Is Medium Format Now Viable for Wildlife Images?

Is Medium Format Now Viable for Wildlife Images?

It’s not typically {that a} product could be described as a game-changer, irrespective of how a lot the time period is overused in advertising. Nonetheless, the introduction of the Fuji GF 500mm f/5.6 lens might qualify. With this lens, for the primary time ever, medium format generally is a platform for severe wildlife pictures.

Though I’m excited concerning the potentialities that the GF 500mm f/5.6 may provide, it isn’t my intention right now to gush over the brand new lens. Fairly, I wish to replicate on the professionals and cons of medium format for wildlife pictures because it stands right now.

Fuji GFX 500mm_sample images_Michal Krause (11)
The Fuji GFX 100 II with the GF 500mm f/5.6 lens
Fuji GFX 500mm_sample images_Michal Krause (13)
GFX100 II + GF500mmF5.6 R LM OIS WR @ 500mm, ISO 2000, 1/250, f/8.0 © Michal Krause

The State of Medium Format for Wildlife Images

Most medium format cameras right now usually are not geared towards wildlife pictures within the slightest. They’re typically a lot slower-paced cameras than something on the full-frame or APS-C market. Even the most affordable crop-sensor cameras right now no less than have steady autofocus! But some medium format cameras, just like the $8200 Hasselblad 907X & 100C, don’t.

Different wildlife-oriented options like excessive body charges, topic recognition, and in-body picture stabilization are additionally absent. Worst of all, only a few medium format lenses are geared towards photographing distant topics. This can be a painful mixture that makes it virtually unimaginable to make use of medium format for wildlife pictures, until your topic is close by and standing fairly nonetheless.

Bison Photo Hasselblad 90V f2.5 Lens
Hasselblad CFV 100C/907X + XCD 90V @ 90mm, ISO 800, 1/400, f/2.5 © Spencer Cox

Then there’s the query of worth. Even the uncommon telephoto lenses that do exist for medium format are prohibitively costly for many mortals. For instance, purchase a lens just like the Schneider 240mm LS Blue Ring f/4.5 AF, and your pockets can be $7300 lighter (plus an additional $2000 for the 2x teleconverter). Till now, the one cheap “wildlife lens” for medium format was the Pentax 400mm f/5.6 AF, however Pentax’s growing older medium format DSLRs are fairly unsuited to wildlife work.

Enter Fujifilm, stage proper. Their lately introduced GFX 100S II sells for $5000, which is lower than a full-frame flagship just like the Nikon Z9 or Sony a1. But it consists of topic recognition, steady autofocus, and seven FPS capturing. Pair it with the $3500 GF 500mm f/5.6 that was simply launched, and it’s a very viable possibility for wildlife pictures.

Fuji GFX 500mm_sample images_Michal Krause (4)
GFX100 II + GF500mmF5.6 R LM OIS WR @ 500mm, ISO 2000, 1/1000, f/5.6 © Michal Krause

Picture High quality and Crop Issue

Medium format cameras have some important picture high quality benefits over full-frame and smaller sensors. At base ISO, they normally have higher dynamic vary, coloration depth, and backbone than full-frame sensors from the identical technology. In recent times, even excessive ISO efficiency has favored medium format over full-frame.

Nonetheless, one reality working in opposition to medium format sensors for wildlife pictures is their crop issue. Because of the bigger sensor, the crop issue of most medium digital format cameras is 0.79x, as you’ll be able to see from the picture under.

Sensor Size Comparison
Sensor measurement comparability

With a 0.79x crop-factor digital camera just like the GFX 100S II, Fuji’s new 500mm f/5.6 is equal to a 400mm f/4.5 lens on full-frame. It’s also suitable with Fuji’s 1.4x teleconverter, providing a 700mm f/8 lens (560mm f/6.3 full-frame equal).This isn’t unhealthy by any stretch, however there may be at the moment no method to obtain longer focal lengths should you want it.

The excellent news is that you would be able to compensate for a few of this by cropping the picture, which isn’t onerous on a 100-megapixel sensor. For instance, cropping the GFX 100S II right down to a full-frame space nonetheless gives 61 megapixels left over. This implies that you would be able to truly put extra pixels on a distant topic with a 100-megapixel medium format sensor in comparison with a 45-megapixel full-frame sensor, given two lenses of the identical focal size.

Fuji GFX 500mm_sample images_Michal Krause (7)
GFX100 II + GF500mmF5.6 R LM OIS WR @ 500mm, ISO 640, 1/1000, f/8.0 © Michal Krause

All the things appears to be in favor of the massive sensor, proper? Are there any clouds within the medium format sky? Effectively, the primary cloud of doubt seems whenever you have a look at the file measurement. Uncompressed RAW information from the GFX 100S II are round 200MB, and compressed ones round 150MB. This locations large calls for on the dimensions and pace of reminiscence playing cards, storage, and laptop energy.

Subsequent, it’s good to actually reply the query: “What does an enormous 102MP medium format decision get me?” Such a decision and degree of element is clearly overkill for any digital-based show. Until you’re making giant exhibition prints or cropping to excessive ranges, 102 megapixels is way over most individuals will want.

And aside from the sensor itself, there are numerous different questions that come up when you think about medium format for wildlife pictures. Under, I’ll undergo the issues of autofocus, steady capturing, picture stabilization, dealing with, and lens choice as they relate to Fuji’s present scenario.

Fuji GFX 500mm_sample images_Michal Krause (5)
GFX100 II + GF500mmF5.6 R LM OIS WR @ 500mm, ISO 800, 1/250, f/8.0 © Michal Krause


Most medium format cameras can’t compete the place autofocus is anxious. Fuji is the exception, with the GFX 100 II and GFX 100S II having automated topic detection of individuals, birds, mammals, bugs, plane, and varied different topics. These cameras additionally use a hybrid phase-detect/contrast-detect system that’s primarily based on the autofocus capabilities of their APS-C X-Sequence cameras. These options are what enable us to take images just like the one under on medium format, arguably for the primary time.

Fuji GFX 500mm_sample images_Michal Krause (12)
GFX100 II + GF500mmF5.6 R LM OIS WR @ 500mm, ISO 2500, 1/1000, f/8.0 © Michal Krause

My good friend Michal Krause is the one who primarily examined the Fuji GF 500mm f/5.6, and also you’ll see that a lot of the images on this article are his. Throughout my time with the lens (and GFX 100 II), my impression is that it centered very equally to the Fuji X-H2. You may learn my X-H2 impressions right here, however I discovered that digital camera to be a fast focuser and good at monitoring topics.

In my expertise with the medium format mixture, when the chook was comparatively near the digital camera, the AF generally hesitated slightly. On one event, it even appeared to freeze, and refused to reply to repeated presses of the AF-ON button. These are the sorts of issues that the primary firmware replace will hopefully repair – I used to be testing a pre-production pattern of the lens. We noticed one thing comparable with the 150-600mm X-Mount lens, which went on to be mounted.

Fuji GFX 500mm_sample images_Michal Krause (15)
GFX100 II + GF500mmF5.6 R LM OIS WR @ 500mm, ISO 1000, 1/2000, f/7.1 © Michal Krause

Michal despatched me lots of images to decide on for this text, and I received’t publish all 58 images of the flying seagull that he gave me (one among them is proven under). However all of the images in that sequence had been sharply in focus. So, with minor nitpicks, I imagine it’s honest to say that medium format is now able to specializing in fast-moving motion, even topics like birds in flight.

Fuji GFX 500mm_sample images_Michal Krause (3)
GFX100 II + GF500mmF5.6 R LM OIS WR @ 500mm, ISO 800, 1/2000, f/8.0 © Michal Krause

Steady Taking pictures

Even the quickest medium format cameras can’t compete with most full-frame cameras the place steady capturing is anxious – not to mention equally priced cameras just like the Nikon Z9 or Canon EOS R3. The GFX 100S II can attain 7 FPS reasonably than one thing like 20+ FPS. That stated, 7 FPS is hardly unimaginable to make use of for wildlife pictures. Even a fantastic digital camera just like the Nikon D850 manages 7 fps (9 fps with the MB-D18). Most wildlife doesn’t want 20 FPS to seize the best pose.

Curiously, the utmost body price of the GFX 100 II with digital shutter is barely 5 fps. Nonetheless, I don’t suggest utilizing the digital shutter anyway attributable to rolling shutter results, that are extra important on such a big, high-resolution sensor. For that reason, full-frame will probably stay the chief in high-FPS capabilities for the foreseeable future.

At the least the buffer is sweet – the aforementioned 58-image burst was taken on a UHS-II SD card and didn’t exhibit any slowdown. The Fuji GFX 100S II accepts twin UHS-II SD playing cards, whereas the dearer GFX 100 II accepts one UHS-II SD and one CFExpress Sort B.

Fuji GFX 500mm_sample images_Michal Krause (8)
GFX100 II + GF500mmF5.6 R LM OIS WR @ 500mm, ISO 1250, 1/1000, f/8.0 © Michal Krause

Picture Stabilization

Extremely-high decision sensors are unforgiving. To profit from them, it’s mandatory to make use of both secure shutter speeds or efficient picture stabilization. Fuji claims that their in-body picture stabilization system is able to as much as 8 stops of vibration discount. My expertise with the pre-production pattern is that the restrict of pixel-level sharpness with the 500mm f/5.6 lens is round 1/200 second handheld. That’s not notably spectacular, though for a 100-megapixel sensor, maybe it isn’t stunning.

Fuji GFX 500mm_sample images_Michal Krause (2)
GFX100 II + GF500mmF5.6 R LM OIS WR @ 500mm, ISO 160, 1/250, f/9.0 © Michal Krause

Dealing with

Once I first picked up the GFX 100 II with the brand new 500mm f/5.6, I used to be stunned at how mild the entire equipment is. The physique itself, together with the battery, is 1030 grams (2.27 kilos). That’s 310 g lighter than the Nikon Z9 – and the GFX 100S II is even lighter nonetheless, at 883 g (1.95 kilos). The lens isn’t too heavy both, weighing 1375 g (3.03 kilos). Nikon’s equal Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S weighs solely rather less at 1160 g (2.56 kilos).

The result’s that you would be able to get a medium format system for wildlife pictures that weighs lower than the Nikon Z9 with the Nikon Z 400mm f/4.5 S. That’s not a foul end result in any respect.

Fuji GFX 500mm_sample images_Michal Krause (6)
GFX100 II + GF500mmF5.6 R LM OIS WR @ 500mm, ISO 400, 1/250, f/8.0 © Michal Krause

Other than the lightness, the opposite dominant impression was the sensation of holding one thing acquainted in my palms. Fuji’s medium format cameras undoubtedly borrow lots of their DNA from the X-Sequence APS-C cameras that I’m aware of. The controls are comparable, together with the clickable dials. Even the batteries are shared between the 2 techniques. (Although this has the disadvantage of the medium format digital camera dying comparatively quick; I might take into account taking no less than two, if not three, backup batteries for a full day of fixed pictures.)

Wildlife Lenses

Irrespective of how succesful a digital camera is, the actual factor that issues for wildlife pictures is the lens. Till now, this was missing in Fuji’s medium format lineup – their longest possibility was the Fuji GF 250mm f/4, roughly a 200mm f/3.2 full-frame equal. The Fuji GF 500mm f/5.6 adjustments the scenario.

Fujinon 500mm
Fuji GF 500mm f/5.6 R LM OIS WR

The Fuji GF 500mm f/5.6 is analogous in some ways to the aforementioned Nikon Z 400mm f/4.5. Mounted on their very own cameras, each provide nearly equivalent discipline of view and depth of discipline. Each lenses have the identical 95mm filter thread diameter. Their bodily dimensions differ solely in millimeters, and the load distinction is fairly minimal.

Wildlife photographers typically care a few lens’s minimal focusing distance, and the Fuji GF 500mm f/5.6 does effectively in that respect. The utmost magnification of 0.2x (1:5) permits for comparatively small topics to be captured within the body. And the 100-megapixel sensor gives ample room for cropping after the actual fact, so it could actually even work for photographing bigger bugs.

Fuji GFX 500mm_sample images_Michal Krause (16)
GFX100 II + GF500mmF5.6 R LM OIS WR @ 500mm, ISO 1600, 1/250, f/10.0. Picture of dragonfly cropped to 38MP © Michal Krause

The GF 500mm f/5.6 lens has all the same old options you’ll count on from a lens of this kind. Along with the aperture ring, there’s a change for the habits of the 4 buttons on the entrance of the lens (AF-L, preset and AF-ON), a picture stabilization change, a spotlight limiter (full, 5m to infinity), and a SET button to avoid wasting the main focus airplane in reminiscence. Nothing strikes me as lacking.

Different options value highlighting are the Arca-Swiss suitable tripod foot, and the window within the lens hood that permits you to modify a polarizing filter with out eradicating the hood. Most significantly, the lens is suitable with the GF 1.4X TC WR teleconverter. Mixed with this, you get 700mm f/8 (540mm full-frame equal), which provides you a decent attain.


At the start of this text, I requested whether or not medium format is appropriate for wildlife pictures. The reply just isn’t fairly simple. Principally, it would rely upon what you count on out of your images – and whether or not you’re already immersed in a GFX system or simply selecting up a brand new system from scratch.

Which wildlife photographers profit from medium format?

  • Photographers who wish to obtain the upper picture high quality of medium format.
  • Photographers who already personal a medium format digital camera, and the brand new telephoto lens will solely prolong its use to wildlife.
  • These whose total chain, from reminiscence playing cards to highly effective computer systems and enormous storage gadgets, can deal with gigantic information.
  • These for whom the worth of apparatus just isn’t a problem.

Which wildlife photographers ought to persist with full-frame or smaller?

  • Those that discover the decision (typically 45 megapixels or much less) sufficient for his or her show wants.
  • Those that demand a really excessive body price and the quickest autofocus available on the market.
  • Touring photographers, for whom weight and measurement are of the utmost significance.
  • Photographers who demand options distinctive to smaller sensors, similar to auto-capture and pre-release burst.
  • Those that want extra lens choice; there isn’t any 400mm f/2.8, 800mm f/6.3, or many different such lenses for medium format.
  • Photographers on a tighter finances.
Fuji GFX 500mm_sample images_Michal Krause (14)
GFX100 II + GF500mmF5.6 R LM OIS WR @ 500mm, ISO 2500, 1/1000, f/8.0 © Michal Krause

On the finish of the day, I nonetheless wouldn’t name medium format ultimate for wildlife pictures. However for the primary time, I believe we will safely name it viable. Fuji has achieved job getting ready their cameras for the demanding scenario of fast-moving wildlife, and now they’ve a lens that may really match it. If we proceed to see them introduce supertelephoto lenses and frequently enhance their cameras, medium format might sooner or later match – and even overtake – full-frame because the system of alternative for probably the most demanding wildlife work.

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