Fujinon XF90mm f/2 R LM WR:In a League of its Own

 

K Madhavan Pillai tests the Fujinon XF90mm f/2 R LM WR, the largest prime in the X-series line-up, to see if it lives up to Fujinon’s reputation.

Fujinon XF90mm f/2 R LM WR

Fujinon XF90mm f/2 R LM WR

Fujifilm’s primes have adhered well to the underlying philosophy of the smaller, retro styled, street photography inspired X-series cameras, and has seen a lot of appreciation since its launch in 2012. The Fujinon XF90mm f/2 R LM WR, released in late 2015, conforms to a more classical definition of a longer portrait lens. It offers a more comfortable reach over standard portrait primes (XF50mm f/2 R WR, XF56mm f/1.2 R, and the XF56mm f/1.2 R APD), and combined with a maximum aperture of f/2, the XF90mm promises good control over out-of-focus areas (akin to 135mm f/2.8 on a full frame sensor). In a sense, this lens is unique. No other manufacturer offers a prime lens of its nature, built specifically for APS-C sensors.

Features
Optically, 11 element in 8 groups include 3 ED elements, and Fujinon’s proprietary Super EBC coating on each surface reduces aberrations and controls flare. A 7-blade rounded aperture provides more circular bokeh. AF is enabled by a quiet Quad Linear Motor, stated to be faster and specially beneficial to video applications. A good minimum focusing distance of 0.6m allows a max. magnification of 0.2x and allows working with closer subjects. The XF90mm shares a convenient filter diameter of 62mm with both XF56mm lenses. It lacks IS.

Handling
The all-metal, well-built XF90mm is well-sealed against dust and moisture (the WR denotation), with seven separate seals, and can be used at temperatures as low as -10°C. Used on an equally weathersealed camera like the X-T2 (on which I tested the lens), the advantages are immediate. Notwithstanding the fact that it is the tallest X-mount prime in the line-up (weighing 540 grams), Fujifilm has kept the lens relatively compact. It felt at home on the X-T2. With the plastic hood attached, the lens looks somewhat bulky though.

The MF ring (fly-by-wire) is broad, affords a good hold and is well-dampened. Direction of rotation for MF can be configured through the camera’s menu. The only other control on the lens is the aperture ring that rotates from f/2 to f/16 in one-third click-stops. An additional ‘A’ notation beyond f/16 enables auto-aperture (shutter priority or program mode). As with all X-mount primes, there is no focus or DOF scale, but this appears on the LCD or in the EVF, switchable between pixel level or film format DOF. I personally found the combined use of the aperture ring on the lens and the shutterspeed dial on the X-T2, to be simple, invigorating, and extremely speedy.

Detailing and sharpness wide open, and the close focus distance of 0.6m, allows the XF90mm to be used for a lot more than portraiture. This image is a crop of about 30% of the original frame. Exposure: 1/250sec at f/2 (ISO 800)

Detailing and sharpness wide open, and the close focus distance of 0.6m, allows the XF90mm to be used for a lot more than portraiture. This image is a crop of about 30% of the original frame.
Exposure: 1/250sec at f/2 (ISO 800) / Photography / K Madhavan Pillai

Performance
I upgraded the firmware for both camera and lens before I began testing. This lens is sharp, and superbly at that! Right from f/2, all across the aperture range till f/11, it maintains exemplary sharpness. There is a slight improvement on stopping down, with it’s sharpest performance at f/5.6, but it is quite easily usable almost across the range. There is no visible chromatic aberrations or vignetting, all of which are corrected in-camera rather well. Combined with it’s pleasing, smooth bokeh and focus blurs, I found myself using it wide open every chance I got. It renders fine detail beautifully.

Adding to the detail is also it’s excellent control over flare, enhancing micro-contrast. Shooting against the light, the hood always helps. Yet, I resorted to using the XF90mm without its hood in other situations because flare control is so good.

AF is quiet, and speedy enough so that you don’t really miss out with most kinds of shooting. But this is not the fastest X-mount lens I’ve seen and the marginally slower AF does affect tracking performance somewhat. However, I do not consider this a significant negative. This is the trade off I’ve witnessed in all but some of the most recently released large aperture primes, at these focal lengths.

Conclusion
The Fujinon XF90mm f/2 R LM WR is a worthy addition to the X-mount range and extends it meaningfully. The only obvious and significant lacuna with the lens is image stabilisation. None of the other X-mount primes have it either, but IS would have enhanced its use, especially at its focal length. Priced at Rs. 74,999, it achieves a level of distinctive performance in keeping with the expectations from a Fujifilm X-mount prime lens. For the X-user, looking for a good portrait / close-up lens of its type, it is an excellent buy.

FINAL RATINGS
Features
No IS, noiseless AF, f/2, min. focus of 2 feet
 17/20
Performance
Sharp at f/2, slightly slower AF
31/35
Build Quality
Metal build, dust and moisture sealed
24/25
Ergonomics
Full-time MF, Large MF ring, aperture ring
 13/15
Warranty & Support
Two year warranty, wide service network
4/5
MRP Rs. 74,999
OVERALL 89%
VALUE FOR MONEY 4/5
Who should buy it? Portraitists, street photographers, or advanced users of the X-system.
Why? Superb sharpness, pleasing bokeh, ergonomics.
Tags: better photography, Fujinon XF90mm f/2 R LM WR, In a League of its Own, K Madhavan Pillai, March 2018