I hope to add a few images at a later date, but I can’t use any of my commercial work for these articles (at the present time), unfortunately. Hopefully these thoughts will still be useful to you!
I recently adopted the Fujifilm X-System for my commercial photography, hoping that it would also become a mainstay for most of my other work. When I wrote my articles on the Fujifilm X100F and X-T2, I could not be 100% sure how I would feel several months down the road. At the beginning, I feared that my optimism might be dashed by the discovery of an annoying Achilles’ Heel. That would have left the X-system as ‘just another one of my (too many) systems’. However, this is not what has happened. In fact, it has been the opposite: other cameras and lenses have gone to new owners and I’m so happy with the system that I have gone a bit a bit nuts. My new X-System is the most extensive of any brand that I have ever owned, which says a lot. I’m here to write my last overview piece before I delve into specific X issues in more detail. I figured that anyone considering the X system might appreciate a bit of an updated overview, now that I have shot with the cameras for a while; cameras that I bought with my own money for my own work.
My Fujifilm X system has received a baptism of fire since my first articles. I am not a particularly heavy shooter, but 10,000 real and informative frames has given me some good insight into how well it is working out for me. I have worked at a leisurely pace. I have worked while ‘flapping like a good’un’ and I have made tonnes of mistakes. I have also started to scope out some of the real world limitations of the cameras and lenses, as well as getting to grips with how it feels to really get into a groove with the system. So far, so very good. My system has also expanded and now consists of:
XT2 + Powerbooster (x2)
10 Batteries (six being inside the two Powerboosters)
Samyang 8mm f2.8
Fujifilm XF 10-24mm f4 R OIS
Fujifilm XF 16mm f1.4 WR
Fujifilm XF 23mm f1.4 R
Fujifilm XF 23mm f2 WR
Fujifilm XF 35mm f1.4 R
Fujifilm XF 35mm f2 WR
Fujifilm XF 56mm f1.2 APD
Fujifilm XF 90mm f2 WR
Fujifilm XF 16-55 f2.8 WR
Fujifilm XF 18-55 f2.8-4 OIS
Fujifilm XF 50-140 f2.8 WR OIS
That’s a lot of lenses, I know (12!!), but I am finding that I use most of them regularly and those that aren’t being used that often, will be used for specific purposes on an intermittent basis. At the end of the day, they’re there to make great images and I don’t feel any one of them should head back out of the door. On top of the above, I have decided to take advantage of the current UK promotion with the X-Pro 2. This offer gives you a free 50mm f2 WR lens and half case, plus an additional £100 trade in against either a X-Pro 2 + 23mm WR or 35mm f2 WR purchase. I’d found myself changing lenses a little to frequently and had been pondering a third interchangeable lens body. I also knew I would be buying a range of the slower and more compact f2 WR primes, so this Fujifilm promotion made a lot of sense. I also like the idea of having a system camera with an optical finder, which I will explain when I write about the X-Pro 2 in due course. The Fujinon f2 23mm f2 WR listed above is from the X-Pro 2 combo I have already bought, but the body was out of stock, so I am waiting on that. The 50mm f2 WR comes from Fujifilm at a later date.
So What Am I Particularly Enjoying?
I am loving the form factor and the spritely performance of the XT-2 bodies. I wondered if the fun of shooting these cameras would wear off, but it isn’t. I enjoy taking photos with these bodies far more than I ever did with DSLRs. Your mileage might vary, but anything that adds to the enjoyment of photographic work is welcome to me. I love the dials, general handling and great flexibility of these bodies. I really can do 95+% of all my photography with them.
I love the XT-2 Powerboosters for the extra battery capacity and their balance with the 50-140mm attached. I also really like the fact that using the dedicated charger, I can charge the two batteries inside in 2 hours. That’s not only handy for charging up my batteries post shoot, but also taking to the shoot in case something unforeseen happens and I need to charge some batteries quickly. Seeing as I have two Powerboosters, I keep one charger at home and the other is in my car.
The Acros JPEGs are excellent. I tend to shoot with RAW recorded to one card and JPEGs to the other. The Acros JPEGs allow me to see right away what the images look like in B&W (in the viewfinder) and I will either tweak the JPEG or work on the RAW, depending on how hard I have to work the file. As good as the JPEGs may be, there is a tonne more information in the RAWs, which I tend to find I tap into fairly often. This is true both in the highlights and shadows, although the JPEGs will take a moderate amount of post-processing as long as you don’t need to dig deep into the shadows or recover highlights.
The sensor may be APS-C rather than FF, but the RAW files have bags of latitude. Sure, at ISO 200 the X-Trans III cannot compete with a D810 at 64, but I rarely shoot at such low ISOs unless I am doing landscapes. It is in the mid-range ISOs that I find the Fuji cameras as good as anything else out there in terms of Dynamic Range and file flexibility. I also continue to find the grain like noise appealing when the files are worked hard. There’s so little colour noise (oh, what a joy after the 5D III) and the luminance noise at high ISO is also much prettier than on my 5D III too. I have also noticed how excellent highlight recovery is with the X-Trans III as well. It’s superb.
I have quickly adapted to the lack of ‘C’ settings on a top dial, as per Canons. I have made mistakes with my settings, but I am making very few now. I also enjoy being able to see very clearly what the camera is set up to do without looking at screens. While you may not be able to see the painted dials in a completely dark room, I can’t say I shoot under such conditions. I am also now very clear on the importance of locking them down, after accidentally nudging the ISO dial at just the wrong moment. I’m learning and adapting, but thus far I have not encountered any significant operational problems. I think we all have to be realistic: working with a new system means you have to adapt and make it work for you. I was open to that but have found relatively new snags and certainly none of any great consequence.
Three Auto ISO Settings are very useful! I use all three and have them assigned to the right selector pad button. This allows me to quickly balance my shutter speeds and sensitivities, depending on the nature of the subject matter and light. One can easily tweak them on the fly, which is very handy. I’ll talk more about my settings at a later date.
The lenses, for the most part, are fantastic. Some have really stood out and surprised me, while others have ‘merely’ been (genuinely) very good. I’ve been surprised by how I have taken to the different lenses, because in some cases it has been unexpected. I am also learning something of their character, which in overall terms I like a lot.
The shutter release remains fabulous. So crisp and clear cut. This is really making a difference to the timing of my shots. It’s the finest shutter release I have ever used on a digital camera, period.
The 11fps burst available to the XT-2 with the Powerbooster attached is really handy. I don’t use it that much, but when I do I am glad for the slight changes to composition and alignment of subjects. There is a world of difference between 11fps and 6-7 fps in this regard. I am finding that I get the frames in between the frames I would have with the 5D III…. where I would often be frustrated by the lack of a frame between two ‘nearly shots’.
The smaller bodies and lenses have not attracted any negative comments from clients, who might assume that I am not using top flight kit. I certainly feel better swinging around a much smaller, less intimidating body though.
The silent electronic shutter is such a boon. Were I to shoot a 5D IV, as great as that camera may be, there would be so many occasions where I would be missing the electronic shutter. This gives me real freedom to shoot as prolifically (and close in) as I would like.
High ISO performance is still impressing me. I have taken plenty of shots at a listed ISO 8,000, 10,000 and 12,800 that I am happy to use, but the rejection rate goes up quite quickly after 8,000, depending on colour/B&W, subject matter, lighting and exposure. The biggest killer of high ISO files relates to the subject matter: you need some contrast. Under very low lighting, we often encounter very low levels of subject contrast, which means we often need to boost contrast and white levels in post to get some sparkle into the image. At high ISOs, files naturally have much less flexibility and grain can often leap out and become objectionable. Overall, I find the files much better at high ISO than they were on the Canon 5D III in terms of my ability to achieve excellent end results. It is important to note that well illuminated test charts (with scenes displaying inherent contrast), as per many well known testing websites, do not give you a good picture of how your end files are going to look! In shooting real subjects, low light levels often means low subject contrast, which can cause images to look terribly flat and muddy. This means you have to bend files about a bit in post, to get decent white levels and decent shadow separation. When this is done, the XT-2’s files are much, much better than anything I ever got from my 5D III. I also don’t encounter banding and colour fidelity is vastly better. I’m thrilled overall.
Interestingly, I recently downloaded some Canon 5D IV files made available on another website, alongside the X-T2 comparison files. They were 2 stops or so underexposed and the idea was to demonstrate superior shadow recovery on the 5D IV. While the 5D IV did indeed show lower noise overall, the black subject (a Canon EOS body) had turned blue-black while the Fujifilm file remained dead neutral. This is what you can expect from these X-Trans III files: they may not be quite as good as the best Full-frame files when pushed hard in terms of luminance noise, but they’re awesome in their neutrality and lack of nasty artefacts and/or colour noise. The 5D IV does have a great sensor – I’m not knocking it at all – but its interesting to see that the X-Trans III does compete favourably, with pros and cons on both sides.
I like the menus. I am a pretty simple shooter in terms of settings and so after customising my buttons and the Quick Menu, I have everything I need easily accessible. I don’t have a ‘My Menu’ or Custom Menus, because I don’t need them (at the moment). I suppose this is a neat way of saying that Fujifilm has managed to get a wide array of commonly needed features into the right place (for me).
Straight Out Of Camera (SOOC) colour is superb. I am really happy with Fuji’s colour and this is not just for the JPEGs, where I find Classic Chrome lovely for general purpose work. I find the RAW files, as rendered in Lightroom, are mostly spot on. I see no Nikon green or slightly peculiar skin tones (a la Sony). Fujifilm is doing a great job with their colour science, surprise surprise.
Battery life is working out OK for me. I can shoot thousands of frames from dawn till dusk and find I still have plenty of spare juice. I spend almost all of my time in EVF only mode. I also have auto-review switched off, choosing to review specific frames if I have a need to check everything is OK (such as when dialling in flash compensation/manual settings). Thus far I have kept Boost Mode switched on all the time, but will experiment with Normal Mode a bit more when I am shooting slower paced work. I’d love double the shot capacity per battery, don’t get me wrong, but I am not finding it impedes me at present. I keep spare batteries in a tiny pouch on my belt so they’re never far away in case I need to change.
The EVF on the XT-2 is clearly superior to the one on the X100F, that’s now clear. When shooting for long periods of time and going back and forth between them (especially under artificial light), I really notice. The XT-2’s finder is so good that I don’t really process the fact that I am not looking out into the world, but at a screen. It’s not the same of course, but I just don’t think about it. The pleasure of looking at the world as it really is seems to be neatly offset by looking at the file as it is. That’s really handy and, as a result, I almost never get an exposure wrong. When it is less perfect than it could be, the flexibility of the files means it just doesn’t matter. This has made an epic difference to the reliability and consistency of my results, compared to the Canon 5D III or Leica M. In Canon’s case, not only do you not see what you get, but the older sensor tech meant fixing errors was often not possible (noise/banding). With almost all mirrorless cameras, which tend to also have great sensors, we have the belt and braces!
AF is superb, but there are some slip ups here and there. I have the odd badly focused frame (a few in a few thousand). In some cases I think it is me and my back button focusing, but in a rare few cases the X-T2 does miss. The good news is that you tend to notice if the camera misses, via the EVF. The culprits seems to be smooth, brightly lit subjects. Overall, I’d say I am getting plenty more shots in focus than I did with my 5D III. Tracking has been great (for my needs), but I do need to learn more about the various focus options and working these adjustments into my daily use. I am talking about spot focus vs. zones and their relative sizes. I have tended to use single smallish spots for focusing to date, but will look to change size more often as well as to use the zone focus option more frequently to see how I get on. I went quite quickly into work that was important with these cameras and so starting with the simpelst and most dependable options made most sense, but now I can afford to scope out when I am best served by other options.
I am more than happy with the AF and still think that under most conditions, with the latest lenses, AF is as quick or quicker than with my 5D III. Sometimes it really is instant, which is never the case with the Sony A7 II and often not with the 5D III either. I suspect the 5D IV would have a clear advantage with moving subjects under very low light with low contrast, but I cannot say for sure without using one. Real AF tracking under very low light with older XF lenses is a bit of a lost cause, but I tend not to need this myself. Single shot AF under low light is mostly superb and just about quick enough for me. I have no doubt that the AF system will be refined through firmware updates, so its only going to get better…
It seems that the X100F does indeed suffer quite badly from veiling flare under certain conditions i.e. when shooting against the light under bright white/grey skies. I am a naughty boy and often don’t use the hood. I will make a point of doing so and see if there is an improvement, but I don’t think there will be much change, due to the conditions under which it is occurring. I have no such problems with my XT-2 lenses under the same conditions, with or without hoods. It seems to be down to the design of the X100F’s lens.
Button placement issue with the Powerboosters: I now use the AF-L button to back focus and this button is on the extreme right (outside) of the body. However, when I use the Powerbooster the outmost button is the AE-L button. My thumb continually feels out the wrong button when I use the booster in vertical orientation and I am going to have to reprogram my brain over time to go to the right place. There may be a reason why Fujifilm decided to put the buttons the way around they did, but it would surely have made more sense to have had a given button in the same relative position, whether on the body or booster (outmost/innermost)?
Reliability has been very good, but not perfect. I have now had two body freezes in 10,000 frames. The first time I was shooting bursts and the body just would not respond. I removed and reinserted the battery and all was well. The second time happened a few days ago, also when shooting burst. The camera was responsive, but would not allow me to review the images and the rear LCD remained black. The little light also showed it was still writing to card even when it should have been long done with, so I am not sure what was really going on, or whether all the frames were written. I performed the same remedy and a few seconds later was back on the road. While some might jump up and down over this, I lost a few seconds of shooting and there were no further ill effects. Overall, I’d say I gain far more by being able to see what I am getting on sensor via the EVF than I have lost in the two freezes to date. I am using Lexar cards and will see how it goes, but I suspect it will be nipped in the bud with firmware changes in due course. FWIW, I am using Lexar Professional SDHC UHS-II 1000x cards and they’re superb. Their write speed is very good (similar to Sandisk Extreme Pro), but their read speed in a UHS-II reader is twice as fast. This makes downloading a load of files far quicker and currently these cards are the same price as Sandisk cards with roughly comparable write speeds. P.S. I have heard some suggest that freezing only happens with Lexar cards, but this seems to be entirely false based on reports on various forums/blogs etc.
The Lens hoods. I still wish they were better quality, but they work fine. I do have one or two that somehow manage to unscrew my UV filters when I remove them from the reversed position. They grab the filter and so when I rotate the bayonet fitting, they unscrew the filters. I have found one filter in the bottom of my bag already (where it won’t last long) and another one nearly came off my 23mm f1.4 R a few minutes ago. It’s such a small thing, but quite annoying when I’m under pressure and realise I have to screw the filter back in then remove the hood to prevent the filter taking a dive onto the ground…
Fujifilm-X Lenses – Initial Impressions
Quality Control: This is a good place to start and I’m only speaking only from personal experience here. I have had a few wonky lenses and I’ll talk you through what happened:
- #1 Fujifilm Refurbished 56mm f1.2 APD. My first copy of this lens had an aperture ring communication issue (showed 1/3 stop wider open in the viewfinder than it was on the lens’ aperture scale at all apertures other than f1.2. This resulted in the camera somehow exposing for the aperture the camera thought the lens was at, not the 1/3 stop wider aperture the lens was actually at. All frames beyond f1.2 were therefore overexposed. I returned it and the second copy of the lens has been perfect.
- #2 Fujifilm refurbished 16-55 f2.8 WR that was truly horrendous optically speaking. It also only opened up to f3.2 at the 55mm end, maintaining f2.8 up to about 50mm only. IMHO this lens should not have slipped through Quality Control for an official Fujifilm refurb. I decided to buy a new lens and this copy has been superb, the difference being night and day.
- #3 Refurbished 23mm f1.4 R. It had one very soft corner and it annoyed me. The replacement (also refurbished) has been fine.
- #4 (New) 18-55mm f2.8-f4 OIS lens. I noticed something odd going on with right side sharpness at 55mm so returned it to Fuji’s service centre expecting an exchange. Instead they sent it back having give it a firmware update and a ‘focus adjustment’. I was confident it would be no different, but to my amazement it is. It’s now a superb kit lens throughout the range with no catches. It isn’t perfect, but its the best kit lens I have ever used and not by a small margin.
I’m not dealing with a large sample size here, but it is my impression at this stage that the risk of getting a sub-standard lens is higher through the refurb scheme than shop new. My 35mm f1.4 R was used (with warranty) and it’s stellar. At a guess, I would say that although there are a lot of ‘damaged box’ and ‘unwanted’ lenses hitting the refurb scheme, there are some that are being returned for substandard performance and some of these are ending up back in the hands of consumers. I have provided my feedback to Fujifilm about this and hope they’ll tighten things up. That said, I have obtained several stunning lenses through the refurb scheme and Fujifilm has been nothing but helpful when I have wanted to return a lens. Out of the six brand new shop bought lenses (including the X100F), only one has needed Fujifilm techs to sort it out and it’s now a super lens.
Overall, however, it has been a better ‘new Fujifilm lens’ experience than with Sony and comparable to Canon (if we ignore the refurbished lenses). I’m impressed (and pleased) that my 18-55mm is back in the cupboard, because it is such a handy little lens. Let’s now run through specific lenses, beginning with one that is a cheap Samyang and which should not really be up to much for £230…
General X Lens Thoughts: The lenses work beautifully as an ecosystem, despite differences in aperture ring types, stiffness and AF/MF switching. They have very similar rendering (slight differences are visible in some cases, but very minor in terms of post processing) and I’m very happy with their size. I can fit all of the primes into the cells of my Domke bags, which helps with packing and I love the fact that I can put a very compact system together if I like. Fujifilm is also clearly doing things right in terms of build quality, feel and AF with their newest lenses, which bodes well. In short, it’s a kick ass line up that does not see me bouncing in and out of L and non-L lenses as per Canon. I also like the fact that the 50-140mm f2.8 is not white! Contrast levels are about where I’d like them and colour is superb. I also like – wait for it – the fact that they have not tried to design fast lenses that are pin sharp from corner to corner, wide open, like some other manufacturers have and I hope they never go in this direction. This keeps size sensible and means they aren’t so well corrected as to be clinical.
Samyang 8mm f2.8 Fisheye for Fujifilm X Mount – What. A. Brilliant. Lens. Really. I actually bought a Samyang 12mm f2 first, but I got a terrible copy with the left side of the frame being very obviously soft. I returned it, had a head scratch and thought I’d be better off with the 8mm fisheye in any case, so gave it one more shot with Samyang and I am very glad I did! The Samyang 8mm f2.8 Fisheye is wonderful! Not only is it plenty sharp enough (especially for this sort of lens), but it is very small, feels well made and performs very nicely from wide open, peaking at f5.6. I have no hesitation shooting it at whatever aperture the light requires. This lens is a hoot to use and the results are great. The fisheye effect is clearly visible, but it is not extreme. It therefore means the images are not too overwhelming to look at. I leave mine focused roughly between the infinity and 1m markers and it just seems right for pretty well everything. Unless I have reason to do differently, I just set it to f5.6 and have fun. With the XT-2’s tilting screen, you can take some interesting compositions that you’d never be able to control with cameras that lack a tilting screen. I also love the fact that it’s tiny and cheap enough to be added only for occasional use.
Fujifilm XF 10-24mm f4 R OIS – This is a firm favourite lens. It reminds me very much of the Canon 16-35mm f4 IS L in that it is very useable at f4 throughout the aperture range, its stabilisation is effective and it performs supremely well into the corners. By f5.6 the lens is at its peak throughout the range except for at 24mm, where it peaks at f8. What’s interesting here is that at the longer end, performance on my copy is actually very uniform from wide open, but the whole frame just lacks the same level of bite as at wider focal lengths. It is still good, though you would probably see the slight softness in very large prints. I actually thought my copy defied the tests I’ve seen that show weaker performance at 24mm, until I properly compared the 24mm results with those at the wide end, in detail…. and also when the 24mm end was stopped down incrementally from f4. Then I could see how the lens changes from f4-f8 at 24mm. By f5.6 (at 24mm) it is noticeably better than at f4, but it seems to suddenly tighten up on fine detail at f8 and give you that satisfied, ‘yes, that’s it’ feeling about overall resolution. These changes seem to be fairly uniform across the frame. So, at f8, is it as sharp as the 23mm f1.4 R at f5.6 (that lens’ peak)? Not quite, but close. Is it plenty sharp? Yes. And stabilised, which is very useful. I’ll go out on a limb and say that this lens is the best ultrawide zoom I have ever used for general travel, reportage or landscape work. I say this because it is not only a wonderful performer, but it is also relatively very small. It is much smaller and lighter than the Canon 16-35mm f4 IS L or the Nikon 16-35mm f4 G, for example. It isn’t weather sealed, but this is not much of an issue to me, for how I use it. It may be for you. Stick it on an X-T2 and you have a much more compact package than the Canon 5D IV + 16-35mm f4 IS L. Unless you’re maxing out the ISO, you also have an equally potent image making tool for much lower $£. Like the Canon lens, it is at its best at the wide end and middle, where performnce at f4 is stunning.
Fujifilm XF 16mm f1.4 WR – This lens is used less than my 23mm and 35mm lenses, but I love it. It’s rare to get lenses that perform so well at f1.4 that are also so incredibly good from corner to corner stopped down. Often, fast lenses are not quite as good, from corner to corner, as their slower brethren at landscape apertures, but this one is. Fall off in sharpness towards the edges and corners at f1.4 is very gentle and not at all distracting. It is in fact very good at the corners and edges for such a lens and by f4 it is just spectacular across the frame. This is a lovely lens and I do not find it too big on my XT-2 bodies. AF is excellent and, while not quite up to 35mm f2 WR standards, is significantly better than the 23mm f1.4 R. This is a superb lens and a great example of Fujifilm’s lens making expertise. In purely technical terms, the Zeiss 25mm f2 Batis is ‘better’ when both are wide open if you look at the edges and corners (note that when both are at their widest aperture, you have about the same effective depth of field with the 16mm f1.4 on APS-C and the 25mm f2 Batis on Full-Frame)). However, while the Zeiss is wonderful to landscapes, it is ultra crisp and contrasty in a way that isn’t as kind to people as the Fujifilm 16mm f1.4 WR. I very much prefer the look of the Fujifilm 16mm f1.4 lens for general Photography. It isn’t as clinical and seems to have a more organic rendering. It’s a lens that is closer to Leica than to Zeiss in how it draws, if that makes sense. It makes me think of the 24mm f1.4 Summilux-M a little: sharp, but not ruthless.
Fujifilm XF 23mm f1.4 R – I like this lens a lot, but I don’t love it. I was hoping to love it, because 35mm (in full frame terms) is my favourite focal length. I do, however, have a decent respect for it’s capabilities as well as an awareness of its weaknesses. The AF is fine, but not great. Sometimes the focusing feels a bit jittery and you don’t feel quite as confident that correct focus has been nailed as with some other lenses. It does very well at f1.4 at closer distances, but with more distant subjects image quality deteriorates significantly with distance unless stopped down. Results closer in are excellent, when focus is nailed, which it manages most of the time. I think it’s the slightly clunky focusing that prevents me from feeling totally confident in its abilities, especially in low light with low contrast. In short, the 16mm f1.4 WR is a little bit better in every way and this adds up to a stronger overall package. Don’t get me wrong, it is a vey good lens and I shoot a good percentage of my frames with it, but I would love it to be a more polished performer to bring it up from a solid B to an A. It does have a lovely rendering, however. Bokeh is very good, contrast is pleasant and I like the end files a lot. A stop or two down, performance becomes exceptionally strong and it is capable of absolutely stunning corner to corner sharpness by f5.6, or sooner with some subjects. Like the 16mm, it shares the same organic rendering and the same ability to work as a people lens wider open and a super sharp landscape lens at middle apertures. If Fujifilm does update it, I hope they keep its character as best they can.
Fujifilm XF 23mm f2WR – Compact and very quick to focus (although perhaps not quite as quick as the 35mm f2 WR?). Very impressive performance across the frame at f2 and a modest improvement by middle apertures, where it is impeccable at most distances. For distant scenes, I note that the Fujifilm XF 23mm f1.4 R is a touch better in the very outer field at middle apertures, but at medium distances, there is no visible difference. This lens, like the 35mm f2 WR, really does earn the ‘Fujicron’ mantle, because the feel and shooting experience is very reminiscent of Leica. On the XT-2, it is a very light and ‘handy’ rig that will make street, travel, documentary and reportage shooters very happy indeed. Build quality is very high and it feels very nice to use.
Fujifilm XF 35mm f1.4 R – This one took me aback, because I am not a huge fan of 50mm in FF, but I find myself using this lens an awful lot on my XT-2s. Focusing is better than with the 23mm f1.4 R, now that we have had various firmware updates and image quality wide open is amazing at people distances. f1.4 is excellent and f2.8 is incredibly crisp. However, again, the lens is very kind to people and bokeh is lovely. It is very light and the compact metal hood is much preferred to the large plastic petal types on most of the other lenses. An updated WR lens with full up to date AF would be nice, but I find this optic really puts a smile on my face. In low light with moving subjects it does show its age, but…. I still love shooting with it (and the results of course). Shot at distance, the centre is fairly sharp, but there is clear fall off towards the edges, which only become stunningly sharp by f5.6. Contrast is rather like the 56mm i.e. lower than with some of the more recent lenses. This is a lens loved by many and I can only say ‘I understand why’.
Fujifilm XF 35mm f2 WR – Compact, super quick to focus, beautifully made and very crisp. This lens is a real winner, just like the 23mm version. I find my copy super sharp wide open, except for the extreme corners and by middle apertures even the most extreme corners resolve bags of fine detail. It has plenty of contrast and great colour. I can’t wait to use this lens for reportage/documentary.
Fujifilm XF 56mm f1.2 APD – I’ve already made some comments on this lens in earlier articles and its rendering continues to amaze me. However, under low light it is a relatively unreliable lens from an AF perspective. It is certainly not a low light lens and I understand the non-APD version is better. That does not particularly bother me, because I don’t use this focal length for anything other than portraits, where its AF is just fine.
Fujifilm XF 90mm f2 WR – Stunning lens. Beautiful rendering, very quick AF etc, but without stabilisation. This is a lens that is best used in good light and with enough space to be able to move around to control framing. This is a great lens for head and head and shoulder shots. For landscapes, it is very, very good wide open and simply astonishing by f2.8. This lens is a real demonstration of what Fujifilm can do. Personally, I think it should have been stabilised to expand it’s envelope and it is a touch longer than is ideal for me, but it pairs nicely with the 56mm for portrait work.
Fujifilm XF 16-55 f2.8 WR – Yes, it is pretty big and heavy, but it is an incredible performer that is easily the equal of my Canon 24-70 f2.8 L II. Actually, scratch that, it’s superior. It is very crisp across the frame from corner to corner at wide apertures and AF is lightning quick and silent (quickest of all X series lenses possibly?). This is a very flexible lens, although it does not allow the same shallow depth of field one gets from a 24-70 f2.8 on FF. I am often pleasantly surprised by the extra reach compared to a 24-70 on FF though and it is a lens I keep close to hand when I am expecting to not know what to expect 😉 It is also very flare resistant, provides lovely contrast and is utterly reliable in its ability to bang out well focused sharp frames whenever you need it to. A real workhorse. Depth of field is not dissimilar to the 24-70mm f4 IS L from Canon, but the Canon is often found a little cheaper. I’d wager that performance from the Fujifilm lens is superior and it comes with extra reach at the long end. It also feels better build; however it isn’t stabilised, which I know some people are not happy about. Compared to the 18-55 f2.8-f4 OIS? I will do a comparison in due course, but the 16-55 is the superior lens in performance terms. This is clearest at the wider apertures, no surprise.
Fujifilm XF 18-55 f2.8-4 OIS – Although my copy needed a bit of adjustment by Fujifilm to make it sing, I have a superb, compact lens (with stabilisation) that covers most of the bases for a general travel lens. If you’re shooting urban scenes., or reportage, where you’re likely to shoot at middle apertures, or not need perfect corner performance wide open at all focal lengths and distances, this lens is hard to beat. For ‘wandering around’ work, I can’t think of a better lens on the market today, although Olympus does come to mind for their superb offerings. This lens will deliver superb landscapes and general travel photography and I look forward to exploring the 55-200 lens as a neat buddy for this sort of work, because the below lens is much larger.
Fujifilm XF 50-140 f2.8 WR OIS – Wow. This lens is super sharp, very quick to focus and has amazing OIS. Focusing is effectively silent, although the OIS is audible in a very quiet space from the position of camera operator. I have found the odd missed focus, or where it fails to lock on, but that tends to be when the focus patch covers an area of smooth skin with no detail to latch onto. I find the bokeh fine for my needs, but it is no 70-200 f2.8 if you’re looking for a direct replacement. It is, however, a very good (full frame) 70-200 f4 replacement, with the added bonus of higher shutter speeds at a given ISO, thanks to the faster aperture. I use mine unreservedly at f2.8, when needed, but stopped down it makes a tremendous landscape lens that appears to exceed the performance of my Sony 70-200 f4 G OSS. AF with the Fujifilm lens on an XT-2 is far quicker than the Sony lens on my A7 II. The latter is more than fast enough for landscapes (obviously), but in faster paced environments, or even portraits, you clearly notice the difference.
What Do I Miss?
The only things I miss from Canon are:
1) the battery life of a DSLR. That said, it just doesn’t make one bit of difference to me in practical use. I just have more batteries to recharge at the end of the day. As soon as my batteries show one bar, I change them at the next pause, which takes all of a few seconds. This means that even if I go through all my batteries (which I have never come close to, even after 3,500 frames) then I still have a bunch of batteries with a bit of juice in each one.
2) Some lenses. This is a sensor size thing. I miss my 50mm f1.2 L and 85mm f1.2 L II, simply because of their unique look. There isn’t anything fast enough with Fujifilm to give even the same look as a f1.4 lens, never mind f1.2, which is why I really, really hope that they produce some ultrafast lenses. Having shot a little more with my kit, I would narrow my thoughts down to three dream lenses:
23mm f1.0/f1.2 WR (the eventual replacement for the current f1.4 lens)
35mm f1.0 WR
75mm f1.2 WR (or 75mm f1.4 OIS, if the former is not possible and IBIS really isn’t on the cards)
While none would be quite the same as the Canon f1.2 L lenses, they would easily compete with the f1.4 options available from other Full Frame systems and really offer that bit more subject isolation and/or light gathering than the current f1.4 lenses and the 56mm f1.2. If I get the chance, I will try to have a chat with Fujifilm about the lens line up and possible future plans. I really do feel that the system is so good (and they’re pulling in so many Canon and Nikon owners) that many professional or well-heeled enthusiasts will not baulk at paying Full-Frame f1.4 lens prices to get comparably shallow depth of field from their APS-C Fujifilm system. Most people would probably pick only one of the above suggested lenses, but some would pick up a few. They would be a fair bit bigger than the current f1.4 23/35mm lenses, but so what? The smaller Fujifilm lenses would remain available and so Fuji users would have the option of, say, a X-T2 with Powerbooster with larger lens, or a stripped down XT-2/X-Pro2 with their more compact f2 offerings. This would allow the Fujifilm system to cover a wider envelope than Canikon. It would also allow me to let go of the remainder of my Canon glass and put the money into a more holistic set up within one brand. If they ever make such lenses, I have one wish:
“Please, please Fujifilm Fairies, do not feel the need to make super fast lenses that are tack sharp from corner to corner wide open, with stratospheric levels of contrast. Feel free to let the edges and corners soften at such wide apertures, so that their size is kept under control and their rendering for portraits remains sympathetic. A 35mm f1.0 does not need to be tack sharp in the corners until at least f2.8, if not f4. A little periperhal softening wide open helps isolate my subject, which is the whole point of such lenses in the first place.”
What About Leica?
To be honest, I just don’t miss the Leica M system any more, as great as it is. However, without Fujifilm in my life (!) I know I would feel some angst without Leica M cameras available to me. I’d miss the freedom and the fun. Thankfully, the Fujifilm X system really has filled the void entirely and with a combination of f1.4 lenses and the compact and affordable Fujicrons, I could not be happier. I can cover all the bases I would ordinarily have covered with Leica M, while covering a much wider performance envelope. Events, street, documentary, portraits, studio…. they’re all covered. I would not have dreamed of doing that with either the M system or EOS. I can enjoy a lighter camera bag with the X-system, have much lower value at risk when I am carrying a bag load, I have much lower costs if, say, a shutter fails and the performance of the X-Trans III for B&W is exemplary. I don’t know why, but it is and that is very important to me.
My huge investment into the X-System would not have been possible were this Nikon, Canon, or Sony FE (and not remotely possible with Leica M). The X-System is more affordable and more portable, meaning I can own more kit and carry more of it about (if I need to). Most importantly of all, I am really enjoying using it. I don’t finish a long day with a sore shoulder or bad back, despite having the cameras up to my eye for hours on end. I don’t worry about what my files will look like (the benefits of an EVF). I don’t worry about missing moments due to spongy shutter releases, or not having the right tool for a specific job (because a wide kit is more affordable). I now have a system that is more useful and more enjoyable to use than any other I’ve owned. Fujifilm hasn’t just convinced me though. I am hearing through retailers that they’re experiencing huge demand from customers for Fujifilm X-System equipment and I can see why. After all, I’m one of them.