When I bought the x-pro1 I did so with a specific purpose in mind. I wanted a camera that would be fun to shoot, have a lot of easy to access controls, and be small enough to carry everywhere, without being “too” small. The x-pro 1 fit the bill perfectly. Add in the excellent XF 35/1.4 and I was set. I had no intention of turning this into a system, especially one that contained a zoom, a tele-zoom at that.
Then along comes the Fuji XF 55-200 IS tele-zoom lens. I had no plans to buy one being that I already had the wonderful 70-200/4 IS for my Canon 6D. I wasn’t even interested at going to look at one. Low and behold the lens found me. I just happened to be at my local camera shop (props to Imagetech Thunder Bay) when the courier driver pulled up with one in his shipment. Once opened I had to take a peek. Really, who could resist? I didn’t want a consumer grade tele-zoom anyways. So what harm could just looking do……………………….
Apparently looking can be quite expensive.
LOOKS AND FEEL
The first thing that struck me was how big the lens was. I for some reason expected smaller. The fact that it doesn’t zoom internally only made it bigger when in use. Put the hood on and you have a beast of a lens. I was also somewhat taken aback by its weight initially. It was a far more robust piece of gear than I was expecting. The build quality is definitely top notch. Once attached to the x-pro1 it felt really well balanced and the size and weight seemed a perfect match. It seemed meant to be.
The big question with all Fuji lenses is the auto focus system. All the lenses I have used with x-pro1 are uncannily accurate when it comes to auto focus ability, the speed at which they focus does vary a fair bit though. The 55-200 is also spot on in its accuracy. It may even be the most accurate of the Fuji lenses to date. Speed wise it wont set any records, but it wasn’t bad either. I would say it focused a lot better than I was expecting it to. I saw no difference after performing the needed firmware update. I have no complaints in either speed or accuracy. The image stabilization is also brilliant. I was effortlessly able to take tack sharp shots at 1/40 of a second at 200mm. So far so good. But how did the photos look?
I am not a pixel peeper by nature, but when testing a lens I will check at pixel level to ensure a good copy. This beast delivers in spades. This was the most shocking aspect of the lens to me. Having used a lot of different zooms in the past I fully understand their limitations. Convenience always comes at a price. Fuji apparently didn’t get this memo. The IQ was nothing short of amazing. Tack sharp at 200mm, be it stopped down or wide open. Contrast, colour, sharpness, all excellent. No matter the aperture or focal length I could not take a bad shot from a pure IQ perspective. I saw zero purple fringing at 200mm wide open. This is almost always the Achilles heel of the 55-200 zooms. What I liked best however was the rendering. The way the lens and camera draw the image, especially backlit shots, were breath taking. Here are some examples from my brief time with the lens.
In the end I gave in to my better judgement and left with the lens. A lens I didn’t need or even want. A lens that hasn’t left my camera in two days, and wont for the foreseeable future. At $699 its not near as cheap as the 55-200 variations from Tamron, Sigma and Sony. It is far better built though, and is stabilized. The IQ is also in a different league from the budget zooms. Its closest rival would be the Canon 70-200/4. The Canon is faster at the long end (barely), has less range, and costs more, so again the Fuji wins here. Regardless, its all irrelevant considering the fact that the Fuji 55-200 is the only lens of the group that will fit on a Fuji body. Simply put, the lens is a must have.
Fast and accurate Autofocus
4 stops of stabilization
A bit large and heavy
Doesn’t internally zoom, making it awkward and prone to attracting dust