Using the GFX100s for Wedding Photography
As a passionate wedding photographer with a bit of a background in Landscape photography, the idea of having, and primarily using a Medium Format camera has always been a bit of a pipe dream until finally laying hands on the new Fujifilm GFX100s. That being said though, as primarily a wedding photographer, Digital Medium Format cameras have typically not been the best tool to produce wedding photos – so hopefully this little hands-on insight makes it clear why I chose the GFX100s for wedding photography.
I’ve always been a bit of a gear head – I’ve always tried to raise the bar in what I offer to my bridal couples when comparing what I offer with my competitors. This is evident in my early offering using a drone at weddings, also my used of virtual reality technology to record your day, even underwater drones for those of you who get married underwater! I just like my toys, and in my view a digital medium format camera was my personal gold standard of technological toys – they just weren’t viable as a working camera, until now.
A wedding photographer who uses a medium format camera is quite rare for a number of different reasons, hopefully I’ll help you understand why that is, but also why I’m now one of the rare ones using the medium format Fujifilm GFX100s for wedding photography!
What is a Medium Format Camera?
The name ‘Medium Format’ comes from the days of film where there were a selection of different sized films for use in different cameras. Those of you old enough to remember using a Box Brownie in their family photography would remember the film size being much larger than what came next in consumer-grade photography in the standard 35mm film rolls.
Basically speaking, most consumer film cameras would use 35mm film, while professional photographer-grade cameras would be using larger medium format film, and a few might even use large format for some applications. There is a marvelous true-story film about a photographer battling this stereotype of pro-grade camera with Vogue magazine in We’ll Take Manhattan, made in 2012. A really interesting movie.
The larger the film used meant larger negatives of images, meaning more detail can be captured with cameras using medium format film – therefore in theory – making better overall images.
When considering digital cameras, the sensor where the device mimics the use of film to capture an image has until very recently been much smaller than what was available with traditional film – which is a center of any debate over which is better – film or digital photography.
Cheaper digital single lens reflex cameras, or ‘DSLRs’ tend to have a smaller sensor when compared to ‘pro-grade’ DSLRs who are said to have a ‘full frame’ sensor – which is really just the equivalent of 35mm film. I’m making a few generalisations here, but this makes things easier to illustrate a point.
So taking from this little photography history lesson – the majority of today’s photographers are using a format that was generally reserved for consumer photography – ie 35mm, or full frame format, and the only reason why medium format film fell out of favour was the technological limitations of digital imaging at the time.
All this being said though, digital medium format sensors are still smaller than medium format film, so there is still a little way to go in that regard. And also I need to point out that the Fuji medium format sensor is one of the smaller available digital medium format sensors – which is one of the main reasons why the GFX100s is cheaper than other digital medium format solutions.
Digital Medium Format Cameras are traditionally not great for Wedding Photography
Since the dawn of digital photography, digital medium format cameras have been developed and have been around for a while now – however have usually only been used in very niche areas that benefit from the high fidelity that such a format can produce due to a number of draw backs the relatively new technology comes with.
Digital medium format cameras are slow
Up until now, medium format digital cameras have been notoriously slow when compared with their film-based counter parts, or in particular digital full frame cameras. This is due to a number of issues related to technology. The processing power required to process and capture an image using a medium format sensor is significantly more than a full frame sensor, also the method of capture using these larger sensors tends to slow things down to a point where these rather large cameras were relegated to photographic applications where one usually used a tripod for every shot.
One wouldn’t generally be taking a medium format digital camera to something that requires a quick camera – like sports, or events like weddings.
Lens selection is not ideal
Another issue that comes with medium format cameras is the general nature of available lenses available. Medium format Lenses and even camera bodies for that matter are usually much larger than usual full-frame camera lenses, making lugging them around all day on a wedding day not an inviting prospect. It’s a big reason why mirrorless cameras have become so popular over the past few years being that they are so much lighter!
While talking about medium format lenses also, they tend to be quite a bit slower than full frame lenses. If you are a person without a photographic background you may not understand what the ‘speed’ of a lens means – basically it’s the amount of light that transits the lens and hits the image sensor. Medium format cameras often have to operate using a higher ISO sensitivity in low light situations to capture the same image as an equivalent full-frame camera – therefore having a reputation of producing too much noise in an image.
Large file sizes
Digital medium format cameras tend to produce images at a resolution not really needed for wedding photography. Many people consider 24mp images ample for wedding photography, while I personally prefer larger images but it’s all a matter of preference. The reason why having too much resolution is an issue with wedding photography is the requirement for editing thousands of images in post production. The higher the resolution of images produced, the longer it will take based on the power of the computer doing the editing.
Cost is also traditionally a huge factor in deciding not to go with a digital medium format camera with bodies often starting at $15k-$50k with lenses on top.
What’s different with the GFX100s for Wedding Photography
So if all these negative aspects of digital medium format are such an issue, why would you choose the GFX100s for wedding photography, considering it is a digital medium format camera? Well basically the GFX100s has attempted to address all of these pitfalls traditionally associated with digital medium format cameras.
The GFX100s is rated at 5fps
First of all is the speed, my main work horse cameras throughout my wedding photography career has been the Nikon line up of full-frame DSLR cameras – the D700, D810 and D850. These cameras had 5, 5-7 and 7 frames per second continuous shooting speed respectively – making these cameras not super fast when compared to flagship DSLRS at 14fps or 30fps with mirrorless full-frame cameras, but I felt to be quite fast enough when in a situation like wedding photography.
The only reason why you would need a faster continuous shooting speed would be in high speed situations like sports.
Guess what the continuous shooting speed rating for the GFX100s is? 5fps. Now this is slower than my usual D850’s 7fps but still ample, particularly considering each image is a whopping 102 megapixel image! It’s just incredible it’s that fast! I had used digital medium format cameras in the past in the famed Pentax 645z which had a rating of 3fps and I found that overbearingly slow, but 5fps with the GFX100s for wedding photography is perfectly workable.
ISO handling is amazing
As for lenses, I tend to use the venerable combination of a 24-70mm f2.8 lens on my main full-frame camera, and the 70-200 f2.8 lens on my second body when shooting a wedding, so when looking at lenses for the GFX100s for wedding photography I tried to match that combination as much as possible, purchasing the 32-64 f4 lens meaning that this lens was not as fast as my usual go-to lenses.
Thankfully the GFX100s, and many modern mirrorless cameras for that matter, handle high ISO ratings amazingly well, allowing for little to no noise in low light situations. in fact since swapping to the GFX100s for wedding photography, I’ve used my hot-shoe flash much less often that what I might have with my Nikons.
This may be due to the ability of mirrorless cameras allowing a preview of the shot I’m about to take through the viewfinder I don’t know, but all I know is that my habits in this regard have definitely changed and I’m not afraid to bump the ISO up as much as needed.
Files are large, but not too large
This is probably the biggest issue for most when considering the GFX100s for wedding photography. As it packs a massive 102mp sensor, which is double that over the Sony Alpha1, and 3x the Nikon D850 which many professional wedding photographers swear by.
The fun thing is that when selecting a few options on the GFX100s, like reducing the bit depth to the lower 14bit (still huge) colour depth, and compressing the RAW files make the file sizes a quite reasonable 90-120mb and when compared to my Nikon D850 Raw sizes of 50-60mb that doesn’t seem too bad; particularly when you realise these settings don’t change much in image quality.
These file sizes are still larger of course which requires a beefier computer to handle them which may be a consideration for you – but for me the beefier computer in front of me the better!
Not as expensive as you may expect
Ok, cost is a big one – so many people out there just hear the phrase ‘medium format’ and get scared off immediately, and for good reason! If you’re in the market for digital medium format cameras you cay find yourself looking at AUD$20-$60k for a lens and body setup which is the price of a car.
That said though, those of you in the market for a new camera may be looking at the mirrorless full frame options out there, which is fair enough – but look at the costs carefully, the cost of a Sony A9 II body is $7k with the popular 7s III is $6k. Then there are the Nikon’s 7z II for $5.5k or the Canon famous R6 for $4k. This is compared to the hefty $9k for the GFX100s.
So, sure if you’re only buying a body having a GFX100s for wedding photography is pricey, but go price the lenses! The medium format GFX range of lenses tend to be quite a bit less expensive than the equivalent full frame lenses available. When pricing up a Nikon 7z II setup I found that the total cost for me would be $12k, when a GFX100s setup was $13k. What’s an extra $1000 when you can have the incredible ability of medium format in your hand?
Why I chose the GFX100s for Wedding Photography
I was thrown into a bit of a situation earlier in the year with the untimely death of my main Nikon D850 camera body which I managed to drop into a waterfall while photographing a wedding in Hobart, Tasmania. Claiming the camera on my insurance meant that I had to replace my usual workhorse of my wedding photography with something new.
I had always been a Nikon fan, ever since purchasing my very first DSLR in the venerable D80 while living in Japan – so my first port of call was obviously either a new D850 or join the mirrorless trend with the newer Z7ii.
I had been resisting heading into the mirrorless world as shooting stills with a mirrorless camera always seemed ‘off’ to me having no physical ‘clunk’ of the mirror when taking photos. Whenever I was asked why I chose Nikon over Canon I would always cite the main reason as being the satisfying ‘clunk’ noise that Nikons made over their more electric sounding Canon counterparts.
I had attempted to use mirrorless cameras for still photography in the past heading to presentations and industry nights where professional photographers are given pieces of equipment to try out for themselves. Never enjoyed the process at all and I had attended nights run by both Nikon and Sony.
On the other hand I felt as though taking the obvious choice and opting to buy a new Nikon D850 was an opportunity to upgrade lost. By this I mean that I had a chance to try something new and something astonishing had caught my eye in the new Medium Format Fujifilm GFX100s for wedding photography.
I had become familiar with Fujifilm cameras as I use a couple of X-T3s as my primary video cameras for my wedding videography which I believed was the best application for mirrorless cameras, but the whole idea of having a Medium Format Camera really appealed to my inner tech-nerd so I looked into it further.
First Impressions using the GFX100s for Wedding Photography
As of writing this little blog, I’ve shot 6 weddings using the GFX100s for wedding photography as my main camera – with 4 of them being fully edited, so I think I’m in a good sitaution to outline my thoughts of using this beast of a camera. The great thing about the weddings I’ve shot with it was that each of the weddings I covered with it were very different in regards to climate, theme and time of day so I could really test it out in all situations.
My first thought when picking up the camera was how light it was. I had in the past used medium format cameras, so I was expecting something rather hefty – particularly in the lens department, but I was pleasantly surprised at how sturdy it felt, and lighter than my Nikon D850! 900g vs 1005g for those interested. The lens I chose – the 32-64 f4 lens – was also very light at 875g vs my Sigma ART 24-70mm f2.8 I would usually use on my Nikon at 1020g.
The feel in my hand is really nice with a huge hand grip, and the LCD screen on the top that stays on with a battery installed is just beautiful. Weather proofing and materials used means I really can’t fault it at all!
A big reason why people are heading in droves to mirrorless cameras, other than the weight benefits, are the technological advances available to such cameras. These include live view in the viewfinder of the camera settings, eye tracking auto focus and the shutter release speed tends to be faster. These are all things I was brand new to coming from my Nikons, so using these things for the first time in a professional sense was quite novel.
Image Fidelity and Quality
Just holy crap. I had always had in my mind that I would swap to being a prime lens user when I finally made the change to medium format, and that was the plan due to the tendency for prime lenses to be that much sharper than zoom lenses, but unfortunately the selection of wider angle prime lenses for the GFX system isn’t great, hence opting for the 32-64 f4 lens.
Could not be more impressed with 102mp images if I tried, including in low light, high ISO setting. They might require a little bit of noise reduction, but there are some amazing bits of software for that these days.
To illustrate this I was lucky enough to cover a wedding at the same wedding venue with a ‘money shot’ everyone gets while there – in this case it was the Inglewood Inn’s Gollop’s Bridge, so here is an example of the same shot using my Nikon D810 and the GFX100s along with a 100% crop of each.
Hopefully this illustrates why I now love the GFX100s for wedding photography – particularly for money shots like this that are bound to be printed huge!
Ease of use
One of my fears of switching to the Fuji system for stills photography was my experience with the X-T3 cameras which I really don;t like using due to the retro dials at the top of the camera. When using a camera for wedding photography I like to switch settings quickly using my forefinger and thumb on dials like I had been used to with my Nikon systems.
Thankfully, using the GFX100s for wedding photography means it was a very simple transition to the Fuji way of using dials with the only slight difference being the way you select ISO settings which in some ways is better than the Nikon way of doing things – which was cool. I’ve also found myself using the Aperture priority setting much more with this camera, only reverting to my old way of doing things with full manual when I want to overexpose occasionally.
What I don’t like about the GFX100s for Wedding Photography
Lack of a physical shutter clunk
I really do miss the physical clunk of my Nikons, the poor excuse of the physical shutter sound on the GFX100s just doesn’t cut it, and don’t get me started on the tiny little sound it makes for the electronic shutter. makes me feel as though I’m not taking photos and causes some overshooting. This is simply something I need to get used to though.
Too slow for receptions
It’s a combination of my subconscious photographer’s mind relying on the shutter clunk to register that I’ve taken an image and the fact that it is a medium format camera when I find myself feeling as though I’m missing too many shots with the GFX100s for wedding receptions.
Also the fact that I have to use a slower wide angle lens when in lower light situations with medium format means I can’t use a faster shutter speed without bumping the ISO up a little too high.
I have been using my trusty Nikon D810 for reception photos as a result. Once a wide angle GFX mount lens is released I’ll probably be re evaluating this – but currently, having a 102mp sensor for candid, drunken photos is simply too much anyway. I might break it out for a pinup first dance shot, but that’s about it.
I Highly Recommend the GFX100s for Wedding Photography
I have certainly been enjoying my foray into using medium format with my new GFX100s for wedding photography. It really is hard to explain using a blog post to explain exactly why I’m enjoying using the GFX100s for wedding photography so much, but let me just say that I have been using this camera and thinking about my photography in the same way I had when first getting my hands on my first full frame professional camera.
I’m the type of person who gets inspired by using new technology in such as way that prompts quite a bit of creativity from me – it really feels as though I’m relearning how to take photos, but with all the experience I’ve had in the past as a foundation so it’s making taking so much fun!
Weddings I’ve used the GFX100s for Wedding Photography
Here’s some examples of work I’ve used the GFX100s for wedding photography as a main camera.