Fujifilm XF 100–400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR: Covering Loose Ends

 

With the debut of the 100–400mm lens, Fujifilm’s camera systems will now extend its appeal to wildlife, sports and other long range applications. Shridhar Kunte puts it to the test.

Fujifilm XF 100–400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR

Lately, Fujifilm has been on a roll with the introduction of new digital cameras and lenses. It was more evident with the launch of the very well accepted XT-3, and the newly announced rangefinder style medium format digital camera. Up until the launch of their new lens, every camera manufacturer had their own 100–400mm lens. Fujifilm finally joins the list.

Features
The lens is made for APS-C format sensors and offers152–609mm equivalent focal length, in the 35mm format. The optical elements are encased in a metal-clad body that sports 13 weather seals that are located in 12 positions to protect against moisture and dust. The optical formula consists of 21 elements in 14 groups, of which five are low-dispersion and one is super low-dispersion glass, designed to fight against chromatic aberration. A fluorine coating on the front element is similarly designed to ward off liquids and grit, as well as smudging.

While focusing, the front element of the lens remains stationary, thanks to the internal focus system. The 77mm filter thread does not rotate, thus making the lens ideal to use with polarising and graduated filters. The lens features a 9-bladed aperture diaphragm that produces beautiful, softly blurred backgrounds. The minimum focusing distance is 1.75 meters, and at this focusing distance, the lens delivers a magnification ratio of 1:5.26.

Handling
I used the lens with the Fujifilm X-H1, along with a vertical grip. The lens is not built like the 50–140mm f/2.8, which has a full metal construction. Instead, the lens barrel is made from high-grade plastic, and the mounting ring and tripod collar are metal. Even then, the lens feels very solid in the hand. Without external support, the combination is quite hefty and requires some practice to use. However, as I spent more time with the lens, I was able to capture some good hand-held shots. I felt that the combination is a bit front-heavy, which became more apparent when I was used the lens without the vertical grip attached to the camera.

When I arrived at the location to shoot flamingos, they were backlit. Even then, there are enough details maintained the image, without any flare. Exposure 1/3200 sec at f/8 (ISO 800). Photograph/Shridhar Kunte

The zoom ring is nice and wide, making it easy to operate. The focus controls are by wire. This takes some getting used to, if you are accustomed to DSLR lenses. But once I got used to it, I found it to be more accurate when fine tuning focus with MF magnification. Remember, there is no magnification on a DSLR, while using the viewfinder. It takes about a 90° turn to switch from 100mm to 400mm. I also noticed lens creep, when the lens was held vertically. To prevent this, you can lock the lens at 100mm. The lens focuses internally and the front element does not rotate. This facilitates the use of polarisers and grad ND filters.

Performance
This is not the fastest 100–400mm lens that I have reviewed, so far, but is accurate when it comes down to locking on to subjects. I used it to shoot portraits, street photography, and wildlife, especially birds. I even tested the lens for birds in flight—the AF acquisition time and speed are pretty good. However, in difficult lighting conditions, the focusing speed suffers a bit while shooting at the tele end. The overall image quality is excellent. Sharpness is remarkable at 100mm, even with a wide open aperture. It is slightly softer at 400mm, but the softness can be easily dealt with, when the lens is stopped down to f/8 or above. This was true even in the corners of the image. I noticed a bit of softness with far-off subjects too. The image stabilisation worked quite well—at 400mm (600mm full frame equivalent). I was able to get sharp images most of the time, at 1/60sec. There was a slight light falloff at the corners, starting from 300mm.

Conclusion
A 100–400mm lens has always been a reliable, versatile staple in any wildlife or sports photographer’s kit. The XF100–400mm presents Fujifilm’s X system as a serious contender for action photography, and competes with Canon and Nikon, for the highest level of sports and action photography. As there is no other option available from third party lens manufacturers, Fuji has priced the lens a tad higher at Rs. 1,49,999. But to get the best out of this lens, it is advisable to team it with the XT-3. This is a great combination, especially for sports and wildlife photographers.

FINAL RATINGS
Features
IS mode for panning, Focus limiter switch
18/20
Performance
IS performance, excellent optics
32/35
Build Quality
Overall construction, weathersealed
23/25
Ergonomics
Large zoom ring, Small length of tripod collar
13/15
Warranty & Support
Limited service network, 2 year warranty
3/5
MRP Rs. 1,49,999
OVERALL 89%
VALUE FOR MONEY 3.5/5
Who should buy it? Fuji users who enjoy wildlife, sports and action photography.
Why? Apart from its excellent optics and build, there are no other choices for Fuji mirrorless cameras owners.
Tags: February 2019, Fujifilm, Lens review, XF 100–400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR