Friday, March 7, 2014

Fuji XF 56mm f/1.2 lens - Hands on review

Let's just get this out of the way up front: This lens is sharp. It is sharp in the corners, sharp in the center, even sharp in the corners wide open at f/1.2. On top of that it has no discernible distortion, and internal focus is fast and quiet.

I have been anxiously waiting for this focal length to complete the triumvirate of fast aperture primes I typically use when shooting lifestyle. This includes the 23mm f/1.4, 35mm f/1.4, and now the 56mm f/1.2. The 56mm is equivalent to about 85mm with a 28.5° angle of view, which, for me, is the ideal portrait focal length. It can focus down to 2.3' (70cm) for a magnification of .09x. Despite its very wide f/1.2 aperture, it is only slightly larger than the 18-55mm medium zoom, and comes in at 2.74"L x 2.88"D (69.7 x 73.2mm) with a 62mm filter size, weighing only 14.29oz (405g) -- a very comfortable size for a portrait lens.  The f-stop range is f/1.2-16.

The Fuji FX 56mm f/1.2 lens mounted on the X-T1, a perfect combo for portraits. 
A 7-blade aperture forms a very round diaphragm to create the beautifully soft bokeh Fuji lenses are known to deliver. Two ED lens elements and Fuji's excellent lens coating insures good color and contrast while keeping lens aberrations to a minimum. Auto focus with a phase detection sensor such as that in the X-T1 or X-E2 is quick an silent.

The 56mm lens together with its shade mounted on an X-E2

At f/1.2 the bokeh of this lens is as good as it gets.

This test shot was taken at the optimal lens aperture range of f/5.6.  Click here to download a high res version of this file.

A focal length of 56mm (85mm equivalent) is a perfect perspective for portraits, and the f/1.2 aperture makes it easy to eliminate distracting backgrounds with fine bokeh instead.

A fast aperture 56mm focal length is my most used lens for shooting lifestyle photography, as in this scene and the one below we staged in the studio.

It's so nice to have the f/1.2 aperture for pulling off shots like this.


In terms of both its optical quality and quick, silent auto focus this is probably the best lens in the entire XF optical line up, and that is saying a lot because the Fuji lens line up is quite impressive. Rarely do you see a lens perform this well at a maximum working aperture of f/1.2. On top of all that, and unlike other full frame counterparts of this focal length, the XF 56mm is comfortable to hold and does not seem to dwarf even the small X-E2. If this lens is a sample of what is to come with future pro lenses in the Fuji lens lineup, I say: bring them on and the sooner the better.

If you are planning on purchasing this camera or lens, you can help support this site at no extra cost to you by purchasing from one of our affiliate sellers listed below -- and thanks for your support.

The Fujifilm XF 56mm f/1.2 R lens is available for ordering at:   BH-photo  Amazon


  1. I have a question, I saw some comments that f1.2 for APS-C equivalence to f1.8 of FF camera, I have a f1.2 Nikkor 55mm lens, I used it with my Fuji X Pro1, I have compared it with my f1.4 50mm and f1.8 50mm Nikkor for my XP1 too, using an adapter, Nikon to Fuji, not those new booster one. I found the bokeh created by the f1.2 is better than the f1.4 and the f1.8. I have no change to compare it with the new Fuji f1.2 yet. Could you tell me is there any difference with this new Fuji lens.

    Happy photography.

    1. This is a complex question, so let's consider two issues. Firstly, what does the focal length scaling do then, secondly, what does it mean for the image. Let's put our subject at a normal head and shoulders distance for a portrait lens - say about 1 metre. We'll assume lenses that are respectively 85 (36x24 frame) and 56.67 (24x16 frame). I know these are not the exact dimensions but I'm doing this deliberately to eliminate things that create unnecessary confusion.

      We'll also assume a lens that's set to f/1.2

      The first part is really about how larger the blur circle is compared with the sensor size. Let's think about what happens for something that is 5 cm in front of the focal point. You can use high school optics (1/u + 1/v = 1/f) to determine that it's image is brought to focus.

      I'll save you the math - an 85 mm lens brings the image to focus 0.456 mm behind the image plane while the 56.7 mm lens brings the image to focus 0.191 mm behind the focus plane. So far so good. Now we need to consider how large the resulting blur circles are... This is easy if you understand what f-number means... the diameter of the blur circle is simply 0.456/1.2 = 0.380 mm and 0.191/1.2 = 0.159 mm respectively.

      If you think about in terms of the sensor scale, this equates to 1/63.1 and 1/100.8 respectively - in other words the longer lens will produce a blur circle that is proportionately 1.6x larger. This suggests the long lens on a full frame sensor has dramatically thinner depth of field.

      This is the conventional wisdom - so far, so good.

      Here's where it gets messy. You see, full frame sensors cannot actually see light from a f/1.2 light cone. The Fuji X-sensor is different because it can (I tested this personally on a Fuji trade day.)

      My tests demonstrated that the 5D MkII can only actually detect light that comes from a light cone corresponding to f/1.6 or perhaps f/1.7 - sorry - all experiments have limited accuracy. It seems reasonable that if the sensor can't detect light from a steep cone, this light can't contribute to the blur circle. So now I'll recalculate using f/1.65 for the 85 mm lens... and we get an interesting result. The effective blur circle from the 85 mm lens is now 0.277 mm in diameter and the long lens produces bokeh that is about 37.5% better.

      Alternatively, you can show that bokeh of an 135 / 85 mm combination at about f/1.9 will match the bokeh of an APS-C / 56.7 mm lens at f/1.2.

      This means the first part of your question is essentially correct.

      Now, when you use a 55/1.2 lens (I use an OM 55/1.2 on my X-E2), it remains a 55/1.2 even though you put it on the APS-C sensor. If you put a Fuji 56/1.2 on the camera, the image will be essentially identical (although I predict the Fuji will be a lot sharper.)

      In either case, the sensor will detect all the light and when standing at about a metre, you'll get image scale and depth of field that's about the same as a 85mm used at f/1.9.

      I hope this clarifies it.

    2. I think the answer is much more simple. Different lenses render different bokeh, regardless of the f-stop. The f-stop, of course, generates the responding depth of field (for example f1.2 vs. 1.8 on fullframe are nearly in the same DOF), but the look the blur is not the same. I think that's what he called "I found the bokeh created by the f1.2 is better".

    3. Ohhh,,, that is a long reply :) I read it and i'll try to learn that math.
      Anyway, the "equivalent DOF" is very easy to compute, actually you just multiply focal length and aperture with the crop factor.
      56/1.2 (on fuji 1.5x crop) ~= 84/1.8 (on FF) - but with light gathering 1.2
      23/1.4 (on FujiX) ~= 34.5/2.1 (on FF) - again light gathering 1.4

      But ofourse, as the previous comment says the "quality of bokeh" is different from lens to lens, so you might like better some zeiss 50/2.0 than a nikon 50/1.4 (just theoretical examples, no need for anybody to jump)...

  2. " If you put a Fuji 56/1.2 on the camera, the image will be essentially identical (although I predict the Fuji will be a lot sharper.) "

    Not so sure - accutance, probably yes - resolution is another question.

  3. just wonder if anyone can answer- can we use the current fuji xf lens on ff camera seem like will be released soon ?

    1. The answer is "maybe". It all depends upon the full coverage area of the current lenses. Even if they can be used, there will probably be vignetting and softness in the corners that is does not appear on the small radius APS-C sensor