Wow, how lucky am I? I’ve just finished pulling together my thoughts on the Fuji XF 55–200mm and I get a call from the dealer to say my tou Zeiss Touit lenses (get it?) are on their way…
Anyway, to the 55-200mm. A very quick explanation – no test charts or other examples to be seen here. I also post process my results. I know that isn’t to everyone’s taste but look away now if you don’t like it…
Highlevel, this is an excellent quality zoom lens with a few drawbacks, notably light falloff, sometimes uncertain focus and larger than average size/weight. That said, it has a faster maximum aperture than similar lenses and looks lightyears ahead than similar mirrorless lenses (OK, I jest, but it is much better than the equivalent lens for Sony’s NEX system) in image quality.
It is heavy on the camera and I think if I wasn’t using the Gariz half case I have for my X-Pro1 it would be uncomfortable to hold the camera for long periods. It’s also beyond the unwritten limit in size and weight that is going to prompt waves of people to shift from DSLRs to the X system. In honesty, I don’t think Fuji’s X system is a DSLR replacement, it’s more of a complement, so I don’t think this is a big deal.
The flip size of the lens being heavy and large is that it feels solid. The likes of Nikon and Canon could learn something from the construction of this lens. It is well screwed together and the focus and aperture rings are firm and move nicely. Those who own the Fuji 18-55mm lens will be familiar with the Fuji convention of an unmarked aperture ring to control aperture for variable aperture lenses. A switch on the side of the lens controls the the switch between auto and manual aperture control. I can only say I find it very good control system and that (as someone who owns a Nikon DSLR) I miss this method of controlling aperture on the latest Nikon G lenses (that is to say an aperture ring on lens).
The OIS on this lens is excellent (with a claimed X4 reduction in camera shake), allowing sharp shots at lower shutter speeds and at higher focal lengths than would otherwise be possible. It’s about as good in real world use as the best stabilisation available on the M43s system, which I consider high praise. It’s operated by a switch on the side of the lens (as it should be – don’t bury stabilisation in menus like Oly sometimes does). That’s about all there is to say about this…
The autofocus speed is, well, average, just like the rest of Fuji’s lenses. It can be quick but it can occasionally fail to focus even in bright light. This larger issue is in low light when it struggles to focus at all. But, let’s be honest, it’s still a relatively slow lens and my Nikon 70-300 can struggle for lock or accuracy in similar light.
I am very happy with the sharpness from this lens. Bear in mind I’ve been shooting a lot of full frame recently. All too often APS-C produced photos are comparable with full frame photos at screen size, but the difference is very evident at 100% magnification. However, the 55-200mm results look very good at 100%. This is a very sharp lens indeed – expect detail in hair, fur and on faces (you may need that Dynamic Skin Softener in post 😉 ). Granted, I haven’t run a scientific test of sharpness, but in looking at results at different focal lengths I’m seeing very good sharpness right through the range, even at the short and long ends. It is a little softer at the long end or wide open, but it isn’t anything like as bad as one would expect with a lens of this type and it justifies the relatively high price. Unsurprisingly enough, this lens seems at its best around F5.6 -F6.3.
You can probably see it in some of these shots but the bokeh is excellent for this kind of lens.
What I am seeing is a good bit of light fall off at the edges. This does seem to be automatically corrected in jpeg, but at least in Aperture, it isn’t automatically corrected (oddly enough I think distortion is automatically corrected in Aperture). There is some pincushion distortion visible at all focal lengths (though very minor) if you look at images in Capture One (which doesn’t automatically correct for distortion). Actually, this lens is again superior to the 18-55mm which suffers from distortion badly.
I cannot say that I want to walk around with this lens on the camera all the time. It’s more of one for the bag than it is a walkaround lens. But it is very, very good nonetheless. I think it is better than the 18-55mm optically. This isn’t one for sports, or birds in flight, but for every other long lens purpose it is very good to excellent. Given its bokeh and and faster aperture, it makes an excellent back up portrait lens.
If Fuji can pack this kind of performance into the 10-24mm this is going to be a very, very impressive system longer term.
Taken with my Fuji X-Pro1 and Fuji 55-200mm lens.