Fujifilm’s X-Series interchangeable lens system has only been around for a bit less than three years, and in that time, they’ve managed to put together a rather impressive lens lineup. However, missing from that lineup until recently are pro-grade fast zoom lenses. While the fast standard zoom is set to be released in 2015, Fuji users get the telephoto zoom just before the holidays. Today I’ll review the Fuji 50-140mm f/2.8 OIS WR. This is the second weather resistant Fuji lens, and the first constant f/2.8 zoom lens. This is a pro-grade zoom lens with a pro-grade price, retailing for $1599. Can this large mirrorless lens meet the very high expectations that Fuji users demand? Let’s find out.
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.
Construction and Handling
The Fuji 50-140mm f/2.8 is an extremely solidly built lens, constructed predominantly of metal, with some high-grade plastics in use for the zoom ring. It definitely feels like a professionally built lens. There is an integral tripod collar that can’t be removed, though the foot of the tripod mount can be removed. The zoom ring is extremely smooth and moderately damped while the focus ring is a bit stiffer, but also very smooth. The aperture ring on the lens is the best of any Fuji lens. Very firm with nice detents without being difficult to use. The controls on the lens definitely feel top-notch.
The lens stays constant in length during zooming and focusing and the included lens hood reverses for storage and stays tight to the body. The constant f/2.8 aperture and telephoto focal lengths necessitate a larger lens than your average mirrorless optic, and the Fuji 50-140mm is indeed a pretty big lens. It’s notably larger than the XF 55-200mm and it’s not particularly light either, at least compared to other XF lenses. While this is somewhat inevitable due simply due to physics, it’s worth noting because it may change how you carry around your kit if this lens is in it. The lens is long enough that it wouldn’t fit into my Think Tank Suburban Disguise 20 bag, which is small by DSLR standards but rather spacious for a mirrorless kit. Well, the lens itself would fit, but there was no way I was getting it in mounted to the camera. As a result, I utilized my Domke F-803 satchel that I haven’t used since 2009.
If you use a camera with a substantial grip, the 50-140 does handle well in the field, making the size and weight more a concern for transport and bag selection than an actual issue in usage. However, I view having a camera with a grip a must for using this lens. An X-Pro-1, X-E1 or X-E2 with accessory grip or an X-T1 are the only things I’d want to use with this lens. For most of the review period, I used the X-T1 vertical grip as well, as I felt it made the whole combination better balanced and more comfortable. There is a notable issue with the lens, though, in that the tripod foot really needs to be removed or swung completely out of the way if you’re using the vertical grip, as it is located too far back towards the mount of the camera, and pinches fingers when using the vertical grip. It’s a shame because the tripod foot is well-balanced and the collar is incredibly smoothly rotating, making it a joy to use on a tripod…just not with the vertical grip.
The lens is also the second Weather Resistant lens in the Fujifilm XF lineup. Being a constant length lens, my guess is the sealing will be a bit more robust than the 18-135mm. I didn’t have a chance to thoroughly test the weather resistance, though I did shoot a bit in some light rain, which posed no problems whatsoever with the lens or the camera. The lens does have the same questionable design of the mount gasket found on the 18-135mm, where the rubber surrounds the mount rather than pressing flush to it. My shooting in the rain didn’t get the lens soaked enough to see if the same issue I found on the 18-135mm was present, however.
The lens hood I mentioned earlier has a nice little feature: a piece of it can be removed to allow for easy access to a polarizing filter while the hood is mounted. The opening is on the bottom of the lens hood, so the hood will still be effective in use. This is just a really nice design touch.
Autofocus and Optical Stabilization
The Fuji 50-140mm features a new triple linear motor for fast and quiet autofocus operation, and for the most part, it’s a very nicely focusing lens. In good light, AF is very fast and extremely accurate when used with a body like the X-T1. Indoors, however, it slows down rather considerably, and on lower contrast subjects can hunt a bit. If you have strong contrast, it does fine indoors, but it isn’t the holy grail of focusing.
The good news is that in good light, it is definitely fast enough to be used for tracking action. I took some shots of cyclists and joggers coming towards me and got a very high hit rate of perfectly in focus shots when using the 8fps burst of the X-T1 in continuous focus mode.
Now we’re on to the 50-140’s optical stabilization. The 50-140mm uses a similar stabilizer to that used in the XF 18-135mm, with a claimed effectiveness of 5 stops. I found the 50-140’s to be even slightly better than the outstanding stabilizer on the 18-135mm. While I didn’t regularly achieve the full five stops on the 18-135mm, I was able to get sharp shots somewhat consistently at 1/6 second at 140mm on the 50-140mm. Simply put, the stabilizer on the 50-140mm f/2.8 is the best on any lens I’ve used, by any manufacturer.