I recently made the full switch to the Fujifilm X system for both commissioned and personal work. Previously, I had two separate systems for work and play, which while effective, went against my personal preference of keeping my gear simple and minimal. As someone who prefers zoom lenses for commissioned work, it was necessary for me to have a telephoto zoom like my previous Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L. In the Fuji system, that lens is the XF 50-140mm f/2.8 LM OIS WR. I had a few apprehensions before making the final jump, most notably the initial reports of less-than-stellar autofocus performance as well as busy, unpleasant bokeh at some focal lengths. Having used the lens for a few months now, I can report my findings and share my experiences here.
Overall, the lens is excellent and more than capable for professional applications. I have actually enjoyed using the lens more than the Canon counterpart and have been very happy with the images made with this lens.
- Relatively light and compact – this lens is considerable smaller and lighter than it’s full-frame equivalents. It is quite large compared to the Fuji X primes, but that’s like comparing apples and oranges. This lens packs all the performance of the workhorse zooms in a package that you can carry all day long.
- Sharpness – as most Fuji X lenses, this lens is tack sharp even wide open, which is how I shoot it 95% of the time. The detail and micro contrast you get with this lens rivals that of prime lenses.
- OIS – the optical image stabilization in this lens is top-notch. I’ve been able to get steady images down to 1/10 second shutter speed handheld, which is pretty insane.
- Fast aperture – the 2.8 aperture on this lens is fast enough for most situations, even low light. You don’t get the same shallow DOF as a full frame 70-200 at the same settings but I think the tradeoffs are worth it overall.
- Fast, silent autofocus – gone are the days when Fuji’s main weakness was autofocus. This can keep up with SLR telephoto zooms, especially with firmware updates and newer bodies. I’m not a sports shooter, so I can’t speak to extreme tracking capability, but I’ve used the continuous and face tracking for events and and it performs well.
- Weather resistance – I haven’t had the chance yet, but knowing that this lens can handle cold and rain makes me even more confident to shoot and get the job done, whatever the weather conditions. Definitely pair it with a WR body for maximum robustness.
- Build quality – this lens is built like a tank, as telephoto workhorses should be.
- Price – this lens is relatively inexpensive compared to OEM Nikon and Canon counterparts.
- Bokeh at certain focal lengths and background types – it’s true. The bokeh from this lens can get busy and “nervous” depending on the focal length and type of background you have. I’ve noticed that foliage, tree branches, and other sharp edges can get a little unpleasant around the middle of the focal range. But most of the time, it’s not a problem at all. It’s certainly much, much less of a problem than I had initially feared it to be. The bokeh from this lens is actually quite nice at the long end and it looks stunning in portraits.
- OIS noise – this actually bugged me a little bit more than the bokeh. The OIS mechanism in the lens produces a very faint sort of whirring sound. Its a bit like the sound of a spinning hard drive, but much softer. You can actually only hear it in a very quiet room and it’s probably a non-issue in 99% of shooting situations. It’s just a little off-putting at first.
- Clunking noise – another minor thing that bugs me a bit about this lens is the soft clunk it makes when it’s turned off. Apparently it’s in the nature of the linear motor when it’s shut down. If you move or tilt the lens when it’s off, you can hear it. Again, no big deal for me.
As you can see, there’s not much to dislike about this lens. It has become one of my workhorse lenses and I really enjoy using it. The quality and versatility it offers is certainly worth the price tag and for professionals, it will quickly pay for itself in the performance it offers.
As I recommended in my other workhorse review for the Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8, I also recommend using a B+W 72mm XS-Pro Clear with Multi-Resistant Nano Coating (007M) to protect the front of this lens. That extra layer of protection makes it even more robust and ready to tackle any situation. The B+W produces little to no flare and aberrations. I actually leave the lens cap at home and leave the front element protection to the B+W filters.
Another question I get sometimes is if the 50-140mm f/2.8 is good for traveling. My answer is it depends. If you are on a mission-critical assignment, then definitely. The versatility of this lens is a great asset. On more casual trips where a bit of weight savings would be advantageous, such as a tough hike or if you want to bring other gear such as a drone, then it might be best to leave the 50-140 at home and bring a long prime instead. Personally when I travel and shoot for myself, I sometimes leave the 50-140mm at home and bring the classic SMC Takumar 135mm f/3.5 plus adapter. The sharpness of the 135mm can’t compare to the Fuji, but I’ve found that it’s sharp and contrasty enough when it’s stopped down. This is great for telephoto landscape shots, which is mainly what I would need a long lens for anyway. At 343 grams vs the 1,093 grams of the Fuji, weight savings allows me to travel much more lightly, making it easier to carry my drone, water bottle, and other necessities. On this note, I would love to see Fuji make a 135mm (200mm equivalent) prime .
Overall, I got this lens to be my workhorse for paid shoots and it has certainly fulfilled the role. I’m getting equal or better performance than my previous SLR tele-zoom in a significantly lighter package, which certainly leaves me happier after a long shooting day. It has that Fuji performance and build quality that inspires confidence that you’ll get the shot in any situation. Clients love the images that are produced by this lens as well. I highly recommend it for those who like to work with telephoto zoom lenses. I’ll close this post with some sample photos from this excellent lens.
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