Fujifilm XF 35mm and XF 18-55 lenses reviews and roadmap

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Fujifilm X-E1 review

The Fujifilm X-E1 (and the older X-PRO1) are great cameras, but the photos they take are only as good as the lenses on them. Fujifilm is a newer entrant in the interchangeable lens camera market, and the lenses are few. But most reviews online agree the lenses are great. My review for Fujifilm XF 35 and XF 18-55 lenses – and I think they are great lenses – is it a good indication for future launches and enough to buy a Fuji camera?

I got the Fujifilm X-E1 with the XF 18-55mm lens and also the XF 35mm lens. Compared to my old Canon DSLR system, for Fuji there are not many lenses to choose from. Are they enough? And of enough high quality?

The purchase of a digital camera and lenses is less about the cost of the camera, and a lot about the cost of the lenses. All digital camera companies bring new camera bodies every year or two, but lens designs are rarely updated. On Canon I had a 28 F2.8 which was designed in 1980! All of Fujifilm lens designs are new, and the system is yet untested by time.

The lenses for the Fujifilm system seem pretty expensive, so are they good value?
I would say yes but let’s review them!

Fuji lens roadmap and official announcement of the Fujinon XF 55-200

April 17 update

Fujinon XF 55-200mm F3.5-4.8 R LM OIS

This lens is the first and for the moment only telephoto lens native to the X mount. It is possible to adapt third party lenses to a Fuji X-E1, but in the long-term a native lens is best. Additionally a telephoto lens benefits even more from good autofocus and optical image stabilization. And non-native lenses generally lack these two features.

The pros of the XF 55-200

  • the only native telephoto lens
    so if you need a tele lens, this is the best choice
  • optical image stabilization
    Fujifilm claims the lens offers 4.5 stops of slower shutter speed
  • relatively fast aperture
    a standard 55-200 zoom lens for Canon or Nikon have F4-5.6, so the Fuji lens is a bit better  for light gathering and subject isolation
  • two Linear Motors
    The other lens that has a linear motor is the XF 18-55 LM  (the LM in its name). This offers fast autofocus speed and silent operation.

The cons of the Fujifilm XF 55-200

  • Fujinon XF 55-200mm F3.5-4.8
    Fujinon XF 55-200mm F3.5-4.8

    the $699 price
    while the lens is good value, in absolute terms the lens is somewhat expensive

  • 580g weight
    this is one and a half times as heavy as my Fuji X-E1. One advantage of small interchangeable camera systems is the low weight. A lens at 580g is not light.
    it is obvious that all the glass elements and the metal barrel add up, but you have to take the wieght into account when deciding to purchase this lens.
  • the XF 56mm F1.2
    Maybe it is strange I consider this Fujinon lens, which will launch only in 2014, a con for the zoom. But I think a lot of people who only need a short telephoto (portraits mostly  will be better served by the prime lens. Sports and wildlife of course the zoom lens is unbeatable. For other scenarios, the XF 56mm might be a better alternative.

I can only judge this lens compared to the lovely Fujifilm XF 18-55. Both have OIS, linear motors, fast autofocus and if the new telephoto is designed with the same priorities it should be optically excellent.

Fujifilm also promised to update the firmware (again) for both the Fujifilm X-E1 and the X-PRO1.  Not only this new firmware will enable the cameras to work with the new lenses, it will also speed up autofocus with existing lenses. I quote from Fujifilm site: “By upgrading your X-Pro1 or X-E1 with new firmware you will also improve the AF speed with other existing XF lenses. […] The firmware will be available to download from www.fujifilm.com nearer the launch of the XF55-200mmF3.5-4.8R LM. It will be necessary to update the firmware on all XF lens except the XF55-200mmF3.5-4.8 R LM OIS. The lens firmware will be available from July 2013.

Any improvement to the speed of the existing lenses is great news!

Updated Fujifilm lens roadmap

I am very interested especially about the prime lenses – the Fuji 23 F1.4 should be a terrific street photography lens, while the 27 F2.8 (the second pancake lens in Fuji line-up) can be a good alternative for the Fuji X100s. For someone really liking great cameras with small form factor, the Fuji X100s is hard to beat. However, if the Fuji XF 27 pancake is optically good it should make a X-E1 close enough size-wise.

Fujifilm X Mount lens roadmap, as of April 17
Fujifilm X Mount lens roadmap, as of April 17

The first newsworthy item here is the change in the Fujifilm XF 56mm F1.2 R. Prior to this announcement the specs said F1.4, so this is a nice change. The XF 56mm translates to 84mm in 35mm equivalence, so this is an ideal portrait lens. At F1.2 this lens rivals the best in Canon / Nikon systems! I just hope the price does not grow, nor the weight.

The XF 27 F2.8 “pancake” and the XF 23mm F1.4 are confirmed for 2013 release. In my opinion the XF 23mm F1.4 wwill be the ideal street lens. Together with the XF 35mm they make an optically excellent, light kit. The 27mm pancake is a very interesting lens, and if it’s optically better than the existing 18mm pancake I might be interested in one. However I want small size and good optics, which is hard to make. Even Fujifilm has not mastered this trick.

The Fujiflm XF 10-24mm F4 will be the third zoom lens. As a wide-angle zoom, equivalent to 15-36mm in 35mm equivalence, it will complete the Fujifilm system. I loved my old Sigma 12-24 “popeye” on Canon, and I think the XF 10-24mm from Fuji will be the eprfect landscape lens.  This will be a lens that I’ll wait to read reviews on photozone.de, as probably it will be a serious investment.

Pompeii, Italy, shot with the Fujifilm X-E1 and Fuji XF 18-55 Pompeii, Italy, shot with the Fujifilm X-E1 and Fuji XF 18-55 Pompeii, Italy, shot with the Fujifilm X-E1 and Fuji XF 18-55 Pompeii, Italy, shot with the Fujifilm X-E1 and Fuji XF 18-55

Disclaimer: The company that produces these cameras and lenses that we love so much is called Fujifilm, yet the lenses are under the Fujinon brand. Yet everybody calls them Fuji. I apologize where I mix them up.

what have the Fujinon lenses in common ?

And what makes reviewers so enthusiastic about the Fuji lenses?

they are optimized for the Fujifilm X bodies and the sensor

The lenses can take advantage of the smaller image circle (the Fujifilm system uses an APS-C sensor) and the lack of a mirror (so they can protrude a bit more in the body).
The advantage is they are smaller than the same designs in Canon or Nikon mounts.

the lenses benefit from a new camera system

Fujifilm X lens mount
Fujifilm X lens mount

Fujifilm lenses do not need to work on legacy (film) mounts, software corrections is done to every JPEG and RAW and so the lenses are designed to offer the best optical performance possible. Optical defects that are corrected afterwards (vignetting, barrel or pincushion distortions and some chromatic aberrations) no longer have to be solved in the optical design.

the Fujifilm lenses have great build quality

The lens barrels are metal, the mount is metal and there is a feeling of a solid piece of machinery. This is not an excuse to drop a lens on concrete, but it does mean that you can treat the lens a bit more roughly. As I use my Fujifilm X-E1 on travels it is important to feel secure that unless I do something stupid my camera and lenses will sustain being knocked a bit in the backpack.

the lenses have an aperture ring

You set the aperture on all Fujifilm XF lenses by rotating a ring with apertures marked from F1.4 all the way to F16 and A (auto). At first I thought that this is an ancient way of setting an electronic aperture. But guess what? It feels very natural. And the tactile feeling and the feedback give a certain “sureness” in setting the parameters on a Fuji lens.
When the aperture ring is set to A the camera enters shutter priority, and sets the aperture itself. Of course not all lenses start with F1.4 (I wish!) and the variable-aperture zoom like the Fujifilm XF 18-55mm has no markings on the ring.

lens hoods come standard

After I paid $35 for a lens hood for my Canon EF-S 17-55mm I started to appreciate included hoods. The Fujifilm designs are sometimes….questionable: try taking the pinch lens cap with the Fujifilm XF 35mm hood mounted and you will understand what I mean. But a high quality hood is a nice touch and a useful item.

Fujifilm lenses: the XF 35mm and 18-55mm reviews

I will only list the Fujifilm lenses I have – I have no experience with Leica M adapted, nor with the fish-eyes from Rokinon/Samyang. I do intend to get a Rokinon 8mm in the future and will add its review.

Fujifilm XF 35mm F1.4 – the standard lens for the X-PRO1

  • Fujifilm X-E1 with XF 35mm on it
    Fujifilm X-E1 with XF 35mm on it
    small lens design
    187g and 52mm filter but at the same time metal construction
    the lens is equal to a 53mm F2 in full-frame format (in terms of depth of field and angle of view)
  • sharp center when wide-open, and sharp across the frame from F2.2 – F2.8
  • great image quality, colours
  • beautiful bokeh
    the rendering of out of focus areas, it makes the Fujifilm XF 35mm great for portraits and other areas where subject isolation is important.
    You can read about my impressions on the FX 35mm bokeh.
  • reasonable AF speed, especially after the firmware update
  • photozone.de has a good review of the lens
  • sells for $599 at Amazon, and it is the kit lens for the Fujifilm X-PRO1
Christmas tree ornaments, shot with Fuji XF 35mm @ F1.4 flamenco dancer, shot with Fuji XF 35mm @ F1.4 Comic Con 2013 Eastern European | Fuji X-E1Comic Con 2013 Eastern European | Fuji X-E1Comic Con 2013 Eastern European | Fuji X-E1Comic Con 2013 Eastern European | Fuji X-E1Comic Con 2013 Eastern European | Fuji X-E1Comic Con 2013 Eastern European | Fuji X-E1

Fujifilm XF 18-55 F2.8-4.0 – the standard lens for the X-E1

  • side-by-side: Fuji X-E1 with XF 18-55 and Canon T2i with EF-S 17-55
    side-by-side: Fuji X-E1 with XF 18-55 and Canon T2i with EF-S 17-55

    “large” lens design
    312g and 58mm filter but at the same time metal construction
    the lens is equal to a 28 – 85mm F4 – F5.6 in full-frame format (in terms of depth of field and angle of view)

  • sharp from wide-open and at most focals (I feel the 55mm F4 setting is a bit weak)
  • great image quality, colours
  • surprising good bokeh for a zoom
    partly because of the 7-blades aperture
  • fast AF speed and silent operation (especially nice for videos)
  • photozone.de considers this lens the best reason to enter the Fujifilm X system!
  • the Fujinon XF 18-55mm F2.8-4.0 LM  costs $699 if purchased separately
  • as part of a Fujifilm X-E1 kit it has great value at $399.

From its (long) name you can see that the Fujifilm XF kit lens is not your usual lens design. It has very good apertures starting with F2.8 at wide end, F4.0 at the telephoto. This puts the Fuji XF 18-55 somewhat in the middle between a classic kit lens (which has F4.0-5.6 apertures) and a professional grade zoom from Canon or Nikon that has constant F2.8 aperture across the range.

streets in Rome the Colosseum in Rome | with Fujifilm X-E1 the Colosseum in Rome | Fujifilm X-E1 view from the Colosseum in Rome | Fujifilm X-E1

You can see a few of the pictures I took with this lens here:

Because of the good specs, great image quality and solid feel I think a better name is standard zoom lens, instead of kit lens. Here standard means “covering the classic 28-90mm range” (in classic 35mm speak). The reviews for this lens are very positive, some people actually compare it very favorably to the much acclaimed Fujinon XF 35mm lens. I think that the XF 35mm is  better when shooting at F1.4, which is impossible for the Fujinon XF 18-55.  I mean every lens has its strength and niche.  Fujinon XF18-55 has a good OIS system (image stabilization) which promises around 3 stops increase in hand-held shooting  Remember that it helps with static subjects only.

The kit lens also boasts a linear motor, which promises (and in my opinion delivers) fast autofocus and near-silent operation (mandatory for video). And all these features in a package that is the same size as a Canon/Nikon/Sony kit lens. From an engineering perspective this is a great accomplishment.

If you have the Fujifilm X-PRO1 you should try the Fujifilm XF 18-55, it is a great lens.

Fujifilm XF 14mm F2.8 – going wide

I only briefly tried the 14mm in a shop, so this is a very short review of the lens. The Fujifilm XF 14mm deserves a more thorough review. I am very happy to hear your opinions of this lens!

I am very curious about the Fujifilm XF 14mm. It is one of the only two wide-angle options for the Fuji X system. The lens is pretty expensive, and in local currency even worse.

Fujifilm XF 14mm F2.8 quick info:

  • 21mm equal in 35mm terms
    and shares a 58mm filter thread with the XF 18-55mm
  • 7 blades rounded diaphragm, which translates to good looking out-of-focus areas.
    Of course a wide angle lens is not famous for shallow depth-of-field photos, but the lens focuses down to 18cm and some creative opportunities arise!
  • in manual-focus mode a the Fujifilm XF 14mm has a depth-of-field scale
    you engage manual focus mode by pulling the focus ring towards camera, and autofocus by pushing the ring. The depth of field scale, and the distance on the focus ring, open the possibility of pre-focusing. I see some scenarios in which I would work with zone focusing.
  • the autofocus speed is on-par with the XF 35mm
    and this means ok, even fast in good conditions, but slower than the XF 18-55.
    For landscape and architecture this will not be a problem, but for street photography (an interesting area where this lens could be used) it will become an issue.
  • soft corners at F2.8
    I think this is important in street photography only, and the corners sharpen up beautifully when the Fuji XF 14mm is stopped down to F4.0.

Update: DPReview published the XF 14mm review, and they awarded the lens a Gold award.
“It’s not bad at F2.8 and offers excellent image quality stopped down, where superb cross-frame sharpness and minimal distortion make it ideal for architectural and landscape work.”
read the full review at DPReview

I had a push-pull switch on Sigma lenses, and I found the solution sometimes problematic. When in a hurry I often switched to manual focus and not realize it. I do not think this will be a problem on the XF 14mm because the focus ring is pretty stiff. But it is different compared to the other lenses I had. Maybe it is just a ‘getting used to’ thing.

The only real negative part of the lens is the price – the Fujifilm XF 14mm F2.8  costs $899 at Amazon . I cannot see myself spending this money for a niche lens. To put things into perspective a Canon 14mm F2.8 costs 50% more (but it covers full-frame sensors).

Series Navigation« Fuji X-E1 review – a photographer camerathe bokeh of the Fuji XF 35mm f1.4 »

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