Admiring Light http://admiringlight.com/blog Photography Reviews, Photos, News and Musings Wed, 16 Apr 2014 16:47:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9 Review: Fujifilm Fujinon XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-fujifilm-fujinon-xf-10-24mm-f4-r-ois/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=review-fujifilm-fujinon-xf-10-24mm-f4-r-ois http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-fujifilm-fujinon-xf-10-24mm-f4-r-ois/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 02:11:56 +0000 http://admiringlight.com/blog/?p=3369 Fujifilm just keeps on churning out lenses to fill out its two-year old X-Series system.  This rate of production is outstanding on its own, but what is most amazing is the catering to the enthusiast.  In just two years, Fuji has managed to create a nearly complete enthusiast lens lineup.  The only things missing now …

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Fujifilm just keeps on churning out lenses to fill out its two-year old X-Series system.  This rate of production is outstanding on its own, but what is most amazing is the catering to the enthusiast.  In just two years, Fuji has managed to create a nearly complete enthusiast lens lineup.  The only things missing now are super-fast zooms, supertelephotos and the specialty lenses such as tilt-shift lenses.  The latest offering from Fujifilm brings a true ultra-wide-angle zoom to the system in the XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS.  This lens covers a wide range from the extreme wide-angle to the more moderate wide angle, with a field of view equivalent to 15-36mm on a full-frame camera.  Not only have they created a useful range, but they’ve thrown in an optical stabilizer to boot.  It’s not a cheap lens, at $999, but let’s dive into this Fuji 10-24mm review to see if it’s worth the cost.

Fujifilm 10-24mm f/4 R OIS

Fujifilm 10-24mm f/4 R OIS

If you’re not familiar with my reviews, I review from a real world shooting perspective.  You won’t find lens charts or resolution numbers here.  There are plenty of other sites that cover those.  I review products on how they act for me as a photographic tool in real-world shooting. 

Build Quality and Handling

The 10-24mm f/4 is a constant aperture ultra-wide zoom that has to cover an APS-C sensor and contains an IS unit.  As you might imagine, this does make it rather difficult to keep the size down.  As a result, the 10-24mm is a relatively large lens.  Compared to many other mirrorless lenses, it’s downright huge.  However, I honestly thought it looked larger in photos than it felt on the camera and in my hand.  The lens has a large 72mm front filter ring, though the rest of the lens slims down considerably.  As a result, it’s a relatively lightweight lens despite its size, and when used with my X-E2 with the accessory grip, it felt great on the camera.  I’d imagine it would handle beautifully on the X-T1 as well.  The lens felt slightly awkward on a very small body such as my X-M1, as the weight distribution is just a bit out of whack on a body that small.

The Fuji 10-24mm is a rather large mirrorless lens

The Fuji 10-24mm is a rather large mirrorless lens

Despite the light weight, the 10-24mm f/4 is built very solidly.  The majority of the lens body is made of aluminum and there is no flex anywhere on the lens.  The large rubberized zoom ring is well damped and moves smoothly, though I felt the throw on the zoom was a little shorter than I’d like.  The metal focus ring is well damped and silky smooth.

One oddity about the 10-24mm is that it features the same unmarked and free spinning aperture ring as the 18-55mm f/2.8-4 and the 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8.  Since the 10-24mm has a constant f/4 maximum aperture, there is absolutely no reason a marked aperture ring couldn’t have been put in this lens, as it is on all the Fuji prime lenses.  This is simply a bizarre design choice. I’d love to have the convenience of seeing my working aperture prior to turning the camera on.

The 10-24mm with the included lens hood

The 10-24mm with the included lens hood

The lens comes with a broad petal shaped lens hood that provides decent coverage for the front element and is reversible for storage.

Autofocus and Stabilizer Performance

The 10-24mm features a very quiet and quite quick focus motor that is, like all the other Fuji lenses, very accurate as well.  Focus in almost any normal shooting circumstance was very quick and sure.  However, as light levels dim, you definitely need a high-contrast target on which to focus.  Without a suitably contrasty target, I found the 10-24mm to occasionally give up without finding focus in low light.   The lens can focus all the way down to 0.24m, allowing for tight framing at the long end of the zoom and lots of creative freedom at the wide end.

The optical stabilizer in the 10-24mm is effective for about an extra two to three stops of handholdability.  I found I could get sharp shots at about 1/4 second at the wide end and at around 1/10 second at the long end in most situations.  While this is a decent performance, it’s not quite as impressive as the outstanding stabilizer in the Fuji 55-200mm lens.  I did find that if I could properly brace my arms against something rigid, I could get outstanding performance out of the stabilizer, with shots approaching one second at the wide end of the zoom range.

Continue: Image Quality

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Fuji 10-24mm vs Fuji 14mm f/2.8 and Fuji 23mm f/1.4 http://admiringlight.com/blog/fuji-10-24mm-vs-fuji-14mm-f2-8-fuji-23mm-f1-4/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fuji-10-24mm-vs-fuji-14mm-f2-8-fuji-23mm-f1-4 http://admiringlight.com/blog/fuji-10-24mm-vs-fuji-14mm-f2-8-fuji-23mm-f1-4/#comments Sun, 06 Apr 2014 20:10:58 +0000 http://admiringlight.com/blog/?p=3350 With the release of Fuji’s latest zoom lens, the ultra-wide angle 10-24mm f/4 R OIS, many Fuji shooters are having a difficult time deciding between this lens or a two lens combo with Fuji’s outstanding 14mm f/2.8 and 23mm f/1.4.  Since I own the two primes, and I have the 10-24mm in for review this …

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With the release of Fuji’s latest zoom lens, the ultra-wide angle 10-24mm f/4 R OIS, many Fuji shooters are having a difficult time deciding between this lens or a two lens combo with Fuji’s outstanding 14mm f/2.8 and 23mm f/1.4.  Since I own the two primes, and I have the 10-24mm in for review this week, I thought I’d do a quick test to evaluate how this new zoom compares to the established Fuji primes.

Fuji 14mm f/2.8, Fuji 10-24mm f/4, Fuji 23mm f/1.4

Fuji 14mm f/2.8, Fuji 10-24mm f/4, Fuji 23mm f/1.4

The Lenses

Fuji’s new 10-24mm f/4 R OIS is an ultra-wide-angle zoom that features a very useful focal range from ultra-wide angle to moderate wide angle.  The lens produces a field of view equivalent to a 15-36mm zoom on a full frame camera.  The 10-24mm isn’t a small lens by mirrorless standards.  In fact, it’s relatively close to a DSLR ultra-wide zoom.  However, I was pleased to discover that the lens is actually a little more compact in use than it looks in pictures.  It is also a relatively lightweight lens.  So, while it will take up a fair bit of space in the bag, it’s not going to break your back.  Also, if using this lens instead of two or three primes that cover the full range, you’re saving some space.

The 14mm f/2.8 (reviewed here), was released last year and is an ultra-wide prime with a field of view equivalent to that of a 21mm lens on a full frame camera.  As I noted in my review (and in the many shots I’ve taken with the lens since), this is one of the finest wide-angle primes around, offering corner to corner sharpness and essentially zero distortion.

The 23mm f/1.4 (reviewed here), is a recent release from Fuji, and offers a very fast f/1.4 maximum aperture and exceptional optical quality.  Needless to say, I don’t expect the new zoom to match these two primes, but let’s give it a go anyway.

Inherent advantages

Before we compare head to head, it is worth noting (though it may be obvious), that the primes have certain advantages over the zoom and vice versa, by the nature of their designs these are:

  • The 10-24mm obviously has the convenience of multiple focal lengths in a single lens.  It also can go significantly wider than the 14mm.
  • The 10-24mm has optical image stabilization, which could come in very handy for interior shooting.
  • Both primes are notably smaller than the 10-24mm.
  • Both primes are faster than the 10-24mm.  The 14mm is a stop faster in maximum aperture, while the 23mm is a whopping three stops faster, so obviously, the zoom can’t replace the primes when speed is needed.

Fuji 10-24mm f/4 vs Fuji 14mm f/2.8

First up, let’s compare the new 10-24mm to the outstanding 14mm f/2.8.  I set my tripod up on the scene below, focusing towards the middle of the frame on the picnic tables in the center.  The camera was tripod mounted and the lenses were changed without removing the camera.  OIS was set to off to avoid any interference from the stabilizer on a tripod.  Since ultra-wide shooting typically involves some near and far subject matter and deep depth of field, this test was set to test that usage for landscape and architectural shooting.

Full Scene, 10-24mm vs 14mm test

Full Scene, 10-24mm vs 14mm test

Below are the 100% crops from the center and edge at f/4 and f/8, along with the lower right corner at f/8 (depth of field was insufficient at f/4 to really get this closer corner sharp based on the focus point).  Click on the image to enlarge, then click the green arrow at the bottom of the screen to view at full size.

100% crops, 14mm test - Click to Enlarge

100% crops, 14mm test – Click to Enlarge

The 10-24mm puts in a relatively decent performance here, but as you can see from the crops above, the 14mm has an edge both in the center and at the edges of the frame, at all apertures.  While the differences are slight in the center, they are a little more pronounced in the corner, where the 10-24mm can’t quite keep up with the excellent 14mm.  Still, the 10-24mm puts up a good showing here and looks quite capable of delivering good results at this focal length.

Now let’s take a look at the 10-24mm vs. the 23mm f/1.4:

Continue: 10-24mm vs 23mm f/1.4

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Review: Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm f/1.8 http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-olympus-m-zuiko-25mm-f1-8/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=review-olympus-m-zuiko-25mm-f1-8 http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-olympus-m-zuiko-25mm-f1-8/#comments Sat, 05 Apr 2014 19:07:35 +0000 http://admiringlight.com/blog/?p=3326 The normal prime lens space in the Micro 4/3 system has recently become a bit more crowded, as Olympus has finally released their fast normal prime lens, the 25mm f/1.8.  Panasonic has had their excellent Leica 25mm f/1.4 for several years now, and Olympus has decided to concentrate on creating an extremely compact high quality …

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The normal prime lens space in the Micro 4/3 system has recently become a bit more crowded, as Olympus has finally released their fast normal prime lens, the 25mm f/1.8.  Panasonic has had their excellent Leica 25mm f/1.4 for several years now, and Olympus has decided to concentrate on creating an extremely compact high quality lens, while sacrificing a bit of lens speed.

Olympus 25mm f/1.8

Olympus 25mm f/1.8 on the Olympus OM-D E-M5, with included lens hood

If you’re not familiar with my reviews, I review from a real world shooting perspective.  You won’t find lens charts or resolution numbers here.  There are plenty of other sites that cover those.  I review products on how they act for me as a photographic tool in real-world shooting. 

Build Quality and Handling

Olympus 25mm f/1.8

Olympus 25mm f/1.8

It’s clear from the moment you first look at the Olympus 25mm f/1.8 that Olympus prioritized lens size for this release. The 25mm f/1.8 is a very small lens constructed predominantly of high quality plastics an a metal mount.  The lens is relatively solidly put together and there are no creaks or wobbles anywhere.  The broad focus ring that makes up the majority of the lens body is smooth to turn, and ribbed just like its older brother, the 45mm f/1.8.  It also inherits a bit of that cheaper feeling of that focus ring.  The plastic simply feels thin here.

Because of the very compact size and light weight, the 25mm f/1.8 will handle beautifully on any Micro 4/3 body.  This is a lens that you can pop in a shirt pocket or most anywhere to take with you.  In a first for Olympus, outside of their ‘Pro’ line, they finally include a lens hood with the package.  It only took 5 years, but Olympus has finally gotten the message that simple plastic accessories like lens hoods should be included with the lens, rather than priced absurdly and sold after the fact.

The hood is a simple, small plastic hood that mounts via the bayonet mount on the end of the lens.  The hood is reversible for storage, and does add some width to the whole package, but it’s still extremely small.

Focus Performance

The Olympus 25mm f/1.8 features a silent and fast AF motor that allows for very quick acquisition of focus and excellent accuracy.  While the lens is certainly fast, I did notice it tended to hunt a bit more than the typical Olympus lens when in dimmer light, though it usually wasn’t an issue.

One very nice feature of the Olympus 25mm f/1.8 is its close focus ability.  While not capable of substitution as a macro lens, it focuses as close as 0.25m, which is about twice as close as a full frame 50mm lens will allow you to focus.  This allows the lens to be used for shots of smaller things like flowers, or very tight portraits.  Chances are, in normal use, you won’t often run up against the minimum focus distance. There’s not a lot more to say about the focus performance, so let’s take a look at the optics:

Continue: Image Quality

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Olympus 25mm f/1.8 vs. Panasonic Leica 25mm f/1.4 http://admiringlight.com/blog/olympus-25mm-f1-8-vs-panasonic-leica-25mm-f1-4/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=olympus-25mm-f1-8-vs-panasonic-leica-25mm-f1-4 http://admiringlight.com/blog/olympus-25mm-f1-8-vs-panasonic-leica-25mm-f1-4/#comments Sun, 30 Mar 2014 14:35:14 +0000 http://admiringlight.com/blog/?p=3314 Another lens battle today…just a quick one.  I have the new Olympus 25mm f/1.4 in for review this week and I thought I’d put it up against the venerable and outstanding Panasonic Leica 25mm f/1.4 DG Summilux.  These two lenses are both priced relatively similarly, given the difference in maximum aperture.  The Olympus comes in …

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Another lens battle today…just a quick one.  I have the new Olympus 25mm f/1.4 in for review this week and I thought I’d put it up against the venerable and outstanding Panasonic Leica 25mm f/1.4 DG Summilux.  These two lenses are both priced relatively similarly, given the difference in maximum aperture.  The Olympus comes in at $399, while the Panasonic Leica charges a bit more for that 2/3 stop of extra light, at $529.

Olympus 25mm f/1.8 (left), Panasonic Leica 25mm f/1.4 (right)

Olympus 25mm f/1.8 (left), Panasonic Leica 25mm f/1.4 (right)

The Lenses

The normal prime space in Micro 4/3 is becoming a crowded area.  On the wide end of normal, Panasonic has had their excellent pancake design 20mm f/1.7 for years.  They later released the Leica branded 25mm f/1.4 tested here.  That lens has been a mainstay in the system for some time, and really the only choice for a 50mm equivalent lens with fast aperture and autofocus.  Voigtländer has also had a player in this range for a few years as well, with the manual focus and very fast 25mm f/0.95 Nokton.  Olympus has been strangely absent from the normal focal range until now, with the release of the 25mm f/1.8.

While the new Olympus sacrifices 2/3 stop of aperture against the Panasonic, it comes with the benefit of being considerably smaller.  The Olympus 25mm is a tiny lens and can easily fit in a jacket pocket.  The Panasonic 25mm f/1.4 is a fair bit larger, but is still a relatively small lens.  The Panasonic (200g) is about 50% heavier than the Olympus 25mm (136g).

Both lenses have very fast and quiet autofocus and both are relatively well-built, though the focus ring on the Olympus 25mm feels a little less robust than the nicely gripped rubber focus ring on the Panasonic.

The Test

I’m using a similar setup to many of the other lens battles I’ve tested….a high detail target to provide information on resolution, with a faceted glass decanter in the background to provide specular highlights and help in evaluating bokeh.  The test camera, the Olympus OM-D E-M5, was set on a tripod, triggered with the 2 second self time to avoid movement from pressing the shutter, and in-body IS was set off.  Images were taken starting at f/1.8 and stopping down in one stop increments to f/5.  The Panasonic also was tested at f/1.4.   When switching lenses, the camera was left on the tripod in the exact position while the lenses were swapped out.

Some notes:  As you can see in the images below, despite both lenses being marked as 25mm lenses, the Panasonic Leica has a slightly longer focal length.  I can’t say whether the Leica is longer than 25mm or the Olympus is shorter than 25mm, though in comparison to other lenses I own, I’d lean towards the Olympus being slightly shorter than marked.

As a result on the Panasonic being slightly longer, the 2/3 stop aperture difference between the lenses is actually slightly more significant than would be expected.  Below are the full shots of both lenses wide open.  While the difference in depth of field and background blur isn’t huge, it is certainly noticeable, especially in the far reaches of the background.  As you’ll see in the bokeh comparison on Page 2, the Panasonic seems to enjoy closer to 1 stop of depth of field advantage over its Olympus sibling.

It is worth nothing that this is a single test at a single focus distance.  I have not had a chance to do a formal test at further focus distances, but this test was chosen to give a nice balance between focus distance and shallow depth of field abilities.  Focus distance was approximately 0.7m, which is somewhat close, but well short of the minimum focus distance of both lenses (0.25m for the Olympus and 0.3m for the Leica).

Full Scene - Olympus 25mm f/1.8 @ f/1.8

Full Scene – Olympus 25mm f/1.8 @ f/1.8

Full Scene - Panasonic Leica 25mm f/1.4 Summilux @ f/1.4

Full Scene – Panasonic Leica 25mm f/1.4 Summilux @ f/1.4

Sharpness

Below are 100% crops taken from the center and near the upper right corner of the image frame.  As the Panasonic is slightly longer, the corners don’t exactly match up, but that isn’t fully required for evaluation.  To see the crops at full size, click the image, then click the green arrow at the bottom to enlarge to 100%.

100% crops - Olympus 25mm f/1.8 vs. Panasonic Leica 25mm f/1.4

100% crops – Olympus 25mm f/1.8 vs. Panasonic Leica 25mm f/1.4

At the widest apertures, we have a bit of a split result.  Both lenses are already very sharp from wide open across the frame.  This is, in and of itself, a very nice result for both lenses.  However, the Leica 25mm shows slightly higher resolution in the center, even at f/1.4, (and more noticeable by f/1.8) than the Olympus 25mm.  However, as we get to the edges, the Olympus takes the lead, with a clear advantage in the corner at f/1.8.  The Olympus’ cross frame sharpness at f/1.8 is rather remarkable.  There is extremely minimal falloff in resolution as you get to the edges.

As we get to smaller apertures, the Panasonic retains a slight lead in the center at f/2.5, but by f/3.5, the lenses are just too similar to worry about.  Likewise in the corners, the Olympus stays visibly sharper throughout, though by f/3.5 the differences are extremely small.

Overall, the two lenses are both very sharp at all apertures, with the Panasonic having a slight edge in the center and the Olympus having an edge towards the image borders.

One other thing that is visible from these crops is the relatively higher level of vignetting on the Olympus.  While both lenses are notably darker in the corners wide open, the Panasonic eliminates most of that corner shading by f/1.8, while the Olympus has to be stopped down much further to bring the vignetting to negligible territory.

Let’s take a look at how out of focus areas are rendered:

Continue: Bokeh

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Last Breath of Winter http://admiringlight.com/blog/last-breath-winter/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=last-breath-winter http://admiringlight.com/blog/last-breath-winter/#comments Wed, 26 Mar 2014 20:19:21 +0000 http://admiringlight.com/blog/?p=3308 Here in Ohio, we were greeted by one (hopefully) last cold spell.  Things have thawed slightly, but at the end of March, it really shouldn’t be 18 degrees Fahrenheit.  In any case, I stopped to take a few photos at dawn and capture the sunrise over the city as well as some last remnants of …

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Here in Ohio, we were greeted by one (hopefully) last cold spell.  Things have thawed slightly, but at the end of March, it really shouldn’t be 18 degrees Fahrenheit.  In any case, I stopped to take a few photos at dawn and capture the sunrise over the city as well as some last remnants of winter.

Enjoy!  Click to enlarge…

Black Sunrise - Fujifilm X-E2 with Fujinon XF 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 @ 200mm, f/6.3

Black Sunrise – Fujifilm X-E2 with Fujinon XF 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 @ 200mm, f/6.4

Ice Dome - Fujifilm X-E2 with Fujinon XF 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 @

Ice Dome – Fujifilm X-E2 with Fujinon XF 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 @ 200mm, f/10

 

Frost on the Dock - Fujifilm X-E2 with Fujinon XF 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 @ 200mm,

Frost on the Dock – Fujifilm X-E2 with Fujinon XF 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 @ 190mm, f/6.4

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Fuji 56mm f/1.2 vs Leica 42.5mm f/1.2: Redux http://admiringlight.com/blog/fuji-56mm-f1-2-vs-leica-42-5mm-f1-2-redux/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fuji-56mm-f1-2-vs-leica-42-5mm-f1-2-redux http://admiringlight.com/blog/fuji-56mm-f1-2-vs-leica-42-5mm-f1-2-redux/#comments Fri, 21 Mar 2014 02:57:20 +0000 http://admiringlight.com/blog/?p=3297 If you’ve been to this site over the past few days, you probably saw (or came to the site because of) my comparison between the Panasonic Leica 42.5mm f/1.2 Nocticron and the Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2.  These are two absolutely stunning portrait lenses for their respective systems, and users on both sides ought to be happy. …

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If you’ve been to this site over the past few days, you probably saw (or came to the site because of) my comparison between the Panasonic Leica 42.5mm f/1.2 Nocticron and the Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2.  These are two absolutely stunning portrait lenses for their respective systems, and users on both sides ought to be happy.

However, I’m in a situation that is unusual for me: That of updating and re-evaluating test results.  If you read that article when it was published, you may have noticed that while both lenses were very good, the Panasonic Leica had a little bit of an edge.  Then something happened to make me re-evaluate that.  Let me explain.

telephoto_battle1

The Story

When I first received my Fuji 56mm f/1.2, the focus motor exhibited an odd, relatively loud, squealing sound during focusing.  I was bummed that I had received a lemon and was set to return the lens and wait in the queue again for another one to become available.  However, after a few hours of shooting, whatever was making that noise stopped making that noise, and the lens seemed to focus normally and quietly.  Since the noise never returned, I thought maybe a part didn’t get quite enough lubrication at the factory, and that usage had caused the lubrication to get to the right spot.  Overall, I found the focus on the lens to be quite accurate, but I did have some slight misfocuses that I attributed to me simply moving or such.

Then I went out to shoot some city shot and while taking a shot of a statue, with the lens pointed upwards, I noticed I couldn’t get the camera to focus properly.  So I zoomed the viewfinder and focused….and the lens would move to the focus point and then I could physically watch the lens slide OUT of focus.

Turns out, that sound was apparently the clutch in the focus motor frying itself.  The lens would hold focus fine on mostly level aiming, but up or down was a no-go.

Now, before anyone draws any conclusions, let me tell you that EVERY manufacturer has a few lemons make it out of the factory.  Anything this complex has bum parts or poor assembly from time to time.  Over the time I’ve been shooting, I’ve experienced faulty lenses from every manufacturer I’ve shot with.  I had a Canon 50mm f/1.2L that couldn’t focus accurately on anything further than 3 feet and a Canon 35mm f/1.4L with a poorly aligned element, causing half the frame to be blurry.  I had two Sigma 30mm f/1.4s that had focus issues as well.  I had a Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 that had the front element come loose.  I had two Olympus 12mm f/2 lenses with misaligned optical elements, a Panasonic 45-175mm with a faulty image stabilizer and a Panasonic 14mm f/2.5 that also had a faulty focus motor.  This may sound like I’ve had a lot of bum gear, but over the years, I’ve owned a LOT of different lenses…this is a small fraction of what’s come through these doors.

The Result

The whole point of this is, I received a replacement 56mm f/1.2 yesterday, and when I looked at the images, I noticed that not only did the focus motor sound wonderful and work flawlessly, but the optics looked better too.  My first 56mm f/1.2 had a zone of focus at wide apertures, about 80% of the way across the frame, that was softer than the center or corners.  Since it wasn’t a huge deal, and didn’t really seem to affect the images I was taking too much (and it more or less disappeared at further focus distances), I didn’t really give it much thought.  Looking at the MTF charts for the lens, there is small dip there, so I assumed it was part of the lens design.  Well, looking at my new 56mm f/1.2, I now know that the first lens I had, in addition to having a bum focus motor, also likely had a slightly decentered or skewed element as well.  It wasn’t immediately obvious because it was so slight, but it WAS  obvious when I re-ran the new lens through the test setup I performed in that comparison between the 56mm and the 42.5mm Nocticron.

As a result of these findings, I have updated the comparison between the two lenses with the new crops from the new, properly aligned optically, Fuji 56mm f/1.2.  I have also made slight modifications to the wording about sharpness on my review of the Fuji 56mm. You will see it actually makes quite a difference in the results of the ~1m test.  I have not had an opportunity to re-take the portrait test with the new lens, but may update that when I get a chance to properly set things up again.  I can’t take a new portrait test between both lenses because I no longer have my review sample of the Leica 42.5mm.  I apologize for the changing of results, but I thought it most fair to have an accurate representation of what the Fuji 56mm could do.

So…Head on over and view the updated comparison here.

 

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Review: Panasonic Leica 42.5mm f/1.2 DG Nocticron OIS http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-panasonic-leica-42-5mm-f1-2-dg-nocticron-ois/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=review-panasonic-leica-42-5mm-f1-2-dg-nocticron-ois http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-panasonic-leica-42-5mm-f1-2-dg-nocticron-ois/#comments Thu, 20 Mar 2014 17:08:56 +0000 http://admiringlight.com/blog/?p=3255 As the Micro 4/3 lens lineup becomes more mature, there are fewer and fewer gaps left.  While there are several good Micro 4/3 lens options in the short telephoto range, one thing that has been missing a bit is a high-speed 85mm equivalent lens with autofocus.  Voigtländer released the excellent 42.5mm f/0.95 last year, satisfying …

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As the Micro 4/3 lens lineup becomes more mature, there are fewer and fewer gaps left.  While there are several good Micro 4/3 lens options in the short telephoto range, one thing that has been missing a bit is a high-speed 85mm equivalent lens with autofocus.  Voigtländer released the excellent 42.5mm f/0.95 last year, satisfying the super shallow depth of field niche, though it’s a fully manual lens, and therefore more difficult to use for certain types of photography.  Panasonic has responded by creating the Leica-branded 42.5mm f/1.2 DG Nocticron OIS. This super-fast lens has a premium build and premium optics, but can it rise to legendary status, or is it all bluster?

The Panasonic Leica 42.5mm f/1.2 Nocticron on the Olympus OM-D E-M5, with the included metal hood

The Panasonic Leica 42.5mm f/1.2 Nocticron on the Olympus OM-D E-M5, with the included metal hood

If you’re not familiar with my reviews, I review from a real world shooting perspective.  You won’t find lens charts or resolution numbers here.  There are plenty of other sites that cover those.  I review products on how they act for me as a photographic tool in real-world shooting. 

Build Quality and Handling

When you see the Leica name inscribed on a lens, you think premium, and unlike the other plastic bodied Panasoinc Leica lenses for Micro 4/3 (the excellent 25mm f/1.4 and 45mm f/2.8 Macro), this lens truly feels Leica-like.  The lens body is solid metal with a gorgeous matte black paint finish.  It truly looks and feels premium.

The aperture ring has nice ribbed grips along the side and very positive clicks.  Given the position of the ring and the firmness of it, it is difficult to accidentally dislodge.  The detent at f/1.2 is very solid, making it nearly impossible to accidentally switch the aperture to the ‘A’ setting.  Unfortunately, the aperture ring is only functional on Panasonic bodies.  Olympus bodies do not have firmware that enables use of the ring at all, so using this lens on an Olympus camera makes the aperture ring simply a decoration.  While I love aperture rings on lenses, I really don’t see a need for one on this lens, since it only works on half of Micro 4/3 cameras and it changes how you typically operate your camera.

Panasonic Leica 42.5mm f/1.2 DG Nocticron OIS

Panasonic Leica 42.5mm f/1.2 DG Nocticron OIS

The focus ring is beautifully smooth and reasonably well damped.  It feels excellent to use.  The switches for AF/MF mode and toggling the optical image stabilizer on or off are minimalist and easy to operate but hard to move inadvertently.  Overall, there is absolutely nothing in the construction of the lens I would change.

Panasonic includes a very well made and quite attractive solid metal hood with the same black finish as the lens.  The hood attaches with a screw clamp and reverses for storage.  While the hood is gorgeous and works very well, you need to be really careful with a metal hood on a metal body when reversing it for storage, as metal on metal can scrape the finish off the lens.

However, the sheer size of the lens does pose some problems.  It is quite large for a Micro 4/3 prime, and moderately heavy, though I found the balance was just fine to handle.  The reason the size poses a problem is simply because of the girth of the lens.  At 74mm in diameter, it’s currently the fattest Micro 4/3 lens in the system.  This normally wouldn’t cause that big of a problem, except for the fact that many Micro 4/3 camera bodies weren’t really designed for lenses this large in diameter.  As such, the lens actually causes some handling issues with certain cameras – in my case, the OM-D E-M5.  With the Nocticron mounted, I can’t use the horizontal accessory grip that essentially lives on that camera. With the grip mounted, there is not enough room between the grip and the lens body to fit my fingers, unless I painfully wedge them into the small gap.  As such, I had to use the lens with my horizontal grip off the entire time, which affected handling a bit given the larger size and weight of the lens.

Focus and Stabilizer Performance

The hangup with a lot of fast lenses is in autofocus performance, but the Nocticron is an exception to the rule.  Focus is extremely fast and exceedingly accurate.  In most lighting conditions, focus locked on nearly instantly, and I can’t say I ever had the lens misfocus during the testing period, unless it was due to fault of my own.  A truly outstanding performance here.  The 42.5mm f/1.2 also focuses as close as 0.5m, which is very close for an 85mm equivalent lens.  The result is the ability to capture extremely tight portraits and allows the lens to be useful for capturing shallow depth of field close-ups of things like flowers.

The Nocticron is also unique in that it is an f/1.2 lens with a built-in image stabilizer.  To my knowledge, it is the fastest stabilized lens in the world.  The optical image stabilization works relatively well.  I was able to consistently get sharp shots at around 1/20 second, and a reasonable number at 1/15 second.  This equates to approximately an extra 2 to 3 stops of handholdability.  Having recently acquired a Fuji 56mm f/1.2, I’ve been shooting a lot of shallow depth of field portraits in natural light over the past few weeks, and I have to say, the stabilization came in very handy for quick shots, keeping camera shake out of the images.

Continue: Image Quality

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Fuji 56mm f/1.2 vs. Panasonic Leica 42.5mm f/1.2 Nocticron http://admiringlight.com/blog/fuji-56mm-f1-2-vs-panasonic-leica-42-5mm-f1-2-nocticron/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fuji-56mm-f1-2-vs-panasonic-leica-42-5mm-f1-2-nocticron http://admiringlight.com/blog/fuji-56mm-f1-2-vs-panasonic-leica-42-5mm-f1-2-nocticron/#comments Sat, 15 Mar 2014 14:17:01 +0000 http://admiringlight.com/blog/?p=3220 It is time for another battle!  Both Fuji and Panasonic have released fast 85mm equivalent lenses with f/1.2 maximum apertures over the past month, and both are turning out to be truly outstanding lenses.  While there are likely few people who are contemplating which to buy between the two (as that would require simultaneously having …

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telephoto_battle2It is time for another battle!  Both Fuji and Panasonic have released fast 85mm equivalent lenses with f/1.2 maximum apertures over the past month, and both are turning out to be truly outstanding lenses.  While there are likely few people who are contemplating which to buy between the two (as that would require simultaneously having both Fuji and Micro 4/3 systems…which is something I have, but is not too common), with two fantastic lenses such as these coming out around the same time, there’s bound to be comparisons.

I reviewed the Fuji 56mm f/1.2 recently and found it to be a truly stellar lens. My review of the Panasonic Leica 42.5mm is also now up.

So let’s take a look at these two lenses and how they stack up.

Important note:  This article was updated on 3/20/14 to reflect new findings on the Fuji 56mm f/1.2. I recently discovered that my Fuji 56mm had a faulty focus motor (it arrived this way, making odd sounds that stopped after a short while, but I later discovered the focus clutch had broken, making it unable to hold focus when the lens was pointed up or down).  I received a replacement lens yesterday, and noticed that not only did it have the properly functioning focus motor that you’d expect, but that the lens was sharper as well.  In comparing cross-frame sharpness, the second lens did not display what I viewed as a ‘mid-frame dip in resolution’ in the original test.   Based on the more even sharpness profile, I conclude that the first tested copy of the Fuji 56mm f/1.2 had a slightly misaligned element that caused a drop in sharpness towards the edges of the frame at wide apertures.  It also decreased contrast.  This comparison has been updated for the first portion of the test to reflect that second lens.  While I feel the ‘portrait test’ on page 3 would likely similarly be affected, I can’t really exactly recreate that shot, though I may try in the next few days to get it close and will update the article at that time. 

Tale of the Tape:

The first contender is the Fujifilm Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 R.  The lens weighs in at 405g, and measures in 73.2mm in diameter and 69.7mm long.

The second contender is the Panasonic Leica 42.5mm f/1.2.  The lens weighs in at 420g, measuring 74mm in diameter and 77mm long.

As you can see from above, despite needing to cover a smaller image circle and having a shorter focal length, the Panasonic Leica 42.5mm is the larger of the two lenses, coming in nearly a centimeter longer and very slightly heavier.  In practice, the two lenses feel relatively similar in size and weight, but it is interesting.  One other interesting thing of note is that the 42.5mm lens is capable of covering an APS-C sensor, though of course you can’t do much with this since focus is by wire.

The two lenses both have bodies built entirely of metal.  Both have well damped focus rings and aperture rings, and both are very solid.  Overall, I think the Leica 42.5mm has a little nicer fit and finish, and feels a little more premium in the build department, though the Fuji isn’t far behind.  Both are very well-built lenses.

Fight!

Fight!

The Test

Please note that this test is limited in scope.  In using both lenses, I have noticed some additional things about each lens that aren’t really showcased in this situation.  I will summarize those findings at the conclusion, as I don’t really have solid head to head test shots to show you, but they may be worth noting.

I set up the book you see, which is in a hard case that is very flat.  Focus distance is approximately 1 meter. I ensured the camera was square to the book.  I set the crystal decanter behind the book by about two feet to provide a good target for evaluating bokeh.  The cameras were tripod mounted, set to the exact same exposure parameters (ISO 200, f/1.2 and 1/8 second, adjusting aperture and shutter speed while keeping ISO constant for smaller apertures).  Shots were triggered with 2 second self timer.  There are very slight differences in camera position left and right due to where the tripod plates sit on the cameras, but otherwise, the cameras were in identical positions for each shot.

Images were processed in Lightroom 5.3 and were converted straight from RAW aside from my standard sharpening and custom white balance from the white letters on the book.

Here are the overall scenes at f/1.2:

Full Scene - Fuji 56mm f/1.2 @ f/1.2

Full Scene – Fuji 56mm f/1.2 @ f/1.2

Overall Scene - Panasonic Leica 42.5mm f/1.2

Full Scene – Panasonic Leica 42.5mm f/1.2

To evaluate sharpness, I took crops from the center and upper right corner of the images at f/1.2, f/1.8, f/2.5 and f/3.5.  The results are shown below.  Click on the image, then click on the green arrow below to view full size.

100% crops - Click to Enlarge

100% crops – Click to Enlarge

Some interesting results, in my opinion.  Getting the obvious out of the way: both lenses are fantastic.  Each lens is very sharp in the center right from f/1.2.  At f/1.2, the Fuji has a slight edge in the center of the frame, while the Leica has a sharper center at f/1.8 and f/2.5.  By f/3.5, the Fuji has caught up again with the Panasonic, though the X-Trans sensor prevents the moire that is present in the Panasonic crop.

In the corner, the Fuji has an edge throughout at this focus distance.  While the Leica 42.5mm has an edge in overall contrast at f/1.2 and f/1.8, the Fuji 56mm is resolving more fine detail in the corners at these apertures.  By f/2.5, the Fuji has a notable boost in contrast while keeping a slight resolution edge.

When I originally did this test, I had noticed my first copy of the 56mm showed some weakness a little ways in from the corners of the frame and simply assumed it was how the lens performed at f/1.2.  Upon receiving a replacement lens, I could see that it was not the case for a properly assembled lens. Below are crops taken from the lower right side of the frame.

Mid-Zone 100% Crops, f/1.2

Mid-Zone 100% Crops, f/1.2

Mid-Zone 100% Crops, f/3.5

Mid-Zone 100% Crops, f/3.5

As you can see here, the Fuji again has the lead, both wide open and stopped down (though both are very sharp stopped down).

Overall, the sharpness comparison is pretty darn close.  At this focus distance, which is approximately 1 meter,  the Fuji is showing itself to be a little bit sharper all things considered.

Continue: Bokeh

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Review: Fujifilm Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 R http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-fujifilm-fujinon-xf-56mm-f1-2-r/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=review-fujifilm-fujinon-xf-56mm-f1-2-r http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-fujifilm-fujinon-xf-56mm-f1-2-r/#comments Fri, 14 Mar 2014 01:01:46 +0000 http://admiringlight.com/blog/?p=3188 The long-awaited Fuji 56mm f/1.2 is here.  Since first appearing on the Fujifilm lens roadmap over a year ago (then as a 56mm f/1.4), Fuji has upped the speed by a third of a stop, finalized the design and shipped one of the last missing links in the Fuji X prime lens lineup: a fast …

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The long-awaited Fuji 56mm f/1.2 is here.  Since first appearing on the Fujifilm lens roadmap over a year ago (then as a 56mm f/1.4), Fuji has upped the speed by a third of a stop, finalized the design and shipped one of the last missing links in the Fuji X prime lens lineup: a fast portrait lens.    I’ll take an in-depth look in this review of the Fuji 56mm f/1.2, and see whether Fuji hit the mark.

The Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 R

The Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 R

If you’re not familiar with my reviews, I review from a real world shooting perspective.  You won’t find lens charts or resolution numbers here.  There are plenty of other sites that cover those.  I review products on how they act for me as a photographic tool in real-world shooting. 

Build Quality and Handling

The Fuji 56mm f/1.2 is the largest of the Fuji prime lenses, being roughly the same diameter as the 23mm f/1.4, but slightly longer.  Despite the size the lens is lighter than you might expect and it handles well on my X-E2 (though I do use the MHG-XE grip).  The lens is constructed entirely of metal, with a wide ribbed focus ring and the standard Fuji aperture ring at the base.

The focus ring on the 56mm f/1.2 is very well damped and generally smooth, though I notice if I turn it enough, the resistance you feel can change, which is a little odd.  The aperture ring on my 56mm is a little looser than I’d like, though not loose like the one on my 14mm f/2.8.  Overall, the lens feels reassuringly solid and well put together.

The 56mm f/1.2 with hood mounted on the Fujifilm X-E2

The 56mm f/1.2 with hood mounted on the Fujifilm X-E2

The 56mm f/1.2 comes with a plastic bayonet mount lens hood that is reversible for storage.  While the hood doesn’t exactly feel expensive, I’m fine with a plastic hood, as I don’t need to worry about scraping the lens body like I do with the metal hood used on the 60mm f/2.4 macro.  One nice thing with the 56mm’s hood is that it is interchangeable with the Fuji 55-200mm and vice versa.  Either hood mounts securely to each lens and provides good shading with no vignetting.  As a result, it’s one less hood I need to have in my bag.

Focus Performance

When Fuji created their X-Trans II sensor in the X-E2 and later the X-T1, they created a focusing paradigm that makes it difficult for us reviewers out there.  See, in PDAF mode, the 56mm f/1.2, like most Fuji lenses, focuses extremely quickly.   However, when CDAF is used, it’s not nearly as fast.  In CDAF mode, the 56mm f/1.2 is an average performer at best.  It’s not slow to focus, but no one would call it ‘fast’ either.  Still, for my purposes, it works just fine.

I did find that when using PDAF for tracking motion with the X-E2, the 56mm f/1.2 did a very admirable job keeping up with moving subjects.  I was able to capture a nice shot at f/1.2 of my son crawling towards me, as well as my daughter riding her bike directly at me.  Overall, focus accuracy was excellent for me as well.

While I still wouldn’t count on the Fuji system for dedicated sports shooting, I think for most uses, the focus performance of the 56mm f/1.2 will work just fine.  Compared to other f/1.2 portrait lenses I’ve used, the 56mm falls somewhere in the middle in terms of focus speed.  It’s notably faster to focus than the Canon 85mm f/1.2L, and notably slower to focus (except in PDAF) than the Panasonic Leica 42.5mm f/1.2 (which I am shooting for review at the moment).

The XF 56mm f/1.2 focuses down to 0.7m, which is relatively close for a lens in this focal range and speed.  Similar full-frame lenses usually only focus as close as 0.85m to 1m.  While it’s not going to get you into extreme closeup territory, it does allow you to frame relatively tight portraits.

Continue: Image Quality

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Fujifilm XF 56mm f/1.2 First Impressions http://admiringlight.com/blog/fujifilm-xf-56mm-f1-2-first-impressions/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fujifilm-xf-56mm-f1-2-first-impressions http://admiringlight.com/blog/fujifilm-xf-56mm-f1-2-first-impressions/#comments Sat, 08 Mar 2014 15:07:33 +0000 http://admiringlight.com/blog/?p=3174 I received my copy of the new Fuji 56mm f/1.2, and I’ve had a few days to shoot with it. My full review will be coming in the next week, but I thought I’d share some initial thoughts and photos from this long awaited lens. One if the things missing from the Fuji X system …

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I received my copy of the new Fuji 56mm f/1.2, and I’ve had a few days to shoot with it. My full review will be coming in the next week, but I thought I’d share some initial thoughts and photos from this long awaited lens.

20140308-100609.jpg

One if the things missing from the Fuji X system has been a fast short telephoto. The new 56mm f1.2 fills that void, with an ultra fast f/1.2 aperture and a field of view equivalent to an 85mm lens on full frame, making it an ideal lens for portraiture.

Ultra fast lenses tend to have compromises wide open, but the 56mm f/1.2 is quite good wide open. Images are sharp right from maximum aperture across most of the frame, with good contrast and color. There is some longitudinal CA at wide apertures, but that happens with almost all fast telephotos. Bokeh is quite nice to my eye, though it is a little busier than some other Fuji lenses. I like the character personally.  In all, this may be one of the finest portrait lenses I’ve ever used. At first blush, Fuji has created a heck of a lens with the XF 56mm f/1.2.

Now some images: These were all taken at f1.2.

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