Fujifiilm’s lens division Fujinon has introduced an ultra-wide angle zoom for its medium format GFX mirrorless cameras. Kevin Carter looks closer
Fujifilm’s GFX medium format cameras offer the compactness of mirrorless with the benefit of a generous 44x33mm sensor, so thumping great big lenses for full-frame 54x40mm 645 DSLRs is becoming less of a thing. Indeed, as Fujinon used to supply the components for Hasselblad’s now discontinued HC/HCD models for the H series cameras, it’s little surprise that they’re not only filling that void but expanding what’s on offer with their own brand of lenses.
Perhaps the biggest problem Fuji has, though, is competing with the range of ultra-wides for the smaller FF 36x24mm sensor, once called 35mm format. Lenses like this tend to be large anyway and designing one to cover the 44x33mm sensor means it’s likely to be larger still.
This relatively new lens is the equivalent of a 16-28mm and while quite a handful it is, thankfully, no larger than some 16-35mm F2.8 or F4 lenses designed for 35mm. With an equivalent F3.3 depth of field wide-open, that’s quite a feat in itself. Externally the lens is made from metal with nicely damped rubber-covered focusing and zoom rings. There’s also a metal aperture ring with click-stops between aperture values. It all feels well-made and well-designed.
Mounted on the Fujifilm GFX 50s II, on loan from super-friendly Fujifilm UK, the lens handles really rather well. Admittedly, the combination is quite large but that can’t be helped and with more glass at the rear, closer to the body, it’s not as front-heavy as you would imagine.
Zooming and focusing are smooth in operation and both actions are internal, which means there’s no change in length when you zoom or focus. Also worthy of note is that without an extending barrel, this internal design must improve the overall durability, especially if you’re in the habit of inadvertently knocking the thing when extended. I’m not, but it happens.
Fujifilm also includes a plastic but otherwise well-made hood with a locking button, so there’s none of the damaging torque required for those fearful, friction-based hood designs that plague other brands.
Do they sub-contract them? Probably, as I suspect they all do, but this is an example of someone somewhere giving the problem some thought. Would I prefer a rectangular hood? Yes, most definitely. As there’s probably a small manufacturer in Japan, or more likely China, making these for everyone, why don’t they offer rectangular hoods (with the locking mechanism) to both the OEM and replacement markets?
Auto-focus is smooth and pretty swift in operation. It’s the closest you’ll get to AF in 35mm systems but it’s not as fast as the fastest of those. Still, it’s probably the fastest of any MF system, and besides most users are likely to adopt manual focus anyway.
I used, and particularly liked, the option to initiate focus with the rear AF button on the GFX 50S body II and then manually fine-tune afterwards. Come to think of it, I once mentioned this feature to a Fujifilm executive at a sports event which was at that time missing on their cameras, and I like to think that I may have helped with its introduction. Who knows?
If Fujifilm is reading this (probably not), I offer consulting services 😉
That’s not to say AF isn’t accurate, it is for the most part, but I like to fine-tune the focus point manually. But that’s just me and with internal AF motors in all the lenses (which allows you to seamlessly switch between AF and manual without first having to de-clutch) it’s a nice option to have in your workflow.
But what about the image quality?
Like most modern lenses these days there’s what we euphemistically call a “digital element” included in the lens design. In other words, it relies on digital correction. This helps keep the lens to a manageable size and reduces distortion, CA and vignetting. While there is some pixel stretching with the distortion correction applied, if you care to look using something that can turn off the corrections, it’s not as extreme as you might imagine. Meaning, the lens is pretty well-corrected optically to begin with and the profiles are used only to tweak it that bit further.
At least that’s the case at the wide end where barrel distortion usually plays havoc. Where most correction takes place is, counterintuitively, at the longer end where there’s quite heavy pincushion without it. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that the distortion correction applied at the wide end is unnecessary and introduces some pincushion (shown above), with the most stretching visible at the edges where it’s not wanted. Turning distortion off there results in a more natural-looking rendering. But that’s just my opinion, yours might differ.
Sharpness is excellent, especially at the shorter end and mid-range, even when wide open, though stopping down a stop improves things across the frame. CA is really well-controlled and the optical designers at Fujifilm must be applauded for their skill at controlling flare and ghosting, particularly the latter where even shooting inadvertently into the sun barely causes a ripple. What’s more, I used a Fujifilm Protector filter with all the sample images, so that sentiment extends to that as well and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend those.
The result then is that image quality is first-class. Admittedly, you might be tempted to tweak thee distortion profile corrections on and off at times but that’s to be expected these days. If you shoot architecture and interiors, or even fancy it for landscapes this must surely be rated as one of the “must-have” lenses in the system.
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