Here’s the meat of this review: image quality. There’s been a lot of buzz around the image quality for this lens, and I found out very quickly it’s for good reason. In short, the quality of the XF 90mm is absolutely superb.
The XF 90mm f/2 R is a very sharp lens. Right from f/2 over almost the entire frame, the lens is capable of tack sharp images. The last bit of the edges and corners show a little softening at further focus distances, but are still good. Stopping down to f/4 yields razor sharp images across the entire image. Simply put, pick the aperture for the depth of field you want and don’t worry about anything else: you’ll get sharp images. Of course, stopping down to f/16 or so will show softening due to diffraction, but that’s a physics limitation, not a lens limitation.
The image above was taken at f/2 and shows very sharp results at the focus point. Click here to view a 100% crop at the point of focus.
Critical for portrait lenses is the quality of the out of focus areas. While the XF 56mm f/1.2 showed good bokeh with a bit of character (and some bright outlining of specular highlights), the XF 90mm f/2 has nearly technically perfect bokeh. Out of focus areas are smooth and even and specular highlights are perfectly evenly illuminated, with a very slight falloff at the edge which just melts the blur disc into the other colors. There is no outlining, no double edges, no bokeh fringing: it’s just smooth and even. Because the 90mm f/2 doesn’t use aspherical elements, there is also no onion ring centers to highlights. What’s amazing to me, and what you’ll be able to notice in the image samples, is that the bokeh retains its smoothness at all focus distances, in both the foreground and the background.
One thing to note is that the contrast, which I’ll get into more in a second, is strong throughout the image frame, which means the bokeh does retain high contrast as well. While everything remains smooth and even, a high contrast background will retain a high contrast look. This isn’t bad to me, but some prefer a bit of softness and haze in the background for the ultimate in creaminess, and the high background contrast can make the background retain some bite in the right circumstances. However, to my eye, the XF 90mm has the best bokeh of any lens in the Fuji X system.
Color, Contrast and Chromatic Aberration
The Fuji 90mm keeps high image contrast and rich, vibrant color throughout the aperture range, with no apparent loss of contrast at the widest apertures. This results in images with real presence, and a fair bit of what many call ‘3D pop.’ Indeed, the high image contrast and sharpness combined with the smooth bokeh can make distant subjects really pop out of the frame, such as in the shot below.
Remarkably, the lens also controls chromatic aberration extremely well. Lateral CA is negligible and even longitudinal CA is extremely well controlled. No purple fringing was evident in my shooting on high contrast subjects.
Distortion, Flare and Vignetting
The hits keep coming in these departments as well. I’m sorry for such short descriptions here, but there’s really nothing to describe. The lens has virtually no distortion, which isn’t surprising, as medium telephotos generally don’t have a problem with distortion. However, the lens also controls vignetting very well. There is some slight darkening at the corners at f/2, but even this isn’t particularly field relevant. Stopped down it’s essentially absent. Against bright light, again, I didn’t see much in the way of flare. I have seen a few other tests where the shooter was able to induce rather nasty flares with small apertures, but I never encountered it in my shooting, perhaps because of the narrow field of view and the fact I always used the hood. In any case, I don’t think it’s much to worry about.
The Fuji XF 90mm f/2 is nearly flawless optically. That’s not to say that there aren’t better lenses in the world, but it is truly one of the finest lenses I’ve ever used, with no real weaknesses and a very strong showing in all departments. Fuji’s outdone themselves here.
35 thoughts on “Review: Fujifilm Fujinon XF 90mm f/2 R LM WR”
Very nice review (again) Jodan!
Would you recommend it to someone who already hadthe 50-140/2.8?
Are you asking for permission? Because only you can judge if you need something different.
That’s a bit harsh. He did not ask for permission, he asked for advice. The least you could to is comment on whether or not you would personally buy both of these lenses.
It really depends on whether you use the 90mm focal length a lot. 135mm equivalent is really nice when used right, but it’s also often too long for people to get the most out of it on a regular basis. If you really like that distance/look, it may be worth picking up. The bokeh is a bit smoother, and you get the extra stop of aperture, and of course the much smaller size in comparison to the 50-140. The 90 is probably a tiny bit sharper, but I found the 50-140 to be extremely sharp right from f/2.8, so it’s not a huge difference. Maybe keep the 50-140 at 90mm for a few days and shoot only with it and see if you like that constricted view. If you do, it might be worth your money to pick one up.
I’m staying with my 50-140mm f/2.8 for its amazing image stabilisation. After getting used to its tripod-like stillness I notice the movement even with my 16mm f/1.4. At 140mm I can shoot at half the shutter speed of the 16mm.
I rented this lens a year ago and next to the XF16mm, it is the 2nd time I fell in love with a lens. I don’t own it though. Part of the reason is that I already own the 50-140mm and the other is that I just don’t find myself using that focal length often.
If you do portraits, this would be a no-brainer. I’m still looking for reasons to buy this lens but so far can’t.
Nice review, as always. But, what I really like most, compared to other review sites are your pictures! Really nice. And the kickball one …. wow! (is the lens still working ;-)?
Thank you for this nice review and the selection of pictures which IMHO prove the exceptional rendering characteristic very well!
The only point where I disagree with your conclusion is about the lens price – it’s a con, not a pro. The list price in Europe is 899 € which I consider at least 100 € too high with respect to the prices of brand name 1.8/85mm and 2.8/135mm lenses. Fujifilm demands a real lot of money for this bokeh gem.
Do you still have the Olympus 75mm/1.8 to compare this against?
It seems like the two stack up very, very closely with one another optically and in terms of DoF. The Olympus also received a $200 price cut last year, so it’s $699 price tag is perhaps more palatable than it’s $899 introduction.
I do not still have the 75/1.8, but it is on that short list of lenses that I put at the very top of all I’ve used. The 90/2 is going to give you a bit shallower depth of field and more blur due to the fact you’re shooting on a larger format, and as such will be closer for the same framing. It also has a slightly larger physical aperture (45mm vs. 41mm), but the format differences will be bigger difference.
I think the 75mm might be a touch sharper, though you’re splitting excellent hairs with these lenses, but the 90mm has less chromatic aberration, with no green bokeh fringing or purple fringing on high contrast subjects. Aside from the occasional fringing in the bokeh, the 90mm also has smoother, more even specular highlights with no bright ring, and the 75mm can sometimes exhibit a slight ring (though not bad by any means). The 75mm focuses a little faster (more a function of the cameras than anything else), and it’s a lot smaller to boot. I find the 135mm equivalent focal length of the 90 on Fuji to be a bit less restrictive vs. the 150mm equivalent of the 75mm on m4/3, but that’s personal preference.
It doesn’t make sense to count the physical aperture difference, and sensor size difference, you’re counting the difference twice at that point. When you compare physical aperture size, you can outright ignore the sensor size. Here’s an example 25/1.4 = 17.85mm and 50/2.8 = 17.85mm, even without considering sensor size you can figure out that these lenses will provide the same DOF.
Even then, the difference is very small. The DOF difference between 43rds and APS-C is roughy 2/3rd stop, and the Olympus 75mm is 1/3rd stop faster. So the DOF difference is 1/3rd stop, in other words, nearly indistinguishable. The 75mm is also slightly longer at ~150mm equiv vs ~135mm equiv, which means for a given framing, the out of focus area will be slightly magnified with the Olympus which further narrows the gap.
Here’s a quick visualization of the difference: http://howmuchblur.com/#compare-1.5x-90mm-f2-and-2x-75mm-f1.8-and-2x-25mm-f1.8-on-a-0.9m-wide-subject
Anyway, thanks for putting the effort into writing the review!
For an occasional/amature photographer with a limited budget looking to get a portrait lens, would you recommend this or the 56mm lens? I realize the 56mm has a more practical focal distance that could potentially still be used indoors as well.
-Is the bokeh significantly better than the 56mm or just marginally
-Bokeh aside, do you find auto focus much more accurate/snappy on this lens?
I’d get the 56mm, simply because I think it’s more practical for most shooting situations. The 90mm is slightly better optically when looking at pure image quality, but it’s not a major difference. The bokeh on the 56mm definitely has some bright ring outlines on the specular highlights that give it some texture. Some people love that (I like it quite a bit on the 56), but others do not. I found the focus on the 90 to be faster and quieter than on the 56, but I have no problems with accuracy on either lens.
Thanks, that helps a lot! 🙂
I understand there’s no tripod thing on the lens, not even optional. Do you think a normal (not filmsy, not superbig) tripod head will keep the camera stable, without unwanted movements?
It should be fine. It’s a big-ish lens, but it’s not huge. A tripod collar would be more awkward than helping on this lens.
Jordan, thanks again for the fantastic review and thanks for the discussion about the Olympus 75/1.8 comparison. No other reviews said anything about the “Oly 75 VS Fuji 90”. That’s why I always like your reviews. In fact I bought some of my gears after I read your reviews during these years. Let’s see, oh, Sigma 60mm/2.8, Fujifilm 56/1.2, X-T10, Panasonic 35-100/2.8…Well done, Jordan! 🙂
I still have my Oly 75/1.8 with me on a E-M5, the IBIS really helps. That’s why I am still keep them in my bag.
I have this lens alongside the 56 and other XF primes. My early but very clear assessment is that it is the best from the Fuji X stable so far, and the best 90 I have ever used.
Great point on OIM & its size comparing to 56mm pauses me :). Thanks for great review as usual!
You mention you would like to see it have OIS. Fuji probably wanted to make the lens as sharp as possible and not have OIS take away from that, knowing that in future X-cameras, it’s not going to be a factor, because of the higher ISO capability’s.
Thank you for the review!
As an amateur I’m always looking for the bang for the buck options. I couldn’t help noticing that Samyang/rokinon produce 85mm f1.4, which would be a cheaper (€300) alternative for the fuji reviewed here. It of course lacks automatic focusing, but could otherwise be good option for portraits. Any possibility to compare these two against each other?
Thanks for the review!
In terms of image quality and focusing speed, do you think the Fuji 90mm is comparable to its canon equivalent, 135mm f/2?
I just bought a X-T1 camera and a XF 16mm lens. This lens is not really for portrait photos, is it? So I want to get a top lens for portraits. I think of getting the old XF56mm or the new XF90mm. My questions are:
1. Does the 90mm cover portrais as well as the 56mm?
2. If I have the 16mm and the 90mm, then I got covered for street, landscapes, portrais photography. I don’t need something in between (focal lenghts) like 23mm or 35mm lens, do I?
Not sure if I missed it, but would love to see this lens and how it stacks up to the 135mm 1.8 Zeiss.
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