When Fujifilm Australia offered me a loan XF56mmF1.2 lens, I jumped at the opportunity to have another try of this much acclaimed piece of kit. I say another try as I have owned this lens in the past. Actually I have own almost all of the Fujifilm XF primes and most of the zooms at some point. But as many of you will know, I have recently trimmed my kit way down. To focus more on the art and skill of the shot, rather than rummaging in my bag looking for the perfect lens. I shoot with what I have and personally, I think it has made me a better photographer.
The other lens in today’s review is the Fujifilm XF50mmF2. This is a fairly recent addition to the Fujifilm XF lens line-up. The XF50mmF2 is a small ‘Fujicron’ prime in comparison to many of the older Fujifilm lenses. The “Fujicrons” are the current set of smaller, and weather-sealed prime lenses in the Fujifilm XF16mmF2.8, XF23mmF2, XF35mmF2 and the XF50mmF2. They are much smaller and lighter than the older, faster primes of the equivalent focal distance. I already own the XF50mmF2 so I thought it would be a good opportunity to compare this with the XF56mmF1.2. Similar focal distances – vastly different builds. As for image quality, we will have a look at too.
Before we look at the practicalities of the two lenses, let’s take a look at their numbers. The Fujifilm XF56mmF1.2 is obviously a faster prime with its 1.2 maximum aperture. It has the dimensions 73.2mm x 69.7mm and a filter size of 62mm. It is a hefty lens and a decent handful weighing in at 405g. Fujifilm also released an APD version of this exact lens with all the same specifications just with a built in APD filter. The Fujifilm XF50mmF2 is a maximum aperture of 2. Its external dimensions are 60.0mm x 59.4mm and has a filter thread of 46mm. It is a much lighter 200g in weight. And then there is the cost. The XF50mmF2 is around half the cost of the standard XF56mmF1.2 and almost a third of the cost of the APD version of the XF56mmF1.2.
So if budget is your big concern, then at least you have three levels to look at. But budget or cost does not always reflect in the quality of product you are buying. I have said it before, Fujifilm have never put out a bad lens. Granted they have made some odd choices, like a second XF56F1.2 APD version, but never a bad lens. And even though some of the older lenses are a little slower or noisy, they ARE older lenses. But the image quality you get is always exceptional. But, how do the Fujifilm XF50mmF2 and the XF56mF1.2 compare when it comes to build quality, usability and image quality.
The build quality of both the XF50mmF2 and the XF56mmF1.2 are exceptional. The XF50mmF2 is obviously smaller and lighter but it is robust and has weather sealing which the other does not. It is small and very compact. Being a prime guy, I have shot events with the Fujifilm XF23mmF2 on my camera and the XF50mmF2 in my back pocket. Easy to swap and light to carry. The XF56mmF1.2 is obviously a bigger package but has a nice solid heft to it. Solid build quality as always but not pocketable. Pocketability is not formal key criteria, although it should be, but it works for me.
I have said it before and I will say it again, the Auto Focus (AF) speed of the Fujifilm ‘Fujicrons’ is exceptional. I believe that the Fujifilm XF23mmF2 has the fastest autofocus of all their lenses. I use it for street and it zaps and grabs an image in lightning quick time. Being such a small lens, with smaller glass elements, means that the internal motors can move faster with less weight to push. This is also great for battery life. Well, the Fujifilm XF50mmF2 is much the same. Super fast and great for the applications such as street or trying to capture children in a shot. The usability of the Fujifilm XF56mmF1.2 is a little different. It is bigger and the elements are heavier and so it is understandably not as fast on the AF. In some cases it hunts for AF especially in lower light. And for me, that hunting factor was a turn off. Granted I shoot a lot of street. If you were a portrait photographer, then you have to compose the image, gain the focus and take the shot. It is not terrible, just not super fast.
As for image quality, it has been widely reported that the quality of images from the Fujifilm XF56mmF1.2 is exceptional. That it is one of their finest lenses for image quality. No doubt. And many people will pick up this lens exclusively for portrait work. And to be honest I have to agree. The image quality from this lens is nothing short of phenomenal. Wide open it creates beautiful bokeh with sharp subjects in the centre. At low light, the 1.2 aperture allows for greater performance – but at a cost of paper thin focal plane. The Fujifilm XF50mmF2 will not disappoint though. I have found this lens to produce sharp and crisp edge to edge images. Granted the F2 aperture does not give you that same creamy pokey but it still produces delightful images. As for low light, I don’t like a focal plane that is so thin it is almost unusable. So the F2 aperture is enough for me and I use this lens for portrait style work.
There are a number of factors in choosing a lens at this aperture range. Fortunately Fujifilm have made that choice so much easier with a range of options based on cost, features and quality of output. I think it would be fair to say that the image quality from either of the Fujifilm XF56mmF1.2 lenses is exceptional and probably unbeatable. But that comes at a higher cost. The Fujifilm XF50mmF2 is one of my favourite lenses. It is smaller, lighter, cheaper, weather resistant and comes at a price at least half the next option for this focal length. For me, having a smaller lens to shoot with on my Fujifilm X-T3 also makes me more discreet in my approach. People are not faced with a giant piece of glass to stare down the barrel of. But that is just me. For the enthusiast or pro portrait shoot, then go with either of the XF56mmF1.2 lenses. Just don’t discredit the XF50mmF2.
I would like to thank Fujifilm Australia for the loan Fujifilm XF56mmF1.2. Fujifilm do not sponsor my work other than the loan gear they are able to provide me from time to time. All images were shot with the Fujifilm X-T3 or the Fujifilm X-T2.