Fujifilm F2 Lens Trinity: It’s time
Back in the early days, regardless of zoom lenses or prime lenses, Fujifilm had a very clear separation of the lens lineup, and they designed the lens with the photographers in mind. If you are a prime lens user, your “common” weapon of choice will fall into two different categories. The “Ultra-Fast Prime” and the “Compact Prime”.
In the past, “Compact Prime”, as the name suggested, was lightweight and had a fast enough aperture to accommodate most shooting scenarios. Additional plus points for them could be weather-resistant and silent autofocus (AF).
On the other hand, “Ultra-Fast Prime” is well… has the fastest and brightest aperture Fujifilm can offer for that respective focal length. But it comes at a small cost: noisy and slightly slower AF performance.
Over here, I will not discuss product pricing as it varies from country to country and many other factors to be considered too. I also bypass technical stuff such as how many lens elements, how many aspherical lenses or extra-low dispersion lenses should be inside the lens, how many blades should be included, etc. To keep things simple in this post, let’s assume the price of the lenses is omitted and just purely discuss my vision or my “wishlist” of how the F2 successors will be.
Also, I am only bringing up 3 well-distinguished focal lengths (23mm, 33/35mm, and 50/56mm) for discussion. They are the corresponding lenses to each other in their respective focal lengths. I exclude the XF18mm f1.4 as it is a new lens without any predecessor.
All in all, both F1.4 and F2 variants have an obvious demarcation in the pros and cons between the “Compact Prime” and “Ultra-Fast Prime”. Hence, it is pretty straightforward and easier for photographers to decide.
In September 2022, Fujifilm announced the latest XF56mm F1.2 WR, an upgrade to the 2014 variant. With this, Fujifilm has completed upgrading the 3 “Ultra-Fast Prime” lenses of the above-mentioned focal lengths. When it comes to weather sealing and silence focusing, the “Ultra-Fast Prime” is now on par with the “Compact Prime”. Not forgetting that the image quality and the AF performance have so much improvement over their predecessors and are even better than the F2 variants. It makes the photographer’s decision even harder to make.
With the newly updated “Ultra-Fast Prime” variants, what about the “compact primes” now? It does make sense that the next move from Fujifilm is to upgrade the F2 variants in order to continue to have a way of separating both categories. Let’s assume they have this plan in their future roadmap.
Before I explain what I think are the possible improvements for the next generation of F2 lenses, allow me to suggest what should be kept.
First, it definitely has to be the Weather-Resistance (WR). In this day and age, WR has become one of the essential features to have when you want to get a lens. While I believe not everyone will abuse their lenses under harsh weather conditions, it is always good to have additional protection for our lovely lenses.
Second, the aperture ring. To me, having an aperture ring on the lens is part of Fujifilm’s design culture and deep-rooted for photographers like us who just love to use it.
That’s enough for keeping. So what should Fujifilm improve on the F2 variants to make them more attractive?
First of all, give these lenses a “facelift”. A new design language to distinguish between the successor and predecessor. After all, I do notice some photographers commented that the current design is somehow ugly or does not complement the beauty of the newer camera bodies well.
Design a compact pancake-like lens just like the XF27mm f2.8 WR. To clarify, I do not mean that the lens has to be the same size as the XF27mm but generally just the idea of being more compact than the current size or making the lens barrel shorter. This is assuming that the image quality (IQ) has to be the same as the current one or at least sharper IQ at wide open.
I know it sounds crazy to create such a compact size and yet maintain the same IQ or better. Since glass optics and technology around lenses have been improving over the years, I think Fujifilm engineers might be able to do it. Even if the size of the lens is a tad bigger and taller than the XF27mm, it will still wow everyone.
Including a Linear Motor (LM) is a great plus point. Having said that, it does not mean that the current Stepping Motor (STM) is bad, but having an LM does have better-focusing speed and focus accuracy over STM.
Lastly, having Optical Image Stabilization (OIS). This sounds like my wishlist, and yeah, I admit this is my wishlist. As far as Fuji prime lenses are concerned, I think there are only 2 lenses that are equipped with OIS, XF 80mm F2.8 and XF 200mm F2. So my thought is that having an OIS lens is a good idea to pair up with camera bodies that do not have In-Body Image Stabilization. Besides, since F2 is one-stop less bright than F1.4, having OIS does help F2 lenses to be a little better for low-light situations.
While I believe Fujifilm will refresh its F2 trinity of lenses some day, I do not think they will incorporate the 3 improvements I mentioned over here. To be more realistic, I guess equipping with OIS is probably the possible one out of the three. Not only does it attract the attention of potential photographers, but it also complements the X-E series and X-Txx series with its compactness.
A special shout-out to the XC lenses too. It has been a while since Fujifilm released new XC lenses, and XC35mm F2 in the line-up, which is way back in 2020.
The idea behind the XC prime lens philosophy is simple. Same optic as the current XF23mm F2 and XF50mm F2 but in a cheaper built body, and striping off the aperture ring and WR. Last but not least, it gives attractive retail prices. With these 2 lenses, it will form the budget trinity lenses, and I think this formula would probably work because there are many photographers with a limited budget but still want to have good IQ. Given the reputation of the XC35mm F2, the 2 new XC lenses would also quickly become one of my recommendations.
Thank you for reading.
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.