This is part two of my three part Fuji X Series Buyer’s guide. Please visit part one to read my introduction to this series and read my thoughts on the wide array of Fuji X cameras that are on the market. As stated in my camera post, the following information is simply my personal opinion on the Fuji lenses that I have used thus far. This isn’t going to be a comprehensive look at every Fuji lens made or third party lenses simply because I haven’t used every single lens out there on the market. I have used a good number of them, though, so I feel this will be a pretty good overview of what’s available along with some information about why I haven’t used some of the others. I’ll give some links at the end of this post to other resources for you to research this topic more if you choose to.
When Fuji developed their interchangeable lens system they brought with them years and years of experience in lens design and manufacturing. Fuji has always made fantastic glass. From high end $62,000 video lenses, to satellite and medical optics, to designing and manufacturing Hasselblad lenses. Then there were all the Fuji cameras and lenses they’ve been making for years and years. To put it simply, Fuji knows glass.
Their first three lenses into the X series were the 18mm 2.0, 35mm 1.4, and 60mm 2.4 Macro. Their line up now includes a number of options for you. I’m going to list the lenses I’ve used, provide a sample photo or two made with said lens, a few thoughts on each of them, and then give my personal opinion to those of you trying to figure out which may or may not be right for you.
Fuji 14mm f2.8 :: This is a fantastic wide lens. It’s lightweight, sharp at the corners, and while it technically is not a rectilinear lens, it has very little distortion (important for those of you who shoot architecture and the like.) It’s a fast focusing lens, feels great in the hand, balances well with X cameras, and has solid build quality. Head over to Fuji vs. Fuji for a full review of this lens. I highly suggest this lens to wedding and event photographers for the 2.8 speed. The 10-24 at f4 is a stop slower but has image stabilization. I’ll get more into that in that lens description.
Fuji 18mm f2 :: The 18mm is probably the most underrated and most forgotten lens in the X lineup right now. It’s small. It’s light. It’s sharp. It’s fast. While it isn’t quite as quick in the AF department as the newer lenses tend to be, it still isn’t a slouch. Once the 14mm hit my bag the 18mm has seen very little love. However, that’s not a critique against the lens and more just a statement of how I shoot. If I’m going wide then I typically go w-i-d-e and I naturally reach for the 14 over the 18.
That said, I wonder why I don’t shoot with the 18mm more often? It really is a great little lens. It’s a good choice for folks looking for a wider lens for street photography, and prime lens shooters looking for a sharp fast lens, that is about $175 cheaper than the 14mm. Take a look at used ones as well as I’ve seen them for some fair prices on the used market.
Fuji 23mm f1.4 :: I love this lens. This is one of my favorite primes for the X series. It’s 1.4 aperture is fast. It’s sharp. It focuses quickly. The build quality is top notch. It is a bit on the large side as far as Fuji X lenses go but it is a beautiful lens. I get a lot of questions about people trying to decide on the purchase of this lens or the purchase of an X100 that has the 23mm f2 lens. I’ll talk about that at the end of this post.
This lens is great for wedding and event photographers and low light street shooters. I use it quite a bit for environmental portraits and detail shots as shown above. If I’m heading out to a show I will usually take the 23mm 1.4 if it’s going to be a small venue that allows me to get close to the stage.
Fuji 27mm f2.8 Pancake :: I was never really interested in this lens until I saw it on an X-T1 hanging on Eric Kim’s neck. At first I thought it was a large body cap or one of those toy lenses built into a body cap. Nope. It was an honest to God Fuji lens. While not particularly fast in aperture for a prime lens it’s a great lens with good focusing and it’s sharp. I asked Fuji if I could test one and, ummmm, they haven’t gotten it back. Nor will they.
This lens on an X-T1 body isn’t much larger than an x100 and it has become my every day carry sort of lens for a garden variety of picture taking. I shoot with it on the street and I’ve pulled it out on a job or two. 27mm was a bit odd of a focal length for me to get used to but I’ve shot with it enough now that I’m comfortable with it and can pre-visualize pretty well with this tiny ass lens.
My biggest gripe with this lens is the price. While I do love this lens I feel the $450 price tag is a little much. That’s only $50 less than the 35mm 1.4 and pancake lenses for mirrorless systems seem to run in the $350 area most of the time. This lens is for an X shooter who wants as small of a camera as possible for travel or being discreet while not wanting to sacrifice image quality. A maximum aperture of 2.8 is going to mean you may push your ISO up a bit more than usual for low light work. While I wouldn’t say that it’s a “must have” lens it sure is a “nice to have” lens.
Fuji 35mm f1.4 :: There are lenses that I love and then there are lenses that have magic inside of them. This is one of three lenses I’ve owned in my life that I feel have that magical quality. Those lenses are the Nikon 105mm f2 DC, the Panasonic Leica 42.5 f1.2 for M4/3 cameras, and this Fuji 35mm 1.4. I. Love. This. Lens. The photo above is pretty much the moment I fell in love with this lens. The color. The feel. The angle of view. I love everything about this lens. It’s a bit slow on focusing as this was one of the first X lenses. I think it’s time for Fuji to update this lens but I don’t want the image quality or character to change. This lens does have character.
If you are getting into the Fuji X series this is a must have lens. IMHO.
Fuji 56mm 1.2 :: I consider this lens to be Fuji’s first serious X series portrait lens. Yes, the 60mm lens was first but this one is the real deal. It’s a pretty hefty sized lens for what it is but it is a fantastic performer. It’s sharp as a tack and it focuses well. If portraiture is your thing this is a must have lens in your bag. I shoot with this lens on nearly every job. Last week I shot for a clothing company’s print catalog and shot 90% of the entire job with this lens from studio to location. Pairs well with the X-T1 with a vertical grip attached to the body. That balances the whole rig out quite nicely. I can confidently say that this is a must have lens for the X series.
Fuji 60mm 2.4 Macro :: There are a couple of lenses in my photographic life that I’ve hated. This 60mm is one of them. I hate this lens. Hate it. The reason you do not see it pictured above with the rest of the lenses I use is because I sold the damn thing. Autofocus and manual focus was hell and it just never “felt” right to me. The entire lens pissed me off pretty much from day one. Firmware updates made things somewhat better but never enough that I wanted to keep the thing. It’s my opinion that Fuji needs to retire this lens and build a version 2.0.
When it focused it was nice. It’s a sharp lens. It’s also a macro if that’s important to you but I can’t confidently suggest you buy this lens. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if you thought I recommended this lens. The 56mm is out now so there’s no need for this lens. If you need macro, Fuji has announced two X series extension tubes. Get the tubes and skip this damn lens. The other lens I hate is v1.0 of the Canon 24-70 2.8 zoom. I’ve had three of those in my life. Hated them all. I hear v2.0 is better but since I’m no longer a Canon shooter I don’t care any more!
Fuji 10-24mm f4 OIS :: The 18mm was pretty much shelved when the 14mm came along. The 14mm has nearly been shelved now that the 10-24mm is in my bag. “But Zack! Effff two OMGBOKEH!” you might say. Here’s the deal, when I’m reaching for a wide angle lens it’s not to get buttery smooth out of focus details in the background.
A wide angle lens already has a deep depth of field unless you’re right on top of your subject. 18mm at f2 isn’t going to be a dramatic change from a similar shot with a 14mm 2.8. When I’m shooting wide I’m typically looking for that deeper depth of field so that’s why f4 doesn’t scare me off of this lens. Where the f4 does scare me off is when light is dropping and I need that f2.8 or f2.
This lens also incorporates Fuji’s Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) that does a damn good job at keeping the image steady as the shutter speed drops. That helps when light drops but if subjects are moving then OIS isn’t going to stabilize them.
This lens is great for nature photographers (from what I hear), architecture photographers, and anyone who loved your CaNikon 16-35’ish zoom. I didn’t think I’d ever shoot street with this lens but I have taken it to the streets numerous times. It’s sharp and fast and that 10mm is a pretty interesting point of view on the world.
Fuji 18-55 2.8/4.0 OIS :: Typically this is considered the Fuji kit lens as it has been packaged with a number of X cameras. I got mine when I bought an X-E1 packaged with it. I would typically use this at the 55mm range for portraits in lieu of that 60mm. It’s a nice enough lens but I don’t love, love, love it. A lot of folks do so please don’t take my lack of love for it as a critique. My main gripe is with the variable aperture. I tend to shoot in manual on most paying gigs and in portrait situations most of the time and a simple twist of the zoom ring can change the aperture.
I typically think of variable aperture zooms as set to the maximum aperture at the maximum zoom. For this lens I treat it as an f4 lens when I’m shooting in manual. So no matter where I zoom I’m keeping a consistent exposure as long as I’m at f4 or slower on the aperture. It’s a nice lens but… I don’t use it often. I haven’t shot this lens once since getting the 56mm. It’s time for me to sell it.
This lens is good for folks wanting a jack of all trades kind of lightweight zoom that’s easy to travel with. I really wouldn’t consider this for a pro kit but for every person who reads this there’s a pro out there using this lens regularly.
Fuji 55-200 3.5/4.8 OIS :: The sole reason I own this lens is for the 200mm reach that I sometimes need on jobs. Once I sold my Canon 70-200 I no longer had a lens that had any decent reach or heavy compression if I needed that. My options were getting adapters for third party lenses or get this thing. It’s a nice lens but now that the 50-140mm is out this one is hitting ebay soon. It’s a variable aperture lens as well as an external zooming lens. It’s difficult for people to not make some sort of “your lens is happy to see me” jokes when you start zooming this thing.
Fuji 50-140mm 2.8 OIS WR :: For you 70-200 2.8 DSLR shooters out there Fuji now has you covered with a gorgeous new zoom. I’m a prime shooter. I just like primes. I’m not an elitist about it. Joe McNally has handed my ass back to me on a number of occasions to learn that it doesn’t matter if you’re a zoom person or a prime person. As long as you’re a person.
This is the newest Fuji lens in my bag and I haven’t had a ton of time with it but my initial reaction is two thumbs up for this thing. It’s sharp, fast, has awesome image stabilization, it’s 2.8 all the way through, and it’s weather resistant. It’s also an internally zooming lens so penis jokes on set have dropped considerably.
Looking at the size of this lens one would think it’s going to be completely out of balance on something like an X-T1. It’s a big lens. Actual use of the lens though finds the whole rig to be very well balanced in the hand. Surprisingly so. The vertical grip on the X-T1 rounds it out nicely as well.
Fuji WCL-X100 :: This bolt on lens converter is just for the X100 series of cameras. It takes the 35mm (equiv) lens to an equivalent of a 28mm lens. It’s sharp. It feels great on the camera. It’s a very nice addition to build up an X100 series into something a little more versatile. Yes… we all want it to be w-i-d-e-r but it is what it is. I really didn’t think it was going to be that much of a difference but that little extra wider field of view is helpful. I’ve got nothing bad to say about it really. These are great for those of you who want to specifically build your X100 into a small system for travel and work.
Fuji TCL-X100 :: It has taken me a good bit of time to get used to this tele-converter. It takes the beautiful and perfect X100 and turns it into a bit of a Frankenstein rig. This lens really throws the feel and balance off BUT it turns the X100 into a decent little portrait camera with a normal perspective on the world. Or close to it. From a look and feel point of view you might not like this at first but you’ll love the results it gives.
Since I’ve been shooting with the X100 and WCL and TCL I’ve found that an X100 can be a solid working kit for a variety of shooting assignments. A few months ago I had a freeing experience of riding my bicycle to a job with one shoulder bag on me. In that bag was an X100T, an X100S, the WCL and TCL, and a few batteries. That was it. It was a beautiful thing and I’d love to have more jobs like that.
Now that I’m off social media until sometime in 2015 I’m trying to dedicate my time to personal projects. I started a new one about a week or so ago and I’m shooting this whole project with the X100T native lens and the TCL and I really could not be happier. I thought I was going to shoot this project on the Phase and shoot tethered and all that. On the first session I decided to grab a few images with the X100T using the modeling lights on the strobes just so I could print out a few images on the SP1 Instax printer. I then shot the rest of the session with the X100T and the modeling lights. Then I shot the next session with… the X100T and modeling lights. The next one I book? X100T and modeling lights. Kind of love it. A lot.
There are a number of adapters on the market today that will allow you to mount any number of third party lenses on to an X series camera. The one I have used the most is the Fuji M mount adapter in conjunction with some Leica lenses that I’ve rented and a few M mount Voigtlander lenses I own. I nearly bought a Leica 90mm f2 Summicron APO but the $3,700 price tag was just something I couldn’t bring myself to pull the trigger on. It’s a gorgeous lens and with focus peaking available on X cameras now it’s a great little lens to shoot with. I’ve decided I’m just going to wait for the upcoming Fuji 90mm f2, which, bee tee dubs, is the lens I have made the most requests for from Fuji for two years now. It’s finally in development and should be released at some point in 2015. That is the portrait lens I want.
I’m not going to get into adapters and legacy lenses with this post because it’s a rabbit trail that can run in a hundred directions. If you want to mount your Nikon lenses to a Fuji you can do that. You can mount your Canon lenses to your X series. You can damn near find any combination of adapters and speed boosters to mount damn near anything to an X series. I’ll leave those decisions to you in how you’d like to Frankenstien your camera. Just remember that you lose autofocus and aperture control unless you find an adapter that has iris control.
Third party lenses like the Zeiss Touit line and others that are now being built and/or adapted for the X series. I haven’t used any of them so I can’t speak to them. While I have personally handled the Zeiss lenses and found them to be of the highest build quality and optically wonderful I’ve had zero reasons to add them to my bag.
They are beautiful lenses but you are going to pay a premium for these lenses. If you are up for that, go for it. Have I seen a remarkable and undeniable difference between the Zeiss and their Fuji counterparts? Not really, and not enough to justify my purchase of them. In my opinion Zeiss should have jumped out of the gates with a 90mm’ish portrait lens right from the start. I’m sure I’d have bought one without hesitation. Fuji had the 14 and 35 and Zeiss entered this system with a 12 and a 32 when Fuji didn’t have anything decent to offer in the 50 to 90mm range. That just don’t make no damn sense to me. They have the 50mm but Fuji has the 56mm so… Again. Why didn’t they make a 90 from day one?
Here are the lenses again and my personal suggestions for which ones to choose based on who you are as a photographer. Again… these are just my opinions and I’m sharing all of this because I’m asked over and over and over again.
Casual Enthusiast :: I think you’ll be happy starting off with the 18-55mm kit lens or the 18-135 OIS WR. (I’ll talk about that lens near the end of this post) Add the 35mm f1.4 to your bag next for a beautiful fast prime that will be a good field of view for a number of situations you might find yourself in. Or get the 18mm and the 35mm. Use those two lenses for awhile and consider the 56mm down the road.
Serious Enthusiast on a budget :: Let’s say you started with the 18-55mm kit lens. Get that 35mm next and then consider the 14mm f2.8 if you like using that kit lens on the wide side more. If you like the 55mm side of that kit lens more then sell the kit lens and get the 56mm f1.2. Then work for the 14mm f2.8. The 14mm, 35mm, and 56mm is a great kit of gear.
Serious Enthusiast with a budget :: Sell your kit lens if you have it and get the 10-24 f4, the 35mm 1.4, and either the 56mm f1.2 or the new 50-140 f2.8. Get the zoom if you want the reach that it affords you and is still a great portrait lens. The 10-24, 35, 50-140 is a kit that kind of does everything for you. Go with the 35mm to strip down to a small camera to carry with you on your daily travels and you’ll have the other two lenses to shoot just about anything you want. Consider that 27mm pancake at some point to make a really small every day carry camera if you have the budget and desire to pursue that.
Emerging Pro / Pro secondary system :: I think the 14mm, the 35mm, and the 56mm is solid kit that will take care of a lot of situations you will find yourself in. I’d also suggest the 23mm in here somewhere but see my note about the 23mm prime vs an X100 series camera below. If I was starting with one lens, and one lens only I’d get the 35mm 1.4. That’s a must have lens. If the X series is supplementing a full DSLR kit you already own then I think you’ll fall in love with the 35mm on an X body. Watch out, though, your DSLRs might get a little dusty.
Wedding / Event photographer :: 14mm, 35mm, 56mm, and 50-140mm. Get that system built and I think you’d be happy to expand your kit to include the 23mm next and then the 10-24mm. Note that there is an upcoming release of a 16-55mm f2.8 (24-80’ish equivalent) zoom that will be a great event lens. You could go 14mm, 35mm, and 50-140mm to start. Then maybe you sell the 14mm and get the 16-55mm when it comes out. You will be lacking a macro lens with this recommendation and that can be quite important to you for details. Maybe one of the extension tubes paired with the 35mm would work well for you. That or an adapter and an old Nikon 55mm macro or some other legacy lens.
Pro Portrait photographer :: 35mm, 56mm, 50-140mm. The 23mm would be a good consideration for environmental portraits. The 35mm and 56mm should be your first two purchases IMHO. If I had to strip my kit down to two lenses it would be the 35mm and 56mm. No question about it.
Travel / Documentary :: 10-24mm, 35mm, 56mm. Consider the 27mm pancake to be able to strip down to a very small camera that can fit in a large coat pocket. You may find you prefer the 14mm over the 10-24mm. My first reaction would be to go with the 14mm but after shooting with the 10-24 in a wide range of travel situations, I really do like that zoom lens and can highly recommend it.
Jack of all Trades Pro on a budget :: 10-24mm, 35mm, 50-140mm. After this consider the 56mm. Also note that the 16-55 f2.8 zoom is on the way at some point. That’s going to be a solid lens for a number of assignments.
23mm f1.4 or an X100 with the 23mm f2.0 lens? I get this question A LOT. There are a number of ways to approach this dilemma and I’ll give you my two cents. The 23mm is about $700. For that money you can pick up a nice used X100S or close to it. If you are building an X series kit and have one camera body and a few lenses then getting an X100 makes sense for a few reasons. It gives you that 23mm perspective you are wanting AND you now have a backup / second camera to round out your kit. There are a lot of good things about that. While the lens on the X100 is a stop slower than the Fuji prime it’s no slouch at f2.0. Also, you now pick up the ability to go highspeed sync with external flash with an X100 thanks to the leaf shutter. X100 also has built in ND.
The 23mm prime for the X series is fantastic and I highly recommend it. I think if you are a serious enthusiast with a budget and an X100 you might find a place in your bag for the 23mm prime but you need to know why you really need that lens when you already own something in the X100 series. If you are a working pro you’ll find more justification to have the 23mm prime lens instead of having an X100 or in addition to already owning an X100 series. That 1.4 has been important to me from time to time as well as carrying two identical bodies on my person with two different lenses. The 23mm bolted on to one X-T1 and the 56mm on another body is a great, great, great working kit. I could do 60% of my work with the 23 and the 56. You won’t find me without the 35mm on hand though. 23, 35, and 56 is a minimal but very capable kit.
In case you haven’t seen this before or haven’t seen it in awhile, here is the current Fuji lens road map.
A lot of people are excited about the 18-135mm f3.5/5.6 lens. I’m not all that hot to trot for it myself. First it’s a variable aperture zoom and I far prefer fixed aperture zooms as I stated above. Also, I look at wide to telephoto zooms kind of like cartrucks like an El Camino. It’s kind of a car. It’s kind of a truck. It isn’t perfect as either one. It is perfect for those wanting one lens that can sort of do everything and variable aperture isn’t something that bothers you at all. You could carry this on a vacation and not need any other lens sort of thing.
It has OIS and is weather resistant and it comes in a small package for easy travel and it’s a lightweight lens. That’s a lot of great things to say about the lens. I’ve not touched one so I can’t say yes or no to how good of a lens it is. I can say that there isn’t a need for it in my bag. Same goes for the 16-50 f3.5/5.6 zoom. I have no need for it so I won’t be getting that. All that said, the reviews I’ve read and the folks I know who have the 18-200 lens have all said it’s a nice zoom that performs well. It just isn’t for me.
I can’t say that I’m chomping at the bit for the upcoming 16mm f1.4. For what I shoot I don’t see that being an addition to my bag. Wedding and event shooters are probably salivating for that lens. I am interested in the 16-55mm 2.8 zoom. That will find a home in my bag. I could see building a shoulder bag with the 16-55 and the 50-140 or 56mm for a wide range of situations. I am most excited for the 90mm f2. That can not get in my bag soon enough. I need that lens NOW. No idea what the range or specs on that upcoming Super Telephoto is. The prototype I saw in a glass case at Photokina was marked 140-400mm f4 / 5.6 but I’m not sure those are the final specs. Some want to see a 300mm f2.8 equivalent on that road map. I personally don’t need one of those for what I shoot but I know many who would love one.
There have been murmurs that Sigma might maybe possibly probably not but who knows bring some of their glass to the X mount. I was sort of eyeing the Rokinon 85mm 1.4 for the X mount. I could use that lens right now and at $300 it’s a good price but I know it will get sold as soon as the Fuji 90mm is out. I just don’t know how long until that 90mm actually hits the streets. Reviews for the Rokinon seem to be a mixed bag of “This is great!” and “This isn’t too bad.” I think I’ll just wait. I’ve got the 50-140 and 56. Yeah. I’ll wait for the Fuji. None of the other Rokinon lenses appeal to me.
Lastly, I want to make a case for keeping your glass “in the family” so to speak. When I shot Nikon I shot Nikon glass. When I shot Canon I shot Canon glass. Same pattern is going on with my Fuji kit. Each lens manufacturer has a character and they keep their family of lenses fairly homogenous in feel, design, materials, glass, and most importantly, coatings. Glass and coatings affect a number of things and for me the most important I keep in mind is color. I want to go on a job and have all of my lenses living in the same color family. Keeping a consistent line of lenses is a key part of that for me. None of that may be important to you but I get asked about it enough that I figured I’d address it here. Start mixing brands of lenses on one job, even if shot on the same camera, you can start to see some color and contrast differences from one manufacturer to another. I’d rather keep things consistent then deal with that. Just a personal preference sort of thing.
There’s a pretty good run down of these lenses over at Phoblographer if you want a different take on some of them. Bill Fortney has switched from Nikon to Fuji and has released a field guide e-book ($9.95) for the Fuji system based on his experience with it. Tony Bridge has a review of the 50-140 on his blog. Derek Clark says the 50-140 thinks it’s a prime lens. Fuji vs Fuji has a good comparison of an X100S and the 23mm f1.4 prime. Ben Cherry has a take on these two as well. Dan Bailey has a full review of the 18-135 OIS WR lens if you’re interested in that lens. Leigh Miller has a solid review of the 10-24mm. Also check out Patrick La Roque’s take on the 56mm f1.2 APD and his thoughts on this versus the standard 56mm lens. Photographylife has a comparison between the Fuji 35mm and the Zeiss 32mm.
I hope these posts are useful for those of you looking at the Fuji system or are just getting started with it. If you have any questions about lenses right now please hit me in the comments below. If you have differing opinions I’d love to hear them. It’s helpful to hear the experience and opinions of others. Even if you’re going with a small system from Olympus, Sony, or others. How have you built your lenses and what kind of stuff are you shooting?
The next post covers accessories and is now online.
PS – Since I’m off social media, if you like this post can you help spread the link around a bit? Thank you! Here’s a short link for twitter – http://dedpxl.com/?p=6758
PPS – The sample images above have not been posted at full res for pixel peeping purposes. There are plenty of those images all over the web. Most of the images above still have all the metadata attached for your viewing if you want. They are pretty much straight from camera and cropped and compressed for the web. Note… cropped AND compressed. Don’t start trolling me with “That lens sucks! I see artifacts and stair stepping!” Yeah. Cropped. Compressed. Web. We’re all going to survive. I promise. #smileyface