Last month, I received the Fujifilm 50mm F2; it’s a lens that completes the trinity of new F2 weather sealed lenses that Fujifilm have recently created. The other lenses being the 35mm F2 and the 23mm F2 of course.
When these lenses were announced, I was fairly indifferent about the 50mm option. I have, and love, the XF 56mm F1.2 lens. When I used to shoot full frame, 85mm was my “standard” longer focal length and the images I have been getting from my 56mm lens have been superb.
I didn’t think the Fujifilm 50mm F2 would be anything other than a novelty lens, to be honest. A strange(ish) focal length, a stop slower than the 56mm and with less depth of field options.
However, I have to say, I’m quite smitten by the Fujifilm 50mm F2. OK, the above arguments still stand when comparing it to the 56mm but it’s a very different lens.
The Fujifilm 50mm F2 lens (right), compared to the 56mm F1.2 on a pair of X-Pro2’sThe size and weight difference is very noticeable.
When I first received the lens, I popped it onto my X-T2 and snapped a couple of quick shots of my crazy whippet and of my daughter as we played a game of chess together.
X-T2 XF 50mm @ F2 1/2,000th Second ISO 2,500X-T2 XF 50mm @ F2 1/5,800th Second ISO 2,500
What immediately struck me was the incredible speed of focus acquisition…and it’s silent too. In comparison to its rather more noisy bigger brother, the Fujifilm 50mm F2 is so snappy.
Using face detection, especially with the latest firmware updates, was pretty much faultless and hunting for focus just didn’t happen.
Whilst I really love my 56mm F1.2 and have used it continuously since it was released, it does suffer from a somewhat slower focus acquisition. In fairness, this is partly down to the huge amount of glass that is shifting around but unless that extra depth of field is needed, or that extra stop of light, I can’t really see me reaching for the 1.2 lens too often in the future.
I nearly always have a camera kicking around. At home, in the kitchen, my X100F or one of my other X100’s are usually just “there” to use.
It’s rare for me to shoot personal images on an XT2, or actually, an X-Pro2 as usually when I’m with my family, I just grab the X100F and go.
However, for the images above, especially the shot of Rosa playing chess – having the ability to just grab that 50mm gave me an opportunity to shoot close up, with a shallow depth of field that I wouldn’t get with the X100F.
The image of Rosa playing chess was the very first shot I took using the Fujifilm 50mm F2 and it’s already one of my favourite images of her.
Would I have bothered taking a similar image, or even got a similar result, with the 56mm F1.2? Who knows.
Fujifilm 50mm F2 and Wedding Photography
This is where the little lens has taken me surprise; I’m using it all the time when shooting weddings and guess what? I’m really enjoying using it.
I’m a documentary wedding photographer which partly means I am generally not shooting portraits etc at weddings. I do still require a lens with decent reach though and I want to be able to have some “bokeh” fall off that is pleasing.
X-T2 XF 50mm @ F2 1/125th Second ISO 1,600
The above image was shot just a few days ago and using the 50mm lens for the whole day, I found that at the end of the day I’d hardly noticed it on the camera.
Sadly, the same can not be said for the 56mm 1.2 ~ whilst it is a gorgeous lens, compared to this one, it really does feel heavy and cumbersome after continuous use.
It’s worth pointing out however, that just because the Fujifilm 50mm F2 is available now, doesn’t automatically make the 56 1.2 a bad lens. Far from it. It’s a sublime lens, and really the only reason I’m using it less is because I have been, frankly, taken by surprise by the 50mm F2.
X-T2 XF 50mm @ F2 1/125th Second ISO 1,250
Silence & Speed
When I’m working, at weddings, or anywhere else really, I’m looking for emotion in the pictures I make.
At a wedding, for example, one of the key times for me as the photographer, is the immediate moments after the ceremony; it’s here that people embrace, hug, kiss and laugh. And it’s my favourite hunting ground for moments.
I never used my 56mm lens for this time of the day. For a couple of reasons; I found I couldn’t get quite as close as I’d like with the 56mm lens without the risk of people interfering with my image, and also, I just couldn’t react as quick as I would have liked.
I would normally use the 23mm 1.4 or 23mm F2 lens for this segment of the day, but for my last two weddings I have used the 50mm and really enjoyed it. It gives me a slightly different viewpoint and also allows me to have more depth of field (compared to the 23mm) without the need to get so close.
And as I mentioned, the face recognition system using this lens is just phenomenal.
Fujifilm 50mm F2 lens on the streets?
I love that all street photographers ideas and visions are very different. I don’t personally believe that you need to use a specific lens or focal length to shoot “on the streets”, though I’m very much aware that the general consensus is something around 35mm is the preferred choice.
That may well be true, and whilst I don’t think I’ll be using the Fujifilm 50mm F2 too much while shooting on the streets because it’s so small and light, I can simply pop it into my day bag. I’d never even consider taking my 56mm F1.2 lens for a day on the streets.
X-T2 XF 50mm @ F2 1/640th Second ISO 200
Shooting from the hip is Easy
And this, of course, is simply down to the size and weight of the lens. In the image above and the ones below, I use a combination of zone focusing and also AF-C tracking.
I just can’t imagine ever doing that with the 56mm lens.
The Fujifilm X-Series is an unobtrusive system, we all know that, but even so, having a large element lens when trying to shoot close up, in public is going to be difficult.
X-T2 XF 50mm @ F2 1/8,000th Second ISO 200 X-T2 XF 50mm @ F2.8 1/5,400th Second ISO 200
Whilst not a particularly great image (above), I think it demonstrates the potential of this lens as an option for medium distance focal length with a shallow depth of field.X-T2 XF 50mm @ F2 1/8,000th Second ISO 200 X-T2 XF 50mm @ F2 1/8,000th Second ISO 200 X-T2 XF 50mm @ F2 1/4,700th Second ISO 200
Fujifilm 50mm F2 v 56mm F1.2
When I was at The Photography Show a couple of weeks back, the number one questions I was asked about this lens was “Is it better than the 56mm lens?”.
And you know what, the answer is; yes, and no…..and maybe.
Really, it depends on your need. For example, I’m not going to sell my 56mm lens and it will still travel with me to every wedding. Here in the UK, the venues are dark and the weather is often dingy. I rely on the 1.2 aperture in low light. The F2 aperture of the new Fujifilm 50mm will not cut it in those cases (even though, as it’s lighter, I can probably get away with a slower hand held shutter speed).
There is something beautiful about the images rendered by the 56mm, especially wide open, that simply can’t be emulated. Those that love to emphasise and use that narrow depth of field are likely to remain true to the 56mm.
However, for me, the only need I have now for the 56mm is when I need that extra stop of light. I can’t see me using the 56mm 1.2 at all during weddings before the first dance.
In essence, I need both of them, but the Fujifilm 50mm F2 has actually opened up a couple of new angles for me. I find it much easier to shoot from the hip, and for those that use the XT-2 / 20 and the tilt screen, you will notice a huge difference using this lens to shoot through subjects to tell a story compared to the 56mm F1.2
You can buy the Fuji 50mm F2 right now. It’s available and pretty reasonably priced if you ask me. I can imagine people who are setting out on a new journey with the X-Series investing in the three F2 lenses and having a pretty amazing system from the off.
A Surprising Lens
The Fujifilm 50mm F2 really is a Gem. And I’m not just saying that. There are aspects of the 35mm F2 that I don’t like and also the 23mm F2. I’m really not a fan of the 14mm, nor the 16mm for the type of work I shoot ~ so I’m not just pulling a line here.