The holidays are over, as sad as it may be. And that means it is time to get back to work! We start with some great news. Fujifilm has just announced (or, rather, confirmed, since we knew this lens was coming) the very hot Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 R lens for its popular and desirable X-series compact camera system. For those who wonder, this is a proper, 85mm full-frame equivalent (84mm if you’re being pedantic) portrait lens with correspondingly fast aperture of f/1.2.
1) Overview and Specifications
It is not difficult to understand why such a lens is so important for any camera system, and especially for that which is based around APS-C sized sensors. 85mm f/1.4-1.8 class lenses are considered to be among the best, most versatile prime portrait optics. Not only do they sport a very useful focal length, generally thought to be not too long or too wide for close-up portraits, but the fast aperture also ensures plenty of creative opportunities to take advantage of. Of course, one could always use a 50mm f/1.4 class lens on a crop sensor camera for similar behavior and that is indeed something I have done in the past myself. And yet there was a problem. A 50mm lens acts much like a 75mm lens would on a full-frame camera, which sounds close enough to 85mm. In practice, I found 75mm equivalent to be a little too wide for close-up portraits, which would get distorted. That is why the new Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 R lens will be so appreciated by professional photographers looking for a proper portrait lens. In terms of angle of view, it acts very similarly to how an 85mm lens would when mounted on a DSLR with a 35mm sensor. The maximum aperture of f/1.2 should prove useful in low-light situations, but what is more interesting is that the shallow depth of field capabilities of this lens are similar to an 85mm f/1.8 lens on a full-frame camera. This is the first lens with such parameters for APS-C sensor cameras – Fuji has done something much more experienced digital camera manufacturers have ignored for over a decade now. It is a good thing, and one that is slowly becoming a welcome trend.
As you would expect from a lens with such parameters, it belongs to the XF series, which is Fujifilm’s designation for high-end, fast-aperture lenses. As such, it has a high build quality with metal exterior. There is also a dedicated aperture ring. Autofocus should prove to be quiet and sufficiently snappy for such a lens, at least according to Fujifilm. Manual focus ring is very broad when compared to the length of the lens itself, which some will appreciate (manual focusing with Fujifilm X-series cameras is not as much of a pain as it used to be).
The lens formula consists of 11 elements (two of which are ED and 1 – double-sided aspherical) in 8 groups, which makes it more complex than both Nikkor AF-S 85mm f/1.8G and the higher-end Nikkor AF_S 85mm f/1.4G lenses, and even the mighty Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II lens. That is to be expected, though, thanks to that unusually wide aperture and the general trend of lenses becoming more complex with each generation. Fujifilm puts a lot of emphasis on sharpness wide-open, though, and there is no reason whatsoever to doubt it will deliver on that front if previous high-end XF prime lenses are of any indication so far. We do not dare guess, but we can hope. Let’s also hope the other – arguably more important – aspect of this lens is characterful and pleasing, too. Yes, I do mean the rendition of out-of-focus areas (bokeh), which is crucial for any portrait lens. We hope to get our hands on this lens as soon as possible and run it through our usual testing procedures!
The rest of the specifications are fairly ordinary. There are 7 rounded aperture blades, and the aperture itself can be stopped down to the usual f/16 minimum. The lens can focus down to 0.7m, which is better than 85mm full-frame lenses, but still a little worse than one might have hoped. The lens weighs 405g (0.89lb), which is actually quite a lot, but can be forgiven (it is f/1.2, after all, and is still quite a bit lighter than the Nikkor AF_S 85mm f/1.4G lens). Priced at as near as makes no difference $1000, it is among the most expensive Fujinon XF lenses currently available. Let’s just hope that $1000 mark does not get crossed too soon…
Here is the list of key parameters of the new Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 R lens:
- Lens name: Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 R
- Lens Construction: 11 elements in 8 groups
- Maximum aperture: f/1.2
- Minimum aperture: f/16
- Filter size: ø62mm
- Features an aperture ring
- Metal construction
- Minimum focusing distance: 70cm (27.56″)
- Dimensions (Diameter x Length): 73mm x 70mm / 2.88″ x 2.74″
- Number of diaphragm blades: 7
- Maximum magnification: 0.09x
- Weight: 405g / 0.89lb
- Priced at around $999.99, available February 2014
2) All the Right Choices
It is not the number of lenses that makes a system rich with choice, but the diversity of the line-up. Whilst Sony is busy releasing and re-releasing numerous super-zoom lenses with nearly identical parameters, Fujifilm has been rather clever. Despite the fact that the X system is one of the youngest on the market, it already has one of the best lens selections ranging from moderately fast wide-angle zoom lenses all the way to the just announced XF 56mm f/1.2. Not that many lenses are yet available (although some would say 12, not counting Zeiss, is more than a start), but I’d be hard-pressed to name even one that is out of place. In fact, when it comes to primes, only but a few essential lenses are missing – a 24mm f/1.4 equivalent, a 135mm f/2 equivalent and, perhaps, a 200mm f/2.8 equivalent. Once again we are surprised and delighted by Fuji’s attempts to make their system, however young, as attractive as it can be. We sincerely hope they keep this up!
3) Official Press Release
Here is the official press release for the new Fujinon lens:
Fujifilm announces fast portrait lens for X-series cameras that surpasses picture quality of full-frame equivalents
Fujifilm Corporation (President: Shigehiro Nakajima) has announced the release of the FUJINON XF56mm F1.2 R lens. Available from February 2014, this latest addition to the company’s line up of professional-grade lenses for X-series interchangeable-lens cameras features a fast maximum aperture of f/1.2, a focal length of 85mm*1 and delivers beautiful bokeh, making it particularly suitable for high quality portraits.
The XF56mm F1.2 R is less than half the size of an equivalent lens on a full-frame camera*2 and offers fast, quiet autofocusing that ensures stress-free shooting for both the photographer and the model. It also delivers incredible resolving power for high quality results that are enhanced by the unique skin tone reproduction technology found in Fujifilm’s X-mount cameras. Using the XF56mm and selecting one of two PRO Negative modes from the Film Simulation menu on the camera body will ensure users can capture beautiful portraits with rich tonal gradations reminiscent of images from film cameras.
Like all other lenses in the XF line up, the XF56mm F1.2 R is designed with an impressive attention to detail. It has a design that sits comfortably in the hand and exterior features including a metal aperture ring for a premium quality feel.
Advanced optical design for professional portraits
The lens’ new optical design featuring 11 elements in 8 groups delivers impressive results. The design includes two ED (extra low-dispersion) elements and one double-sided aspherical element, plus four elements with a convex surface facing the subject, which combine to reduce spherical and chromatic aberrations. They also ensure the best possible image resolution, even when the lens is at its widest aperture of f/1.2.
Image quality is further enhanced by Fujifilm’s proprietary HT-EBC coating that’s used on all lens surfaces to reduce ghosting and flare, while the seven-blade rounded diaphragm produces the creamy smooth bokeh effect that’s become synonymous with XF series lenses.
Attach the XF56mm F1.2 lens to a body that supports the Lens Modulation Optimiser*3 and picture quality leaps even higher thanks to the automatic correction of diffraction when shooting at smaller apertures.
Fast autofocus, silent operation
The XF56mm F1.2 R combines an inner focus mechanism*4 and a DC coreless motor for rapid autofocusing speeds, which are boosted further when used with a X-series camera body that supports phase detection AF. The structure and positioning of the focusing unit reduces sound and vibration for silent operation and with no lens barrel movement during focusing, the structure effectively prevents dust particles from getting into the lens and degrading picture quality.
Premium build quality
In keeping with the XF lens legacy, the 56mm F1.2 R features a durable, metal construction – including the aperture and focusing rings – to ensure a high quality feel. The aperture ring is designed to ensure it’s easy to detect ‘clicks’ between f-stops, while the focusing ring is both comfortable in use and has the perfect amount of torque so it’s simple to focus precisely.
*1 35mm format equivalent
*2 According to Fujifilm data
*3 Fujifilm X-E2 as of January 2014
*4 A mechanism that moves small elements in the middle or at the rear of the lens, while keeping the large, front elements stationary