Sunday, December 7, 2014

Fujifilm XF 50-140mm f/2.8 zoom -- a Hands-on review

Ask most pros and you will probably find they have a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens as one of the two main staples in their DSLR lens kit. This focal length, along with a 24-70mm f/2.8, covers the majority of situations we are likely to encounter. Such lenses by Nikon and Canon are legendary for their quality optics and semi-fast, fixed aperture. A pro who shoots weddings or lifestyle probably relies on an f/2.8 long zoom. Photographing animals, sports, or even travel, same thing. Since its inception in the 1980's, an 80-200mm (now 70-200mm) zoom lens has been a required item on any equipment list.

 Fuji's addition of these f/2.8 zooms to the Fuji XF lens lineup demonstrates its intent to raise the X-series cameras to true pro-grade use.

Seems like most of the time I spent outdoors testing the new Fuji 50-140mm lens this week with my X-T1 the weather contrived to help me also test the weather resistance of both. At the end of the week both lens and camera continued functioning normally, which says it all. I once trashed an X-E2 camera body (non-weather resistant) in far less rain than I encountered this past week. 

As you can see from the photo above, I decided to trust the weather resistant claims for this lens and took it out to test in the rain. The lens has 20 weather seals across the barrel to offer protection from moisture and dust. It is also claimed to be operable in conditions as low as -14°F (- 10°C) -- something I (thankfully) did not have to test. 

A Nikon D750 with 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom lens sits on my studio equipment cart next to a Fuji X-T1 with the 50-140mm f/2.8.. The photo illustrates the overall size difference of camera+lens. 

There has already been talk of the bokeh of this lens not being on par with the Fuji primes, such as the 56mm f/1.2 and perhaps not even equal to that of full frame f/2.8 equivalent lenses. That is going to be a given coming into this. Photographers who need exaggerated bokeh need to use fast aperture primes. Period. Plus, bokeh is dependent upon other factors as well as aperture. Distance from the subject, distance of the subject from the background, and focal length are also important. Rack this lens out to its full 140mm extension and get in tight for a head shot and the bokeh of this lens at f/2.8 will be quite pleasing. As good as the 56mm at f/1.2? Of course not. That is why pro photographers will often have both types in their lens kits -- a fast prime for extreme low light and bokeh, and a long f/2.8 for the speed advantage of being able to switch focal lengths on the fly in fast changing situations. Plus, when you consider the big price difference between the Fuji lens and its full frame rivals, you have enough left over to pick up a fast prime as a bonus.

A size comparison to two other Fuji XF zoom lenses. On top is the 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 weighing 1.08 lb (490 g) , middle the 55-300 f/3.5-4.8 weighing 1.28 lb (580 g), and bottom the 50-140mm f/2.8 weighing 2.19 lb (995 g). On the left the lenses are in their shorter, closed position; on the right their longer open position. 

Initially, I kept checking the lens to see if it was focusing.  After awhile I realized the reason I was doing this was because the lens was so silent. The 50-140mm has a Triple Linear Motor (world's first) autofocus system. It delivers a smooth, pretty much silent performance. Anyone shooting video or working in quiet locations will appreciate this.

I'm sure there will be complaints about the appropriateness of the larger size and weight of this lens on a smaller, APS-sized mirrorless camera. But, if Fuji is going to move its X-camera system to where pros can not only use it, but can replace DSLR cameras with it, they need to include a lens such as this. It is the workhorse of many pro photographers,and the size is simply what you get when you add an f/2.8 fixed aperture to a lens of this focal length.

Actually, I did not find this lens to be too bulky for the camera. Quite the contrary, I found it to be quite comfortably balanced and much smaller than I expected it would be. In fact, I found myself considering adding this zoom to my carry-around travel outfit where I could benefit from the extra aperture speed.

The 50-140mm zoom uses an optical construction comprising 23 glass elements in 16 groups, with five ED lens elements and one Super ED lens element comparable to a fluorite lens. This maximizes the reduction of chromatic aberrations and delivers high resolving power. On top of this Fujifilm's HT-EBC (High Transmittance Electron Beam Coating) is applied to the entire area of the lens surface and ensures ghosting and flare are minimized or eliminated. Also, a newly developed Nano-GI (Gradient Index) coating technology, which alters the refractive index between glass and air, further controls ghosting and flare by effectively reducing diagonal incident light.

The lens is sharp everywhere -- center, corners, and all apertures. The Fijifilm MTF charts on it are really impressive, among the best results I've ever seen. Is it as good as the rival, full frame equivalent zooms from the big two. Easily, and maybe even better.

The tripod collar is removable with two thumb screws. One thing that surprised me was the shape of the foot. I am so used to Fuji thinking of everything and including Arca Swiss plates for its cameras, I thought for sure this foot would have had at least an inch of the Arca mount before it tapered off in the front. No such luck. Third party companies are probably already at work on a replacement for this foot, just as they have done for Nikon and Canon. 
The vibration control mechanism has an enhanced gyro sensor and unique algorithms to minimize camera shake and enable sharper imaging when working with longer focal lengths and/or slow shutter speeds. It claims a 5-stop vibration reduction. The image of New York below was taken handheld at 1/10 second. I did employ my normal slow-shutter technique of holding down the release for several exposures to ensure one of them will come out sharp, and this helped. Nonetheless, shooting at 1/10th of a second with a zoom of this focal length is an impressive accomplishment.  I wouldn't even try it with the 70-200mm on my Nikon.

Flat Iron Building and lower Manhattan shot hand held at 1/10 second and ISO 1600. Click here to download a high res version of this file.
Below are some images to download as full res versions and judge the lens ability for yourself.

Click here to download a high res version of this file.

Click here to download a high res version of this file.

Click here to download a high res version of this file.

Sunset reflection on the Chrysler Building, a handheld  shot at full 140mm extension and f/5.6. Click here to download the high res file.

One of my favorite uses of the 70-200mm (full frame) f/2.8 zoom range is for grabbing quick portraits during lifestyle shoots. The wide open aperture of f/2.8 is pretty much a perfect balance of sharp focus plus good bokeh with the zoom set to its longer lengths.  This available light portrait was taken at f/2.8, 126mm focal length, and ISO 800.

Click here to download a high res version of this file.

Bokeh is more that just a fast aperture. For a shot like this I used the lens at a long focal length, wide open at f/2.8, and in close to throw the foreground and background out of focus while still retaining story telling detail.  Click here to download a high res version of this file.

This image was taken under ideal handheld daylight conditions with the X-T1 set for ISO 200 and the lens aperture at f/8 and a shutter speed of 1/450 second. Very little was done in post-processing.  Click here to download the high res version of this file.


With this lens Fuji puts the pressure on decision-time for anyone who has been sitting on the fence wondering whether a mirrorless camera could truly replace a DSLR system. Not only does the Fuji 50-140mm meet the optical and build quality of the big two DSLR zooms, it does so with mechanical improvements that put it squarely in the lead of the race. 

Is it larger and bulkier that other, similar zooms Fuji already has in its lineup? Certainly. Don't expect the light weight carry-around package of a variable aperture zoom. That is not what a fast aperture, long focal length zoom is all about. The extra bulk goes with the territory.

At $1599 it is at the higher price end of Fuji lenses, but when compared to comparable full frame zooms it is quite a bit less. 

Bottom line: this lens does exactly what you would expect from a zoom in its class and in some cases even goes beyond. And when you consider the big price difference between the Fuji lens and its full frame rivals, the results are even more impressive, although, admittedly, it is less expensive to achieve f/2.8 when the longest focal length is capped at 140mm instead of 200mn -- but isn't that what going mirrorless is all about?

Click here to download a high res version of this file.
If you are planning on buying this lens, you can help support this site at no extra cost to you by clicking the link and purchasing from one of our affiliate sellers listed below -- and thanks for your support.
The Fujifilm XF 50-140mm f/2.8 lens can be ordered from:  BH-Photo    


  1. Thanks for posting these and including the high res versions. You've sold me on this lens! I've been shooting with an X100S for about 1.5 yrs, and am in the process of selling most of my Pentax gear to get an X-T1 (graphite silver of course...). I mostly shoot normal to wide angle, but sometimes need a telephoto and this is shaping up to be a phenomenally good lens.

  2. Ditto - great review of a very attractive lens - pity about the missing Arca-Swiss plate….

  3. tracking, tracking, I miss that for football. How good works in real world?

  4. This is an F4 lens in full-frame terminology. Same bokeh and size as an F4 FF lens. Same shots in similar lighting given equivalent sensor sensitivity. I had the Sony 70-200 F4 and sold it because it is white and ostentatious. That is the true comparison of this lens, not the f2.8 FF lenses. If it was an F1.8 lens then it would compare to the f2.8 FF lenses, and it would be the same size.

    1. Well yes and no. The lens has light gathering ability of 2.8 that equals FF 2.8 this does not change. This lens does show DOF ability similar to F4 full frame, and this lens has a maximum compression of 140mm, whereas the fullframe gets a very attractive 200. But then again this lens has by early reports amazing stabilisation and weight/size/weather sealing benefits that perhaps bring it up to equal the FF 70-200. Plenty of variables. However the biggest factor is the person taking the shot, not the lens. Without that person both lens are shite.

    2. Ugh. I hate that this myth keeps on being repeated. Perspective / compression has nothing whatsoever to do with focal length and everything to do with your position in relation to the subject. This is very easy to test yourself. A 135mm lens on APS-C and a 200mm lens on FF will yield identical perspective and compression when taken from the same position. (And essentially identical images if you account for the DOF difference by stopping down the FF shot by a stop.

    3. If you get the shot from both at the same f/2.8 aperture and similar shutter speeds, how is this an f/4.0 equivalent in 135 Format?

    4. This discussion again? Who cares? The point is: the lens is very light, has excellent bokeh and sharpness, seems to be very planar, has excellent light transmission, it is very compact and has internal focusing. It seems to be all we wanted from this type of lens. Wheter it compares well with a Canon with a 70-200/2.8, a compact camera with a 50x zoom, and from a Leica S with a 180 Apo-Elmar is irrelevant, the only question is: does it do the job you want from it?

  5. I wonder about this lens and the X-T1 for photographing sports. Hopefully, it's a good combination, even with cross country and track events.

  6. Great piece Tom. I know I'm late to the comments. I got this lens recently, after switching from Nikon (D800E & Df) to a Fuji X-T2 this past summer. Regarding the lens foot, there is an aftermarket foot made by Hejnar Photo. ( It is custom manufactured and of very high quality, and has an Arca plate built in.

  7. Thanks for letting us know about the custom foot replacement. When I originally wrote this article the lens was too new and there were no replacements. I plan to do a new blog post soon to announce your discovery. Many thanks! - t