Hands-on with the brand new Fujifilm XF 55-200mm F3.5-4.8 R LM OIS

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In my own shooting style, I personally find myself shooting most of the time either at very wide angle or racked out on a long telephoto zoom, so, as much as I appreciate the technical quality of the 18-55mm Fuji kit lens that stands well above over equivalent kit lenses, I cannot wait to see Fuji’s offer of lenses expand in both shorter and longer focal length. With that in mind, it is with a whole of excitement that I received the brand new XF 55-200mm F3.5-4.8 R LM OIS (!) Fujinon lens, the latest addition to the growing line-up of lenses compatible with the Fuji mirrorless cameras (X-PRO1, X-E1). Only a few more months to wait for the ultra-wide angle zoom and I will have my ideal setup with the wide and long zooms complemented with the fast 35mm prime (i know some people take incredible pictures shooting uniquely with a 24-70mm all day long, but at that point as far as i am concerned the kit lens will go for sale).

Note: apart from the opening shot taken with an iPhone, all the pictures included in this article have been taken with a production model of the XF55-200mm attached on a Fuji X-E1. These are real life shots, not lab shots. In my day-to-day life I don’t shoot tiny charts, so I don’t care about how the lens can shoot stupid test charts in a lab. In my day-to-day life I don’t put the most important part of a photograph completely in the corner, so I don’t care about edge to edge sharpness or vignetting. All the pictures below were quickly processed in Lightroom and I applied some post-processing vignette on each of them, just for your guide in case that is the kind of things you look at first in a photograph…

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The first impression when you look at the XF55-200mm attached to a small mirrorless camera (as you can see on the iPhone shot at the beginning of this article with the new lens attached to the X-E1) is that it looks like a beast compared to the camera itself. For sure, it looks big (and even bigger when you zoom in at 200mm) and I would only handhold the combo with the right hand on the camera and the left hand below the barrel of the lens to avoid applying too much pressure on the attach ring. However, the weight remains very light, which I think is the #1 thing that people are looking for in a mirrorless system. As far as this question is concerned, mission accomplished, no problem to carry the combo on your shoulder all day long.

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One of the first question that comes up whenever a new XF lens comes out is “What about the autofocus performance?”. It is only a fair question, as even Fuji itself seems to acknowledge the progresses it has to make in this area, looking at all the firmware upgrades dedicated to AF issues it has released since it got involved in mirrorless cameras. Well, personally it was one of my main worries before testing the lens, and I am very relieved to announce that the AF performed perfectly during my first day of shooting with it! It is fast (normally fast, I am not talking here about lighting speed, but it is not slow either) and reliable (it locked where asked every time instead of the fruitless hunting I have experienced with other lenses and former versions of the firmware). For sure, this new lens benefit from the experience all the previous camera/lens firmware upgrades that Fuji has already done, but whatever the reason it is a great relief to get a product that delivers from the get-go without having to wait for a patch. Great news!

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As far as the build quality is concerned, the lens looks solid and feels robust in the hand, though there are some plastic elements along with the metal ones. The lens extends when you zoom in, but it does not suffer of any lens creep when you carry it collapsed. One small regret I have is that the diameter of the lens thread is larger than for the other lenses, so you will have to buy adaptor rings or a dedicated set of filters. I understand such a lens needed a larger diameter, but I would have preferred to see Fuji plan this in advance so that the XF18-55mm kit lens would have shared the same size to be able to share the same filters. I do hope that the upcoming ultra-wide zoom will match the diameter of the XF55-200mm, then it will not be a problem for me anymore.

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In terms of handling, people who already shoot with the XF18-55mm will be in known territory, with the aperture ring without any specific mark to cope with the variable maximum aperture as you change focal length. The manual focus is again well implemented with just the right amount of turn to be made to adjust the focus. In summary, no surprise there, which is the sign of a consistent flawless design across all Fuji XF lenses. Fuji claims that the OIS can help you stabilize handheld shots for up to 4 stops, but I don’t have yet a strong opinion on that as i did not tested the lens in lower light situation(and i am not going to complain we had such a nice weather this week-end! 🙂 ). The only thing that annoyed me had to do with the X-E1 and not with the lens: to move the autofocus area you first need to press the AF button at the bottom left of the rear of the camera, which is more than cumbersome when you already use your left-hand to hold the lens below the barrel, which in my opinion is the best way to handhold such a combo…

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Racked out at 200mm and wide open, the XF55-200mm produces a pleasant bokeh, with uniformed and perfectly round circles of light, and very smooth blurred areas. Definitely a top contender for “good” bokeh compared to similar lenses for mirrorless cameras and DSLR with a cropped sensor, though obviously the blur area is not as creamy as with the much heavier and pricier Nikon or Canon 70-200 F2.8 lenses for full frame camera, that are boxing in a completely different league.

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All in all, this new lens is a great addition to the XF lens lineup and I cannot wait for the ultra-wide zoom to come out in a few months. After that, I will have a complete set up to take with me whenever on travel, and my DSLR will definitely stay at home (my back already loves that idea). I was very pleased to see the autofocus not being an issue, which shows the consistent improvements done by Fuji as they learn how to master this technology and bodes well for the future. The big size could put off some people who are interested in mirrorless cameras for the smaller form factor, but the weight remains very light which will please most of the X-PRO1/X-E1 owners. As expected from Fuji, the image quality meets high standards, and the lens produces a nice bokeh. Very happy with this new lens!

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Let me know what you personally think of that lens In the comments section below. Are you going to buy it? What XF lens from the roadmap are you awaiting the most?

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