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Full Frame Voigtländer lenses with GFX? Mystical!

Updated: 5 days ago

YES :~)

Chow Chow! Shot using Heliar 50mm F3.5 lens. JPG SOOC. Only cropped. Image © Mystic Focus

Welcome to our blog post about a mystical photographic journey, that taught us a few things we would like to share with you all readers here today. This blog post is an amalgamation of those nuanced thoughts & experiences we have had so far in this vivid journey that you might also want to embark upon. On board?

Disclaimers first

1. This is not a review of any product. Photography, like other forms of art is very subjective. Anything that is lesser, odd, imperfect, obsolete, better or best is all in your head. Or still, just buy a Voigtländer and be done with the rest!

Custom white balance is always better than AWB! Images © Mystic Focus

2. This article is based on our personal account of shooting with our full frame M-mount, F-mount & L39-mount Voigtländer lenses, and adapted to the digital medium format Fujifilm GFX 50r* camera body that we own. Your mileage will further improve if you have the latest 50s II or the 100s body. While we still love shooting with our other wonderful FF & APS-C sensor bodies, but the GFX 50r* has become our primary camera for everything over the last 1+ year or so. This expedition is simply for our own sake and not an endorsement of GFX system because we, like all of you, are also in our own journey, where we also like to use unique things that fascinates us. This article is not meant to dissuade anyone from buying a smaller sensor camera and in no way it construes that they will not give you similar or even better results than you would achieve from this combination. There is no outlier!

Shot with Heliar Classic 50mm F1.5 SC © Mystic Focus. Un-edited

3. Our shooting style is a bit unusual or may be not. We normally shoot at least 1 stop underexposed. The darker the scene is, the more we like it and we further underexpose it. Some of the sample images that we have used for this article have their exposure corrected only for the purpose of this article as you would also learn why we did that as you'll read along. Those changes have been called out in their respective caption. We try shooting handheld as much as we can, without IBIS (even if the camera has one), sometimes down to even 1/25th off a second and don't bother with the obvious shakes as that is not the purpose of this article. We don't prefer, or rather avoid all forms of edits excluding crops, so our aim is to always take one final shot and admire it as-is.

4. And no, we don't chimp either. Hence, there will not be any consistency in the images of the same subject we have used in this article for side-by-side comparisons as they were all unique shots taken with different camera modes or lenses and not intended to be used in an article like this later on. We are not a seasoned reviewer either or believe in one. This is purely intended to familiarise our readers about our experiences with this combo.

Shot with Heliar 40mm F2.8 L39-mount. Image © Mystic Focus. Un-edited, un-cropped in-camera JPG

"Why" this bizarre attempt in the first place?

  1. The large digital medium format (DMF) sensor of GFX riding a large image processor at 14-bits squeezes more details off our full frame (FF) M-mount, F-mount and the very latest anniversary edition L39-mount lenses that is visible even to the least discerning. The results speak for itself

  2. Provides a greater balance between distinctive line pairs at greater distances and a good low light sensitivity. The effective bigger sized pixel (pitch size of 5.29 micro meter) at its resolution and pixel density gathers more light which naturally improves the ISO performance. It further allows for a decent +/- 2 F stops of DR recovery without sacrificing the original micro-contrast, details or characteristic rendering of the lenses

  3. The adapter for M-mount lenses barely adds 1.1mm to the GFX's flange back (27.8mm for VM-mount versus 26.7mm for GFX-mount) and a decent 18.8 mm for F-mount lenses (46.5mm), thereby retaining the overall form factor of the camera pretty compact. There is a marginal increase in the body size if you are coming over from a FF mirrorless body but that's quite obvious

  4. Dimensionally, a DMF sensor is smaller than the true medium format (MF), at 44mm x 33mm versus 60mm x 45mm or 60mm x 70mm of the original MF dimensions. This reduction in sensor size thankfully gets anywhere between 90% (modest) to 100% of sensor coverage depending upon the full frame lens & the GFX body used. Our recent tests have shown that the newer GFX bodies (i.e. 50s II & 100s) have better macro-lenses on their sensors which gathers better light into the corners than our discontinued 50r* model, which makes this combo all the more appealing

  5. Worst case scenario is when using ultra wide lenses, the fixed hoods on the barrel could add a shadow into the image, which can be easily avoided by switching the camera to the 35mm mode instead (requires latest firmware). This mode also works like a charming full frame system because the in-camera software crops the DMF frame into a full frame format of size 36mm x 24mm and 3:2 aspect ratio, thereby retaining the 35mm equivalent focal length, FOV & aperture ratio of the lens used. With an effective resolution of roughly 31 MP the resultant full frame image is quite pleasing too. People who complained about Fuji's reluctance to produce a body with a full frame sensor will now appreciate having this feature, making it 2 camera bodies in one!

  6. The DMF sized BSI sensor isn't temperamental when used with a variety of our modern as well as classic lenses. The floor noise of the sensor is also low at higher ISO and our assumption is that this is due to its perceived low resolution for a sensor of its size. There's hardly any noticeable artefact even when pixel peeping. The colours are rich, micro-contrasts are in spade loudly expressing their signature Voigtländer quality all the way

  7. We had not upgraded our camera body since a very long time so there was also that motivation. In recent years DMF bodies have overcome some of the limitations associated with their portability, for example, the Hasselblad 907x is the smallest DMF camera at 16-bits and is on our radar too for waist level shooting experience. It not only made sense just to upgrade the body but even the system. Hence we summed up "Why" not!

There are a few things to know of course as the two systems neither have similar physical properties nor are designed for each other. But since we are a big fan of adaptation anyway, it was imperative to map our limited theoretical knowledge to our experiences on the field with this interesting combo. This post further intends to dispel some of the myths that may be associated with it, learn what we should or additionally do to extract maximum benefits from this combo if one wants to go this route. We may not be 100% correct, and there must be several other GFX owners that we don't know who have also tried this combo and penned their own experiences somewhere on the internet. But we do hope you will also find our article interesting & a good use of your time reading through.

Technical bits

The Image Circle of a Full Frame lens should have a diameter of 43.27mm to cover a Full Frame sensor and 55mm to cover a Digital Format Sensor (GFX's sensor).

As you can see in the Fig 1 below, the yellow coloured circle represents the light that comes off a FF lens & falls on a FF sensor (left) & DMF / GFX sensor (right). The diameter of this yellow coloured circle must be equal to or greater than the orange coloured ring to fully cover a FF sensor or the blue coloured ring to fully cover a GFX sensor.

In the upper row of the image, we are showing the yellow coloured Image Circle which has a diameter not large enough to entirely cover the GFX sensor leaving dark corners in the image. This phenomena is prominent only with the 50r* and nearly absent in 50s II & 100s (please refer to the last para of this article). Depending upon how small or big these dark corners are, the image may be cropped accordingly. In the row below, we are showing an Image Circle which is large enough to fully cover the GFX sensor leaving no dark corners whatsoever. This will require no cropping as can be seen in the images Img 4 & Img 5 further below.

Fig 1. Image © Mystic Focus

Consider this. The area of a FF sensor in square millimetres is 864 and 1452 for a DMF / GFX sensor. Now when our FF lens isn't entirely covering GFX's sensor (like in upper row of Fig 1), you may have to crop around the edges to get rid of the dark / unlit corners say by 10%. The total area of the resultant image will then be 90% of 1452 i.e. 1306 square millimetres which is still 50% more than what you get from the FF sensor. Most of our Voigtländer lenses will not require more than 3 to 5% cropping. Fig 1 above makes it aptly easy to interpret while also corroborating with our "why" reasons.

In the worst case scenario, refer to Fig 2 below. If you crop a GFX image based on the FF image circle diameter of 43.27mm, you will get a sensor coverage with an effective area of (27.98mm x 33mm) = 923.41 square millimetres with an aspect ratio of roughly 6.57:5.57 which is still ~ 7% larger than your FF sensor area of 864 square millimetres.