Fujifilm Fujinon XF 56mm F1.2 R Lens Review

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Fuji XF 56mm F1.2 R Lens Review:

A fast short-tele portrait lens is a “must-have” for many photographers, especially for those in the wedding and portrait industry yet for a long time, it was missing in the Fuji X Series lineup.  There are third party versions, and there’s also the sharp, compact XF 60mm F2.4 but nothing made by Fuji, below the F2.0 range.  As of spring 2014, that changed with the release of the XF 56mm F1.2 R lens (B&H Photo/Amazon), an optic that many have been patiently waiting for.  With the crop factor taken into account, the 56mm F1.2 is approximately an 84mm equivalent, which is a preferred focal length for many portrait and wedding photographers.  Its fast aperture is also prized in this type of lens both for available light photography and for creating beautiful shallow depth of field or as some refer to as “bokeh”.  So far, the details sound promising but does the XF 56mm F1.2 really cut it?  Is it worth its asking price of $999.00?  Was it worth the wait?  Let’s find out.

Fuji XF 56mm F1.2 R Lens Build Quality:

As always, I like to start off talking about the build quality of the equipment that I review.  Being that this is one of the newer generation of lenses made by Fuji, it’s built in the same fashion, which means it’s built quite well.  In fact, build quality is similar to the excellent XF 23mm F1.4 R lens.  It is not weather resistant but there’s no “hollow” or plastic-like feel that plagued some of the earlier X Series lenses.  The aperture ring clicks nicely and securely in third stops.  The lens is very solid, thanks in part to it’s metal barrel, and it has a nice heft to it, which is partially attributed to all the glass that is used in this lens.  But for those photographers who are always on the go, fear not; the weight (405g) is really not a burden at all, especially for a lens of this focal length and large aperture.  Overall, this is clearly a very well-engineered lens that’s built to last.

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↑ The XF 56mm F1.2 R lens.

When you see the XF 56mm F1.2 R lens in person, it does look pretty big; in fact it’s one of the bigger lenses in the X Series system.  But let’s face it; the fact that its largest aperture is F1.2, and it’s a short-tele, the XF 56mm F1.2 is going to be big.  Maybe there are ways to make it smaller but I’m sure the lens will probably cost a lot more than its current asking price.  The laws of physics can not be changed.

With that said, I believe if you take into account its focal length and speed, the XF 56mm F1.2 is actually relatively compact.  In fact, what really surprised me was that I found this lens not only balances quite nicely on the X-T1, it also balances great on my X-E2, at least for me.  It felt good in my hands, and never once felt overly bulky when I was using it.  The 56mm F1.2 was easy and comfortable to lug around all day, which is saying a lot for a lens of this focal length and wide open aperture.  In fact, the XF 56mm uses the same filter thread as the XF 23mm F1.4, which many use as an everyday lens.

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↑ I found the XF 56mm F1.2 to be a great match with the X-E2.

The only complaint that I have with the 56mm F1.2 is the lens hood that comes with it.  I know that there’s some complaints out there that the hood is plastic but personally, I don’t mind it at all.  The only thing I don’t like about it is the size.  The hoods that came with the first generation X Series lenses like the XF 18mm were great minus the lens caps that fell off pretty easily.  I felt the hoods were specifically designed for those lenses because I felt that the compact size of those lenses were taken into account.  In my opinion, the hood for the XF 56mm F1.2 just doesn’t match with the relatively compact design of the lens itself.

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↑ The XF 56mm F1.2 with its hood on.

Because of its size, I didn’t use the hood much when I was shooting even though I’m a strong advocate of using lens hoods all the time in general.  But the good news is I didn’t have any issue using the XF 56mm F1.2 without the lens hood.  Plus, the lens felt so much more compact.

For those who plan on purchasing this lens, and feel the same way but still want a lens hood, an alternative might be to search the web for a aftermarket hood.  From my XF 23mm F1.4 review, some of you commented that you also found the lens hood for that lens to be large and cumbersome but found decent ones for cheap on ebay.  Metal too.  If you choose to stick with the original lens hood, at least it can be reversed for easy traveling.

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↑ Here’s a view of the lens and lens hood attached to the X-E2.

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↑ A quick size comparison between the XF 60mm F2.4 (left) and the XF 56mm F1.2 (right).

Fuji XF 56mm F1.2 R Lens Image Quality:

As far as image quality goes, the XF 56mm F1.2 R lens (B&H Photo/Amazon) definitely impressed me.  In fact, the XF 56mm F1.2 is my new favorite Fuji lens knocking down my old favorite to second place, the XF 35mm F1.4.  Like the XF 35mm F1.4, the XF 56mm F1.2 is razor sharp.  While many will buy this lens for its F1.2 aperture, know that you can pretty much use this lens at all F stops, and get fantastic results.  This is a well-corrected lens where you really don’t have to worry about distortion, and vignetting isn’t much of an issue even at F1.2.  There’s also great color rendition.  I normally don’t used lenses of this focal length that much but I was finding myself making stupid excuses just to use the XF 56mm F1.2.  I found the XF 56mm simply addictive; it made me want to shoot with it all the time because I just loved the results that I was getting from it.  Overall, I feel that this is probably the best Fuji lens currently out.

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↑ Stopped down, this lens is extremely sharp.  This was taken at F5.6.

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↑ This was taken at F8.

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↑ Here’s another photo at taken at F5.6.

Like many, I love nice bokeh but not all photos are meant to be shot wide open.  I think in photography, you have to use the whole range of F stops.  Plus, if I’m paying big bucks for a lens like this, I want it to perform well at all apertures.  But with that said, I found it hard to resist shooting wide open constantly because the results from this lens when shot at F1.2 are breathtaking.  The XF 56mm F1.2 R lens delivers nice, smooth bokeh, which is expected for a first class lens like this one yet the subject is remarkably sharp.  Tack sharp.  For the most part, I found the shallow depth of field to be dream-like and buttery smooth.  There’s really not much more that needs to be said.  All you need to know is that shooting wide open with this lens is a real pleasure.

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↑ The bokeh at F1.2 is nice and smooth yet the subject is tack sharp.

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↑ Here’s another shot taken at F1.2.

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↑ Shot at F1.2.

However, if you’re going to shoot wide open a lot in daylight, a good ND filter is pretty much a requirement.  In fact, I was testing this lens on some very bright days, and found that I needed an ND filter that was able to reduce the amount of light passing through the camera by more than 3 stops.  However, the problem with using an ND filter that reduces light by so much is that it’ll be difficult to shoot inside.  Therefore, this time, instead of going with a regular ND filter, I went with a B+W variable ND filter, which was great because it allowed a 1 – 5 stop exposure reduction.

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↑ Here’s a shot taken at F4.5.

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↑ I just love how sharp this lens is even when shooting it at its largest aperture.

But if you plan on purchasing one, there are two problems with this filter: the first is its very pricey but there are alternatives from other manufacturers like Tiffen.  The second problem is you’ll have to get a slightly bigger lens cap for the B+W ND variable filter.  I had to use the lens cap from my Zeiss Touit 12mm, which has a 67mm thread.  In this case, the supplied lens hood for the XF 56mm F1.2 will not fit on the lens.

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↑ A rock climbing wall right in the middle of the street.

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↑ The XF 56mm F1.2 produces photos with nice depth.

Autofocus With The Fuji XF 56mm F1.2 R Lens:

Some might be wondering how the autofocus performs, especially at F1.2.  For the most part, the autofocus was fine for me.  It felt like one of the typical, newer generation X Series primes.  It’s smooth, mostly reliable (with the occasional misfocus), and while it’s not the fastest autofocus lens in the X Series lineup, I don’t think anyone will really have an issue with it, especially for portraiture.  I found the XF 56mm did not focus as fast or as quietly as the XF 18-55mm zoom but it is also not as noisy as the XF 60mm F2.4.

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↑ Here’s a shot taken at F1.2. 

Fuji XF 56mm F1.2 R Lens Pros And Cons:

Fuji XF 56mm F1.2 R Lens Pros:

  • Very well built.
  • I believe it’s relatively compact for a fast short-tele with such a large aperture.
  • I found it balanced nicely on the X-T1 and the X-E2.
  • Image quality is excellent throughout the entire aperture range.
  • Very sharp even at F1.2.
  • For the most part, bokeh is beautifully rendered.  It will be hard not to want to shoot at F1.2 all the time.
  • $999 may sound like a lot for a Fuji lens but it is well worth it, especially when compared to high end Canon and Nikon equivalents.

Fuji XF 56mm F1.2 R Lens Cons:

  • Some may not like that this lens is not weather sealed.
  • I found the lens hood large.
  • In my experience, autofocus will miss once in a while.

Fuji XF 56mm F1.2 R Lens Verdict:

Overall, the XF 56mm F1.2 R lens (B&H Photo/Amazon) is absolutely superb.  You’re getting a pro level lens but what’s great is you can shoot with something of this caliber on a small mirrorless camera like the X-E2 or even the X-M1.  At $999.00, the XF 56mm F1.2 might seem expensive for a Fuji lens, and in general, a $1,000 is a lot of money.  But in my opinion, I think it’s reasonable, especially when you compare it to other lenses with similar traits.

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↑ Here’s a shot taken at F1.2 but from a distance.

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↑ Another taken at F1.2.

For instance, let’s compare it with lenses like the Canon 85mm F1.2 L lens or the Nikon 85mm F1.4 G.  Both of those lenses cost $1,500 to 2,200 each. There are differences, such as, depth of field but optically, the XF 56mm F1.2 R lens is excellent as well.  I honestly believe that no one will feel like they need more from this lens.  It’s also lighter than the two full frame lenses I’ve mentioned.  This is not an attack on Canon or Nikon as I’ve used both of those lenses before, and they are excellent in every regard.  I do not want to get into a comparison of all these lenses here; all I’m saying is that I think for what you’re getting, Fuji isn’t being unreasonable with its pricing.  Lastly, I should also mention that it’s a whole lot cheaper than the Panasonic Leica 42.5mm F1.2 Nocticron (priced around $1,600) for the micro four thirds system as well.

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↑ One more shot taken at F1.2.

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↑ This was taken at F11.

The bottom line is this: If you need a short-tele lens, there is not a doubt in my mind that the XF 56mm F1.2 R lens is a “must-have” for the X Series system.  At F1.2, it’s a very fast lens,which not only allows you to isolate your subject and surround it with a creamy background, it also allows you the flexibility of using a lower ISO setting in dim lighting.  But it doesn’t stop there; the XF 56mm F1.2 performs superbly when stopped down, which only adds to its versatility.  The compact dimensions and it’s relatively lightweight construction for a lens of this focal length and speed make it very easy to carry anywhere. Lastly, this is a very well built lens.  If you’re in the market for a short-tele, don’t hesitate to buy the XF 56mm F1.2.  In my opinion, I think this is seriously one of the best X Series lenses currently out.

That’s it for my review.  I hope you enjoyed it.  If you want to follow this blog, in addition to Facebook and Twitter, you can now find me on Google+.  If you’re considering buying the XF 56mm F1.2, and my review helped you decide, please help support me by purchasing from one of the links below.  Thank you for your support!

Fuji XF 56mm F1.2 R Lens from B&H Photo

Fuji XF 56mm F1.2 R Lens from Amazon

Fuji XF 56mm F1.2 R Lens from Adorama

21 comments… add one

  • EJPB

    I’d like to love what Fuji does but quite a few times it feels wrong to me. A 56mm F1,2 would be interesting in a 35mm context, in APS/C it becomes a not very interesting focal length. Even in my DSLR-gear collection, the Nikkor 85mm primes still look brand-new… as I once purchased them as a portrait solution, but to be honest, like most of us, we only use this FL very occasionally. Also the Fuji XF60 stays unused in my bag for most of the time, it completely feels as ‘the wrong purchase’ (part of that story because despite of its excellent optics it is a terrible lens to use in a dynamic, low light environment due to its poor AF behavior). Any 50-ish FL is mostly out of scope for travel (or street) purpose and even as a portrait lens, it’s only a ‘yes, maybe’ for me, I like a little bit longer for that. In other words, this FL @ this price, despite the fast aperture, I’ll wait for something better to come. A 35mm ‘MKII’ @ F1.2 ? This would have made sense, a lot of sense! I’m sure this won’t be everyone’s opinion, but Fuji will cope more and more with their APS/C-ambition and possibly even get somewhere stuck with it while Sony has made the very right choice to go for FF in the top range of their MILC systems.

    • Patrick

      Hi EJPB,

      Thanks for leaving a comment, and your opinions are always appreciated here! Like you said, everyone has their own opinions and habits/needs from a lens. For some, the 56mm will be the perfect lens, and others, maybe the 35mm. I personally love this 56mm lens. But if Fuji ever comes out with 35mm F1.2, I would be right there on line with you lol :).

      Best regards,

      Patrick

  • Elderin

    “But the good news is I didn’t have any issue using the XF 56mm F1.2 without the lens hood. Plus, the lens felt so much more compact.”

    That is funny because i wrote that just a minute ago about my 90 summarit in a reply to your brooklin bridge shot. Same thing. Yes, you can damage your lens more easily. That is also true.

    Looks like a highly professional lens and i appreciate it that you added some shots other than the classic portrait as well (even though the portraits looked beautiful). I use my 90mm lens for all kinds of shots also and it is good to see how this new Fuji lens performs all around the aperture ring (you hardly ever use more than f8 or f11 on an apsc body for obvious reason). Bokeh is smooth, especially for an apsc camera/lens combo and it looks indeed sharp and contrasty.

    Thanks for the review Patrick.

    and congrats to the young mama :)

    • Patrick

      Hi Elderin,

      Thanks for taking the time to read my review! It is funny because I just read your comment about your 90mm Summarit hood as well :) .

      Yes, I agree that you can damage your lens more easily without the hood. That’s a great point you brought up. If I owned this lens, I would probably see if I could get an aftermarket lens hood although I really didn’t have any issue with using this lens hoodless.

      I am very glad you appreciate the non-portrait shots but I am also very thankful for the kind words about my portraits. While this lens is excellent for portraits, I figured not everyone will be exclusively using this lens for them. A $1,000 US is a lot of money. If it was me and I bought this lens, I would like to know it works well in all types of photography.

      But with that said, the bokeh is really nice with this lens! Like you said, it is very smooth. Overall, I really enjoyed using this lens. In fact, I think I might see if I can shoot with it again or maybe purchase my own in the future.

      I will also let my friend know your best wishes :) . Thank you.

      Take care,

      Patrick

  • Bernie Ess

    [quote]I’d like to love what Fuji does but quite a few times it feels wrong to me. A 56mm F1,2 would be interesting in a 35mm context, in APS/C it becomes a not very interesting focal length. (…)
    like most of us, we only use this FL very occasionally. [/quote]

    Sorry, this is just one man’s opinion. A lot of shooters like 85mm and since I have the 56mm, I tend to use it more often than the excellent 35/1,4, my former No.1 lens.

    For me it is the right focal length, for you it may not be it. Habits differ, that’s all.

    • Patrick

      Hi Bernie,

      “Habits differ, that’s all”. Definitely agree with this. For some, the 56mm is the lens that they’ve been waiting for, and for others, the 35mm is all the lens that they’ll need. Still doesn’t change the fact that the 56mm is one killer lens. Thank for leaving a comment!

      Best regards,

      Patrick

  • EJPB

    @Bernie Ess… please, I don’t intend to offend anyone. But Fuji stole once my heart with the X-Pro1 but I went through two full years of hassle, quirks, affected projects and started hating the system many times, that explains my statement. After so many FW updates it has all gotten more or less OK now as long as we don’t mention the RAW-conversion history that made me almost throw the thing in a trash can. Regarding lenses I’ve got the feeling that with the XF14mm, they entered a kind of “version 2″ (or 3, after the zooms) R&D & manufacturing status. The XF14 & 23mm are exceptional good lenses and have no doubt this 56mm belongs to the same wave of outstanding glass. And of course a 56/85mm makes a lot of sense in any commercial lens range. True. To go back to the “version 1″ ranges, I’m not feeling the same about the 18mm and 60mm (not super conceived stuff) and even the ‘very standard’ 35mm has a slower AF-behavior now. My 55-200mm works fine in good light, but it becomes a very hunting-sensitive lens in low light situations but that is likely not only due to the lens. I still have the feeling Fuji released the whole X-series and according glass months (or maybe even a full year) too early, at the release it was merely in a prototype stage and disappointed a lot of people. Being Fuji they also should have gone for a bigger sensor in the first place. If one company was optically and technically capable to do this in a kind of Leica sense with not the biggest form & weight factor, even including AF it must be them (or… a Carl Zeiss). Say a Sony A7 ‘avant la letter’ but with real high end Fujinon stuff and that magic hybrid VF.

    I admit if I would make the choice today… well, I should sell I kidney instead and go straight to Leica, or caring a bit more for my overall condition, I should consider a Sony A7. But about Fuji, well, I just don’t know. It still feels like a beautiful sportscar with a small, old low-CID engine showing very high power output numbers. You know what I mean. If Fuji really wants to reconquer my heart, a little more extra is required to let me forget the magnificent D8XX range of DSLRs.

  • JerryR

    Thanks for taking the time to review this lens. I’ve been using it for a couple of months and agree with just about everything you said. It’s surpassed the 35mm f/1.4 as my favorite indoor candids lens with excellent results wide open, and as you’ve shown it’s much more than just a portrait lens.

    I really like your last photo–good timing.

    JerryR

    • Patrick

      Hi JerryR,

      Thanks for taking the time to read my review and for leaving a comment! I’m really glad you like that last photo. Congratulations on purchasing this lens. I am definitely tempted to buy one myself as I am blown away by the image quality it can produce. I hope to hear from you again,

      Take care,

      Patrick

  • Marco

    Hey Patrick;
    As always, nice shots! Thank you for another detailed review. The 56mm’s optical quality looks great.

    I think I’m in the minority here, because even though I appreciate the qualities of the new 56mm, I’ll be sticking to the old and much maligned 60mm Macro :)

    As mentioned, with all of the firmware updates since its release a couple years ago, the 60mm’s focusing speed and accuracy is improved. Good technique can also keep the 60mm’s focusing quick. As a decades-long Leica M user, I would find areas of contrast that were in the same plane of focus as my subject matter. Placing the rangefinder patch on that, it would be easy to focus. I do the same thing with the Fuji X cameras and the AF works fast.

    I also like the half life size macro focus and slightly longer focal length of length of the 60mm. I understand the excitement for the 56mm – great glass plus awesome f1.2 aperture. But the overlooked 60mm has some good qualities too :)

    • Patrick

      Hey Marco!

      It’s always great to hear from you here! Thanks for leaving a comment and for your kind words! You bring up excellent points about the sometimes (unfortunately) underrated XF 60mm. I also believe the XF 60mm has improved considerably thanks to its firmware updates. Combine the improvements with the XF 60mm’s great optics and compact size, you have a great lens that’s also roughly half the price of the XF 56mm. I enjoyed using the XF 56mm immensely, and who knows, maybe in the future, it’ll be part of my kit because it really is a superb lens. But as of now, I’m in the same club as you are because I still own my XF 60mm :).

      All the best,

      Patrick

  • looking at your review sound like i really need this lens.Very temptating,very very temptating. :)

    • Patrick

      Hi Meng,

      It’s great hearing from you! This is an excellent lens, and will serve you well for your portrait work! I hope you’re having a great summer!

      Take care!

      Patrick

  • Hello Partick,
    I am back after lost for sometime,haha…It look like a great lens I would like to own but it is quite expensive,need to wait some time…I am damm busy,haha

    • Patrick

      Hi Meng,

      Yeah, the lens is nice but it is expensive. I saw your new post and your photos look great! Sorry to hear you’re so busy. Hopefully you’ll get some free time to relax before the summer ends.

      Take care,

      Patrick

  • Steve Chernela

    Hello Patrick,
    Thanks for your review of the Fuji 56mm f1.2. I bought this lens a few months ago ($850 at B&H) and have loved it from day one. I’m getting much better results than I got with an 85mm f1.8.

    May I ask what camera store that photo was taken in?

    BTW, I sent you a ‘friend’ request on FaceBook.

    Regards,

    Steve

    • Patrick

      Hi Steve,

      I’m so sorry for the late reply! March has been insanely busy for me.

      I greatly appreciate your friend request but I use my Facebook only to communicate with family overseas/out of state, and therefore, I don’t have really anything on it. There was a time when I had a lot more people on my Facebook but it became hard to find my family members’ news through the news feed. I don’t even have my friends on it. However, if you want to keep updated with this site, please join me on Finding range’s Facebook page. I would really love to see you there, and it is updated quite frequently. If you ever want to contact me to talk about anything concerning photography, you can definitely send me an email anytime.

      As for the lens, it is absolutely fantastic, and if I had more use for that focal length, I would buy one in an instant. It’s so sharp even at F1.2, and the bokeh is absolutely fantastic.

      Btw, what photo were you talking about? Are you talking about the photos of the lens in this review? If so, they were taken in my home.

      Thanks again for taking the time to leave a comment,

      Kind regards,

      Patrick

  • Steve Chernela

    Hi Patrick,
    I saw the photo on FaceBook. It is dated May 13, 2013. You are holding a Leica out in front of you in the photo.

    As per what you wrote above, I went to the finding range page and ‘liked it’.

    Regards,

    Steve

    • Patrick

      Hi Steve,

      Great to hear from you and glad to hear you added me to your Facebook! I was at Bergen County Camera (http://bergencountycamera.com/) in Westwood NJ.

      Kind regards,

      Patrick

  • Phil

    I have this lens on my X-T1 and agree with most of your comments. However, I don’t mind the big lenshood at all. It gives me a better chance of getting good into-the-light shots and it helps keep rain off the front element when I’m photographing in the wet (no problems after a couple of years, but I always carry a small piece of towel to wipe the lens dry). When the conditions don’t require the hood, I just leave it behind! I have also found autofocus accuracy to be excellent; in fact I keep marvelling at the hit rate. Maybe I’m just luckier than you! Finally, the lens does a pretty good job of closeups with an extension tube. I use Fuji’s MCEX-16.

    • Patrick

      Hi Phil!

      Thanks for taking the time to read my review, and to leave a comment! Maybe you are luckier than I am haha :)! On a more serious note, I suspect our different experiences with the autofocus may stem from our firmware differences/cameras. I posted this review about two and a half years ago, and as you already probably know, Fuji update their firmware often. I think at the time, I was using an X-E2 as well. As for using the MCEX-16 with the XF 56mm, I’ve never tried it but it sounds really interesting. I may have to give that a try. Thanks for stopping by!

      Happy New Year!

      Patrick

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