Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 R
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Lab Test Results
by William Brawley
Fujifilm knows a thing or two about making high quality fast primes -- just look at the results of some of the other Fuji primes we've tested (even the zooms are highly-regarded). So, we were very excited to test this newly-available Fujinon XF 56mm ƒ/1.2 R portrait prime, hoping that this super-bright, 85mm-equivalent focal length lens would be another stunning piece of glass from the folks at Fuji.
This solidly-built, all-metal, professional-grade lens features an optical design that's comprised of 11 elements in 8 groups, including two ED (extra low-dispersion) elements and one double-sided aspherical element, plus four elements with a convex surface facing the subject, which altogether to reduce spherical and chromatic aberrations for superior images, according to Fuji.
While not as pocketable and portable as the typical mirrorless system lens, the Fujinon XF 56mm ƒ/1.2 R is definitely much more compact -- and significantly less expensive -- than competing 85mm lenses with an ƒ/1.2 aperture (the Canon 85mm ƒ/1.2L II weighs 2.3 lbs. and costs over $2,000, for example). But of course, a full-frame f/1.2 lens is going to have a much shallower depth of field than a APS-C lens, despite opening up to f/1.2.
Surely, a lens that opens as wide as ƒ/1.2 can't be sharp at that aperture, right? Wrong. The Fujinon XF 56mm ƒ/1.2 R lens is spectacularly sharp, even at ƒ/1.2, and even in the corners! Stopping down a bit shows even more impressive results. By the time you get to around ƒ/4 - ƒ/5.6, the lens is razor sharp, across the entire frame, corner-to-corner. Even diffraction-limiting softness is so minimal, it's borderline imperceptible. In fact, our tests show that the sharpness at ƒ/16 (the smallest aperture) is very similar that at ƒ/1.2. Overall, the Fuji 56mm lens is one of the sharpest lenses we've ever tested.
Move along. No CA here. The Fuji 56mm lens shows impressively low chromatic aberration. The unique optical design of this lens with convex surfaces as well as aspherical and ED elements work to really reduce and most eliminate CA altogether. There's a some CA, ever-so-slightly, at ƒ/1.2-ƒ/2, but at ƒ/2.8-ƒ/16, CA is practically nonexistent.
This lens displays a little bit of vignetting at the very wider apertures. At ƒ/1.2, it's very difficult to be completely devoid of some vignetting, but overall it's quite minor, at a little over 0.25EV of light falloff. Once you stop down to ƒ/2.8, however, vignetting has significantly decreased.
As any good portrait lens should, the Fuji 56mm lens shows practically zero distortion. When photographing people, a large amount of distortion, particularly barrel distortion can make your subject look unnatural and accentuate features like the nose or forehead (depending on your distance from the subject, of course). This lens's extremely low distortion allows for flat, even and natural distortion-free portraits.
Autofocus performed well on this lens. It felt fairly fast and accurate on our test camera, the Fuji X-E1, which isn't known to have outstanding AF performance. In our experience with the lens, the Fuji 56mm took under one second to focus from minimum focus distance to infinity.
Although Fuji describes the internal focusing mechanism and "DC coreless motor" autofocus system as stated by Fuji to be "silent," we found it to not be perfectly quiet, or at least to the standards of a Canon USM lens, for example. However, it's not so noisy that everyday ambient sounds won't block it out, especially when outside. Also, when shooting portraits, it would be unlikely that your subject would hear it focusing. (In fact, combined with the subtle focusing motor noises, the primary noise we heard when shooting with this lens in AF-S mode on the X-E1 was the aperture diaphragm opening and closing while it attempted to focus.)
Manual focusing on this lens is an electronic focus-by-wire system. The large focus ring is buttery smooth to rotate, and has no hard or soft stops at either end of the focus scale. The manual focus system with this lens coupled with the X-E1 worked well, and fine-grained focus adjustments were easy to do with small, subtle movements of the focus ring.
This lens is not designed for macro shooting due to its 70cm (27.6 in.) minimum focusing distance that provides only a 0.09x (1:11.1) magnification.
Build Quality and Handling
Following outstanding optical quality, the build quality of the Fuji 56mm lens is equally impressive -- our lens technician even nicknamed it a "Zeiss Jr." The all-metal construction feels very solid while still being fairly lightweight making it well-balanced on larger Fuji cameras like to X-T1 to smaller ones like the X-E1. It feels great in the hand. The deep glare-blocking lens hood is, however, made of polycarbonate plastic, but nevertheless feels solid and locks securely to the front of the lens.
The exterior is a semi-gloss black finish with two rings -- a wider 1-inch wide focus ring with small ribs for grip and a thin clicked aperture ring with a slightly coarser ribbed texture. The focus system on this lens is electronic, so the ring rotates freely with a buttery smooth feel. The aperture ring features 1/3-stop increments down to ƒ/16, except for a single increment from ƒ/1.2 to ƒ/1.4. And apart from the aperture markings along the ring, the Fuji 56mm lens is devoid of any other markings or switches.
Inside the barrel sit 11 elements in 8 groups, and includes two ED (extra low-dispersion) elements and one double-sided aspherical element. There are also four elements with a convex surface facing the subject, which is a pretty unique lens configuration and is stated to help reduce spherical and chromatic aberrations -- based on our test, it seems to have done the trick. Furthermore, all lens surfaces have Fuji's Electron Beam Coating for reduced ghosting and flare.
Being a portrait lens, having nice and pleasing out of focus backgrounds is also important, and the Fuji's 7-bladed rounded aperture diaphragm makes for creamy bokeh.
When it comes to alternatives, the Fujinon 56mm ƒ/1.2R really stands on its own. There aren't really many other choices for the Fuji X-Mount system apart from Fuji's own offerings and a couple of Carl Zeiss primes, and for a fast portrait prime, the 56mm ƒ/1.2 is unique. However, if you want a similarly sharp prime lens, there is the Fujinon 60mm ƒ/2.4 R Macro lens. You get a bit longer focal length, but a much slower ƒ/2.4 aperture. The sharpness is very impressive as are the other optical quality, plus you can shoot macro photography with lens, which the 56mm does not offer. It's also significantly less expensive with a retail price around $400.
Fujifilm is really knocking it out of the park with their X-mount prime lenses, and the Fujinon 56mm ƒ/1.2R is another triumph. Typically, an impressively bright ƒ/1.2 aperture brings with it some big sacrifices such as sharpness, vignetting and CA, but the Fuji 56mm avoids them all. With stunningly sharp images, even in the corners at ƒ/1.2 with extremely minimal CA, vignetting and distortion, Fuji shooters looking for the premiere portrait lens for the X-mount should look no further.
Check out some sample gallery images shot by our production editor Dave Pardue. You can view more sample photos, plus download the full-resolution image files, by visiting our Fujifilm X-E1 gallery page (the camera we used to shoot these images) and scrolling down to the shots with "56mm" in the title.
The VFA target should give you a good idea of sharpness in the center and corners, as well as some idea of the extent of barrel or pincushion distortion and chromatic aberration, while the Still Life subject may help in judging contrast and color. We shoot both images using the default JPEG settings and manual white balance of our test bodies, so the images should be quite consistent from lens to lens.
As appropriate, we shoot these with both full-frame and sub-frame bodies, at a range of focal lengths, and at both maximum aperture and ƒ/8. For the ''VFA'' target (the viewfinder accuracy target from Imaging Resource), we also provide sample crops from the center and upper-left corner of each shot, so you can quickly get a sense of relative sharpness, without having to download and inspect the full-res images. To avoid space limitations with the layout of our review pages, indexes to the test shots launch in separate windows.
Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 R User Reviews
10 out of 10 points and recommended by TTPhoto (2 reviews)Sharp, Fast, Well BuiltBulky
Definitely a lens to have. Ideal for portrait. Very nice bokeh.reviewed December 20th, 2015 (purchased for $750)
10 out of 10 points and recommended by coma (20 reviews)f/1.2, sharp
It is an spectacular lens, sharp already wide open. It was my go to portraiture lens - until the 90mm (which is probably one of the best lenses ever made) appeared.reviewed December 7th, 2015 (purchased for $700)
Still, the 56mm has a huge advantage - it's light gathering ability with f/1.2
And you can use f/1.2 without problems because contrast and resolution are good and the focus is tack on (thanks to contrast detection/hybrid focus on mirrorless bodies).
This lens is pretty versatile: great for portraiture, available light but also (stopped down) for landscape. I think it's maximum sharpness is greater than those of the Fuji 60mm or Zeiss 50mm macros.
I'd call this one a must have for the systen
10 out of 10 points and recommended by michaellhunt (1 reviews)Sharp, Fast
When I first got this lens I was expecting okay quality. After a few hours I was literally stunned with the sharpness. By the time I was at F4 this lens is a sharp is anything I own. Beautiful quality images, great contrast and wonderful sharpness throughout the range of F stops. If you're a Fuji user this is a must-have lens. Stop by your local camera store, put it on your camera, give it a try, I think you'll be amazed.reviewed March 14th, 2014 (purchased for $999)