Gonna make this quick... I finally had a chance to take the Fujifilm GF 80mm ƒ/1.7R WR lens for GFX out on a photowalk to peer thru it from an urban landscape and street photography perspective. Let's say I'm a little more than impressed. There's something about this lens that gives everything a 3 dimensional quality. The subject just pops right off the page. Sure, that's what large bore portrait lenses do but there's something special about this lens, a quality my GF 110mm ƒ/2 lacks. Even compared to the Sigma Art 85mm ƒ/1.4 I previously owned and adapted onto the GFX 50S, the GF 80mm exceeds it in lifting the subject out of the frame.
So here we are. As promised at the end my GF 80mm ƒ/1.7 lens review, I've received the Fujifilm Instax Share SP-3 printer and 8 film packs totaling 80 exposures. I've never owned or printed using Instax so I decided to use one pack of film to print a full spectrum of recent shots; a couple of portraits with 2 printed directly from the camera, monochrome, vivid color, high contrast, golden hour and my personal processing style. I wanted to get a good feel for the film's dynamic range, color, contrast and sharpness. While the film is traditional instant pack film, the printer works by projecting the image on an 800 x 800 dot, micro-OLED display that exposes the film, basically a digital form of the optical projection used to expose pack film in a traditional Polaroid Land camera. Because it's not fully optical and the micro-OLED is so, uh, micro, I wanted to see how far I could stretch it so I can make adjustments to my shooting style for the best results.
Thanks to Glazer's Camera here in Seattle, I was able to get my hands on the fujifilm GF 80mm ƒ/1.7R WR on release day. Since then, the weather's been shit, so I haven't been able to test it. I have been able to take some sample shots in my home, running all the way through its ƒ/1.7 to ƒ/22 aperture range and from minimum focusing distance to infinity. I've also shot it with both of my macro tubes, for shits and grins. The 80mm was a lens GFX owners have been screaming for for years now. It's a common focal length in medium format portraiture and one of the most common focal lengths you'll see if ever shopping for a medium format film camera. It's odd Fujifilm has chosen to ignore it for as long as they have and I'm assuming it's due to some internal strife over how it should have been engineered... a fight between ultimate resolution versus ultimate character. In the end, they seem to have landed on a mix of both and you'll see why as you read this review.
You may be thinking, "what an odd focal range," and you'd be right. It covers approximately 36-80mm in 35mm terms, with a significant overlap with the 32-64mm lens in coverage. Judged purely by the range, it's obvious this lens is designed for handheld portraits, covering the popular portraiture focal lengths of 35, 50 and 80mm. Judged by what the Fujifilm lineup lacked at the time of its release, it's also a potential landscape and all-purpose lens as it fills the aforementioned hole in the range, especially at 70mm, a focal length landscapists use often via the wide end of a 70-200mm or the long end of the 24-70mm. Priced at $2299 USD, just like the 32-64mm and 80mm ƒ/1.7, it's like you're getting stabilization for free. Should you own both lenses? Am I missing out by not owning both the 32-64mm and 45-100mm? That depends. If you deal primarily in portraits, fashion or travel, this could be the ideal, single lens solution. However, if you're into landscapes, astro or urban photography, it may not be wide enough for many occasions. I own all 3 zoom lenses and for the first 2 weeks of using the 45-100mm, I found myself carrying it with the smaller, lighter 23mm ƒ/4 prime lens rather than in tandem with the 32-64mm. For one, it cuts my filter pack to half as the two lenses share the 82mm filter thread, compared to the 32-64's 77mm diameter. Another convenience is being able to share the 23mm's lens hood; while the hood may be shorter, it still offers enough protection from both flaring and impacts to be useful on the 45-100mm, plus it helps to slim down my bag a bit. In the end, what I discovered was that I didn't miss the 32-64mm one bit by carrying this tandem.
Now, I know I've addressed this subject a year or two ago when I first transitioned to medium format, but with the recent additions to the market and shifts in the pre-owned market, I feel like it's high time to address this more in depth. If you don't already know, Fujifilm recently announced the GFX 100S, a more compact, price-sensitive version of their highly capable GFX 100 released a year ago. With a body that's more reminiscent, in both size and weight, of the GFX 50S, and a price reduction from $9999 USD to a much more wallet friendly $5999 USD, the digital medium format market is really starting to heat up. Fujifilm has begun to seriously address their G-Mount lens lineup, filling up holes in their range for the general market, even beginning to address more niche photography. Obviously $6000 bucks isn't pocket change. It's a price that's solidly in the range of other professional, flagship cameras like the Canon 1DX Mark III, Nikon D6 and Sony a1. It's a steep drop in price from the GFX 100 but it's still a price that means you'd better be serious about your photography and/or have a business that can support that sort of purchase. Now that the 6000 pound elephant in the room has been addressed, let's talk about who should even consider medium format, who shouldn't, and who should file this idea for a later date. If you make it through this next section unscathed, I will then discuss what the GFX may have to offer for the enthusiast/hobbyist photographer. If you're a professional, I have little to offer you. Besides, you should know if your business could benefit from a medium format camera, however, I do have some technical information later that could help you decide if both your workflow and your clientele are able to tolerate your addition of, or switch to, medium format.
If you know anything about landscape photography, 99% of your planned shots usually end up as a near miss. Funny, that term "near miss," since it literally means "hit."if you "nearly missed," it means you hit it.
Anyways, back on topic. I recently bought the 45-100mm lens for GFX and I usually take new lenses to Rizal Bridge to test them, as long as the focal length permits. Conditions turned out to be nearly what I've been waiting patiently for. The one shot I want from there is with the clouds traveling either northwest or southeast, preferably at a pretty good clip, since movement of the bridge due to buses and trucks traveling over it limits the length of long exposures.
This is not a review of the lens. This is purely a single first impression I have of it. Reality is that the weather has t been great in Seattle at the right times for me to give it a proper test. Hopefully that changes after this weekend, though, and I'll be able to compile a proper review.
What I HAVE done is give the optical image stabilization a quick once or twice over. By that, I mean that I've sat and aimed my camera around my sitting area, seeing how slow I can set the shutter speed and still acquire a perfectly focused image. What I've discovered is that this lens' OIS is amazing.
Volunteered for Kate on a photowalk to the Seattle waterfront recently. After spending the past few months doing lonely portraits to practice using strobes in 1, 2 and 3 light configurations, it felt good to go out and do some of the type of photography I'm most passionate about.
So, why did I volunteer and for what? Since Seattle is still under a pandemic lockdown that limits group sizes to 5 people, I chose to help by leading a group so more people could participate via proxy groups.
Pier 62 reintroduces a location and perspective that's been missing since it closed for reconstruction. While somewhat pedestrian, the addition of new attractions and changes to the skyline have given it more value when compared with similar locations, both old and new. However, like those other locations, it offers a limited perspective and thus limits its overall value, long term, as a photographic location. It's one that will become over saturated by the end of the summer as a landscape and cityscape destination, even during a time of reduced foot traffic due to the pandemic, but will easily persist as a street, tourist and especially portrait photography location for years to come. Once the new waterfront master plan is completed, Pier 62 could become one of the premium destinations for environmental portraiture and street photography, due to its prime location, identifiable backdrop and potential for high foot traffic.