In the Spotlight with FUJIFILM – Featuring Timur Civan Testing the GFX100 II

October 3rd, 2023 Jump to Comment Section 9
In the Spotlight with FUJIFILM – Featuring Timur Civan Testing the GFX100 II

The GFX100 II is FUJIFILM’s latest camera in its arsenal. We already discussed this large format camera with the people behind it and conducted an initial review of it here. Our friend and colleague, Timur Civan, was given the opportunity to work with the camera prior to its release, so we approached him and asked if he would share his thoughts with us about the new camera as we continue testing the GFX100 II in-house in order to put it through its paces.

But first things first, here is a bit about the man himself.

Born and raised in New York City, Timur Civan has always seen the world through the eyes of an artist. He began pursuing his creative passion as a contemporary sculptor, incorporating video images into some of his work and exploring a variety of innovative art forms, including photography. Becoming a Director of Photography was therefore a natural progression.

Timur Civan on set testing the FUJIFILM GFX100 II
Timur Civan on set testing the FUJIFILM GFX100 II and different lenses. Credit: Timur Civan

After much experimentation with moving images during his brief professional art career, Civan came to the realization that painting an image with light to tell a story was the medium that best expressed his artistic vision. His techniques in cinematography are at the cutting edge of creative imaging, enriched by his experimentation with both modern and classic lenses, innovative lighting styles, and a deep dive into the latest technologies. Given his naturally inquisitive nature, fascination with science, and acute artistic sensibilities, he is drawn to technically complex commercial and experimental shooting assignments and is highly adept at in-camera special effects, high speed, tabletop, motion control, and macro work.

The Permit by Timur Civan

Working with the FUJIFILM GFX100 II

I shoot on the current GFX100s’ video mode often. I use it mainly as a B camera, where I can use the optical effects of the GF format (medium format) to their fullest – B-roll, interviews, specific portrait shots, etc. The codec is good, 10-bit Log in a healthy 400Mbps intraframe codec. It does record in 4:2:0 color space, but its color science is so good that often you don’t need to make substantial changes in the grade and it holds up well in Resolve. 

The GFX100 II is placed squarely in A camera territory, especially for narrative projects, music videos and documentary work. The secret is not only in the sensor format flexibility – you can shoot Medium format, Full Frame or S35 – but in the fact that it now records in 4K and 8K, 10-bit 4:2:2 Apple ProRes internally.  The codec can stand up to heavier grading and more post-manipulation. That, combined with even better color science, new F-Log2 gamma, excellent on board recording codec, means the GFX100 II is a very viable “A camera”.  

The Permit – BTS – Part of “The Hitchcock Experiment” lens test

When I shot this lens test, I was using the GFX100 II as a test bench, to test lenses across sensor formats. By the end, seeing its performance, it became a serious contender for the project I intend to shoot. The small size, excellent dynamic range, color, codec, and unique optical characteristics of the large format sensor opened up the photographic possibilities of the project. The project has a color, neo-noir style. While it’s set at some point in the last 50 years, still TBD, having the option of GF format and legacy medium format lenses is really interesting. There is an isolating effect with the focus when using a large format; they can add for example the loneliness of a character, or allow the cinematographer to select one individual out of a crowd.  Most modern fast lenses will illuminate the GF-sized sensor, especially wide open. 

The resulting depth of field, even in wide shots, separates the character from the background in an interesting way for segments of the film that require this kind of effect. It’s as simple as dropping in some ND and opening up the iris, and suddenly you are reaching into optical looks that just aren’t possible on S35 or even Full Frame sensors. Of course, it’s not necessarily appropriate for an entire film, but the GFX100 II can do it if needed. It also allows you, through the multi-format nature of the sensor, to choose to shoot mostly on legacy S35 lenses, reserving the medium format GF look for added emphasis. 

FUJIFILM GFX100 II and SIGMA 65mm lens
FUJIFILM GFX100 II and SIGMA 65mm lens. Credit: Timur Civan

Production notes

On a more technical note, the dynamic range and color quality were really the things that stood out. When compared to the ARRI Alexa Mini, the GFX100 II appeared to be closely matched in terms of image quality, particularly in dynamic range and color quality. It held its own, and was for the most part intercuttable with a little color matching between the color sciences. As we all know, it’s a really important factor when selecting a camera system for a project. I estimate it holds about a clean 14 stops, definitely more than the GFX100S in video mode by a significant margin. In the lens test, I intentionally overexposed the GFX100 II by about a stop to the meter reading (internal and Sekonic meter). The thinking was that I wanted to protect the darker part of the scene at the surveillance table vs the roll gate which would have been overexposed anyway. In the edit, I saw that I could have pulled the exposure down well over a stop. I didn’t, because I wanted the test footage to be as unmanipulated as possible. However, I believe that the GFX100 II offers such clean image quality in the toe of the image that I could have easily exposed it closer to the key. With the right post-production grading, it could have resulted in an even more nuanced image than what was achieved. That was impressive. There are few mirrorless cameras that have an image robust enough to do that. What it felt like in the end was that I was not shooting on an entry level mirrorless camera. It felt like I was shooting on something in the higher end cinema camera spectrum – I mean, in terms of the breadth of its capability to handle challenging lighting. I stressed the GFX100 II, but it seemed to just accept it and put out a great image anyway. This is what tests like this are for, no?

While I was testing the lenses, I was also keeping a solid eye on the camera, too. I’m excited to shoot another project more specifically focused on the capabilities of the GFX100 II itself. For that project, I will definitely shoot to the RAW recorder as well. I want to see what the GFX100 II is like when it’s maximised for best performance. 

Testing different lenses on the GFX100 II during production
Testing different lenses on the GFX100 II during the production of “The Hitchcock Experiment”. Credit: Timur Civan

As far as actually using the camera, it was very straightforward and it just worked. Nothing to really report there. It did its job. It recorded just fine, and while in beta all but one major feature functioned perfectly.  The feature that wasn’t finished was a “manual focus” feature that makes the GF Autofocus lenses behave like a manual lens.  Repeatable, electronic focus on the barrel. You set your focus limits on the FF manually, and then the lens behaves like its a manual lens. It wasn’t quite done, so I didn’t use it. I didn’t want to misrepresent its capabilities. On day two of filming, we opted for face tracking Auto focus for that shot instead. When the character was in frame, it worked perfectly for all three takes. It only hunted for a moment when pointed at the surveillance table, where there were multiple objects in frame, but quickly settled down. Very cool if you have to operate solo on a gimbal. The new autofocus system is much improved so I’m not surprised. I will certaily revisit this topic more in depth once I get a chance to shoot something with the GFX100 II again. Hopefully very soon. 

For the complete 8 lenses test Timur did, head to the link by clicking here.

Can you see the new FUJIFILM GFX100 II serving as an “A” camera in your upcoming production? Yes/No/Maybe? Please do share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.


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