Making room for zooms

Which XF zoom lenses are regulars in your gadget bag – and why?

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You join me in the midst of a fascinating experiment. The kind folk at Fujifilm UK asked me to write a couple of blogs on which lenses you should you use for what subject, but I think that’s been done a few times already. So, as an alternative, I’m using the power of Lightroom to uncover which lenses I use the most and explain why. My last blog, which you can read here was all about my favourite primes, I was somewhat surprised to find which my most popular prime lens choice actually was. This time, I’m turning to my XF zoom options.

If you’re a Lightroom user and fancy trying this experiment yourself, it’s easy enough to do. Just select the Library Module and then in the Library Filter bar at the top, choose Metadata and you’ll be presented with a series of drop down menus that you can further refine. As with the primes, I’ve used a fair few of the XF zooms; all of them, in fact. But Lightroom showed that four stood out more than others and, as with my prime selection, there’s nothing saying that I’m putting the lenses to their optimum uses shooting what I do. From widest up, they were as follows:

1) XF10-24mmF4 R OIS

It’s no surprise that this is on my hot list as it’s such a versatile lens and – in the 10mm setting – reaches extremes that XF primes lenses currently can’t touch. Compact, lightweight and capable of outstandingly good results even in my hands, it’s a go-to lens for landscape and architecture photographers. Naturally, I’ve shot both of these subjects regularly with the XF10-24mm, but I’ve also pressed it into service when I’ve been overseas; it saw a lot of action on the streets of Rome and San Francisco, for example. Some may bemoan the F4 maximum aperture, but the addition of OIS cancels out any drop in light gathering capabilities and it’s often one of the first lenses in my gadget bag.

Find out more about the XF10-24mm lens here. 


2) XF18-55mmF2.8 R LM OIS

Surprised not to see the XF16-55mm? Yes, so was I, but although the wider and faster premium zoom was used, this more modestly sized optic saw many more frames rattled through it. Normally, I’d be reluctant to use a standard zoom lens to capture images, but the quality of this compact optic really is everything it’s cracked up to be. It’s a true all-rounder, too. As images below show, I’ve used it for a range of images from shooting on the street to shots of architecture and the optical image stabiliser gives low light confidence, too. In my opinion. No X Series user should be without this lens.

Find out more about the XF18-55mm lens here. 


3) XF50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR

The zoom that thinks it’s a prime, the XF50-140mm is a real favourite for me. It can be used for some many different applications and, with the added versatility now offered by the 1.4x and 2x teleconverters, can be used to capture pretty much anything from sport to distant details. Before I did my Lightroom test, I would have thought my shots with this lens would be very portrait heavy but, in reality, I couldn’t have been more wrong – I’ve shot pretty much everything but portraits with it! Time to line up some models and redress the balance!

Find out more about the XF50-140mm lens here. 


4) XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR

Much like the XF90mmF2 R LM WR which has become a recent favourite in prime lens terms, so too has this monster. It’s the lens that X Series users had been crying out for and although the mainstay of the lens’s capabilities are primarily sports and wildlife that I’m hopeless at, I’ve just modified my shooting and tried it on other subjects – including landscapes. Picture quality is tremendous and with the extra power from the compatible teleconverters, I can see why this lens has quickly become a favourite for many. Despite my having the XF16-55mm for longer, the XF100-400mm has seen many more frames!

Find out more about the XF100-400mm lens here. 


So, which one have I used most?

Again, I was a little surprised. I expected it to be the XF10-24mm, but Lightroom told me otherwise confirming the XF18-55mm as my most regularly used zoom. It’s no surprise, it’s a great little lens, but what this exercise does confirm is that my photography is largely working in rather tight parameters, lens-wise. I think I need to branch out a little more and see the world from a slightly wider (and more telephoto) viewpoint.

Weather resistance in windy Wales

A friend and I decided to go camping in Wales, which perfectly coincided with the passing of the ex-hurricane Bertha! To many this is a bizarre time to choose to go camping, but from a landscape photography perspective, angry weather equals exciting weather.

At the moment I am trying to train myself to only use prime lenses as Fujifilm offers such a wide variety covering lots of helpful focal lengths (the announcement of the XF90mm f2 R and XF16mm f1.4 R being added to the lens roadmap is very exciting). The reason for this is that to me they inspire creativity, using the fixed focal length makes me think more about composition and simply take more time with each picture. However, the thought of changing lenses in high winds and heavy rain atop a cliff wasn’t particularly appealing so the ever-camera-bag-present XF18-135mm came into its own. Having previously used a prototype version of the lens on the Farne Islands (see my initial impressions here) this was the first time I had really put the production version through its paces and I have to say it passed with flying colours.

Because I was generally taking landscape photographs I didn’t miss the wonderful wide aperture capabilities of prime lenses. The other bonus of using the XF18-135mm was the fast auto focus and probably, more importantly, the weather sealing. Once mounted to the X-T1 the weather resistance system left me with one less thing to think about while battling the hazardous conditions.

I wasn’t the only thing out enjoying the powerful winds though, a few fulmar were flying around the cliffs, putting on a very impressive aerial display. This was a great opportunity to try the continuous focus in mirky conditions with a very fast moving subject. Once locked on the keeper rate was very high.

Enjoying the conditions

Fulmar

Target ahead

Fulmar-3

Cliff flyby

Fulmar-2

Fulmar in the scene

Welsh cliffs

The other very helpful feature of the XF18-135mm lens is the 5-stop image stabilisation which proved very helpful in countering the blustery and often dark conditions.

Setting Welsh sun

Welsh sea

Going further against my plan to use only prime lenses, the other lens used extensively was the XF10-24mm R OIS on the X-Pro1. Again I went with the practicality and versatility offered by this wide angle zoom lens. Despite this being a zoom, I loved using it at the ultra wide 10mm end to capture as much of the impressive scenes in front of me as possible.

Incoming shower

Welsh coast

Boisterous waves

Welsh coast-2

Overall it was a great few days for photography, but before you go off camping in inclement weather, make sure you check with others you drag along, as the X-T1 – XF18-135mm set up is weather resistant and ready for anything, but they might not be so obliging.

FUJINON XF55-200mmF3.5-4.8 R LM OIS lens test

Sample 4
200mm setting, 1/2000sec at f/6.4, ISO 320
At the 200mm setting, the lens can produce frame-filling shots from the side of a track. This was taken in a public area through a mesh fence

FUJINON XF lenses are all about quality. Quality of build, quality of performance, quality of results. With prime (single focal length) lenses, quality is to be expected by virtue of their more simple optical construction. But good results are less of a foregone conclusion when it comes to zooms. Until recently, the XF55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 R was the only telezoom in the Fujinon line up. It’s since been joined by the XC50-230mm f/4.5-6.7, which was launched alongside the X-A1 and is designed for mid-range X-brand models. But the XF55-200mm remains top dog by virtue of its faster maximum aperture and more solid build, making it the perfect accompaniment to the X-E and X-Pro models. We tested the lens on the latter model.

Sample 1
141mm setting, 1/1250sec at f/5, ISO 320
No problems with vibrant colours, and the level of detail is impressive, as is the car!

The first thing you’ll notice about the XF55-200mm is its impressive build quality. It looks and feels as though it’s built to stand the rigours of daily use and feels reassuringly solid in every aspect of construction. The zoom collar is both large and very smooth to use, while the manual focusing ring at the end of the lens and the aperture ring near the body are both well sized and a real pleasure to control. It comes supplied with a deep lens hood to keep a tight control on flare, plus there’s a switch to turn Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) on and off, alongside the automatic or manual aperture control switch. The OIS is worthy of note. Offering up to 4.5 stops of compensation, we found that even at the 200mm setting, we were able to shoot with shutter speeds around 1/20sec without any evidence of camera shake.

Sample 2
164mm setting, 1/20sec at f/4.6, ISO 400
Optical Image Stabilisation is excellent, this shot was taken at 1/20sec but there’s no hint of blur

With the XF55-200mm attached to the X-Pro1, the combination is neither heavy nor bulky – it’s fine to sling over your shoulder while you’re out for a walk, plus the zoom action is constructed in such a way that there’s no zoom creep, even with the lens pointed down.

A focal range equivalent to 84-305mm on a 35mm camera means the lens offers plenty of versatility. We used it for a wide range of subjects, from portraits through to sporting action. The focusing proved accurate and the out-of-focus areas were lovely and smooth thanks to the seven-blade aperture diaphragm.

Sample 3
200mm setting, 1/120sec at f/4.8, ISO 400
Regardless of focal length setting, the lens delivers high-quality results. You can count every hair in this dog’s fur

The real beauty of the lens, though, is in the quality of the results. In keeping with the Fujinon XF philosophy, the resulting images display impressive levels of sharpness thanks to the combination of high-quality optics and the X-Pro1’s wonderful X-Trans sensor. The lens also showed great consistency through the focal range and aperture settings. Whether you’re shooting wide open at 55mm or stopped down at 200mm, you can be confident of getting great results every time.

Lens tested by Roger Payne