Working with the Fujinon XF55-200mm lens
As great as the Fujifilm X-cameras and Fujinon XF lens are for my personal and freelance photography, I also try to use them for my day job.
I shoot for a living, as a photographer for the government of British Columbia. At work, I have a couple of full-frame DSLRs with fast zooms (24-70mm and 70-200mm). I use them when appropriate, but in most cases, I would prefer to use my X-cameras and XF lenses. One situation that has always required the use of the DSLRs has been shooting indoor events, like conferences, which require a fast, long zoom. In these circumstances, I will carry my X-Pro1 with the XF35mm lens and a DSLR with a 70-200mm f2.8 lens.
This past week, I was shooting a four day conference in Vancouver and I was able to leave the DSLRs back at the office. I used only my X100s and XP1 with a variety of lenses. The missing lens that allowed me to do this was the Fujinon XF55-200mm zoom, which Fujifilm Canada loaned to me to test. Based upon other reviews of the lens, I believed that I could make it work for me, but I did have reservations about the variable maximum aperture of f3.5-4.8. So, how did it go shooting for a week with this long zoom?
Shot story: the XF55-200mm lens did the job. Really well.
OK, here are the particulars. In shooting conferences and events, I am frequently a good distance from my subject or I want a tight close-up with the background out of focus. Fast, long telephoto lens are the right tool for the job. On top of that, the lighting is relatively poor, set up to work for video cameras, and focused just in a small area of the stage. So, I typically shoot at 1/125 of a second or faster and at f2.8 (ISO is around 1600 and sometimes goes to 3200). This ensures that I can freeze a speaker as they talk and move at a podium and I can safely hand hold the heavy camera/lens combination.
To use the XF55-200mm lens, I would need to shoot with a larger aperture which means my shutter speed would have to drop and ISO would almost always be up around 3200. At first, I tried to keep my shutter speed at 1/125 sec, but images were underexposed. Instead, I dropped the shutter speed to 1/90 sec and, finally, to 1/60 sec. That’s right, I was hand holding this relatively large lens on the XP1, with it zoomed to 200mm at 1/60 sec. I know that I was not keeping particularly still either. I was impressed. Thank you image stabilization! The OIS works really well. That, combined with the X-trans sensor’s superior image quality and amazing high ISO performance, meant that I was happily shooting an event with the XP1 and a Fujinon lens which previously required me to use a DSLR and a giant zoom lens.
I have also used the lens in my free time, mostly outside. As you would expect, it is really top notch for shooting a variety of subjects outside, with fast AF/MF (love focus peaking on the XP1!). Build quality is very solid, as we have come to expect from Fujinon XF lenses. After shooting with the lens for a day, it felt completely natural. I would happily use it again for work.
Would I change anything with the lens? Well, I wouldn’t mind if it had a tripod collar or attachment point. This would improve the balance of the camera/lens combination when I hang it from a diagonal strap as well as when attached to a tripod. However, the balance of camera and lens is still good without one, so this is only a would be nice to have, not a must have. Would I be happy with a constant max aperture of f2.8? Who wouldn’t? That said, the image quality, build and handling make the XF55-200mm a lens I am happy to use for my rent-paying photography.
Unfortunately, I have to return the lens to Fujifilm. But, I plan to purchase my own before the year is out!Notes: All photos shot with the Fujifilm X-Pro1 with the Fujinon XF55-200mm lens at or near 200mm and at maximum aperture for the focal length. Shutter speed for the work shots was 1/60 sec except for the top BW (1/90 sec) and the last shot of the Premier (1/125 sec). ISO was at or near 3200.