Mr. Big – The Fujinon XF 50-140mm review

Happy new year everyone! I hope you had a great start to 2015. I know I did.

Before I get down to business I’m going to do a shameless plug for my new 365 days project. I never did one of those, so I guess 2015 will be the year. I hope to finish, but we’ll see. Life has a tendency to be less cooperative sometimes.

Anyways head over to the365.squarespace.com if you are curious to see if I will follow through.

So! That 50-140mm eh? It’s been out for a little less than a month now, and I think we can all agree on that it’s been one hell of an anticipated lens. Just before christmas, Fujifilm Nordic was generous enough to let me try out this lens during the holidays. The gear addict in me was thrilled, while my rationality was going “meh!”

I’m first and foremost a street photographer. I use primes. I use wide’ish to standard’ish primes. Not long telezooms. I appreciate a small kit, not a big one. But with that being said, I know there are MANY photographic disciplins that simply require a lens such as the 50-140mm.

Equivalent to a 70-200mm on a 35mm camera this lens is just what any pro photojournalist want. For a lot of wedding photographers the 70-200 is an absolute workhorse, and it is the lens that brings home the cash. So for the Fujifilm X-system to evolve into a more pro oriented market segment this lens is absolutely necessary!

After 14 days with this lens a few key points stand out for me

a) This thing is so amazingly sharp at all apertures and focal lengths that it’s not even funny. It’s as sharp at f/2.8 as my 56mm at f/2.8. This is crazy! Nothing less!

b) Build quality is outstanding

c) The OIS is very good.

Build and Design

For a small mirrorless system this lens is big. There’s no way around this. It’s a matter of physics. If you want an f/2.8 aperture at 140mm it will require a glass diameter of a certain size. If, on top of that, you want OIS and a quick AF motor, and it WILL be big. But compare it to its 35mm world equivalent 70-200mm you save roughly 40% in size and weight.

If you want this on your X-T1 you should get the battery grip. It makes the camera balance with the lens much better.

The build is fantastic. It has a nice heft, the focus ring is super smooth, as well as the zoom ring. The aperture ring clicks perfectly. The tripod stand can be loosened using 2 screws. That solution sucks. Fujifilm should have designed something better. I just leave it on and turn it 90 degrees to the side.

There’s a small ample amount of noise coming from the lens when the camera is turned on and during operation. I suspect it has something to do with the OIS or the focus motors. You have to put your ear within millimeters of the lens to notice.

The AF is mostly great and fast. It locks on, and is quite precise. I tested it on my running kids, and it had no trouble keeping up. But when the light gets tricky or low, it does hunt at times, which actually caused me to miss some shots. I had an editor sample, so maybe this is corrected in the final retail version.

Image Quality

This is where this lens totally blinds you. Be prepared to be amazed at how sharp this is. The image quality from this lens is simply astounding. It’s as sharp as the sharpest prime so far in the Fujifilm X system, the 56 mm. And that is even wide open at f/2.8 vs. a stopped down super-prime. It’s quite incredible, and when I first loaded the files from the studio session with my daughter I was just staring at the files for a couple of minutes. It really is tack sharp!!

The session was a dual light setup using a 40 inch shoot through as primary, and a small softbox  from below off camera using the FlashQ trigger.

Below is a 100% crop of the last image in the series. Shot at 140mm f/2.8 at ISO200 and 1/180s

100% crop. Shot at f/2.8 the detail is remarkable
100% crop. Shot at f/2.8 the detail is remarkable

Bokeh is rendered quite pleasingly as well. Specular highlights are mainly structurally smooth, and it renders very smooth backgrounds. Of course at 140mm at f/2.8 you will achieve very shallow DOF and great scene compression.

Harsh scene with christmas lights. Yet the booked is quite pleasing. 70mm, f/2.8, 1/80s
Harsh scene with christmas lights. Yet the bokeh is quite pleasing. (it was snowing, so a little drop on the front element can be seen in the specular highlights)
70mm, f/2.8, 1/80s

Center is tack sharp throughout the zoom range. Edge sharpness starts to deteriorate from about 80’ish mm up until 120mm. And then it gets better. Still very, very, very sharp though.

The OIS is fantastic. You can literally hand hold this thing at 140mm at 1/50 and get sharp results free from motion blur. It really is quite good. So even after dark this thing becomes VERY useful.

Shot handheld at 140mm at 1/80s. f/2.8
Shot handheld at 140mm at 1/80s. f/2.8

For studio use this lens is quite useful as a very sharp and versatile portrait lens. And until Fujifilm launches the 90mm f/2, it’s the only option for that 90mm (135mm in 35mm eq) focal length that so many loves for portraits.

Samples

As per usual these samples have been processed in Lightroom 5.7 using different settings. They were taken using the X-T1.

Conclusion

The Fujinon XF 50-140mm WR OIS is an incredible lens. It’s as sharp as the sharpest primes in the X-system, and it renders gorgeous out of focus areas. It’s incredibly versatile, and it will most definitely serve as a daily workhorse for many photojournalists, event photographers, wedding photographers and the likes. While not a lens I would add to my setup, this is definitely one of the best lenses currently available from Fujifilm.