There are other people who review lenses. There is no need for just another review. But I’ll briefly summarize my feelings and experiences with the Fujifilm lenses that I have owned or still own.
XF 27mm F2.8
A small lens without a purpose – other than being small
I wanted to like this lens. It’s aperture is slightly wider than basic zoom lenses, but not enough to offer new possibilities. It’s bokeh is okay’ish, not particularly nervous but not smooth either. Nothing bad, it just is unremarkable. It’s sharpness is good enough. But it’s usability is totally crippled with the lack of aperture ring. And it’s color rendition is somehow lacking. I didn’t see it having any character in rendering the scene, having very boring output. For me, and this is just a personal thing, it was also a surprise that the focal lenght just felt being too tight for some purposes and too wide for some, it didn’t turn out to be the golden spot between normal and wide focal lenghts.
After some unsuccesful attempts with it I sold it and never looked back. Not recommended by me for the above mentioned reasons. But if Your usage needs differ, it might be good for You, who knows. I have seen good photos taken with it, there is no question of that. I just think that this lens should be priced about the same as Canon’s nifty fifty lens, no reason for a higher price. At least it is wonderful that Fuji offers such a small lens for X cameras.
XF 50mm F2.0 WR
Beautiful lens – with almost unacceptable color contrast
This lens hasn’t got much headlines. It is beautiful in appearance, at least in silver, the black version looks somehow unnatural. The lens has enough sharpness and it’s colour contrast is very strong. You just don’t miss color with this lens. The lens is fast enough to focus and it has weather sealing. If the focal length is right for You, You’ll find very much to like in this lens. The aperture is much narrower than the competing XF 56mm lens, but in most use scenarios it is wide enough and offers bokeh, if that is Your thing.
But the bokeh has a bit of problems while mostly being smooth looking, definitely being smoothest at F2.0. The strong color contrast just pops things from the bokeh areas and draws the eye from the subject that is in-focus to things You didn’t want to emphasize. And that partly makes bokeh also nervous with strong lines like twigs. The lens’ design with emphasis on sharpness and contrast struggle against the chance to photograph smooth and calm photos.
I also found out that the distortion the lens has, and it’s unsuccesful correction in-camera, were visible in some of the photograps I took with it and limits the usefulness of the lens in scenarios where the other parameters of the lens would work well, for example in product photography.
I sold it and I don’t regret it. But overall the lens is much better than what You would think of the lack of praises. Maybe the pricing is a bit too high to gather user base. Or the focal length just isn’t in so high demand with crop sensor cameras. It is a shame Fuji hasn’t done a lens in this WR-line with a focal length of 70mm (the gap between 50 and 90 is big and the 50 seems to be so unnecessary). Shame on You Fuji!
XF 18-55mm F2.8-4.0
A kit lens – that isn’t a kit lens
Oh Yeah. Wonderful zoom lens that has a lot of reasons to be owned instead of the more expensive constant aperture pro lens. I think, if You don’t need assurance that a weather sealing offers and rarely need wider than 18mm, this lens is good enough for any photography that don’t demand wider apertures. Sharp, fast focusing, beautiful rendering, good image stabilization, small, and it feels premium in hand. It almost is unbelievable what You get in such a lens that some consider being a kit lens as it has been sold in kits. I admit that the pricing of the lens separately bought is high and I would probably not buy it for such a price, but then again the versality the lens offers might make even that high price acceptable.
Negative would be the high distortion in 18mm range, but the grass is not greener with the 16-55mm lens in this regard. Highly recommended lens as Your first Fujifilm lens and it might even remain in Your arsenal till the end. Me, I sold it to get the 23mm F1.4, but there is no bad word to say about the zoom. Just buy it unless You are all-prime type, and even then You will enjoy this zoom for social and travel situations.
XF 23mm F1.4
A reason to buy a Fujifilm camera – unless You really want heavier equipment
I had a bit of shortage of cash when I saw a good deal for an XF 23mm F1.4 lens, so I, without a second thought, gave the XF18-55 zoom in exchange. I am very picky about how a lens renders and try to choose my lenses carefully. After “lusting” both the WR version of the XF23mm and the 1.4 version I never thought I would put my money on the larger aperture lens and thought I would settle with the WR version rendering wise. But all the images in the internet told a different story. The F1.4 version constantly seemed to render better images and showed it’s place in my arsenal. Older, yes. Weightier, yes. Oddier manual focusing, yes. But the rendering! If you have a chance to see comparison pics between the WR and the 1.4 version’s bokeh balls, You know that the WR version is a newer type of lens that emphasizes sharpness and contrast over smoother rendering that the 1.4 version has. But the thing is not just the bokeh balls but the overall rendering including transitions from focus to out of focus.
One con to be mentioned. The manual pull-out-of-place focusing ring is so frustrating that I would give up with the lens if it weren’t so marvellous otherwise. That thing moves accidentally when You store the camera in Your bag and suddenly the lens isn’t focusing anymore when You next time use it. It would need tape to keep it in place, unless You didn’t need manual focusing. But it is like with Your old wife, You get used to it 🙂
I acknowledge that there are good lenses in all systems. But Fuji gives me perfect blend of IQ (sensor size) and portability, size and weight. If I wanted similar output from some other system’s lenses, I would give up either IQ, portability or usability AND pay lots more.
I think that, with the knowledge and experience I now have, I would choose Fujifilm camera only to get an access to this lens. I cannot recommend it highly enough. It would only take You more money to wander between different systems and lenses and finally end here. Do it right away 🙂
XF 35mm F1.4
“Old” lens – that withstands because of it’s IQ
Oh my, if I say that the images the F1.4 takes looks better than the newer WR version, I get bashed. I admit that the newer one takes fantastic pics and in some examples You really can’t tell which lens was used. It is that good. But… there are things I don’t like to see in “normal” focal length lens, like the heavy distortion of the WR version. Why on earth is it a new normal to accept uncorrected lenses just because You can correct it’s faults in software?
So, what a lens the F1.4 is! It has taken over one year from me with Fujifilm and live without this lens. And I was constantly looking through Flickr for images taken with this lens. And the photos I saw constantly showed that this lens is special in it’s rendering. Some call it magic, and of course that cannot be quantified or explained in scientific terms. It has beautiful out of focus rendering and both that and the transition between in-focus and out-of-focus is just among the best of the best in my book of any camera/lens system. The out of focus area, the bokeh, isn’t as smooth as some other offerings. No, it doesn’t have to be. All those blurred photos You might refer to are nice as a concept, but they are far from reality. Your eye would never render that way. The bokeh of this lens is somewhere between totally blurred and sharp, but the look of the blurriness is, in a word, beautiful. In the end the results speak.
And again I come to comparisons. Yes, there are some good “normal” focal length lenses in other systems. But considering, size, weight and price, I don’t know any normal focal length lens that would make me choose another brand over Fujifilm. And I don’t even care anymore, as this lens is so good that it satisfies me. The rendering of this lens is special and it is acknowledged amongst it’s users. The ones after the Holy Grail might continue their search, but now me, as others before me, am taking excellent photos with this lens. Definitely recommended if photos taken with “normal” focal lenght is Your thing.
XF 50-140mm F2.8
a workhorse – that gets the job done
For me this lens was meant to be for one purpose, photographing my daughter riding, and mostly in indoor arenas. I wanted an F2.0 lens for this purpose, and hesitated buying an F2.8 lens. But with the excellent high ISO Performance of the X-H1 I have survived very low light situations where I still need to stop fast movement. If Fuji had done a 70mm F2 lens I would not have bought a zoom but 50mm, 70mm and 90mm F2 lenses and chosen the best for any distance I needed. But between 50mm and 90mm there is a too huge gap to cover with F2 lenses, so I now live with F2.8 zoom. Zoom otherwise is better for such purpose as You don’t need to crop so heavily, which would emphasize grain at high ISOs anyway, and the lens is, of course, versatile for other purposes too.
The lens is what it is, as physics cannot be changed, biggish and quite weighty compared to primes and less bright zooms. It has quite low distortion through the zoom range and it’s sharpness is good enough for any purpose. It’s ability to produce bokeh at maximum aperture is, of course, quite limited because of the sensor size, but the bokeh is even and at least I see it unnervous (contrary to some others that have reviewed this lens) and pleasant. And I am quite picky with this thing what comes to the lenses I use. I now have quite a little interest to buy a prime within this focal length, as this lens performs so strong at all the focal lengths.
The lens is a joy for the on-location “jobs”, but not for lugging it around. It gets the job done reliably and that is what counts in the end.
Final (for now) thoughts…
I have only one year of experience with Fujinon lenses. One odd thing has been that even as I have entertained myself of buying some vintage or third party lenses, I always end up seeing it needless. I practically have what I need in Fujinon lenses in the shorter focal lengths and miss only a smallish 70-300 mm lens (like what was available for Canon) for some nature photography (I feel Fuji has quite a big hole between 230mm consumer zoom and the heavy and expensive 100-400mm zoom). And here would be a place for third party lens makers as Fuji seems to ignore my kind of customer’s need. Of course I am still hoping that an XF 70mm F2 would be made, or even one with a third of a stop to one stop brighter if it sells better.
I am not making money from photography. I have photography as a hobby and don’t claim to make photos that means anything to anyone. It is partly relaxation, partly technology geekery and partly just giving creative brain cells some workout. All of the opinions above are based on very long experience with cameras and my subjective way of seeing images taken with different lenses. Hopefully You benefit of my experiences, but just ignore them if You have different preferences. Lately I have tried to be honest to myself about buying gear according my needs and preferences and thus try to avoid purchases I later regret and the above mentioned opinions reflect this attitude.