XF 35mm F/1.4 Review Posted

My goal of getting more lens reviews published continues with the addition of the XF 35mm F/1.4. My XF 35mm F/1.4 vs. XF 35mm F/2 WR piece is easily one of the most popular on the site, so it seems fitting to get reviews of these two lenses online. They also happen to cover one of my favourite focal lengths, 50mm.

I don’t use the original XF 35mm as much now that a weather sealed option is available, but I definitely got on well with it when it was the only game in town, and still use it when my wife feels like a portrait session, or I’m in the mood to play with lens flare. Both of which are areas the XF 35mm F/1.4 excels in.

Here’s the review.

Also

I know I haven’t exactly been publishing content daily, but my big, crazy long move is finally coming to a close as I write this. I’ll be away from the site entirely for a few days, and really, truly hope to be settled soon, so I can post more regularly. Big thanks to my readers who have stuck with me.

Fuji XF 18-55mm F/2.8-4 OIS Review Posted

I recently finished up my review of the XF 18-55mm F/2.8-4 OIS, the “don’t call it a kit lens” kit lens.

As I posted in social media after my last set of body reviews and comparisons, I’ll focusing on lenses for the next little while, and have spent the past few weeks combing through my back catalogue of images trying to find some worth posting in a review. I hope to share more of those soon.

XF 10-24mm F/4 OIS vs. Primes Redux

Almost two years ago, I published my XF 10-24mm F/4 OIS vs. Primes article, which compared the zoom to the XF 14mm F/2.8, XF 18mm F/2, XF 23mm F/1.4, and even the Zeiss Touit 12mm F/2.8. It was a beast of an article, and I had pushed my CMS to its breaking point, literally. Making edits to this page was excruciating, and I imagine loading the page took longer than it should as well.

It took much longer than expected, but I have given this page a serious once over, updating copy, redoing comparison images to be more clear, and removing dozens of page elements and re-optimizing images to improve page responsiveness.

In addition, reviewing comparison images from so many lenses at once was a real chore on a 15 inch display. Having this new 5K iMac has made an incredible difference in how quickly I can review comparison images, and export assets for the site.

I hope this edit makes the page more useful. Check out or revisit this monster comparison.

Recommended Kits, Early 2017

My Early 2017 Recommended Kits have been posted.

Last year’s kit recommendations were awkwardly straddling two generations of sensors and processors. This year, just about the entire X-Series has caught up and is now on equal image quality footing.

A Note About Formats

What could be more awkward for kit recommendations than bodies with different sensors? A whole new format and system, natch, and that’s exactly what Fuji’s gone and done.

While I will be sure to compare the GFX with the X-Trans III sensor, it’s really not appropriate to consider medium format when building out an APS-C kit. Plus, those who need medium format know that they’re getting it already. So, apart from casual mention and perhaps an exclusive category or two, this kit building piece will focus mostly on X-Series.

A Note About Lenses

The breakneck pace at which Fuji has been releasing lenses seems to have finally levelled off a bit, but I still have a lot of catching up to do on my testing and review. Thus, a couple lenses are recommended based on preliminary testing, and have been noted as such. This page will likely see an update in the second half of this year.

My Kit

For the TL;DR folks out there, here is what I choose if I could only have a selection of 3 lenses:

DSCF8943.jpg

Lens Roadmap and GFX Delay

Good News

Fuji has updated their lens roadmap to include four news lenses. The first two are X Mount versions of their MK Series of Cinema lenses, specifically tailored to 4K video capture.

The MK 18-55mm T2.9 X Mount is due in March, with the MK 50-135mm T2.9 X Mount listed as still in production, but estimate for June according to the roadmap.

Still shooters will get some love in 2018 when a new ultra-wide zoom is due in January, and a telephoto prime in late September, early October.

These lenses will presumably fill two holes in Fuji’s lineup. I started groaning about the lack of weather sealing in the XF 10-24mm F4 two years ago. I would expect this new lens pretty much has to be WR, and I would wager somewhere in the neighbourhood of 8-16mm to compete with full frame DSLR offerings. I also expect it to be larger than the XF 10-24mm F4. I’m guessing XF 16-55mm F2.8 WR or so.

After I got back from my first Safari trip, I had a big desire for a telephoto prime. Judging by the icon on the roadmap, that thing is going to have one substantial front element. Maybe like Nikon’s 200mm f/2? Looking forward to that one, and nice to see Fuji stepping further into exotic territory.

Bad News

The GFX is seeing some delays in production thanks to “high interest.” We will be waiting until at least the end of March before manufacturing catches up with demand.

Busy Month

It’s been an action-packed month in the land of Fujifilm. From new finishes to new formats, Fujifilm are on a tear we haven’t seen in some time. Let’s take these in order:

CES; Fujifilm in Graphite

Outside of another rugged point and shoot, Fujifilm’s CES showing has consisted of the announcement of a “Graphite Silver Edition” of the X-T2, and, for the first time in this form factor, a “Graphite Edition” of the X-Pro2. Note the missing “Silver” on the X-Pro2. I noticed a difference in the finish of these two models immediately, but it took me a while to realize the names were actually different.

I prefer the Graphite finish over Graphite Silver myself,1 but it is curious that yet another “colour” has been added to Fujifilm’s roster. We now also have lenses in 3 different finishes, black, non-graphite silver, and graphite. Graphite is seemingly exclusive to the XF 23mm F2 for now, and is only available as part of an X-Pro2 bundle.

Can we expect more lenses to become available in Graphite? The XF 35mm F2—my preferred lens to pair with the X-Pro2—seems like a prime2 candidate, along with the next announcement:

XF 50mm F2 WR

Rounding out a nice compact set of weather sealed primes at f/2, the XF 50mm F2 WR is a 200g 76mm equivalent that sadly doesn’t share the same 43mm filter size as the XF23mm F2 WR and XF35mm F2 WR. Strangely, or perhaps tellingly, this new prime is also not currently available in the darker Graphite finish.

X-T20

One of the quickest iterations, the X-T10 has been superseded by the X-T20, which sees improvements as large as the X-T1 saw with its successor, the X-T2. This isn’t the form factor for me, but man, talk about a feature-rich little camera.

X100F

Number Four. Everyone’s favourite fixed focal length photographic device finally gets the not-so “New AutoFocus System,” and ACROS. It also gets new teleconverters, presumably better optimized for the new sensor. As someone who owns both of the original teleconverters, this certainly isn’t my favourite part of Fuji’s announcements.

(Almost) All 24.3 MP X-Trans III/X-Processor Pro

Every currently available form-factor but one, the X-E2(S) is once again available in Fuji’s latest sensor and processor. Pretty soon our camera body buying decision will once again come down to body size and handling preference without compromising image quality. I loved it when every camera was X-Trans II. This is Fuji at their best.

Medium Format

I’ve been pretty quiet about the GFX 50S. Not for lack of excitement, more for trying to figure out if this new format is something I’m going to be able to get my hands on and add as part of the content of this site. At $6,499 for just the body, I suspect it will be out of reach for many, if not most of my readers, but I sure would like one.

The Big Event

Yours truly has been invited to a Fujifilm Canada Media Event late tomorrow afternoon that I plan to attend with the opportunity to do some interviews and ask questions. If you have any burning questions of your own, feel free to pass them along and I’ll do my best to get them answered.

  1. It would have gone great with the MacBook Pro I returned. Pity. ↩︎
  2. See what I did there? ↩︎

Favourite Lens By The Numbers

I brought a lot of gear with me on my last trip. I wondered which, if any lenses would have been better left at home. Looking at my catalogue, here’s how many selects were captured with each of the lenses I brought:

  • XF 10-24mm F4: 12
  • XF 16-55mm F2.8 WR: 68
  • XF 16mm F1.4 WR: 58
  • XF 35mm F2 WR: 236
  • XF 50-140mm F2.8 WR: 82
  • XF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 WR: 105

Analysis

What follows is a brief analysis of each lens, as well as a small selection of images from each. Click for a larger view.

XF 10-24mm F4→

This is the lens I was closest to leaving behind, so I’m not surprised it’s the lens that came away with the fewest selects. Of those selects though, ¾ of them were captured at a focal length wider than any other lens I had with me. I suppose that’s sort of the point of having an ultra wide angle zoom, and I could have worked around not having it, but it’s interesting to me nonetheless.

If it was weather sealed,1 I would have brought only it, and left the XF16-55mm F2.8 WR behind. Let’s see if that would have been the right choice.

XF 16-55mm F2.8 WR→

41 of the 68 selects were within a couple millimetres of either widest or longest ends of the focal range, and of those, ¾ were zoomed in towards 55mm, suggesting my plan to leave it at home if the XF 10-24mm F4 was weather sealed would not have been a good one. Sure, I could have covered the 50mm mark with the XF 50-140mm F2.8 WR, but that’s a significantly larger lens, and one that I didn’t have much interest in hauling up to the top of Table Mountain, or hitting a family member in the face with in a small restaurant.

Is bringing an extra lens worth 68 decent photographs? I think so.

XF 16mm F1.4 WR→

Unfortunately, I didn’t get the opportunity to use the XF 16mm F1.4 WR for astrophotography nearly as much as I had hoped. Nighttime on the game reserve was not a time to wander off without an escort. I did get one starry image I’m happy with at The Fernery, a remote lodge along the Garden Route.

Otherwise, the f/1.4 aperture came in really handy in places like the Cango Caves, Featherbed Nature Reserve, and dimly-lit restaurants. I opted for the 16mm prime over the XF 16-55mm F2.8 WR when both were handy for landscapes as well. Such a great lens.

XF 35mm F2 WR→

No surprise here. With the X-T2 out, there will be little, if any reason for this lens to leave my X-Pro2. The overwhelming majority of my candid, documentary, and street photography was captured with the XF 35mm F2 WR. I even nabbed a couple landscape panos and long exposures by just holding my 77mm neutral density filter flush against the front of the lens.

This is the lens I thought was my favourite, and data shows I was correct.

XF 50-140mm F2.8 WR→

Only about ⅓ of my animal selects came from the XF 50-140mm F2.8 WR; 55 images or so. I would have expected a more even split, and I think if I were to visit another game reserve, I would spend more time in this focal range. I felt so compelled to get closer, but I would often realize and force myself to capture more of the environment. Closeups are great, but they can come from a zoo. Seeing animals in their nature habitat is what makes visiting game reserves so special.

The XF 50-140mm F2.8 WR also came in handy for the odd portrait of family members, and even some far away landscapes along the Garden Route.

XF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 WR→

This, along with the XF 2X TC WR Teleconverter→ was essentially my animal lens. The reach it gets you compared to the XF 50-140mm F2.8 WR can’t be overstated, and for the most part, I was perfectly happy to take a hit on ISO because of the smaller aperture in favour of the extra reach.

Of the 105 selects with this lens, just 4 were not of animals. This is a lens that would have no business in my bag for just about any other travel, but am I ever glad I had it with me. I can’t believe I had considered not bringing it. I’d have been doing a lot more cropping. Again though, I probably spent a little bit too much time zoomed right in. 59 of the selects are at 400mm.

Hit Rate

My average select percentage for the XF 10-24mm F4, XF 16-55mm F2.8 WR, and XF 16mm F1.4 WR is in around 12-13%. The XF 35mm F2 WR was a bit higher at 18%, and the two telephoto zooms were comically low at just over 3% for the XF 50-140mm F2.8 WR, and barely over 2% for the XF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 WR.

Now, this is calculated using total number of frames, and does not account for bracketing, panos, or the fact that I was popping off 8 frames per second fairly regularly with the telephoto lenses mounted. With more practice anticipating the moment, restraint and just being a little less excited, I bet my hit rate would be higher with the telephoto zooms. This isn’t to say that upwards of 85% of my photos are crap either—at least I hope not—but 1,913 Picks with around 500 images to share out of 9,900 from a two week trip with a big family seems alright. Getting through those bursts took a lot of time though, and isn’t something I’d want to do often. It has me exploring Photo Mechanic again2 as Lightroom is just so slow at times.

Conclusion

For the most part, I feel pretty good about my gear choices. Looking at the selection of photos above, and excluding animals, I’m happiest with images from the primes. I probably should have left the XF10-24mm F4 at home, and likely will do next time I travel. 24mm is about as wide as I like going for the most part, and the XF 16mm F1.4 WR is just awesome.

My typical travel camera and lens setup going forward will likely be and X-Pro2 with the XF 35mm F2 WR permanently affixed, and an X-T2 with XF 16mm F1.4 WR and XF 90mm F2 WR.

Have a look at your own numbers. What lens do you find yourself gravitating towards? Is it actually the lens you get the highest “hit rate” from? Or are you constantly cropping to get to the composition you want? Your catalogue of photos is full of data you can learn from. See if your assumptions are correct.

  1. Have I said that too much? ↩︎
  2. But that interface, yikes. ↩︎