I’ve had this lens for around a month now and used it in a variety of situations. Its the equivalent of 137mm on a full frame camera, so pretty close to the classic 135mm f2 that many portrait photographers love on the Canon and Nikon systems. I already have two portrait lenses, the 50-140mm f2.8 and the 56mm 1.2. Both are stellar lenses, tack sharp and a joy to use, so where does this new lens fit in?
First off, its weather sealed, which is a pretty big deal in the UK, where rain is an occupational hazard.
Secondly, there is the compression..135mm is a very flattering focal length for portraits and it gives a noticeably different look to the 56mm, which is the equivalent of an 85mm. Note I said different, not better. But different is good.
Third..its much lighter than the 50-140, although obviously a bit heavier than the 56. I’ll do a better comparison of these three lenses at the end of the article.
Here are a few images to break up the wall of text and give you an idea of the image quality..First, a location shot from a fashion shoot I did recently.
This lens is tack sharp, right up there with the 50-140 and 56 1.2. Some say its sharper, I would say its hard to tell, as with most fuji lenses, I find myself not sharpening the image at all in post production, something that I would never say about my DSLR images back when I shot with Nikon and Canon.
As others have also commented, this thing deals with backgrounds simply beautifully. I’m not a bokeh snob, and personally I have little problem with the bokeh from the 50-140, and the 56 1.2 produces the best bokeh of any Fuji lens in my opinion..until now. This lens is just slightly better than the 56, enough to notice and give images just that little edge that makes it worth while. Here is a straight out of camera jpeg from a recent shoot. I would normally apply some editing if I was going to use this, but it was basically a test shot.
So..weather sealing, lovely compression, amazing sharpness, best bokeh of any fuji lens so far..what are the downsides? It is a quite a long focal length to use without image stabilisation. You will need to keep the shutter speed high to avoid image blur from camera shake. Therefore I don’t see this as a low light lens ( if you are going to use it inside a church for example I would use a monopod ). I understand why they left it out, and its fine, for low light work I’d choose one of the other 2 portrait lenses, the zoom has great IS and the 56 is a low light monster that is quite easy to handhold at much lower shutter speeds than this 90mm. So basically, if you have plenty of space to shoot and decent light, this is the premium portrait lens in the Fuji lineup, but its not for everyone and not for every situation.
Here are a couple more shots before the summary ( edited a teeny bit but nothing major ).
Here is my summary of the three lenses…
90mm f2 – best for bokeh, best lens when plenty of space and light, especially for headshots
56mm f1.2 – best for low light, or when a fuller length shot is needed, not quite as fast or sharp as the 90mm but still plenty sharp and fast enough for most people. More flexible focal length
50-140mm f2.8 – best for flexibiity and speed ( sports, fast parts of weddings ) and an AMAZING studio lens for people who like 70-200 focal length. In the studio this thing never leaves my camera. Also good for low light IF you can drop the shutter speed ( i.e. not lots of movement ) due to insanely good IS.
So..will I keep this lens? Hell yes, its awesome! There is something I can’t quite put into words about the image quality of this thing. Zack Arias said there were 3 lenses he’d used that had a “magic” quality about them ( in his case the 35mm 1.4 was one I agree on that ). I would say this makes my “magic lens” list. I wasn’t sure how much use I’d get out of it, but the fact is, I use it whenever I can and I only use the others when I need to ( even though they are both amazing lenses ). Once again, Fuji has delivered an incredible lens and that is what makes this system. The cameras will keep improving, the lenses are already best in class.
Here are a few more images from this lens, straight from camera…