FUJIFILM XF 50MM F1.0 R WR OVERVIEW
There is always a quite common big buzz around lenses when they get first announced, but few of them have the mighty power of drawing such attention like extreme fast aperture 50mm ones. And today's turn is for Fujifilm's Fujinon XF50mm F1.0 R WR; which has been calling for our attention since the end of 2019 when we first noticed something about it. The lens is still onpreorder, and it has an expected shipping availability beginning on September 25th. Nevertheless, people went so mad about it that it might suffer a selling delay. Regarding this, Fujifilm recently confirmed that due to inquiries far exceeding their expectations, XF 50mmF1.0 will probably suffer a bit of an availability delay.
So, Why Do People Went Crazy About It?
Isn't it odd that amidst the still-present crisis people go insane over a lens? Well, we do find this to be a curious case, but after diving deeper into reviews and specs, we are pretty much in sync with all the people who started pushing that "preorder" button since September 3, 2020.
We are definitely not the place to read about optical engineering, nor physics; but we've certainly infer that making such a fast lens with auto-focus might have been quite a challenge. And the main reason behind this thought, is that according to Fujifilm, this is the first f/1.0 lens with AF capabilities in the world, ever! Therefore, until this day, every member of the f/1.0 club (we'll talk about this later on) has had manual focus. That fact alone might be a sufficient reason why people went nuts about this lens despite the whole crisis thing. But as you might be wisely imagining, there is more about it.
The brand-new XF 50mm F/1.0 R WR has been elegantly defined as a large diameter mid- telephoto 50mm (76mm equivalent) prime lens with a maximum aperture of, of course, f/1.0. Enabling it to reach beautiful and creamy bokeh results in a broad range of apertures. As expected, f/1.0 produces the most notorious effect, but such fast apertures have always been quite hard to use due to their critical focusing range. Basically, with such a large aperture, you will experience out-of-focus results in extreme situations such as this. Imagine shooting a portrait, and focusing exactly at the tip of the nose of the person. At f/1.0, you'll see how the eyes of the person will become blurry and out of focus. Now, imagine shooting things like this, with those issues, with nothing but your bare hands and eyes?
Pro Note: Photographers don't usually shoot at maximum aperture values in situations like this one, but having that extra stop of light available is always a benefit. Also this little extra-something allows aperture such as f/1.4 to be more useful than when shot in lenses which maximum aperture is in fact f/1.4.
Now, here comes the amazing thing behind this insane lens. Thanks to its high performance auto- focusing system, focusing at such fast apertures will be actually doable, and will have a huge positive impact in back-focusing problems when using it, especially under uncontrolled situations like street, documentary, and even wedding photography. Oh, and if you are planning on using it for portraiture, that extra aid will guarantee you a higher keeping ratio for sure.
Curious Fact: This is the 35th interchangeable X Series lens.
More About the Lens
Such extreme specs usually come with an optical down-side or price. Large apertures need large frontal elements, and such artifacts, are more prone to producing chromatic aberrations and some other iffy stuff. Fujifilm has managed to minimize all these unwanted ifs-and-buts by using state of the art optical technology that allows the lens to control and reduce such natural happenings while retaining image quality, and producing the desired bokeh photographers want in their pictures.
Designed to fit within a structure of 845g of weight and 103.5mm of length, this lens can be considered both light and compact. And if you are worried about small pieces of gear, this lens, as many others within the X Series line-up, is both dust and weather resistant. Basically, its barrel has 11 weather sealed points, making it a perfect to operate lens under harsh climate conditions above -10°C.
Deeper into the lens we can find 12 optical elements, including one spherical and two ED lenses tightly packed in 9 groups in order to keep spherical aberrations down to the minimum. Therefore, the lens can be pushed to the limits while still providing sharpness and photographic versatility. The internal motor system makes all the hard-work in order to retain precise focusing capabilities. The lens has been designed with portraiture in mind, and it supports Fuji's accurate Face and Eye AF function, making it a perfect lens for capturing facial expressions like no other available lens today.
One of the biggest problems such fast lenses have had in the past is the issue regarding control. And if you still want to focus manually, then you'll find this to be quite interesting. The focus plane can be adjusted from the minimum working distance to infinite, meaning that one can quickly move from one point to the other one with a quick and swift turn. The focus ring is promised to be smooth to operate (honestly, don't you simply hate clingy rings on lenses?), allowing it to achieve accurate focusing when manually operating it.
Another cool thing that we had no idea about, is the lens' consistency with recent cameras like the XT-4 and X-Pro3, allowing the camera to produce high-quality images even when shooting at -7EV, which is just nuts! Oh, and if you aren't that familiarized with such fast lenses, you'll find that $1,499.00 isn't much when compared to somewhat similar lenses like this one ($2,299.00) or this one ($12,495.00)...
A Quick Note on Aperture
Inside a lens, aperture is controlled by an iris-like mechanism which allows photographers to control the amount of light that passes through the lens into finally hitting the sensor of a camera. This produces an image after some precise software operations, or as in the ages of film, thanks to chemistry at its finest.
Each aperture number must be understood as a fraction (resulting in an easier to understand concept when first learning about exposure), and they all correspond to stops of light, which are
nice units for understanding light in photography. Those numbers are the product of some genius mathematical calculations related to both the frontal and rear optical elements diameters.
So, in order to achieve f/1.0, the lens should have a rear element of the same diameter as the frontal element; resulting in a very impractical and odd looking lens. Innovation comes with those internal elements that correct light within the barrel's internal structure, resulting in the equivalent of that size comparison relation.
Why Do Lenses Matter?
Lenses are usually (and quite accurately indeed) perceived as the most important element of any photographic gear. But why exactly? Well, thanks to them, we are able to transfer light into a manageable way that allows our cameras to record images as we intend them to be preserved. Foremost, thanks to their various focal lengths, we are also able to register images in specific ways from extremely wide to insanely tight.
Despite all that creative potential, we still drool about optical devices that allow us to register images in the exact same way our human eyes distort light. That's why the 50mm focal lengths are usually called "normal lenses", because they allow us to see through them in an equivalent way as our human eyes bend light.
Geek side note: And in an equivalent way, our eyes' pupils have the ability of dilating at a relative area of 8192, which is the exact equivalent of f/1.0. How cool is that? And each stop of light increment, is the exact double of its previous one .
Therefore, lenses are in a sense, extensions of our human eyes. Making Fujifilm's Fujinon XF50mm F1.0 R WR, an accessible equivalent of having something very similar to human vision quality in our cameras; but with precise autofocus at our control. Now, we just need to wait for someone to come with sensors as powerful as our retinas, and imaging processors as capable as our brains, and we'll be all-set.
Since Fujifiim lacks full frame cameras, the 76mm equivalency shouldn't be slipped by. It gives a bit of a telephoto feeling to it, hence the mid-telephoto tag; but in essence, it is just a crop and not a real zoom. Therefore, it will feel a bit tighter than the regular 50mm you can experience in 35mm format devices.
Who Needs to Buy This Lens?
After a long debate, and given its quite friendly price, we came to a colorful conclusion regarding this particular question:
- Serious photographers that are in the pursuit of high image with reduced optical biases. Ergo, documentary photographers and photojournalists, as well as professional wedding and portrait photographers will benefit from having an f/1.0 lens with auto-focus. But beyond that, commercial photographers are in the need of rendering truthful images of their clients' products. Perfect and flawless lenses yet not exist, but the barrel distortion on this one is virtually imperceptible, impacting in a positive way in every photographer with a tight scheduled workflow.
Not that serious, but yet still passionate, photographers who understand the benefits of having that extra stop of light available at their hands.
- People willing to make an upgrade from a limited lens option into something both extremely capable and vastly useful.
And Who Shouldn't Buy It
Despite being an accessible lens in price, we don't think this is a lens for people just discovering the wonders of photography. And the only reason why, is because it is just too good that it could spoil you. Shooting for a year or two with limited optic tools helps into developing a creative mind capable of resolving various photographic situations. And if you get such a powerful lens since day one, you might hack the process too much.
Of course, this could be a very old-fashioned thought, but we do believe that not everything has to be so easy in photography. Otherwise, you'll end up taking a lot of light related things for granted, and that's simply not a good thing to do.
The F/1.0 High Club
Even when kept in secret, f/1.0 is one of those landmarks in photography that several brands aspire to achieve. But which just a few have actually reached out. Beyond Canon's legendary 50mm f/1.0 L, we can't reckon other lenses with this optical principle, but if you know others, please let us know!
Honoris Causa Members
- Some other lenses have made it further than the legendary f/1.0:
- Kipon Ibelux 40mm f/0.85 Mark II
- Zhongyi Mitakon Speedmaster 50mm f/0.95
- Voigtländer Nokton f/0.95 lineup, which include the following focal lengths: 10.5, 17.5, 25, and 42.5mm
- Nikkor Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct
- The aforementioned $12.5K Leica
- And last but not least, and Stanley Kubrick's jewel, Carl Zeiss Planar 50mm f/0.7
Last but not least, the Fujinon XF 50MM F1.0 R WR lens is pretty much in-lined with other high end Fuji lenses, meaning that it has a 77mm thread diameter, and is pretty similar in size with other optical options like the XF 16-55mm f/2.8 WR and others.
Said that, designing a lens that not only performs at theoretical levels, but which is also coherent with a precise design ecosystem, is a huge statement from Fujifilm. We hope that despite the overwhelming response, everything runs smoothly for them and that no one is left behind when the lens finally starts shipping out.
. Ray, Sidney F., 1988. Applied photographic optics: imaging systems for photography, film, and video. London ; Boston: Focal Press. ISBN 9780240512266. TR220.R39 1988