Yes, this is probably my shortest hands-on experience with the lens. First, as of this moment, Fujifilm is still struggling to supply this wonderful XF50mm F1 lens to the hands of all Fuji users. So instead of waiting for the stock to arrive at our shore, I decided to give it a trial session myself by renting a unit.
Fujifilm is famous for its overall compact package for the size of one prime lens and one camera. Unfortunately, this is not the case with this lens. Any one of the camera bodies mounting together with this 50mm is just making the camera body looks small.
Although it is not the heaviest lens in Fujifilm lens line-up, coming from a 50mm F2 user, my first impression with this lens was gigantic! It looks like a tank barrel and the weight is definitely solid heavy. I know the weight by its number, and I thought I had prepared for it. Regrettably, I am not. The overall weight of this lens with my X-T3 (include with a metal grip) reminded me of holding onto my old DSLR. When I do my math research, I am right. The weight is somewhere there (depending on if you want to remove the metal grip in your own calculation). I have listed down my old DSLR and lens and make a comparison as stated below. Despite that, I am not complaining.
Canon 6D + EF 24-105mm
770g + 670g = 1440g
X-T3 + metal grip + XF 50mm F1
539g + 132g + 845g = 1516g
Before I go further. Allow me to explain that this post is about sharing my short experience with the lens and nothing about technical and science.
Let’s talk about my usage with it on both genres, streets and portraits. First, I did use 50mm F2 lens for street shoots, hence I am familiar with the focal length and I have no issue with snapping on the street with this the focal length. For day streets, shooting at F1 was fun. The background/foreground separation with the main subject is nice. The bokeh is well-controlled and does not give a very distracting bokeh. What do I mean distracting bokeh? Let me explain, I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder photo viewing habit (luckily it is not a serious one). If the bokeh is overly distracted from the main subject, my eyes will uncontrollably focus more on the bokeh than the main subject.
Shooting at F1 has its flaw. Because at F1, it allows so much light into the sensor, it can easily achieve over 1/10,000 shutter speed or more. Anything faster than 1/8000 shutter speed is electronic shutter category. So, if you preferred to use mechanical shutter, my suggestion is to have a variable neutral density (VND) filter of between 2-5stops to start off with.
The focusing speed is fast and confident but certainly not silent. I can hear the focusing motor busying shifting the lens elements. It does not distract me from shooting but if you do videography, I believe the focusing sound will be recorded into the video if you are using the built-in microphone. I believe many do use an external microphone instead of the built-in one, but I just wish to inform the Fuji X Passion readers.
Shooting at night is also a pleasing experience. I do experience focus hunting under dim lighting twice and missed focused shot once. Otherwise, everything else is an enjoyable experience. With reasonable light condition, the focus speed is fast and able to lock onto the subject without hesitation. Again, the bokeh is lovely and comfortable to my eyes. Not much complain about its performance. But I also notice that chromatic aberration is easily visible at some spots, but I think it is not a big issue here as we can easily fix it in post.
Now, let’s talk about portrait. At 50mm, the focal length is equivalent to 75mm in full-frame, is designed to shoot portrait in mind. Although it is 10mm shorter than typical portrait focal length, I do not find its impact on my portrait shot. At F1, the sharpness is awesome. The softness around the sharped area is mind-boggling. Again, it is very comfortable to my eyes. Another interesting thing that I notice about using this lens is that the result of the image is sharp but not tact sharp. Some people might not like it, but I quite like the way the result turns out to be.
The weather is not with us when I started to shoot with the model. Gloomy sky means lesser light coming from the biggest light source available on Earth and this also means that I do not use the VND filter in this shoot at all. In my opinion, the overall image quality is fantastic. On the flip side, I am a little disappointing for myself as I wish the sun is bright and strong so that I can see how the image quality looks like with highlight and shadow. Apart from that, I have nothing else to complain about.
From these 2 days 1 night hands-on experience, here is my conclusion. It is a great lens with great price. The price is actually reasonable for an autofocus F1 lens. The image quality is fantastic (yes, I repeated). It gives a similar “feel” like the XF35mm F/1.4 lens. Somehow “magical” but not on par with it. It is not suitable for everyone, especially on the weight. It is fun to use to shoot on the street but need to consider the burden on the shoulder as well.
How about comparing it with the XF56mm F1.2? I believe many users had shared their opinions on the internet. Some said go for the F1 lens, some said keep your current lens. In my opinion, you know yourself the best and you know what is the answer you are looking for. I always think it is good to rent the unit to try if you have many questions and hesitation for yourself. Putting the cost aside, if you are the owner of the XF56mm lens, do you really need this F1 lens? Can this F1 lens help you to achieve something that XF56mm cannot achieve? Will you complain about the weight when you carry and shoot with the F1 lens?
And then, here is the last question for me. Should I buy it? Probably not unless I have a deep pocket. But I will rent it again if I have the urge to shoot with the F1.
Alwin is a 37 years old engineer, husband and Fujifilm fanboy from Singapore. His first encounter with Fujifilm was the launch of the X10 in 2012. It was love at first sight. It was a joyful compact camera and it also introduced film simulations to him. But what brought him deep into Fujifilm was the X-T2 and the love grows further. He loves to experience and discover many genres.