Fuji has done a great job in building a robust lineup for their X-Series mirrorless cameras, but despite releasing the weathersealed X-T1 earlier this year, they hadn’t created a weathersealed lens until now. The XF 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 R OIS WR is a wide range super-zoom lens that features Fuji’s new Weather Resistant tag, with rubber gaskets around all points of entry and even a novel ventilation system to allow air to enter and leave the lens without sucking in moisture and dust. The lens covers a great range of focal lengths, equivalent to the field of view that a 27-205mm lens would have on a full frame camera. The one big up front question with this lens is whether it’s worth the rather high $899 price of entry. Let’s take a look…..
I recently treated myself to a new camera. I’m not a camera geek. There are a lot of people who spend a lot of time poring over specs, comparing sample images and reading gossip blogs—the current incarnation of the same people who spent enormous amounts of time reading reviews in Amateur Photographer or the British Journal of Photography. Tools become cults and fetishes too quickly: programmers spend an enormous amount of time arguing the intricacies of Python vs Java vs C or Vim vs Emacs (vs Sublime vs nano vs Eclipse vs TextMate). I’ve spent far too much time listening to writers who spend more time deliberating between Microsoft Word, Ulysees, Scrivener and Writer Pro (for some people, writing about writing tools seems to be the only thing they seem to do with their writing tools). And photographers have a similar problem of extreme tool fetishism…….
I have recently been approached by FujiFilm South Africa through AtPhoto to take the Fujifilm X-T1 for a ‘spin’. I have since taken this amazing ‘little’ camera on a couple of shoots. I use the word little, because it is compact, and easy to work with – no bulky equipment and a lens that allows so much freedom. I’ve been a professional photographer for 23 years, and for me this is my day-to-day, my income, my livelihood… I hear the word ‘passion’ amongst a lot of my peers – using the word to describe themselves as photographers – and yes, it is a passion, but doing 70-80 weddings a year you get into a flow, you give your absolute best, do what is expected of you, and give your clients what they pay for (and more) while making sure your business is a success. But the Fujifilm X-T1 had a wonderful effect on me…it inspires me, and I am excited everytime I get a chance to use it, to play around with it…I almost want to compare it to a performance enhancement drug – it makes me want to be even more creative!…….
So after using Leica digital M system since it became available with first M8 model and raving about it any chance I had (see my previous post here on that subject), I woke up one day and had a “brain fart”: why am I paying every few years for a rangefinder digital body so much money only to sell it 3 years after for a fraction of purchase cost (pure reality of shooting digital with any system. Basically using a computer with a lens mount. Not much, not less…)? Problem IS that Leica digital rangefinder looses value percentage wise far more than some other digital cameras, as they are overpriced to begin with (I have no idea what is going on but just check out the used prices on the net on year old M240s…) Lenses are a different story: Leica glass IS an investment. You can not go wrong with good (and desirable) Leica M lens. Over the years I acquired all lenses that I needed to complete the system. But, amount of money invested became crazy high… After all I am professional photographer, not wealthy collector. I got tired of dropping a big bag of cash every 3 years for a new Leica M body… Something had to change! ……
Rangefinder, the optical viewfinder doesn’t show the image through the lens, instead a small central window is used to focus the camera. Due to the Leica M Typ 240 featuring live view, for the first time in the Leica M history, you can compose and shoot images using the actual image through the lens, much like using a Digital SLR in live view, on the rear 3inch 920k pixel screen. In addition with the optional Visioflex Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) you can use the camera as you would a DSLR or mirrorless camera with an electronic viewfinder. The Leica M Typ 240, like other digital rangefinders from Leica, does not offer auto-focus, or even auto-aperture, with manual focus and aperture required. Auto shutter speed and ISO is possible. With live view there are two new modes available to aid focus, “Live View Zoom” gives you a 10x magnified live view display, and there is also “Live View Focus Peaking” which automatically highlights edges when in focus……
The Leica 75mm Summarit (f/2.5) is capable of rendering with impressive sharpness and very pleasing bokeh. It’s perhaps too sharp for some types of portraiture and its bokeh may be marginally less smooth as compared to some of Leica’s finest A major shortcoming is its minimum focus limit of 0.9 m. The only other limitation is its maximum f/2.5 aperture, which is only a problem if you require wider apertures — in which case, you shouldn’t be looking at an f/2.5 lens. In the final analysis, however, the 75mm Summarit is an excellent optic in a small package that, in most applications, simply excels……
This will be somewhat different from my usual “reviews”. Well, they aren’t really reviews per se. Much more like me praising the hell out of glorious lenses and cameras. (I’m overly positive, I know!) So, on May 27th, I caved, and bought the X-T1. I had shown some latency, since I really disliked the way the camera looked as compared to my X-Pro1. Looks???? you ask. “Why on earth is that important, Jonas?” Well for starters, it probably doesn’t matter to a lot of people, but to me it does. How a camera feels to me, makes me relate to it, and actually makes my pictures look better! Dunno why. It just does. I like aestetics. I like design. I like order. I like simple. I like my X-Pro1… ALOT! Why did the X-T1 need more dials? Why did it need a EVF hump? Why did it need that big FUJIFILM logo screaming on the front? Why did it need a tilt screen? ….
The Fujinon XC 50-230mm f/4.5-6-7 OIS is a good performer in relation to its price level. The results are mostly sharp in the image center. The corners aren’t quite as snappy in the upper range but let’s be fair – you don’t tend to place the main subject of your scene into the extreme corners anyway. The level of CAs is pretty good at the extreme ends with a weak spot (135mm) in between. Distortions and vignetting are taken care of by the automatic image correction. However, the original characteristics are quite a bit worse though – especially in terms of light falloff. As far as build quality is concerned, you shouldn’t expect wonders. The lens body is completely made of plastics and the build tolerances aren’t quite as tight as on the Fujinon XF lenses. The comparatively low price tag takes its toll here. That being said – the zoom action is a bit smoother than on the XF 50-200mm f/3.5-4.8 R LM OIS. The AF performs is pretty fast in bright conditions but slows down in low light – this is more an issue on the camera side though. The OIS (optical image stabilizer) works nicely but due the slow max. aperture of the lens this feature is also often needed. Compared to the XF 50-200mm f/3.5-4.8 R LM OIS, we would place our bets on the XF. However, if your bank account manager starts crying, the XC 50-230mm f/4.5-6-7 OIS will be a viable choice without sacrificing too much quality…..
The Fujinon XF 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 R LM OIS is a very harmonious offering. It may not excel in quality but it has only few weaknesses. The Fujinon is pretty sharp across the zoom range and entire image field – even at max. aperture. The low amount of lateral CAs also contribute to the subjective quality perception. Due to the system’s image auto-correction, neither distortion nor vignetting are relevant to the average user. Under the (RAW-)hood these two characteristics are not as quite as perfect though. The quality of the bokeh is just average for a lens in this class. The build quality is on a very high level thanks to high quality materials and tight assembly. However, Fujifilm has overdone it with the stiffness of the zoom ring which feels inconvenient even though this may avoid zoom creeping. In terms of AF speed, the results are solid for a mirrorless system albeit not outstanding when compared to the benchmark systems. The optical image stabilizer is certainly a plus regarding the moderate max. aperture of the lens. Given the comparatively moderate pricing, the Fujinon is a obvious choice even though there isn’t much to choose from in this lens class anyway. Well done, Fuji! …..
Ok so lets get this out of the way first, its plastic all around. Lens mount, body, focusing ring are all plastic. The zoom ring does have a nice feeling rubberized coating on it which makes it comfortable to use and its just big enough for your fingers to fit around. The plastic that Fuji used on this lens is pretty high quality though, it doesn’t scream budget and I think it looks quite good. Below are the pictures of the lens attached to my Fuji X-Pro1 at both 50 and 230mm ends. One of the biggest advantages of this lens over its big brother (50-200mm) is the weight savings. It is dramatic how much less this lens weights as compared to the all metal construction of the afore mentioned offering from Fuji. For me this was a big selling point as most of my photography is done on trips, hikes and generally hauling a backpack along………