The Middle Child | An user Review of the Fujinon GF50mm f3.5 pancake lens

*My reviews of the Fujifilm GFX100, GFX50R, GFX50S and accompanying GF mount lenses can all be found here. 

To start, I was really anticipating the Fujinon GF50mm f3.5 as Fujifilm had dared to promise one thing that few in medium format has dared to:

A high quality GF mount lens that brings the compactness of the GFX system to the next level. 

48143963322_a9d48995bd_kDon’t suspect, my palm is a typical Asian sized medium.
(And this pancake is only 335 grams!)

This is not going to be a very technical review, hence you will not see MTF charts comparisons and 10 shots of the same scene at ISO levels from ISO100 to ISO102 400 but an honest sharing of how the GF50mm pancake lens performs in real life, with real-life samples from a very down to earth photography enthusiast. 

Design | Philosophy

The smallest of any of the GF mount lenses, (think GF63mm and now shave around 30% off it’s length and you have an idea), the GF50mm adds to the GF lenses family a focal length of approx 40mm (in 135 format) with an aperture of f3.5 to f32, giving the GF mount a very complete focal length range from the GF23mm to the GF250mm at both ends. 

The GF50mm’s design philosophy centers around achieving the optimal balance between optical performance and the miniaturizing of size, providing the GFX user a lens choice that is unrivaled in terms of portability. 

To put it in perspective, the GF50mm f3.5 comes in at 335 grams (11.82 oz), and 1110 grams (39.2 oz) when mounted on the GFX50R (the setup I used for the review). In comparison, the camera bodies of the Leica SL and Nikon D850 (one of the best full-framers I know of) comes in at 847g and 915g respectively without anything mounted. 

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Selfie with the GFX system? Sure.
f3.5, GF50mm on the GFX50R

Spec readers can follow this link here which I will update once official specs are released from Fujifilm. 

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Top: The GF50mm without its included hood (Lego figurine for perspective)
Bottom: The GF50mm with its included screw-in hood made from metal.
(yes, it’s so thin you can easily miss it) 

Coming from the likes of the excellent GF110mm and GF250mm, the GF50mm is not going to be winning any awards for jaw-dropping MTF charts in terms of pure optical performance but it holds a unique spot in the series, standing out for its sheer portability and performance. For the spec readers, the GF50mm design consists of 9 elements in 6 groups and includes one aspherical lens element to minimize spherical aberration and barrel distortion. 

The design is simple but well thought through, with a grippy focusing ring in front and the aperture ring in the middle equipped with a snug lock to keep the lens in ‘A’ position should one prefers to. The included metal hood is screw-in and is design to keeping the lens as compact as possible. 

And in this pancake GF mount lens, do not forget that this miniature is designed and well capable of resolving the 102MP sensor of the GFX100 monster. 

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ISO200, f3.5, ACROS-G

Handling & Samples

The GF50mm is so far the only native GF lens that I have brought into the confines of cramped crowds and the size of the whole setup is literally smaller than well, even some DSLR setups – allowing me to move easily.

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The GFX50R and GF50mm is the only GFX setup I can pack into a 5L PD sling with at least 30% of the space empty for other stuff. Yes, the hood is attached. 

Autofocus speed is easily comparable and at times snappier than the GF45mm, and definitely more confident and faster than the GF63mm and trying to document the chaotic & slippery environment at the local wet-produce market was easy as I was able to move through easily without being stared at. 

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( mostly at ISO200 to ISO250, f4 ) Classic Chrome

Outside cramped confines, the GF50mm performs to expectations like any other excellent native GF lens, proving easily the ability to ease into the wideness of the GF45mm or the narrowness of the GF63mm when needed. 

We often hear so many comments on seeing the world through a 35mm vs 50mm lens, hence why not a 40mm? 

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ISO100, f3.5, Provia

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ISO100, f3.5, Velvia

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ISO200, f3.5, Astia

On the streets, it was simply enjoyable using the GF50mm. I am primarily a 35mm focal length user but never once did I find the GF50mm too tight.  Focusing was confident, fast and most of all I was very comfortable handling the weight and size of this setup. It feels like if Fujifilm remade the XF27mm f2.8 lens from the Fujifilm APSC system in a higher quality form and made it run on medium format image quality steroids. 

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f3.5, Classic Chrome 

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f3.5, Provia

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ISO200, f8, Classic Chrome

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f3.5, Classic Chrome (Added Grain) 

The GF50mm is an easy-going lens, and pretty much easily takes in whatever I wanted to fill the frame with. Chromatic aberrations and distortion were basically extremely minimal and well controlled. Add in the imaging performance of the GFX50R and we have a really excellent setup. 

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f3.5, Velvia (65×24) 

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ISO1250, f3.5, Velvia

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ISO200, f4, Pro Neg H

One might pick at the maximum aperture of f3.5 but it is a fact that the GFX possesses a larger than full-frame sensor, and having noteworthy separation is simply part of the GFX imaging DNA.

*Talking about the f3.5, There is a reason why the Ibelux f0.95 lenses never sold well. Aperture size matters but this need to be taken in accordance with overall image quality performance and medium format is about image quality more than bokeh (my 2 cents) 

Bokeh side obviously we will not be getting the drool-worthy GF250mm or GF110mm level of bokeh but what the GF50mm presents is still beyond what I had expected. 

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f3.5, ACROS-G

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 f3.5, ACROS-G

And for the pixel peepers, there’s always something 🙂 

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100% Crop

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ISO100, f4, Velvia with reduced Saturation

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ISO200, f8, Velvia

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ISO200, f4, ACROS-G

It was a breeze managing shots of moving subjects, with a very low percentage of misses. 

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ISO200, f3.5, Provia

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ISO200, f3.5, Provia

Close-up shots of nature and its beauty? Not a problem. 

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ISO100, f4, Velvia

Conclusion. 

To a lot of photographers the GF50mm f3.5 may suffer from the middle child syndrome, with the GF45mm and GF63mm taking on the more prominent 35mm and 50mm focal lengths, but like any middle child worth his or her mettle, the GF50mm manages to carve out a niche for itself  – managing a portability that both other siblings can only envy and a performance that any ‘parent’ can be proud of.

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ISO1250, f5.6. Personal B&W rendition. 

We may overlook or undervalue the GF50mm because it’s other siblings may sparkle more but once you give it your time, it will show you it is as special as the others. 

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f3.5, Pro-Neg H

and to end off..
Give the GF50mm a try. 

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ISO200, f4, Velvia

Disclaimers for image samples: 

  1. The GF50mm f3.5 used for this review is a pre-production unit, hence the final production unit’s performance will only be better. 
  2. All images unless stated otherwise (including those of the camera) shared here were photographed by me and edited in Lightroom to my preferences.
  3. Most of the images were edited from RAW and I have added in the film simulations used in the accompanying info for each image for clarity. 
  4. The GF50mm was loaned with the generosity of Fujifilm Asia Pacific, I was not paid in any form and the lens returned at the end of the review. 
  5. All image samples shared were shot with a GFX50R and the GF50mm lens. 

Thank you for reading. 

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keithwee

Keith Father, Teacher and Life Photographer. Lives a life of positivism & seeks to photograph Life & his 2 toddlers Kei & Lynn.

2 thoughts on “The Middle Child | An user Review of the Fujinon GF50mm f3.5 pancake lens

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