Fujifilm X Summit Shibuya 2019 and the Fujinon XF 33mm f/1.0 Super Fast Prime Lens

The tilting LCD monitor on the Fujifilm X-Pro3 digital rangefinder camera. Still frame from live streaming video of Fujifilm X-Pro3 from Fujifilm X Summit on 20th September 2019.

First topic to be tackled at Fujifilm’s X Summit Shibuya 2019 on September 20 was lenses and specifically the Fujinon XF 33mm f/1.0 superfast standard prime lens so often requested by Fujifilm aficionados in online polls such as those run by Patrick Di Vino of Fuji Rumors. 

Before tackling that lens, though, the soon-to-be-released Fujinon XF 16-80mm f/4.0 R OIS WR standard zoom lens was displayed onstage and its size and apparent weight hinted at it soon being a very in-demand lens and a viable alternative to Fujifilm’s three other standard zoom lenses, the Fujinon XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4.0 R LM OIS kit lens, the Fujinon XF 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR travel lens and the Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR Red Badge premium-quality lens. 

The surprise of the lens segment, though, was the 33mm f/1.0 being shelved in favour of a Fujinon XF 50mm f/1.0 prime lens due to size and weight problems Fujifilm encountered in the design process. 

leica_summilux+_lineup_21-90mm_square_1920px_80pc
Leica worked out the best prime lens focal length line-up for documentary photography and photojournalism in 35mm years ago and it remains the benchmark and role model for other lens makers to this very day. The only focal length missing from this lens collection is 40mm, which Leica made for the Leica CL rangefinder camera which was later taken over by Minolta as the Minolta CLE with 40mm standard lens as well as a 28mm and 90mm lens. Too many contemporary lens makers leave out 28mm and 75mm lenses and their equivalents for other sensor formats. Why? Both these focal lengths are the most essential for documentary photography and photojournalism.

I was not cut up about Fujifilm swapping the 50mm f/1.0 for the 33mm f/1.0 given I have never been a fan of 50mm and thereabouts standard lenses and their 33mm to 35mm equivalents in APS-C/Super 35 sensor cameras.

I much prefer 40mm equivalent “perfect normal” standard lenses due to their versatility and and proximity to the effects of human vision, finding 50mm lenses a little too much like short telephotos.

I often carry an X-Pro2 with Fujinon XF 27mm f/2.8 “pancake” lens attached and love this focal length as much for use in video as stills photography, for portraiture and interviews as much for multiple figure documentary work.

I even rely on my 27mm f/2.8 lens for handheld product shots, though in other camera systems and sensor sizes I tend more towards 50mm equivalents due to these lenses often being given away with the camera or at least at give-away prices.

I would love it if Fujifilm produced a weather-resistant aperture ring-equipped 27mm lens with manual clutch focus in line with the company’s commitment to pro-quality video production, to sit alongside the similarly-designed XF 14mm f/2.8 R, XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR and XF 23mm f/1.4 R lenses.

While Fujifilm’s X-mount Fujinon MKX 18-55mm T2.9 and MKX 50-135mm T2.9 parfocal cinema zoom lens pair appears to be an excellent solution for video production, we also need prime lenses more suitable for cinematography and stills photography on Fujifilm’s hybrid cameras.

Fujifilm’s surprise XF 50mm f/1.0 would make a suitable 75mm equivalent lens for stills and video as would a revamped XF 35mm f/1.4 R so long as both are also equipped with manual clutch focus.

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Nikon Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 manual focus, manual exposure macro lens, the lens with which I became a portrait photographer.

If Fujifilm’s lens designers can retain the optical qualities of the current 35mm f/1.4 lens, often referred to as the “god lens”, but encased inside a fast autofocusing, weather resistant, manual clutch focus housing then we would have a decent set of matched primes  for Fujifilm’s X-Tn and X-Hn series cameras as a viable alternative to the MKX zooms.

Even better would be if Fujifilm produced a fast maximum aperture 70mm prime lens, equivalent to 105mm in the 35mm sensor format.

Although portrait photography benefits from access to a range of standard or normal to longer focal lengths, from 40mm through 50mm, 75mm and 105mm to even longer ones contained within the Fujinon XF 50-140mm f/2.8 R LM OIS Red Badge zoom lens, my personal preference for most portrait work is 105mm given I started in portraiture with Nikon’s Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 in my art school days and still yearn for a Fujinon APS-C equivalent.

A wider maximum aperture than f/2.8 would be even better, something closer to Sigma’s 105mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art lens than its 105mm f/2.8 Macro lens.

I might add that the 18mm focal length in APS-C and Super 35, equivalent to 28mm in the 35mm sensor format, is my number one preference for documentary cinematography and stills photography, and the lack of a professional quality 18mm prime lens in Fujifilm’s X-mount system is a constant thorn in my side.

If such a lens existed it would take up permanence residence on my prime documentary camera with a, preferably, fast 75mm or even a 105mm equivalent lens on my second cameras in a two-camera, two-lens documentary set-up.

Think Nick Nolte’s photojournalist in Under Fire or David Douglas Duncan with a long lens on an SLR and a wide lens on a Leica M-Series rangefinder camera.

Imagine a matched set of top-quality lenses for stills and video to choose from consisting of 14mm, 16mm, 18mm, 23mm, 27mm, 35mm, 50mm, 56mm and 70mm, all with weather resistance, manual clutch focus, fast autofocus and aperture rings.

No more hoping that third party lens makers might somehow see fit to come up with a full set of matched manual focusing optics so that Fujifilm’s Super 35-shooting X-mount cameras might have the video prime lenses they so richly deserve.

Documentary photographs using a two-camera, two prime lens set-up

Prime lens alternatives to the Fujinon XF 50mm f/1.0

My first two lenses for the X-Pro2 were the Fujinon XF 23mm f/1.4 R and Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 R, and my choice was based on the available light documentary-style wedding photography practices of Kevin Mullins as generously shared on his website f16.click.

My budget was limited so other lenses on my list for consideration then, the Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 and Fujinon XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4.0 R OIS kit zoom, had to be excluded.

Over the years I have found the XF 56mm f/1.2 R to be an excellent portrait lens with the aperture set at or near f/1.2.

The 56mm’s downsides are the slowness of its focusing motors, its lack of manual clutch focus, that its closest focusing distance is not close enough for my full face portrait style, and its 84mm focal length equivalence means I often must step back too much when framing groups of people in crowds for images like the ones above.

Kevin Mullins’ style is not mine and it has been a long time since I photographed weddings to put myself through university art school.

Mr Mullins appears to mostly photograph weddings with wide open aperture, in program mode, and in search of a blurry, gritty, grainy, funky look whereas my ways of seeing and photographing derive from the deep focus and laser beam sunlight-lit places in which I grew up.

I have tried the Fujinon XF 50mm f/2.0 R WR out for urban documentary and it performed well, alone and in combination with the Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 and that pairing has worked in a similar way to when I relied on Leica M-Series rangefinder cameras with 28mm and 75mm Leica lenses.

The Fujinon XF 50mm f/2.0 R WR in combo with the Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0

If only Fujifilm would at least update its 18mm f/2.0 to match the optical and mechanical quality of its 50mm f/2.0, or even better come up with an f/1.4 18mm manual clutch focus alternative for video production and stills photography.

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