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Fuji XF 55-200mm, field review.

Telephoto zoom lenses are very popular because of their versatility and space saving compared to having several prime lenses to cover the same range. I’ve owned some of them in different mounts, so when i switched to Fuji i wanted to cover the maximum range with the minimum lenses. So i bought the 18-55mm and not long after i bought the XF 55-200mm because of it’s attributes (aperture ring, built quality and OIS) and IQ. Sure the XC 50-230mm is smaller and lighter but i wanted the better IQ and built of the XF 55-200mm.

I will be talking on how this lens performs in the field as a Nature photography telephoto lens, covering landscape, close-ups and some wildlife. Telephoto zoom lenses in that range are very useful in my photography, a big part of what i photograph is covered by the XF 55-200mm.

This was the first photo i took with the Fuji XF 55-200mm in the field. It was before sunrise and the grass on the right side of the frame was lit by the street lights. Lens set at 67mm, 85 seconds at f/10, ISO 200, tripod.

Here i isolated a part of a bigger waterfall with the lens set at 55mm and selected f/11 to obtain a long exposure to blur the water.

Handling

Currently i’m using it on my X-E1 and mostly on a tripod, i would say that this lens is the limit in size and weight that i would use on this camera, bigger than this lens and it would require an X-T1 with a grip (which i plan to buy eventually). One of the reason i went with Fuji is because they have designed their system like the old days with an aperture ring on the lenses and direct dials on their cameras. As already pointed often in reviews and by users the aperture ring can be accidentally knock off from the aperture you had selected, but i don’t think it’s too bad as i always check the info in the EVF or on LCD before shooting to see my settings. With some time now after using it in the field i’m used to the balance of the lens on my X-E1 and it’s not too bad after all, sure not the best combo but worth it.

The lens hood have some play when installed, i bought a JJC hood but it also have the same loose fit, so Fuji still have some work to do on the lens hood locking system. Another thing is the zoom ring that is not too smooth, it’s on the stiff side but i prefer that than having a zoom ring that is too easy to turn and having a lens that suffers from zoom creep …. i really hate zoom creep because i’m mostly a tripod shooter so i’m pointing the lens up or down quite often to get the compositions i want in my photography and i want a lens that keeps steady during the exposure. On the plus side about the Zoom ring, i really like it’s rubberized finish, easy to grip and to differentiate it with the focusing ring. I would have liked the focusing ring and aperture ring to be like the XF 14mm but i guess we can’t have it all !

IQ 

The lens focuses relatively close at 1.1 meter which is about the same as the Pentax DA*50-135mm/2.8 and Canon 70-200mm/4 L that i was using before i switched to the Fuji X system. You can get some good “close-up” shots and still maintaining good IQ (see crop below), the lens also performs really well at normal and long distances, for a zoom this is very good indeed.  Sure a good prime lens in the same range might resolve more details at wider apertures but the convenience of that zoom wins over ultimate sharpness. Up to now i like how the lens performs in terms of color rendering and sharpness. That lens have nothing to envy to other brands top quality lens, i’ve owned Pentax DA*50-135mm/2.8, Canon 70-200mm/4 L and Sony 70-300mm G Series Telephoto zoom lenses and the Fuji is as good as all of them.

XF 55-200mm at 200mm, f/11, ISO 200, polarizer, tripod, RAW.

Crop of the photo above after PP, not bad at all.

I was walking in an ATV trail after a rainy day and night when i found those Raccoon tracks , it was like walking in butter in that Clay soil ! Lens set at 105mm, ISO 200 at f/11, tripod, Polarizer.

Here is a Crop of the photo above, you can see the details in the leaves, so quite good even at f/11 and with a Polarizer.

This photo of a Chipmunk was taken from inside my house, i slowly opened my door just enough to pass the tip of the lens. It was a good test for OIS, sharpness at f/4.8 and Bokeh. Taken at 200mm, 1/28 sec. at f/4.8, ISO 640, handheld with OIS.

Here is a crop of the Chipmunk photo, not bad, i missed the focus on the eye just slightly.

The lens produce nice details of my younger girl’s face after a long day outside. This is a crop of the photo taken at 55mm at f/3.5, ISO 1000, handheld.

With Extension tubes

Well, when i bought it i was hoping to use my extension tubes with that lens to photograph Frogs when they are in the water and are difficult to get close. After using it on some occasions the results are not as good as i was thinking it would be. I tried the lens with my 2 extension tubes (with the 10mm or with both for a total of 26mm) to get closer focusing when photographing Frogs. The IQ in the center remains very good but even the in-focus areas in the borders and corners looks smeared, (see below the crop from the border of a photo of a frog) … btw the eye of the frog is perfectly sharp. I don’t know if it’s because the lens was designed to be close to the sensor are it doesn’t work well with extension tubes. I’ve never had such problems when using FF lenses with ext. tubes on my Pentax or Canon cameras, maybe it’s because it’s an APS-C lens or OIS and as the lens gets farther away from the sensor IQ of the corners suffers more ???

This adult Green Frog was hiding in the leaves in a shallow pond, as you can see it was in autumn. I used a 10mm extension tube, the lens was set at 190mm, at f/11, ISO 800, tripod. The Frog is sharp but because of the extension tube the borders and corners suffered and are not that sharp, they look smeared.

Here is a crop from the border that is in focus but looks smeared.

The next 2 photos of a small river near my home were taken on a cold morning (0°C), in fact it was our first time that we had frost on the ground during the month of September this year. It shows how useful is the XF 55-200mm for landscape photography because you can quickly change the composition, especially with fog it’s important to work rapidly because when the sun start to warm it up, the fog will quickly evaporate.

Taken at 55mm at f/11 on a tripod.

At 128mm, f/11, tripod.

Taken on a foggy autumn morning, it’s an Old Canal for boats that is now closed. I tried to keep the mood of the moment when i did my PP so i added some contrast but not too much. Taken at 86mm, f/9, ISO 200, tripod.

Same place as the shot above taken just the day after, nothing special but it was a good occasion to test lens flare, the lens did quite well and i would say that it is better than my Canon 70-200mm/4L was in those situations. Also taken at f/9.

This is the kind of photo i like to do, isolate a small part of the subject, the XF 55-200mm is a lens that is perfect for these shots. Taken at 200mm, 6.9 seconds, f/11, ISO 200, tripod, Polarizer.

To photograph those mushrooms growing on a dead tree my tripod was set at it’s maximum height and my lens zoomed to 200mm. I used an aperture of f/9.

Conclusion

For the price i paid (550$ Canadian in sale for a brand new one) i think it’s a great buy ! Fuji did an excellent job with that lens, a good compromise between IQ, size, weight and maximum aperture. It’s a lens that i really like and is doing very well in the field when i need some reach for my landscape photography but also “close-up” and some wildlife. I don’t know if i will switch to the new XF 50-140mm WR when it will be available because i think i would probably miss the gap between 140-200mm ….. i was missing that gap when i was shooting with my Pentax DA*50-135mm.

This lens might not be for everyone, some will find it too big and heavy for their taste or use, but for me it ticks most cases. I would recommend that lens to any Fuji users because it’s a versatile lens backed by a very good IQ and renders beautiful images.

This photo of the Rouge river taken on a cold foggy morning is one of the main reason i bought that lens, it’s to zoom-in to isolate part of the landscape. At 200mm, f/11, ISO 200, tripod.

 

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12 responses

  1. Thanks for this useful review. I play with a Canon FD lens (a 135mm primer) in the X-E1 but the experience was not good so I decided to go with Fujinon XF lenses, here it’s clear to me that the IQ is far superior.
    The chipmunk and the waterfall are my favorites =)

    October 16, 2014 at 11:35 pm

    • Hi Francis,
      it’s worth it and with the rebates it’s even more a great buy !
      Good shooting.

      October 16, 2014 at 11:53 pm

  2. marcelloz

    Thank you for the review, I own the 50-230 xc which is good, great at times but not as reliable as the 55-200. But, first of all, I like your natural color approach.

    October 17, 2014 at 7:13 am

    • Hi marcelloz,
      Fuji makes very good lenses and having choices like those 2 lenses certainly is fun for us. I always try not to over processd my images.

      thank you.

      October 18, 2014 at 1:07 am

  3. Thach Ly

    Lovely shots. I have the same lens. Its soooo sharp even at 200mm ! It also makes a beautiful portrait lens

    October 17, 2014 at 9:15 am

    • Hi Thach,
      it’s a versatile lens for sure.

      Thank you.

      October 18, 2014 at 1:04 am

  4. LKjr

    Nice review..although it is a great lens, I have found the 55-200 too heavy paired with the XPro1 for travel… 😦

    October 17, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    • Hi LKjr,
      for travelling light it might be too heavy but it depends on your expectation and needs, for my part i wouldn’t mind, but it depends on the kind of travel you do.

      October 18, 2014 at 1:00 am

  5. Hello Steeve

    Great review and some great landscape shots.

    A quick question if you dont mind.

    When I had all my Canon gear I very often used my 70-200 f4 (with tripod collar) for landscape work, which I was able to keep rock steady with my geared head. Now with the 55-200 (zoomed out) and the XT-1 even with a little breeze it is fairly unstable, resulting in unpredictable results. Have you encountered any such problems using this lens with your XE-1 and if so how have you countered it.

    Cheers Julian

    October 17, 2014 at 8:32 pm

    • Hi Julian,
      you’re right, this is a disadvantage of zoom lenses that are not IF like the Fuji 55-200mm, my Canon and Pentax were IF, the Canon tripod collar was very useful and i wish the Fuji had one but i will have to live with it. Maybe i will had the XF 50-140mm which should be a great lens also or wait for the XF 140-400mm. Maybe an after market braket like the old Manfrotto might help for stability.

      Thank you for the comments, appreciate it.

      Steeve.

      October 18, 2014 at 12:58 am

  6. Sam

    The lens is being sold by Amazon.ca for $450 right now. It’s on back order. I just placed my order now…….seems like a good deal.

    December 7, 2014 at 7:26 am

    • Yes at that price it’s a very good deal indeed !

      December 7, 2014 at 12:35 pm

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