The best Fujifilm lenses to start with in late 2017

It has been a while since we wrote a gear-related post. For the last few months we have concentrated on seeing, composition, light, emotions and projects etc., the least popular concepts in photography 🙂

It’s time to correct this omission!

I must admit that the endless stream of emails and online inquiries about “which lens/lenses should I buy” prompted me to tackle this issue head on.

First, I have minimal interest, if any, in the technical aspects of gear. If you are looking for charts, technical discussions or pixel-in-depth scrutiny of every lens you could spend your time better elsewhere. This article is aimed at people who are (1) new to the Fujifilm X-series family, (2) are looking to revamp their photography, or (3) are new to photography in general.

My approach to choosing photographic gear is vision-related, rooted in my own seeing and years of shooting with numerous cameras and lenses. As one of the first adopters of the Fujifilm X-series line (shooting with the original X100) and someone who has worked with all X-series Fujinon lenses and cameras, my primary goal is not to overload you with gear choices. I prefer to put you on the right path to creating strong imagery. Most importantly, I want you to avoid the most common mistakes when starting in photography.

Here is the most common faux pas – buying multiple lenses or, even worse, multiple zoom lenses. Please don’t!

I know the prevalent line of thinking. You are excited about your new adventure in photography and are hyped about your new gear. Researching and discussing your purchases makes you feel as high as a kite. I was flying lots of them. You believe that choosing the right camera and lenses will make your photography truly great! No, you don’t want to take half measures! You want the best, all of it and now!

If you really care about imagery and the art of seeing you must calm down and ask yourself the following question: “Am I interested in creating great imagery or I am more interested in gear?” If you answered “gear” that’s okay as long as you are aware of this.

Here is my memo! START WITH ONE FOCAL LENGTH ONLY!

When you purchase your first lens, you should have two objectives in mind:

  1. To learn how to switch from practical seeing (I don’t want to bump into something while walking) to a new level of observational and creative seeing. In other words, for the first year, your objective should be to learn how to concentrate, observe and eventually craft strong imagery.
  2. To achieve the level of seeing which allows you to observe and craft your imagery without looking through the viewfinder. Your vision must become your camera and vice-versa. You must fine-tune your seeing to the focal length you are using. The more often you change lenses (focal lengths) the more difficult this task will be.

Why do you think great masters of photography shot most of their work with one focal length? They spent years pairing their seeing with one focal length. It became second nature for them to see imagery everywhere. Most importantly, they could eliminate elements from their frame without using the camera.      

“A camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera.”Dorothea Lange

Here are two lenses you should consider as your first X-series lenses.

X100F (23mm F2) or 23mm F2 – in full-frame terms these are 35mm lenses, which are slightly wider than your eyesight. One of the reasons I opt for the 23mm focal length for your first lens is that you will be forced to get closer to your subject and work harder to watch the corners of your frame.

The other reason I am advocating the X100F (23mm) is because you get your first lens and excellent, small, super-capable camera in one package. If the price is a concern, get the X100S or T. They are perfectly fine as your first camera. Don’t listen to online forums whining about the camera’s AF speed. If you want to learn photography properly, speed is your worst enemy!

XF 23mm F2 – if you prefer to invest in an interchangeable camera such as the X-T20, X-Pro2, X-E3 or any other brand, start with the 23mm lens (35 in FF).

Courtesy of Jonas Rask

XF 35mm F2 – the other excellent option would be to start with something even easier to learn – the XF 35mm F2 lens (50mm in FF terms). It is inexpensive and has a weather-sealed lens with beautiful rendering – it’s all you need to pair with your new camera. Most importantly, the 50mm focal length is roughly equivalent to human sight so the view is natural.

Courtesy of Jonas Rask 

If you really need to start with two lenses get yourself the XF 23mm F2 and 50mm F2 lenses. Why not 56mm F1.2? Because I want you to spend your money on education and books!

Courtesy of Jonas Rask

Here is a proviso – never ever carry two lenses with you during your first year (the only exception would be for long-haul travel). When you leave home take one or the other so you won’t be tempted to keep switching them like a maniac.

Most importantly, don’t fall for the hype about buying a full bag of gear. Sure, it’s exciting and self-fulfilling (initially) to parade with a fancy $500 handmade camera bag full of a brand-new gear but it won’t help you learn to see. With a plethora of lenses at your disposal you will be constantly struggling with the question: “Should I change the lens?” instead of concentrating on seeing, composing and crafting from the elements in front of you.

This early adaptation period between your vision and your new camera and a lens is crucial to your learning. It takes time to synchronize and fine-tune both.

Despite the rush of excitement associated with purchasing new gear, some restraint in the early stages of your photographic adventure is essential. Starting with one camera and one lens will allow you to focus on observation and seeing. You will be forced to scrutinize your frame and perspective and craft your imagery rather than hassling with a bag full of gear.    

Final note: When researching and reading about lenses (or cameras) stay away from technical-oriented, chart-obsessed websites and reviewers. Instead, find great photographers who use the lenses in real-life situations and have much more to say about them than just the technical details (rendering, feel, etc.). My friend Jonas Rask, who has worked with all the Fujinon lenses and written great pieces about them, would be one of my first choices. Make sure to check out his website as well as his monthly gear-related articles in the FujiLove Magazine.  

Here is our imagery, all taken with the X100F, X-Pro2 and various lenses.           

         

Next time, I will talk about ways to expand your lens selection in terms of your photographic interests.

 

 

2017 © Olafphoto. All rights reserved.

 

 

35 thoughts on “The best Fujifilm lenses to start with in late 2017

  1. I bought a X100 a few months after it came out. It was the only camera I carried for a year and being restricted to just the one focal length improved my composition skills more than the previous 10 years using a Nikon DSLR and a bunch of lenses. For anyone thinking about going the one lens route I highly recommend doing it!

  2. I’m saving up my coins to jump back into a removeable lens system and baring Nikon coming out with something wonderful and affordable odds are it will be a XE-3. Which lens first will depend upon Fuji releasing a better (lower distortion, WR) 18/2, I’m not big into post correction of distortion (too many years with good lenses like the Nikkor 28/2.8 AIs). While my father did well with his 35/85/180 trio of glass for years, I grew into a 24/85/200 and was fine (except for the 24 made heads into footballs). I’ve become more of a 28ish person of late. Odds are I will end up with the 23/50 kit. I had a 35/90 kit on my Ms for years and loved them so I’m sure it will be like falling off a log.

    Nice read, I’ll have to come back from time to time

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I think the 23/50 kit you are thinking about is a great idea. Wish you all the best and please visit again. Looking forward to your future feedback.
      Cheers,

      Olaf

  3. Hi Olaf!! Thanks so much for being so honest and true to the essence of photography!! I’ve shot for many years, some of them professionally, earning some money but no creative and personal growth. I started using film cameras while being an assistant in a photography studio, later using a Canon D30 (not 30D 🙂 DSLR, then switched to Nikon, and trying to experience new things I found an X100S, I loved it, but for practical issues I sold it to buy an XT10, which was only available as a kit with the beautiful 18-55. My goals are documentary, street and Nature photography, and I have to record cave exploration expeditions. Being in the outdoors I struggle with the temptation of bringing along many focal lengths from wide to tele, and getting the action demands adapting fast to situations and subject distances, shots of fellow cavers while approaching cave entrances at the bottom of river canyons, bugs and possibly birds along the trail, etc, making it hard to take the enlightening one lens approach. However I really want to take my photography and seeing into the next level so, what is your advice? By the way I love your work, so connected with light and composition 👍🏽

    1. Eduardo,

      Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. Cave explorations?!! What a cool area of photography! Your niche is a great example where zoom lenses are really necessary. However, I would suggest to walk around your city/place and focus on light only for a few weeks – ideally use a prime – 23 or 35 lens. If this is not possible, use the 18-55 set at 35 and don’t use the zoom function. Try to shoot something you haven’t done before, for example street or portrait etc.. Make sure you examine every inch of your frame!

      Of course, please visit us again and let us know how are things going for you.

      All the best,

      Olaf

  4. Hello Olaf,

    Very interesting post and I’ve been thinking along the same lines lately. I have sold my DSLR system a while ago and for a while now I’ve been using a Pentax MX-1 only. However it’s not very good ergonomically, and I plan to get a Fuji body and lens, either the X-E1 or 2 or the X-M1, likely start with the M1 as it would make a good companion to an X-Pro2 down the road. My question is, do you have any experience with the 27mm f/2.8 pancake and what are your thoughts on it? It would be very nice for carrying around on my cycling outings.

    Best regards,
    Jason

    1. Greetings Jason:

      Kit 1: I began with a x-e1 paired with a 18 f2 and a 27 f2.8 for daily, all-time carry on usage. Excellent. If you get them used and properly working, they are unbeatable at that given cost. Highly recommendable, 10 years ago that specs kit would have been a dream. The kit with the 18-55 is in the same situation.

      Kit 2: However, I began to shoot kids and indoor sports, also beginning to think in printing big. So i got an used x-pro2. Then I jhad to jump into the 16 f1.4, the 35 f1.4 and the 23 f2 both for faster focus and faster aperture. The 18 and 27 of course matched with x-pro2, but they were not enough for my needs.

      What I mean is: evaluate what you really need. For quiet, relaxed, stills… kit one is unbeatable. Even if you have the money for kit 2, get the 1 and invest in books or in Olaf workshop (I get no money from him, be confident)… If you need “more” kit x-pro2 is a must. But if you don’t have that need for faster apertures and faster focus lens… why would you have to get an x-pro2 for slower shooting? Stay with one, no real need for 2.

      Additional point: if you need (again, “need”) bigger sensor and plan to get a new x-e3 I would go for used x-pro2. Same price, more pro features, and OVF fantastic for sports and street.

      Hope it helps

      p.s. If Olaf says something different, trust on him, he is far more experenced than me.

  5. Hello Olaf, when I saw your video on YouTube, about the X100F Vancuver, I was interested for your work … unlike everything I’ve seen about presenting cameras in this case the X100F, serious work, honest, professional, unpretentious, educational. when reading this article I had to tell you, congratulations is the first step, for many readers to stop …. and start to love photography and not gears. Big huge Olaf

    1. Fernando,

      Thank you so much for your super-kind note. Thank you for watching my videos and visiting my blog. Looking forward to reading your future commentary. Wish you all the best,

      Warm Regards,
      Olaf

  6. Olaf, you’ve said what I’ve been thinking for a long time and I just didn’t have the words. I knew there was a reason it took me nearly a year to get used to my X100T and now I know why. I’m going to steal your thoughts here and share with next my street photo class.

    Is there any chance I could have you on my show to talk about this?

    Antonio

  7. Great practical/commonsense advice !!! I shoot with two cameras, because I shoot documentary style family and events. Both are “on” me at all times. An X100T with the standard 23m, and X-T10 with 56mm f1.2. I own an 18-55mm kit lens, but rarely use it. If I had to only use one camera, it would be the X100T.

    1. Michael,

      You are getting ahead of my next post 🙂 I agree with you 100% – in fact this is exactly what I use when I need two cameras. Will write about this in more details.

      Thanks for sharing,

      Olaf

    1. Paul,

      Yes, for some it could be a great choice, especially is someone is into macro. Me personally, I would probably go with the 56mm lens.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Looking forward to your future feedback.

      Olaf

  8. Thank you, Olaf. This is one of the best articles I have read on this important topic; I agree wholeheartedly. Unfortunately, the misleading information dispensed via so many gear advertisements sets too many new, and sometimes not so new, photographers off on the wrong foot. We have all heard the comment “wow, what a great looking camera, it must take amazing photographs” or, “is that the new #@$%, I have heard it takes incredible photos”. I have lost count of how many people I have spoken with about how disappointed they are with the results from their new camera/lenses. The saddest thing is that many of the same people have given up on photography as a result. Fortunately, a few have become students of mine so I have had the privilege of being able to give them some help in this area. The best reward is to see then start to really enjoy their photography and produce images that they are pleased with.

  9. Olaf, excellent post! Im not a professional photographer, but a journalist taking pictures for more than 30 years, first with Canon gear, then changed for digital Nikons,which I’m going to sell. Bought a Fuji X-T1 last year and fell for this system. Bought a used Pro-1 and X-E2 and several lenses, so I have the bag full of gear – exactly what you warned… Since I love street photography, I had to learn to concentrate. Now I’m doing exactly what you recommend – leaving the house with either the T1 or Pro 1 with my 35/1,4. No missed moments while changing bodies or lenses. Even went to a New Zealand Trip with the Pro1 with 35/1,4 and 18/2 and was very happy with that.

    1. Jörn,

      Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am sure it will help many people who read this blog.

      Looking forward to your future feedback/thoughts.

      Take care,

      Olaf

  10. Hey,

    Apart from loving the post I honestly love the pictures! I’ve seen many people having very similar colours and ‘texture’ to your photos. May I ask how do you post-process your photos?

    Thanks,
    Cyprian

    1. Cyprian,

      Thank you so much for your kind note. I don’t use any magic formula, most of the time I am using the Fujifilm Classic Chrome or ACROS + R film simulations with some minor tweaks. Most importantly, I always look for the right light!

      All the best,

      Olaf

  11. Excellent post! I agree wholeheartedly with anything you said. It’s a great moment when you discover that restraint can be a much stronger motivator and booster of creativity than a full bag of gear. What I would add to your post: When you start with photography and buy a new camera, don’t buy any accessories like a tripod, lighting gear, filters, teleconverters and even lens hoods (use your hand when it’s necessary!). Start by learning everything you can do with just the naked camera.

    1. Olivier,

      Such a brilliant point! I will definitely pass it on in my next post. Thank you so much for sharing (I love your idea of “the naked camera).

      Looking forward to you future thoughts,

      Olaf

      1. Thank you, Olaf, for your reply! I speak from experience. In the past, I have tried to pick up photography several times. I already had quite a deep theoretical understanding of the technical aspects of photography and which gear I would need to own and which techniques I would have to use in order to produce photographs like some I had seen from others. I wanted to try everything out for myself.
        Turns out this was a huge blocker for creativity. It is good to be inspired by others, but just trying to replicate them isn’t really creative. And with all that gear there were simply too many options. Too many ideas. My focus drifted from one type of photography to the next, everything was rushed. Too much too early. As a consequence I lost motivation and enjoyment pretty quickly. All that gear became such a burden that I sold everything.
        Somewhere down the road I discovered your blog (by researching gear I have to confess!) and was struck by your philosophy about photography and about gear. It resonated with my own “less is more” philosophy that I had already applied to other areas in my life with great success. There is so much to be gained by restraining oneself!
        Now don’t get me wrong, I still think that gear and in particular camera choice can have a big influence on creativity. Different cameras appeal to different people and it’s important to use a camera that makes one want to pick it up and do photography. Personally I feel that a Fujifilm would do that for me with the direct physical controls for all the exposure parameters and the hybrid viewfinder.
        I just decided to give photography another try and this time, I will follow your advice and get myself “just” and “only” an X100F and nothing more. I plan on using it a whole year before considering any additional piece of gear. I’m feeling at least as excited about this creative challenge and concentrating on “photography as the art of seeing” as about the new camera itself. I think that’s the right way.
        You really helped me a lot to make that decision, so a big thank you to you!
        I’m looking forward reading your next post. Your photography and thoughts are such an inspiration!

      2. Olivier,

        The fact that you shared your story means a lot to me. Thank you for your trust. I am so happy that you decided “to give photography another try” – I would love to hear more from you – please keep us updated. If you have any questions or just want to exchange some ideas please give me a shout. Would you mind if I share your comment in my next blog post? I am sure many people would relate to it.

        Wish you all the best,

        Olaf

      3. Olaf, thanks again for your reply. Yes, I will keep you updated, I promise. I’m really looking forward to my “naked camera year”.
        And yes, please feel free to share my comment in your next blog post. I would be honoured. And I’m very glad if sharing my story can prevent people from making the same mistakes and help them to try out a different approach.
        I reread this post today. Your insights and advice are truly invaluable!
        And it’s great to see that all the commenters agree with you!
        Kind regards, Olivier

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