This is a very quick update on how I am getting on with the Fujifilm system, namely:
- Which lenses and bodies I am using more or less.
- What I think about future bodies and recent lens releases.
Lenses I’m using…..
More: The 23mm f1.4 R is impressing me more and more. Since it came back from Fujifilm service with tweaked focus settings, it is much better at f1.4 and just as good at middle apertures. This is one excellent optic, although the AF could do with being a bit better. This has to be my most used lens.
Less: he 56mm f1.2 APD is a superb lens, but I am finding the AF just below what it needs to be to make a truly flexible all round lens. It’s great in good light. The images are stunning (always), but in poorer light, especially when subjects move a little, I am finding it a bit too slow. I’m missing shots. This has meant that…
More: The 90mm f2 WR is getting more use. Kinda. In decent light the AF is much better than the 56mm f1.2 APD. It grabs quicker and locks on with no twitching. The problem is that that it needs more light than the 56mm. The APD is a T1.7 lens (due to the APD filter), which may only be a 1/3 stop better than the 90mm, but the 90mm is nearly twice as long. I find I can get reliably pin sharp images of people from the 90mm at 1320th, or 1/25o if I am being especially careful. With the 56mm, I am fine at 1/125th or 1/100th and I’m able to get a little more light onto the sensor in the first place. If only the 56mm had the AF of the 90mm WR, or, as I have said before, a lens right between the two: a 75mm (f1.2/1.4) with the best modern AF.
More: 10-24mm f4 R OIS. I am coming to appreciate how slow a shutter speed I can use with this lens. 1/4s or slower is possible if you have time to take a few frames of static scenes. What’s more, at the right apertures, the lens produces stunning near prime lens quality right across its range. This is amazing for walk around shooting, allowing me to work incredibly quickly and without really having to think. In a way it is a bit like working with the 28-45mm lens for the Pentax 645 system, because that lens produces such good results that you don’t even think about equivalent primes. The Fujifilm 10-24mm has a longer range and isn’t quite so remarkable optically, but it is about 1/4 of the weight and an even smaller fraction of the price.
More: The boring 18-55mm f2.8-4 OIS has taken on a new lease of life since Fujifilm tweaked its focus. It isn’t optically perfect, but it is so compact and light for the level of flexibility it offers that there isn’t a good reason not to take it wherever you’re going. It has gone back into my kit bag, after another lens has been shipped out.
Less: The 16-55mm f2.8 WR is simply amazing from an optical point of view, but it is big for the X bodies and quite heavy. There is nothing about it I can really criticise, especially when it comes to its ability to find focus and track moving subjects. It’s a brilliant lens; however, as I typically shoot up to 3 bodies at a time, I prefer the ability to open up to f1.4 on my primes, or to bring out the 18-55 if I want the flexibility of a zoom on hand. The 16-55 is a better lens than the 18-55 in every respect at every focal length, but the slower sibling is good enough for me when the finest optical performance is not the priority. When it is, zooms are still a touch better and I always have them with me anyway. I have sold my 16-55mm f2.8 WR. I didn’t expect to do so. I still shoot with boosters on one XT2 all the time and it wasn’t size that did it.
The 16mm f1.4 WR, 35mm f1.4 R and 50-140 f2.8 WR are all getting about the same use. My 23mm f2 WR, 35mm f2 WR and 50mm f2 WR are about to get a lot more use now that I’m going to be exploring Liverpool more. I won’t need f1.4 lenses for that.
The more I shoot, the more I realise that I am in the X-T2 camp, rather than the X-Pro2. The latter is a wonderful camera and I still own and use one regularly; however, it is primarily used as my back up camera, or mounted with a lens I don’t expect to use much, but want ready to go. I find the EVF in the X-T2 such a great shooting experience that the smaller, slower screen of the X-Pro2 feels like a bit of a let down in comparison. The optical finder is great, but I find myself preferring the EVF of the X-T2, because it shows so much useful information while being pleasant to use. The more I become accustomed to real time information, the harder it is for me to go backwards. With the X-T2, I find the presentation of information (when set to show a minimum) is so unobtrusive that I don’t really think about it. The Leica M viewfinder remains something special – the ultimate minimalism – but compared to everything else, the X-T2 finder is really tremendous. I have used the A7R III and its EVF is great, but the lower resolution X-T2 EVF still has the superior layout and visual styling.
My X100F has had very little use, because I have had next to no time for exploring new environments. This is where the X100F is wonderful, because for a 35mm lower (on full frame), this is one of the best performing packages you can get at such a small size. I expect mine to get more use soon, alongside my f2 WR lenses.
Features I absolutely love about the X series bodies include:
- Three different auto ISO settings. I move between them constantly when I need to work quickly and cannot check each exposure before I fire the shutter.
- The quiet shutter, minimal lag and crisp shutter release. The Sony A7R III is vey much better than previous A7 bodies I’ve used, but the Fujifilm bodies are really Goldilocks solutions: just right. More about the Sony A7R III another time. It’s a very impressive camera.
I remain neutral on the X-Trans III versus Bayer filter array. I still get files that leave me thinking ’24MP really doesn’t get much better than this’ as well as those where I feel bayer might have produced a slightly better balance of qualities.
Lenses I still Wish Fujifilm Would Make
16mm f2 – this would be the perfect wide to compliment the existing 23-35-50mm WR range. An updated 18mm WR would be nice, but a 16mm would be give a bit more separation from the 23mm IMO. f2 would be nice, but f2.2/2.4/2.8 would be fine if needed to keep it very compact and optically top tier. The silent and quick AF from the WR lenses is a real pleasure.
Fast Wide Angle Zoom: I would also dearly love a short range zoom with a faster aperture, say a 16-35mm f2, or 14-28mm lens. This may seem daft, but I spent a little time working with the Sigma ART 24-35mm f2 and it blew me away. WOW, that is one gooood lens. Big and heavy, sure, but a stop faster than the commonplace f2.8 pro zoom (and at times that can make all the difference). It also covers the short end of the standard zoom that I tend to use the most. For some of my applications (people) the 10-24mm is just too slow and not practical in low light. A 24-50mm f2 (FF equivalent) lens would be amazing. It’ll never happen though.
Overall, I really do think Fuijifilm’s own lenses cover all the bases I need. I don’t go to my kit bag and wish I had something I don’t have (I will be adding a 60mm f2.4 macro at some point).
The New 80mm f2.8 Macro WR
The new XF 80mm f2.8 Macro is a lens I am still trying to get my head around. Tests such as ephotozine‘s and many others suggest it is optically stunning, but it is about twice the size and weight I was expecting. The 90mm f2 WR is at the upper limit of what I think a prime should be on the X system and it is 105mm long and weighs 540g. The XF 80mm Macro is 130mm long, 5mm wider and 210g heavier, before you take into account the very large hood. It does include OIS, but it is also one stop slower and 30-40% more expensive. It is more expensive and 150g heavier than the very well regarded Sony 90mm f2.8 G Macro for E mount (Full Frame). Perhaps Fujifilm pulled out all the stops to make it their best ever optical performer in the X system? Perhaps they felt the 60mm f2.4 occupied the ‘compact’ niche already? Regardless, the lens created isn’t one I am personally interested in (whereas hard core macros shooters may well be). I had been hoping it would be more portable and so more suitable for infrequent use. As it is, there’s no way I could carry around a prime that is no faster or more stabilised than the 50-140mm f2.8 WR OIS but as close to the big zoom in weight as it is to the 90mm f2 WR. On top of this, you lose over a whole stop of background separation (f2.8 vs f2 and 10mm shorter), so I don’t really see it converting portrait shooters. When future X bodies have IBIS, the 90mm will be useable at much slower shutter speeds than is presently the case (hand held).
I guess I will be looking for a 60mm f2.4 R at some point, but I had been hoping to pick up a more modern lens with better AF. At least the 60mm f2.4 is well priced second hand and there are loads available.
Fujifilm X-H & Talk Of IBIS
Excellent news. Fujifilm is rumoured to be working on a X-H camera that is like a refreshed X-T2 that includes IBIS. This is very good news and of course makes it even stranger that they produced such a large and heavy 80mm macro with OIS built in. Lenses are around far longer than bodies and new buyers will be stuck with (the weight and cost of) the OIS in the lens long after the second or possibly third, or fourth generation of IBIS in future bodies. I like the idea of a slightly bigger grip on the X-H and IBIS will only make the camera handier. The Sony A7 II has IBIS as it wasn’t a huge leap in size over the first gen A7. In fact, it handles better. With the way I use my Fujifilm gear, I don’t miss IBIS as such, because the likes of the 10-24mm and 18-55 are stabilised, but I would still like to have it for those times when I am using un-stabilised primes. I have missed it enough to want it, but I would certainly not be selling off my X-T2 bodies to acquire it. I can wait for the X-T4 I suspect!
Sony has produced a fantastic camera in the A7R III, but it is twice the price of the X-T2. The A7 III may be more of a direct competitor, so IBIS really is going to be important to Fujifilm going forwards.
I’ll be writing more about the Sony FE system, DSLRs and the important turning point the industry has arrived at in the near future.