For this week’s letter I used a monster of a digital medium format camera for a portrait shoot. This was made possible by my friends over at MPB.com who let me borrow a Fujifilm GFX 100s from their assortment of used photo and video gear.
The Process Giveaway returns next week!
Considering Digital Medium Format
About a year ago, in Process 047, I laid out my camera arsenal and explained the specific use case for each of the cameras. While I shoot with three different analog medium format cameras (6x4.5, 6x6, 6x7) I have never owned a digital one. With the rising cost of film in mind I’ve been increasingly curious about whether a digital medium format camera could have a place in my set up particularly for shoots with an urgent deadline or a lower budget.
A few weeks ago I was introduced to the folks over at MPB and they kindly partnered up with me to lend me some amazing cameras and lenses from their assortment to test out. MPB has been around since 2011 and buys, sells, and trades used photo and video gear, fully inspected and guaranteed by product specialists.
Once a month for the next six months I will borrow a special piece of gear to use and write about. It was only right to start off with the digital medium format camera that I was most curious about: Fujifilm’s GFX 100s.
Portraits of a Dancer
One of my main personal projects at the moment is Creatives In, for which I photograph a diverse set of Amsterdam-based creatives in their spaces. Most recently I visited Svetlin Velchev who is a choreographer, visual artist, and performer.
I captured his choreography with my trusty Canon 5D Mark IV, which excels at freezing fast movement for a perfect still image (see below).
After capturing Svetlin’s wonderful movement with a camera built for speed, I wanted to slow our story down and capture some quiet portraits. The perfect occasion to test the Fujifilm GFX 100s. We started with the two portraits below, taken in the hallway where a skylight provided us with lovely natural light.
My creative goal for these portraits was to create images that look perfectly at home as the lead image for a feature article in an editorial magazine. A full page, full bleed image to pre-empt the text and introduce the subject of our story.
The GFX did a great job straight out of the camera. It handles light very well and with the help of one of their in-camera film simulations the colors are much lovelier than cameras straight out of my Canon camera. My only criticism is that the Fujifilm 45mm 2.8 lens is just a tad “too clean” for my taste.
After these straightforward portraits in the hallway we went back into Svetlin’s studio and set up the LED lights that he uses when making his choreography videos.
We set up one LED light on either side of Svetlin and dialed them into various colors to create some beautiful blending in the shadows. I was super impressed with how the GFX handled light here once again, now with artificial light.
I’ve been a power user of Fujifilm’s little X100F camera so I was already very familiar with their color science and internal film simulations. In my opinion it is better than any other digital camera brand I have used and the GFX 100S only confirmed this. Below are somore more images from our color experiments.
As long as the subject doesn’t move too much this camera is great at registering skin, emotion, and color. The files are very large, around 100mb per image, which means there’s lots of opportunity to crop in and lift details into fresh new compositions.
For the next set of portraits I shot black and white using the Acros film simulation to create a moodier vibe in another attempt to get away from the clean look the lens produces natively. Using natural light from a window and some items laying around to obscure the view we created the set below.
A few days later I took some more natural light portraits in black and white with model Tinotenda Mushore while we had some tea at a restaurant. Never not shooting.
I was very pleased with the experience of shooting the Fujifilm GFX 100s paired with the GF 45mm f2.8 lens. I can absolutely see a place for it in my set-up and would use it specifically for creative portraiture, headshots, and editorial work.
I’m impressed with its ability to get the exposure and white balance so perfect that I barely have to do anything in my edits to get it to where it needs to be. This saves a lot of time and is certainly not the case with any other digital camera I’ve shot with before aside from the Fuji x100f. I love the nuanced film simulations, how the camera handles ergonomically, and how silent it works. It’s a camera that made me want to shoot even more often, which is pretty great.
Since I found the 45mm lens a bit too clean and clinical I would be interesting in trying out other lenses to find some with more character. And if all else fails, I can throw an adapter on this baby and use my Pentax glass. (See the results of that here.)
Overall the GFX is a great complement to my Canon 5d which operates as an all-use workhorse and would still win out for shoots that involve a lot of fast movement. It was painful to send the GFX back right when I started to unlock it’s power! I’d love to use it for more upcoming Creatives In shoots and editorial work in the future.
Shout out to Taylor Hammond for assisting me on this shoot.
That’s it for this week! Once again thank you to the good folks over at MBP.com for making this issue possible. For the next six months I will borrow some very special gear to test. Next month: a modern digital back for my 50 year old Hasselblad camera.
But first, next week I share more stories on How I Started as a Professional Photographer in chapter 2 of this series. If you missed chapter 1, read it here.
Keep shooting and take good care of yourselves and others.
PS You already know this but all my film work is developed and scanned by my friends at Carmencita Film Lab. Use code “PROCESS” at check out to get a free size upgrade.
PPS If you’re in the market for a GFX 100S yourself MPB currently has ten used Fujifilm GFX 100s in their assortment and a section for students great setups for under €500.
Process Giveaway - Recommending Female Photographers
The randomly drawn winner of the Process x Photogenic Supply Giveaway from Process 085 is Chris Vandebroek from Belgium.
Chris has won a PRIZE courtesy of my friends at Photogenic Supply Co based in Philadelphia. Chris will receive a copy of The Photographer's Coloring Book full of gorgeous technical drawings of cameras, and a Set of 3 Photographer’s Socks.
We asked the question:
Who is your favorite female photographer, and why?
And Chris answered: “Mary Ellen Mark is definitely up high on the list of all time greats. Susan Meiselas quite next to her with a great portfolio on documentary work.”
To read almost one hundred other recommended female photographers, dive into last week’s comments here. Get inspired and add your own if you haven’t already.
Did you enjoy this issue? Share it with a friend who might love it too.
Can’t get enough? Browse the Process Archives.
Find me on Glass / LinkedIn / Instagram / Twitter / Pocket / YouTube
Thanks for reading Process by Wesley Verhoeve! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
I really enjoyed this article and the prior process 005 it linked to. I have several film cameras, 35mm and medium format, and I picked up a Fuji X-Pro2 used from MBP last year and the 23mm, 70mm fixed and recently the 2.8 16-55 that photos look like from a prime lens. I have been really impressed with the color rendition and ease of use with the manual controls on the X-Pro2. I have also experimented with a screw mount adaptar and several screw mount primes like a Yashica 50mm 1.4, Chinon 35mm 2.8 and Mamiya/Sekor 135mm 2.8. The adaptor has the pin so when stopping up or down in manual mode I get metering and focus assist! The results so far are sharp but softer than the Fuji glass, more of an analog look. The film simulations and grain effects in camera are available as well so I I want to try some portraits next weekend and see what happens. The GFX100s and lenses would be wonderful of course; I would love to grab a GFX 50R, like the one you borrowed for Process 005. Even though the tech is older, and the files are smaller, I really like the rangefinder feel. And saving some disk space! That will take some saving up for lol.
The GFX is beautiful, but unfortunately a nightmare on bigger sets where reliable tethering is crucial. I wonder if the GFX 100s works better in that regard. My digi tech and me basically came to the conclusion that the bigger files don't outweigh the reliability issues. But still...the files out of cam look great.