The Red XF Badge

In starting a comparison including the new 50-140mm, I was struggling with how to categorize Fuji’s lenses. My initial thought was to describe the 50-140mm f/2.8 as “Pro” with all other lenses being “Consumer.” The trouble with that of course is Fuji already have a second consumer-focused set of lenses that carry the XC moniker.

Perhaps Fuji has already found a way of differentiating between these two levels of quality within their XF series of lenses though. The red badge.

Fuji’s red XF Zoom badge

Fuji’s red XF Zoom badge

I noticed this badge immediately when I first saw the 50-140mm f/2.8 at Photokina. I wasn’t crazy about it when I first saw it, but it’s grown on me.1

Just two lenses carry this badge officially to date, the 16-55mm f/2.8, and the 50-140mm f/2.8, which are the two lenses unofficially referred to as “pro zooms.” These lenses also happen to be the only two lenses in the lineup that come with the new Nano GI coating so the red badge might be the signifier of this coating’s presence,2 but it could just as well be their version of the gold band found on Nikon’s pro glass or the red band found on Canon’s L lenses. It’s clearly not indicative of weather sealing since the 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 has the standard black XF badge.

Looking back at my my images from Photokina, it appears as though the XF zoom badge was deliberately left off of the the new Super Tele-Photo Zoom 140-400mm f/4-5.6. This would suggest that Fuji do have an idea of what the red badge stands for, and that they hadn’t yet commited to adding the stamp to the new Super Tele Zoom. Or maybe it just fell off. It is a prototype after all.

No XF Zoom badge? What does it mean???

No XF Zoom badge? What does it mean???

It’s interesting that Fuji have created a new tier of zoom lenses with these latest releases—I’d bet the farm that this isn’t a revised design language for all lenses going forward, and I suspect they won’t dish out the red badge often—but it’s odd that there doesn’t seem to be an official word on what the red badge stands for.

  1. I do wish that Fuji went with red for all their functional accent colours as they have on the black X100’s rather than the orange used on their interchangeable bodies.
  2. Much like Nikon’s “N” for “Nano Crystal Coating.”

I’d stick with the X100S if...

Work on my X100T vs. X100S vs. X100 piece is still in progress, but having more time with the X100T has made it apparent that the only reason I’d reach for the X100T isn’t the new OVF. It’s not the bigger LCD. It sure as hell isn’t Classic Chrome. It’s WiFi.

I can’t say I don’t enjoy the other features and improvements made to the X100 line, but for $300-400 or so, I could live without ⅓ stop aperture adjustments, extra exposure compensation, the picture review button being in the wrong place, you get the idea.

I came to the conclusion early that the X100T isn’t a must-upgrade camera for X100S owners, and I stand by that 100%. If you already have an X100S, and WiFi capability isn’t imperative, I’d say stick with what you have. Additionally, if you don’t already have and X100S and WiFi isn’t a feature you’d miss, save yourself a few hundred units of your favourite currency and grab an X100S. It’s still a great camera that captures the same image quality, and at it’s current price, it’s a steal.

A Case For a Weather Sealed 10-24mm f/4

Fuji Fujifilm 10-24mm f/4 weather sealed.jpg

This morning I woke up early to do some shooting with my new 50-140mm f/2.8. I figured I might as well throw the 10-24mm f/4 in my bag as well to round out my focal range. It occurred to me right then how great a combo the 10-24mm and 50-140mm is. Add in the fantastic 35mm f/1.4, and all your focal length bases would be very well covered.

This might be the most ideal kit available from Fuji, and would probably remain that way even after the 16-55mm f/2.8 comes out if it weren’t for one thing.

Weather Sealing

I’ve griped about this before, but this morning was another reminder of how much I wish Fuji had made this weather resistant. I packed my bag, jumped in the car, and upon exiting the garage, discovered it was drizzling quite heavily. I was undeterred thanks to the 50-140mm, but I thought to myself “Whelp, guess I won’t be using the 10-24mm.”

That sucks. Especially since as the 16-55mm f/2.8 approaches, I find myself thinking more and more that I’m going to prefer having the 10-24mm f/4. It zooms internally like the 50-140mm f/2.8, it shares the same 72mm filter thread,1 and it goes quite a bit wider than the 16-55mm f/2.8.

FUJINON XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS II WR

Rumours of Fuji releasing a Mark II version of their 35mm f/1.4 abound,2 but just last week they’ve shown their willingness to re-issue lenses with Mark II versions of their XC lenses. I also asked one of Fuji’s engineers about the possibility of re-issuing a weather sealed version of the 10-24mm f/4 with weather sealing, to which he replied it was possible, but the lens mmight be slighty larger. I’d take a slight bump in size on a lens like that if it I could use it unfavourable weather any day. Here’s hoping.

  1. The 16-55mm f/2.8 is 77mm. Yes, I could add a step up ring to the 50-140mm f/2.8, but the hood will either be unusable or a pain to use. Not an option for me.
  2. Rumours that have since been squashed, it would seem.

Excellent Reviews from Light Priority

Rory Prior’s review of Fuji’s FUJINON XF 14mm f/2.8 R is a fantastic, not only because it mentions this site at the bottom, but it includes some excellent insights. It’s a great read for anyone considering what’s still one of Fuji’s best lenses to date.

With the sheer ubiquity of 18-55mm (28-70mm) lenses, people are used so seeing images at those focal lengths. That means lenses that break out of that range immediately have the potential to create more interesting pictures. The downside for the photographer is that it can make composition and getting the right exposure more complicated. You’ve potentially got to get a lot closer to subjects to make them fill your frame, then you have distortion to worry about, especially when shooting people.

Don’t miss Rory’s comments on how much the outstanding software, Iridient Developer, can help with edge sharpness in his equally excellent 18mm f/2 review.

FUJIFILM XT-1, Back to Basics

An excellent review of the Fuji X-T1 was posted back on April by Kjetil Kvien Madsen.

While the whole review is worth a read, it was the images that go along with this line that really struck me:

Nikon D800 (With 24 f1,4) and Fujifilm XT-1 (With 23 f1,4) There is a huge difference carrying these cameras around. The bulk and weight of the D800 is quite different.

A friendly reminder from Kjetil Kvien Madsen how much smaller our X-T1’s are compared to DSLRs.

A friendly reminder from Kjetil Kvien Madsen how much smaller our X-T1’s are compared to DSLRs.

The 23mm f/1.4 pictured here is even larger than the 14mm f/2.8, which is closer in focal length to Nikon’s 24mm f/1.4. I had that lens on my D700 and I remember thinking that was a small camera package. It is not. Size and weight soon became a major sticking point for me when it came to photography, and while I can drone on and post weight charts about it, sometimes nothing can tell the story like a photo.

Early look at the MCEX-11 and MCEX-16 Macro Extension Tubes

Othman Kammah has a brief post showing the difference the Macro Extension Tubes MCEX-11 and MCEX-16 can make on a few of Fuji’s lenses.

Some photographers like to shoot close ups and details. I am one of those people...

I've now had a chance to play with both of these [the MCEX-11 (11mm) and MCEX-16 (16mm)] on the Fuji 18mm, 35mm, and 60mm lenses and though I would share my findings...

I had only seen the charts mentioned by Kammah before, but by the looks of things, those tubes make a huge difference in minimum focusing distance. I should be getting my set in the coming days. Look for a full versus comparison soon.

Love — Othman Kammah

Love — Othman Kammah

Fuji 16-55mm f/2.8

Fuji Fujifilm 16-55mm f2.8

Fuji has announced their pro standard zoom, the FUJINON XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR. This is a lens a lot of us have been waiting for, myself included. While I, along with many other people didn’t particularly love their standard zoom lenses from Canon or Nikon, they are workhorses, built for taking photos. Lots of photos. And with their weather sealing, standard zooms can quickly find themselves being the only lens in a photographer’s bag.

The big question will not only be how this lens stacks up against other standard zooms on the market, but how it will perform compared to Fuji’s other zoom offerings in the focal range, the 18-55mm, and 18-135mm. These are already great pieces of glass, but as we know, there is a pretty wide gap between the humble kit lens and the at least one prime. I’m very curious to see if the 16-55mm f/2.8 closes that gap, and you better believe I’ll be finding out as soon as I can get my hands on one.

We can already make some “on paper” comparisons between the new 16-55mm f/2.8 and other zooms. Let’s have a look.

Preorder the 16-55mm f/2.8 at Amazon US, B&H Photo, or Aden Camera.

Lens 16-55mm 18-55mm 18-135mm
Announced January 6, 2015 September 6, 2012 June 16, 2014
Released February 2015 December, 2012 August, 2014
Price
(MSRP)
$1,199 $699 $899
Lens Construction 17 elements
12 groups
3 aspherical
3 extra low dispersion
14 elements
10 groups
3 aspherical
1 extra low dispersion
16 elements
12 groups
4 aspherical elements
2 anomalous dispersion lenses
35mm Equivalent 24 - 84mm 27 - 84mm 27 - 205mm
Aperture Range ƒ/2.8 - ƒ/22 ƒ/2.8 - ƒ/22 ƒ/3.5 - ƒ/22
Maximum Aperture Constant 2.8 Variable 2.8 - 4 Variable 3.5 - 5.6
Focus Range 0.3m - Infinity 30cm wide, 40cm telephoto - Infinity 0.45m - Infinity
External Dimensions 83.3 diameter x 106.0mm - 129.5mm 65mm diameter x 70.4mm - 97.9mm 75.7mm diamtetre x 97.8mm - 158mm
Weight 655g
Approx. 712.5 with caps and hood*
308g
346g with caps and hood
486g
529.5g with caps and hood
Filter Size 77mm 58mm 67mm
Weather Sealed Yes, 14 points No Yes, 20 points
Nano-GI coating Yes No No
Optical Image Stabilization No Yes Yes
Autofocus Speed 0.06 seconds Slower 0.10 seconds

*Unfortunately, the weights we have so far exclude the caps, and hood. I can weigh both the rear cap and 77mm front cap via the 10-24mm f/4, but I have to estimate the hood’s weight. I used the 21g of 10-24mm f/4 as my estimate.

Fuji 16-55mm f/2.8 vs. 18-55mm vs. 18-135mm weight

Here’s how the weights stack up in chart form:

Fuji Fujifilm 16-55mm f2.8 18-55mm 18-135mm weight

Yep, that 16-55mm f/2.8 is gonna be a beast. That’s what a constant ƒ/2.8 aperture gets you though.

Fuji 16-55mm f/2.8 vs. Canon and Nikon

Next we’ll compare Fuji’s 16-55mm f/2.8 to its full frame equivalents, the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8, the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L, and the Canon 24-70mm f/4 L.

Fuji Fujifilm 16-55mm f2.8 vs. Nikon 24-70 f2.8 vs Canon 24-70 f2.8 vs Canon 24-70 f4 weight

Even though the 16-55mm f/2.8 is one of Fuji’s heftier lenses, it’s still significantly lighter than the f/2.8 zooms from either Nikon or Canon. Remarkably, it’s actually heavier when compared to Canon’s f/4 standard zoom. I’ll have to compare the build quality between those two zooms.

Mirrorless vs. DSLR zooms

What is equally interesting for me is how a complete, mirrorless zoom kit fairs against the DSLR systems available from the big guys, Nikon and Canon. For these next charts, I chose the lightest 35mm camera available from each brand at the time of writing, the Nikon D610, and the Canon 60D.

Fuji Fujifilm vs. Nikon vs. Canon weight

For reference, here are the lenses included in each kit:

Nikon 35mm Slow: 16-35mm f/4, 24-70mm f/2.8, 70-200mm f/4
Nikon 35mm Fast: 14-24mm f/2.8, 24-70mm f/2.8, 70-200mm f/2.8
Canon 35mm Slow: 16-35mm f/4, 24-70mm f/4, 70-200mm f/4
Canon 35mm Fast: 16-35mm f/2.8, 24-70mm f/2.8, 70-200mm f/2.8

As you can see, Nikon’s offerings are a little less complete than Canon’s, and weight a little more. I apparently had chosen the wrong brand when it came to weight before moving to mirrorless. Even compared to Canon’s lightest option, a complete zoom kit from Fuji will still run you almost ¾ of a kilogram, or over a pound and a half in weight. The reduction in weight only gets better compared to the other options. I also opted for the “heavy duty” support setup on both of the “Fast” versions for 35mm due to their increased weight. You can read more about those in my Heavy Issues article which will updated to include the 16-55mm f/2.8 shortly.

Mirrorless vs. DSLR APS-C

I’m sure there are some out there ready to take me to task for comparing Fuji’s APS-C-based system to 35mm DSLRs. As it turns out, things don’t get much better for the chunky DSLR by moving down to the APS-C bodies, assuming comparable lens quality and capabilities are a necessity.

Fuji Fujifilm vs DSLR APS-C weight

For these kits I’ve chosen:

Nikon: 10-24mm, 17-55mm f/2.8, 70-200mm f/4
Canon: 10-24mm, 17-55mm f/2.8, 70-200mm f/4

A 50-140mm equivalent no APS-C DSLRs doesn’t exist, so I’ve opted for the lighter option, the 70-200mm f/4. Arguably this isn’t the most accurate option, but once the crop factor is taken into account, the bokeh-factor should be mostly balanced out. In any event, we’re still looking at ½ to ¾ of a kilogram in weight by moving to mirrorless.

Conclusion

So there you have it. I must say I’m a little surprised by how heavy the 16-55mm f/2.8 is, but ultimately, these pro zooms are intended to be workhorses, or as means of replacing multiple primes. I can very easily see myself traveling with two X-T1s, with the 16-55mm f/2.8 attached to one, and the 50-140mm f/2.8 attached to the other. The kind of travel I do often means extended hiking in inclimate weather. Not having to change lenses, being totally weather sealed, and weighing less than what I would have been carrying in my DSLR days with only a single body is pretty appealing.

Preorder the 16-55mm f/2.8 at Amazon US, B&H Photo, or Aden Camera.

Fuji X series portrait lenses compared

Damien Lovegrove over at Prophotonut has posted a great comparison of Fuji’s portrait lenses.

This is not laboratory science, it is a real world A/B comparison where the results are subjective and open to interpretation. I’m not one to read MTF graphs and I believe all professional lenses made today should be reasonably sharp so my attention as always turns to how pleasing is the rendering of the scene? I want to asses both the in and out of focus bits.

Damien modestly calls this a ”mini test,” but it’s plenty to sink your teeth into. Can’t wait for my 50-140mm ƒ/2.8 to arrive at my doorstep!

Of note, Damien drew a similar conclusion as I did on the 56mm f/1.2 APD. The difference is subtle, but it’s there. I also love his 60mm f/2.4 Macro lens hood modification to combat the issues it has with flare that I too have experienced. Lots of great stuff over there.

New Year, New Backup Strategy

This is just a friendly nudge to remind all you fellow photo nerds out there that inexpensive, excellent online backup is available right here via Backblaze. This is the perfect time to overhaul your backup strategy and a remote backup has to be a part of it.

You can read more about my initial experience starting with Backblaze here. I’m also happy to report that after swapping out the puny SSD that came stock in my MacBook Pro for a 1TB drive from OWC1, I was able to retarget my new boot drive via “Transfer Back-up State…” in the application menu bar. I was worried that moving contents from an external drive would result in having to redo the lion’s share of my backup, but Backblaze was intelligent enough to know I had merged the files from my old external drive onto the new larger boot drive!

My opinion on Backblaze hasn’t changed. They’re great, and if you have a lot of photos you cherish, whether they’re professional, sentimental, or otherwise, you owe it to yourself to have a remote backup you can count on.

  1. This drive has caused some strange behaviour with my MacBook so I’m hesitant to recommend it whole-heartedly for now. I had to reset my NVRAM (aka PRAM), and SMC, which isn’t out of the ordinary. However just yesterday, my MacBook showed 30-something% battery, then turned off.

    Attempting to power it on showed the “I’m out of battery icon,” so I plugged it in, powered it on, then after many seconds was presented with a blinking folder icon. Perfect. That meant my computer couldn’t find an OS to boot from. Whilst that folder was blinking, I plugged my previous boot drive in via the “Envoy” (fancy name for the external enclosure that came with the drive), and the Mac immediately saw the OS on that drive and happily booted up. That was pretty impressive. I continued booting, ran Disk Utility on my new internal SSD which mounted without issue and showed no errors, selected it as my start-up drive, and booted to it without issue.

    Things seem to be running smoothly now, but I can’t say I’m not worried the same thing will happen again, and now I have to carry my backup external drive with me to work, which is something I hoped to avoid by having a larger boot volume. Ah well. How’s that for a footnote? ;-)