The last few years have been an exciting time for digital photography. New cameras are coming on the market faster than ever; websites, blogs and Internet forums are busy comparing technical specifications and the latest sensor technology (we take some of the blame). When we meet people interested in photography, they almost always ask me the same question: Which camera do you shoot with? Which one would you recommend?
Interestingly, most people never ask about lenses as if they were just an accessory. I am not surprised, though. After all, it has been known for a long time that amateurs get excited about cameras and professionals about lenses. Fortunately, since the start of the X-series, those who care about the art of seeing have had plenty of reasons to be excited.
In the last few years we have witnessed a number of new camera systems. While some of them offered quite capable cameras, the majority of them had one thing in common – they lacked prime quality lenses. You don’t need to look far. Even old players such as Nikon, a company that you would expect to rule, lacks high quality prime lenses for its APS-C offering.
Fujifilm with its introduction of the X-series took a different route. It not only offered innovative cameras but paired them with a truly superb lens line-up. One of the first and finest lenses was XF 35mm F1.4 R. It immediately won us over with its quality, bohen and sharpness, approaching lenses five times its price. Then, Fuji introduced its wide-angle 14mm F2.8 R, which has become our choice for landscape work. Again, it’s a truly beautiful piece of glass. It is fully optically corrected; it has eye-catching sharpness and excellent workmanship. It was followed by the XF 23mm F1.4 R, which we reviewed here.
As a prime lens photographer – I learned to see and compose in three focal lengths – 14, 35 & 56 (21, 50 & 85 FF equivalent) – that’s all I need and indeed that’s all most people would need to do serious photography. But there was a problem. The 85-90 offering was missing. Sure, there was the 60mm F2.4 R lens but with slow autofocus and other mild shortcomings it was never a match for the XF 14mm and XF 35mm lenses. NOT ANY MORE!
Fujifilm just introduced a brand new XF 56mm F1.2 R lens. And what a piece of glass it is! The first time we paired this lens with the X-T1 and got it to work, we knew immediately – THIS IS IT!
Not only is this a very fast lens but its bokeh (blurry part) is as creamy and delicious on the eyes as my grandmother’s cold cream. One thing that immediately strikes me with this lens is its nearly three-dimensional veneer – unlike any other lens I have had the opportunity to shoot with. Part of it could be the brand new Fuji X-T1, but this is only my suspicion. With the X-T1 help or not, the look this lens produces is stunning. Even wide open, the lens holds very strong. After shooting a large number of images I would risk saying that IT IS THE SHARPEST LENS in the X-series line-up. In fact it is bitingly sharp.
As with all their other lenses, its physical build is superb. It’s all metal, sturdy and confident in the hand. Aperture markings are nicely done and work with just the right force.
I could write a lot more but I would probably lose all my credibility as a lens reviewer – that’s how much this lens has impressed me. After using this lens on numerous assignments I decided to share with you more images than usual over the next few weeks. They include landscape shots, street photography, portraits and weddings.
In sum, my bag currently holds the XF 14mm F2.8, XF 35mm F1.4 and the new addition XF 56 F1.2. That’s all I need.* Three different lenses, three focal lengths, three dimensions of seeing.
The dream team has finally been completed!
*My fourth is the Fuji X100S (23mm F2), which I use extensively.
All the images presented here are JPEGs straight from the camera (some images had only minor adjustments in Lightroom 5). Note the sharpness, beautiful skin tones and dreamy bohen.
Velvia (V) film simulation
During our stay on the Vancouver Island we took a few images of our friends with their beautiful daughter. This lens truly excels here.
Provia (STD) film simulation
2014 © Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.