The other workhorse - Fujifilm XF50-140mm F2.8 Review
Now you may be wondering what I mean by other workhorse... Is he yet another guy comparing this lens to DSLR lenses? Has he ran out of terms to call good lenses? Does he have an actual workhorse and to him this is a hilarious description of an item which doesn't remotely resemble a horse? Though I kind of wish those were all true, what I mean is you should shamelessly check out my review of the XF16-55mm F2.8, which was the first 'workhorse' I wrote about some months back, this is the second 'workhorse'.
I am 65% sure I mean the second point...
Time to cool off - experience in the cold
Almost as soon as I got hold of the XF50-140mm F2.8 I was commissioned by Untravelled Paths to photograph an Ice Hotel in Romania. This 'fresh' experience put the X-Series set up through some cold weather tests, to see how good the weather sealing is. From thick snow white outs, to clear crisp days, it was an awesome experience. The lens worked faultlessly, as did my X-T1s, and despite being a relative small system, it was easy to handle with gloves on. That doesn't sound like a big deal, but when you're out exploring in subzero temperatures, being able to keep your hands warm, is not only the difference between getting the shot and not, but also enjoying the day and not risking any damage...
It was clear straight away that the XF50-140mm F2.8 has exceptional image quality, combined with very good optical image stabilisation (OIS), in a compact package.
Borneo - Things hotting up
The first big test for the XF50-140mm occurred when I went out to Borneo for three months. Though a little short for a lot of wildlife photography, in tropical rainforests the F2.8 aperture was more important than the magnification of the lens. One, because the rainforest was so dark, two because the forest was so thick, if you saw something you were generally quite close to it!
Autofocus is always tested in these gloomy conditions but generally the XF50-140mm performed very well, from freezing proboscis monkeys mid-leap to tracking egrets while in a small boat as the birds hunt for unsuspecting fish. A number of these were taken with the X-T10 which I was testing at the time for Fujiiflm, as it had the same autofocus system, it worked just as well. However the form factor of the X-T1 and now the X-T2, combined with the reassurance of weather sealing which is invaluable in the tropics, meant I would always choose the flagship T range over this the X-T10/20 range.
While in Borneo Fujifilm released the very impressive looking XF90mm F2 WR lens. I thought this could be a fantastic lightweight, compact telephoto prime for a lot of my work. Only recently have I had a chance to use it for a short period, hiring it through Hire a Camera for a few weeks, almost as soon as I started to use it I realised it could never replace the XF50-140mm F2.8 in my bag. Yes it is smaller, lighter and fantastically sharp, it even offers a stop more light... But the ability to zoom around that focal range as well as having OIS makes the zoom far more versatile.
A prime example of how versatile this lens is was when I was using it to cover a story on pygmy elephants and how conflict is arising with expanding palm oil plantations (click here to see the photo story). I would always have this on one of my X-T1s, while the other camera would usually have either the XF10-24mm F4 OIS, XF16mm F1.4, XF16-55mm F2.8 or the XF56mm F1.2 offering more versatility, focal range and low light options.
Pushing the limits
Working in Costa Rica for six months as a scarlet macaw researcher gave me time to experiment and try to create complex images. Blending ambient and artificial light, as well as using extension tubes and being present in the raining season, when it rains here its like you've been submerged in a bath and as a result your equipment takes a pounding.
Weather Resistance (WR) was invaluable, a number of my other lenses which didn't have weather sealing couldn't cope with the relentless exposure to humidity and actually developed fungus, I'm looking at you XF56mm F1.2 and XF23mm F1.4! Those lenses weren't really designed for this this kind of abuse, but these two F2.8 zooms clearly were. From knocks against trees, persistent dampness and a good spluttering of mud, my X-Series kit has been put through the ringer.
Below there are two leaf cutter ant photos, the second is taken with an extension tube which allowed the XF50-140mm to focus much closer to these little critters, making for a much more interesting image, particularly with the inclusion of a backlight. You can find more about using extension tubes here with a short video on photographing leaf cutter ants.
This is incredibly subjective, but I think the XF50-140mm has fantastic bokeh!
Coming back to that term 'workhorse', I can't think of a better word to describe this lens. Whether you want to use it for a photo shoot, or in the depths of a tropical jungle, this lens will perform. With the launch of the XF100-400mm, there is more choice in the telephoto zoom section of the X-Series, but both serve very different purposes. This is certainly the more versatile of the two, with the ability to use both the 1.4x and 2x teleconverters with limited image quality loss (more on that here).
Combined with the X-T2, the XF50-140mm offers a hugely capable camera set up, whether you are tracking a sports/wildlife subject, or trying to travel light while not sacrificing image quality when combined with the XF16-55mm F2.8. This telephoto zoom is able to take full advantage of the advanced autofocus, and 11 frames per second of the X-T2 with the battery grip. I can't recommend it enough if you are using the X-Series system.
I would be very content to travel with that two lens one camera set up and potentially the new X100F with lens adapters and a small light set up like the new Godox AD200 which looks very interesting. All easily fitting into a carry on backpack with plenty of room and weight to spare, while offering a high performance and highly adaptable camera set up.
Previously on space/weight conscious trip where I travelled with everything I needed in a small backpack, including clothes and food. I took 2 x X-T1s, the XF16-55mm F2.8 and the XF50-140mm F2.8 for a story on turtles in Costa Rica and it was all I needed and let me focus solely on the story instead of worrying what lens I should change to.
All in all it is one of my favourite and most dependable lenses, a real workhorse.