Friday, January 15, 2016

FIRST LOOK: FUJIFILM XF100-400 f4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR Fujinon lens review

Today, January 15 2016, I'm in Tokyo, Japan for the official 5th anniversary of the Fujifilm X-series cameras. Yes it has been 5 years since the X-100 was launched and what an exciting 5 years it has been! 




Fujifilm organised this great X-series celebration to announce some new products: the most important ones, the rangefinder like X-Pro2 (review here) and the long awaited super telephoto XF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR lens. 

Below is a "First Look review" of the new Super Telephoto lens which Fujifilm Middle East borrowed me, end of 2015. Lens firmware version was 1.0.

QUALITY - SIZE - WEIGHT
Just like pretty much all XF Fujinon lenses, the new lens is very well built and has a real pro-feel to it. It consists of 21 glass elements divided in 14 groups; that is a lot of glass! The front element is coated with fluorine which makes it rain-repellent.

Below is a size comparison between Fujinon XF50-140 f2.8 lens and the new XF100-400.



At 1375gr, the lens is a few hundred grams lighter than the Canon EF 100-400 and Nikon 80-400 lenses. Combined with the X-T1 the total weight comes in under 2kg. Beside the weight distribution when attached to a body makes it feel very balanced; great when handholding. 

It also shares the same 77mm filter thread and comes with its own lens-foot which unfortunately is not Arca-Swiss compatible. I've been told that Fujifilm is planning on selling a compatible lens-foot plate in the near future.

Just like most other super-zooms, the lens extends on zooming; varying its total length between 210 and 270mm.



LENS HOOD
Also typically for super-zooms, is that the lens hood is big; I mean huge! For those familiar with the Canon 100-400, it looks almost identical; I does have an opening with a small slide to adjust a circular polariser without the need to remove the lens hood. 



Unlike the XF50-140 lens hood, it locks into place very well. Unlocking is done by pressing the small button 90 degrees off from the filter slide. Although large, the plastic lens hood seems to work well.

BUTTONS

The lens has four buttons mounted on the side; your classic OIS ON/OFF, Automatic or Manual Aperture, a focus limit switch (full or 5m to infinity) and finally a Lock button to block the zoom at 100mm when carrying it around. 




AUTOFOCUS
Autofocus all the way across the zoom range, is fast and precise in normal lighting conditions. In very low light, the lens does take its time to focus, but then again, this is not a low light lens. Given the long focal length one should really be on a tripod if shooting in very low light; using manual focus would then be your best option.

The focus motors are extremely quiet; actually they can be called 100% silent!

Minimum focus distance is 1.75m
ISO 1000, 1/160s, f5.6, 400mm (X-T1)

For more details on using it with the 1.4X Teleconverter, see below.

OPTICAL IMAGE STABILISATION (OIS)
Because my X-T1 camera body did not yet have the correct firmware compatible with the XF100-400 lens at the time of testing (DEC 2015), some of the lens functionality, especially the OIS (Optical Image Stabilisation), did not properly function. 

On the new X-Pro2 body which I tested in parallel, it worked however flawlessly. Needless to say it will just be a matter of time before the existing cameras such as the X-T1 will be updated with the same lens firmware. 

The quality of the OIS is top-notch! Probably the best I have seen on any lens, although OIS is very good on the XF50-140 and XF18-135 as well. The claimed 5 stops of image stabilisation are clearly not limited to marketing talk! Shooting handheld at 400mm with shutter speeds down to 1/25s was no problem; this even without using burst mode (CL/CH); a technique often used when shooting long glass to increase the changes of having some sharp images in a series.

When panning is detected, the lens automatically switches the camera shake correction to the vertical plane only. A neat feature!

Tested it both without and with the 1.4X TC and results are similar. Click on the image below for full size view.


Handheld, 400mm, NO 1.4XTC, shutter-speed 1/25s

Handheld, 560mm, WITH 1.4XTC, shutter-speed 1/30s

IMAGE QUALITY
While I tested the lens, I've tried evaluating it in a variety of real-life situations rather than shooting some boring test charts. Overall I'm very impressed with the image quality and sharpness. I did not see any chromatic aberration; something super telephotos are normally sensitive for.

Below are three images, all shot wide open (with the X-Pro2), that will give you an idea of the focal range super telephoto is capable of; shot at respectively 100, 200, 300 and 400mm. Click on the images for full screen view. Even wide open at 400mm, the sharpness across the whole frame is good.


ISO200, 100mm, f4.5, 1/1800s

ISO200, 200mm, f5, 1/2000s

ISO200, 300mm, f5.2, 1/2400s

ISO200, 400mm, f5.6, 1/2200s

Below are images shot at a variety of focal length and apertures. Some of them were shot with the X-T1 which at the time of testing, was not 100% compatible with the new lens (not the correct firmware update for the 100-400). I don't think it affected image quality, but the OIS with the X-T1 did not work. The camera body used, is marked below the images.


ISO 400, 1/2500s, f6.4, 170mm (X-Pro2)

ISO 400, 1/1000s, f6.4, 400mm (X-Pro2)

ISO 400, 1/680s, f7.1, 400mm (X-Pro2)

ISO 1600, 1/1900s, f6.4, 400mm (X-Pro2)

ISO 1600, 1/1600s, f6.4, 400mm (X-Pro2)


ISO 200, 1/320s, f7.1, 218mm (X-T1)
ISO 500, 1/250s, f7.1, 243mm (X-T1)

ISO 320, 1/160s, f4.5, 100mm, (X-T1)

The Bokeh, quality of the out of focus areas, is nice and soft. Being not a very fast lens when it comes to maximum aperture, one could think it would be hard to throw the background out of focus. However because of the long focal length  the effect is very much present, even at f 5.6!


ISO 3200, 1/170s, f5.6, 400mm (X-T1)

USE WITH 1.4X TELECONVERTER
End of October, Fujifilm announced the 1.4X Teleconverter. For my full review, click here. When the 1.4X TC came out, the only compatible lens initially was the XF50-140. As the new XF100-400 can be used with the TC as well, it was one of my priorities to test the combination for this first look review. 




I'm very happy with the overall experience of using the teleconverter on this lens; autofocus to me is almost as fast as shooting without the TC; if there is a difference it might be in very low light, but under normal conditions, the difference is not really noticeable.

Especially at maximum focal length sharpness is somewhat degraded when shooting wide-open with the TC as can be seen on this comparison shot at 100% below; with TC on the left. When looking at the individual images not zoomed in, the difference is hardly noticeable. When stepping down one stop, the sharpness is almost as shooting without the TC.

Once again, this is as expected when using a Teleconverter and I would not hesitate to use it whenever I need the extra range. Remember you will be shooting at 560mm (840mm full frame equivalent!!!!) if using the TC at maximum focal length!



The image below of an "almost full moon" was the first one I took with the XF100-400 and TC; it is almost like looking through a telescope!


ISO 1250, 1/250s, f8,  560mm (X-T1)

UPDATE AUG 2016: SAMPLE IMAGES WITH THE NEW X-T2 and 100-400 lens:
Planes of Fame airshow 2016, Chino, CA
ISO 200, 1/75s, f10,  128mm (X-T2)


Planes of Fame airshow 2016, Chino, CA
ISO 200, 1/140s, f9,  360mm (X-T2)


Planes of Fame airshow 2016, Chino, CA
ISO 200, 1/170s, f13,  347mm (X-T2)


ISO 1000, 1/250s, f7.1,  400mm (X-T2)


ISO 200, 1/280s, f7.1,  347mm (X-T2)


ISO 400, 1/750s, f11,  347mm (X-T2)


WHO IS THIS LENS FOR?
I believe the main market for this lens will be nature and wildlife photographers. It will also be great for those people shooting "Airshow" and other Aviation photography; such as myself. I sometimes find the 50-140 (with TC) or 55-200 slightly short on the focal length  Bringing an XF100-400 (with a 1.4X TC in case more is needed) and an XF18-135, will be pretty much all I need.

I'm very keen to test the lens during an actual airshow probably somewhere in May. Stay tuned!

CONCLUSIONS
Once again, it is very hard to find negatives for this lens... My main rant is the fact that the lens-foot is not Arca-Swiss compatible from the start. I'm confident to say that pretty much nobody, will use the lens-foot as it comes with the lens. 

Otherwise, I'm really impressed with the OIS and the overall image quality. Would I have loved to see it a bit smaller or lighter? Of course, but physics rule and I'm pretty confident this was the smallest and lightest, Fujifilm could pretty much make this high quality super telephoto! 

Because of the long focal length, I'm sure we will see a lot of comments like: " this lens is not sharp, look at my images".... Needless to say, that a good handholding technique is essential to get good results at 600mm effective focal length!

Lastly, will I be buying the new XF100-400? More than likely yes, is the short answer! I realise that a relative heavy lens like this one, is against one of my primary reasons for switching from Nikon to Fujifilm, but for my future Airshow Photography, this might be the way forward! After all it is still 200g lighter than the Nikkor 70-200 I use to carry around!


ISO800, f8, 1/3800s, 360mm (X-Pro2)

Feel free to share this review on forums, social media, etc... No specific permission is needed as long as credit is given to Bjorn Moerman Photography.


BJORN





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