Fuji GFX 100 Impressions – Textures in Rock and Ice In Greenland

Fujifilm GFX100 Goes To Greenland

Iceberg field

I recently brought a Fujifilm GFX 100 on a photo trip to Greenland with Kevin Raber, Art Wolfe, and Steve Gosling. The GFX 100 did very well, in spite of having only two hours of experience with it.

Tabular iceberg and clouds

The internet is debating what these new cameras are: medium format but smaller, or full-frame but bigger, or mirrorless but better. I’m not very interested in categories. I would just say it was as convenient to use as the smaller Fujis, even when bouncing around in a Zodiac. 

No diva histrionics, even while delivering diva performance: the pictures are gorgeous — I can be certain that if they are not, it’s on me, not the gear. I was able to concentrate on seeing and on the views I wanted to render. 

I find this challenging when going to a fabulous landscape, it is easy to get caught up in “oh, wow, look at that” and do 100-megapixel snapshots. I wanted to convey my impressions and the camera did not get in the way.

Blue iceberg

I freed myself from the tyranny of color balance: I’m not a scientist or a journalist, the colors reflect my impressions, not necessarily what the device recorded.

Stabilization and high ISO performance make it trustworthy, even in challenging conditions. This picture was taken from a Zodiac at 8:30 PM, handheld, in rain and sleet, at 1/20 s, F/8, ISO 1600, 64 mm: the scene overall is fuzzy but the details are tack sharp.

Iceberg in rain and sleet (1/20 s, f/8, ISO 1600, Zodiak, 8:30 PM)

But medium format is unforgiving, and in spite of IBIS and fast AF, good technique remains important. I had a high success rate, but not perfect. I stylized this glacier in post, I like it that way, but when I went back to the original to see what else I could do with it, I found it wasn’t totally sharp. Regardless of technology, we need to take care.

Stylized glacier

The Elephant In The Room: Who Needs 100 MP?

Seattle library

Depth of detail: this picture of the Seattle urban landscape is from my first hour with the camera. I liked the contrast between the glass-and-steel of the Seattle Library and the old building in the alley across the street. But, when I was processing it, I noticed, in the red box I marked at the top, a “NO LIFT” sticker on a piece of equipment behind the library glass. (The closeup is less than 1 % of the full-frame!) This sticker isn’t a part of my story, I don’t need it, but the depth of detail is awe-inspiring, it just makes you giggle.

No Lift

Greenland and Iceland are captivating on many levels, the majesty and the colors and the wildlife and the environment, but my deepest impression was of Textures in Rock and Ice, and this depth of detail brought out the textures in every circumstance: rock or ice, large or small, close or distant, color or monochrome.

Black iceberg, yellow mountain

Large prints? 100 MP supports large prints, and these Greenland landscapes are indeed gorgeous on the wall. This iceberg reminds me of Rodin’s sculpture of Balzac on a bass relief black marble pedestal. But after a few 60” prints I will need a bigger house.

Rodin, Balzac, bas relief

Cropping as a way of zooming in? Everybody thought it prudent to stay 200 meters away from this polar bear, and I didn’t have a really long lens because for medium format it would be huge, so with 280 mm (100-200 + 1.4X) the best I could do was this wide framing, but medium format gives me enough pixels to crop in closer, to “zoom in post”. It is a nice bear, but that is a silly argument: the large sensor has enough data to compensate for a limitation caused by the large sensor? If I need reach, my X-T3 with the 100-400 + 1.4X is a better tool.

Distant polar bear 
Close polar bear

But I did find one very worthwhile advantage: the ability to find and extract nuggets in post. In nature photography, and especially when bouncing around in a Zodiac with ten other people, it is difficult to compose the right image. A key step in composition is the right vantage point, and to be in the right spot to have the right perspective and the right foreground and background. There are all kinds of challenges: not just a group decision in a boat, but the right spot may be blocked by a shrubbery or a fence or a ravine or a river or a freeway or a ferocious-looking animal or landowner. So I end up taking a lot of pictures and foraging in post. And with the large sensor, I found lots of nuggets with enough data for a good print.

Here I liked the backlighting, but later I felt the goofy shape of the iceberg distracts from the story. The upper right quadrant made a better picture, not what I originally had in mind but interesting. And this extract is 24 MP, good for 24” by 18”.

Goofy iceberg

And here I pulled texture detail from the face of a Greenland glacier and contrast it with texture detail from an Iceland rock face.

Ice face
Rock face

Ok, I know there are photographers who don’t need that. There was another member of our workshop on the trip. He is a contemplative and meticulous photographer, who always took one-tenth of the number of exposures I took in every environment, and they were gorgeous. 

Maybe when I grow up I’ll be contemplative and meticulous too. But in the meantime, I appreciate when pixels are not a scarce resource. Scarcity is not my thing, I’m an abundance kind of guy. And the GFX 100 is an abundance kind of machine.

16 Ice abstract
Rock wall
Carved ice and rock 

Publishers Note: We will be having a lot more in the near future on the GFX and other medium format cameras.

Anders Vinberg
January 2020
Anders Vinberg
Kirkland, WA

Anders is a photography amateur, he does it for the love of it. He is a retired software architect, and tries to avoid letting the computer technology dominate what is supposed to be art. He has a lot to learn, which is good, we should always be learning.

Article Type: News, Columns, MISC

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