Fujifilm’s Pixel Shift Feature in the GFX 100 is Utterly Pointless

The $10,000 Fujifilm GFX 100 is probably the best medium format camera on the market right now. In almost every category the Fujifilm GFX 100 will outperform nearly every other medium format system. Even with its relatively smaller sensor, the GFX 100 seems to have no compromises in image quality. Low light and dynamic range […]

Fujifilm’s Pixel Shift Feature in the GFX 100 is Utterly Pointless

The $10,000 Fujifilm GFX 100 is probably the best medium format camera on the market right now. In almost every category the Fujifilm GFX 100 will outperform nearly every other medium format system.

Even with its relatively smaller sensor, the GFX 100 seems to have no compromises in image quality. Low light and dynamic range performance are on par with larger sensor cameras such as the $48,000 Hasselblad H6D-400c.

There are only two areas where the Fujifilm GFX 100 seems to underperform, and the first is color. The second area where the GFX 100 isn’t up to par is with its Pixel Shift features. In essence, the Pixel Shift features on the Fujifilm GFX are pretty pointless.

What is Pixel Shift?

The Fujifilm GFX 100 has a feature that allows it to produce 400-megapixel files even with a sensor that’s only 100-megapixels. It manages to do this by stacking 16 images together and then stacking them in post. Each individual image is shifted by one pixel and this has two major benefits.

The first benefit is that the red, blue, and green pixels are no longer interpolated. Each pixel is correctly assigned to one of those three colors.

The second benefit is that with the extra data from the other 15 images, Fujifilm’s software can increase the resolution to 400-megapixels. This is interpolated, although due to the extra information it’s a very sophisticated form of interpolation.

Pixel shift features are not unique to Fujifilm, as several other manufacturers have produced cameras with similar features. Cameras such as Pentax, Sony with its a7R series of cameras, and of course Hasselblad with its Multi-Shot cameras.

The key limitation with Pixel Shift features is that they can only be used effectively on still-life subjects. Any movement in the image can create unwanted artifacts that may prove difficult to remove or workaround.

The Cost of Using Pixel Shift Features

With the Fujifilm GFX 100, there is a steep cost for using the Pixel Shift features. These costs come in the way of storage, time, and usability.

When it comes to storage, it takes 16 raw files to produce one individual Pixel Shift file. This amounts to approximately 5 GB worth of data. This is without taking into account potential PSD files and any extra storage requirements through the workflow.

There is also the additional time that is required for each image. Depending on your computer’s performance, it can up to 25 minutes just to produce one image. If anything goes wrong with any of the individual files, you may be required to start the whole process again. More than likely, things will go wrong because the biggest problem with Fujifilm’s Pixel Shift feature is the fact that you cannot use the mechanical shutter.

The GFX 100 is forced into using its electronic shutter when shooting in the Pixel Shift mode. This means that flash lighting along with a fast shutter speed is out of the question. You can of course use continuous lighting, but at smaller apertures, you are forced to use slower shutter speeds.

The slower shutter speed and the high number of images required per Pixel Shift mean that the potential for error is significant. It took us almost 4 hours to produce one pixel-shift image where all of the images were sharp and had no motion blur. Even with heavy tripods, 2-second delays, and tethered shooting, The Fujifilm GFX 100 is highly susceptible to issues.

To put this into context, the Hasselblad H6D-400c requires less than half the number of files to produce a Pixel Shift image. This meant we were able to produce a successful multi-shot image with just one attempt. The Hasselblad can also fire the mechanical shutter when using its multi-shot mode meaning flash and high-speed shooting is still possible at smaller apertures.

With the Fujifilm GFX 100, the cost of using Pixel Shift features may still have been worth it if the result were good enough. Unfortunately, the results are mediocre, and simply not worth the effort.

The Results Compared

When you compare a standard 100 megapixels file to the Pixel Shift image from the Fujifilm GFX 100, there is a noticeable difference. The Pixel Shift file looks sharper, and details are more defined. If you look at the two comparisons below, you’ll notice how the Pixel Shift file is certainly better.

Shot with the Fujifilm GFX 100 using Pixel Shift (left) and standard resolution (right).
Shot with the Fujifilm GFX 100 using Pixel Shift (left) and standard resolution (right).

For instance, the wood grain in the Pixel Shift image has more detail and appears sharper too. Even in the second comparison, the vein structure in the leaf is more defined. Essentially, there is definitely an improvement when using the Pixel Shift feature.

However, the improvements gained from using Pixel Shift are minimal at best and not at all worth the ridiculous effort. The resolution has increased, although the actual detail in the image hasn’t increased by a significant amount. The image simply appears slightly sharper and less pixelated as opposed to having more actual detail.

If you take the Fujifilm Pixel Shift file and compare it to the Hasselblad H6D-400c multi-shot image, the Hasselblad is clearly better. Not only does the Hasselblad image appear sharper, but it also has more detail present in the image. The H6D-400c is a far more effective camera when it comes to using this particular feature. Although I should mention, the Fujifilm GFX 100 generally outperforms the Hasselblad in almost every other category.

Why This Feature is Pointless

The Pixel Shift features in the Fujifilm GFX 100 are pointless, mostly because of AI upscaling software by Topaz Labs and Adobe. Gigapixel is one of the AI-powered software from Topaz Labs, and it’s used to intelligently increase the resolution of an image. You can effectively take any standard 100-megapixel image taken with the Fujifilm GFX 100 and upscale it in the software to produce better results.

When you compare the Pixel Shift file against the gigapixel upscaled image, the latter distinctly better. The upscaled image appears sharper with a greater degree of detail. Even in complex areas on the leaf, wood grain, and felt textures, the upscaled image looks more defined.

Fujifilm GFX 100 photos shot with Pixel Shift (left) and AI upscalled with Topaz Labs Gigapixel (right).
Fujifilm GFX 100 photos shot with Pixel Shift (left) and AI upscalled with Topaz Labs Gigapixel (right).
Fujifilm GFX 100 photos shot with Pixel Shift (left) and AI upscalled with Topaz Labs Gigapixel (right).

This is actually not the case with Hasselblad. The H6D-400c produces results that not even Gigapixel can seem to match. When you compare the upscaled Fujifilm image to the multi-shot image, it’s clear that the Hasselblad file is still better.

Hasselblad H6D-400c Multi-Shot (left) vs Fujifilm GFX 100 with Gigapixel upscaling (right).
Hasselblad H6D-400c Multi-Shot (left) vs Fujifilm GFX 100 with Gigapixel upscaling (right).
Hasselblad H6D-400c Multi-Shot (left) vs Fujifilm GFX 100 with Gigapixel upscaling (right).

Even with just 6 images, the Hasselblad is able to interpolate details and resolution far more effectively than both Fujifilm and Topaz Labs software. It’s simply unmatched in this specific area. Even if you take a standard 100-megapixel file from the Hasselblad and upscale it in gigapixel, the multi-shot image is still better.

Hasselblad H6D-400c Multi-Shot (left) and standard photo AI upscaled with Gigapixel (right).
Hasselblad H6D-400c Multi-Shot (left) and standard photo AI upscaled with Gigapixel (right).
Hasselblad H6D-400c Multi-Shot (left) and standard photo AI upscaled with Gigapixel (right).
Hasselblad H6D-400c Multi-Shot (left) and standard photo AI upscaled with Gigapixel (right).

Conclusions

The Pixel Shift features in the Fujifilm GFX 100 are a waste of time and effort. You can produce better results simply by upscaling images in post. This cuts out the need to use the electronic shutter and reduces the storage costs by a significant degree. Even without Gigapixel software being in the picture, the results from the Pixel Shift feature are mediocre at best. It’s individually not worth the effort and when you start to consider AI software too, it becomes a pointless charade.

In order to make this feature useful, the number of images required per Pixel Shift needs to be reduced by at least half. The mechanical shutter also needs to be available otherwise the whole feature remains a badly implemented afterthought.

One could argue that with a mechanical shutter, Pixel Shift wouldn’t be possible due to the vibrations. However, with a sufficient delay between each shot, I don’t see how it could be a problem. Hasselblad manages this quite effortlessly even with its much larger sensor.

As of right now, the Pixel Shift features in the GFX are not effective for high-end use. It’s essentially just a half measure and you’re better off spending the extra money to rent or buy the H6D-400c instead.

Hasselblad H6D-400c Multi-Shot (left) and Fujifilm GFX 100 Pixel Shift (right).

Final Thoughts

The Fujifilm GFX 100 is still probably the best medium format camera currently on the market. Not only is it incredible value for money (especially when you take the GFX 100s into account) it is an utterly marvelous camera. As long as you process the GFX files with a custom ICC profile, I believe it can produce some of the best results right now.

With that in mind, the issues the GFX 100 has with its Pixel Shift features are insignificant. In the grand scheme of things, this is an extremely minor issue that affects very few photographers. Nonetheless, it’s still important to highlight this issue with the hopes that Fujifilm can improve it. As discussed above, there are only two areas where Fujifilm falls short. If these can be addressed, I believe the Fujifilm GFX 100 would indisputably be the best medium format camera on the market.


About the author: Usman Dawood is the lead photographer of Sonder Creative, an architectural and interior photography company. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Dawood’s work on his website, Instagram, and YouTube.

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Review: The Leica SL2-S is Not Perfect, But It’s Perfect For Me

The idea of a Leica camera with image stabilization, a built-in EVF, Wi-Fi, 2 card slots, and endless more features may seem like a very foreign concept for legacy Leica shooters. However, this is exactly what Leica has made in the SL2-S. The camera is very easy to glance at and think “well, it’s just […]

Review: The Leica SL2-S is Not Perfect, But It’s Perfect For Me

The idea of a Leica camera with image stabilization, a built-in EVF, Wi-Fi, 2 card slots, and endless more features may seem like a very foreign concept for legacy Leica shooters. However, this is exactly what Leica has made in the SL2-S.

The camera is very easy to glance at and think “well, it’s just an overpriced Panasonic.” Or maybe even from the other side: “it’s just an SL2 with an outdated sensor to drop the price by a grand.” These impressions are definitely accurate. But the way I see it is: it’s a camera to bridge the gap between old style to new. For film shooters who have no need for high-resolution images and who have already had their fulfillment of M, this is another perfect option for them! Let me explain…

Leica SL2-S | Sigma 65mm f/2.0 Contemporary

Build

I’ll start with the build quality. Over the years I have been fortunate enough to use and own other high-end photo equipment. I used to own a Canon 5D Mark IV as well as a Fuji X-Pro3 and have shot extensively with the flagships like the Canon 1D X line. The SL series is a different breed in terms of build. These machines are made to last.

By no means are the likes of Canon, Nikon, and Sony badly built cameras. It’s more that when you pick up an SL for the first time, you know you’re holding something special. I had the same feeling holding a 5D Mark III for the first time — that cold-to-touch feel that I’m sure a lot of photographers are familiar with. My X-Pro3 was a tank. A go anywhere, do anything type of machine.

I’ve recently played around with the awesome Canon R5 as well, and that feels great. I have no doubt that any of these cameras could withstand the same level of abuse that an SL could. However, when you hold an SL and comprehend how each part is hand-assembled, it’s hard to go back to anything else!

The body features an IP54 rating, and to save the geek talk, this will mean you can just about do anything and go anywhere with this beast. Spray it with a hose? No problem (not that I’ve tested this but the bold boys down at Leica Store Miami have certainly done it!).

My initial justification for this build was “oh, well of course it’s built like this, just look at the price”. I bought mine for £3,975 (~$5,500). We could all go back and forth with production budgets and shipment quantities from bigger companies when comparing this to the likes of the Canon R5, which sells for $3,899. Oh, and let’s not forget the Sony a1 at $6,498.

Okay, okay, not a fair example, I know. The specs are nowhere near the same. But if we ignore that for a moment and only focus on the build, the SL2-S is two-thirds of the price of the a1 and features infinitely better build quality. I’ll circle back to this when comparing some of the SL’s features later.

Leica SL2-S | 2021 M1 iPad Pro 12.9” | Spyderco Para 3 Black Blade | Leica SD Card Wallet

Design

When studying Leica’s design language, I think it’s fair to say that the general consensus is that the products are absolutely stunning. Maybe that’s just my subjective opinion coming through, but they have to have done something right to inspire design gods like Jony Ive and Steve Jobs? While most adore the design of these cameras, their functionality is a more controversial topic. I could go on and on about why I love manual focus and rangefinders, but today, we’re talking the SL line.

The SL2 introduced the 3 button layout to bring the SL series in line with the M10, Q2, and CL. Aesthetically, the SL2-S is almost identical to the SL2. The only change is that the lettering on the front of the body is now blacked out, a change that I welcome as a street photographer. I find the design is as simple as it is practical.

The joystick is a dream to use, and it’s the same one they used even on the original Typ 601. The function buttons are all within reach and for my use, have more than enough features. If you’re used to a flagship Canon/Nikon, then this may restrict you. However, I found I can access all my focusing modes, focusing areas, ISO, WB, timer, PASM, and Wi-Fi settings very easily. And if a button wasn’t set to it, the quick menu works great with the touchscreen.

I also love the deeper indented grip they introduced on the SL2. Given the weight of the body, this makes the ergonomics much better. And while I can rave all day about the build quality, it does result in a significant weight difference. The body is just under a kilo (32.8oz), which is a lot — there’s no easy way of looking at it. And if I paired this with their native SL zooms or even their primes, this would be a real problem for me. This was a big reason why I moved away from my 5D Mark IV. I want a fast, light camera for my street photography. I’ll explain how I achieve that very soon!

Leica SL2-S | Sigma 65mm f/2.0 Contemporary

IQ

Image quality is in no way the biggest feature of a camera for me. There are at least a dozen aspects that come before this for me when I choose a camera. However, this is a big reason why I love and will continue to adore the SL2-S. Now, it’s easy to get confused — I’m not talking resolution here. Yes, at 24MP, it’s half the resolution of the 47MP SL2 and much lower compared to other high-end camera bodies, especially ones of this price.

What I’m more concerned about is how the sensor performs with various lenses, old and new, and how it renders images. Leica’s chief lens designer, Peter Karbe, said once that “there are two cameras in the world best to use M lenses on – M and SL”. And I think that’s what I’m getting at here. I always used to adapt my M lenses onto my Fuji’s and while I was extremely happy with the results, it just wasn’t the same. Leica fit lenses (yes, even third-party lenses) are designed for and around to work best on Leica sensors.

The sensor architecture is delicate, functional, and beautiful… and maybe a little outdated. Let me explain. My M-P Typ 240 from 2014 has a 35mm 24MP sensor, so far the same as the SL2-S right? However, the technology at the time meant that a sensor of this caliber in a body of that design results in some shortcomings — things such as poor low-light performance and slow image transfer. But I along with many others, even today in 2021, are prepared to look past this in light of the image renderings, color, and overall IQ.

The lenses, even my old Summicron 50mm Dual Range Rigid from almost 70 years ago, still work great on my SL2-S. It has character and feel, and a life to images that I just can’t obtain from any other camera system out there. And I understand how $5,000 for a 24MP camera is a lot! Especially now you can pick up a 20MP Canon R6 with far superior AF for $2,499 or a Panasonic S1 with almost identical features for $2,499 or the smaller S5 for $1,999. You could even get a Panasonic S1R, almost identical again to the SL2, for only $3,699. Or maybe even the Sigma Fp L with EVF Kit, which has 60MP (higher than any camera mentioned here!) for $2,999 — $2,000 less than the Sl2-S!

I want to preface this with, the SL2-S is not for everyone! If you want specs, reliable autofocus, and 3 million frames per second, go buy a Sony or any of these cameras mentioned prior. However, if you’re of the 0.0001% of photographers like me who, for god knows what reason, are obsessed by the feel and act of taking a photo, try the Leica SL2-S or any Leica from the past 100 years. This is a company that loves photography, the cameras they build, and better yet, the photographers who use them.

I am in an unbelievably lucky and fortunate position where I can pair the SL2-S next to my M-P or even my film M6 and bounce from feel to function while maintaining a high level of love and enjoyment for all our shared passion.

Leica SL2-S | APO-Summicron-SL 50mm f/2.0 ASPH

Color

I promise not to go too deeply into the topic of color and Leica as I know this is quite the notorious topic when it comes to these cameras. A topic that Leica fanboys and fangirls across the world use to justify spending (let’s be honest here) way too much money on these machines. Why do I know this? Because I am one of these so-called Leica fanboys.

So if you’re happy with the color output from your camera, be it a Canon, Sony, Nikon, Panasonic…even that other one begging with “O”, then carry on scrolling and happy shooting! But for me, unless you’re shooting 3 stops overexposed Portra, there aren’t any better colors, tones, and overall fidelity out there!

Leica SL2-S | Sigma 65mm f/2.0 Contemporary

Low Light

I’ve been itching to talk about the low-light abilities of this monster. Now, while we’ve seen a lot of 24MP sensors over the years, this is in a league of its own. A first for Leica, this is their first-ever backside-illuminated sensor. So while the overall architecture is very similar to the Typ 601, the color calibration and now the BSI, make this a significant upgrade.

I’ve pushed the SL2-S way past 25,000 and onwards to 50,000 ISO while still getting very usable images. The processing power alongside this technology must be performing witchcraft somewhere between the shutter button and SD card because I’ve never seen low light like this. I remember being blown away by the 1D X Mark II and III, and equally so with the a7S III, and while these are still incredible, they’re only 20MP and 12MP — the SL2-S is 24MP.

Is this a realistic measurement? No. Can you tell a difference at 6,400 or even 10,000 ISO? No. But, is it nice to know and feel safe with leaving the camera in auto ISO and never have to worry about another grainy or blurry photo ever again? Absolutely. I set my auto ISO parameters to a max ISO of 50,000 and a minimum shutter speed of 1/250. That way I never have a blurry photo (especially with this IBIS) and I never have to worry about grain.

Aperture priority, exposure compensation set to the rear dial, that’s it. Quick, easy, and very dynamic. These are the settings I use on every camera — when I took the Sony a7R III on holiday, when I owned the X-Pro3 for travel, and even when I shot weddings on my 5D Mark IV. The only difference now is that I don’t have the stress of a photo being too blurry or too grainy. And to quote Josh from Leica Store Miami: “I’d rather have a grainy photo than a blurry photo I can’t use”.

Leica SL2-S @ 32,000 ISO
Leica SL2-S @ 16,000 ISO

AF

Remember when autofocus was only contrast-detect back around 2016? Brilliant, now add fancy algorisms to make it 10% better. That’s how the AF performs on the SL2-S. Don’t get me wrong: it’s better than the SL2 (marginally) and much better than the 601. So for portraiture, landscape, editorial shoots, it’s great. And coming from my Ms, it is a dream.

However, if you’re looking to do sports, compared to the likes of Sony, Canon Dual Pixel, and Fuji, in my experience – forget it. Not to say that it can’t be done, I’ve seen some extraordinary sports photos taken on SL. Specifically when paired with 9fps burst and 25fps with the electronic shutter. On paper, it looks amazing. In my experience, while I’m certainly no wildlife or sports photographer, I only found it to be adequate and usable rather than extraordinary.

A note worth taking, though: the native SL primes (with exception of the Summilux 50 SL) work much faster than their zooms. Notice on the image below how the 24-90mm just missed focus on the deer walking towards me using AF-C and Field AF method.

Leica SL2-S | Vario Elmarit 24-90mm f/2.8-4 ASPH
Leica SL2-S | Spyderco Para 3 Black Blade | Leica SD Card Wallet

Usability and Compared to M?

In conclusion, I’ve always loved the SLs and I love my SL2-S. They’ve had their quirks, but I feel they’ve been getting ironed out over the years through software updates, new lenses, and alliances with Sigma and Panasonic. The price has almost halved since the 601 while competing brands have only ever gone up in price.

The AF, while still not perfect, has improved significantly. The low light went from outdated, even back in 2015, to the best I’ve ever seen. The battery life… well, there’s always room for improvement.

I started this review by saying how this is the camera to attract M shooters, and that’s exactly how I see this camera: a companion to the M. For me, I use this 99% of the time with M lenses. It makes the body smaller, lighter, and, believe it or not, faster. The lower resolution, while keeping up with that gorgeous, close-to-real-life EVF, makes for a manual focus experience I can only describe as M-Like.

Leica SL2-S | Leica M-P typ 240 | Leica M6 TTL | Leica M3 Single Stroke | Voigtlander Bessa R4M
Leica SL2-S | 2021 M1 iPad Pro 12.9” | Spyderco Para 3 Black Blade | Leica SD Card Wallet

For when I want the moment, I will always gravitate to my M bodies. However, now when I look for the big detail photos I know an M just couldn’t keep up with, I trust the SL2-S to be right there alongside. It takes up no extra space, weight, or time while delivering the best image quality for me at no extra expense for experience or enjoyment.

If you’re an M shooter, digital or film, I urge you to try the SL2-S. Feel the build, look through the cinema screen of a viewfinder, and try the manual focus experience.


About the author: Ben Webster is a street and travel photographer based in the south of England, where he also works as a sales assistant at Park Cameras. He regularly shoots with a variety of Leica cameras—ranging from the old M3 and M6 TTL to the digital M-P typ 240—as well as the Fuji X-Pro3. You can find more of his work on his website or by following him on Instagram. This post was also published here.

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