If reports are to be believed, then Fujifilm might be looking to compete with the Sony A1, Nikon Z9, and Canon EOS R3. This won’t be on the X mount though, as Fujifilm is taking the high frame rate flagship contest to the next level on a medium format sensor body. While on paper, the specs would appeal to sports photographers and photojournalists, does Fujifilm have enough lenses to go with it?
French publication Phototrend caught up with top Fujifilm executives at the recently concluded CP+ 2023 show. Makoto Oishi, their Product Planner for the GFX system, acknowledged that there was a potential market for fast-framerate GFX sensor cameras. He attributed this to the fact that they knew of photographers using the GFX100s body at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. In all likelihood, this could have been due to the extended cropping capabilities of the 100mp sensor more than anything else. 5 fps may have been a game changer in digital cameras a decade and a half ago. However, cameras like the Sony A1 peak at 30fps for stills. No serious sports photographer today would want to be trying their skills out at sporting events with a 5 fps camera for too long.
There’s Currently No Medium Format Sports Camera
Given the massive file sizes that even jpeg images would have from 50 or 100 megapixels, the reluctance of medium format camera manufacturers to produce a high frame rate camera is understandable. Not to mention the buffer sizes that these cameras would have to maintain to capture photos for many seconds without overheating. But given the right balance between demand and price to manufacture, Fujifilm just might come out with one of these. If anyone can, they have the technology for it already.
Low Light Monsters Incoming
My Nikon D4 was considered the king of high ISO in low-light scenarios. Now an entry-level crop sensor camera could easily match up to that in the right conditions. One of the major issues that sports photographers face around the world is poor lighting both in indoor and outdoor venues. The larger GFX sensor tackles that problem upfront. Fujifilm has already nailed image color science to a T. A sports GFX body might be styled entirely differently to existing models. Still, there’s that elephant in the Fujifilm R&D lab that someone needs to point out to them.
What Lenses Will The GFX Sports Camera Users Use?
At the moment, in terms of the telephoto segment of lenses, Fujifilm has only its GF 100-200mm F5.6 lens. That is the full frame equivalent of a 79-158mm lens. I wouldn’t dare of going to even a school sports meet these days without at least a 200mm reach on my lenses. That makes the GF 100-200mm lens woefully inadequate to cater to the demands of a sports photographer. The longest-reaching prime lens they have is the FUJINON GF 250mmF4 R model. That’s the equivalent of just under 200mm on a full-frame body. It is the bare minimum you could carry with you as a sports photographer.
But for more demanding sports like tennis and football, where you need at least 300mm, Fujifilm doesn’t have anything in their current lens lineup. 200mm isn’t tight enough a frame for most sporting scenarios. And while having a 100-megapixel does mean you can crop in quite a bit, it’s not the right way of doing it. Who wants to be cropping hundreds of images in the middle of the night after a match just to get the framing tight.
High Framerate And Megapixels Alone Won’t Do
This kind of body would be suited to photojournalists too. So something like a 350mm GF lens wouldn’t really be appealing to be released alongside a GFX sports camera. What would be fantastic is a 120-300mm f2.8 or f3.5 full-frame equivalent lens. Or maybe a 200-400 f4 equivalent. If Fujifilm can make these light enough to be handholdable for long periods of time, even better. Let’s hope they are also less chunk. To avoid being knocked around much in public. It’s a fairly big task to achieve, but it’s also something that might woo full-frame flagship cameras to migrate over to the Fujifilm ecosystem.
Can We See More Lenses Coming Up?
Yujiro Igarashi, the Director of Fujifilm’s Electronic Imaging Division, stated that they are planning on expanding the lineup of lenses. The aim is also to improve the existing lineup to be more usable for professional videographers in their line of work. As highly satisfied they are at how far they have come, they will invest in optics research and development.
Promising as this sounds, I do hope that they plan on working on sports lenses in parallel with the potential sports GFX bodies. It is something that could leapfrog Fujifilm to being the market leader in the camera industry. They just might be able to win over photojournalists worldwide with this move. It absolutely won’t be straightforward without a wider range of lenses to go with them. Hardly anyone who’s a pro photojournalist would bother switching systems until their equivalent lenses are available in the system they switch to. The ideal GFX sports body should come with at least 3 new lenses.
I highly doubt they can double or triple the fps rate of any existing GFX Fujifilm cameras to make them faster. Of course, it’s not just increasing frame rates. The AF tracking has to be world leading too. Then again, Fujifilm has steadily improved their cameras with frequent firmware releases. But not having an arsenal of fast telephoto lenses won’t tempt many sports photographers to jump ship