Oh my how the world has changed since my latest blogpost. It seems like forever ago, when in reality it was just 4 months ago. CoVid19 pandemic is still running its course, and things will not be back to normal anytime soon. My day job as a healthcare professional has of course been taking a lot of my time these past months, but that has however gone back to normal.
But in all of this Fujifilm has kept its pace high, and kept on pushing forward. And today Fujifilm has announced the GF30mm f/3.5 R WR lens for the GFX system.
And yes, I have has some time to shoot with it, and drag it through my usual “all over the place” testing to be able to write this little first look preview for those of you who have an interest in this lens.
So before we get going as always, I’ll be courteous and write down my usual disclaimers.
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). 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 a prototype of the GF30mm f/3.5R WR 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.
I’m not a 24mm (full frame eq) type of guy. I never have been, and I probably never will be. If I want to go wide, I much prefer the 21mm FOV, and if I want to go for documentary/wide angle street work I much prefer the 28mm FOV.
I know many people that treasure the XF16mm f/1.4 and also the XF16mm f/2.8 in the X-series lineup, and use them everyday for just about everything. But so far they havn’t really done the same for me.
So the 24mm FOV has always been somewhat of an in-between focal length, much like the 40mm FOV that sits weirdly in the middle of the 35mm and 50mm. However I have indeed learned to love the latter focal length, and it’s no secret that my favourite lens for my GFX system is the 50mm f/3.5 (40mm full frame eq)
So could I possibly learn to like the 24mm FOV as well? Well this GF30mm f/3.5 certainly makes it easy to appreciate this FOV.
A really really cool thing about the 30mm f/3.5 is that it is exactly the same FOV when put in panoramic 65:24 mode as the old Fujinon 45mm f/4 when shot on the Fujifilm TX-1 / Hasselblad X-Pan cameras. So with this lens we finally have the look of a true digital X-Pan!! – More on that a little later on in the writeup.
But let’s go through some of the technicalities first.
Build, feel and technicalities
Let me say this right up front, this lens sure isn’t the prettiest lens in the bunch. I think it might have something to do with the fact that it’s quite long, and it narrows to a quite thin 58mm filter thread diameter near the front. The front element being relatively small makes it look oddly unbalanced on the GFX cameras. The best fit is the GFX100 where you get some visual balance by the built-in battery grip of the GFX100. But this isn’t a beauty contest. The GFX line of lenses has never been about looks, but about IQ and functionality.
The build is exactly the same as we know from the other GF lenses in the lineup. Solid metal barrel construction. Rubber focusing ring and a ribbed metal aperture ring. The mount is solid metal. It feel very sturdy, and it can definitely withstand the elements.
The aperture adjusts in 1/3rd stop increments ranging from f/3.5 to f/32. It has the “A” position for auto aperture selection, as well as the “C” selection for using the command dial on the GFX bodies to change the aperture. The blades are configured in a 9 rounded blade configuration. It can produce some sunstars when stopped down to f/32, but not as convincingly as some of the other lenses in the lineup.
Now, I’m not much for all the technical stuff, but here’s a complete list of the specs of the lens:
- 30mm focal length (23,7mm in full frame eq)
- 13 elements in 10 groups (2 aspherical and 2 ED elements)
- 9 rounded aperture blades
- Aperture range f/3,5 – f/32 in 1/3 stop increments
- Minimum shooting distance 32 cm
- Maximum shooting magnification 0.15x
- 58mm front filter diameter
- Size: length 99.4 mm, diameter 84mm
- Weight: 510 g
The weight of the lens is really held down which is really cool for this jack-of-all trades type of wide angle lens since you can carry it anywhere with close to no effort needed.
The GF30mm f/3.5R WR is, as the name implies, built with weather resistance. This is customary in all the GF lenses, and this one is no exception. It’s gone from being a nice-to-have feature to a need-to-have feature for me.
Autofocus is quick and on point. Especially when coupled with the phase detection AF of the GFX100. You seriously forget that this is digital medium format. Everything acts and feels just like a full frame DSLR.
Distortion, Vignetting and fringing
When it comes to lenses this is where it gets really important. The image quality is after all more important than looks!
And just as with all the other GF prime lenses the 30mm f/3.5 does not disappoint. FAR from it!
Light fallow at the edges are very very well handled. As a matter of fact, in day to day shooting I saw close to zero vignetting. Admitted, I do NOT shoot white walls in all aperture ranges to check and measure. I’ll let other more competent tecnicians handle that.
Likewise I saw close to zero distortion. When I shoot these prototype lenses no software recognise them, hence they cannot apply any correction to the RAW files. And in these raw files I observed no distortion. The GF30mm f/3.5 really holds up great.
I’ve shot it straight into the sun, way overexposed, and as you can see in the example below, purple fringing is also handled extremely well by this lens.
All in all, it has been optically compensated for almost all the errors that usually show up in a wide angle lens like this.
When the GFX100 was launched I used to laugh at the fact that coupled with a wide angle lens, the sheer cropping power meant that a casual shooter like me who doesn’t print for bill-boards would effectively have a “virtual zoom lens” just because I could crop so heavily and still get ultra sharp images.
Especially when I first saw what the GF lenses was capable of in terms of resolution. The images look crystal clear and sharp at 100% crop. So I tried this a couple of times with the GF30mm f/3.5 mounted on the GFX100. And let me just post an image below. This image is composed as a 75% crop from a much much wider frame. For a street photographer, it almost feels like cheating!
This also means that portraiture gets a little more easy using a focal length that wouldn’t ever consider for just that. The cropping power makes it perfect to compose in camera, and then work an alternative tighter crop at home with minimal loss of IQ. Like this example below where I shot a mixed architectural/portraiture shot of my good friend Thomas, and when creating the image in post ended up with two very different images from the same original capture. (click to view the images bigger in the gallery)
Image quality from the GF30mm f/3.5 is nothing less than superb, and you’ll be hard pressed to find any downsides no matter what kind of photography you’re shooting.
Jack of all trades, master at none?
I really think that the GF30mm f/3.5 is a very versatile lens. But to me this is partly due to the fact that it’s coupled with the high resolution GFX cameras, especially the GFX100. The way that I can crop after the shot has been taken and still get a working 50mm full frame equivalent or even longer “virtual tele lens” makes it incredibly versatile. Much more so than the 16mm’s on the X-series where cropping to this extent is limited somewhat.
So with the GF30mm f/3,5 I found myself actually liking the 24mm full frame eq FOV for the first time ever. And this was solely because I wasn’t restricted to using the full wide field of view. With the GF110mm f/2 for portraits and the GF50mm f/3.5 for all round use the GF30mm f/3.5 would fill that wide angle gap beautifully, and still be able to act like a “28mm and 35mm full frame lens” just by cropping a bit in your images in post. I really enjoyed that variation when testing this lens.
The GF30mm f/3.5 is definitely close to being a true jack of all trades for the GFX system. And it actually masters a lot!
TX-1 / X-Pan format
As some of you, who have been following me over the years will know I have an absolutely all absorbing photographic love for the old Fujifilm TX1 (also know as the Hasselblad X-Pan) film cameras. If any of you don’t know that story, you can read about it HERE. The 65:24 panoramic mode is also present in the GFX system, and has been so for months. (Come on Fujifilm, we NEED this 65:24 mode in the X-series!!)
The TX1 exposed two 35mm frames at once making the image area captured on film a whooping 65mm x 24mm. The standard lens on that system was a 40mm f/4 lens. If you wanted to approximate the lens you would need on a single standard 35mm to achieve the same FOV in the width you would need a 24mm lens…. Lo and behold the 30mm f/3,5 is just that on the GFX sized sensor!! So now I can finally have my digital version of the TX1/XPan. Admittedly with and elegance far from the elegance of the real thing…. but the TX1 is probably the best looking camera ever built, so.
Messing about with this wide panoramic crop format, really makes you visualise the scene differently, and it can be very challenging, but also a lot of fun!
I think the people that will find this lens most useful are architecture photographers and landscape photographers. They will definitely like this lens because of its great sharpness corner to corner and its low distortion as well as lack of vignetting. I tried some different architectural shots as well as landscape shots, and it definitely works well for these occasions, although if you’re photographing interior architecture, the GF30mm f/3,5 is not wide enough for you. And if you’re really serious on the outdoor architecture you would probably want a til-shift GF lens. (Come on Fujifilm!!)
Again, I’m no landscape photographer, but I do see the clear advantages of the GF30mm f/3.5 within this genre, although a lot of landscape photographers probably prefer to go wider. But once in a while its good for that little bit extra compression of the scene.
Conclusion and samples
Fujifilm has yet again released a very fanatic lens. It certainly doesn’t look the part. I’d actually go so far as to call it ugly, but who cares when you see the result coming from the lens.
The image quality is fantastic. The rendering, the resolution, the sharpness, the lack of distortion all makes this lens an incredible wide angle lens. Combined with the amazing resolution of the GFX system, especially from the GFX100, you have a very versatile lens, and that you can crop to achieve incredible results with a “virtual zoom lens”.
I’m still not sure I’m a “24mm type of guy” – but the 30mm f/3. R WR has definitely gotten me a little bit closer.
Below you’ll find a whooping 134 image sample gallery. I tried to use this lens as much as I could these past months, so the sample gallery ended up quite big. This also gives a good indication of just how versatile this lens really is in day-to-day use.
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. All images can be viewed by clicking the gallery below. Download them at will and look at the EXIF. Everything is there. Knock yourselves out.