The latest telephoto lens from Fujifilm is their long-awaited pro-grade 50-140mm f/2.8 OIS WR. The lens fills the role of the typical 70-200mm zoom lens in the Fujifilm system. Fuji already has a well-regarded telephoto zoom in a more compact package in the 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 OIS. The 55-200mm is, of course, slower in aperture and notably smaller in size than its constant-aperture sibling. But how do the two lenses compare in the overlapping range? That’s what I wanted to find out.
Construction and Handling
While the two lenses share much of their range, they are certainly not identical lenses. The 55-200mm is about 2/3 the length, features a body made predominantly of high-grade plastics and features a non-weathersealed extending zoom mechanism. The 50-140mm f/2.8 is an internally zooming, weathersealed lens made of metal and plastics that is not only larger but notably heavier than the 55-200mm. In fact, it’s 71% heavier than its slower sibling.
The 50-140mm is by far the largest current lens for the Fuji X System, and it’s one of the largest mirrorless lenses period. However, it’s still roughly the same size as a full frame 70-200mm f/4 lens, so we’re not talking enormous, but it definitely will require a good size bag. Overall, the 50-140mm is the better constructed lens, while the 55-200mm handles much easier and fits better within the ‘small camera system’ mentality. There’s also a rather hefty price difference, with the 55-200mm available right now for only $550 (regularly $700), while the 50-140mm will run you a whopping $1599.
To test sharpness, I took a series of photographs at infinity at 55mm, 90mm and 140mm, from wide open through f/8. Center and edge/corner crops are presented in the images below. All images were taken with the lens and camera on a tripod, with 2 second self timer and OIS set to off. 100% crops are presented below. To see the images at full size, click on the image, and when it loads, click the green arrow at the bottom to enlarge to 100%.
At 55mm, the 50-140mm starts out very strong in the center right from f/2.8 and is even very good in the corner. An outstanding performance here. At f/3.5, which is the widest aperture for the 55-200mm, you can see that the 55-200mm is average at best here. The 50-140mm is clearly superior in both the center and the corner. The corner has sharpened up a bit here on the 50-140mm, yielding quite good resolution. At f/5.6 and f/8, the 55-200mm improves significantly, producing very sharp images in the center and good corners, though both still lag behind the 50-140mm, which is producing outstanding resolution across the frame at smaller apertures.
At 90mm, the 50-140mm is a smidgen softer than it was at 55mm when wide open, but is still producing good results here. At f/4 (the widest aperture for the 55-200mm), both lenses are quite good, though the 50-140mm stays ahead both in the center and on the edge (the corners were not at the same distance for this focal length). Stopping down to f/5.6 and then to f/8 brings both lenses into excellent territory, with the 50-140mm still maintaining a very slight edge, though it’s quite small here.
At 140mm, frankly both lenses are very good right from their maximum apertures, and both are excellent across the frame at f/8, with the 50-140mm again holding a very slim lead.
Overall, it’s clear the 50-140mm is the superior lens when it comes to resolution. It produces excellent resolution at all focal lengths and apertures. While I didn’t have time this evening to pull crops at all distances close up, I can describe that the differences between the lenses are quite similar to the distant test, though the 50-140mm is actually even sharper at closer distances producing outstanding resolution across the frame at any setting. The 55-200mm lags a bit, especially at the wide end, but by a margin similar to what’s shown in these tests.