A System Guide to Fujifilm XF and GFX 

bythom fujifilm 2023

Fujifilm was one of the original digital ILC (interchangeable lens camera) makers, cooperating with Nikon to make a small DSLR-type camera in the 1990’s, then eventually making their own early DSLRs based on Nikon film bodies (S1 Pro, S2 Pro, S3 Pro, S5 Pro) with special Fujifilm-designed sensors, though using Nikon F-mount lenses. 

Fujifilm left the ILC business in the 2007-2008 time period, then returned with their own APS-C mirrorless cameras instead of DSLRs four years later in 2012. Since 2012, Fujifilm has been been rapidly iterating models in their APS-C mirrorless lineup, which uses Fujifilm XF lenses, and has introduced a medium format mirrorless lineup, which uses Fujifilm GFX lenses (see below).

Fujifilm has produced numerous types of crop sensor camera models:

  • The dual-viewfinder X-Pro models, which feature both optical and EVF viewfinder options (via an ingenious design controlled by a mechanical switch). Current: X-Pro3.
  • The DSLR-like X-T and X-H models, typically with a big, bright, fast EVF. This seems to be where most of Fujifilm’s design activity begins for all models now, as focus and other systems seem to originate in this tier and then get spread to the other models. Current: X-T30 II, X-T5, X-H2, X-H2S.
  • A different take on the DSLR-like model, abandoning the dedicated dials for a mode dial. Current: X-S20.
  • A more rangefinder style lower-end camera, but with a built-in EVF. Current: X-E4.

I'm going to be a bit controversial here and say that you should probably stick to a model line and not mix-and-match. The reason is the control UX (user experience) is quite different across the different model lines. Fujifilm themself have admitted that the X-S20 mode dial based camera was designed mostly to attract DSLR users that were used to having a mode dial. (Personally, I think that the modal/button systems are a better choice than the all-dial systems, as they don't lie to you, they are easier to change settings on the fly without taking your eye from the viewfinder, and they don't have the awkward "A" settings for shutter speed and aperture that you can miss if you're not paying attention.)

The original Fujifilm mirrorless models were all 16mp using Fujifilm’s special X-Trans sensor filtration on a Sony-made APS-C Exmor sensor (crop factor of 1.5x). All XF models are now 24mp or 26mp, and all are X-Trans. The X-Trans sensor filtration is somewhat controversial. Fujifilm originally claimed it was moire-free (it isn’t). Because it isn’t the very symmetrical Bayer filtration, raw converters seem to have a little more trouble keeping low level artifacts from creeping in, especially fine detail that has colors slanted towards red or blue. Over time, X-Trans conversions have gotten better, and there is a small benefit to luminance noise and resolution for X-Trans versus Bayer. 

Fujifilm’s ISO choices tend to be overstated for actual light levels. Similar Sony-based sensors tend to produce the same exposure at nearly twice the ISO level as Fujifilm, so be careful of comparing “ISO 3200 with ISO 3200” across brands. 

The X-H2S model is the clear flagship of the Fujifilm crop sensor lineup, and more DSLR-like than the X-T designs. It’s my choice of Fujifilm X models at the moment, though many will also like the X-T30 II or X-S20.  

In terms of lenses, Fujifilm was highly active the first two years, with five lenses in 2012 and six in 2013. Things stalled bit through 2016, but then picked up again in 2017. At this point, Fujifilm XF has a very strong basic lens set, with the following choices:

  • Primes: 14mm f/2.8, 16mm f/1.4, 16mm f/2.8, 18mm f/1.4, 18mm f/2, 23mm f/1.4, 23mm f/2, 27mm f/2.8, 35mm f/1.4, 35mm f/2, 50mm f/1, 50mm f/2, 56mm f/1.2, 60mm f/2.4 macro, 80mm f/2.8 macro, 90mm f/2, 200mm f/2
  • Zooms: 8-16mm f/2.8, 10-24mm f/4, 15-45mm f/3.5-5.6, 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6, 16-55mm f/2.8, 16-80mm f/4, 18-55mm f/2.8-4, 18-120mm f/4, 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6, 50-140mm f/2.8, 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8, 50-230mm f/4.5-6.7, 70-300mm f/4-5.6, 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6, 150-600mm f/5.6-8.

In the above list, my favorite—and I believe best choices for most photographers—Fujifilm lenses are in bold. That’s not to say the others are bad lenses, but each of the non-bolded lenses have something about them I find a little less satisfying than the others (I also haven't yet evaluated a couple of recent ones). The 60mm f/2.4 macro, for instance, is very sharp, but focuses much more slowly than most of the others. 

If Fujifilm has a weakness in lenses, it tends to be in the zooms. The variable aperture zooms, in particular, are the weakest optically of the Fujifilm XF lens set. The prime set is very strong overall, giving you 21mm, 24mm, 28mm, 35mm, 52mm, 84mm, 90mm, 135mm, and 300mm options, a solid wide to telephoto choice. The crop factor for XF is 1.55x, by the way.

bythom fujifilmgfx 2023

Fujifilm's larger format cameras are the GFX models, using the GF mount. The crop factor for GF is 0.79x (compared to the old 35mm film full frame).

The two most recent models are 50mp and 100mp, respectively. I'm not convinced that Fujifilm has all the tolerance and performance kinks worked out to make the GFX 100 II a clear choice over high megapixel full frame. I'm not alone in that thought, but there are plenty of folk who believe that the GFX 100 II is the best high resolution choice out there for those who need to print big.

For medium format Fujifilm has:

  • Twelve primes: 23mm f/4, 30mm f/3.5, 30mm f/5.6 tilt/shift, 45mm f/2.8, 50mm f/3.5, 55mm f/1.7, 63mm f/2.8, 80mm f/1.7, 110mm f/2, 110mm f/5.6 tilt/shift macro, 120mm f/4, and 250mm f/4
  • Five zooms: 20-35mm f/4, 32-64mm f/4, 35-70mm f/4.5-5.6, 45-100mm f/4, and 100-200mm f/5.6

This is where my comment on tolerance comes in: I've found clear side to side issues on all the GF lenses I've used to date, and this makes for a problem at 100mp. Some say they've gotten samples that are better than the ones I've tested, so perhaps things are better than I currently believe, but four-in-a-row with alignment issues has me wondering.

Finally, the RF/GF dual format difference brings up a point that Fujifilm has made: Canon, Nikon, and Sony have multiple sensor formats. But all of those are APS-C and full frame. APS-C and full frame are about a stop apart in performance, all else equal. Fujifilm regarded that as not enough differential. That’s why the GFX is a small medium format, basically two stops removed from the crop sensor XF system in performance, all else equal.

More information about the Fujifilm system:

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