REVIEW: The Fujinon XF50mm f1 at the 24 Hours of Le Mans
I was able to borrow a pre production sample of the Fujinon XF50mm f1 telephoto prime lens for the 2020 24 Hours of Le Mans for a quick review of Fujifilm's fastest prime lens.
I am going to be honest but for the way I work in the pitlane I find the 50mm focal length a bit short, I much prefer the 90mm f2 or 200mm f2, if using a prime, or the 50-140mm f2.8 if I need a bit of flexibility. With a 50mm you need to get in close and this can cause problems with the pit crews, you don't want to get in their way, or if the subject is at the back of the garage, we've not allowed to cross into the garage due to the Covid-19 protocols - breaking a bubble is the technical term!
With that said I wanted to give it go as I was intrigued to see how the 50mm f1 operated, how shallow the depth of field was and how fast the AF was on the X-T4. I did have a 56mm f1.2 but sold it for the reasons stated above but also because the AF was a bit slow - admittedly this was when I had an X-T2.
I fitted the 50mm f1 when I visited the pitlane on Wednesday for Scrutineering, on Thursday night during the third Free Practice session and also on Saturday afternoon for a media zoom session with FIA President Jean Todt, ACO President Pierre Fillon and FIA Endurance Commission President Richard Mille.
What About The Size of the Lens?
I found the 50mm very well balanced on the X-T4 either with or without the battery grip. It is about the same size as the XF16-55mm f2.8 that I use, so it felt natural on the camera - remember I am used to having a 200mm f2 bolted to one of my cameras almost permanently.
The front element is huge but it is still a 77mm diameter, so I didn't have to worry about getting a different adapter ring for my Haida M10 filter holder. During Wednesday I had to fit the filter holder so I could use a Haida 6 stop ND filter to allow me to shoot with the aperture wide open in the bright sunlight.
I don't like using the electronic shutter, preferring to stick to manual shutter but then I am limited to 1/8000s which normally isn't an issue. But with f1, ISO80 and bright sunshine, the shutter speed was going to be above 1/8000, so the ND filter was a must.
What about the Autofocus Speed?
This was much better than the 56mm f1.2. Now some of this could be down to fact that I last used the older lens on an X-T2, but on the X-T4 the 50mm f1 was fast and precise, especially when using eye focus.
What About that f1 Aperture?
My first reaction was it is marketing exercise, does f1 really make that much difference? The light gathering performance is certainly impressive, especially shooting at night. The 50mm has a 2 stop advantage over my 90mm and 200mm and 3 stops over the 50-140mm. So shooting in the pitlane I was able to keep the ISO really low.
The shallow depth of field is also impressive but shooting with my 200mm f2 wide open gives me the look that I want.
So What Did I Think of the Lens?
As I said earlier the 50mm is a bit short for the way I work in a fast moving environment. I had the 200mm f2 on my other X-T4 and after a while shooting with the 50mm I switched to the other camera which allowed me to be further away from the subject while still giving me wonderful bokeh.
Having said that I was very happy with the performance of the 50mm, especially in the AF department. This is a brilliant portrait lens and I can see this flying off the shelves for portrait and wedding photographers wanting the style of image this lens produces with ease.
Me? I will stick to my 90mm f2 / 50-140mm f2.8 / 200mm f2 combo for motorsport work but I can highly recommend any X Series shooter who is looking for a short telephoto prime to consider the 50mm f1. The f1 aperture certainly isn't a marketing gimmick, it really does deliver the goods - in spades!
Here are a few examples all shot on the Fujifilm X-T4 and XF50mm f1 -