A week with the Fujinon XF 200mm F2 OiS lens
On my own dime, I rented the Fujinon XF200mm F2 lens, by far, their flagship lens for the Fuji X system. I wanted to put the lens through a few tests for image quality as compared to my Fujinon XF 100-400mm f4-5.6 and XF 50-140mm f2.8 with and without the TC1.4x tele converter. I wanted to use it in real world situations too using it for wildlife and some people pictures just to gauge handling and performance. This lens is currently on sale through the end of March for $4999, a $1k discount off the normal price. So is it more than two times better than what I have? To it’s credit, it comes with a really, really nice functional case and a matching XF TC 1.4x tele converter.
Let’s get the few numbers I’m going to touch on out of the way first. This 200mm lens is similar to what a full frame (FF) 300mm lens offers in angle of view. I stay away from “equivalence” remarks because there is so much more involved in equating a crop sensor, m4/3’s or medium format sensor, to a full frame sensor and vice versa. You can use angles of view to loosely describe the crop factor and what you see but true equivalence would need to incorporate aperture and ISO and its not as straight forward as internet know it all’s claim. So you see like a FF 300mm F2 right off. With the TC in place you have a 280mm lens and a angle of view like a 420mm FF lens but your aperture loses a stop, so you are at F2.8 instead of f2. Still pretty darned good! Sort of like getting two nice telephotos for the price of one. In a smaller, lighter and cheaper package. Thats a win right there! I tested this lens with my Fuji X-H1 and X-T3 bodies. I only weighed it on my X-T3 where it measured 7 lbs 10.7 oz. for the camera and lens with the matching TC1.4x in place. Thats over 3 lbs less than my Nikon 200mm F2 and Nikon D800 sans a TC weighed when I owned it. The Fuji is not real light but it is usable. The Nikon 200mm F2 is $5696 currently if you are keeping score there. And the Nikon 400mm f2.8 is $11, 196. Wow. I won’t even mention the weight. For those wondering the OiS offers phenomenal lens stabilization. I shot at 1/15th second hand held with no worries.
Auto focus is fast. Its just pretty much instantaneous. I felt at times that it somehow prefocused when I put it to my eye it was that quick. The 1.4x TC didn’t change that but the 2x was a hair slower. Build quality is Fuji best. The finish on this lens is worth the extra cost. Just a gorgeous lens that could be displayed as art. Nothing to criticize about the fit, finish, or performance.
I will tell you the Fuji 200mm is better than my Nikon 200mm is or was. In my opinion. Its not like night and day better because the Nikon 200mm IS a top quality lens but in my comparisons of images, I see improvement in color, contrast and sharpness. Again, its my eyes and not huge, but to me its there. And I considered the Nikon to be other worldly when I owned it. The overall quality of the image produced by the Fuji 200mm is different too. Its more 3D looking at times, it’s bokeh is fantastic, which helps but there is just something very “natural” about the Fuji 200’s pictures. Just not as clinical? Or technical? Man, I have no idea what or how to describe it but images are more pleasing. For years the Nikon 200mm was, in my mind, the very best at this up until I shot with the Fuji. The Fuji 200 though does offer a FF 300mm angle of view so it’s used somewhat different than the Nikon 200mm was. The Nikon 200mm is a portrait lens, but the Fuji 200 is and is not. It’s plenty capable of portraits, if you get far enough away and have the room. But it’s not really a portrait lens per se. It’s not really a great lens for birds or wildlife in its native state either. Add the TC and you are in the ballpark but my XF100-400 is at 400 out of the box and in fact, has an angle of view of a 600mm FF lens. That IS wildlife and bird image territory. The Fuji 200mm is two stops faster and that is a nice thing to have in your pocket when its close to dusk or its rainy and cloudy. You can shoot at 2.8 too and get drop dead bokeh backgrounds and while the zooms are pretty good, they aren’t that good for backgrounds. Truthfully, my XF50-140 with its TC is very very close to the Fuji 200mm in image quality, definitely not quite as good but its also $3500 cheaper and way lighter. Fuji makes really fine glass and once you get into where the 200mm is, it becomes very tough to find the difference of “over the top” greatness in a lens and the more common merely excellent offerings. Don’t get me wrong, the Fuji XF 200mm is worth the price they ask. It’s just more difficult for someone like me to justify it since what it does best and where it works best is not a money generator for me. The Fuji 200 would kick butt in sports, and in some wildlife situations but it’s not quite capable in reach to replacing my XF100-400 and for my wildlife work, I’d still pick the 100-400. I did try the 200mm with the Fuji TC 2x too. Image quality faded and the 100-400 beat it in my comparisons but the images are definitely usable for all but large prints.
Those are tough statements to make. Because I really hated sending that lens back without having one ordered to replace it. I thought long and hard and really pushed the numbers but in the end, its just not something I can justify right now. The picture below shows how good a portrait lens it is.
I’m not saying no to this lens permanently as I hope to come back to it and add it at some point. I did sell my Nikon 200mm f2 though, because for my work at the time I was using the 70-200 more. It sat. Right now, if I’m spending money on lenses for portrait type work then it will be with my Fuji GFX system. The GF 100-200mm f5.6 which I rightly dissed heavily, may be a better choice for people pictures. I’m not sold on the 100-200 for the GFX because I really think its too slow but in use with a flash it may be usable and it’s “only” $1999. It’s rumored to be exceptionally sharp wide open which it would need to be given how slow an aperture it sports. It’s very lightweight too so maybe thats something I look at as well. Some day. Or possibly the GF 250mm f4. I have options.
After some long thought, I decided to invest in a new desk top computer for my work versus getting a Fuji 200mm. I’ve wanted to do this purchase for a while and kept putting it off, buying a macro instead, then a X-T3 body and who knows what else. My memory fades. Well, it’s time and I ordered the new Apple desk top, a maxed out Mac Mini, to work with my lowly 4K Apple display and mouse keyboard combo. I will use the new desktop for all my post processing and the laptop becomes a work email, and tethering machine.
I had a bunch of birds on my feed station this morning and wished for the 200. It works there because I’m shooting through plate glass and only 5-10 ft away. In the wild, walking around I prefer the reach and weight of my XF100-400 or the 50-140mm with TC depending on what I’m after. I get excellent results with these two zooms, they are like primes, truth be known. And so they will continue to serve me well until I sell a body part, win the lottery or just say bloody hell, and put the 200 on the card.
The above are a few gallery images produced by the Fuji XF 200mm F2 OiS lens with either the X-T3 or X-H1. The deer is shot with the 2x TC. The other images with the 1.4x TC. The Blue Jay is at 200mm native. No TC. Yes, I could make it work for me but I think I will wait for perhaps a longer focal length or for when I can stockpile some more money! It’s an outstanding lens, one of the best I have ever had the chance to use but it just doesn’t fit my style of work right now. If it works for you, then you are one fortunate SOB. Maybe some day…