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.
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 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.
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.