Review: The Fuji Pro Zooms (The 16-55mm and the 50-140mm)

DSCF1553-Edit(X-T10 with the f/2.8 50-140mm lens, shot at f/4, 1/2,000th, ISO 250)

At the beginning of the summer Fuji Canada was kind enough to lend me two lenses:  The Fujinon 16-55mm f/2.8, and the Fujinon 50-140mm f/2.8.

I was very interested in these two lenses for several reasons:

  1. I am primarily a portrait / street / landscape & cityscape photographer, who uses prime lenses for 90% of his shooting.
  2. I switched to Fuji very early in the X series, and have three of the first generation Fujinon zoom lenses (the 10-24mm, the 18-55mm, and the 55-200mm).  These lenses are all optically brilliant (I especially love the 10-24mm), but under certain circumstances are occasionally a little slow to focus.
  3. I started shooting weddings and events this summer, and wondered about the ability to put together a “do everything” event bag that is easily carried and offers no compromises in terms of autofocusing and image quality.

Over the summer I used these lenses on several professional shoots (a wedding, a live band gig, a musician’s portrait shoot, and a cosplay shoot), and also at a day out at a local bird sanctuary with my daughter.

The long and short of this review is that you absolutely can build a no compromise professional bag based around these lenses.  One that is small, portable, and offers outstanding image quality.

Here is the kit I put together:

DSCF4073

In that photo you can see the:

  • Fuji X-T1
  • Fuji X-T10
  • Fujinon 16-55mm lens
  • Fujinon 50-140mm lens
  • Fuj MCEX-16 Macro Extension Tube
  • Nissin i40 Flash
  • Extra batteries and Cards

And here is that kit packed into my well worn Think Tank Photo Retrospective 5 messenger bag:

DSCF4076-Edit

 Selling Point – The Price!

Before we look at some specs and images I think it is important to look at the cost of that bag.  Here are the prices from Amazon.com as of September 27th, 2015:

  • Fuji X-T1 – body only:  $1,199.00
  • Fuji X-T10 – body only:  $699.00
  • Fujinon 16-55mm lens:  $1,199.00
  • Fujinon 50-140mm lens:  $1,598.95
  • Fuji MCEX-16 Macro Extension Tube:  $99
  • Nissin i40 flash:  $269.00
  • Batteries and cards:  approximately $200
  • Think Tank Photo Retrospective 5 bag:  $144.75
  • TOTAL –>  $5,408.70 (pre-tax and shipping)

Cheap?  Well, price is relative of course:

If you were just getting started today that is a professional 2 body kit (with both bodies sharing the same sensor), that has a constant f/2.8 from 16-140mm (an equivalent focal length of 24-210mm), has a macro option, has extra light and accessories, all for  USD $5,408.70 pre-tax.

Price that out against a similarly spec’d DSLR kit and you will see that it  is a VERY cost effective kit.

 SPECificationS:

These are already well documented, so I’ll just link to Fuji Canada’s website for those of you who are into the numbers:

FUJINON LENS XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR

FUJINON LENS XF50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR

IMAGE QUALITY AND USABILITY:

Numbers are one thing, but let’s get to the good stuff.  What do images from these lenses look like?

My first opportunity to use them came at a concert I photographed for a well known band here in Vancouver:

DSCF1222(X-T10 with the f/2.8 50-140mm lens, shot at f/2.8, 1/250th, ISO 1250)

DSCF1324(X-T10 with the f/2.8 50-140mm lens, shot at f/2.8, 1/250th, ISO 250)

Those are just fine for my tastes.  I love the depth of field, they are tack sharp, and the colour rendition is spot on.

My next opportunity to use these lenses came on my trip to the local bird sanctuary with my daughter.  See that photograph at the top of the post?  It is one frame out of a series I shot in continuous high mode:

AF4

Every frame in the sequence was tack sharp.  The autofocus on the 50-140mm is fast. Very fast.

But, what about the 16-55mm?  From my experiences it is just as sharp, and just as beautiful.  Here are three frames from a portrait session with a local musician:

ClintPic6(X-T10 with the f/2.8 16-55mm lens, shot at f/5.6, 1/125th, ISO 200)

DSCF1956-Edit-Edit(X-T10 with the f/2.8 16-55mm lens, shot at f/5, 1/125th, ISO 200)

ClintPic1(X-T10 with the f/2.8 16-55mm lens, shot at f/16, 1/180th, ISO 200)

And, here is a frame from a cosplay shoot:

DSCF1680(X-T10 with the f/2.8 16-55mm lens, shot at f/22, 1/180th, ISO 200)

That image is shot at f/22 to underexpose the bright summer sky, and the subject is lit with off camera flash to camera left.  I am shooting directly into the sun and there is no loss of contrast.  Awesome.

Finally, here are a few from a wedding I shot in August so you can see these lenses used for event or wedding photography:

DSCF4434(X-T10 with the f/2.8 16-55mm lens, shot at f/2.8, 1/250th, ISO 2500)

DSCF4462(X-T10 with the f/2.8 16-55mm lens, shot at f/2.8, 1/600th, ISO 200)

DSCF4651(X-T10 with the f/2.8 16-55mm lens, shot at f/5.6, 1/60th, ISO 250)

Are there any downsides?

It is funny to think about how life has changed for many photographers since mirrorless technology has come into the mainstream.  We are spoiled now with tiny cameras and lenses that deliver the image quality we were used to from our SLR / DSLR days.

When these new lenses came out from Fuji there were people who complained that they were too large.  Are they bigger than a 35mm f/1.4 prime lens?  Sure, of course they are…. the laws of optics still come into play when you are trying to have  f/2.8 throughout the focal length.  Having said that, you only need to put them side by side with comparably spec’d DSLR f/2.8 zoom lenses to realize they are much smaller and lighter.

Each individual mirrorless shooter will need to decide what gear they want to pack.  Readers of this site will know that I am all about bringing the minimum gear you need to get the job done.  If your needs include having constant wide apertures throughout the focal length, fast autofocusing, and weather sealing these lenses are purpose built for you.

The only other thing I noticed during the first dance at the wedding was that the 16-55mm struggled once or twice to lock focus in the dark reception hall.  I can’t say this is unique to this lens, however, as this was a common occurrence with my DSLR gear too.

 SUMMARY:

I have written extensively about the gear I use in other parts of this website.  The reality is that I am already well set (X100t for street and day to day, 10-24mm for landscapes and cityscapes, 35mm and 56mm for portraiture, and the 55-200mm for those rare trips out where I need something long), but as I move more into the world of event and wedding photography I have to say that these two professional level zooms are very attractive.

They both have outstanding build quality, fast autofocus, offer a constant f/2.8 zoom throughout the range (which is fabulous for low light), and are cost effective compared to their DSLR counterparts.

There was a day not so long ago when people could rightfully say “I’d switch to mirrorless, but lens “X” is not available”, or “I shoot sports and the autofocus isn’t good enough”.  In just a few short years I have seen companies like Fuji fill these gaps with new technologies, and even new firmware updates for older existing products.  The reality is there are many professional shooters using nothing but mirrorless gear now, and the Fujinon 16-55mm and the Fujinon 50-140mm provide yet another option for mirrorless shooters working in the professional photography world.

That is an awesome thing.

Cheers,

Ian

8 thoughts on “Review: The Fuji Pro Zooms (The 16-55mm and the 50-140mm)

  1. artsinfotos Photography {wedding Storyteller} says:

    I switched to Fujiflm 100% for weddings at the beginning of 2015…and I love it!!!!!
    I use a X-T1 with a XF 35mm abd XF 56mm, and a X-E1 with a XF 27mm on it most of the time!!!

    However, I am also eyeing the new 90mm for the “long reach” ( I sold my 55-200 as I do prefer Primes ( it is a personal taste and not open to discussion….LOL ) and the X-T10 as well ( which I will get this coming week, actually )

    I do not miss my Canon 5D series…and my back feels better after a 12 hours wedding day!! 🙂

    And for the people who say that “full frame” is better than “crop”, I always show them a few printed photos, and NOBODY was able to tell me what was what!!! ( I really love that 56mm F/1.2 lens!!!!!! )

    • Ian says:

      The 90mm is breathtaking, I have a review copy of it right now. The colour rendition and bokeh are beautiful. I used it on a wedding a few weeks ago and it was perfect for the ceremony.

      The X-T10 is an excellent backup. Hell, barring very specific uses it would be fine for a main body too.

  2. Brent Ross says:

    Hello Ian! I’m a fellow Vancouver-based Fuji shooter (X-T1). Forgive me if this comment is a duplicate…I can’t remember if I’ve already left it on another blog post. I have a dilemma I’d love your in put on….

    I notice that you’ve shot with both the 90mm and the 50-140mm. I’m focused on shooting portraits – mostly on location, a mix of environmental, natural light, flash, indoors and out (I don’t have a studio yet) – and I’m getting ready to add some lenses to my bag. I currently own the 35 F1.4 and the 60 F2.4. I also have the 10-24 & 18-135. I have been seriously considering the 23, the 56 as well as the 50-140 because of it’s OIS benefits in this somewhat ‘low-light city’ of ours, not to mention flexibility with composition on location and the fact that I’m not the steadiest shooter and would rather not to be on a monopod all the time when I want to go longer. BUT, I’m slightly troubled by the fact that a lot of people say that the 50-140 and the 90mm render VERY differently when it comes to bokeh and other factors. Olaf Sztaba suggests the 90 may be the best lens Fuji has made yet. The image samples I’ve seen suggest that the 50-140 starts to come apart a little bit on bokeh shooting really long (140) at wide apertures against busy backgrounds (like foliage). But I haven’t seen enough shots out of the lens to really know how consistently it performs at 90mm across shooting situations where the bokeh would matter. I plan to rent one soon to test but I can’t find a 90 anywhere to rent for comparison.

    My questions for you are – do you see a significant difference in the bokeh or other rendering on these two lenses at 90mm and F2.8? Do you find yourself needing a tripod or monopod often to shoot the 90 if you’re coming down to 1/180? When do you reach for the 50-140 over the 56 or the 90?

    Ok, I realize this is a jam packed comment. Any guidance you can provide would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

    • Ian says:

      Hey Brent!

      Olaf is a good friend, and I agree with the fact that the 90mm is one of their best lenses. He and I have spoken about this before for sure. I have a ton of 90mm photos for a review that I never seem to get enough time to write, and I really love that lens. The other kicker in its favour is that it is significantly lighter and smaller than the 50-140, which counts for a lot with me. The only thing I have to remind myself is to keep my shutter speed higher… I prefer 1/200th at a minimum with that lens, but have used it at 1/125th with no difficulties. I don’t use it on a tripod or monopod.

      In regard to the 50-140, I was happy with the background but I didn’t A/B them side by side…. I pretty much take each lens at face value. The 50-140 is big (though not DSLR pro zoom big), it has AMAZING OIS, and the sharpness and image quality was beautiful in my opinion. it is a VERY versatile lens.

      And finally, in regard to what do I reach for… I don’t own the 50-140mm. I loved it, but I am a prime shooter at heart. My go to for portraiture is the 35, 56, and 90 right now… and occasionally the 16 if I want something wide.

      Hope that helps!

      Cheers,

      Ian

  3. Brent Ross says:

    Ian, thanks for your thoughts on this. Very much appreciated! I actually did find rental copies of both under this special program Fuji is running right now through Leo’s, so I’m doing some side-by-side testing this weekend. It’s good to know about the shutter speed floor on the the 90….Will probably just need to weight utility and quality. Who knows, I may pick up both.

    I look forward to seeing those images in a review sometime!

    Brent

  4. ubercurious says:

    Indeed it is! 🙂 And a very good problem to have at that.

    If I get some good comparisons b/t the 50-140 and the 90, I’ll find a way to share ’em if I find anything interesting.

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