This is part two of my thoughts on two lenses that Fujifilm Malaysia lent me this past week. In the last review I looked at the XF10-24mm f/4 R OIS. Today I am giving you my thoughts on the FX56 mm F/1.2 R.
This lens has gotten a lot of attention over the past few weeks since its release and with good reason. It’s bee highly anticipated. Fujifilm was lacking a fast lens that could be used as a portrait lens. Being a 56 mm on a cropped sensor it gives an 85 mm focal length equivalent and at f/1.2 it is smoking fast. For those newbie photographers, a “fast” lens doesn’t mean how fast it focuses. It means it allows a lot of light in so the shutter speed can be faster in a lower light situation. With a wide open f-stop of f/1.2 this is really fast! As I have said in the past, when I was shooting Canon I always shot with two bodies over my shoulders: one camera with the 16-35 mm and the other with the Canon 85 mm f/1.2. I loved this lens. But it had its issues, it was slow to find the focus. It liked to hunt. But the dreamy bokeh it gave at f/1.2 made it almost ok… almost. The Fujinon XF56mm f/1.2 R is the X-System equivalent. But can it compare?
Let’s first look at the construction of this lens. It is not nearly as heavy as the Canon and with good reason: it isn’t as big and so it has less glass. The Canon weighs in at a whopping 36.16 oz (1025 g); the XF56mm weighs 14.29 oz (405 g) that is well under half the weight. But again it is half its size as well. The FX56 mm F/1.2 R is also, like every XF lens, a metal construction and thus has a very solid feel. Even though this is a prime lens this lens doesn’t sport the manual push/pull focus chuck, why I am not sure. Maybe they figure if you are shooting at f/1.2 it will be next to impossible to focus manually? Like I said, I don’t know. It sports has a ø62mm filter thread.
So how does this gem function in the field? Its focus is a lot faster than the Canon 85 mm. I only had it hunt for focus in the lower lit areas and very low contrast, but it did hunt. There were more than a few times I got frustrated with it. Still, it was nothing like the Canon. I am not sure if it was my imagination, but it seemed to focus faster and more accurate on the X-T1 than on the X-E2. But the reality is I didn’t have it long enough to be a solid comparison between the two cameras. The color seems to be right on and so is the contrast.
There has been some reviews saying that this lens gets slightly soft around the edges when shot wide open. Maybe, but who really cares? Let’s face it, if you buy a f/1.2 lens then most of the time you are going to be shooting it at f/ 1.2 or f/1.4, right? That is why you bought it. With a lens like this, wide open at f/1.2 means that most everything will be soft except for the actual focus point. Frankly, I don’t see this as an issue. I find that the lens is tack sharp at the focus point. You can see in all of these images how sharp this lens is. I have no complaint there.
So what you really want to know is how is the bokeh, right? It is nice. Truthfully speaking, it is not as nice as the Canon. But this could have a lot to do with the fact that it is being used on a cropped sensor and not a full frame. But it is nice, really nice. It delivers a dreamy bokeh that you can only reach with a f/1.2 lens. When shooting at f/1.2 your subject really pops from the background. See the first two images on this page and the following image and you will see what I mean.
Several of the images in this post were shot in very dark temples. But with the aperture of f/1.2 I was able to keep my ISO to around 400 most of the time, so I didn’t have to worry about higher ISOs. This lens is so fast you might say it out performs the cameras it was made for. Why? Well, to this date there is not an X-Series camera that has a shutter speed over 1/4000 of a second. That is the same top shutter speed of my daughter’s old (really old) Rebel X-Ti. You would think a camera like the X-T1 touted as a “pro-sumer” camera would have a top shutter speed of 1/8000 or more. Why is this important and what does it have to do with the FX56 mm F/1.2 R? As I stated early on, the wide open aperture lets loads of light in making it a “fast” lens. The problem is if you shoot this lens in the middle of the day there is a very good chance that any Fujifilm X-Series camera will have a hard time allowing you to shoot wide open at f/1.2. This is what I mean when I say, this lens outperforms the cameras it was made for. This is not a problem with the lens, this is an issue with the X-Series cameras: they need faster shutter speeds. For the time being, you can mitigate the problem by using a (variable) ND-filter, like the one Piet Van den Eynde & I talked about in our recent podcast. There are many different brands available, I use the one Phottix.
So in conclusion, this lens does not fall short. It is everything that X-Photographers had hoped for and more. It is fast, sharp and gives your photos the bokeh you come to expect from an f/1.2 lens. If there is any problem with this lens it is the lack of a fast shutter speed on any camera it was intended for. My rating on this lens is 5 out of 5 stars. Fujifilm hit this one right out of the ballpark!