Reviews of Fujifilm Fujinon XF 16-80mm f/4.0 R OIS WR Zoom Lens Are Mixed, Possible Problems When Shooting Video

The Fujinon XF 16-80mm f/4.0 R OIS WR wide-to-long zoom lens has been one of the most long wished-for, long-awaited optics for Fujifilm’s APS-C/Super35 system cameras in recent years, and early reports from Fujifilm X-Photographer have been positive, especially regarding its apparent parfocal lens design. 

But then one might well expect brand ambassadors to wax lyrical and skip over possible pre-production and early firmware defects given reasonable expectations that Fujifilm will get it right in the end or at least in time for offical product release date. 

Not quite this time, apparently, as Fujifilm recently issued firmware version 1.02 for this now-shipping lens and some reviewers are already hoping that further firmware updates are in the pipeline. 

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Fujifilm X-T3 with Fujinon XF 16-80mm f/4.0 R OIS WR zoom lens.
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Fujifilm X-Pro3 pre-production model in Dura Black with pre-production Fujinon XF 16-80mm f/4.0 R OIS WR zoom lens, as seen at a Ted’s World of Imaging Touch-and-Try event in Sydney.

I was lucky enough to have a short time with a preproduction version of the Fujinon XF 16-80mm f/4.0 R OIS WR zoom at a recent Ted’s World of Imaging touch-and-try event for the Fujifilm X-Pro3, and found it worked well enough when shooting event stills on a Fujifilm X-H1 unequipped with firmware updates for the lens.

The lens is situated price-wise in-between the pro-quality, pro-priced red badge Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR and the Fujinon XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS kit zoom, and there was some speculation that the Fujinon XF 16-80mm f/4.0 R OIS WR might be bundled with later-release Fujifilm X-T3s or the coming X-T4 as a higher-specced kit lens, especially for video production.

The 16-80mm’s parfocal focusing is especially attractive for video use as well as the lens’ apparent 6 stops of optical image stabilization that helps make up for its f/4.0 maximum aperture when handholding in low lighting when used on non-stabilized cameras like the X-T3, X-Pro3 and the coming X-T4.

Questions about the Fujinon XF 16-80mm f/4.0 R OIS WR’s optical qualities throughout its focal range were bandied about during the long pre-release period and I have yet to find a complete set of in-depth tests of the lens’ image quality and focusing performance.

In the meantime, pal2tech’s initial and subsequent video reviews have rather dampened my enthusiasm for the Fujinon XF 16-80mm f/4.0 R OIS WR.

Are what he is seeing in action when shooting video in particular early production model teething problems, uneven quality assurance, limitations in current firmware or the outcome of too many design and engineering compromises?

Zoom lenses are a set of such compromises compared to prime lenses and a certain amount of them are to be expected, especially in a lens with a longer-than-usual focal length range, but has Fujifilm compromised way too much?

pal2tech’s videos may help you make up your own mind, but I would recommend going off in search of more reviews by video professionals before definitively deciding against the Fujinon XF 16-80mm f/4.0 R OIS WR.

While some optical and autofocusing problems can be compensated for via firmware and during processing of raw stills images, video is more demanding of lens quality given that shortfalls in optical quality cannot be corrected in video non-linear editing software.

My experiences with Micro Four Thirds cameras and lenses, as well as Fujifilm’s APS-C/Super 35 gear, have amply proven the advantages of having a stabilized zoom lens in one’s kit when shooting documentary stills and video in trying conditions and available darkness rather than available light, so the Fujinon XF 16-80mm f/4.0 R OIS WR would, theoretically, fill a yawning gap in my Fujinon lens collection.

Provided that it is as good for video as it seemed to be for stills during my all-too-short time with the Fujinon XF 16-80mm f/4.0 R OIS WR at Ted’s.

Like many others, I have had high expectations for this lens given my longtime need for a gap-filling zoom lens for video and photography, and given the poor Australian dollar and consequent high price in local online and bricks-and-mortar stores.

Should I be reconsidering the Fujinon XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS kit zoom lens instead, and go off to ebay to look for the latter secondhand?

pal2tech: Fuji 16-80 Lens Review

pal2tech: Fujifilm 16-80mm Lens Firmware Update 1.01

pal2tech: Fujifilm 16-80 Lens Focus Problem Fix — Possible Solution

pal2tech: Fujifilm 16-80 Lens Firmware Update 1.02 – Can’t Test (and my thoughts)

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  • FUJIFILM X-H1 Mirrorless Digital Camera Body with Battery Grip KitB&H – bundled with the unstabilized Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR, this stabilized camera may still be the current best option for video despite its older generation sensor and processor.
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Three Blind Men and An Elephant Productions: FujiFilm X-Pro3: Dangerous!

“A modest dissertation on the X-Pro3 development announcement, clickbait and the diminution of language.”

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Image of pre-production Fujifilm X-Pro3 from video of Fujifilm X Summit Shibuya 2019 on September 20, 2019.

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bigheadtaco: First Look: Fujifilm XF16-80mm f/4 R OIS WR

“It’s been a while since Fujifilm released a wide to medium range zoom lens, especially with both OIS and WR. Previously, the only general range zoom lens that had both features was the big and bulky XF18-135mm lens. My hope was that Fujifilm would re-make the XF18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS lens to be XF16-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS WR. Instead, Fujifilm decided to keep the original kit lens and create the new XF 16-80mm f/4 R OIS WR. Who is this lens for? It really depends. If you own the X-T3 and you really want a mid-range zoom lens with both OIS and WR, this is the only option you have. However, if you own the X-H1, would you be better off with the XF 16-55mm f/2.8 and put up with the size and weight of a professional lens? “

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Fujifilm X-T3 with Fujinon XF 16-80mm f/4.0 R OIS WR zoom lens.

Commentary

Good to see that photographers are receiving pre-production copies of Fujifilm’s Fujinon XF 16-80mm f/4.0 R OIS WR and, as usual, even more reviews will be appearing when production versions of the lens make their way into the world.

When I was photographing the climate strike rally in Sydney on September 20, I found myself wondering how the 16-80mm f/4.0 zoom lens might change and even improve the way I cover such subjects.

See my personal Instagram account for documentary photographs of the rally and other events, recently mostly using prime lenses on Fujifilm cameras as Panasonic Lumix camera and lens loaners have been in short supply.

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

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. 

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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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Fuji Rumors: Some LOVE the Fujifilm X-Pro3, and Here is Why!

https://www.fujirumors.com/some-love-the-fujifilm-x-pro3-and-here-is-why/

“Today I thought I try to balance out the X-Pro3 sh*tstorm, by sharing a few stories of people, who actually either like or understand (and hence accept) the new X-Pro3 hidden tilt screen concept.

If you ask me personally, I admit that my first reaction was also something like “what the heck is this?”

But you know what I have learned from reading the massive (and brilliant) essays of Michel de Montaigne?

I have learned that we should try to “suspend our judgment”….”

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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.

Commentary

fujifilm_tx-1_35mm_panorama_camera_01_1024px_60pc
Fujifilm TX-1 35mm panorama camera. Image courtesy of Japan Camera Hunter. Fujifilm has been producing cutting-edge rangefinder cameras for decades.

Suspension of judgement is exactly what is needed in this moment between Fujifilm revealing the X-Pro3 at its recent X Summit Shibuya 2019 and the first appearance of production versions of the camera in the specialist media and retailers.

Fujifilm is clearly going through a process of differentiation and granulation with its current and coming camera offerings, pushing the X-Pro series even further into rangefinder photography camera territory.

When the X-Pro1 was released, there was no X-Tn series and certainly no X-Hn series, and no mention at all of any possible GFX medium format cameras.

All our hopes were in the one basket but now there are non-rangefinder-style alternatives like the X-T3, X-T30 and soon, hopefully, the X-H2 to realize all the promise revealed in the X-H1 that was thwarted somewhat by its X-T2 generation sensor and processor.

I still love shooting 4K video with my X-Pro2 when needed and when it is the only camera I am carrying at the time, which is almost every day, and was saddened by the limited video functionality Fujifilm gave us in the relevant firmware update, but heavy video production requires the use of cameras with heavyweight video firmware functionality.

Right now, the Fujifilm X-T3 makes an excellent Super 35 video camera for use with gimbals and other forms of traditional stabilization via hardware, and OIS-equipped zoom lenses are also a good solution when shooting handheld video.

The coming Fujifilm X-H2 needs to take a leaf from Panasonic’s book, learning the lessons of the Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5, the GH5S and the S1H and then surpassing them with all the hardware features and firmware functionality required for handheld or heavily-rigged video production.

I am looking forward to learning more about the X-Pro3’s improved optical viewfinder and especially its improved electronic viewfinder, the latter one of the weakest aspects of the X-Pro2 despite its other many strengths as a documentary camera.

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Fuji Rumors Publishes Sketches of Fujifilm X-Pro3, Fujifilm X Summit Shibuya Scheduled for 1:00PM GMT, September 20, 2019

Patrick Di Vino of Fuji Rumors has done it again with a series of rumors about the much-anticipated Fujifilm X-Pro3 and which hardware features will make it into the successor to the Fujifilm X-Pro1 and X-Pro2. 

Mr Di Vino’s sources tend to be reliable and apparently none more so than the individual who supplied Fuji Rumors with a set of hand sketches of the X-Pro3, featuring several surprises including removal of the D-Pad and the addition of a downwards hinged LCD monitor. 

Will Fujifilm supply more information about the X-Pro3 at Friday’s Fujifilm X Summit Shibuya event? 

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Fujifilm X-Pro2 black with Fujinon XF 35mm f/2.0 R WR “Fujicron” prime lens and Fujifilm X-Pro2 graphite with Fujinon XF 23mm f/2.0 R WR “Fujicron” prime lens.
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Fujifilm X-Pro1 with Fujinon XF 35mm f/1.4 R prime lens. Although I badly needed this camera, Fujifilm’s first interchangeable lens X-Series camera, to supplement my Fujifilm X100 for use in charity documentary work, I had to forgo buying it due to its lack of built-in diopter correction, instead turning to Panasonic’s excellent Micro Four Thirds cameras with the added benefit of great video capabilities. I bought back in to Fujifilm after the X-Pro2 was released along with second generation and later interchangeable lenses that surpassed the turgidly slow focusing mechanisms of the first generation lenses including the Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 R, XF 35mm f/1.4 R and XF 60mm f/2.4 R Macro.

Although Fujifilm generally listens to its user base and mostly acts positively on their requests, the company has been known to make some very odd decisions and none more so than the X-Pro1’s lack of the diopter correction essential for those of us needing to wear eyeglasses while we work.

As a result of that and other problems with its first generation professional-tagged rangefinder-style camera and lenses, Fujifilm lost me as a customer for several years while I explored another of the triumvirate of affordable digital photography and video innovators, Blackmagic Design, Fujifilm and Panasonic.

The many benefits of, for example, Panasonic’s fully-articulated LCD monitors on cameras like the Lumix DMC-GH4, DMC-GX8, DC-GH5, DC-GH5S, DC-G9 and more recently the coming 35mm sensor-equipped Lumix DC-S1H, became readily apparent when using these cameras for documentary stills photography and video.

Going from full articulation to the many and various one, two and three-way tilting monitors is feasible but uncomfortable, with too many sacrifices to be made in losing that key functionality and if every pro-level hybrid camera followed Panasonic’s lead then I would be very happy.

But then, cameras with fixed monitors or no monitors at all are not outside the bounds of usability either, so long as one does not need them for work in a wide range of genres from studio-based still-life to architecture, portraiture and documentary cinematography and photography, as I do.

I can do without any form of articulation on the X-Pro3’s LCD monitor if Fujifilm improves its electronic viewfinder way beyond the X-Pro2’s often irritating EVF, but I would most certainly need to add an X-T3 to my kit for everything else other than documentary photography or turn to Panasonic to affordably fill the gap.

I can do without the X-Pro’s D-Pad on an X-Pro3 so long as the camera’s Q Menu allows access to all the camera’s essential functions.

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Leica M-D (Typ 262), without LCD monitor or function buttons. Radical purism for those who can afford it.

I can do without yet another analog film simulation so long as the X-Pro3’s video functionality is improved beyond that of the X-Pro2’s pointlessly crippled video, as I was reminded this afternoon when in a situation that could just as easily have demanded recording video as much as stills depending on a possible sudden turn of events.

I can do without in-body image stabilisation aka IBIS on the X-Pro3 so long as the Fujinon XF 16-80mm f/4.0 R OIS WR proves to be the one-lens documentary cinematography and photography solution I have long been hoping for.

I look forward to learning more about the X-Pro3 and hope that Fujifilm has not taken an absurdly purist approach in imitation of, for example, Leica and its monitorless M10-D.

As much as I love Leica M-Series rangefinder cameras and lenses, and have a long history with them dating almost back to my start in professional photography during the analog era, most of what I do these days demands more of a camera than some sort of perverse ideological purism.

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Limited edition black Contax G2 with Zeiss Planar 45mm f/2.0 T* prime lens. Image by Japan Camera Hunter.

Leica was not the only maker of rangefinder cameras throughout the long history of analog photography, and the Leica M-Series is not the only role model available.

 

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Mattias Burling: 5 Reasons why I left the Fuji X-T2 for the X-Pro2

“In this video I try to explain why the Fujifilm X-T2 just didn’t sit with me. I am much happier after switching to the X-Pro2. All of it is of course just personal preference based on how I like my cameras. And the X-T2 is also a great camera, truly fantastic. Its just that with expensive gear like this I get very, very picky. On cheaper cameras I would let it all slide. So if you have the X-T2, I’m not ripping on your camera. I actually like it a lot….”

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Fujifilm X-Pro2 black with Fujinon XF 35mm f/2.0 R WR “Fujicron” prime lens and Fujifilm X-Pro2 graphite with Fujinon XF 23mm f/2.0 R WR “Fujicron” prime lens.

Commentary

With the impending release of Skylum’s Aurora HDR 2019, the first version that allows me to quickly and easily obtain the emotion-laden, infromation-rich image renderings I have been visualizing ever since getting back into photography with digital, I have been excited about seriously getting back into portraiture again.

Portrait photography was how I made a living for some time shooting for magazines and newspapers colour supplements, and I loved it with a passion, and I have missed doing it for years.

Working out how to do it in digital in the way I used to in analog is proving to be something of a quandary as that hardware and those processes are no longer available to me and nor should they, given the environmentally unsound nature of photochemical processing and the fact that contemporary cameras are an altogether different proposition.

My favourite analog films no longer exist and never will again, and my favourite analog cameras are long gone, broken down and unrepairable, or stolen.

The task now is for me to bend the digital gear I have now to making something as close to or better yet surpassing how I used to make portraits, and the biggest challenge is in doing that with full-face close-up portraits where little more than one eye is in sharp focus, with either my beloved Fujifilm X-Pro2 or my trusty Panasonic DMC-GX8.

Panasonic’s Micro Four Thirds sensors with their 4:3 in horizontal or 3:4 in vertical aspect ratios are often better suited to portraiture and the printed page than Fujifilm’s APS-C sensors’ 3:2 and 2:3 aspect ratios when uncropped.

Visualizing within a sensor of the best aspect is always easier, more accurate and more satisfying than shooting with one that is too long in one dimension then cropping later.

Right now though I am leaning towards shooting full-face portraits more with my X-Pro2 than my GX8, mostly because I have the amazing Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 R lens and I have nothing equivalent in my Olympus and Panasonic lens set.

The difficulties with getting pinpoint accurate focus on an eyeball with the 56mm’s aperture almost wide open are casting my thoughts back to trying out the Fujifilm X-T2’s ability to manually focus accurately enough, and really liking it.

If only Fujifilm’s engineers had seen fit to give the X-Pro2 a better, brighter electronic viewfinder that worked in almost the same way as the EVF in the X-T2.

Will the X-Pro3 be improved in that regard, and will it be appearing any time soon?

Or should I be looking at the X-T3, or the X-H1 or better yet the X-H2 that surely must be following along on the heels of the X-T3 sometime next year?

Or might the coming rangefinder-style Fujifilm GFX 50R offer a more viable solution along with bigger file sizes more suitable to large exhibition prints?

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Fujifilm X-T2 in black and graphite silver versions.

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New Book by the Great Joel Meyerowitz, ‘Where I find Myself’, Coming Soon from Publisher Laurance King

The arts often cross-fertilize each other and inspiration is to be gained from anywhere and everywhere in the same way as fertile subjects for photography and moviemaking are often to be found just around the corner. 

Photograph by Joel Meyerowitz, from his website.

The colour and monochrome photographs of Joel Meyerowitz have been major influences on my own photography and moviemaking since seeing some of his colour photographs in a tiny little book decades ago, so it is wonderful to learn that Where I Find Myself, Joel Meyerowitz’s first major retrospective in book form, is due out soon to accompany a major retrospective exhibition in Berlin.

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4/3 Rumors: (FT5) Leaked! First image of the new Olympus 17mm f/1.2 PRO lens! – with COMMENTARY

http://www.43rumors.com/ft5-leaked-first-image-new-olympus-17mm-f1-2-pro-lens/

“I told you months ago that Olympus would release this lens. And now I have the pleasure to share the very first image of this lens! The new 17mm f/1.2 pro lens will be the second super fast lens after the Olympus 25mm f/1.2 PRO….

… A third 45mm f/1.2 PRO lens is expected to be announced some times later. Stay tuned on 43rumors for more info and leaks!…”

Commentary:

Micro Four Thirds rumour website 4/3 Rumors has confirmed its long persistent rumour that Olympus is working on a fast, professional-quality 17mm prime lens with a product shot.

Whatever sensor size and aspect ratio in which I am working, I consider a moderate wide-angle lens an essential and the very first prime lens to be purchased.

I bought into the Micro Four Thirds system knowing it lacked a pro-quality 17mm lens, equivalent to 34mm in the 35mm so-called “full frame” sensor size, but had high hopes one would appear some day and so it soon will.

MFT’s 17mm focal length is eminently suited to documentary photography and video production when using one lens only or as first amongst a set of lenses and focal lengths.

In the absence of such a lens at the time, my first professional M43 lens was a zoom, the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro, and it has impressed me more than I had expected.

Standardizing on Olympus M.Zuiko Pro lenses for video and stills

So much so, in fact, that I have resolved to standardize on Olympus M.Zuiko Pro native M4/3 lenses rather than those made by Panasonic, despite standardizing on Panasonic Lumix cameras due to their excellent qualities as MFT/Super 16 stills and moviemaking cameras.

Olympus has aptly named its professional prime lens and zoom lens range, given its many pro-quality features:

  • Manual clutch focus for fast, repeatable focussing when focus-by-wire is too slow and inaccurate.
  • Weather resistance via hermetic sealing against dust and rain.
  • Excellent mechanical and optical design and construction for impact-resistance and ability to handle extreme temperature variations.
  • Much smaller size and weight compared to equivalents in the 35mm so-called “full frame” sensor size.
  • Consistent maximum aperture of f/2.8 on the zoom lenses, f/1.2 on the fast prime lenses, f/4.0 on the travel zoom lens and long telephoto lens.
  • Filter diameter of 62mm on most lenses.
  • Best optical correction I have seen so far on any wide zoom lens with the M.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 Pro.

The one downside is the 7-14mm zoom’s convex front element that disallows screw-on filters. The solution is a push-on adapter and filter frame for square or rectangular tempered glass or plastic filters such as those made by Breakthrough Photography, Nisi and many other filter specialists.

Whether the extra cost of these solutions is outweighed by this lens’ impressive optical correction action is a matter of taste and need.

Personally I find the optical distortion of many wide-angle zoom lenses objectionable especially when videoing a protagonist walking through a cityscape of interior containing parallel horizontals and verticals.

Distortions like that can be corrected in image editing and raw processing software but not in moviemaking’s non-linear editing software.

More M.Zuiko Pro primes to come

Based on rumours, Olympus’s M.Zuiko Pro prime and zoom lens range is shaping up well with a 42mm f/1.2 probability and fast 12mm and 14mm lenses possibilities.

The range’s f/2.8 maximum aperture zooms are fast enough for most available light situations unsupplemented by strong LED lighting.

Its f/1.2 maximum aperture primes are excellent solutions for available darkness situations for which f/2.8 is too slow, and suit the needs of bokeh mavens for razor sharpness against milky blur.

Professional lens sets need to include All Common Focal Length Options

When I first began looking into Micro Four Thirds/Super 35 and APS-C/Super 16 format cameras for documentary photography and video production, prime lens choices were limited and much narrower than I had been accustomed to in the analog film formats I used professionally.

In contrast to those days, zoom lenses have radically evolved and there are a number available now that are approaching prime lens quality at all of most focal lengths, at the expense of maximum aperture or a single maximum aperture.

I am not a fan of variable maximum aperture zooms that offer, say, one stop extra at the wide end compared to to the one-stop reduced maximum aperture throughout the rest of the lens’ focal range.

leica_summicron_21mmm_to_90mm_1920px
A complete professional prime lens set from Leica. The Leica  Summicron-M f/2.0 lens line-up comprising 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 75mm and 90mm focal lengths, with the Summilux-M 21mm lens with red asterisk at far right, equivalent to 14mm in APS-C/Super 35 and 10.5mm in Micro Four Thirds. The latter focal length is wonderful for scene-setting figure-in-landscape or figure-in-interior shots. Architectural photography, too, demands wider focal lengths.

Few if any contemporary zoom lenses are entirely without optical distortion. The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 7-14mm f/2.8 Pro’s optical correction impressed during a quick and dirty tryout a while back, but the downside is the lens’ convex front element that mitigates against the same screw-on filters I use on other lenses.

Given a choice, I would prefer to rely on a good set of professional-quality prime lenses for my photography and video work, but given reality oftentimes must compromise with lens sets comprising fast zooms and faster primes.

One can get away with that for photography due to many raw processing and image editing software products having optical correction features, but correction in software is not possible for video footage and common optical distortions in zoom lenses can be distracting at the expense of the story and the audience’s immersion in it.

The current Veydra Mini Prime cinema lens lineup originally for Micro Four Thirds cameras, comprising 12mm, 16mm, 19mm, 25mm, 35mm, 50mm and 85mm. Veydra abandoned its planned sub-10.5mm lens due to size and cost problems but it would have added a much-needed 21mm or wider superwide option, a necessity in my book. In 35mm sensor terms, 24mm, 32mm, 38mm, 50mm, 70mm, 100mm and 170mm. I often find 24mm way too narrow for scene-setting shots and architectural images.

I applaud the efforts of camera and lens makers in adding extra focal lengths but a few gaps remain in the brands I use and I look forward to the day when we have choices in APS-C/Super 35 and M43/Super 16 more closely approaching those of the established 35mm DSLR camera and lens makers.

Suggested Olympus M.Zuiko Pro reduced lens sets:

  • 17mm – not too wide and not too long, for when only one lens is desired.
  • 7-14mm, 17mm, 25mm and 42mm – for video and stills across a range of situations and subjects with the emphasis on fast primes.
  • 7-14mm, 12-40mm, 40-150mm, 1.4x teleconverter, with one or more f/1.2 primes – for a wide range of documentary video situations with the emphasis on zooms.

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