56 and f1.2 ways to spark your X-photography – Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2R

Those of you who know, and even those of you who just look at my pictures will know that I have a thing for shallow DOF, ultrafast lenses and Fujifilm gear. So, of course, when Fujifilm announced back in 2013 that they would release a 56mm f/1.2 lens, I was emmidiately thrilled, psyched, happy and everything in between. The 23 f/1.4 also sparked interest, but I already own the x100s, so I really didn’t need that focal length. I rarely shot portraits of anyone except for my family and loved ones. So why on earth this craving for a fast 85mm full frame eq. lens when all I mostly do is street photography?

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Big lens – just perfect on the X-Pro1

Well. I started photographing using a Canon EOS 400D using only the EF 50mm f/1.4. So I was very used to using the FOV that a 50’ish lens gives me on an APS-C sized sensor. I really tend to miss that focal length. Come 2014 and my troubles are no longer present. I am now spoiled with an ultrafast, pin-sharp, fujinon lens that has blown me away with everything from IQ to build quality. Below I will write a little bit about my first impressions of the lens, since I really have only been shooting it for a weekend.

 

Build

Attaching the Fujinon 56mm f/1.2 lens to your X-Series camera must be just about equal to that feeling a Leica user gets when he/she attaches a 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux to his/her M-series camera. It’s the biggest prime lens in the Fujifilm line-up, and with good reason since it contains enough glass to mould a live size polar bear glass sculpture from! Although bigger than the 35mm it looks amazing on the X-Pro1. It’s like they were made for each other. From what I’ve seen, it’s really too big for the X-E(1-2) cameras for my tastes.

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11 elements in 8 groups (1 aspherical and 2 low dispersion elements)

The build quality of this lens is nothing less than superb. Having a closet full of vintage lenses from Minolta, Asahi-Pentax, Voigtlander and Fuji I can tell you that this lens feels like its been made in companionship with the old Takumars. Its a metal and glass construction, weighing in at just above 400g. The aperture ring is second only to the newest Leica lenses, and the focus ring is the smoothest I have ever used. Manual focus by wire is great on the newer firmware on the X-Pro1. Everything just works.

It takes a 62mm filter size, so I had to invest in a new ND-filter…. (again!!)

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f/1.2 – Aperture ring feels perfect

 

Operation

The autofocus speed on this thing is great. It’s amazing that the amount of glass can be moved around a little quicker than the 35mm f/1.4 which I have always found decent but not amazingly fast. The 56mm will NOT focus as fast as the fujinon lenses with the linear motor eg. the 18-55mm zoom. Focus is VERY accurate. In daylight I have not missed one single focus with this lens, and in darkness I have missed maybe 5. I have taken well over 200 exposures during the weekend, so this is very good. The motor does make some noise when it focusses, but again no more than the 35mm. The minimum focus distance is 0.7 m, which I do not find to be a problem for this focal length.

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62mm filter thread is needed for the large front element

The X-Pro1 needed a firmware update (3.20) to be fully compatible with the lens. I tried focussing before and after updating, and there is a HUGE difference. So if you plan on attaching this lens to an older X-series system, be sure to update.

Image Quality

If I should describe the image quality in one word, it would be “Stellar!” You can get quality glass from Leica, Canon and Nikkor. But NONE of them will give you this image quality for just a measly $999. The center sharpness of this thing is razor-sharp even at f/1.2. Its actually quite incredible. The corners soften up a little bit wide open. Step it down to f/1.4 and they are sharp. At f/5.6 this thing is actually sharper than the 35mm f/1.4 (which actually says quite a lot) When you buy a lens that opens to f/1.2 I would rarely shoot it at any other aperture, so that Fujifilm paid attention to this fact is quite fantastic.

Bokeh is great. Backgrounds blend into blurrylicious mush, and specular highlights look great as they fall out of focus. It gives your images a real sense of depth. There really isn’t much to say. This thing is built for Bokeh!

Pictures

As per usual I have attached a myriad of pictures ranging in many different shooting situations. All the Black and whites are straight B&W jpeg’s with added +1 highlights and +1 shadows in cam, and then added clarity in LR. The colour photographs are Velvia jpeg’s processed in LR in various ways. All of the below pictures are taken at the widest aperture of f/1.2 – All shots of the lens is taken with the Fujifilm X100s

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Conclusion

I tend to get very exited about new stuff, so I am always overly exited about the things that I review on this blog. With that in mind however, I can safely say that this is the single greatest performing piece of photo-tech I have ever owned.

A bokeh monster for the X-Series. Sharp as a razor, and built to last.

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Bokeh monster