This is a first impression review of a preproduction copy of Fuji’s FUJINON XF 56mm F/1.2 that needs updating.
Originally Published: February, 2014
I had planned to do reviews of Fuji’s lenses—separate from my “Versus” articles—so I figure I’ll kick things off with the lenses people are clamouring for the most these days. I’ll start with initial impressions, and get into the nitty gritty from a handling perspective, but I won’t get into peeping at pixels as the lenses are still preproduction units. Let’s start.
If you’ve visited this site before, you might already know that this lens is part of my “Ultimate Prime Kit,” which consists of the XF 14mm F/2.8, the XF 23mm F/1.4, and the XF 56mm F/1.2. These lenses all have excellent handling traits with one potential exception being the XF 14mm F/2.8. Some people were finding the aperture ring a little loose on the 14mm. In fact, the first one I got was a little loose. Fortunately, I was able to exchange for one that is nice and tight. From my sample size of three XF 23mm F/1.4’s, there have been no issues with aperture rings and happily, even the pre-production unit of the XF 56mm F/1.2 has an excellent aperture ring. The way it gracefully slides into automatic aperture mode is just like my XF 23mm F/1.4. Though I don’t think you’ll want to use this lens like that too often. Switching between apertures has just the right amount give. I don’t find it moves out of my chosen aperture too easily.
The focus ring on the XF 56mm F/1.2 is a different story. It’s one of the best focus rings I’ve used. The 56mm f/1.2 has a “heavy” feel and weight to the ring. It’s yearning for you to flick the switch to MF.
And that leads to what might be my only minor, minor quibble with how the lens handles. Given the XF 14mm F/2.8 and XF 23mm F/1.4, I had hoped the XF 56mm F/1.2 would follow in a “premium prime suit” by including the push, pull manual clutch focus selector, and maybe even the engraved depth of field markings. Some argue DoF markings aren’t important on a medium telephoto lens designed largely for portrait. I’d argue they’re wrong and this lens can certainly find itself used for much more than portrait photography.
One of my favourite images of a sunrise over Toronto was shot at 85mm from across a bay. Being able to set the lens to it’s hyperfocal distance (if I’d known how to do that back then) would have come in handy. With that said, the focus ring probably wouldn’t have quite as nice a feel as it does if it included the push, pull feature. The XF 56mm F/1.2 feels better than either the XF 14mm F/2.8 or xf23, and better than any other lens Fuji released before it.
The hood is plastic, and reverses better than any other Fuji hood I’ve seen to date. With it flipped, the camera, lens combo is barely any different in size than without the hood at all.
Last, focus is fast and accurate on my X-E2 despite not having the latest firmware. It was even faster and more accurate on the X-T1, but that’s to be expected.
Again, I’m working with pre-production units here so I won’t be doing my usual comparison images, even though I probably could. The image quality I’m seeing out of this lens is spectacular. Unfortunately I only had a couple hours with it and the XF 10-24mm F/4 OIS so I’m not sure my sample images will live up to the quality of the lens, but here goes.
Time contraints restricted me to street photography for this preliminary review. Rather than write analysis of each image, I’ll just say this: One point two and bokeh!
The image above gives you an idea of the flare this lens produces. The folks who do American Eagle’s photography should be very pleased with this lens. The hood (or your hand) would negate this flare.
In my opinion, the background is rendered beautifully.
I figured a couple cat pictures at the wouldn’t do any harm.
One last time, given this lens is a preproduction unit, I think it’s more than safe to say we’ll have a superbly sharp portrait lens that delivers exceptional bokeh. I’m looking forward to getting my hands on a finalized copy of it.