“… And I also confirm what I just published today: a new XF18mm f/1.4 will be added to the next X mount roadmap.”
This is fantastic and completely unexpected news if the rumour proves true.
I and many others have been requesting a professional-quality update to Fujifilm’s original 18mm f/2.0 R from the company’s very first set of Fujinon XF prime lenses eight years ago.
Contacts at Fujifilm Australia confirmed this each time I asked them in person, telling me that an 18mm is the most-requested lens update of all.
Despite the 18mm focal length being a decades-long staple for documentary photographers and photojournalists in its 35mm sensor format equivalent of 28mm, I have been in two minds about Fujifilm’s 18mm ever since trying it out back in 2012 on an X-Pro1 at the sadly long-deceased Foto Reisel pro retail store in Sydney.
I had been waiting for the rumoured Fujifilm interchangeable lens camera ever since buying an X100 the year before, but I passed on the X-Pro1 due to the camera’s then lack of a diopter correction solution as well as other issues.
After making some test exposures in the store with the 18mm and 60mm lenses, I resolved to come back for another look when the X-Pro1’s successor appeared along with more lenses.
I am very familiar with both lenses’ 35mm equivalents, 28mm and 90mm, from my Leica M-Series analog rangefinder camera days and often relied on this combination in a two-camera, two-lens set-up for fast documentary and photojournalism work in the field.
How I managed to carry this rig on two conventional camera straps around my neck I will never know, given how time has taken away my ability to carry anything much around my neck anymore.
Thank you, Peak Design and Think Tank Photo, for offering us completely new ways of carrying our gear via straps, belts, harnesses, bags and backpacks.
The X-Pro2 took its time to show up and meantime I had invested in a Panasonic Lumix M43 camera due to the larger collection of lenses and brands of them available for it, and particularly its video capabilities.
Fujifilm X-Photographer Kevin Mullins’ documentary-style work with the X-Pro1 then X-Pro2 and the Fujinon XF 23mm f/1.4 R and XF 56mm f/1.2 R was interesting and I noted that he sometimes used the 18mm, but each time I borrowed one its performance in available darkness was less than stellar, and it was noisy.
My medium wide-angle benchmark was high, a Leica Elmarit-M 28mm f/2.8 from the 1980s, and I found the equivalent Fujifilm 18mm wanting though it performed well enough when stopped down to f/5.6 and f/8.0 for use in brilliant sunlight.
I was less impressed with the XF 18mm f/2.0 as an all-round default documentary and photojournalism lens attached to my X-Pro2 and so the XF 23mm f/1.4 R assumed that role when needing to carry just one lens and one camera about each day.
I continue to miss having a 28mm (the 35mm sensor equivalent to the 18mm) as my daily carry, though, especially for the focal length’s naturalistic rendering in the tight spaces and crowds I often find myself within when covering events or simply walking through the city and suburbs.
I have tried Fujifilm’s Fujinon XF 16mm f/2.0 R “Fujicron” 24mm equivalent lens and although it is good for extremely tight spaces where exaggerated perspective may be not be a problem, its corner-stretched and volume-deforming rendering cannot be described as naturalistic.
There is a time and place for naturalism just as there is for exaggeration but, when comparing photographs of similar documentary subjects made a 16mm and an 18mm lens, naturalism wins hands down.
Time and again I find that exaggeration draws attention to itself to the detriment of the subject while naturalism respects the subject, allows it to speak for itself and as I am often told, makes viewers feel as if they are standing right there in the scene where I stood when I made the photograph.
A few bright sparks have pointed out that I should just step back a bit with a 16mm lens then crop in to simulate the 18mm’s framing and perspective but, as you may have noticed when looking through my Photo Galleries pages, I design my images tightly and the last thing I want to do is resort to loose image design then chop into it in an attempt to tighten it up a little.
I have put my critics’ thoughtful suggestions to the test and it doesn’t work for me, just as I have run exaggerated perspective images shot with a 16mm lens through DxO ViewPoint to counteract the volume deformation of ultra wide-angle lenses.
Which is not to say that I don’t like ultra wide-angles as such: the Fujinon XF 14mm f/2.8 R is an incredible lens, almost perfectly optically-corrected with a micro-contrast and resolution rarely found in many wide-angle primes and even fewer wide-angle zoom lenses, and it has Fujifilm’s version of manual clutch focus which in my opinion is an essential for speedy and easy video focus-pulling.
I do prefer the approach to manual clutch focus taken by Olympus in its M. Zuiko Pro lenses, though, where the focusing ring turns loose in fly-by-wire mode and when needing manual clutch focus you simply pull the ring straight towards the camera, set it where desired, shoot, then push forward back to where it was before.
Fujifilm’s approach appears more geared towards setting hyperfocal distance where the focusing ring moves off left or right a little rather than straight back.
Taking video more seriously again with primes
With the X-H1 followed by the X-T4 and then sometime next year, the X-H2, Fujifilm has finally begun delivering on its promise some years ago to take video seriously.
Fujifilm has a long and proud history in making movie film, movie cameras and high end cinema lenses just as it has of making extraordinary analog film cameras, lenses and film under the company’s own brand names as well as supplying lenses and cameras to Hasselblad for sale under that company’s branding.
Fujifilm not only makes high-end, high-priced cinema and broadcast lenses under the Fujinon name: it released two lightweight, compact and relatively affordable cinema zoom lenses under the MKX Series name.
Where Fujifilm needs to lift its video game next is in supplying prime and zoom lenses that excel for video and stills photography, for autofocus and manual focusing, and that possess a closely related set of design and manufacturing parameters in the way that Olympus, say, has with its M.Zuiko Pro range.
Although three lenses in Fujifilm’s Red Badge zoom range are often recommended for video production, the Fujinon XF 8-16mm f/2.8 R LM WR, XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR and the XF 50-140mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR, most of Fujifilm’s prime lenses are wanting in the autofocus department as cinematographer Philip Bloom demonstrated in a video earlier this year.
Fujifilm needs to upgrade more than its 18mm and 27mm “pancake” lenses: it needs to review its whole XF lens line for video production readiness and with the input of cinematographers such as Mr Bloom.
At the very least Fujifilm needs to ensure that at least a subset of current and future prime lenses have enough design similarities to constitute the type of matched cinema lens set that other lens makers such as Meike have been aiming at lately.
For example, I would choose these current prime lenses for a starter set for video production, autofocus capability and manual clutch focus or not:
- XF 14mm f/2.8 R – 21mm in 35mm equivalent.
- XF 23mm f/1.4 R – 35mm in 35mm equivalent.
- XF 50mm f/1.0 R WR – 75mm in 35mm equivalent.
I would add these coming lenses if, that is, they are up to scratch for video production:
- XF 18mm f/1.4 R – 28mm in 35mm equivalent.
- XF 27mm f/2.8 R Mark II – 40mm in 35mm equivalent.
Many celebrated feature films have been shot in just one lens or at most two, and if it came down to just two lenses for shooting documentary movies then I choose 18mm and 27mm (28mm and 40mm in 35mm).
Let’s see what Fujifilm comes up with when it makes it new products announcements at its X Summit Omiya 2020 on October 15 at 10pm Japan Standard Time.
Meanwhile I have my fingers crossed for an excellent Fujinon XF 18mm f/1.4 R WR lens design and would love to see the 27mm upgrade also eminently suitable for video production as well as documentary photography and photojournalism and not simply as a compact and affordable pancake lens for travel.
- B&H – Fujifilm Fujinon MKX 18-55mm T2.9 and MKX 50-135mm T2.9 cinema zoom lenses
- B&H – FUJIFILM XF 8-16mm f/2.8 R LM WR Lens
- B&H – FUJIFILM XF 14mm f/2.8 R Lens
- B&H – FUJIFILM XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR Lens – often described as the “Fujilux” 16mm lens after Leica’s M-Series Summilux f/1.4 lenses.
- B&H – FUJIFILM XF 16mm f/2.8 R WR Lens – sometimes described as the “Fujicron” 16mm lens after Leica’s smaller, slower M-Series Summicron lenses though latter are f/2.0.
- B&H – FUJIFILM XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR Lens
- B&H – FUJIFILM XF 18mm f/2 R Lens
- B&H – FUJIFILM XF 23mm f/1.4 R Lens
- B&H – FUJIFILM XF 23mm f/2 R WR Lens
- B&H – FUJIFILM XF 50mm f/1.0 R WR Lens
- B&H – FUJIFILM XF 50mm f/2 R WR Lens
- B&H – FUJIFILM XF 50-140mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR Lens
- B&H – FUJIFILM XF 56mm f/1.2 R Lens
- B&H – FUJIFILM XF 56mm f/1.2 R APD Lens
- B&H – FUJIFILM XF 60mm f/2.4 R Macro Lens
- B&H – FUJIFILM X-T4 Mirrorless Digital Camera
- B&H – Lenshoods for XF 16mm f/1.4 – may fit other 67mm filter diameter lenses.
- B&H – Lenshoods for XF 23mm f/1.4 R and XF 56mm f/1.2 R and APD – may fit other 62mm filter diameter lenses.
- B&H – FUJIFILM Lens Hood for XF23mmF2 and XF35mmF2 R WR Lenses – aluminium bayonet-on vented lens hood with possible third-party alternatives.
- DxO – DxO ViewPoint – “For natural-looking shapes, automatically correct the volume deformation of faces, bodies, and objects at the edges photos taken with a wide-angle lens” plus more.
- Fuji Rumors – BREAKING: Next Fujinon X Mount Roadmap to Include Fujinon XF 18mmF1.4 WR – Patrick DiVino reported that an 18mm upgrade was on the Fujifilm internal lens roadmap some years ago.
- Fuji Rumors – Fujifilm X Summit LIVE on October 15 at 9AM New York Time – Fujifilm X-S10 and (MUCH) More
- Fujifilm-X – GFX, the Future of History
- Fujifilm-X – X Cinema
- Olympus Global – M. Zuiko Pro
- Unititled.net – Philip Bloom: Can you TRUST the FUJI X-T4 video AUTOFOCUS? – Commentary