I just have to say this outright. You folk here in the northern hemisphere, particularly out here in the U.K. are spoiled for good light, when it's out. Coming originally from Western Australia where the sun gives you about an hour each side of the day of pleasant light, it is such a dream with the sun sitting here around 45 degrees.
'Nuff of the whinge!
What's this new XF50 F2 WR all about?
It's a seemingly obscure focal length that doesn't have an older sibling with a wider aperture to usurp, and what kind of photographer would want it? Well, after shooting 1.25 weddings back in Australia with it and having a good few days on the streets of Oxford with it, I am damned impressed by it just as I still am with it's wider mate the XF35 F2, which is my go-to lens and has been since late 2015. It's a bit of a trip down memory lane, as it would be for many who've stuck a 50mm lens on a crop sensor camera so a 76mm equivalent focal length really isn't that unfamiliar.
For this 'review' I have only included small 3000 pixel JPEGS using Chrome, +1 colour, +1 sharpness, and strong grain. Why did I do this? Because it's just bloody brilliant! I have shot backup JPEGs with strong gain for many months now and I simply lovely the images it helps to produce, particularly when shooting into light - I'll get into that more down the page though. I think it also shows for a lot of folk who like what I shoot that they can achieve this look with no post-editing. If you're really wanting RAW/RAF files leave a comment below and I'll get some going since I now have real internet here in the U.K.
Let's take a look at some bokeh samples.
I'm not one to go hunting for this kinda thing and honestly, I am not sure I have the best eye for what good bokeh is but oh well! As you can see though, at F2 this lens has really lovely focus fall off and beautiful smooth background with nice round balls. With a minimum focusing distance of 39cm you can certainly get nice and close with this lens, further exaggerating background blur in many circumstances. It really does an excellent job at focusing closely too, picking what you intend to shoot quickly and accurately.
How about the AF?
It's snappy! Well freakin' snappy! Just as I LOVE the XF35 F2 for it's efficiency this guy is exactly the same in my experience. It handles itself very well shooting into strong backlight, tracks sensationally in CF mode, acts silently and stealthily, and I simply can't fault it. It's also a joy to handle and weighs next to nothing (200g) which I barely noticed during wedding shoots. Remember though, I am shooting with an XT-2 so older cameras may not be so gracious with regards to performance.
But what about the XF56 F1.2?
It's a tough call. The ol' XF56 1.2 has that stupidly wide, light eating aperture that melts away out of focus areas, but it's also an 'old' Fujifilm lens that can be a bit sluggish and offers no Weather Resistance. In truth, during the second wedding I shot in Australia recently upon owning both lenses, I switched over to the F1.2 and didn't switch back to the XF50 F2 WR. Why? Because with the XT-2 and at times with boost mode engaged, I didn't have any issues with focusing, and I sure appreciated the images it produced at it's widest aperture. On the other side of it though, the XF50 F2 WR is way more comfortable for day to day use and is a snappier, discrete, crazy sharp and silent lens that represents the latest in Fujifilm's tech. I'll get to a comparison blog post some time soon!
Let's finish up with a little chat about the grain function on the XT-2.
I am really hooked on this little add-on for how it helps gradients appear to the human eye and how it reduces the obvious transitions in colour banding in bright scenes. I find it also helps to produce really pleasing flares as well, and overall gives me +50 hipster points in my day to day photography life. You be the judge! I just hope Adobe gets grain happening in Lightroom that looks this good.
Some final thoughts
Fujifilm have produced yet another sensational bit of gear that's of the highest quality and performs exceptionally, further reaffirming my decision many moons ago to get into the X-Series.
I'm not sure that the XF50mm F2 WR will stay in my kit, as it's so close in focal length to my XF56mm F1.2, which still holds the overall crown for preferred lens out of the two. I also much prefer a 50mm equivalent like the XF35mm F2 WR for street usage and day to day shooting, with the XF23mm F2 WR being the next lens I'd like to get and probably stick with.
Truly, you cannot fault this lens and if I were a newbie to Fujifilm I would grab it in a heartbeat with the XF23mm F2 WR to start my kit off, as they're exceptional lenses for the money that have character and handle wonderfully, whilst producing consistently gorgeous images. Try it out for yourself and you'll see what I mean with the XF50mm F2 WR.
It's a lovely Wednesday morning here in Ho Chi Minh/Saigon, Vietnam, as I write this post buzzing on iced Vietnamese style coffee - the juice of the Gods! My wife and I have arrived to shoot a very special wedding in a few days time and it's an honour to be involved.
About 10 hours before leaving Melbourne, Australia I picked up a little something that I'd been eyeing off for some weeks, the newish Fujifilm XF35 F2. As always, I saw the good folks at DigiDirect in the city and they hooked me up with the best price around, just as they've done with my entire Fuji kit. They were also super patient about me trying the original XF35 F1.4 back to back against the new F2 version, and although the F1.4 certainly has its merits, the F2 won out in a few key areas, which I'll discuss soon.
I'll be straight up. The photos in this post aren't intended to be about photographic prowess nor highly technical breakdowns of the XF35's features, construction, and all that camera nerd stuff. I get enough of that in the world of high end guitars, so cameras are a safe haven for me where I can focus more on creativity rather than technicality. Enough coffee induced rambling.
For a little challenge on my first day shooting the XF35, I decided to go with a bit of street style approach by firing from the hip and seeing how well the lens could keep up in the Auto Focus (AF) on Saigon's busy and beautiful streets. I must say, I am damned impressed by this tiny high performance lens.
Onto some stuff about the lens (I suppose). Something that is immediately clear about this lens is just how responsive the AF is. If you've ever been to Vietnam I'm sure you can understand that you need to keep moving in the busy streets, particularly in high traffic areas, which when trying to capture sharp and in focus pictures is not a great combination since your field of focus changes so quickly through movement.
The XF35 is quick, and I mean quick. It's the kind of speedy and accurate responsiveness that makes this such a different beast to many other Fuji lenses, particularly its predecessor, the XF35 1.4. Not only is it dead quiet and has no feel of movement from its internals, the XF35 F2 does not hunt!
In the past with some Fuji gear the AF has left me frustrated due to a missed shot or slightly lagging response time. This little piece of gear absolutely slays its siblings. My time at DigiDirect comparing the two 35's back to back quickly showed that although the 35 1.4 is still awesome and has that extra stop of light, it simply feels outdated in performance and feel when compare the the new 35 F2. When I compared them in continuous focusing with heavy back-light, the 1.4 didn't know what to do, and in single shot mode it had that slightly nagging back and forth hunt for a moment before acquiring focus. The 35 F2 displayed none of these features and made it very easy for me to make a decision on which one to take home, even though the original 35 had a $200 cashback on offer, making it around $100 cheaper than the new 35 F2.
A quick perusal of my snaps in Lightroom shows that most of my first day's snaps were taken between F2 and F4, so it's not as if the lens and camera have taken the easy path of narrow apertures, and thus, depths of field where focus is easier to acquire. So, keeping in mind that I was not holding the camera up to my eye and stopping for creative and stable framing, I think the XF35 F2 has really shown how much it's the new generation of what Fuji has to offer in terms of high performance gear.
So what about sharpness? Bokeh? Weather sealing? Well, it's the first day. I've got a wedding here to shoot that I'm sure will feature heavy use of the XF35 F2 and its brothers, but so far, for its size and performance, this is possibly Fuji's best XF lens to date. I cannot wait to see how this thing performs the new bodies rumoured for 2016, like the X-E2s or X-PRO2.