Fujifilm has been working wonders in the niche world of Medium Format cameras, so much so that Sony recently announced a camera (the a7r IV) that will offer “Medium Format Quality” even though it’s a Full Frame camera. It’s evident that other manufacturers are impressed but also worried about Fujifilm’s ability to produce affordable Medium Format cameras. Fujifilm’s dream is to one-up the Full Frame crowd. One thing they lack though is excellent third party support. Thankfully this is starting to change thanks to companies like Laowa, who just announced their first lens for the GFX line. Join us after the break to see more details about the lens, and to see why we think third party lenses could really take Fujifilm’s offerings over the edge.
The lens that Laowa just announced is the Laowa 17mm f/4 Zero-D. When it is released in a couple of weeks, the lens will be the widest rectilinear lens for Fujifilm’s GFX camera system. The lens will act like a 13.5mm equivalent, which is by far wider than anything Fujifilm have developed by themselves so far.
The 113-degree ultra-wide perspective makes it an ideal lens for landscapes and architectural photography. It features 21 elements in 14 groups and can focus from as little as 7.9 inches away from your subject. Laowa claims that that lens has a close to zero distortion rate. When it comes to third party lenses, this one doesn’t sound too shabby at all, and it’s priced nicely at $1,199.
Fujifilm has been reluctant to partner with companies that make the third party lenses, and in all honesty, that has been holding their cameras back a little. While I understand Fujifilm want to ensure quality for their end-users, third party lenses have improved so much over the last few years. Images produced from third party lenses are virtually indistinguishable when compared to first-party offerings now.
When it comes to Fujifilm’s Medium Format GFX cameras like the GFX 50R and the new GFX 100, the selection of lenses for them is on the very slim side of things. True ultra-wide lenses have been tough to come by, so why Fujifilm refuse to see the worth of third party companies, and what they can do to help elevate the platform is beyond me.
Their reluctance to work with the likes of Sigma and others comes from them not wanting to share the secrets of their autofocus systems. Unless companies want to spend time reverse-engineering the AF system, any third-party lenses will be manual focus offerings, just like the new 17mm f4 zero-D from Laowa. We’re sure that GFX users will be totally fine with that though, simply because more choices are always welcomed.
Fujifilm needs to understand that greater lens selection, even if they’re not their own, will equal a more significant user base. Fujifilm’s Medium Format GFX cameras are actually affordable. The GFX 50R is just $4,499, which is cheap for Medium Format, so having more lenses available to the masses could really help take the platform over the edge. There’s no reason why Fujifilm, along with support from others, can’t make Medium Format a mainstream system alongside Full Frame and APS-C options. Fujifilm, you already have Sony rattled so why not shake their cage a little harder?
We hope that in the future, Fujifilm will see the value of partnering with makers of third party lenses. If they don’t, we hope that third party manual focus offerings from the likes of Laowa, Irix, and even Rokinon/Samyang will continue to expand the lens line up for these great cameras.