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Hands on with the Fujifilm GFX100S II and GF500m f/5.6

Posted on May 16, 2024

Pete Townshend tries out the GFX100S II and GF500mm f/5.6 to see how the newest additions to Fujifilm’s GFX System handle wildlife photography

We recently got to have a play with the new GFX100S II camera and GF500mm f/5.6 lens ahead of their official launch.

The added length this lens brings to the GF range is an obvious attraction for the sports and wildlife photography genres, so we took it to Port Lympne zoo and safari park, which while not strictly ‘wild’ life, does come pretty close.

There’s no doubt the lens is made for it, but can the camera keep up? Read on to find out.

Fujifilm GFX100S II and GF500mm f/5.6 | Image: Fujifilm

GFX100S II camera

The GFX100S II shares the body of the flagship GFX100 II and the same is true for many of the specs, but there are some differences under the bonnet.

Most notably, the GFX100S II features a newly developed sensor – the 102MP BSI CMOS II as opposed to the GFX100 II’s 102MP BSI CMOS II HS sensor.

So, what do you lose with the omission of the letters ‘HS’?

In short, the sensor has a slower readout speed, which, on the photo side, most notably translates into a lower continuous shooting rate of 7fps.

Fujifilm GFX100S II and GF500mm f/5.6 | Image: Fujifilm

The GFX100S II also features lower EVF resolution at 5.76m dots (vs. 9.44m dots) and is not compatible with the EVF-TL1 extended viewfinder attachment. Video capabilities have also taken a hit with maximum 4K/30p and 1080/60p, no CF Express card slot and no cooling fan compatibility.

However, this camera is still extremely capable. The X-Processor 5 powers the same AI autofocus, with advanced subject detection and tracking, along with eight-stop IBIS.

All this points to an obvious photo/video split between the two cameras, with the GFX100S II aimed squarely at photographers.

It is also priced at a very reasonable £4,999, which is substantially lower than the GFX100 II’s list price (£6,999 at the time of writing).

Fujifilm GFX100S II and GF500mm f/5.6 | Image: Fujifilm

GF500mm f/5.6 telephoto prime lens

With its full-frame-equivalent focal length of 396mm, the GF500mm f/5.6 is now the longest lens for the GFX System. Add the GF1.4x teleconverter and you’re comfortably thrusted into super-telephoto territory at 554mm equivalent.

Autofocus uses a linear motor for additional speed and on-lens focus limiter and memory functions further increase useability and performance.

The lens is weather resistant and comes with an Arca-Swiss compatible lens foot, while optical image stabilisation provides extra handheld freedom.

The GF500mm f/5.6 weighs in at a respectable 1,375g and will be priced at £3,499 when it goes on sale.

Taken with GFX100S II and GF500mm f/5.6

First test

If you’ve already seen the GFX100 II, there are no surprises to expect from the GFX100S II. The new camera uses the same body as its older sibling, complete with the Bishamon-Tex grip pattern that is pleasing to both the eye and the hand.

When paired with the GF500mm f/5.6, it’s hard to believe how far medium format photography has come with regard to portability.

When you consider you have the power of a 102MP medium format camera and telephoto prime at your fingertips it’s astonishing how light and portable this combination is.

Nevertheless, it is a hefty setup to carry all day, so make sure you have a comfortable strap.

When using high-resolution cameras such as this, it is impossible not to feel stunned by the detail the sensor is able to capture. However, all this extra detail is unforgiving when it comes to camera shake, so having the combination of IBIS and OIS was welcome during a day shooting handheld.

Such high resolution lends itself beautifully to the unpredictable nature of wildlife photography. This is evident from the below photos, in which the cropped-in versions reveal details that would otherwise be lost. Both were taken handheld.

Original image vs. cropped in version that shows this robin’s catch | Taken with GFX100s II and GF500mm f/5.6

Original image vs. cropped-in version that reveals a fly sitting by the rhino’s eye | Taken with GFX100s II and GF500mm f/5.6

A lot of my time during the day was spent photographing animals through chain-link fences and, while the phase-detection autofocus in the GFX100S II struggled at more acute angles, on the whole it coped well when finding and tracking moving subjects.

This was helped by the animal-specific AI subject recognition and animal eye detection, which provided me with good results throughout the day.

The linear motor inside the GF500mm complemented the camera’s AF performance well, with low noise and vibrations and, despite the slightly slower continuous shooting frame rate of 7fps, I found the camera to be fast enough for the situations I was presented with.

The GFX100S II’s eye detection had no problems finding and tracking this baboon through a chain-link fence| Taken with GFX100S II and GF500mm f/5.6

Conclusion

The GFX100S II and GF500mm f/5.6 is an impressive setup that makes high-resolution, medium-format photography even more accessible – especially to sports and wildlife shooters.

Where this camera falls down is its video provision, which leaves a lot to be desired when compared to the flagship GFX100 II. But it’s worth remembering that the GFX100S II isn’t aimed at videographers.

Granted, you don’t get 8K video, but you do get a 102MP sensor, impressive AF, and eight-stop IBIS, so for photo-only image makers, the £2000 saving over the GFX100 II is a no-brainer.

Learn more about the GFX100S II and GF500mm f/5.6 at the Fujifilm website.

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