Fujifilm XF 56mm f/1.2 R - Lens Review
So how about it? A review of a lens announced almost four years ago!
Fujifilm's excellent "Try Before You Buy" program allowed me to take the XF 56mm f/1.2 R for a spin over three days. Thanks to Jack at Leo's Camera in Vancouver for helping me out.
My current line up consists of four Fujifilm primes. The XF 14mm f/2.8 R, XF 23mm f/1.4 R, XF 35mm f/1.4 R and XF 90mm f/2 R WR. From time to time the gap between 35mm and 90mm has felt significant and the 56mm 1.2 R has crossed my mind several times. For my Canon setup I covered this angle of view with an EF 85mm 1.2L II. An excellent lens, which was a workhorse for years. I did not expect the XF 56mm 1.2 to keep up with the Canon 85L. Keep in mind the different sensor sizes and huge weight difference. The 85mm comes in at 1025g and the 56mm at 405g. I sold all Canon gear about two years ago when I went travelling. See 5050 Travelog for more. So far we have travelled to 25 countries in 18 months.
First impressions were good. The 56mm feels solid in the hand and has near perfect balance on the X-Pro2. It looks amazing, which of course will make photos, taken with the lens, equally amazing :) AF in okay but not impressive. At times it has a tough time locking and hunts a bit depending on the scene. I did not attempt any tracking in my shooting. I did new headshots for my son, Mik Byskov, who is an actor. I was pleased with the lens. I used to always shoot portrait sessions with an 85/135mm combo so I felt right at home. AF was fine for this session and the vast majority of shots were in focus. Be careful at f/1.2. The depth of field is razor thin. Any movement and the eyes are out of focus.
It is always refreshing trying a new focal length. In my case it has been almost two years since I sold my 85mm FF. The world looks just a little bit different at 56mm APS-C as I have been using a combination of 35mm and 90mm to cover my standard to short telephoto needs. On a quick walk around central Vancouver, the tele effect was immediately noticeable compared to the 23 or 35mm I would usually shoot for street photography. You can pull your topic in just that little bit more and perhaps do so unnoticed. I am not really a big fan of telephoto street photography. I would say 56mm would be where I would draw the line. It is easy to pick out people or life situations with a longer lens but I find it quickly becomes hard to relate somehow. It is as if you have removed yourself from what you are shooting.
Here is a variety of photos captured over three days and I will wrap things up with a conclusion below.
Files look rich, pleasing, plenty sharp and bokeh is creamy. I will not do by side comparison with my old 85L as both lenses are really good. The 85L has accurate AF but it is slow to acquire it. The 56mm seems faster but hunts a bit on my X-Pro2. The 85L has the benefit of projecting to a full frame sensor and I think results, for the lack of a better word, look at bit more lifelike. You could argue the same and take yet another step into medium format and go with a Fujifilm GFX-50s combined with an GF 100mm f/2 R WR for even more lifelike results.
Three days are not enough to get a full feel for a lens but I would say I have a pretty good idea now. It is an excellent lens and in the APS-C world I would be happy to use this. Fuji lenses are on sale the next couple of months so I have some time to decide if this should be in my bag. Truth is, I really enjoy using my XF 90mm f/2 R WR for my tele photo needs. It has fast and silent AF, weather sealing and I use it for a variety of things from portraits to landscapes and sports, which makes it hard to justify the 56mm. Remember that is my personal situation. For anyone looking for a Fuji portrait solution I would definitely recommend the 56mm. I tried a friend's XF 50mm f/2 in Hong Kong. I was impressed with the results but only shot a few frames. Advantages of this lens would be lighter weight for travel, better AF and weather sealing. I think I will test drive the 50 f/2 before I decide if and what I should get for this focal length range.
UPDATE: I have now also had a chance to try out the XF 50mm f/2. Please follow the link to: Fujifilm XF 50mm f/2 R WR - Lens Test