Give them an Inch, and a bit... New Fuji XF 27mm (Pancake) Lens

Discussion in 'General' started by Chris Dodkin, Aug 14, 2013.

  1. Chris Dodkin

    Chris Dodkin West Coast Correspondent

    With miraculous timing, the latest Fuji XF 27mm Lens turned up on my doorstep, at the same time as visiting family from Blighty.

    So it got attached to the X-Pro1 immediately, and got almost exclusive use during a two week blast around California's theme parks and zoos.

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    The lens is very distinctive, and is quite a departure for the X series, in that it's a compact pancake model, with no lens-mounted aperture ring, and no lens hood.

    This completely changes the look and feel of the camera - making it a very pocketable system, with a very low visual impact (excellent for street work).

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    The lack of hood was a concern at first - but Fuji made great claims for the new lens coating, which have been born-out in use - the lack of hood is a non-issue as far as flare is concerned.

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    The lack of aperture ring was odd at first - it was a key feature of the X system, and indeed the pre-production lens I saw at CES had an aperture ring on it.

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    In practice, I quickly adapted to using the aperture 'dial' on the back of the camera - and although it's a change, it is a complete non-issue in daily use.

    You get a relatively fast f/2.8 wide open - which provides nice DOF and BOKEH effects, especially when focusing on near-field subjects.

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    When stopped down to f/8 (my usual default setting) the lens is good to very good for resolution/sharpness - not as good as the Fuji 35mm Lens (Which is exceptional), but as good or better than the Fuji 18mm Lens.

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    It has less CA than the 18mm - which makes for an initial improvement in perceived sharpness, right out of the camera.

    Even when shooting at wider apertures, the detail is very well maintained, and the look of the final image is excellent. Here at f/3.2 for a full length portrait:

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    At f/2.8 - you can get sharp focus on the subject - especially if you adjust the AF box down one size to ensure the AF is on the intended target - and the bokeh is good.

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    f/2.8 also allows for some fast shutter speeds and/or good low light performance when required.

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    Having such a low profile as a lens really helps the camera 'blend in' - and whether you're taking photos of the grandkids, or shooting street from the hip, no one is really going to notice the camera and lens in this configuration.

    This leads to nice informal family portraits

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    and the ability to shoot quickly and quietly in a more covert mode

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    The AF is snappy, and grabs the focus even when you can't break-stride walking past a street subject.

    It can grab action as well as any DSLR given the focal length

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    The focal length provides natural looking portraits, very much as your eye would see them, so is useful for individual and group shots.

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    For more 'serious' shooting - where you might be looking to use the lens for architectural or landscape work, it doesn't disappoint

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    although for pure IQ the 35mm is still top of the heap in the Fuji lens series.

    The only 'limitation' I came up against was shooting buildings, and specifically interiors - and that was really just the focal length not getting enough in to the frame when in a tighter interior space.

    Exteriors were, as expected, no problem - with low/no image distortion and plenty of sharpness.

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    I've taken about a thousand frames with the new lens so far, and I'd say it took 3 or 4 days to really get my mind around using the new focal length. This is always a challenge with new glass, and that visualization process only comes with trial and error, and lots of practice.

    It does remind me of shooting with the X100, which I also enjoy greatly, and the 27mm does turn an interchangeable lens camera into a very very nice compact shooter.

    In the end, I think the characteristics of a pancake lens are what makes it worth the investment - it harkens back to cameras like the Olympus Trip, and the Rollei 35, which were hugely successful with good fixed lenses around this focal length.

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    The 27mm pancake changed the way I zoomed, using more foot power, and they way I did my compositions - it also changed the reactions of my subjects in a positive way, and allowed me to really enjoy carrying just the one lens with me on a busy day around a theme park.

    So it could be the ultimate in minimalism - and as a kit lens on say the new XM-1 it would certainly be a skinny, light-weight, super snapper.

    I'll be keeping mine - even if I get the faster 23mm f/1.4 R later this year - it's a unique offering, and well worth the money - IMHO.
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2013
  2. Dan Cattermole

    Dan Cattermole Dan Down - The Steampunk Womble

    Nice write up dude! ;)
     
  3. Chris Dodkin

    Chris Dodkin West Coast Correspondent

    Ta muchly bro! :D
     
  4. Beth Anthony

    Beth Anthony Well-Known Member

    great review! i'd say thanks, but i want it and can't get it [doh]. all of my extra money is allocated to the vacation fund atm. really lovely photos, the closeup portraits are a real treat. pancake lenses always look very odd on a big camera, but this one looks pretty natural.
     
  5. Larry Bolch

    Larry Bolch Member

    Not high on the shopping list, but nice to know it is there if needed.
     
  6. Chris Dodkin

    Chris Dodkin West Coast Correspondent

    Thanks, and sorry Beth - I would love you tell you it wasn't worth the money - but it is! :D
     
  7. Rob MacKillop

    Rob MacKillop Edinburgh Correspondent

    Really impressive, Chris. I like the connection you made with the Rollei. I think Fuji could use some of your shots to sell bucketloads of these lenses.
     
  8. Chris Dodkin

    Chris Dodkin West Coast Correspondent

    Thanks Rob - I'm open to offers if Fuji are watching! :D
     
  9. Brian Moore

    Brian Moore Moderator

    Great set and write-up Chris. Not to discount any of the images because they are all crackers, but the one of the kid in the stroller under the balloons is classic!

    The one of the brick wall takes me back. I took a photography class in high school. On one of my first days in the class the teacher handed me a Yashica TLR and told me to go get some foties around the campus. "I want pictures of lines." he said. "Lines,...?" "Yeah, lines!" So off I went to shoot, not quite sure what was wanted. But the very first fotie I took was exactly like the brick wall image of yours above. (Except it was in B&W and 120.)
     
  10. Chris Dodkin

    Chris Dodkin West Coast Correspondent

    Thanks Brian

    I just loved the look on that kids face as the balloons towered over them :)

    My wall shot was a bit of a joke on the tech-head DPR crowd - who insist on taking brick wall 'test shots' to prove lens sharpness, distortion levels etc.

    My shot looks a little soft as you get to the right hand side I think :D :D :D
     
  11. Thanks for taking the time to write this up Chris. It's the sort of information I need, yet don't get from more formal reviews.

    A while back I had a GF1 and 20mm, which is about the same FL. After a while I came to really like it for some of the reasons you mentioned. I now have the XP and an X100s. I enjoy both very much. But - I am thinking of selling the 100s. Great camera, but I am not sure I need two cameras. With the 27, the XP can become a nice tidy worker...

    Hmmmmm??
     
  12. Andy Boardman

    Andy Boardman Trade Member: Bob Rigby Photographic

    What a cracking write up I do not think Fuji could have done better themselves! along with super example photographs.
    Very well done indeed.
     
  13. Perhaps label the lens something like "the killer of all other brick wall lenses". The traffic will go through the roof.
     
  14. Steve Boykin

    Steve Boykin Well-Known Member

    Gee THANKS Chris....I really wanted to read that........:D

    Great shots!!!

    I really want this lens. It's going to have to wait until a couple of things sell but those shots are just fantastic Chris!!!!

    - - - Updated - - -

    That's the all important "wall chart" photo Brian. It's required. However, Chris neglected to give us the photo of a bunch of random stuff that includes a ball of yarn. Then you need to blow up the yarn 1000 times. Honestly you just can't judge the quality of lens unless it includes a 1000 times crop of a ball of yarn. So I'm still on the fence. :D
     
  15. Steve Boykin

    Steve Boykin Well-Known Member

    This of course is the difference between a real lens review with photos people might actually want to take and what you see on DPR. I was sort of ambivalent about this lens because of the aperture ring. However, after seeing a few of these photos, I'm sold. Now if I can just figure out where to get the $.

    Again this is a great write up and excellent photos. I do miss the standard DPR shot where the "reviewer" walks out in his or her front yard snaps and un-level shot of the neighbors house than proceeds to blow it up and offer an analysis. I really like it when they include the garage.
     
  16. Larry Bolch

    Larry Bolch Member

    I have nothing against aperture rings, and in fact rather like them on the X-Pro1. At a glance when grabbing the camera, I can see aperture, shutter speed and EC. However, I shoot the D700 with a mix of AI-S, AF and S lenses, with the latter having no aperture rings. Zero problems moving among them. Of course, both cameras show all relevant data in the viewfinders.

    A few days back, I was taking a nap and was awakened by a huge clap of thunder. Upon entering my living room, I could see a massive storm growing. I grabbed the D700 and popped it onto the tripod, setting the ISO to Lo.3—ISO100 and the aperture to f/16 to get the longest practical exposure. The lens on the camera was a max width of 28mm, so while it was making the first exposure, I scampered off after the 14-24mm.

    Since the aperture is set by the body, I only lost a couple of seconds of shooting time. No need to reset the lens, so there is at least a small advantage under many circumstances. With the X-Pro1 and present lenses, I MUST check the aperture every time I change the lens.

    Good storm, by the way.

    A Most Excellent Storm - a set on Flickr

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  17. Beth Anthony

    Beth Anthony Well-Known Member

    have you tried selling a kidney?
     
  18. Chris Dodkin

    Chris Dodkin West Coast Correspondent

  19. Pete Askew

    Pete Askew Senior Member

    Brilliant write up Chris. Thanks. And, like Brian, that shot of the balloons is a stand-out. :)
     

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