Fujinon GF 500mm f/5.6 LM WR OIS Review: Medium Format Wildlife? Yup.

“Medium Format cameras can’t shoot sports, action, and wildlife,” they said. Well, maybe now they can. Fujifilm worked very hard to elevate its GFX line to be the most versatile medium format cameras around. First, it made the larger sensor affordable to most. Second, Fujifilm made them decent at video. Now, It has made them focus and shoot fairly rapidly. Everything is now in line to make them succeed beyond the traditional place for medium format and that is why Fujifilm released the 500mm f/5.6.

Close-up of a hand holding a Fujinon GF camera lens. The focus is on the aperture ring showing various f-stop numbers, including 5.6, 8, 11, 16, and 22. The lens is black with ribbed texture for grip.
The f/5.6 aperture is appropriate for the medium format sensor size and keeps the cost and weight down.

Providing a full-frame equivalent focal length of roughly 400mm, the new GF 500mm gives a fair amount of light and the reach needed to capture some wildlife and most sports. With the addition of the TC 1.4X TCON, the 500mm can go even farther with an equivalent 550mm reach.

A person is holding and aiming a Fujinon camera with a large telephoto lens, partially obscuring their face. The camera lens is slightly wet, indicating a recent rain. The background features green foliage and hints of stone structures.
Fujifilm wants the GFX to handle any genre of photography and they just might succeed with glass this good.
A close-up of a red panda with fluffy reddish-brown fur and white facial markings. It is chewing on green bamboo leaves amidst a blurred natural background.
Shooting wildlife with a Fujifilm GFX is a new experience that I did not expect, but the 500mm makes it a possibility. 

Fujinon GF 500mm f/5.6 LM WR OIS Review: How it Handles

I should mention that the unit we used for evaluation is technically a pre-production model but Fujifilm assured us we could thoroughly test it out for a final review. About the only thing we couldn’t check was flare because of our cloudy shooting day but we did the rest. I honestly don’t expect flare to be an issue on this lens as long telephotos always have effective hoods and Fujifilm always has good lens coatings.

At only 48.5 ounces (1,375 grams), I was surprised by how easy the 500mm was to carry around. Granted, I coupled it with the new GFX 100S II but the overall design is quite manageable. There are 95mm diameter filter threads on the front of the lens protected by a generous hood. The zoom ring turns tightly and with good resistance as does the manual focus ring.

A close-up black and white photograph of a snow leopard walking towards the camera. The snow leopard's intense gaze and facial markings are clearly visible, with its powerful, muscular body indicating its strength and agility.
The Fujifilm 500mm f/5.6 handles exactly like any professional telephoto lens would. It is capable and portable. 
Close-up image of a black camera lens with a focus ring marked "500." The top part of the camera shows a knob and part of the body, while the lower part displays an LCD with various settings, showcasing its professional and detailed design.
The new 500mm f/5.6 is relatively lightweight for telephoto lens of this range and mount.

The usual customizable buttons surround the housing, and there is the standard assortment of switches required to control a telephoto lens. You can set focus, OIS controls, focus limiter, and a preset distance to switch to. The aperture ring also works well, although I would have preferred more resistance in the click stops. On many occasions I found the aperture slipping to a tighter setting when I didn’t expect it to.

Close-up of the side controls on a camera lens. The buttons and switches include settings for 'FULL/5m-∞', 'OFF/OIS/ON', 'PRESET/AF-L/AF', and a red dot for alignment. The textured focus ring and a segment of the lens markings are also visible.
All the usual controls grace the side of the 500mm. Fujifilm wants you to have the controls needed for demanding shoots.
Three pink flamingos stand close together. The foreground flamingo is in sharp focus, showing detailed feathers and its signature curved neck, while the other two flamingos are blurry in the background. The background is a vibrant green, indicating a natural habitat.
Focus was usually accurate and quick enough when shooting at telephoto distances.

Otherwise, the GF 500mm has fast linear motors and they drive the lens quickly enough for capturing animals at different distances. Tracking performance was also quite good and focus accuracy was usually right on the eye of people and animals. The lens is also fully weather-sealed and this was fortuitous because we got hit with some rain on our day out.

Close-up shot of a black metal L-bracket mount attached to a camera lens against a dark background. The bracket has a textured finish and appears robust, designed to support camera equipment securely.
I like the compact and removable tripod shoe, and I am especially happy to see the dovetail cuts for tripods.
A young girl with red hair and wearing blue flower-shaped earrings is smiling and smelling a cluster of white flowers on a tree branch. She is dressed in a purple outfit, and the background is filled with greenery.
The 500mm does some good work in close too. I used the GFX 100S II and the autofocus performance is the best I’ve seen from medium format so far.

Fujinon GF 500mm f/5.6 LM WR OIS Review: How it Shoots

A long telephoto like this 500mm will provide shallow depth-of-field pics and ideally should render a smooth and soft-looking background. The Fujinon 500mm has a bit of a cat’s eye effect at f/5.6 and nice round bokeh stopped down. There is no soap bubble or onion ring look to the highlights and this all results in some very smooth-looking bokeh. I loved the transitions as the lens fell out of focus and busy backgrounds became dreamy and non-distracting.

A close-up view of purple lilac flowers blooming with a backdrop of bright yellow and green blurred colors, creating a vibrant and colorful scene. The lilac flowers are in focus, displaying their delicate petals and intricate details.
Bokeh is soft and the backgrounds melt away. This is exactly what I want from a wildlife or sports lens.
Close-up of a butterfly with brown wings adorned with eye-like patterns, perched on colorful green and yellow leaves. The background showcases vibrant, leafy foliage with distinct textures and hues.
Even subtle transitions from subjects in focus to ones out of focus are pleasant and smooth.

This lens is ridiculously sharp with ideal performance wide open at f/5.6. I saw no real improvement going to f/11 and the corners were equally good. Also, the lens is sharp in the corners when it is focused in the center of an image and overall this is a lens that can shoot at f/5.6 all day with no need to lose more light. An aperture of f/5.6 isn’t exactly super bright, so I’m happy that the lens does its best work at the widest aperture.

Close-up of a life-sized, detailed dinosaur sculpture showcasing a ferocious-looking face with sharp teeth. The head is intricately textured with grey skin and red patterns. Green foliage is visible in the background.
The lens is as sharp as Tyrannosaurus teeth. I’d shoot this at f/5.6 most of the time.
Close-up of a flamingo with pale pink feathers and a curved black-tipped beak, standing against a blurred green background. The flamingo's long neck is gracefully extended, highlighting its elegant and distinctive features.
The GFX might not be the ideal platform for action photography but kudos go to Fujifilm for doing it anyways.

I did test close-up shooting on some butterflies fluttering about and dealing with the 2.75 meter minimum focusing distance was a little challenging. Macro capability is pretty average at about 1:5 life-size reproduction. I won’t be filling the frame with a butterfly but I do have tons of megapixels to crop into for the occasional close-up.

Two butterflies with eye-like patterns on their wings are feeding on sliced fruit in a purple dish. The butterflies have brown wings with intricate designs and eye spots. The background is blurred but includes green foliage.
The 500mm is not what I would call a macro lens, and the minimum distance can be tricky to work with up close. However, the detail possible is extreme.
A vibrant blue butterfly with black-edged wings rests on a large green leaf, showing a striking contrast between the butterfly's vivid blue color and the leaf's soft green tones.
Even at f/5.6 depth of field is shallow on this 500mm. Stopping down helps, but I didn’t want to in this shot because light levels were already low.

I didn’t expect to see any LoCA with this lens and this proved to be true. There is no color cast in the foreground and background areas of the images, so need to worry about correcting for this later. Everything about this lens optically was easy to work with and delivered excellent performance.

A young girl with red hair, blue eyes, and a fair complexion smiles gently. She is resting her chin on her hand. She is wearing a dress with a floral pattern. The background is blurred with green foliage.
The compression and inherent detail captured make this a versatile lens in a field that medium format doesn’t usually touch.
Close-up image of a peacock's tail feathers displaying vibrant, iridescent colors. The feathers are a blend of green and blue hues with distinctive eye-like patterns featuring bright blue centers, encircled by green and gold rings.
I like the simplicity that can be achieved with so tight a lens. 500mm lenses can be used for landscape and detail shots as much as for sports or wildlife.

The Fujinon GF 500mm f/5.6 LM WR OIS is a New Frontier for Fujifilm

Fujifilm has made an excellent lens but even more importantly they have taken the first step into another arena of photography that medium format doesn’t normally compete in. After using the GFX 100S II and 500mm lens, I still feel that a more compact and faster shooting full-frame camera system is a better sports and wildlife package. The GFX system is still hampered by somewhat slower autofocus and slower burst rates than its smaller-sensor contemporaries.

However, what Fujifilm has done is open up the versatility of the GFX system even further. If I was invested in the system and wanted to tackle the occasional wildlife shot or play with a highly compressed super telephoto look to my compositions, I can now do that with a lens that shows off the image quality potential of the GFX system. Perhaps one day soon, GFX will be able to handle anything we can think to throw at it.

Are There Alternatives?

There is nothing like this lens for the GFX system that autofocuses and reaches out this far. The GF 250mm was the longest lens before the 500mm and doesn’t come close to its reach.

Should You Buy It?

Yes. If you have the GFX and want to go use it for animals, wildlife, and more with a longer focal length, the 500mm is the obvious choice.