Monday, April 3, 2017

My 5 Favorite Lenses For Fujifilm X-Trans

Yashica Minister-D & Fujifilm X-E1
I've been a "Fuji Fanboy" ever since I purchased a four-year-old Fujifilm X-E1 last July. Prior to that my experience with the company was with their great film products, and Velvia 50 was my favorite of the bunch. But I'm a pretty new convert to their digital cameras.

What's great about my X-E1 is the experience of using it. I've never really loved the design of a digital camera until I used this one. It's setup like a classic film camera. The controls are where they were always meant to be. There's no PASM dial, and you realize right away how dumb and completely unnecessary the PASM dial is. The controls are simple. There's no fumbling through menus to change the essential functions of the camera. It all makes perfect sense to old-school film shooters.

The unique X-Trans sensor (which is an ordinary Sony sensor with a different color filter array on it) allows Fujifilm to maximize dynamic range and high-ISO capabilities. Fuji has also created the best in-camera JPEG processing, which produces results closer to what one would expect from post-processed RAW files and not camera-made JPEGs. There's plenty to love about Fuji cameras.

And then there's the glass. Lenses are just as important, if not more important, than the camera body. Fujinon lenses are highly regarded and well respected within the industry. Some people rate them just below Leica and Zeiss. Fuji has great glass!

But great glass comes at a great price. And by that I mean Fujinon lenses aren't cheap. They're not as expensive as you might guess based on their quality, but you'll definitely fork over some large dollar bills. Because of this I only own one modern Fujinon lens: the "kit" 18-55mm. Now this is a very good lens, sharper and faster than any other 18-55mm zoom that I've used from other brands. Mostly, however, I use older lenses and/or other brands.

I get asked frequently what lenses I recommend for Fuji X-Trans cameras. I'll answer this by telling you which lenses I use the most. These are the lenses that work for me, and maybe they'd work for you, too. They might even work for you even if you don't own a Fujifilm camera. Below are the five most used lenses on my Fujifilm X-E1 camera.

#5 - X-Fujinar-Z f/3.8 80-200mm DM
X-Fujinar-Z f/3.8 80-200mm DM lens
The Space Between The Peaks - South Weber, Utah
Fujifilm X-E1 & X-Fujinar-Z f/3.8 80-200mm DM, double-exposure photograph.
Even though this lens was sold by Fujifilm, it's not a Fujinon lens. It was actually manufactured by Nitto Kogaku for Fujica cameras back in the early and mid 1980's. And even though it says Fujinar, it won't work on your Fuji X series camera without an adapter (X-Fujinon-mount to Fuji-X-mount).

The X-Fujinar-Z f/3.8 80-200mm DM is a good-but-not-great lens that gives me telephoto versatility. It's a little big and heavy. The lens is manual focus and it can be difficult to nail focus. It has a few flaws. But it delivers pretty good overall image quality. And its 120-300mm equivalent focal length certainly comes in handy sometimes, so it's good to have around.

I picked up this lens at a flea market for $30. About 8% of my exposures over the last two months were captured using this lens, so I only use it occasionally. When I do need it I appreciate having it.

#4 - Helios 44-2 f/2 58mm
Helios 44-2 f/2 58mm lens
Tricycle In The Woods - South Weber, Utah
Fujifilm X-E1 & Helios 44-2 f/2 58mm.
The Helios 44-2 f/2 58mm lens is a Soviet Union reverse-engineered Zeiss Jena Biotar f/2 58mm lens from the 1920's. Mine came attached to a Zenit-E SLR from the 1970's. It's M42 screw mount, so it requires an adapter to work on a Fuji X series camera. The 58mm focal length is equivalent to 87mm on a full-frame camera.

What I love about this lens is that it is imperfect, but in the most beautiful ways imaginable. It has a swirly bokeh. Lens flare can get wild. There's just a quality and character about it that you won't find with any modern lens. It's not something to use all of the time, but in the right situations it can produce magical results.

My lens was a gift, but you can pick up a Helios 44-2 lens for typically around $40-$50. It's worth the cost to get one, and it's a heck-of-a-lot cheaper than the Zeiss lens that it's copied from. I used this lens for approximately 15% of my exposures over the last two months.

#3 - X-Fujinon-T f/3.5 135mm EBC DM
X-Fujinon-T f/3.5 135mm EBC DM lens
Clouds & Wasatch - South Weber, Utah
Fujifilm X-E1 & X-Fujinon-T f/3.5 135mm EBC DM.
Fujinon lenses are known for being quality glass, and a lot of people think that this is a recent phenomenon. But Fujifilm has been making great lenses for a long time now. The X-Fujinon-T f/3.5 135mm EBC DM is one of those lenses, made for the Fujica camera system back in the early and mid 1980's. I paid $45 dollars for mine. It requires the same adapter as the X-Fujinar-Z lens.

The lens is very sharp and has few flaws. The manual focus wheel is a bit sensitive and it can be a little tricky to nail focus. I also wouldn't mind if the maximum aperture was a little wider than f/3.5. But otherwise it's an excellent telephoto option that delivers great results.

Even though the 135mm focal length is covered by the 80-200mm zoom lens that I own, this lens gives superior image quality, so if I can use this lens instead of the zoom I will. The 202mm equivalent focal length seems to be a good sweet spot for telephoto photography, so I find myself using it fairly often. Over the last two months about 17% of my exposures were captured using this lens.

#2 - Rokinon f/2 12mm NCS CS
Rokinon f/2 12mm NCS CS lens
Playing Large - South Weber, Utah
Fujifilm X-E1 & Rokinon f/2 12mm NCS CS.
The Rokinon f/2 12mm NCS CS lens is the most recent addition to my camera bag. It's the only X-mount lens on this list (meaning it doesn't require an adapter) and the only lens that can be purchased brand new. I paid $300 for mine.

This is an ultra-wide-angle lens that has an equivalent focal length of 18mm. Even though it's a new lens, it's manual focus only. The lens is fast and sharp and overall pretty good. It does have its flaws, despite being by far the most expensive lens on this list.

The Rokinon 12mm lens is challenging to use because it requires you to shove that glass right into the scene. You have to get very close. You can't be timid while using it. But the results can be very dramatic. The challenge can be highly rewarding. Over the last two months (in which I haven't owned this lens the entirety of) I have captured about 25% of my exposures using the Rokinon 12mm lens.

#1 - X-Fujinon f/1.9 50mm DM
X-Fujinon f/1.9 50mm DM lens
Birds On A Vase - South Weber, Utah
Fujifilm X-E1 & X-Fujinon f/1.9 50mm DM.
The lens that I have used the most over the last two months is an X-Fujinon f/1.9 50mm DM. It's a "nifty fifty" that is equivalent to 75mm on a Fuji X-Trans camera. Since the lens was made in the early 1980's for Fujica cameras, it requires the same adapter that I use for the other X-Fujinon lenses. The lens is sharp and fast and has virtually no flaws. The lens is fairly small and lightweight. It's just really great!

The X-Fujinon f/1.9 50mm DM is a solid prime that's an example of great Fuji engineering. The lens just creates beautiful pictures. It's a joy to use. If I were restricted to just one lens, this is the one that I'd choose. 

This lens is my favorite to use, but it's also the cheapest. I paid only $20 for it. That's the best twenty dollar bill I've ever spent on photography! Over the last two months I've used this lens to capture approximately 30% of my exposures.

Coffee & Camera - South Weber, Utah
Fujifilm X-E1 & X-Fujinon f/1.9 50mm DM.
I have other lenses besides the five above, and I occasionally have used those over the last two months (about 5% total). Going through my exposures and adding it all up, there are two lenses that get used far more than the others. The X-Fujinon 50mm and the Rokinon 12mm are the lenses that are most frequently attached to the front of my X-E1.

If I wanted to lighten my gear load, I would keep only the top four lenses and get rid of the rest. I could live without the other lenses, no problem. I could live without a single auto-focus option, as manual focus and Fujifilm X-Trans go together like peanut butter and jelly. I think simplicity is better. A few prime lenses will do.

No need to spend thousands of dollars on glass. Most people are on a tight budget and can't afford a bunch of high-end lenses. $500 will get you all of the lenses mentioned here plus the necessary adapters. 

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