This is not a review. Well, actually it is. It’s the same as it has always been, but as someone in an internet forum recently made me aware, “A hotel staff member can’t review the hotel he works for”. I have never hid the fact that I was deeply involved with Fujifilm, nor that my views were obviously biassed because of said relationship.
So, now my reviews will be labeled “first look previews”. But the content will be the same. It will still focus on giving you a thorough look at the latest Fujifilm gear, but not through specs, rather through my images. I’m not a reviewer, I’m a photographer.
Alright. Enough about that. This article is about a piece of gear that I’ve been awaiting for soooo long, that was released alongside the brilliant new 16-80mm f/4 zoom for the x-series
The GF50mm f/3.5 R LM WR
I first had the GF50mm f/3.5 in my hands back before Photokina 2018 where I was doing some product shots of the GFX family. The lens was a mere mockup with plastic elements back then. But mounting it on my GFX50R made it oh so clear to me that this lens was THE lens for my photography needs on the GFX50R.
Fast forward to may 2019 at a small restaurant in Tokyo, and that’s where I got handed “my precious”
We were having dinner with the top management of Fujifilm, and I got handed some gear to shoot while I was in Tokyo. The first thing I saw was a GFX100, then a GF100-200mm and then my heart skipped a beat…. could it be? Yes it was the GF50mm f/3.5!
A lot of drinks and a night out later (I will save the full story of that night for offline conversations over beers!) I woke up hung over in my hotel room with the GF50mm ready for shooting! – That was 60 days ago, and the lens has not left the mount of my GFX50R ever since!
What is it that is so attractive to me about this lens? Well, it certainly cannot be the maximum aperture of f/3.5 can it? – well, it isn’t – but if maximum aperture and bokehliciousness is all you’re concerned with, then buy a vintage Minolta Rokkor, and go nuts.
What I find so incredibly appealing is the size of the lens, and the focusing speed. These two obviously tend to go hand in hand, but with the GF50mm f/3.5 they’re the definite selling points of the lens.
Before we get going for real, I need to do a couple of disclaimers just to set everything straight. Feel free to skip everything but number 3 😉
Disclaimer 1: I’m an X-photographer. That’s spelled brand ambassador for Fujifilm. I don’t get paid for doing these write ups (and I have been doing them even before getting involved with Fujifilm). I get sent the gear when I do the editorial packshots for Fujifilm Japan (and for this I get paid, just as I should be!) – So I get to play around with the gear a little bit when they’re around the house. This means that I’m just about as biased as I can get, and whether you choose to believe my views or not is entirely up to you. I expect you to be adults, capable of forming your own opinions based on presented information.
Disclaimer 2: All the images in this article has been shot using 2 different prototypes of the GF50mm f/3.5 lens. Image quality might therefore not be final, although I have been told that it is.
Disclaimer 3: All shots with- and of the product has been shot by me, and is not to be used without my explicit permission.
Build and Feel
By now the GFX system is quite mature, and so is the lens lineup. That also mean that we (the Fujifilm GFX users) have gotten used to the build quality of the Fujinons by now. The GF50mm f/3.5 continues with the same great build quality as the rest of the lineup.
It’s an all metal barrel with a metal mount. It has a nice rippled rubber grip on the focus ring, and it has a dedicated aperture ring.
The aperture ring clicks in 1/3 stop increments, and goes from f/3.5 to f/32. It has the “A” mode, and the lockable “C” mode where aperture control is handed over to the body to use with a command dial. It’s exactly the same function as on the other lenses within the GF system.
The front element is rather small, as is very typical for the GF lenses since they feature such a large mount diameter, and in turn have a large exit diameter of the back lens elements. This allow for a very different kind of lens build.
To say that this lens is a pancake lens, might be stretching it a bit, but there is no doubt that in terms of medium format lenses, this is as small as it gets.The GF50mm f/3.5 features a front filter thread diameter of 62mm. This is the same as the GF45 and GF63. So if you make use of filters, you can re-use your current ones.
It comes with a metal “dome-type” lens hood, that use the filter thread. This makes the effective front diameter smaller, so Fujifilm supplies two different size lens caps. Then you can choose if you want to use the hood or not, but still get caps to fit.On the GFX50R, the GF50mm f/3.5 makes perfect sense. It balances so well on that body, and it really adds to the feel of the GFX50R as a “carry everywhere – shoot everything” type of camera.
The GF50mm f/3.5 is weather resistant, so using it for exactly that kind of everyday/everywhere shooting is definitely possible, even in the rainy seasons or when you go to a theme park to get splashed by the waterslides and amusements. (see image above for reference of what I mean).
Below are the technical specs of the lens
- 9 elements in 6 groups (includes 1 aspherical element)
- Angle of view: 57.4°
- Max. aperture: ƒ/3.5
- Min. aperture: ƒ/32
- Number of blades : 9 (rounded diaphragm opening)
- Focus range (from the sensor surface): 0.55m～∞
- Max. magnification: 0.1x
- External dimensions: Diameter x Length (Distance from camera lens mount flange): φ84mm x 48mm
- Weight (approx.)(excluding the lens cap, lens hood and hood cap): 335g
- Filter size: φ62mm
As you can see from the measurements above it is indeed a very small lens for a medium format system. It is actually only a tiny bit bigger than my Canon 40mm f/2.8 STM on my Techart adapter. And it’s actually smaller than my Minolta Rokkor 45mm f/2 on the GF/MD adapter.
If you compare it to the smallest lens in the GF lineup so far, the GF63mm f/2.8, you can see that it is way smaller.
The length of the 63mm is 71mm, whereas the length of the 50mm is a mere 48mm! It does matter quite a lot.
The linear motor in this little lens makes the focusing very very fast. Even in low light, and even on the non-GFX100 models. Obviously it is really really fast on the GFX100, and it can make good use of the phase detection focus. But it is by a wide margin the fastest focusing GF lens on the GFX50 system as well.
Combine the small size, the weather sealing, and the fast focusing and you can easily see why this lens is made for lifestyle, street and other genres where erratic and spontaneous situations require you to be on your feet. It is indeed my most treasured tool in my GFX toolbox!
This is where the important stuff goes on – obviously. Let’s start with taking a look at that maximum aperture of f/3.5 shall we. There’s no denying that there are tons of photographers out there who only want to shoot ultrafast glass to get razor thing DOF. But there is more to photography than bokeh. I know ultrafast glass is fun, but at the end of the day it does not a brilliant photo make! Ask yourself how many well known photographers and their images are shot at anything brighter than f/5.6. Yeah, not that many.
An f/3.5 maximum aperture is more than plenty for portraits on a medium format system if you want to blur out the background. And it does give you the benefit of not have only the eyes in focus, but also having the rest of the face in focus.
The GF50mm f/3.5 has great looking background blur, and has a very pleasing look to the out of focus areas. Below are a few examples of the DOF capabilities of this lens
Disregarding DOF aspects, the f/3.5 does need more light obviously, but with the GFX system you have a lot of room to manoeuvre at ISO values at 6400 and above and still get very sharp and color-true images. I shoot this lens at all hours of the day, and it is seriously a non issue 🙂
The GF50mm f/3.5 is very sharp corner to corner, as I would obviously expect from the current breed of Fujifilm GF lenses.
Have I compared it directly to the 63mm and 45mm? Nopes. Have I shot a brick wall at the different aperture settings to evaluate corner sharpness and vignette? Nopes.
If you want those kinds of things, you will need to wait for other sites to do their “scientific photography”.
I don’t do much landscape photography in the classic sense, but even though this lens can surely be used for that purpose, it isn’t really what it’s been made for. I did shoot some landscape stuff, as you can see in the samples, and I did like how it rendered in those kinds of shots.
I found that it doesn’t vignette, it retains corner sharpness when stopped down as well as wide open. Distortion seems to be corrected in RAW, but I’m not 100% certain about that.
The lens handles f/32 really well, and the diffraction and abberations are kept to a minimum as with any modern day lens.
The 50mm focal length on the GFX sensor has a FOV that roughly equals the FOV of a 40mm lens on a 35mm sensor size. Or the 27mm on the X-series APSC system.
In the old days it was used and made famous on the Voigtländer Bessa systems as well as the Leica CL/Minolta CLE systems. Also a lot of compact point and shoot film cameras use this focal length. (The Leica Minilux, the Olumpus Mju etc)
It’s quite an exiting focal length especially for the kind of photography that I do, in that it will not be as “inclusive” as the 45mm, but it will not be as “tight” as the 63mm. It can easily be used for portraiture, if you like to include more than just a face, and it can easily be shot as a classic reportage focal length. I did take some time to really force myself into viewing the scenes in the 50mm f/3.5 kind of way (if there is such a thing).
I started off shooting street photography with the 35mm eq of the X100, and ventured on to the X-Pro1 and its 50mm eq 35mm/1.4 lens. I have always been a bit torn between which one to shoot, and if I don’t bring both focal lengths when out shooting I often miss the one left at home.
With the GF50mm f/3.5 this dilemma is now officially gone. It’s the one lens that can handle all my street-/lifestyle-/landscape-/portraiture-/travel photography needs. It’s one amazingly diverse focal length.
Conclusion and Samples
The GF50mm f/3.5 R LM WR is by far my favourite lens for the GFX system thus far, even besting my beloved 110mm f/2. The GF50mm f/3.5 is not about the bokeh and shallow depth of field, instead it’s all about diversity in usability, compactness and fast focusspeeds. In four words it’s: The Perfect Street Lens!
During these past 60 days of shooting the lens, I have only taken it off my GFX50R during the last week while shooting some old Minolta glass and some unreleased wideangle lens. Apart from that, it has been glued to my GFX50R. It’s become such a permanent installation that I think I might just seal it on there permanently for real.
The GF50mm f/3.5 really should be a lens in most GFX shooter’s camera bag.
I don’t shoot brickwalls. I’m not a reviewer, I’m a photographer. Thats why I don’t do SOOC comparisons etc. You can probably find those elsewhere.
Samples are from RAW files that I have made adjustments to using Adobe Lightroom CC or Capture One.
This is how I chose to use the GF50mm f/3.5, and it might differ somewhat from what you plan on using it for. I tried to test it in various settings, really pushing its capabilities like I always do. Make sure to open the gallery for maximum quality! All metadata are in the gallery/files and you can download the individual images at 3000px