 230 shots per card.  So I shot more considerately - in fact it was more like shooting film when you had to think about what you shot as each roll only had 36 shots.

GF32-64mm f4
The GF32-64mm f4 is a joy to use.  This is the standard lens for the GFX system, with a equivalent focal range of 21-51mm.  I actually prefer using this lens for landscapes over the prime GF23mm f4.

GF100-200mm f5.6
It was the first time I had used the GF100-200mm f5.6 and I wasn't sure if I was going to like it with its relatively slow f5.6 aperture.  However I was wrong!  Like the 32-64mm the 100-200mm is a joy to use.  I would've preferred an f4 aperture but the f5.6 makes this a pretty compact lens.  It also has an Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) system to help with camera shake at slower shutter speeds.

The focal length is the equivalent of 79-158mm in full frame terms, which is pretty useful when travelling.  It can even take the 1.4x converter to increase the focal length to an equivalent 111- 221mm but at a loss of one stop.

CONCLUSION
I loved using the GFX50R in Japan and I was ready to press the 'buy' button on this at the end of March but, like most people around the world, the Covid19 pandemic has severely affected my income streams.  Yes it's bigger than a 'normal' camera but the quality is amazing and it is lightweight for medium format.

There is also the cost but with the recent reductions in price the GFX50R is the most affordable medium format camera on the market.  WEX currently have the GFX50R with an £800 reduction on the RRP at £3199 body only.  They also have the GF32-64mm at £1945 and the GF100-200mm at £1620.  This is serious money for a travel camera but if you want top quality images then this is a good option.

Since I went to Japan Fujifilm have launched the GF45-100mm f4 lens, which WEX are selling at £1845, which is good compromise lens for traveling with.

I have bought the new X-T4 in recent months because that is needed for my core sports photography / video business, where as the GFX50R would be used mainly for landscapes and travel.  Once we are back on our feet, and the income streams start up again, I will be certainly looking again at the GFX50R for my travels.  It is a great camera.

CLICK HERE for more information on the GFX50R

The Atomic Dome, Hiroshima
GFX50R + GF100-200mm f5.6 - 1/320s @ f5.6 ISO100
Hiroshima Bay
GFX50R + GF32-64mm f4 - 10s @ f13 ISO50
Motojina Park, Hiroshima
GFX50R + GF32-64mm f4 - 1/125s @ f5.6 ISO50
Hiroshima Bay
GFX50R + GF32-64mm f4 - 1/320s @ f5.6 ISO200
The Rolling Hills of Japan
GFX50R + GF100-200mm f5.6 - 1/500s @ f5.6 ISO200
Car Transporter and Tug - Hiroshima Bay
GFX50R + GF32-64mm f4 - 1/160s @ f5.6 ISO160
Magome-Juku
GFX50R + GF32-64mm f4 - 1/200s @ f4 ISO200
Magome-Juku
GFX50R + GF32-64mm f4 - 1/200s @ f6.4 ISO200
Magome-Juku
GFX50R + GF100-200mm f5.6 - 1/320s @ f5.6 ISO250
Magome-Juku
GFX50R + GF100-200mm f5.6 - 1/640s @ f5.6 ISO250
Magome-Juku
GFX50R + GF100-200mm f5.6 - 1/400s @ f5.6 ISO250
Magome-Juku
GFX50R + GF100-200mm f5.6 - 1/500s @ f5.6 ISO250
Magome-Juku
GFX50R + GF100-200mm f5.6 - 1/250s @ f5.6 ISO250
Magome-Juku
GFX50R + GF100-200mm f5.6 - 1/60s @ f6.4 ISO200
Magome-Juku
GFX50R + GF32-64mm f4 - 1/1250s @ f4 ISO250

Mount Fuji from Gotemba
GFX50R + GF32-64mm f4 - 1/320s @ f5 ISO50

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