What's In My Bag - Part III

 

There's one little thing sitting between your camera and the world in front of it, that can completely change the way your pictures turn out: the lens. Even the best camera in the world will produce crappy photos if you skimp on them. You can get away with a cheaper camera, as long as you have some decent glass in front of it. As a photographer with a nice fluffy fro that some of you may know likes to say: glass, glass, glass, glass, glass, glass ,glass.

As the title suggests, I'm going to talk about the lenses I have with me all the time. I have a feeling that this may change in the future but let's not get ahead of ourselves. As in the last two parts of this series, I'm not going to make detailed reviews here, I just want to give you some of my thoughts that may or may not be relevant to you if you're a Fujifilm X shooter or if you're just about to jump the fence. These are just my observations and how I feel about the lenses after having used them for quite some time now.

This is usually what you'll see me with: X-T1 with the Fujinon XF 35mm f/1.4. Love. 

This is usually what you'll see me with: X-T1 with the Fujinon XF 35mm f/1.4. Love. 

With the release of the 16-55mm f/2.8, Fujifilm has finally completed its set of zoom lenses that many photographers would refer to as the "holy trinity": The 10-24mm f/4 as the wide angle zoom, the 16-55mm f/2.8 and then the 50-140mm f/2.8 for the tele range. As a professional, this is usually the way to go so that you cover the whole spectrum of focal lengths. Of course, a vocational photographer should be able to get the picture with just the kit lens. But with those three in my bag, you can throw anything at me and I'll able to compose the picture exactly the way I want, can deliver high quality images and work with nice wide apertures. Additionally I have the 35mm f/1.4 so I can continue shooting when it's getting darker. Plus I love its shallow depth of field.

You could absolutely argue that the lenses are one of the best parts of the Fuji X system. They are built to last, practically all metal (except the XC zooms) and they just feel great. As a former owner of some Canon L glass, the XF lenses in my opinion somehow feel more valuable, although they are usually much cheaper.

The Fujinon XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS. Get rid of the OIS, replace it with an f/2.8 and I'll take two please! 

The Fujinon XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS. Get rid of the OIS, replace it with an f/2.8 and I'll take two please! 

The 10-24mm f/4 is the smallest of the zooms. I'd say it's the one I use the least but I wouldn't leave home without a decent wide angle lens, I'm just simply not that much of a short focal length guy I guess. It produces great images although its two brethren are ahead of it in the sharpness department. Stop it down a bit and it's perfectly fine though. On the other hand, except for landscapes shot on a tripod, you're not going to stop it down all that much though, the widest opening being f/4. I must say I'd have preferred it to be f/2.8 instead of the a bit superfluous image stabilization. And why is this lens not weather resistant, pretty please? Other than that, the autofocus works like a charm, which isn't to surprising with its focal range, but it makes for a very smooth operation of the lens. Still I'm not sure if I'm not perhaps going to replace it with a prime one day, like the 14mm f/2.8 or (more likely) the new 16mm f/1.4.

Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR. It will do whatever you need it to do, guaraneed.

Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR. It will do whatever you need it to do, guaraneed.

The 16-55mm is just stunning in almost every respect. The image quality throughout the whole focal range is plain awesome, only the slightest bit of chromatic aberration and there's some easily removable vignetting. It's razor sharp, even at f/2.8. But honestly, with the size and price this lens has, anything else would be a an insult. Again, I would have had no issue with a couple grams more, had they put OIS in this bad boy. But other than that there's nothing to complain about. Except perhaps that I think, and that may just be my feeling, that the autofocus is the slowest of the zooms. It hunts longer and more often than the other two. It's not bad by any means though and I'm pretty confident that future generations of Fuji X cameras will make this a non-issue.

Fujinon XF 50-140mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR. Compared to its DSLR equivalent, it is actually quite light, all while performing just as good.

Fujinon XF 50-140mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR. Compared to its DSLR equivalent, it is actually quite light, all while performing just as good.

The 50-140mm is in my opinion the best performer of the three. The image quality is just as good as with the 16-55mm, plus the autofocus is super quick. It is a big lens. Is is a very, very big lens for a mirrorless setup. But if you need to deliver as a vocational photographer, this piece of equipment will not let you down. That's a thing you can say about all those zoom lenses, just like the fact that with their size and weight, they are somehow raising the question why you chose a mirrorless camera in the first place. But recently, while shooting an event, I was holding up my X-T1 with the 50-140mm for quite some time to get some nice headshots in the crowd. I had no issues holding it up, waiting for the right moment. Really, it may be a big lens but there's still a two pound difference between this and a 5D Mark III with a 70-200mm f/2.8 with stabilizer. I hold the X-T1 with one hand, supporting the lens with 2 fingers with no arm strain at all. That is a big difference in working conditions right there.

Fujinon XF 35mm f/1.4. One of the first lenses released for the X system but still a superstar. 

Fujinon XF 35mm f/1.4. One of the first lenses released for the X system but still a superstar. 

Then there's the 35mm f/1.4. I'm absolutely, positively in love with this lens. The thing is, it's not the sharpest of my lenses, quite the opposite, although it's still sharp enough for anything. The wide aperture of 1.4 is actually very useable quality wise and I shoot the lens wide open most of the time. It's not the fastest focusing lens, but I guess I'm just used to how it behaves. It just feels so right. It's small, forming a unified whole with the X-T1 just like it does with the X-E2. It's just perfect to shoot with, always showing me that this is one of the biggest reasons why I came to love mirrorless photography and especially the Fuji X system. If only it were weather resistent, that just seems like an oversight. 

As I said, those zooms are really impressive lenses. They are pricey, heavy, big lenses that do exactly what they should do and then some. But my bag has gotten pretty heavy again and I'm not so sure I like that. I would have never been able to take the DSLR with me with the same lenses, that's for sure, but still. I wouldn't complain about their weight though, if that's what's needed for them to perform like they do. But what I use the most is a prime with a nicely fast f/1.4. Because that's just what these cameras are so much fun to shoot with. If I give in to those thoughts and delve a little deeper into the Fujinon lineup, I think that my bag may get quite a bit lighter - along with my bank account - with something like 3 to 4 primes instead. The Fuji cameras really shine when you combine them with fast primes, like it really is the way they are meant to be used. Small, unobtrusive, discrete, light, unthreatening and because of all of this, inspiring, more than just capable to deliver, thus making it - as I said in an earlier part of this series - the better work tool. That's how I like my Fujis. Guess I have some saving up to do!