Secondhand market: Fuji GFX 50R vs Phase One vs Hasselblad

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by Karim Ghantous, Jul 22, 2021.

  1. I don't have a huge sample size but I have noticed that on the secondhand market, a GFX 50R is going for about the same price as the modular DSLR cameras with equivalent performance. E.g. Hasselblad H4D-40; P45+ based bodies. It's also cheaper than a 645Z.

    Maybe I'm the crazy one but I'm not sure why I would buy an H4D-40 over a GFX 50R. There will be exceptions for some, of course, but I just don't get it. The 50R is faster, somewhat cheaper, and performs at least as well as anything at or below the 50Mpx level.

    I'm not saying I would knock back a recent model Phase One such as the XF. They're beautiful cameras with excellent features. But would I buy one? No.

    Let me know your thoughts.
  2. I assume everything depends on the use case?
    But yes, I am feeling too old to get a MF DSLR for hobby purposes.
  3. You should do whatever you want.
  4. That's the thing: I reject the idea that all cameras have their uses. Some are obsolete. Having said that, I am very willing to change my mind here (not that this affects anyone but me). MF DSLRs are not just cameras, they are events! If you know what I mean. They are chic, some of them.

    But if a Fuji camera can do everything that a Phase One camera can do, and better, then the Phase One literally has zero use cases. That's an if, not a because.
  5. Fuji using format different from Hasselblad.
  6. Your logic is a bit flawed.

    If (indeed) a Fuji can do everything a Phase One can do, and better, a Phase One can still do what a Phase One can do. Which may be quite a lot.

    If you think the Fuji does it better, you should use the Fuji. What better means may vary a lot between photographers.
    For instance, it appears that you just like Fuji more than other brands, and use that personal conclusion as a premise that closes the argument.

    And only the premises as such are an 'if'. The conclusion turns them into 'because'.

    Again: you should do whatever you want.
    Your posts are not an invitation to discuss and weigh the qualities of different brands, but an expression of your preference.
    Jochen and Nick D. like this.
  7. And BTW, you forgot about lenses. Medium digital format is mostly promarket, don't think pros will dump their MF lens collection just because Fuji camera a bit cheaper.
    Plus workflow integration, software support, its whole can of worms.
    And don't forget personal preferences, if money weren't object, I would stay with Canon, their colors looks better to me:)
    Jochen likes this.
  8. Yes, true. If you already have a bunch of Phase One lenses, you're probably going to consider not just the cost of transition, but the potential inconvenience of it. It might be more expensive to upgrade your sensor blocks, but are you really going to want the inconvenience of changing to a different system?

    Of course you might be able to use your Phase One lenses on the GFX system. You might even have full functionality. I don't know.

  9. Medium format digital has historically been an extremely niche, specialized market: you either needed a specific advantage of MF, or you didn't bother with it at all. Up until the fairly recent introduction of the affordable integrated Fuji and Hasselblad mirrorless, initial buy-in cost of a MF camera+back+normal lens ran $30K to $60K (Pentax 645D and Z were notably less expensive, but played in their own sandbox).

    The newer 33x44 mirrorless options are popular but haven't completely dislodged the DSLR dinosaurs just yet. As others have mentioned, MF lenses are not cheap: those with an investment in several Hasselblad H or Phase Schneider optics aren't exactly eager to take a huge loss selling them to purchase even more expensive lenses for the new mirrorless systems. One can adapt some of the older MF DSLR lenses to DSLR mirrorless, but ergonomics suffer (and critical lens functionality can be compromised or lost entirely).

    Speaking of functionality: Fuji rules on price/performance but does not compete at all with the leaf shutter options of older Hasselblad H and Phase DSLR systems. Some MF photographers do absolutely require high speed flash sync via an electromechanical leaf shutter. Mirrorless Hasselblad X1D has fast leaf shutters in every lens, but the new lenses are pricey: if you already own a stable of leaf-shutter H or P glass there isn't much incentive to change systems.

    Then you have subjective handling preferences. Despite the undeniable advantages of EVF, many photographers (esp MF photographers) vastly prefer optical DSLR viewfinders. They may also prefer waist level viewfinder with hood and eyepiece magnifier: this can be approximated in mirrorless with a flip up rear screen (or the trick finder of the larger Fuji GFX bodies), but if you want traditional optical viewing you need the bulky H or XF DSLR.

    Last but not least is the question of sensor preferences. Most of today's new camera market is dominated by Sony CMOS tech. This offers more usable high ISO potential and far better live view, but little in choice of "flavors". You can have any imaginable camera or lens or format configuration you want, but inside will be the same mainstream Sony wafers.

    Not so with older medium format DSLRs: there was a wide range of bespoke CCD sensors in various sizes (some close to 645 film dimension) at various resolutions/pixel pitches from Kodak and Dalsa. These were implemented in significantly varied backs by Imacon/Hasselblad, Phase/Leaf and Sinar, some of which had unique features like rotating sensor (ala RB67). Color output of classic CCD backs can be considerably different from CMOS: studio/portrait post workflow is often faster due to more pleasing OOC files. Live view on CCD was primitive or non-existent, so they optimized tethering to an external computer. Tethering doesn't always work quite as well with later CMOS backs or mirrorless bodies.

    Those starting from scratch in digital MF (with no pre-existing studio requirements) should be very happy with the newer Fuji GX or Hasselblad X1D systems. But there is still demand for the dinosaurs: photographers who need legacy-exclusive MF features may be more inclined to older second-hand DSLR cameras, despite the weight, bulk, or cost drawbacks vs the latest MF mirrorless options.
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2021
  10. Historically, MF was not a niche market at all, but was what everyone used (amateurs of all levels and professionals alike) ever since Eastman introduced and popularized roll film.
    Larger (plate and sheet) formats were for professionals. Smaller formats took over the bulk of the market, but came relatively late.

    MF (nor LF) was not entirely replaced by smaller formats, due to the quality it delivered (that specific advantage, you mentioned Orsetto). Smaller formats were more versatile, could tackle more types of application, because - mainly - they were smaller. But the difference in quality often was objectionable and formats larger than 35 mm format were and are still needed.

    Nowadays, the MF advantage still holds, though the difference in quality between MF digital and high end small format digital is smaller.
    But more people care less, and are fully satisfied with what (much) smaller formats and equipment delivers. And many today are terrified by the prospect of having to use mostly manual and bulky equipment. That's a big change: quality does not matter anymore. Convenience and personal (dis)likes do.
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2021
  11. I had a feeling someone might overlook my qualifier word "digital". So perhaps I should clarify that separately here: I meant digital MF was a historically niche market, majority professional plus some ambitious art photographers (and the usual contingent of wealthy enthusiasts). Of course I agree that film MF was another story entirely, spanning decades with a wide spread of pricing and systems appealing to everyone from box brownie snapshots to Rolleiflex-toting journalists to Hasselblad/Mamiya studio pros to roll backs on view cameras for architecture.

    For most of its existence, MF digital was priced far beyond the reach of most non-pros (and even many pros, who leased or rented instead of purchasing). There was also a learning curve re ISO limitations, output files and proprietary raw processing (in-camera jpegs were rarely an option). Legacy MF DSLRs were purpose-built professional tools, during an era when smaller format digital IQ was noticeably inferior. Today the dividing lines between the newer smaller digital MF (typically 50 MP 33x44) and 24x36 performance/handling are less obvious: current MF digital can be deployed in situations where it previously lagged smaller formats (high ISO, live view, faster handling), while smaller formats sporting 36 to 50 MP sensors with extended dynamic range can overlap some use cases where MF was once the only conceivable choice for image quality. Super-premium MF digital like the Fuji 100 MP camera and Phase One 100MP and 150 MP backs continue to move the image quality goalposts ever higher for those who need the ultimate in resolution.
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2021
    arthur_gottschalk likes this.
  12. I dispute "equivalent performance" here. The DSLR-DB examples you gave have CCD sensors. These have poor performance at medium and high ISO; in most cases (bar the P45+) they offer only limited long exposures; and only laggy Live View, if any.

    Whereas the CMOS-sensored Fuji is superior on all those counts, and for the same sort of money, as you noted.

    Only one thing disappoints me about the GFX-50R: the way that Fuji used undersized microlenses, trading a sharpness gain against a signal to noise loss. The Pentaz 645Z, with the same underlying sensor, has better low-light sensitivity for this reason. See M42 2020 (inital and final comments) and
  13. I do rather like the GFX-50R, if I was actually giving up film, which I'm not. I think I could buy-in new at $7,000.00 with a nice Zoom lens.
    Karim Ghantous likes this.
  14. Interesting!
  15. There are many reasons why I would consider a camera with digital back over a GFX. Just as background, I use a CCD back on my Hasselblad V. It was a way to “extend” my old film camera. I sometimes shoot scientific images for work using that setup.

    There are some things that I’ve learned by using a CCD back that aren’t always discussed since they are rather niche compared to DSLRs and even the GFX series.

    The PhaseOne files from studio (tethered) require very little processing. I would say it’s an incredibly easy workflow/experience that maximizes keepers and saves time. The emphasis is on getting the output, settings and lighting right. The tonal transitions are beautiful and rich. I haven’t tested a GFX in the studio so I can’t say if my back is richer in color but I like the PhaseOne images which incidentally need minimal post-processing.

    I like leaf shutters. I use strobes and the high sync speed is useful. I understand that you can use Hasselblad HC leaf shutter lenses on the GFX so if I were to use a GFX I would go with that approach.

    I am used to film. I love the 6x7 field of view but 645 is not bad. Many medium format backs get closer to the 645 film size than the GFX. The field of view (if you shoot normally and compose to fill the frame) looks different with a physically larger sensor.

    As some have already mentioned in this thread, these CCD backs have distinctive color profiles. While any digital file can ostensibly be retouched, the default profiles have a look reminiscent of the high-end fashion magazines from the last 20 years.

    These old backs have plenty of negatives that I overlook based on how and what I photograph. They need a lot of light. I believe PhaseOne made the design decision to have rich colors and beautiful tonal range at base ISO instead of trying to squeeze out less noise at high ISO. In contrast, consumer cameras are designed for high ISO because consumers don’t carry strobes and camera influencers/vloggers judge cameras by the lack of noise at high ISO. Very few review sites judge a camera by the tonal transitions at base ISO. However, studio pros (fashion, food, editorial etc.) know how to light their image. It’s the lighting and composition that will set an image apart and the camera system that makes the image look the best is the winner in my book.

    Another datapoint regarding the low ISO, I sometimes shoot with my digital back in natural light in the field. The low ISO (I don’t shoot above 100) limits what images I get. Unless you have bright sun, forget about fast moving objects. On the older digital backs the review screen is low resolution and downright hard to see, especially outdoors. The auto white balance is primitive. I think these are designed for the studio where one would tether and perform a white balance, get the settings and view the image on a 27 inch monitor when preparing for a photo session. But for field use, the poor auto white balance, low ISO and poor review screen are a challenge.

    To conclude, if you shoot with a lot of light, those medium format backs may be worthwhile. If you shoot in the field with more variable conditions, the GFX may be a better choice.
  16. Thank you for taking the time to give your thoughts on the matter. I wonder what you think about the Leica S2, and the S series in general?
  17. I don’t know much about the S series. But the people who have them seem to love them. For me, I was coming from film and the medium format back was a way to extend my Hasselblad V. There’s a part of me that just enjoys the mechanical aspect of a manual camera. The back gives me the ability to shoot more often, but more importantly to tether and have high confidence in the results particularly when shooting elaborate setups.​
    Karim Ghantous likes this.
  18. Leica S2: wow, if anything reminds me how time flies and the digital market completely mutates every couple years... for a brief window awhile back, the S2 was one of the hottest most-discussed MF options available. Then Phase One finally killed its derivative despised Mamiya 645 bodies in favor of the new XF, the mirrorless Fujis and Hasselblads arrived, and I haven't heard the Leica S2 mentioned in so long I completely forgot about it.

    The S2 was and is an interesting, novel choice in MF digital. The frame format matches 35mm film ratio at 2:3 (30mm x 45mm sensor). Mount and flange distance is the shortest of all MF DSLRs: combined with Leica's (very surprising) decision to offer fully coupled adapters for Contax 645 and Hasselblad H, the S2 bodies offer versatility in lens choice unmatched even by mirrorless bodies. The Leica mount adapters are very expensive but brilliantly engineered, offering full electronic coupling of AF, aperture and (if present) leaf shutter to the S2 body.

    For several years, the S2 was esp popular with owners of the digitally-orphaned Contax 645 system, whose superb (but fully-electronic) Zeiss lenses couldn't be shot digitally unless one was lucky enough to have bought one of the super-rare Phase or Leaf Contax-mount backs. Several noted fashion pros took to using their Contax Zeiss glass on the S2 via the Leica adapter, with no loss of AF or AE functionality. Their work (at least with the CCD-based bodies) rivaled or surpassed anything I've seen from a Phase/Leaf back. The S2 also handled Hasselblad/Fuji H leaf shutter optics well, creating a "budget" alternative to the pricey scarce Leitz leaf-shutter lineup.

    The native Leitz lenses, with and without leaf shutter, are unique in offering excellent performance wide open at fast apertures. But as with the M series, prices can be staggering and availability of some is constrained (hence the unexpected adapters). As with everything Leica touches in electronics, there have been teething pains with some of the bodies and lenses (lenses esp have been excruciatingly problematic considering the price, the initial S2 bodies can suffer sensor corrosion issues in common with the M9). Some of the body variations are affordable second hand, arguably the most modern bodies you can get that can AF with Leitz, Zeiss and Hassy H glass yet still have the classic beloved CCD sensor tech. Body choice requires some research, as the array of bodies gets confusing between original S2, S (Typ 006, CCD), S (Typ 007, CMOS) and S3 (latest version).
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2021
  19. I'm liking the new Fujifilm GFX 50S II with GF 35-70mm f4.5-5.6 WR lens for under £4K.

    I suspect it's going to drive down the 2nd hand MF market price.
    Karim Ghantous likes this.
  20. I almost got a Fuji GFX 100S camera and it was almost paid off, till I had to cancel the order and get a refund. I still want that camera now, but no longer can afford it. I'd consider the new 50S II camera, but Im not liking its not 4K video.

    I still have my medium format film gear to tie me over for now.

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