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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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
- 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.