. . . You see, since giving up Film and especially Leica’s, I’ve missed the simplicity and speed of operation of Prime Lenses. Zooms are great (the XF18-55mm especially). Afterall, having a specific focal length on-call whenever you need it saves all that faff of swapping lenses, right? Further, as the image quality is above and beyond what you would expect of a simple ‘kit’ lens, it sounds like an optical nirvana.
However, with regards the 18-55, I had a few minor (and major) niggles that I just couldn’t ignore.
Firstly the Manual Focus Ring, planted right on the end of the lens. That thin dial is in completely the wrong place for my style of photography as each time I wanted to focus, I was having to waste crucial moments fiddling about for it. Invariably I would end up twisting the Zoom Ring instead, or missing it all together.
Secondly, there are no Aperture Markings on the lens. I like to know what aperture I have set, without looking in the viewfinder.
Thirdly and probably the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’, I checked the EXIF information of many of my photos. Each and every favorite was shot at 55mm (82mm in 35mm terms). When I was shooting film and primes, my go to focal length 90% of the time was a 90mm.
Finally, as I was shooting mainly at the lens’s longest focal length (55mm), the lens barrel was continually extended outwards. Also, with that (to be honest) weird looking lens hood on the end, the length of the whole unit was HUGE and quite frankly, UGLY !!!
So I’ve taken the plunge. The 18-55 is sold and I’ve splashed out on an XF60 f/2.4 AND an XF35 f/1.4. 😀 Both are secondhand, practically like new and were at a price I simply couldn’t resist. The XF60 I bought on ebay. The XF35 came from the ‘For Sale & Wanted’ section of the excellent FujiX Forum.
First impressions of the XF60 f/2.4 is that (with the metal hood), it is BIG but not as much as the 18-55 !!! Build quality is impressive as well. The whole thing has a reassuringly dense and solid feel. Quality of the Focus and Aperture rings in operation are smooth and devoid of any slack, nor do they feel like they can be inadvertently moved. My hope for this lens is that being a 90mm in 35mm film terms, it will be the one I turn to most often.
Now, seeing as I only received the lens yesterday morning, I haven’t had a chance to hit the streets and put it through its paces. So the only shot I’ve taken so far is of my trousered knee as I feaverishly opened the box and fitted the lens on the X-E1 to check the operation.
Two things are apparent to me in this shot. Firstly, the manual focusing with the aid of Focus Peaking is absolutely spot on. Second and clearly visible, is the incredible isolation of focus with the lens shot wide open. There is a well defined band of pin sharpness (if that’s a word?) across the middle of the photo, with the fore and backgrounds nicely out of focus. Impressive and for me at least, something I’d never seen before.
Next the XF35 f/1.4. My other favorite focal length in the film days was a 50mm and with the 1.5x sensor crop factor, the 35mm is on the money at 52mm. Now so much has been written about the Fuji 35mm, that there’s little I could add here. The lens is beautifully well made and solid. The controls are just as precise and tactile as the 60mm and no, I don’t think the lens hood resembles a ‘crushed Coke can’.
Once again, I haven’t had the chance to try it out in the heat of battle, so took the opportunity to shoot a portrait of Jack, my 8 month old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, in a rare moment when he wasn’t running around like a looney. 😀
This lens really brings out the best in the X-Trans sensor of the X-E1. Manual focus is incredible on Jack’s hair and face with wonderful separation of the background and whilst I’ve never been overly concerned about Bokeh quality, this is rather cool as well.
Needless to say, I simply can’t wait for my next street excursion. One detail I urgently want to investigate is the notion that the XF60 f/2.4 is ‘just’ a Macro & Portrait lens. Having hunted the internet high and low, I can find little that suggests this could also be a superb street lens. Rather, every review and article talks of nothing but magnificent macro’s of flowers and ‘head & shoulder’ portrait shots. After all, at it’s heart is a superbly well made ’90mm’ prime lens. I look forward immensely to posting images and more thoughts on these two incredible lenses.
Happy times. 🙂