There was much high-toned and fancy to-do when Fuji launched its X line of cameras, and time has proven the line warranting of such fanfare. Each evolution seems to offer the discerning shooter so much of what’s wanted, with few cons. The launch of the X-Pro1, the first interchangeable lens camera in the series, saw 3 primes announced with it. One of which was the Fujinon 60mm f/2.4 R Macro XF. That’s a mouthful (as all their lenses are). It was the first tele lens for the X-mount, and though it’s not new, continues to generate some buzz.
(Other than images featuring the reviewed lens, all photos taken with it on an X-E2 – mostly at 2.8, few at 2.4)
“It’s small. Leica Elmar small. Nice.” Followed immediately by, “Jeez, the lens hood is huge.” It about doubles the length of the lens, and I refused to use it 99% of the time. Due to the size, the lens wasn’t really going to be heavy, but it feels weighted enough to give a sense of quality. It doesn’t feel cheap, and it doesn’t look cheap. The barrel, hood, filter thread, focus ring, and aperture ring are all anodized aluminum. The mount, as well as the internal focusing mechanism is metal, though it should be said that during operation, and especially close focusing, a portion of the internals does expose from the front, making for a sort of strange protrusion, and means it’s not truly IF (inner focusing).
The packaging it comes in is also quite nice – not AMEX Centurion welcome package nice, but then again, it’s not like this is a Noctilux which you may actually have purchased on the black Amex. Fuji has done this with many of their lenses and it brings a nice sense of occasion to the unboxing. It can sort of make you feel you have to baby the lenses, but given their build quality, I wouldn’t say you have to. They are sturdy. This lens, when shaken, still felt solid.
Is It a Macro Or a Portrait Lens?
It’s both. Sort of. It would seem that Fuji wanted to make a lens that would do more than one thing here, maximizing its resources as at a production level, their output won’t be like that of Nikon or Canon. So they co-joined a sort of fast tele lens with macro. It does both well, but neither exceptionally. It’s not a true 1:1 macro lens as it has a max magnification of 1:2, so serious macro shooters will not be satisfied with this. It does however, perform well for product shots, food shots, etc.
The lens though, seems better suited for portraiture. 60mm, in this case, is about 90mm field of view in 35mm equivalent, which, as anyone who has shot an 85 prime knows, is hallowed portrait territory. As has been the topic of some discussion recently, one thing to keep in mind is that the form factor, sensor size, do have an effect on the defocused separation areas. f/2.4 may sound entirely adequate if you’re used to shooting on a full frame, but on this, your background separation will be much different; the depth of field will be deeper. That said, the bokeh it does generate is very pleasing, and quite creamy. I would just suggest that you either be close to your subject (think headshot), or really give some distance between your subject and background.
Ergonomics & AutoFocus
It’s old school in the sense it’s got a manual focus ring and dedicated aperture ring. Like cameras of yore, slide the aperture ring to ‘A’ to put the camera in aperture priority mode. Moving the ring feels good and you can move in confidence through the feel of the notches as you pass each 1/3 stop. The focusing ring is grooved for easy grip, and movement is very smooth and precise, if not too long. It just can seem that when manual focusing it can take quite a bit of turning to get where you want it at times. Manual focusing in this is sort of like fly-by-wire in a jet, in that you aren’t actually manually focusing, as your movement causes the AF motor to work.
You may be thinking you’ll be using autofocus, but AF on this lens, was truly the primary source of contention for me. It was quite slow, and in low light, even moderately low light, it just began hunting. The same could be said for shooting anything at macro distances – you’ll likely find yourself switching to manual. You can certainly live with it and it wouldn’t put me off buying it, but doesn’t really compare to DSLR or even some Micro 4/3 lenses I’ve used.
I really have no complaints here. Right out of the box I dropped it to 2.4 and, in my use, this lens was super sharp wide open. I noticed no distortion to speak of, no color fringes or spherochromatism, which is nice for a lens of this long focal length. I did notice, and I don’t know if this was an irregularity with the lens or its combination with the X-E2, but it seemed at times the white balance was a bit thrown off, which is a problem I didn’t encounter with the other lenses tested.
I noticed looking through my metadata filtering in Lightroom, that of the three lenses I was testing with the X-E2 (full review on the body and other lenses to come), I shot the most photos with this. That sort of surprised me as it wasn’t my favorite of the three lenses. I’ll get to that later. But, I am a portrait guy and portrait sessions usually have a lot of shots in them. I honestly left off the hood almost 100% of the time, because the lens on its own is such a nice small size, it was great for the places I was going. Doing some street shooting, people wouldn’t expect this size lens to have the focal length reach it does. The thing is, once you slap that hood on, it starts to draw attention of the wrong kind.
For its quirks, I like it. I really like it as a casual lens, but I wouldn’t use it for any sort of shoot that was high pressure – it just doesn’t perform fast enough. It bright light focusing is fine, but in anything but, it hunts, and when it hunts it hunts! The model I tested, had what I assume is an irregularity or flaw, that when the aperture ring was at 2.4, it didn’t stay there. It would show it was at 2.4 on the barrel, but would fluctuate between 2.4 or 2.8. I ended up leaving it at 2.8 most of the time then, since the fluctuation was messing up my exposures. I’m sure this was a one off as I haven’t heard of the problem elsewhere.
Would I buy one? Well, I would understand if you did. The versatility is nice, and for me the size is a big selling point. The price is around $650 USD and that’s actually quite attractive for a small, street shooting portrait lens. It’s sharp wide open, acceptably fast, and discreet. I should get it. But I probably won’t. Why? Because there exists a lens that’s a hell of a lot faster, much smaller (with hood), and still portrait perfect with an 85mm field of view 35mm equiv. It’s the 56mm f/1.2. Sure, it’s more expensive, but it’s also more…focused.
CREDITS: All photographs shared by Kishore Sawh are copyrighted and have been used with permission for SLR Lounge. Do not copy, modify or re-post this article or images without express permission from SLR Lounge and the artist.