The Fuji GFX 100s, A Real World Experience - Why I nearly ditched it & why I’m sticking with it


30/9 Update. Before you read the following post please read this short postscript. 

Since sending the open letter (below) to Fuji UK they have responded and replaced the GF 32-64mm F4 zoom with a copy that (a) is sharp across the full zoom range at F8 and (b) one that meets my expectations. I’m also satisfied that from a support perspective Fuji have taken note of my experience and have a genuine desire to provide an effective, professional, service.  Time will tell, but as I say below, it’s how a company responds to customer issues that makes all the difference and in my case, at the end of the day, they pulled out all the stops to provide a solution and to ensure was happy. This is all I can ask. 

Whitfield Gill Force, Wensleydale | Fuji GFX100s & GF 32-64mm F4

Though I was pretty hacked off and close to ditching the system, all the reasons I bought into the GFX system still stand -  it remains, after all, just about the perfect camera for landscape photography - and finding an alternative medium format system that meets my needs would mean splashing out quite a bit more cash. With a new camera body and lens, my hope is that the saga is now put to bed and the coming months will be trouble-free. Less emails and support calls, more photographs … we can all agree to that! 

Caught By the Light, Wensleydale | Fuji GFX 100s & GF 100-200mm

One final thought, Fuji offer a try before you buy scheme. My advice would be to take them up on this offer and to test out the cameras / lenses in the conditions you’ll use them. The Yorkshire Dales isn’t California (in terms of light at least) and my needs - a camera system capable of producing sharp, clean images when using hand-held in low-light conditions, that show no flaws when printed a metre or more across  - won’t be everyones. 

Fells & Flowers, Swaledale | Fuji GFX 110mm F2

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Original Post 

I bought the Fuji GFX 100s one year ago. The specification was, for my purposes, as near to perfect as you could hope, the price, whilst still the cost of a small car, was relatively (for medium format) affordable and the reviews that greeted the camera’s launch unanimously glowing. But the problem with initial product reviews is that by their very nature they miss two vital elements; (a) the reliability of the system and (b) the effectiveness of customer support. It’s only when using a camera over an extended period that these aspects start  to factor in and, in this case, become critical considerations.  

One year later and following seven months of issues, I’m seriously considering cutting my losses and finding an alternative to the big Fuji.  To be honest I’ve just become worn down by the experience. Below is an open letter to Fuji’s senior managers in the UK and Japan outlining the problems and expressing my frustration.  I realise that others will have different and more positive stories to tell, but this is my experience and my story. 

For those expecting some sort of review this is not a review at all. All the same I hope for those thinking of buying the camera that it’s a useful input (amongst many) into their considerations. 

For Fuji I hope that the feedback helps them improve. I’ve no axe to grind with Fuji. On the contrary I’ve a lot of time for companies that plough their own furrow. They make unique, innovative and appealing cameras that people love, but no company can get it right every time. I sincerely believe that the long term success of a company is linked to its ability to take criticism humbly and use it in a positive way: to improve the quality of their products, the quality of their service, and if responded to well, to build a loyal customer base.  

On sending the letter to Fuji on 18th September and informing them that I would publish it a few days later, the initial response was immediate. I have since spoken to one of their team who has escalated the issue with ”their General Manager, European Service Manager and Group Marketing Manager” who are ”working together to find a suitable solution”. With the camera currently sat in dry dock I’m hoping the solution will come sooner rather than later!

Note: For those interested the photos of the Fuji were taken on my beloved Sony Rx1r. The little Sony is eight years old and has taken a few punches, but still takes wonderful photos and has never missed a beat.

Dear Fuji Senior Management

A year ago I sold my Sony / Zeiss kit and invested in the Fuji GFX 100s system. The appeal of the Fuji camera for a landscape photographer was obvious. A year later I’m seriously doubting my decision. 

In the year I’ve owned the camera the GFX 100s has suffered from three separate issues. The first led to a replacement of the main circuit and shutter. The second (experienced immediately after the repair), a lag before the camera started up, could not replicated by Fuji Support and was not fixed. The third, the menu behaving erratically, was not even acknowledged. After multiple requests Fuji have now replaced the camera unit. 

The second string of problems concerned the GF 32-64mm F4 lens. The initial issue was with the autofocus, which, if hunting in low light conditions, failed and needed the camera to  be turned off and back on.   However the main issue has been that at F8 the images are unacceptably soft on the left and right hand sides of the frame in the mid-range of the zoom. By unacceptable I mean that to make an image usable it would need to be cropped. It took many weeks and several field tests, using three different lenses and two camera bodies, before it was agreed that my lens should be replaced. However the replacement lens also suffers from exactly the same issue (see images below).  For a lens costing over £2,000 and advertised by Fuji as ”optimised to deliver perfect image quality at any focal length and pretty much every aperture ” this is clearly unacceptable.  Just to emphasise the point, the GF 32-64mm lens will be the workhorse of most professional landscape photographers; in other words it’s the lens that has to perform at any focal length and every aperture! 

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect has been attempting to get the issues resolved. Rather than being a comparatively easy and quick process it’s instead become a saga that has now dragged on for eight months, during which time (on a quick count) I’ve sent over fifty emails and had numerous phone  conversations. The experience has left me  with little confidence in (i) the maturity of the camera system, (ii) Fuji’s quality control and (iii) the UK Support Team’s ability to respond to, diagnose and resolve issues. To illustrate the problem I’ve provided a summarised timeline below.

Why this is open to conjecture. Perhaps the UK support team is overstretched, or lack resources, or lack training. Likewise, the  issues with the quality / robustness of the kit may be down to its relative newness, a rush to market,  immaturity in the manufacturing process or poor quality control. Ultimately this is not my problem. All manufacturing companies experience issues from time to time and it’s how they respond them that counts.   

As professional landscape photographer my basic need is for a camera system that just works, and, if from time to time an issue arises, a support function that can get it working again quickly and with the minimum of fuss. Unfortunately this has to date proved too much of an ask. Given the price of the system and the expectations of professional photographers this is something that Fuji has to get right. 

The Fuji GFX system is one that I want to love - It screams landscape photography - but over the last few months I’ve spent more time writing emails, performing field tests, and sending cameras and lenses backwards and forwards, than actually taking photographs. It’s got to the point where I have to seriously consider cutting my losses and giving up on a system that I can not, in all sincerity, recommend to anyone else. Having spent over £12,000 on a camera, lenses and upgrading related items (tripods, filter kits, bags, L-shaped brackets, etc.) and with no hope of getting this sum back, this is a difficult call to make!  … And on top of this is the complication that when working well the images the camera produces are superb. Never-the-less, this is where I find myself.

Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon, Iceland | Fuji GFX 100s & GF 32-64mm

If someone from Fuji would like to contact me, I’d be happy to provide more detail about my experience to date and agree how to take this forward.

Kind Regards

Richard Walls

A timeline of issues up to press

28/2 - (GF 32-64) Reported an issue with autofocus hunting in low light which ended with the message “turn camera off then on again”. Fuji repaired the lens.

28/5 - (GF 32-64) Reported issue of lens being soft at F8, mid-range of the zoom. Fuji requested that I update the firmware and retest. 

13/6 - (GF 32-64) Reported that the firmware update did not  resolve the issue. Fuji  requested that I sent the lens in for repair.

25/6 - (GFX 100s) Reported that GXF 100s had stopped working. Fuji requested that I sent the camera in for repair.

30/6 - (GF 32-64) Told by Fuji that the lens was working to specification and ”We would suggest using F22 on a tripod with a longer shutter speed over F8 aperture”.  

5/7 - (GF 32-64) After pushing back on the above Fuji agreed to send a loan lens to test. 

6/7 - (GFX 100s) Informed that ”The following have been repaired on your camera Main Circuit and Shutter”

9/7 - (GF 32-64) Tested the loan lens which proved to be equally soft and sent test images to Fuji. 

14/7 - (GF 32-64) Told again by Fuji that the lens was working to specification. Requested to speak to a manager and / or someone from Japan. No one responded.

17/7 - (GFX 100s) Following the repair of the camera, reported an issue of a ten second lag between starting the camera and the controls responding. Fuji advised to send the camera back in for repair

21/7 - ((GF 32-64) Fuji requested that I resend the images, which had been lost, so they could be forwarded to a specialist. 

25/7(?) - (GF 32-64) Phoned by James Gilbert who acknowledged there was an issue and requested I retake the shots (i) without the protection filter (ii) on continuous IS and (iii) processed the images using Capture One rather than Lightroom, so as to rule these variables out of the equation.

27/7 - (GF 32-64) Sent a link to the resulting images back to James, all of  which still exhibited the problem. 

30/7 - (GF 32-64) After receiving no reply, and knowing that the images had not been downloaded, I chased Fuji Support who emailed James for a response. I’ve yet to receive a response or had any further communication from  James. 

2/8 - (GF 32-64) Advised I could hire a second loan lens to test against a loan camera and my own with the following message ” If you can’t replicate the issue with your lens on the loan camera, and it’s unlikely the loan lens is faulty, then the only suggestion is that the camera is off-spec.”

2/8 - (GF 32-64 & GFX 100s) Sent a summary of the experience to date expressing my frustration, asking that the problem with the lens be acknowledged by James Gilbert and requesting that ”someone senior from Fuji UK or Japan respond with their thoughts” . I received no response.

3/8(GFX 100s) Informed that the camera was ”working fine”  and it was being returned. After requesting further information I was told that “the technician couldn’t find the fault, gave it to me to test and the response with the eye sensor and response time viewing the photo back is like a second”.

5/8 - (GF 32-64 & GFX 100s) after chasing Fuji support I received a reply to the summary send on 2/8 as follows “yes, this seems correct”. To date I still have not been contacted by anyone senior from UK support.

10/8 - (GFX 100s) After recalling from a previous conversation that one of the first things the camera did on start up was access the memory cards it took me five minutes to replicate and trace the time lag issue to the second memory card slot. I informed Fuji. I was told that they would test their own camera the next day.

22/8 - (GFX 100s) After receiving no update on the above I chased Fuji Support and also advised them of another problem with the menu behaving erratically.  This email was not replied to and the problem never acknowledged. 

26/8 - (GF 32-64)Tested the second loan lens on both camera bodies. The loan lens worked perfectly on both bodies where-as my own lens did not. Sent the results back to Fuji.

26/8 - (GF 32-64 & GFX 100s) Having lost confidence in Fuji’s ability to determine the cause and repair the issues I requested that both the lens and camera body be replaced.

1/9 - (GF 32-64 & GFX 100s) After repeatedly chasing by phone and not getting through I emailed Andreas Georghiades, Group Marketing Manager - Imaging Solutions, who was very supportive in resolving an earlier issue when buying the camera. Received an immediate response form Andreas who recommended that the body and lens should be replaced. 

7/9 - (GF 32-64 & GFX 100s) Advised by Fuji Support the lens and body would be replaced. 

17/9 - (GF 32-64)After receiving the replacement body and lens I tested the lens and found that it suffered from the issue. I have informed Fuji tech support copying in Andreas Georghiades and am awaiting a response.  











   







 


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