Yeah! Fujifilm finally made it! More than two years I have been waiting for this lens to arrive in the camera stores. After switching completely from Canon to Fujifilm 3 years ago, I still had no real replacement for my lovely Canon EF 100-400mm zoom lens except the XF 55-200mm. Don’t understand me wrong, the XF 55-200mm is a fantastic lens, very lightweight and sharp, a perfect lens to travel with. But 300mm (35mm EQ) isn’t really long enough to shoot small birds or do close-up shots of zoo animals. The long awaited XF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR now covers a 35mm focal length equivalent of 152-609mm, which is a perfect range for wildlife and also (motor)sports. And with the also available XF1.4TC teleconverter the range even extends to a 140-560mm F6.3-8 (213-853mm!) monster zoom lens. Fujifilm of course promised that the lens quality does not suffer with attached teleconverter. We will see. 😉
Build Quality and Handling
The lens is made of very solid high quality plastic and metal and the overall build quality is very similar to white Canon L lenses. For those who think an APS-C lens has to be much smaller than a fullframe counterpart are ‚unfortunately‘ wrong. Due to optical limitations the XF 100-400mm is pretty silimar sized likemy old Canon EF 100-400mm lens. It is slightly lighter and does not extend as long as the Canon does, but it is still a very large lens. Nevertheless attached to a X-T1 with additional battery grip it is very easy to handle and also balanced very well. The battery grip is not only recommended for a better handling but also for an extended battery life. The OIS really drains a lot of battery power but on the other side is very very efficient. The promised 5-Stop enhancement is not a marketing gag, it is reality. I was able to shot hand-held and with attached teleconverter down to 1/30s. All in all the lens is made as a workhorse for professional photographers.
Image Quality and Sharpness
I do not want to bother you with test chart comparisons or lines per Inch/centimeter measurements. My approach is much more application related and therefore I went ‚again‘ to the zoo. To cut a long story short, the lens is sharp, very sharp and even wide open completely useable. Ok, at 400mm it is not as tack sharp as with shorter focal lengths (common for such large zoom lenses) but quality is still on a very high level. Stopping down by one stop improves contrast and also sharpness visibly but not significantly. From my current experience with this lens it looks like Fujifilm has optimized the lens for shorter focus distances (<30m), which is good in my opinion, because most of the photographers will use it in this range. For longer distances it is getting slightly softer and therefore it is better to stop it down a bit. But what finally impressed me most was the performance with attached teleconverter. I really expected a more than visible degradation in sharpness and contrast similar to my old Canon L zoom. But all I can say for now is ‚hats off‘ to Fujifilm, they really know how to develop optics. If I would pretend there is no visible difference between with or without converter I would lie. But the difference is so small that the increased magnification/focal length more than compensates the reduced sharpness. Yes, the aperture increases to f/8 at the long end, which transforms the lens into a fair-weather optic, but you still have the amazing OIS aside to help to gather every remaining ray of light to be able to keep the ISO low.
As a summary the zoom performs very good in terms of contrast, color reproduction and sharpness for almost the entire focal range. The bokeh is very nice for a zoom lens and has the known Fuji like soft touch. At the longer end you may sometimes have to stop down a bit to squeeze out every remaining bit of resolution especially for longer focus distances. Surprisingly there is no mentionable impact of the teleconverter on the overall image quality, therefore it is attached most of the time when I use this lens.
Focusing Speed and Accuracy
Although I praised the lens to haven up to know, there are also some points for criticism. The focusing speed is fast but not as fast as with comparable DLSR models. I am pretty sure this is mostly due to the camera itself and not because of a slow optic. The X-T1 is unfortunately no high level performer in terms of autofocus speed. This may hopefully change with the upcoming X-T2 and has been already proven with the now available X-Pro2. Most of the time I do not really care about the speed but sometimes there is the wish to capture moving objects and the successrate of the X-T1 is often pretty low. Nevertheless for such a large lens the autofocus speed is still very fast, perfectly silent and smooth. Due to the very small deep of focus for shorter distances you really have to take care where you place your focus square. Sometimes the autofocus gets fooled by an overlaying background pattern or differences in motive contrast. If you want for example to focus on a small birds eye you should really use the smallest focus area available, otherwise you will be very disappointed while screening your pictures at the home monitor.
+ Very good and solid build quality
+ Water and dust proof housing
+ Very good sharpness for all focal lengths even with attached XF1.4TC
+ Neutral colors and high contrast
+ Very silent and accurate autofocus
+ Incredibly well performing optical image stabilizer
– Autofocus could be faster (mostly camera related)
– Slightly softer images at the long end and longer focus distances (optimized for shorter distances)
– Not cheap….but worth every penny 😉
It was really worth to wait more than 2 years for this incredible piece of glass. The final production performance really exceeded my expectations and I am still convinced it was a very good decision to switch from Canon to Fujifilm 3 years ago. During the last few years Fujifilm has successfully build up an incredible lens lineup, which should satisfy most of the photographers out there. And I am furthermore convinced Fujifilm will suprise us with more nice optics in the upcoming months and years.
All shown pictures were developed in Lightroom 6.x from RAW.