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Review: Fuji XF 50-140mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR Lens

The 50-140mm f/2.8 lens is perhaps one of the most impressive lenses in the entire Fuji X-Mount lineup. This red-badged XF zoom combines impressive construction quality with outstanding optics, but it’s not without its quirks. I rented this lens as part of the Fuji Professional Rental Service and got to spend a few weeks testing it out. Read on to hear my thoughts!

 

Build Quality

Fuji has really done a great job on the construction of the 50-140mm f/2.8. It’s a solid and weighty lens (at just over 2 lbs) and it looks great in person. It achieves it’s WR (Weather Resistant) designation thanks in part to the fact that all of the focusing mechanism is inside of the lens itself. I’ve had some issues with particles making their way into telescoping zooms in the past thanks to them sucking said particles in during zooming, and it’s nice to know that the 50-140mm f/2.8 is sealed in multiple places (including at the lens mount) to keep that type of risk down.

The zoom ring is the most prominent element of the lens, and the manual focus ring sits just above it. Fuji has done a great job with the aperture ring which clicks nicely in 3rd stop intervals with a range from f/2.8 to f/22. The lens comes packaged with both lens caps, a lens hood with a built in opening for filter access and a tripod collar to mount the lens itself to a monopod or tripod.

When you first attach the 50-140mm f/2.8 and power the camera on, you’ll most likely immediately notice the whirring sound of the linear motor (LM). This is normal, and in especially quiet areas it’s pretty noticeable. Outside and in any shooting environment where there’s even a little ambient noise, it’s virtually undetectable. The disheartening “clunk” from the lens upon shutdown is also the linear motor and is to be expected, but it’s also as heart-stopping as the “clunking” of the XF 90mm f/2 that became the talk of the town upon that lenses initial release.

The red XF badge is in full view on the 50-140mm f/2.8 and the lens definitely exudes that type of premium quality that you’d come to expect from that symbol. 

 

 

 

 

Usage

I knew going in that the 50-140mm f/2.8 was considered to be the largest and heaviest of the XF lenses, but at first glance I wasn’t put off at all. Surely it’s larger and heavier than the XF primes, but when compared with similar zooms in the DSLR world (around 70-200mm f/2.8 equivalents) it’s quite a bit smaller and easier to manage.

To be honest, I didn’t truly even notice the weight of the lens until I mounted it on the X-T1. I use the Fuji MHG-XT grip on my X-T1 and even then it was difficult to let it hang in one hand for too long. I’m not convinced that letting the weight of this lens pull down on the X-T1s lens mount for extended periods of time is a good idea either. There’s a good reason Fuji includes the tripod collar to distribute that weight on a monopod or tripod. I was too paranoid to find out what would happen if you let the 50-140mm f/2.8 dangle from the lens mount for too long, so I always found myself cradling the lens in my left hand while holding the camera in my right. The weight of the lens demands some respect in that way.

Having said all that, once I got used to the feeling of the lens on the camera shooting was a breeze. When you’re used to shooting primes, as I have been for the past 18 months or so, going back to a zoom lens is a pretty strange feeling (especially one of this size and weight). I found that when I’m using a zoom lens I’m always inclined to go right to the top of the zoom range to get as much reach as I can. I hardly shot the 50-140mm f/2.8 at 50mm because I’m always eager to see just how close in I can get at the maximum zoom range.

This is one area where the 50-140mm f/2.8 kind of fell flat for me. 140mm just doesn’t seem like that much reach, but that might be because I have the 50-230mm f/4.5-6.7. I suppose I’m a little insatiable when it comes to zoom lenses. Closer, closer, sharper, sharper - it's what I'm always asking for from a zoom lens. It’s not really a fault to top out at 140mm, it's just disappointing when you want to zoom a bit more and you reach that sudden stop on the zoom ring. Anyone who’s tried to take a photograph of a bird with a zoom lens knows this “sudden stop” well, along with the feeling of wanting more reach that accompanies it.

Although the aperture ring and the zoom ring themselves feel great and have a nice level of tension, I found that the manual focus ring was way too tight. Even though the 50-140mm f/2.8 does an amazing job locking autofocus and tracking it, there’s still many times where it might overshoot and grab the background. In those cases, it should be easy to quickly adjust to pull back onto the foreground subject with AF+MF, but instead it’s not. It’s almost impossible actually, because it takes far too many full turns of the manual focus wheel to even get back to the foreground. You’ll most likely give up after three overly difficult spins, stop turning the wheel and just try to reattain focus on the correct subject from scratch. That’s if your subject is still there, that is. Sure, a tighter focus ring is great to avoid focus creeping when zoomed close in, but I’d rather have a solid manual focus wheel that finds a happy medium and still works well with minimal travel.

The tripod collar is easy to get on and off thanks to well-machined thumbscrews that fit easily. The lens hood is also easy to quickly attach and the addition of an opening on the hood itself that allows you to access and use filters is a nice touch. 

 

Performance

Much has already been written about the sharpness and speedy autofocus performance of this lens and I was very happy to discover for myself that it was true. Images from this lens were sharp throughout the zoom range and I loved how well the linear motor technology on this lens paired with the Zone focus settings in the latest autofocus firmware from Fuji. You can tell that this lens and that type of fast, accurate phase detection autofocus were meant for each other.

The X-T1 / 50-140mm f/2.8 combo locked onto moving subjects quickly and accurately with only a minimal amount of shots going slightly out of focus. It did happen, albeit rarely. It’s still not as fast or accurate as DSLRs I’ve tried in the past in terms of shooting wildlife, but this is an area that I think Fuji is making great strides in, and I feel that future hardware could close that gap significantly. This is a step in the right direction, for sure.

I also love the fact that this lens is a constant f/2.8. It’s a beast of a lens but that’s simply due to its ability to maintain that maximum aperture all the way throughout its zoom range. It’s fantastic to be able to snap to 2.8 and get amazing subject isolation while keeping the ISO lower than any of the other Fuji zooms can currently offer.

As I mentioned earlier, I would have liked to have been able to reach past 140mm, but if Fuji had tried to go any higher we’d be looking at an even larger and more costly lens that may or may not have been able to perform very well. My guess is that, at the time of development, Fuji was working on this 50-140mm range to go hand-in-hand with the 140-400mm telephoto zoom lens that they’re releasing sometime next year. That telephoto zoom has since been reset to a 100-400mm zoom range, and it remains one of my most anticipated lenses in the XF lineup after I’ve seen the performance they’ve achieved with the 50-140mm f/2.8. Additionally, Fuji now offers a 1.4x teleconverter that would also bump up the zoom range of the 50-140mm f/2.8, but it will also set you back another $449 USD.

 

Samples

 

When I think of zoom lenses, I always think of wildlife and nature. With most subjects and a prime lens, you can move around to alter your shot. When it comes to animals, you sometimes don't want to get close, and that's where a zoom comes in handy.

 

All of the samples below can be enlarged by clicking on them. They are not straight out of camera - all of them have been run through Lightroom.

 

This is one example of a shot where I would have liked just a bit more reach than the 140mm could manage to provide.

 

Zone focus tracking on continuous mode with the 50-140mm f/2.8 and X-T1 (140mm, 1/1000, ISO 320 at f4):

 

Hummingbirds and Ospreys make for great subjects, but I also decided to take the 50-140mm f/2.8 to the Dallas Zoo to see if I could get in a bit closer to some larger animals with this lens.

 


ADDITIONAL PRODUCT SHOTS


 

Price

So how much does a top-of-the-line performing, weather sealed constant 2.8 aperture XF red-badged professional grade lens cost? Answer: it’s not cheap. 

At $1599 USD, seen for around $1399 during most sales, it’s currently the most expensive X-mount lens on the market. For that kind of money, it’s definitely not something I’d consider as an impulse buy. Unless you’re actually using this lens for your day-to-day work and making your money back on it, I’d definitely consider renting it before you purchase it or renting it on a project-to-project basis.

Or, if you’re wealthy and have disposable income to throw around wherever you want, then buy it immediately. Why not? If you’re in the market for a lens in this zoom range you’re guaranteed to get excellent results from this lens. In fact, go ahead and buy two and send me one, while you’re at it!

 

Conclusions: Fuji XF 50-140mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR Lens 

 

Pro’s:

  • Amazing weather sealed construction and solid build.
  • Top-of-the-line autofocus speed when mounted on the X-T1.
  • Easy to attach / detach tripod collar included. This definitely aids with stabilizing the weight on monopods and tripods.
  • Constant 2.8 aperture. Amazing speed that offers fantastic subject isolation while keeping the ISO down throughout the entire zoom range.

Con’s:

  • Size and weight. It’s too big to fit in my daily carry (Think Tank Retrospective 5) and it’s considerably heavier than other XF lenses.
  • Price. It’s built for professionals who need the speed and versatility and it’s priced for that market as well.
  • The manual focus ring is too tight for long travel. This makes utilizing AF+MF for quick corrections virtually impossible.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

In terms of speed, versatility and performance, the 50-140mm f/2.8 is unmatched in the Fuji X-Mount lineup. I can see this lens being a really great addition to the kit of photojournalists and wedding photographers. Nature or wildlife photographers might also like this lens in combination with the new 1.4x teleconverter that Fuji recently released.

For anyone else who isn’t making money from this lens, the $1599 price tag may give you pause, and rightfully so. It’s an excellent lens that is reasonably priced when looking at what you get, especially when compared to its DSLR counterparts, but if you’re not sure if this is the lens for you then I’d definitely suggest renting it and giving it a try before buying it outright.