The Fujifilm XF 90mm f/2 review

The Fujinon XF 90mm f/2 LM WR was announced last monday alongside the Fujifilm X-T10 (which I wrote about here).

Completing the line up of classic portraiture lenses, this 135mm full frame eq. FOV has been on the wishlist of many portrait and fashion photographers using the Fujifilm X series and its Fujinon XF lens eco-system.

Again thanks to the incredibly kind people of Fujifilm Nordic I have had a chance to spend a few days with this incredible lens, albeit a pre-production model. As many of you might know by now, I’m a street photographer first and foremost, and this lens I feel is for anything but streetwork. Yes, for the occasional street-portrait it’s great, but it’s also heavy to lug around. None the less I have tried to put it into good use in areas that I think might see some use from this classic prime focal length.

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The 135mm full frame eq. focal length has the benefit of giving your subject some room to breathe and act. Not every model in the world appreciate the photographer getting up close and personal with a 50mm.

DISCLAIMER: The lens used for this review is a pre-production unit, and image quality might not be final. – even though I REALLY do not know how Fujifilm would improve it!!!

Build

The XF 90mm f/2 first appeared at Photokina 2014 as a fatter, bigger, meaner XF 56mm f/1.2. It was in lack of a better term: short and fat! Then shown again at CP+ in february 2015 Fujifilm changed the design of the lens to a taller and slimmer version. This is now the final design that is going into the production model to be released this coming july.

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Dimensions are 75.0mm x 105mm. It weighs 540g and it has a 62mm filter size just like the XF56mm f/1.2 (and the XF23mm f/1.4). By placing the 56mm and 90mm side by side it’s quite apparent that they are the same width, and and what differs is only the length of the lens.

The size is what it is. It’s physics, and a 90mm lens with an f/2 aperture and 4 motors inside for fast AF cannot be reduced further in size without compromising quality. Some will think it’s too big, others will find it to be quite acceptable. Compare it to an equally spec’ed full frame or even APS-C lens, the XF 90mm will still be one of the smaller options to carry around.

I found that it balanced great on the X-T1, and with the battery grip, it’s just perfect! It’s too large for my liking on the X-T10.

Like I have have come to expect from Fujinon lenses this lens is built to a superb standard. The mount as well as the barrel is obviously all metal, and the focus ring is smooth with just the right amount of resistance. The aperture ring is tighter than on all the previous XF lens, which is a really good thing. You won’t easily knock the aperture to an accidental mis-value.

As the WR marker states this lens is weather resistant, so taking it into the environment with your X-T1 will be no problem. This undoubtedly also adds to the size of the lens, but I LOVE that its there, and I think that ALL Fujinon lenses should be weather sealed. It can even be used in temperatures as low as -10 degrees celcius.

WR - for when you get hosed!
WR – for when you get hosed!

Features

Fujifilm has developed a new Linear motor system for the XF 90mm called the “Quad LM”. This basically means that they put 4 magnets in the focus engine resulting in much higher torque for faster focusing of the large lens elements. In addition to giving faster AF speeds the LM results in a very silent focus system as well. I mainly tested the XF 90mm on the X-T1 with firmware 3.10 and the focus was fast and accurate. Maybe it was slightly faster than the XF 56mm, but if so it was very minute. It certainly was a bit more accurate.  On the X-T10 (and on the upcoming FW 4.0 for the X-T1) the focus is much faster and spot on every time.

The lens has 7 slightly rounded aperture blades, resulting in good looking bokeh even when stopped down. It can focus as close as 60cm, allowing you to really fill the entire frame with e.g. a face. With the extension tubes MCEX-11 or MCEX-16 from Fujifilm you can get really close and use this lens for some macro-work.

XF90mm f/2 with MCEX-11
Up close! – XF90mm f/2 with MCEX-11

Image Quality

Alright. I’ve been avoiding the emotional outbreaks so far. Been trying to keep things sober and objective, but I can not hold it in any longer.

OH MY DEAR LORD! THE IMAGE QUALITY OF THIS LENS!

While Fujinon has hit home-run after home-run with its XF series of lenses, this latest offering is beyond incredible. I mean, the XF56mm f/1.2 is very sharp wide open, and the 23mm f/1.4 and the 56mm APD has incredibly smooth bokeh. The 35mm f/1.4 is magical in its own way. But this….this…. this 90mm is all of those offerings turned into one beast of a lens!!

Full size image - f/2, ISO200, 1/2400s - click to view full size
Full size image – f/2, ISO200, 1/2400s – click to view full size
100% Crop - click to view full size
100% Crop – click to view full size

Fujifilm has created an optical formula for this lens that exhibits close to zero vignetting! It doesn’t even show signs of optical vignetting. This can be seen by the fact that the specular highlights (or bokeh-balls) in the out of focus areas are completely round, even when you move towards the edges of the frame. So your bokeh won’t give you that “Cat-eye” effect at the corners of the frame.

The sharpness of this lens is just downright ridiculous. I found myself shooting it wide open all the time. There just isn’t any real advantage of stopping it down for more sharpness. It’s so tack sharp that I have yet to see a sharper lens outside of the Zeiss Otus and Sigma Art eco-systems.

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The rendering of the image is filled with that illusive microcontrast, that usually is a trait of the more expensive offerings from Zeiss or Leica. The rendering is nice and warm, and it renders skin tones in a very pleasing manner. Especially my daughters skin tone which has some magenta casts can be quite tricky for most lenses. But the XF 90mm really muted those tones, and took a much warmer approach.

The out of focus areas are incredible. The bokeh is really smooth, and shows no signs of soap-bubble formation in the blur disks. It’s perfectly blurred, and incredibly pleasing to the eye. The falloff into out-of-focus areas is nothing less than stellar. Almost medium format-like. I’m so impressed.

Chromatic Aberration is really a non issue with this lens. I shot some chrome bumpers in bright sunlight wide open, and it showed no signs of CA.

Leica Vs. Fujinon

XT119898The last time I saw images like this coming out of a lens, was with my newly acquired Leica Summicron 90mm f/2 pre-asph. See my impressions of it here. So I thought to my self, why not pit the two of them against each other in a little VERY unscientific face-off! I’m not giving you the answer here, but I am including the test and I know which one I like best. Your opinion might differ, and I promise I won’t hold a grudge 😛

Both shots was shot under identical conditions. Harsh sun at 3 ‘o clock in the afternoon. A reflector for the shadows. White balance set manually. JPEGS are straight conversions from RAW when exporting from Lightroom. Absolutely no post-processing work done.  I included B&W conversions which I processed to my liking, but exactly the same for both files. Obviously I tried to manual focus to the best of my abilities with the Leica, whereas the Fujinon is autofocussed. My daughter, while being incredibly patient, turned her head. So setups differs slightly.

Metadata: Both shots at f/2, ISO200, 1/3000s.

So, LETS GET READY TO RRRRRRRR-RUMBLE!!! 

(click images for full size)

What I see above is the Fujifilm being even warmer in the skin tones than the Leica. I like warm skin tones which is why I prefer Leica to Zeiss, which renders even cooler colors. The magenta in my daughters ginger haired skin tones are really well handled by both lenses, but slightly better by the Fujifilm. The highlights are handled much better by the Fujifilm XF90mm, and I even prefer the fall-off into blur from the it. The sharpness is also to the XF90mm advantage.

So this is where I’m at. The Leica Summicron 90mm f/2 lens that I, and ALOT of other photographers before me, praised to heaven and back just a couple of months ago have just been beat hands down by the newest offering from Fujifilm. I know that the Leica is a 30 year old lens, but it is still considered better than most modern designed lenses. That the Fujinon XF90mm can even compete at this level is amazing.

Again, let me stress that the above is my opinion. Yours might differ. But this is my blog so I can cry if I want to 😀 😛

Samples

Samples are as per usual shot and processed in various ways. These are not of of camera jpegs, nor are they RAW files. They do give you an impression of what I feel I could use this lens for. Portraits, Street, Macro and general snapshots. The macroshots was taken using the MCEX-11 extension tube.


Portraiture – click for bigger


Street – click for bigger


Macro – click for bigger


Random Snapshots – click for bigger

Conclusion

The XF 90mm f/2 is the highest performing lens I have ever mounted onto my X-series cameras. I beats all previous XF series lenses in just about every image quality aspect. Its the royal deluxe model of a portrait lens, and if you are a portrait or fashion photographer using the Fujifilm X-series you cannot pass this lens up. For the system it is quite large, but it is what it is.

I’m not even a portrait photographer, but I definitely will add this lens to my arsenal. It really is an amazing lens!