10 Portraits and a review of the Fujifilm XF 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 LM OIS lens

The new Fujifilm long zoom lens for the X system has muscles.

01. The new Fujifilm long zoom lens for the X system has muscles. It is sharp, lightweight, has good contrast and is well built. This shot of Jamie Roche taken during filming of my next video download production was lit with a California Sunbounce Pro silver and a Lastolite Panelite Silver/ gold reflector.

I was a little apprehensive when I ordered the new Fuji 55-200mm zoom lens. It’s not a lens that was high on my list. I mainly shoot portraits and a bit of fashion so I was interested to see how it performs in the real world. Here are ten portraits all shot with the new zoom together with my thoughts on the pros and cons of such a lens.

02. I lit Jamie with a California Sunbounce reflector

02. I lit Jamie with a California Sunbounce reflector, this time used as a keylight. The video production that this is a still from is about creating Hollywood style portraits and is mainly focussed on using hard light with interior locations.

The LCD screen on the back of the camera is never easy to use in full sun so I usually use the electronic viewfinder instead. I hold the camera in my right hand, I have the Really Right Stuff bracket to make that process easier, and I use my left hand to shield the viewfinder and my eye. This is fine with the 18mm, 35mm, 60mm primes and the 18-55mm zoom but not at all easy with the 55-200mm lens. When I’m using the long zoom I have to support the lens with my left hand.

I thought I could use a rubber eye cup to shield the sun like I did back in the early 80′s with my Pentax Spotmatic F. However there is the problem of the eye sensor being triggered by the eye cup and that in turn makes image review on the LCD a button pressing pain. An eye cup is therefore not the solution I’m after.

03. I shot these next few frames of A in Italy a couple of weeks ago.

03. I shot these next few frames of Alessandra in Italy a couple of weeks ago. I used the 55-200 wide open at whatever that aperture happened to be at the selected focal length. I used a silver reflector and some Cocoa butter to give Alessandra’s skin a sheen. The focus fall off is quite delightful. I’m not a fan of the 85mm f/1.2 or tilt shift lens look as it so unnatural.

I next tried a Hoodman loupe, wedging it between my eye and the LCD screen but because I have the collapsible variety of Hoodman it had a tendency to slip. Hoodman do happen to make quite intricate brackets for SLRs for use when filming but they are too big to use on the Fuji X-Pro1. So I decided to come up with my own solution. I remember when the Canon 5Dmk2 entered the market place with full HD Video recording capability. Some people said why? While others got on and tried to make it all work. It wasn’t long before there were big framework rigs with external monitors, audio mixers and the like. In garden sheds all over the land problems were being solved. Ball bearings were being removed from lens aperture rings to make iris action step-less and LCD hoods were developed to make the LCD usable in all lighting conditions. Some set ups looked bigger and more clumsy than a real video camera but the shallow depth of field was the gold in the mine for cinematographers.

Compact system cameras pose many of the same handling issues that DSLR video users came up against. Put a long telephoto lens on a CSC camera and you don’t want to be holding it at arms length to see the LCD screen. The optical finder is useless too so you can either use the electronic viewfinder or a Hoodman style loupe attached to the LCD. Here is the one I fashioned in 10 minutes in my garden shed. I’m delighted to say it works a treat.

4. The Hoodman Loupe attached to my X-Pro1

04. The Hoodman Loupe attached to my X-Pro1 using a handmade bracket into the RRS L plate.

05.

05. My engineering is not quite up to the standard of Fujifilm or RRS but it works and I love using this rig in full sun.

06. I have a slider slot so that the hood can attach in a second.

06. I have a slider slot so that the hood can attach in a second.

07. I have the 3.2" Hoodman that collapses to make the unit easier to fit in my Think Tank bag.

07. I have the 3.2″ Hoodman that collapses to make the unit easier to fit in my Think Tank bag.

08. A great handling camera and lens with a sumptuous viewfinder and SLR grade handling.

08. A great handling camera and lens with a sumptuous viewfinder and SLR grade handling.

The advantages of using the Hoodman on the LCD over the eye directly into the electronic viewfinder are immense. Looking through the large 20mm diameter Shott glass eye piece at a high resolution LCD is like looking through a medium format camera viewfinder. The image is big and bright. There is no sun shading to do with the left eye and the long zoom lens becomes a joy to use. If only I had my bracket gadget at last weeks sunny shoots I’d have used the long zoom more without trepidation.

04. In darker environments the image stabilisation comes into it's own.

09. In darker environments the image stabilisation comes into it’s own. The IS on the 55-200mm lens is immense. I can get steady shots of static subjects at 1/30th of a second at the 200mm setting. So using 1/60th for my static portraits is fine.

Using manual exposure with a variable maximum aperture lens is a bit of a pain. I’m forever compromising the lens to f/5.6 to avoid tweaking exposure with a change of zoom. f/5.6 is the first setting that stays constant with the full zoom range. That process alone forces me to use aperture priority. I set the lens to 55mm, turn the aperture ring to f/3.5 and I’m ready to go. I just use exposure compensation as required and the camera does the compensation for variable aperture.

Is all this modification and change worth it? The quick answer is yes. The shots from this new lens are superb. I’m delighted to be able to use a greater camera to subject distance for some of my closer portrait work.

10. Close head shots are a doddle with this new zoom lens. Even in low light.

10. Close head shots are a doddle with this new zoom lens. Even in low light.

11. Compressing perspective was the missing link in the Fuji X system.

11. The ability to compress perspective was the missing link in the Fuji X system now filled with this 300mm equivalent lens.

12. Bokey is well controlled too. It doesn't scream out drawing attention like some fast aperture lenses

12. Bokeh on the 55-200mm lens is well controlled too. It doesn’t scream out drawing attention away from the subject like some fast aperture lenses.

13. With my new Hoodman rig shots like this will be far easier for me to shoot in the future.

13. With my new Hoodman rig shots like this will be far easier for me to shoot in the future.

In the back streets of Italian hiltop towns are many wonderful backgrounds for portraits.

14. There are many wonderful backgrounds for portraits in the back streets of Italian hill top towns. I shot all the frames in this feature wide open to give an idea of the bokeh available if that is your bag.

15. I shot this at the 200mm zoom setting with me lying on the floor.

15. I shot this frame of Michaela at the 200mm zoom setting with me lying on the floor.

Do I love this lens? Yes It’s perfect in all but the darkest environments for portraits. With my 60mm f/2.4 lens I need to use 1/250th second to get a sharp shot. Gone are the days where we can use the reciprocal of the focal length to capture sharp shots hand held. With the circles of confusion getting ever smaller with reducing pixel sizes and the crop factor to consider image stabilisation is more important than ever before. I use a shutter speed of 2 (1/1.5F) for non stabilised lenses. This new zoom is just one stop down at the 60mm setting but will allow me to use 1/125th second setting to freeze subject movement so the low light capability for static portraits is about the same as the 60mm lens.

Pros:

  • Good value
  • Excellent build quality
  • Lighter than expected
  • Superb image stabilisation
  • Excellent image quality. (Better than my Canon 70-200 L IS lens)
  • Fast, silent AF

Cons:

  • Delicate mechanism (precision made but delicate, handle with care)
  • Needs an adapted viewfinder rig to use into the light in full sun
  • Best when used with a camera grip

Feel free to comment on my findings or add your findings to this post using the comments section below.

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About Damien

Damien Lovegrove learned his trade as a cameraman and lighting director during 14 years at the BBC, working on programmes such as the Clothes Show, Top of the Pops and Casualty. Fifteen years on, Damien has become one of the foremost trainers of photography and entrepreneurial business strategies in our industry. A published writer and regular columnist, Damien has travelled the globe sharing his knowledge and expertise. “Photography fascinates me” declares Damien. "Much of my photography is inspired by a burning enthusiasm within me” explains Damien. “Picking up a camera gives me such a rush that I’m instantly driven to create pictures.”

22 thoughts on “10 Portraits and a review of the Fujifilm XF 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 LM OIS lens

  1. Fantastic images! Thank you for posting the review. I’m actually waiting on the 10-24… But this 55-200 may wind up in my bag to compliment my 35, and 18-55 for my X-E1!
    No more carrying my D800, and D700 + the Nikon glass for me.
    best,
    J

  2. Thanks for the review. I`m selling off some Canon gear at the moment to buy this lens.
    I have the Fuji 18-55 and find it to be a great lens.

  3. I can’t wait for focus peaking to come to the XPro 1 later this month. I works wonderfully on my x100s and I favor using it to using the auto focus on my Canon 5d Mark 3 in low light receptions. I wish Fuji makes a x100s version with a longer lens.. a 85mm f1.4 or f2 would be great! That would be a great pair to work with.

    I’m curious why you have to go all the way to f5.6 to stay constant? Isn’t this a f4.8 lens on the long side?

  4. I have the 55-200 myself its a terrific lens and extremely fun to play with. It really helps take the X Pro 1 into areas it couldn’t before.

  5. Great review. I am shooting more and more with my X-E1 and 55-200 would be a great addition to my gear!

  6. Hi Damien – I can’t wait for the Hollywood Photos download that you mention. Do you focus and reframe using this camera or move your focus point around? I’ve struggled a bit with focus and reframing with it, but thats what I always do on my Canon. I wonder if I have camera shake from what you’re saying in your last paragraph. I am using the 35mm lens. Should I not use a shutter speed slower than 1/125th? Helen

  7. Thanks for a great review. Sounds like the lens is winner!

    Just a general comment… not to be taken negatively. We are here to check out the quality of the lens. I found your site after searching for 55-200 reviews. Its frustrating that you cannot provide links to the full-size images. I mean what is the big deal… has someone stolen your pictures in the past and called it their own? Is someone going to become rich overnight selling your pictures? What is the point of providing a link from the photos above if the link reveals pictures of the same size? Don’t get it.

  8. Hi SD,

    I understand your comment re full size images. This is not a lens review post it is an example of the artistic characteristics of the lens. These pictures clearly show the bokeh. If lens sharpness is to be assessed then a far more scientific process is needed and will be carried out by some technician somewhere.

    I’ve shown links to full res pictures in past posts and I’ve had the pixel peeping brigade saying ‘why didn’t you use a tripod’ and ‘you’ve missed the focus on that shot’etc etc. So now I just show fine prints on art paper at exhibitions and conventions as I’m a photographer first and foremost.

    The lens is certainly sharp enough even being slightly better at the 55mm end than the 18-55mm. The main concern among artists is the bokeh characteristic. The 55-200mm lens is one I will replace with a 135mm IS prime when one becomes available. I’m sure the DXO labs and DPreview technicians will get their hand on the 55-200mm soon.

    On the picture theft front, my images do get taken. I don’t mind that when they are 650 pixels. I just wouldn’t want my high res work being printed off. On this post alone there have been over 464,000 repins on Pinterest and that number is still climbing by over 1000 repins a day.

    Kindest regards, Damien.

  9. Hi Jorge,

    I’m not thinking this long zoom will be in my bag when a Fuji XF 135mm IS prime is released but until that point this is perfect for me. I too hate lugging kit around.

    Best regards,

    Damien.

  10. Hi Phill,

    Both zooms are great. One day though I’ll have a full set of fast primes and will rarely use the zooms. My perfect prime lens set for X-Pro is: 14mm f/2.8, 23mm f/1.4, 35mm f/1.4, 56mm f/1.2 90mm f/2.8 IS, 135mm f/3.5 IS

    I’m expecting a road map update soon, maybe to coincide with the 23mm release in October.

    Kind regards,

    Damien.

  11. Hi Charles,

    Did focus peaking work for you? I only use AF so I’m not a beneficiary of the technology.

    On your other point if you set the lens to f/4.8 at the 200mm setting and zoom it out the aperture jumps to f/5.6 because that is the nearest ‘true’ value. You have to set it to f/5.6 or above in order to avoid the aperture changing with the zoom.

    Kindest regards,

    Damien.

  12. Hi Helen,

    Thanks for your comment and your poignant questions.

    I do a bit of focus reframe but I get the focus zone near to the subject focus point first. I use the rear button focus system now and it took about 1000 frames to get completely used to it. It now means I can focus once then shoot when the moment is right or shoot several shots without having to re focus every time. For sharp shots using the 35mm lens hand held go with 1/125th as you pointed out. It is surprising just how much difference this will make. I’d rather shoot using f/1.4 at 1/125th sec than f/2 at 1/60th. I hope this helps.

    The Hollywood Portraits Remastered video will be launched this coming week so keep an eye out for that :)

    Kindest regards Damien.

  13. Hi Damien,

    I love these pictures, and such a good review as ever. I was wondering what little gadgets you conjured up for fixing for the Hoodman Loupe were, and where I might be able to get the same? Looks like the ideal solution to me! Hope to buy the Hollwood Remastered as an Xmas pressie to myself!

    Thanks, Marie

  14. Hi Marie,

    Thank you for your compliments for my pictures. I put a hacksaw to a bracket I had kicking around and added a couple of 1/4″ Whitworth wing nut type fasteners. It’s garden shed stuff but works a treat.

    I’m not sure I’ve been much help here.

    Kind regards,

    Damien.

  15. Hi Damien,

    I shoot mostly portraits and corporate events. I own an x-e2. I am debating on selling all my canon gear from 5dII to my 70-200 lens. I would like to use the money and invest in more fuji gear. Do you see any drawbacks in doing that

  16. Hi Ash Marie,

    I did just what you are suggesting except I have the X-T1 as I think the viewfinder is perfect. The X-T1 is worth paying the extra for. If you rely on zooms you might want to wait on for the fast zooms to be released later this year before making the switch. I use primes mainly and I love them. The Fuji primes are top drawer.

    Kind regards,

    Damien.

  17. Hi there

    i have a EX2 that i love and wait to receive the 55-200 to complete my 35 and 14mm. I am interested to know if you know a possible to add to teh viewer. sometime as you mention you have to put your hand by side your eye and viewer and makes things a bit difficult. The hoodman looks fine but a bit big though and using the LCD all the time use a lot the battery.

    any advice will be great

    marc

  18. Hi Marc,

    I now have the extended eyecup for the X-T1 and it works a treat. I did have to modify it a bit to fit my eye socket. I hope Fuji release this gadget for the X-E2 too. In the meantime treat yourself to a couple of Expro batteries at £8 each. They work wonderfully well.

    Kind regards,

    Damien.

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