Twenty minutes with the Fuji XF 50-200mm

So today I said goodbye to my five year old Micro Four Thirds gear. I part exchanged it for a Fujifilm XF 50-200mm, which I have to say (admittedly after only 20 minutes of playing with it) is one smart cookie.

The people over at dpreview have done one of their usual detailed reviews. Also Matthew Maddock (photomadd.com) has a particularly good hands on review which echo’s many of my own initial thoughts. If you are thinking about getting this lens I suggest you check these out, they both had a bearing on my purchase of this lens.

So here are my first impressions:

1. It is larger and heavier than you think.  Having handled Fujifilm’s other long telephoto zoom, the XC 55-230mm, I wasn’t quite expecting such a beef cake of a lens.  Weighing at 580g (20.5 oz), 205 grams (7.23 oz) more than the XC you really know you are carrying it.  It does unbalance the XE2 some what in a way the XC doesn’t, but would probably be fine on the XT1 or with one of the accessory grips you can get for the other X “rangefinder style” cameras.

2. It is very well built, there is no wobble between the barrel parts with the lens fully extended, and with all that weight it feels very sturdy.  Although it needs to be supported by your left hand, it does feel very nice.  You can find your way between the three control rings (focus, zoom and aperture) without having to take your eye away from the camera.  The focus and aperture rings move like butter, and whilst the zoom ring on my copy is a little stiff, this will probably loosen up over time.  Hopefully without causing too much lens creep.

These two points just go to show, that whilst going mirrorless can make your APS-C and full frame camera smaller, not all the lenses which service these sensors can be made into itty-bitty pancakes and so you might still be toting around some fairly large pieces of glass.

3. You can really tell the difference between an XC and an XF lens, it isn’t just the weight.  The autofocus on the XC is so slow, even if you are able to use phase detection autofocus like on an X-T1 / XE2 body, your subject could go and make a cup of tea before it locks on (they could have a three course meal if you are trying to focus with an X-Pro1 / XE1).  Not so with the XF model, I had no problem locking onto and photographing these birds in Camley Street Natural Park.

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4. Whilst I love my Fuji prime lenses, it is great to finally have a capable zoom back.  I really enjoyed walking around the nature park for 20 minutes, whilst waiting for my train, snapping the wildlife.  I love that even at the long end you can have a fairly wide aperture and so can use fast shutter speeds and the bokeh produced is pretty.

5. I have been shooting with some legacy telephoto lenses lately and I have really noticed the lack of image stabilisation.  It is great to have it back now on this lens, and it worked really well, I didn’t miss one shot through camera shake and I had a large coffee that day too!

I’ll be using this lens on Saturday whilst covering Strawberry Fair for Cambridge 105, so will follow-up if I notice anything else.

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