I recently returned from my third trip to Scotland, leading a group of enthusiastic photographers, and I have to say that the more I visit that beautiful country, the more I want to return.
For this tour I had decided to revisit some of the locations I had touched during my previous foray, hoping to get better weather and better light. As if often happens in this part of the world, weather can be very unpredictable and you’re almost sure to get rained upon, no matter the time of the year.
Last October we got rain of course, sometimes a drizzle and sometimes pouring, and a majority of overcast days. This year, I decided to go in May, reasoning that, if weather is so mutable, more hours of daylight would have meant more chances of good conditions.
As it turned out, we weren’t much luckier. While we only got a day of hard rain and mostly when doing a long transfer, we ended up with lots of grey skies (good for waterfalls and forests) but not a lot of dramatic sunlight. Only the sunrise at Kilchurn Castle and the sunset at Castle Stalker stood above the rest.
More reason to come back again next year!
Besides scouting more locations and finding better light, another of my objectives for this trip was to test how the Fujifilm GFX 50S medium format camera would fare, when confronted with beautiful landscapes.
I reported my impressions about doing portraiture at the Venice Carnival with the GFX 50S in this article, but now I wanted to test it under a very different set of circumstances. The gist of the story is that it performed exceptionally well, but read below if you want more details.
The quality of the images created by the GFX 50S when used with one of the GF series of lenses is of course outstanding. Its ability to resolve very fine detail is exceptional, so much that I usually have to turn down a bit the amount of sharpening applied by Adobe Lightroom when importing RAW files.
Fujifilm RAW files are automatically corrected when imported in Lightroom. This means that you can’t see any chromatic aberration, vignetting or distortion.
Color rendition and dynamic range are also exceptional. I didn’t shot at any value higher than ISO 800, so I can’t really comment on high-ISO performance, but at that level noise can only be perceived as a very fine grain if you do some serious pixel-peeping. Considering you’d be mostly using a tripod, this is a complete non-issue.
I believe the GFX 50S was designed with the landscape shooter in mind. The top mini-LCD display, the tiltable viewfinder, and the 3-way tilting screen are a godsend when you have to place the camera lower to the ground. Top marks for ergonomics.
I’d like to have a bigger button for changing exposure compensation, but as I’m mostly using manual mode when on a tripod, this is not such a big issue.
The camera is of course heavy, but not by much when compared to top-of-the-line DSLRs. The lenses are of course massive. So it is imperative to support the system with a sturdy tripod and ball-head combination. My newly acquired Gitzo Mountaineer and my old and trusty RRS BH-30 ball-head were just perfect.
Being one who typically uses much lighter cameras, I only have the small BH-30, which looks tiny compared to the GFX, but it still performs admirably with the GF 32-64mm. When using bigger lenses, I suspect a bigger head would be recommended.
In my previous review I lamented a couple drawbacks with the GFX system: slow operation and lack of image stabilization. For landscape photography, however, you will typically want to use a tripod and take time to carefully compose the shot, so these end up not being problems at all.
What more would I need to make the GFX 50S my camera of choice for landscape photography, assuming I could justify buying one, instead of renting it when I need it?
At the moment, only one thing: more lenses.
At the moment, the only available zooms are the GF 32-64mm F4 and the GF 100-200mm F5.6 (the latter was not available for rental). The GF 45-100 F4 will be released next year. If I wanted to go wider, keeping in mind that 32mm on the GFX give me the same field of view as a 24mm lens on full-frame, my only choice would be the GF 23mm F4 (equivalent to about 18mm).
Sometimes you can go wider by stitching multiple shots and you can get in closer by cropping. 50MP are a lot and you can throw away a bit of them and still retain excellent resolution, if you must.
In order to give me more flexibility, I also took the Fujifilm X-T3, the XF 10-24mm F4 and the XF 50-140mm F2.8 with me. I ended up using the GFX for 716 shots and the X-T3 for 170, of which you can see one below. Your mileage might vary.
With thanks to Riflessi Photo for the camera rental.
If you’d like to photograph all of the above locations and perfect your landscape photography skills, you can join me next year for my Scottish Highlands & Isle of Skye Landscape Photography Masterclass. Spots are limited!