THE XF 90mm F2 – THE MUST-HAVE COMPANION FOR A PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHER

Those of you who are familiar with our approach to photography know that our bag contains the XF 14mm F2.8 lens, XF 35mm F1.4 and XF 56mm F1.2 along with the second camera/lens – the Fuji X100S. This setup not only contains one of the finest XF lenses with but also covers 99% of our needs.

Despite our excellent travelling companions, over the last year or so we have been on assignments to photograph people, which required a different approach. There were occasions when we found we could use a bit more compression or a more detailed perspective in our portraits, which only a longer focal length could provide. To fill this gap we have reached on several occasions for the excellent XF 50-140 F2.8 lens. However, we had two problems with this lens. First, it was way too heavy for our liking. Second, the separation of the subject from the background was not as smooth as we wanted. We knew that there was a place for one more lens in our bag – light but well built, turning out photos that were sharp but with a dreamy look.

Therefore, when Fujifilm announced the XF 90mm F2 lens, it immediately grabbed our attention. No, it wasn’t a “let’s get it now” type of reaction! It was rather “let’s see whether Fuji delivers another exceptional lens or succumbs to the ‘it will sell anyway’ mentality.”

While evaluating this lens we asked ourselves some questions: Would this focal length allow us to convey the personality of the subject differently from the XF 56mm F1.2? Would it complement the XF 56mm F1.2 in any way? Would this lens help to peel away the layer of distance and reservation between our subject and us? Finally, would it meet our stringent technical requirements for sharpness, micro-contrast, creamy bokeh, etc?

Here is what we found out:

  • The XF 90mm F2 offers a more compressed view than the XF 56mm F1.2, allowing for a different look.
  • The 90mm focal length (135 in FF terms) permits us to get out of the way of the subject, so we can observe and shoot from a distance.
  • Like the XF 56mm F1.2, the 90mm allows for creative play with the bokeh.
  • When shooting wide-open, the bokeh is creamy and pleasing to the eye.
  • A precise focus is required while shooting wide-open.
  • Edge transitions are gorgeous and ceaseless, allowing for dreamy look.
  • The micro-contrast is nicely balanced for portraiture work.
  • The sharpness is top notch and on a par with the XF 56mm F1.2 and XF 35mm F1.4.
  • Autofocus works much better with the latest update. We played with a face/eye detection function and found it sometimes takes a bit longer than we would like before it locks. We will write more about this in our upcoming posts.
  • The lens is well balanced on the Fuji X-T1 with the battery pack. It is heavier than the XF 56mm F1.2 but we didn’t feel tired after a few hours of shooting (the XF 50-140 F2.8 was way too heavy for us).
  • The build is excellent and on a par with other XF lenses.
  • With Fujifilm’s film simulations, which are tuned to photographing people (beautiful skin tones), the XF 90mm is a great fit.

In wrapping up, we view the XF 90mm F2 as a companion lens for the XF 56mm F1.2. When photographing children and couples with the XF 56mm F1.2 we often needed a slightly more compressed view – this is where the XF 90mm comes in. This new lens is technically superb but most importantly it allows you to convey your subject in a more intimate and pleasing way.

We are adding the XF90mm F2 to our bag as our fourth lens.

Images – Fuji X-T1, mostly JPEGs – straight from the camera, Astia film simulation.

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2015 © Kasia & Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.

24 thoughts on “THE XF 90mm F2 – THE MUST-HAVE COMPANION FOR A PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHER

  1. Hi Olaf,
    Great article on the 90mm. I was wondering if you thought it appropriate for food photography? Would it be a better choice than the 60mm macro? It is that wonderful bokeh and the close-up ability which is making me consider the 90 for food photos.

    • Paul,

      I am sorry for my late reply. I would go with the 90mm. It is a truly extraordinary piece of glass (disclaimer: I don’t have much experience photographing food!).

      Thank you for visiting.

  2. Hi Olaf,
    Thanks for your thoughts on the 90mm. I shoot portraits on an X-T1 and I’m about to add some lenses to my bag. Currently carying the 35 1.4 and the 60mm 2.4. The 56 is an obvious next step for me but from there, it’s a toss up between the 50-140 and the 90, mainly because I want to be able to shoot in low light both indoors and out, and the 90 seems a bit long to be shooting handheld at 1/180 and 1/125. Is this your experience well? What’s the slowest you typically shoot this lens? Do you feel the 90 is better mostly in brighter conditions? Thanks for any guidance you can provide.
    Brent

    • Hello,

      The 90mm is a truly amazing glass – in fact this may well be the best XF lens out there. However, I understand your concern. While photographing with the XF 90mm you must be rock solid – no movement – and it is hard to do that sometimes. On the other hand, the XF 50-140 IS works like magic. You can be drunk and still have super sharp images.

      At the end we bought the XF 50-140mm and we enjoy shooting with this lens – however it renders differently than the XF 90mm. It is also a very heavy lens – therefore it stays home most of the time.
      Given that you shoot portraits I would go with the XF 90mm.

      I hope it helps.

      Olaf

      • Thanks so much Olaf! I just had a little exchange with Ian MacDonald here in Vancouver on his blog re: this same topic. I’m sure it will come as no surprise he concurs with your assessment.🙂 Thanks for helping me think a little differently about this. I’ve actually got a chance to test both lenses this weekend, so that oughta put it to bed for me. Who knows, maybe I’ll get both.

  3. Amazing photos! Peefect colours and sharpeness and bokeh! Every is made by 90mm lens? Im canon 5Dmark ii user and actually thinking about sale every my equipment and buy fuji X-E2 with some long lens. Im child and family photographer. But photos will be smaller than my customers recieve now..

  4. Pingback: Blog.pch.be » Fujifilm XF90mm F2 R LM WR : tout simplement sublime !

  5. Pingback: Fujifilm XF 90mm F/2 R LM WR Lens: The Must-Have for Portrait Photographer | Lens Rumors

  6. I have the 35mm and 14mm and was thinking of picking up the 56mm or 90mm next. I tried the 50-140mm which was great but too big and heavy for traveling. Great for sports but I would want another body dedicated to it. Would you recommend the 90 or the 56 as my next lens? If you could have one or the other which would you pick up first?

  7. Pingback: XF 90mmF2: “The MUST-HAVE Companion for a Portrait Photographer ” Olafphotoblog & more Reviews! | Fuji Rumors

  8. Pingback: XF 90mmF2: “The MUST-HAVE Companion for a Portrait Photographer ” Olafphotoblog & more Reviews! | Photohangout

  9. Lovely shots! I would love to use Astia more for portraits too but find the skin far too “smooth” compared to the RAW file, even with the NR at -2. How do you get around this? Could you give an idea about in-camera settings? Much appreciated!

    • Here are my camera settings for this particular session:

      DR 100
      WB AUTO
      NR -2
      Astia (S)
      H-Tone -1
      S-Tone -1
      Sharp +1

      Also, don’t go too high with ISO. We noticed that Astia + high ISO could cause this.

      All the best,

      Olaf

      • Thanks Olaf! This is what mine is set too also, maybe just not brave enough to use the jpegs🙂

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