Ah the Fuji XF35 F2 WR and XF90 F2.
These two lenses are supreme and exemplify how FujiFilm continue to improve on an already outstanding level of quality with their X-series line up.
They absolutely slayed on a recent wedding in the streets of South Melbourne and are now my go to combos for portraiture. Yes, I still love the XF56 1.2, especially when light is hard to find, but these 2 lenses (as I've said before) are superior in AF speed and accuracy when compared to 'older' lenses from Fuji's X-series line up.
For this post I thought I'd share 2 recent shoots using these admirable lenses, as well as share some of my wife's snaps of Jess (the gorgeous blonde haired woman) with her favoured kit, the Sigma 35mm Art and Canon 6D. I may be a Fuji guy but the Sigma 35mm @F1.4 still produces beautiful images with a lovely artistic and hip vignette. The XF35 F2 was solely used on the train snaps with my wife.
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.
You may have seen my earlier post about my First Day Impressions of the Fujifilm XF90,
which details my Fuji fan-boi experience with the new kid on the block. One month on and a fair few more shooting experiences later, this lens has done nothing but impress and inspire me. At my favoured full-frame equivalent focal length of ~137mm, the XF90 fits me like a glove and allowed me to move completely away from my Canon system, which had always been a go to when I needed the sharp and speedy 135mm F2 L.
This past month with the XF90 saw me checking out temperate rain-forest waterfalls in Victoria's east, shooting in stunning Western Australian sunsets with my dear friend Dan at Matsu Photography, exploring the historical sites of federation era Australia, and shooting for Ormsby Guitars and the Melbourne Guitar Makers Festival. On each and every varied occasion the XF90 never missed a beat and I have been left pondering how FujiFilm will outdo themselves next in their world of supreme, high quality consumer photography lenses.
There's something really frustrating about the XF90 - it leaves many of its brethren feeling somewhat inferior (emphasis on 'somewhat').
What Fuji have managed to achieve with this lens and its new quad-motor system is a lens that is incredibly responsive, accurate, and works extremely well in tough lighting conditions, such as low light and heavy back-lighting. I couldn't believe how well it focused on my mate Dan (below) during sunset, or at night as I often put it through its paces targeting objects near and far. As much as I love the XF56 1.2, after using the XF90 it feels somewhat slow and outdated and simply doesn't perform anyway near as well. Also, the XF90's bokeh trumps it by a long shot. Sorry, I know that F1.2 is still a hell of a feature and I'll continue to use mine, but the bokeh it produces simply isn't as smooth and rich.
Something sports and action photographers are going to love about the XF90 is how well it plays with continuous focusing mode, zone focusing and bursts, even at F2. It's smooth, accurate and damned responsive! Overall, a consistently high focus hit rate on par with what I was used to when using my Canon 7D/6D and the 135mm F2.
Did I mention that the XF90 is sharp?
Take a look at the 3 pictures above. I'm not normally a 'here's a 1:1 crop guy' but in this case I had to provide a quick screen grab at that ratio from my LR module (post grain added). I'll just leave you with those snaps to ponder.
If you're considering this lens be aware of how beneficial it is to have a ridiculously close minimum focusing distance on a lens of this focal length. I have loved utilizing the 60cm min. focusing distance so often and cannot wait to try it on some detailed wedding ring shots soon. If you like getting out and shooting a bit of wildlife like me, it's also particularly useful for some more intimate nature shots or flower snaps that provide a beautiful level of compression at this focal length.
I'll keep my conclusion simple. If you're a Fuji X-series user, buy this lens.
If you're on the fence about coming on board to the Fuji-side, get this lens and an XT-1 or XT-10 and be prepared to be blown away.
I recently spent an incredible weekend down in Tasmania, Australia (that's the little piece of Oz that's detached from the mainland at the bottom) with the brand spanking new Fujinon XF16 F1.4 R WR Lens, XF56 1.2 R, and my trusty XT-1. FujiFilm, you made my 30th birthday extremely memorable and blew my expectations for the XF16 out of the water, and those expectations were already very high.
As with my previous post, these are all in-cam JPEGs with Chrome simulation and my own tweaks.
Given how busy my life has been for some time now, as well as my wife's more than hectic schedule, I figured a weekend away in a part of Australia we've never been to was the best way to celebrate my 30 years on this wonderful planet. Little did I know that my dearest friend from the other side of Australia, Western Australia, was scheming to get the XF16 for me as a combined birthday gift with my family.
See why we're best mates?
After waking up in a Hobart hotel with my wife presenting me with the XF16 on a Saturday morning, we grabbed some breakfast from a hipster cafe and embarked on our drive to the awe inspiring Pumphouse Point on Lake St Clair. The drive took a little longer than it should have though because there were simply too many places to stop at and shoot with this 24mm equivalent lens.
A common criticism of FujiFilm's X-cameras is the speed and accuracy of AF, which will hopefully be long gone once they drop the Firmware 4.0 update for the XT-1. So what's the XF16 like on an XT-1 with Firmware 3.0? ABSOLUTELY MARVELOUS! It's focuses quickly, hits the mark with very high accuracy, and doesn't go on hunting trips! LOVE IT!
The XF16 paired with the XT-1 is my favourite combo to date, when considering how it balances on a body with no battery grip and the size and weight of the lens additionally. It just feels right and it has a rather attractive lens hood too. It also features the clutch focusing mechanism that is featured on several other Fujinon XF lenses, which is total gem for street shots fired from the hip. The XF16 was also my first Fujinon lens that has the Weather Resistance (WR) treatment, and believe me, I put the WR of the XF16 and XT-1 to the test though rain, hail, and unexpectedly, snow!
For most of time we spent in Tasmania it rained and snowed, which gave me an awesome opportunity to test the XT-1 and XF16 in some rather rough conditions and see if Fuji is worth their word on their weather sealing. Heck, I even used the XF56 in some less than stellar conditions. Needless to say, the whole kit held up perfectly and in the days I have been using it since, I have not had a single issue. *fingers crossed
I could ramble on about how good the lens is and attempt to get into highly technical language about why it's good, but I think enough has been said in pictures alone. FujiFilm is making the best 'affordable' professional glass out there. The XF16 is a sensational lens and I highly recommend even non Fuji owners get out there and try it out. My wallet is going to hate me though, because with the impeding release of the XF90 and the fact that it's going to be at least on par with the XF16 for IQ, I am going to have to buy it.
One last little snap with the XF16. We are going to be shooting this little man's mum and dad's wedding in Ireland in a few weeks! I think he's a bit excited.