Trying out a new lens

Ever since I bought the Fujifilm X-E1 I have been holding out for the promised 23mm f/1.4 and 56mm f/1.2 prime lenses. I already have the 35mm f/1.4 lens, and it is fantastic. These three lenses together would cover almost every situation I normally want to photograph1. And if the 35mm lens and the ultra-wide 14mm f/2.8 are any indication they would be optically excellent.

Unfortunately, it appears that designing lenses isn’t easy, and the fast primes have been pushed back from their earlier schedule. According to an updated roadmap published by Fujifilm the 23mm, which was planned for the first half of this year, is now supposed to be available near the end of the year instead, and the 56mm is supposed to be available early in 2014.

A big part of the reason I chose the X-E1 over the Sony NEX-7, which I almost bought, was the lenses (the other major part was a set of traditional controls). Fuji’s initial lens releases were very good, and their roadmap was very exciting to someone who prefers fast primes2. Sony didn’t, and still doesn’t, appear to understand that high quality lenses are very important.

But now I’m feeling stuck. If I were to only have one lens, ever, it probably would be the 35mm f/1.4 I have now. It’s an excellent lens, better than the old 50mm f/1.8 Canon lenses I had on my FD system, and much better than the 25mm f/2.8 pancake lens I had on my Olympus. It is an outstanding “normal field of view” lens.

But I really love having a wider angle lens available for general photography, and a short telephoto is almost a necessity sometimes.

I expect that I’ll end up buying the planned prime lenses eventually, but I hope to do a little travel between now and the expected release dates. And I want more flexibility than I have with just one focal length. I took a risk buying a system on planned lens releases and now I have to live with that.

So instead of sticking to my guns and being a prime lens purist, I ordered the 18–55mm f/2.8–4 zoom. I used this lens as a rental once, and it is a definite step up from the equivalent lens on my Olympus. It still has a variable maximum aperture, sadly, but is very well built and a full stop faster than the equivalent lenses on other cameras.

I was still a little worried about distortion and optical quality. Zooms, even high end ones, tend to have barrel distortion at one end and pincushion distortion at the other. They also tend to be less sharp than primes. Meanwhile, Fuji’s primes so far appear to be fully optically corrected for distortion and are very sharp. But even though this lens is not completely distortion free it is very good.

I took the lens out yesterday and took a few shots to try it out. Nothing special, but so far I’m quite happy with the feel and operation and with the sharpness of the lens. Focus is quick and much quieter than the 35mm. I look forward to getting a lot of use out of this lens, and will just have to deal with the shame of buying a zoom somehow. Maybe by taking pictures that I’m proud of.

A Fountain

A little color in a dull spring

— Steve

  1. The X-E1 has an APS-C sized sensor with a crop factor of about 1.5x. These lenses have roughly the equivalent field of view of 35mm, 53mm, and 84mm lenses on a 35mm camera. 

  2. And is willing to pay for them. 

Posted on 25 April 2013