17
Apr
2013

First Look: XF55-200mmF3.5-4.8 R LM OIS

UPDATE (18APR2013): Added more llama shots and a new flower shot.

UPDATE: US readers can already preorder the brand new Fuji 55-200mm lens at BHphoto (Click here).

by Rico Pfirstinger

Talk to Rico (questions & feedback)Rico’s XF55-200mmF3.5-4.8 R LM OIS Prototype Samples

Fuji’s XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS “kit zoom” was one of last year’s most pleasant surprises, offering very good image quality in a portale package at a quite affordable price. This May, it will be complemented by a telephoto zoom that was officially announced today. The new lens starts off exactly where the kit zoom ends: at 55mm, going all the way to 200mm. According to Fuji, that’s 84-305mm in 35mm (“full-frame”) equivalence terms.

The telephoto zoom’s full name is FUJINON XF55-200mmF3.5-4.8 R LM OIS, and it’s supposed to sell for USD 699.– (plus sales tax) in the U.S. or EUR 649.– (incl. VAT) here in Germany. I have been able to work with an early prototype of the lens for more than a week, so let’s have a closer look, shall we?

Same, same, but different…

If you already know Fuji’s 18-55mm kit zoom lens, the new telephoto zoom will immediately feel familiar. It’s obvious that Fujifilm wants you to buy this zoom as an extension to your already existing standard zoom. Both lenses offer the same key features: a manual focus ring, an aperture ring without engravings, a zoom ring, an optical image stabilizer (OIS) and fast/silent linear autofocus motors. Everything is located in the same place: There’s one switch to turn the OIS on and off, and there’s another one to toggle the lens between automatic and manual aperture settings. Design, build quality and used materials appear to be quite similar, as well.

Would you like to know more about what all those letters and numbers in XF55-200mmF3.5-4.8 R LM OIS actually mean? If that’s the case, you may want to read my article Decoding XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS here on Fujirumors. Pretty much all information on the kit zoom lens is also applicable to the new telephoto lens.

Welcome back! As I mentioned, working with the telephoto zoom is much of a “been there, done that” experience for those who already know Fujifilm’s standard kit zoom lens. Brought together, these two zoom lenses make a perfect couple. But so do Steffi and her Irish horse Poteen:

Fuji’s 55-200mm zoom contains 14 optical elements in 10 groups, including one aspherical lens and two ED elements. Performance should be similar to what we’ve seen from the 18-55mm zoom. It’s impossible to tell with such an early prototype, as Fuji is still working on the mechanics, the optics and the firmware of the lens. This article is far from definitive, it’s a First Look on a work in progress.

On the bright side?

A variable maximum aperture opening of F3.5-4.8 doesn’t sound like much, does it? And yet, the lens is quite up to the task when it comes to isolating objects from their background. Take a look:


110mm, f/4


149mm, f/5.6


190mm, f/9


78mm, f/9


95mm, f/5.6


135mm, f/4.5

More often than not, you may have to drastically stop-down the lens in order to expand the depth-of-field (DOF) to reasonable levels, like in these examples:


55mm, f/16


55mm, f/13


55mm, f/14

The maximum aperture number of this lens is f/22, another kit zoom similarity.

Come closer!

Fuji’s 55-200mm telephoto zoom is capable of operating at distances as close as 1.1 meters throughout all focal lengths, thus creating an opening for limited close-up work with the benefit of a rather narrow angle-of-field (29.0°-8.1°) to hide unwanted background elements, and with a maximum image ratio between 1:16.67 (at 55mm) and 1:5.56 (at 200mm).


116mm, f/4.5

The following uncropped samples illustrate the DOF at different working apertures of f/4.5 and f/8:


149mm, f/4.5


149mm, f/8

My focus point was at the center of the second flower from the right. As expected, there’s a trade-off between increased DOF and smoother bokeh. To get a better impression of these images, you can inspect larger versions of these and other sample shots in my Flickr set, where you can also view full EXIF information and read notes about what and who is depicted in the pictures.

With the limited DOF of increased focal lengths, focusing can become a tricky task: In order to nail a telephoto shot, it’s often useful to reduce the size of the AF frame and place it precisely over the area of the subject that you want to be in focus:


200mm, f/5.6

It would be beneficial if Fujifilm offered the camera’s built-in magnifier tool not only in manual focus (MF) mode, but also in AF-S and AF-C (like in the X100 and X100S). I’m pretty confident that such a feature will be part of Fuji’s next big firmware update for the X-E1 and X-Pro1, which I expect to be released this summer.

New firmware for old lenses

Speaking of summer, Fujifilm has also promised firmware updates for its five existing XF lenses. These updates are supposed to further enhance autofocus performance. The 55-200mm telephoto zoom will already ship with this faster firmware (so no upgrade will be necessary), but in order to properly use the lens, you’ll have to upgrade the firmware of your camera bodies to versions 1.05 (X-E1) and 2.04 (X-Pro1), respectively.

Obviously, the optical viewfinder of the X-Pro1 is of very limited benefit with this particular lens: A usable bright frame is only displayed between 55mm and 60mm. This makes the X-E1 (with its higher-res EVF) the better choice for longer lenses. Since the 55-200mm is rather bulky (but at 590 grams much lighter than it looks), I recommend attaching Fuji’s optional HG-XE1 hand grip to the camera. After all, fully extended and with its lightweight plastic lens hood, this is a pretty long lens—literally speaking. ;)

In my testing, AF performance of the prototype was pretty much on par with what I’m used to from my 18-55mm kit zoom lens. Comparing both zooms at 55mm in rather low light, I got the (utterly unscientific) impression that the 55-200m lens focused a tad faster than the kit zoom, but that may simply be because of its slightly larger aperture opening of f/3.5 (vs. f/4.0) at 55mm. More light, more contrast—you get the idea…

Speaking of aperture openings, here’s the deal:
The lens offers a maximum aperture of…
f/3.5 between 55mm & 75mm,
f/4.0 between 75mm & 115mm,
f/4.5 between 115mm & 165mm,
f/4.6 between 165 & 172mm and
f/4.8 between 172 & 200mm.

Of course, those numbers are just ballpark approximations and may be different in production lenses with production firmware.

The 55-200mm zoom lens features two fast (and very silent) linear motors, and like in the kit zoom lens, the OIS motor is always working (though almost inaudible) in either maintenance or stabilizing mode. The diameter of the filter thread is 62mm, so all of you who’ve just bought 58mm filters for your kit zoom, be prepared to buy again!

As mentioned earlier, the real focusing challenge of this lens (at least for me) is not its lack of speed but the requirement to focus very precisely due to the often limited DOF. Here are a few examples showing living subjects. Some of them even dared to move during shooting…


122mm, f/5


55mm, f/8

Is it just me, or is there a theme…? Anyway, more close-up stuff:


110mm, f/5


173mm, f/4.8


128mm, f/4.5


95mm, f/4


78mm, f/4


181mm, f/5.6

However, if you get it right, you may be rewarded with a pleasant interplay between in-focus and out-of-focus areas.


128mm, f/4.5


135mm, f/4.5


200mm, f/5.6

Again, please have a look at my Flickr set for larger viewing options.

No jitters, please!

Fujifilm promises strong OIS performance with a gain of “up to 4.5 stops” compared to using the lens without stabilization. In reality, your mileage may vary: There’s no guarantee for 100% crisp shots at 1/15s shutter speed and 200mm (= 300mm “full-frame” equiv.) focal length, but if you are lucky and have steady arms and hands (and possibly a monopod), you will probably be able to nail a decent percentage of shots. At such focal lengths, the OIS is also instrumental in framing and focusing the shot, as it calms an otherwise jittery live view image. That’s why I recommend using OIS mode 1 (= “always on”) with this kind of lens.

Manual focus is the usual “focus-by-wire”, but has a quite natural feel. In conjunction with the 3x/10x magnifier tool, the OIS is utterly indispensable.

Now what?

Is the Fuji’s new 55-200mm telephoto zoom lens worth its price? You bet, at least based on my hopefully not so wild assumption that Fujifilm will deliver image quality that compares well to its successful 18-55mm kit zoom lens. We will know for sure once I get my greedy hands on pre-production and production samples of this lens. Regarding handling, speed, design and operation, this telephoto zoom is an ideal extension (and big brother) to the venerable kit zoom lens.

Updated XF lens roadmap

Did I mention that Fujifilm has updated the XF lens roadmap? Well, here it is:

This chart basically confirms what was previously known, with two notable exceptions: Fuji is actively advertising the upcoming XF autofocus lenses from Carl Zeiss (some of you may wonder why), and the F1.4/56mm prime has turned into a faster F1.2/56mm lens. Nice! However, there’s a downside, too: This long-expected lens has been pushed back till January 2014. Honestly, I’d rather like to have it now.

Updated book roadmap

As for my book writing, reader feedback has been very kind and positive about how useful my current book “Mastering the FUJIFILM X-Pro1” (Kindle Edition) (Apple iBook Store) (German version) has been for owners of the X-E1 and even the new X100S. Thank y’all for telling me! That’s why I have decided to delay my X-E1 book until Fujifilm eventually releases a major firmware update that will offer many (as in 100+) new features and improvements. Once that happens (knowing Fuji, it may take a while), a future book will cover both the X-Pro1 and X-E1, so you’ll eventually get two updated camera books for the price of one. :) Till then, the current book will do just fine. Don’t take my word for it, though. Instead, read a few X-Pert Corner articles or my 65 pages of free reading samples (German version).

Updated critter roadmap

Last Sunday, we got ourselves a llama. Yes, really! His name is Skipper, he’s eight years old. He’s originally from a circus, and he only spits at Nikon users.


55mm, f/3.5


86mm, f/5.6

I’ll get back to you with more llama shots (taken with the telephoto zoom, of course) once Skipper got his own webpage on our little riding website here in Germany.

LLAMA UPDATE: Took two more llama shots today…


200mm, f/7.1, 1/45s (free-hand, OIS at work)


78mm, f/5.6

And one for those who don’t like llamas:


200mm, f/5.6

 

EXR article update

I’m still collecting questions concerning my planned X-Pert Corner article explaining EXR technology (and how to use it best). What happened to the 1,500+ readers who voted for such an article here on Fujirumors? Come on!

Happy shooting,
have a nice week, and
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, PATRICK!

For your convenience, here’s a TOC with links to my previous X-PERT CORNER articles:

Rico Pfirstinger studied communications and has been working as journalist, publicist, and photographer since the mid-80s. He has written a number of books on topics as diverse as Adobe PageMaker and sled dogs, and produced a beautiful book of photographs titled Huskies in Action (German version). He has spent time working as the head of a department with the German Burda-Publishing Company and served as chief editor for a winter sports website. After eight years as a freelance film critic and entertainment writer in Los Angeles, Rico now lives in Germany and devotes his time to digital photography and compact camera systems. His book “Mastering the FUJIFILM X-Pro1” (Kindle Edition) (Apple iBook Store) (German version) is available on Amazon and offers a plethora of tips, secrets and background information on successfully using Fuji’s X-Pro1 and X-E1 system cameras, lenses and key accessories.

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  • patrick

    thx Rico! and great article again.

  • http://kaiuhl.com/ Kyle Meyer

    This lens looks amazing. I’m surprised how shallow the depth of field can be despite the somewhat smaller apertures, and it seems sharp despite all that.

    But I want the 56mm ƒ/1.2. I think it’s obvious they’re holding that lens back and making it even more attractive to pair with the launch of the X-Pro2.

  • http://Www.spacepirations.com Amnon Govrin

    Very informative! When I got my X-E1 I actually thought I’d miss the longer zoom more than I have.
    Regardless I’m intrigued by the 100+ features you mention in a new firmware. Is there any reliable information on that?

    • tthorne

      Rico, this is a +1 for me. What info and how solid regarding the 100+ features coming to the XE1/XP1? Is this speculation/wishful thinking, or is there more to it?

    • http://www.7188photography.com holger

      The way I understood it, he’ll only write a new book when Fuji brings out major updates that have 100+ features – which will not be any time soon, as Rico wrote?

  • Phil

    It looks very nice. I have the 18-55 and think it`s a very nice lens.
    I will buy the 55-200 as well is it measures up to the 18-55,by the look of it that won`t be a problem.
    Now I only have to wait for the 10-24 and that 56 f/1.2,cant wait!

  • Spike

    Thumbs up for Rico !!! AAA+ !!! Great pictures and very good informations. Thank you again !!!

  • Jimmy

    Totally my thoughts too with the 56/1.2 being launched with the Xpro2… better get saving lol.

  • Dima

    +1 Great!

  • http://jonasraskphotography.com Jonas Rask

    Great read Rico.
    The 55-200mm sure looks great. Image quality and bokeh quality is amazing!

    Love the little hint at the 100+ features X-Pro1/X-E1 firmware update. Promising! ;)

    And a nikon-user spitting lama! LOL!

  • Nick

    Thank you Rico – a thoughtful, intelligent and useful exposition. If the optical quality of the final production version matches the 18-55mm, Fujifilm will clearly have another winner on their hands. My only reservation is the capacity of the “generation 1″ bodies to achieve decent AF performance with this lens, even with the promised updates. Telezooms seem to demand more from AF systems than their shorter counterparts. Some of the applications traditionally suited to lenses of this focal length – kids sport and other relatively closeby action – are I suspect going to be beyond the capability of any of the current Fujifilm bodies, which is a shame.

  • peevee

    Awfully overpriced for a lens barely (just 1/3-1/2 of a stop) faster than any other $100 kit tele zoom.

    • jon

      Hi, i believe that Fuji make the best ‘kit’ zooms, they are tightly manufactured from metal and high quality plastic materials and have far super optical quality to any other kit lens seen, there is no comparison to a $100 plastic zoom. If fuji made the zoom with a constant 2.8 aperture it would be unfeasably large and heavy not to mention double the price. Cheers jon

  • Jen

    Nice. In the future, please provide object distance along with DOF shots. It’s hard to judge DOF from the sample shots (like the green fence, for example) without knowing how far away you were from the subject.

    • Adrian

      +1. Also diffiicult to judge DOF not knowing how far away was the subject from the background… even a 35mm lens at f8 can provide a shallow DOF if focused close and the background in far, far away.

  • ph

    ‘an aperture ring without engravings’ is not a key feature, but a major omission.

    • Colormonger

      With a variable aperture lens, engraved apertures are not very meaningful IMO. The aperture value is displayed in the viewfinder/LCD, which is more important when working with the camera at your eye. In any event, the tactile 1/3 stop feedback is more valuable to me when making fine adjustments.

  • JimD

    It’s always a treat to read your writing!

  • Namaste04

    “That’s why I have decided to delay my X-E1 book until Fujifilm eventually releases a major firmware update that will offer many (as in 100+) new features and improvements.”

    Do you have some knowledge that this is in the pipeline, it would be great, or will we have to wait for Xpro 2 and XE-2

    • http://www.fujixspot.com/f34/ Rico Pfirstinger

      I expect a major firmware update for summer.

  • Werner.m

    Fuji did a dramatic change in their phillosophy.
    The X-Pro was introduced as somehow a more cost effective leica offering artistic lenses like the 35mm, with the release of the E-X they decided to go mainstream, focussing of compromises like the zoom lenses, dissapointing the people who have bought the X-Pro and making them wait long long time for the real artistic lenses like the 56mm and 23mm – i am really dissapointed Fuji.

    • yitwave

      Dissapointed with the new “artistic” lenses such as the 56mm 1.2/f…. are you high? If you say thats a long way out, how about the 14mm 2.8 thats got spectacular reviews?

      I am going nuts over the 1.2. Plus it will be SIGNIFICANTLY lighter AND cheaper than the EF 85 1.2 II…

    • Nick

      This is highly amusing. I for one will be only too happy if Fujifilm continue to introduce zoom lenses which perform brilliantly wide open across the entire image field outperforming many primes in the process ( including Fujifilm’s own 18mm), have negligible CA, excellent image stabilisation and great build. If you have actually tried the 18-55mm you can’t have failed to notice this, or are you so prejudiced towards primes it wouldn’t matter? And by the way I enjoy many primes, including Fujifilm’s outstanding 14mm, with nevertheless fails to match the corner to corner performance of the 18-55mm when used wide open at f 2.8.

  • http://www.fujixspot.com/f34/ Rico Pfirstinger

    I have just added a few more samples to the article.

    • tthorne

      Rico, can you give us any more on the firmware update with 100+ improvements? Is this something you know will come eventually or something you hope will come eventually?

  • Ryan

    Rico
    How about another shot of the kid at 200mm again, but instead of F7.1 at F4.8? PLEAAASSEEEE! :)

    Id love to see how it is wide open at 200mm. Thats how I would be using it alot.

  • Werner.m

    Dissapointed with the DELAY of the 56 1.2 and the concentration on mainstream zoom lenses.
    Guess the 56 is what all buyers of the x-pro are waiting for, to make us wait at least annother year is not the smartest decision by Fuji.

    • peter

      Concentration on zoom lens? Seriously? There are 4 primes and 1 zoom at the moment and in a two months we’ll have 5 primes and 2 zooms. And by the end of the year we’ll have 10 primes to 3 zooms. That’s roughly 3:1 prime to zoom ration at any given time.

    • Jorge

      I’m waiting on the 10-24 before deciding whether to purchase it, or the 14mm. However with regards to the 56mm, I am using my 30 year old Minolta MD 58mm F1.4 with a 15.00 mount on my X-E1 and the images are amazing! Maybe yo’d want to find a good used deal on Fleabay?
      I’m glad I held on to all my Minolta glass, from my 16mm Fisheye, to my 500mm Rokkor lenses.
      Best,
      J

  • Werner.m

    Also cannot understand why we get 14, 18, 23, 27, 35mm lenses, too crowded in the wide angle section, they shall focus on the 56 now.

    • peter

      23mm, 27mm, 32mm and 35mm are not wide but various flavors of normal lens. 12mm, 14mm, 18mm are the wides in the system and 56mm and 60mm are short teles.

  • David W

    I don’t agree with your analysis. The 18mm was the initial wide angle offering…and kind of weak. The 14 is a true wide angle star, and a great option. The 27mm offers us a great normal lens, and it’s a pancake. Now, the 23mm…I would rather have the 56mm first, but so far Fuji has well listened to their customers and early adopters, so I don’t imagine they will stop now.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/dirk23/ dirk
  • http://KevinRRoberts.com Kevin R. Roberts

    I zoom with my feet. Try to get by with no zoom and you will discover that you are composing more and your art will improve. Think about the composition more and shoot slower. Any circus monkey can take 1,000 photos a day. Who has time to edit them, anyway?

  • Ricci

    Thanks Rico! As always, a joy to ready your review.
    Your photos & review has convinced me to purchase this lens!

    Now, for Fuji’s next project: Faster AF speed (both camera & lens) so I can shoot my kids’ soccer game!! Any sports photographer at Fuji Co. is with me??

  • Jorge

    Great review! Thank you. With regards to my shooting style — I feel this lens is too large. I moved to the X-E1 with the 18-55, and the 35mm in order to travel light, yet bring back outstanding images. Unless I’m on a dedicated Landscape/stock image trip my D800, and D700 with the Nikon Trinity stay home.
    I am really awaiting to see what the 10-24 will look like, feel like, and how good it will test before I decide between it or the 14mm.
    I’m going on a trip mid-August where I would LOVE to have the 10-24. Any idea if it will be released by then?
    Thanks again for an excellent review. And I have your Kindle edition of the XPro1 book even though I shoot the X-E1. Excellent, and very informative.
    Jorge

  • Firmware sugestions

    New lenses, new firmware

    Firmware sugestions

    I usualy use two Shooting Profiles, one for B&W and other for Color.
    I use Quick Menu to change between.

    But what about a new “button FN” function “swap last shoting profile”

    With an only push of fn button I can change from B&W settings to color.

    Te button only remember last shoting profile and alternate from actual.
    Somebody could use to change his most often used setings.

    I use for b&w change but it can be usued for what te user wants. One for hig dynamic range, or for low ligth…

    PD: sorry about my english. Move this message if it is need

    Thanks Rico for all your work, if you tink this sugestion is a good idea you can make it yours and tell to fuji

  • Mark

    1. Very happy to see a zoom lens being introduced to the X Series family. High quality zooms = more “mass market” consumers; more “mass market” consumers = higher revenues / profits for the Fujifilm; more profitable Fujifilm = more $$ for R&D of the new glass, hardware and firmware, great for all Fujifilm X users.

    I have small, active kids so I will definetely be getting the 55-200mm XF.

    2. Thanks for the great article – however everyone missed a glaring typo: it’s not a “nikon-user spitting llama”, it’s a “CANON-user spitting llama”. Can’t believe so many people missed that one!

  • http://staibaqhang.com staibaqhang

    get x-e1 2 week ago.. hope can have this lens end of this years

  • http://photos.remektek.com.au Paul Szilard

    Great article. I would buy your book, except I already have it :) – very good indeed.

    Now, I would like to ask for you to consider a very “unfair” comparison. I know this is unfair, but if I go out to shoot, it is one of the decisions that I would have to make, so here goes:

    I would love to see an optical comparison between the Fuji 55-200mm versus an SLR (Canon or Nikon) f2.8 70-200mm zoom at the same aperture and mounted on the same Fuji body. Taken on a tripod without needing OIS. I know that the FF 2.8 lens is dearer, heavier, etc. but I would really like to know what degree of compromise would I have to accept by shooting the Fuji lens. And I DO accept this, just I would like to know how much.

    Hope you can do this, or maybe one of your readers.

    Thanks in anticipation.

    ps: Your shots are the first set that I have seen so far that show good resolution. Examples from others that I had seen to date, all had poorer detail in spite of the posters raving on about the lens. As a committed Fuji X “fan boy”, I am all too aware of the emotional bias that us, Fuji users, have and perhaps less than an unbiased view of the (excellent) gear. What I wish to know is if the 55-200 lives up to the challenge, or is it more along the lines of the quality of the Nikon 18-300mm zoom, which sacrifices quality for convenience. Cheers.

  • Jeffrey

    Rico, I’m sure this lens has similar if not identical depth of field properties given a fixed set of conditions. And, no lens itself gives you more ‘separation’. That is primarily a function of the camera to subject distance and the subject to background distance. Oh, one more thing, leaving the OIS switch on all the time is not a good idea. Only use it when you are handholding. Turn it OFF when using a tripod. You do use a tripod often, don’t you?

  • Виктор

    Здравствуйте Рико!
    Вопрос для вас, как вы считаете на сколько лучше будет объектив FUJINON XF18-55mmF2.8-4 против
    XF18-55mmF3.5-5.6
    Спасибо.

  • http://www.thehumancamera.com/blog/ Vincent

    Thanks for the review, the lens when fully extended does look a little long. I usually use such lens for action shots. How is the autofocus speed on this lens?

  • DanubeDiver

    THX for the Review Rico but I have to correct your aperture openings. They are in real life better than your data ;-)

    The lens offers a maximum aperture of…

    f/3,5 55-60mm
    f/3,6 61-70mm

    f/3,7 71-77mm

    f/3,8 78-85mm

    f/3,9 86-94mm

    f/4,0 95-104mm

    f/4,2 105-127mm

    f/4,4 128-147mm

    f/4,5 148-163mm

    f/4,6 164-171mm

    f/4,7 172-189mm

    f/4,8 190-200mm

    Tested on my X-E2 Firmware 1.20 and checked the EXIFs (additional page) direct on the cam display.